Ministry is a rich and rewarding vocation—until it’s not. For most of the ministry leaders I know, any idyllic notions they had of life as a pastor lasted about three weeks into their call. The honeymoon phase of ministry ends and real life sets in as the tide of warm smiles and kind compliments goes out, leaving behind rocks of criticism and complaint. If you’re lucky in ministry life you will be buoyed along with enough compliments and encouragement, only occasionally experiencing the pain that comes from stepping on a sharp rock of criticism. If you’re not so lucky, you’ll grimace with every step because overly critical people litter your way with painful remarks and sharp jabs.
Perhaps it is this season in my life, but I sense a growing alienation from this world. I find myself in a technocratic, post-Christian age that does not see this as the Father’s world. It is their world, where individualism reigns, freedom amounts to pursuing one’s own good, moral values are up to each person, fake news dominates the airwaves, gaining power and wealth are the ultimate objectives, and God is irrelevant.
I never dreamed that I would find myself so familiar with death as a pastor. I studied theology in seminary, and learned about expositing a text and church leadership. However, I don’t remember reading a book about what to do when visiting someone on their deathbed. Looking back over the past seven years as a pastor, I’m astonished at how many times I’ve found myself in that exact position. Along the way, I’ve seen firsthand how uncomfortable with death we are as a society. Most people don’t know what to do or say in those moments, and so they call for a pastor.
We did it again. We elected a sinner. When are we going to learn? In fact we elected 435 sinners out of 435 seats in the House of Representatives. And a bunch of Sin-ators. You get the point?
According to Daniel 4:25, “the Most High is sovereign over all kingdoms on earth and gives them to anyone He wishes.” God raises up earth’s leaders, including those in the USA, which means He puts sinners in places of leadership. Some are aggressively hostile against Him and goodness, some are humble, faithful. Most (?) are somewhere in between.
Last weekend I was working with church leaders, tasked with discerning a God-formed vision. It’s mind bending work, but it is the stuff of leadership.