Monday, October 28, 2019

No safe vocation. . .

I have had a bit of a trying month.  I will not hide the fact that I work too hard.  I know my family does not appreciate it and neither does the parish for that matter.  Most folks looking in from the outside do not see and cannot imagine all that a typical pastor does between Sundays.  But I knew this going in.  So did my wife.  No, neither of us had a specific idea of the costs or sacrifices born but we knew that was the job description.  It did not take long to figure it out.  A dozen funerals in the first month.  Serious illness and surgeries that happened on my supposed day off.  Crises that seemed to be planned by the devil or his minions around my busiest calendars.  We learned quickly that the ministry is not a safe vocation.

At the same time, there was a movement arising to see the pastor as a professional church worker and the ministry as a career.  It began the idea that pastors need to have care given and personal time and it has flourished in the wellness wheels that offer the illusion of balance between the demands of family, church, spirit, home duties, leisure, physical activity, etc...  Everywhere I go I hear the mantra of this now sacred deception that the ministry can be managed, that your time can be scheduled, and that the vocation of pastor can be fit into a neat 9-5 slot with two full days off.  Worse than this, I get constant mail and email from my health insurer insisting that I succumb to their programs designed to make me healthier and suggesting I am a candidate for everything from diabetes to heart disease unless I manage my life better (though they have no clue what is actually going on in my life!).

So today you get my crankier side that says much of this stuff promotes an idea of the pastoral office that is blatantly false and sets up a young pastor for serious disappointment and conflict.  The ministry is not a career.  Your work as a pastor does not follow a neat schedule.  You will miss family events or force them to fit the schedule of emergencies and crises that will surely come.  You will not be rewarded for the good you do and you will be blamed for things that were not your fault.  You will need to teach your people every week what pastors do or they will never get it or get you.  You will be caught in budget crunches and you will do maintenance and clear side walks in winter and unlock and lock the building and clean a toilet or two all in the regular course of your pastoral life and work.  So get over it.  There is no congregation out there that provides a perfect work environment for you and your family and there is no easy life without struggle or sacrifice.

At the same time, you are making the difference of an eternal lifetime.  It may feel like you have little to offer, few tools to use against the problems laid upon you, and little real impact on the lives of people.  This is a lie as well.  You have the Word of the Lord and His gracious Sacraments of life and worship.  These accomplish an eternal good in a world of seemingly impossible evils.  Do not give up or give into despair.  A pastor is doing a mighty work for the benefit of his people and for the sake of the Lord simply by being the mouth, hands, and heart of the Lord within the midst of the people.  Do the work of the ministry and let God worry about the successes or failures.  Do it without complaint and remember that even the folks in the pew are called to take up the cross and follow Him.  Pastors may be more visible in this role but they are not alone in bearing the cross.

Recently I read a couple of good lines:  We don’t need men looking for a career. We need warriors who are willing and ready to suffer and sacrifice for the sake of the Church in love for Christ. We need men full of zeal and compassion who will give up the best years of their lives...  Let me add one more thing.  We need pastors who are willing to die.  We don't need legions of people looking for a safe or easy career but we need a few men willing to sacrifice and die each day for the sake of the Kingdom of God.  Jesus never promised the apostles an easy life or Christians a comfortable path.  He is painfully blunt about the challenges and pitfalls that lie before us.  Yet even pastors would do well to remember that they are not alone and their labors are not in vain.


Anonymous said...

Pastor Peters; One of the 1st things I try to do each day is read your blog. You do make a difference. Though I just turned 70, I am no longer allowed to drive and reading your thoughts on Law and Gospel, the power of the Liturgy, the foolishness of those who turn from God to themselves or the latest fad in self-improvement and the amazing grace God gives us in Scripture and rightly explained in the Confessions is a great comfort to me.
Keep up the good fight; we need your simple, crystal clear statements of faith.
God Bless the Preacher!!!
Timothy Carter,
simple country Deacon. Kingsport, TN.

Anonymous said...

I'll second Deacon Carter. I rarely miss Pastor Peters' blog during my "morning run" on the internet. It is a great help. Thank you.
Fr. D+
Continuing Anglican Priest

Larry Luder said...

Thank you, your random thoughts are very insightful.

- Just another sinner

Cliff said...

God Bless all our faithful pastors!