I keep seeing articles listing the woes and struggles of pastors. While the pastorate is often extremely difficult, stretching the fabric of a man’s soul, it is also often full of mountaintop moments. I thought I’d add to this conversation a list of some of the greatest joys of being a pastor… Mountaintop Moments…
- Watching the power of the gospel transform lives and families. The pastor has the great joy of watching, over time, genuine gospel transformation in the life of a family. I remember leading a grown man to the Lord, which led to him being baptized and bringing his family to church regularly. His children trusted Jesus and were baptized, his Christian wife found new joy in being a part of a local church family. They began to plug in and serve, and over time the gospel of Jesus Christ ransacked their “normal” and replaced it with new life. One inexpressible joy of a pastor is to see small gospel investments produce God-sized returns over the course of years. Large attendance numbers cannot even compare with the joy of seeing one family come to faith and walk with Jesus.
- Seeing a church body embrace new life and move forward together. That moment when they get it. The chairman of deacons or that church mother has a bold “new” idea and spreads it passionately within circles of influence – turns out that bold “new” idea is verbatim what you have been massaging into their ears and hearts for a year or more. But suddenly it’s not your idea; it’s theirs. They own the narrative. They take responsibility. And the whole Church Body leans in with a committed forward determination. The gospel is being shared organically. Baptism waters are stirring. Discipleship groups are multiplying. Much needed change comes as a necessary product of corporate obedience, and it is welcomed. There is unity and passion. It’s a new day at the church. Oh the joy!
- Meaningful ministry to his own family, from members of the church. The pastor’s family sometimes takes it on the chin from church members whose souls are burdened and conflicted for any number of reasons. The pressures on a pastor’s wife and children are many. But there are those moments when you see an older saint whisper into the ear of your child and they laugh together. Your young daughter pulls a $10 bill out of her pocket at the Sunday lunch table – how it got there, no one knows. Your boy spends a day at a deacon’s ranch hunting chickens with his .22, then cleaning and preparing the kill to bring home to Mom. Letters arrive in the mailbox addressed to your wife, and she sits quietly crying tears of gratitude as she reads, overwhelmed by the simple expression of loving support. I guess if we wanted to we could focus on the negative things a few church members do or say to our families. Or, we could keep our eyes peeled for those moments when they go out of their way to show our wives and children how much they are loved. What a blessing.
- Watching children grow in stature and favor with God and with men. Every pastor I know who loves Jesus loves church children, too. The pastor who stays has the unique joy of holding a newborn boy in his arms at the hospital. A blink of an eye later, he scoops the same child up off the concrete, wipes a bloody knee and carries him to Mom. The pastor tries to hold back tears after VBS while the boy walks the isle toward him and trusts Jesus as Lord and Savior; he submerges him in the baptismal waters the next Sunday. He counsels him through teenage breakups, calls his attitude to account on the football field, watches him walk across the commencement stage, and helps Mom and Dad cry a little while the young man pulls out of the driveway headed to college. Pastors preach, share, train, model, and lead. But they also do life with people. And it is such a joy.
- Helping believers see God’s faithfulness through difficult seasons of life (funerals, miscarriages, crises). Galatians 6:2 says that we “fulfill the law of Christ” when we help “carry one another’s burdens.” I’ll admit this does not make much sense logically, but when you live it, you understand completely. Pastors regularly bury their faces in the office carpet, pleading that God might place someone’s burden upon them, if only for the momentary relief of a church member. They weep with sorrow at the bedside of the new widow. Their ministry of presence speaks louder than words ever could in the face of suicide, miscarriage, or divorce. And through every passing season, the pastor has the joy of reminding a survivor that God is faithful and God is present. God binds up the wounds, but sometimes he allows the pastor to open the package and apply the bandaid. What great grace is ours. Such purpose. Such value. Such joy.
Pastors, what have I left off this list? What are some of your greatest joys in the pastorate?
Grace and Peace,