My article first appeared on the Baptist Convention of New England’s blog.
Being a pastor is difficult. I remember my mentor in ministry telling me when I was in my early twenties that if I could do anything else, I should do that. He warned me there would be days that I wished I was working in any other sort of job. He was right. I can tend towards dwelling on the difficult and the negative some days because they are what so often are calling for our attention: solving problems, considering the next step in loosening or tightening COVID restrictions, wondering how this next phone call or meeting will go, remembering that I forgot to check in with somebody undergoing a trial. The list goes on.
But there are also many blessings in being a pastor. There are so many reasons I count it one of the greatest privileges of my life, so many reasons to thank God for being a pastor and so many reasons I love being a pastor.
In keeping with Paul’s admonition to think about “whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things,” (Phil. 4:8) I want to list five of the many reasons I love being a pastor.
1. I get to teach and study God’s Word as part of my job.
For all of the stresses that being a pastor entails, and the pressure of the Sunday morning sermon deadline, and all of the spiritual battles that come my way, every week I get to – and am expected to – spend hours studying God’s Word and preparing to teach it. This is an inestimable privilege.
I once heard an older pastor say that he couldn’t believe that he gets paid to study God’s Word. That is a perspective that I need to keep in mind and thank God for weekly. It is a joy to spend time in God’s Word and be filled up with it and challenged by it so that I can have the joy of equipping, encouraging and stretching God’s people with it. May I never take this for granted.
2. I get to be there for people’s highs and lows in life.
Some of my favorite moments in pastoring are being right there for the ups and downs of people’s lives and being used by God in those situations to “rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep” (Rom. 12:15).
It is a joy to pray with new parents while holding a newborn baby, and it is a joy to see the radiance in the eyes of a couple getting married while standing right behind them. It is also a different, somber kind of joy to be able to help a couple apply God’s Word to their marriage struggles when the need for counseling comes. It is something I would never trade to have the privilege of praying with a newly bereaved relative thanking God for the life of their loved one, sometimes while the body is still in the room.
These intense times of ministry bond me with God’s people and remind me each time of some of the unique reasons I love being God’s hands and feet. It is also special to be able to often minister during these highs and lows in people’s lives with my wife as she uses her gifts with me. May I never take this for granted.
3. I get a front-row seat to God’s work.
Another benefit to being a pastor that I love is getting a front-row seat to God’s work. The average church member does not have the joy of seeing some of the mercy ministry that goes on in secret in the life of a church. It is a holy privilege to know about an act of love in Jesus’ name that only God, myself and the other person involved know about due to confidentiality. It is a distinctive joy to not only ache at marriage problems but also to rejoice with a couple who is now reaping the benefits of following God’s ways in their relationship. I alone get to “see the lightbulb come on” in the middle of a sermon for that person who has been trying to figure out what they believe about Jesus. I alone sometimes get to see tears of repentance over sin or tears of hope due to longing for Heaven and being reunited with a beloved spouse or child.
I know that God is always doing a million things and that we are usually only aware of a few of them at any given moment, but as a pastor I literally get to see God’s invisible hand working out his plan for His glory and His people’s good every week, if I have the eyes to see it. May I never take this for granted.
4. I get to see people come to know Jesus as Savior and Lord and then baptize them.
“I wasn’t sure before, but I know that I know Jesus now,” the 16-year old boy told me in the car as we drove from Subway after getting his monthly favorite sub (ham with black olives – lots of black olives!) and catching up on high school life.
“What’s the change?” I asked, excited as I had been praying for him for years as he had been coming to youth group ever since I became a youth pastor.
“I didn’t care about sin before, but now I don’t want to sin anymore because I love Jesus,” he replied.
I never would have been part of that conversation if God had not called me to be a pastor. Baptisms – whether the believer going public grew up in the church or recently began to attend – are some of the most joyous Sundays on the calendar. When you get to talk about the gospel, make disciples and baptize as part of your job, you are blessed. May I never take this for granted.
5. I get the privilege of serving Jesus as His errand boy.
Harold Senkbeil, in his book The Care of Souls, says that a sheepdog’s tail is always wagging when he is working and that he always has one eye on his master. Too often my tail is not wagging because in those moments or days I have my eyes off of the master. But some days, as I look to the day ahead and ask Jesus for strength and wisdom to serve His church that He has promised to build, it will hit me with a wave of joy: I get the privilege to serve Jesus as His errand boy today – wherever and in whatever way He may choose to take me for that day or that season. May I never take this for granted.
I don’t say it often enough – I love being a pastor.