One does not normally think that pastoral ministry is a high-risk job, at least in N. America. While recognizing that physical hazards do not often occur in pastoral ministry, I still maintain that there are tremendous dangers inherent in the Calling which few church members and fewer pastors realize until it is too late. These dangers have contributed to the amazing statistic that only 1 out of every 10 pastors who begin in ministry stay in ministry. I thought it wise to bring some of these dangers to your attention so that you can be praying for your pastor as well as others you know in ministry elsewhere.
In my last blog I mentioned the first danger lies in trying to meet everyone’s expectation. I encourage you to read that blog if you have not already done so. The second danger in pastoral ministry is
THE DANGER OF FEEDING OTHERS AT THE EXPENSE OF NOURISHING ONE’S OWN SOUL…
The primary calling of the pastor is to be about the business of teaching God’s Word to his/her people and praying for them that they grow in grace and in the knowledge of Jesus Christ. But if not careful, there is the danger that the task of teaching others might displace the time spent in the Word and in prayer for the growth of their own soul.
Henry Martin, a missionary to India in the 19th century said, “I see how great are the temptations of a missionary to neglect his own soul. Apparently outwardly employed for God, my heart has been growing more hard and proud. Let me be taught that the first great business on earth is the sanctification of my own soul; so shall I be rendered more capable also of performing the duties of the Ministry in a holy and solemn manner.”
Martin Luther, the great German reformer of the 16th century, once wrote to his barber, Peter Beskendorf, who had asked him some questions about prayer. Here is a portion of Luther’s response: “It is a good thing to let prayer be the first business of the morning and the last at night. Guard yourself carefully against those false deluding ideas which tell you, ‘wait a little while and I will pray in an hour; first I must attend to this or that.’ Such thoughts get you away from prayer into other affairs which so hold your attention and involve you so that nothing comes of prayer for that day.”
Paul tells Timothy to “train (exercise) yourself for godliness” (1 Tim 4:7). Also to “Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers” (1 Tim 4:16). The pastor must personally feed on the Word of God and practice what he/she preaches. God’s Word must be applied to their own heart and life, their own relationships and family, if they are to faithfully apply it to their people. How can I tell others what I myself am not willing to hear? How can I lead others on the path of discipleship that I am not willing to tread? Like we are told before every flight on an airplane, put the oxygen mask on yourself first before you tend to your little ones. Selfishness? No, it is about survival for the sake of others.
Pray for your pastor, that he/she will not succumb to the danger of tending to you and ignoring their own soul. Ask them how they are doing spiritually; what they are learning from God’s Word; the ways in which they are experiencing growth in their own discipleship. A spiritually healthy and robust church cannot be created or led by a hard-working pastor who is spiritually anemic and undernourished. It is in your best interest that your pastor is a diligent student of God’s Word, caring for his/her own soul, for then they will be around a lot longer to care for you.
Next blog: The Danger of the Pastor Not Receiving Pastoral Care…