“Shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight,
not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you;
not for shameful gain, but eagerly…”
(1 Peter 5:2)
There have been a lot of articles circulating on the internet lately about the difficulties of pastoral ministry. After having been a pastor for 12 years, I could probably write a list of my own. Pastoral ministry can be isolating, discouraging, emotionally and spiritually exhausting call. We encounter people in some of the hardest times of their lives: when they are hurt, lost, angry, alone, shamed, caught, desperate for an answer. Sometimes as Pastors we shine, and we bring comfort and hope to those in need, other times we respond with the same brokenness we have encountered, and we only make matters worse. This calling is tough, and not everyone is equipped for it, not everyone is called to it. But those who are called know the unique privilege of pastoral care.
Several times this past week I’ve had people come to me and say something to the order of, “I don’t envy you your job.” This week I’ve had two funerals for men in my congregation, men who were faithful members of the congregation I serve and men I counted as friends and brothers in Christ. It has been a struggle for me to write the services for these men, but it was also a privilege that I do not take for granted.
Yes, it is difficult to speak from the heart on such an occasion. But when you consider that it is also an opportunity to proclaim our faith in Jesus Christ, to share the hope we have in Him, to take part in His ministry of compassion in binding up the brokenhearted; it is an honor that I could never turn down.
Yes, it is painful to sit with a family as they watch their loved one die. But when you consider that this is an opportunity to witness a saint passing from one glory to the next, to be there to recount the mercies of God and the promises afforded in God’s Word for such a time, to be an ambassador of God’s kingdom; it is an honor I could never turn down.
Yes, very few will willingly walk into a situation where a family is in crisis, where the consequences of a lifetime of bad decisions come crashing down, where years of bitterness and hostility have created a wall of division. But to be able to speak a word of grace, of peace, in such a time, to take part in the ministry of reconciliation that was established on the cross of Christ; that is an honor I could never turn down.
No, shepherding has never been a highly valued form of employment. In the days of scripture it wasn’t a position that attracted the best and the brightest. But a good shepherd lovingly cared for his sheep, guided them to quiet waters and green pastures, protected them from harm, and delivered them healthy and strong to his master.
This is the privilege of pastoral ministry: to guide a congregation through difficult times, to sing over them words of peace and promise, to feed them with the feast of the heavenly banquet, to refresh their hearts with streams of living water, to lead them in joy to before their Lord.
Were it not a calling, I could never do it. Had I to rely on my own strength, I would be a complete failure. But since God is the one who calls us to serve, then equips those whom He calls, I will gladly, eagerly, faithfully shepherd the flock.