I’m a pastor, but I’ll be honest, there are some days that I wake up and wonder what it would be like to do something else, like sell vacuums, work at Starbucks or be a professional body builder (if you know me, you know that’s a joke).
I don’t have these thoughts very often, but when I do it’s usually rooted out of an angry email I received about something I said in a sermon or after doing a wedding with a difficult mother-of-the-bride. Sometimes I wonder what it would be like to have an occupation where I made a lot of money, didn’t have to work long and strange hours, or endure scrutiny and criticism from church-goers who think the worship band is too loud or that I should preach like Joel Osteen.
I’m not complaining (although it sure sounds like I am), it’s just that recently I’ve been thinking about what it means to follow Jesus, particularly as a pastor.
I can’t help but think about how following Jesus today must look drastically different than it did 2,000 years ago, when people were literally following him from place to place, going where he went and gleaning as much as they could from Him. I can’t help but think of Peter throwing down his fishing nets or Zacchaeus promising to give half of his wealth to the poor and pay back anyone he had cheated four times over.
Truth is, repeatedly throughout Scripture when people decided to follow Jesus it cost them something. In Luke 14, Jesus Himself reminds us that there is a cost to being His disciple and that one should weigh heavily whether or not they are willing to take “his yoke upon them”.
As a pastor, I can’t help but wonder if there are specific areas of cost every clergyperson should consider. According to Scripture, we see that the cost of following Jesus is to ultimately be as much like Jesus as possible, and I wonder how many of us within ministry would admit that there are some areas that we simply fall short. I wonder how many of us in ministry honestly look like Jesus in how we pastor and lead.
Recently, in the midst of some self-examination, I came to see that there were certain glaring areas of my ministry (and life) that didn’t exactly live up to the standards Jesus had laid out for me. I don’t think I’m on this island alone, though, and have come to see that many in ministry are selling Jesus and their calling a little short.
We Pull Our Punches.
I’ve done it, and I’m sure you have, too. The gospel is hard; its teachings can be hard, but every now and then we water it down a little bit to make it easier to swallow. After all, we don’t want to offend anyone or step on toes if we don’t have to.
Of course, this completely flies in the face of how Jesus went about things. Jesus was never too concerned with offending people. On the contrary, he was more concerned with sharing truth, and if that meant that toes were stepped on or people were offended, well, that was all par for the course.