Everyone is prone to discouragement. No matter our vocation, we all face the temptation to feel as if what we are doing does not matter. I can remember working in the military and wondering how much my work really supported the mission. I recall working in Insurance Compliance and debating in my mind as to how in the world all of these reports and analysis really did anything. These are natural and common questions.
From my seat, there is no other vocation that trumps pastoral ministry with the feeling of not making a difference. In addition to our knowledge of our own weakness, there is the front-row view of many other people’s problems. The pastor sees people at their worst. Whether it is the horrific impact of sin on their lives or the activity of sin within the church. Furthermore, there is the overall burden to see every member presented complete or mature in Christ (Col. 1:28-29). Oh, and by the way, you, Mr. Pastor, will give an account for the souls of your sheep (Heb. 13:17).
So here you stand, knee deep in the sludge of personal and corporate sin, knowing your own weakness, and watching sheep alternating between picking each other off and falling asleep, and you ask, “Am I doing anything?”
Because we like to fix things, we immediately ask what we can do differently to fix things. The first thing on the block is usually our preaching. We wonder if it is working. Is there something better? Can we find a silver bullet for Christian maturity?
Embedded in our favorite Resurrection Sunday passage is this glorious announcement:
But in fact, Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep. (1 Cor. 15:20)
This glorious truth that Jesus has, in fact, been raised has a myriad of promises and implications tethered to it. However, for our purposes here, one will suffice. In short, pastor, your preaching is not in vain!