Everyone is busy. This is the reality of our modern culture. There is work that needs to be done, a family to care for, a house and car to maintain, friendships to cultivate, doctors to visit. There are kids’ activities to schedule and guests to host. For those of us who are Christians, you can add to the normal busyness of life attendance at church, possibly volunteering once a week. Life in the 21st century feels like an unending rat race. We only slow down when crisis and sickness force us to take a break.
Those who pastor God’s people experience many of the same pulls, pressures, demands and responsibilities as other Christians. And because a pastor is called to be involved in the lives of the people in his congregation, he must learn to juggle his own schedule with the busy and hectic schedules of his church members as well. Their busy lives create additional tension in ministry, setting many pastors up for failure—even before they begin.
Many pastors fall into two traps here …
In some cases, a pastor quickly realizes that he cannot provide adequate care for his congregation, so he doesn’t. Even with a smaller congregation, it’s not possible to be at every surgery, ball game, funeral, doctor’s visit, home invitation, church work-day and counseling request. Discouraged, some stop trying altogether. A pastor may choose to focus more broadly on administrating large activities, managing busy programs and overseeing the general functioning of the local church, leaving the work of “ministry” to others—or neglecting it altogether.
On the other hand, some determined pastors recognize that they can’t do it all but they commit to pushing through the pain. They set an ambitious hand to the plow and hope that with enough effort they will at least please some people. This approach has its own dangers, though. The pastor is now enslaved to the demands and needs of his church. The congregation, whether directly or indirectly, largely determines how his time is spent. His ministry faithfulness and fruitfulness will be based on how happy his congregation is with his efforts, and while some will be pleased, there will always be people who can never be satisfied. Satisfying people becomes his way of measuring faithfulness, yet this will leave him feeling exhausted and empty.
The Pastor’s True Biblical Calling
A pastor is not called to run programs for the masses. Nor is he called to do it all and try to please everyone. God is the one who calls pastors to ministry, and the specifics of that calling are clearly outlined in God’s Word. The only way a pastor can avoid these pitfalls and remain steadfast throughout his life and ministry is to know what God has truly called him to do—and to do it! The Apostle Peter exhorts elders/pastors to be shepherds—to care for God’s people. He writes:
Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, watching over them—not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not pursuing dishonest gain, but eager to serve; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock. And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away (1 Peter 5:2-4).
Peter’s exhortation to pastors can be summarized in a single sentence, “Be shepherds of God’s flock under your care until the Chief Shepherd appears.” And in case you missed it, Peter is pretty clear about the who, what, when and how of a pastor’s biblical calling.