WHAT ABOUT PASTORAL MINISTRY?

Education is wonderful and essential to one’s training, but most people are nervous when taking
a new course. Hopefully, you will enjoy the mechanics of the educational process: research, study, writing, and learning new concepts. Yet, a certain amount of falsehood is inherent in what we are doing because every course misleads us to some degree. The schedule unfolds before us in an orderly sequence. All of the courses end with discussions and assignments. All of the exams are taken at the right time and place. All of the grades are posted to the appropriate academic office. Courses start and end, giving the false impression of completion. The content is all nicely laid out for us. Okay, you can stop daydreaming because our lives are not so comfortably laid out. And you can be certain that pastoral ministry is not so comfortably structured, despite the pastor’s best organizational ability. Our lives overflow with starts and stops. Almost daily we turn into blind alleys. Constantly, we confront interruptions and detours on ministry avenue. If we are patient and persistent, by the grace of God, we eventually discover humility, submission, obedience, and praise.

During the uncomfortable structuring, however, we scratch our heads and finally extricate ourselves from the thorny circumstances involved. All along the way, much prayer and patience are required. And you must not presume that your instructor is walking at a higher level than you. Understand clearly that there is only one level of Christian discipleship. We are both simply following Jesus Christ our Lord, obeying him every day, resisting the adversary, refreshed by God’s grace and deliverance, and transformed by renewing our minds. Pastoral ministry is an interesting phenomenon in Christianity. We are disciples of God’s Anointed who traveled around a very narrow earthly environment doing sporadic ministry. Yet, we attempt to imprint his examples and teaching upon our intentional ministry in specific local settings under specific conditions. Remember, that ministry is always specific. It is always done locally. It is always performed within circumstances and conditions. Ministry is never an abstract generality. It is always from the purpose and intention of immersing ourselves in the realities of culture,
circumstance, congregation, and community. Our examples are Jesus in Galilee and Bethany, Paul in Rome, Timothy in Ephesus, and Titus in Crete.

Have you ever watched any of the TV news commentary shows? There is usually a facilitator, who presents issues and then asks his “guest” commentators to respond with analysis and future forecasts. As they respond, the commentators get into a heated debate over the issues, but they seem to know everything about what’s involved. And within a thirty minute or one-hour show, they analyze the problems in the country and make bold forecasts. They don’t theorize or make bizarre declarations. They refuse to generalize because they revel in the details. In most cases, the TV audience never knows whether the celebrity commentators were accurate with their analysis or their forecasts. But during their moment in front of the camera they communicate confidence and certitude. Even more amazing, the facilitator seems to accept their comments as gospel and most viewers will succumb to their influence. Some people think a pastor is supposed to be like that, but it is doubtful that it is possible. Oh, sure it would be marvelous to know so much about people and souls that one could diagnose their problems quickly. To know so much about people and souls that one could accurately analyze their issues and forecast the future for them would be a pastor’s dream. People, however, are just as unique and different from each other as each snowflake that falls is unique and different from all the other snowflakes.