Perhaps it is the more reflective days that summer brings. Could be seeing old friends or at least hearing news from them. Or maybe I could chalk it up as a form of "holy coveting." On the other hand, it could be caused by hearing one too many pastors cyber-whining about their workload. Whatever the cause, I have been reflecting on what I miss about being a pastor of a local congregation.
I write not to lament, for I am joyfully serving in the new position the Lord brought me to over two years ago now. Rather, I have just been noting some of the aspects of local pastoral work that I do miss being a part of my life now. Perhaps sharing these five joys I no longer experience in the same way will help a preacher out there find fresh appreciation for his work, or some congregants be more thankful for their pastor's ministry.
**_Regularly Preaching to the Same Flock. _**Though I have opportunities to preach in my new role, and enjoy those times, there is nothing like preaching to people you have really come to know after years spent with them. The man who has the duty of weekly bringing God's Word to the flock he has been commissioned to feed has a special privilege indeed. Because he knows them and they him, he can communicate in ways that can touch their hearts more deeply. What a high calling and holy honor!
**_Dedicatedly Praying for an Assigned Group. _**In Christ, we are free to pray at all times and for all people. Yet we are given special assignments of prayer. Parents know it is their sacred duty to pray daily and often for their children. Similarly, a minister knows he can and should pray for many, but he has a special duty to be "devoted to prayer and the ministry of the Word" (Acts 6:4) for his congregation. This commissioned focus to pray for specific people creates an earnestness unlike any other in the heart of a shepherd.
**_Gratefully Administering the Sacraments to His People. _**Though I know Paul said he could not remember many of those he baptized, and I can relate to a degree, still, being responsible to administer the sacraments regularly to a local church brings many warm memories to mind. I remember the five year-old boy, whose family was coming into membership of the church that day, jumping up and down in front of the sanctuary before the service repeatedly saying to me, "Pastor York, I get to be baptized today! I get to be baptized today!" I recall the times we were gathered around the table of the Lord as a true family of God, eating and drinking together, then hearing one another share praise about God's provision or with weeping tell us of a burden. The sacraments, accompanied by the Word and prayer, bond the minister to Christ and His people in a special way.
**_Gently Caring for the Lambs. _**One thing I have noticed, that a wise minister would do well to pay close attention to, is how children in a congregation desire a special bond with their pastor. For week after week, they see the pastor representing the Lord to them as he brings the Word to them, prays for them, baptizes, and serves the Lord's Supper. Surely every pastor has had a young child come up to him after a service, proudly holding up a picture they drew which often has a sermon point or even the pastor himself featured. They want and need the minister's attention, and getting down on their level and listening to what they eagerly want to share is a unique trust a local pastor has.
**_Walking Together through Life's Seasons. _**Certainly, pastoral work can be difficult. Because I was the pastor, I was invited into hospital rooms and bedrooms where a loved one was dying, into confrontations with rebellious teens and their parents, and into counseling with the intimacies and heart struggles of marriages opened up. Yet those struggles were also opportunities to bring the living gospel to bear on all of life. Through the seasons of congregational live - the births, the deaths, the graduations, the weddings, the times of both dryness and fruitful bounty - the local pastor is the man called upon to encourage, rebuke, and comfort the people of God. No one else has the opportunities regularly opened up to him like the minister does.
Sure, being a pastor in a congregation can be grueling, unappreciated work at times. Yet what joys he has like no other!