A friend quoted to me recently that old line about "if you do what you enjoy doing, you'll never have to work another day for the rest of your life." It sounds good, at least on the surface.
The reality, however, is that no one I've ever heard of has a job composed entirely of "things I enjoy doing." Every vocation, every calling, every career-however we want to phrase it-carries with it a certain amount of headaches that are part of the package.
God let me know as a recent graduate of seminary that I was to pastor churches. Until then, I was unsure whether His calling was to some broader ministry. When the word "from on High" came, as it did as surely as had the original call some six years earlier, I was so relieved. I loved to pastor.
Before and during seminary, I had served two small churches, and if you had asked, I'd have said I love everything about it-the preaching, the leadership, the ministry to people in times of joy and crisis, even the meetings where I was called on to moderate. But I got over that quickly enough (smiley-face goes here).
In the next pastorate, the first following seminary, I found myself doing a number of unpleasant tasks that were a necessary part of the pastorate but what I came to dislike with a passion.
I hated to preside over a business meeting where people were angry. And yet, this was my assignment, and I did it.
I hated to call on some disgruntled church member who had gotten their feelings hurt and needed "daddy" to settle them down. And yet, it was my job and no one else's.
I particularly disliked having to call on a church member whom I had offended through some failure on my part. I did not visit her when she was in the hospital, did not contact the family when they had a crisis and needed a pastor, or misspoke about something from the pulpit that hurt a family member. Apologizing is never fun, but goes with the territory.
On one occasion, I sat through a four-hour deacons' meeting-calmly, without uttering a single word-while some were trying to get me fired and my life and ministry were being analyzed and dissected. It was anything but fun. However, the most amazing thing happened:
The Lord invaded that room and bathed me in a peace such as I had never known before. I would not have volunteered to go through that for anything in the world, but I wouldn't take a million dollars for it now.
Bottom line: Anyone who goes into the ministry "because I love it" or "I enjoy doing the things pastors do" will quickly run into all those other aspects of church leadership which are not so enjoyable but a necessary part of shepherding God's people. Unless he learns to do them "for Jesus' sake" as opposed to "for enjoyment's sake," he won't last.
Eventually, every minister concludes that the most difficult tasks the Lord called on him to do through the years turned out to be the most fruitful. The scars we bear from those occasions are merely medals from the Savior, badges to be worn with gratitude.
Joe McKeever is a retired Southern Baptist pastor from New Orleans, Louisiana. He blogs regularly at www.joemckeever.com.
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