In just a couple of days, I finish my fifth year (and will enter my sixth year) as the Lead Pastor of Prairie Flower Baptist Church. I can hardly believe how fast time has seemingly zipped by. Indeed, “swift fly the years.” Can I get a witness?
I was barely 26 years old when I took on the joyful burden of being one of the pastors at Prairie Flower. I am now 31 (almost 32 come January 2019) and over the years I have grown and learned so much. This is not an exaggeration. I knew barely anything about pastoral ministry when I began five years ago, but I’ve gleaned so much experience over the years. Yes, I have a lot more to learn, but by the grace of God, here’s some lessons I’ve learned along the way…
- Pastoral ministry has many periods, fewer exclamation points, and more question marks then I initially realized. Check out my Facebook post from five years ago…”Preparing for the weekend! For those of you who don’t know, I am candidating for the position of Pastor at Prairie Flower Baptist Church in Washington, IA! I’m super excited! Please pray for me and my family…we need grace, strength, energy, and wisdom from above! And as always…I love you Heather and Ann-Marie…you two are my greatest earthly treasures!” Not necessarily a bad post, but did you notice that every one of my sentences ended in an exclamation point? There are a total of five exclamation points in this one post. I almost wish I could go back in time and coach myself with the wisdom that ministry has moments of excitement, but pastoral ministry is mostly made up with good old-fashioned (sometimes boring) periods, and way more question marks then anyone truly cares for.
- Pastoral ministry is slow progression in a fast-paced world. In other words, there is nothing really fast-paced about pastoral ministry. Indeed, sanctification is slow (for the pastor and his people). Change, in the church, is slow (especially for the pastor). Growth (whether spiritual or numerical) is mostly slow. Yes, pastoral ministry is slow progression in a fast-paced world. In fact, if you want to thrive in pastoral ministry you must embrace the slowness of life and ministry, not buck against it.
- Pastoral ministry (at times) will tear your emotional guts out while simultaneously reminding you that God is always good. I have said it before and I’ll probably say it again, but I have never cried so much in my entire life as I have in pastoral ministry. The ministry is so emotionally exhausting at times! Yes, I know I used an exclamation point there, but it is definitely warranted. As a pastor, you minister to people who are both perpetrators of pain, and victims of pain, and all of that causes deep pain within your own life. I have gone to my garage many a time and simply wept over people, their sin, and their pain. My heart hurts for the evil and sin in this world. Indeed, if I’m not careful I can find myself in a carnival of despair and depression. But just as soon as the dark becomes really dark, God (time and time again) rushes in and reminds me of His goodness. How? All kinds of ways…from people, to nature, to an intrusive, but beautiful thought…Yes, God reminds me (especially in the darkest night of soul) that He is near, and He cares, and He is good.
- Pastoral ministry is done by sinners for sinners. There is no getting around it. I am a pastor and I am a sinner. No amount of pastoring will ever obliterate my sin nature. I still get angry, prideful, and gluttonous. Does that list disturb you? It shouldn’t…and it could be longer. Indeed, if you’re reading this, you have the same heart I do and, according to Jeremiah the prophet, it’s so sick and deceitful, who can know it?! But by the grace of God, I am saying “no” to my sinful flesh more today than I did five years ago, and God still chooses to use me despite all that I am (i.e. a sinner) and all that I am not (i.e. fully sanctified). The same is true with you. Aren’t you glad?
- Pastoral ministry (specifically at Prairie Flower Baptist Church) is a joy. I was recently reading in my personal devotions through Paul’s letter to the Philippians. He says this in the fourth chapter, “Therefore, my brothers (and sisters), whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm thus in the Lord, my beloved.” Wow. I read those words and just stopped for a moment. I thought to myself, “Could I really say this about the people of Prairie Flower and actually mean it?” Then I began to think of all the people that make up this precious church…So many names, so many precious people…And I concluded, you know, I’m no Apostle Paul, but I love the people of Prairie Flower. They took a risk on me, bringing me as their pastor at barely 26 years of age, with no prior experience at all…Yes, they took a risk on me, and gave me grace upon grace upon grace as I made many mistakes. Simply put, they have loved me these past five years. How could I not love them in return? Indeed, I love the people of Prairie Flower and pray that I grow in my love and admiration for them.
Just some thoughts as I get ready to exit year five of pastoral ministry and enter year six. Nothing mind-blowing or earth-shattering here…and that’s ok. Why? Well, I still have much to learn in the years to come…thanks for reading.