One of the sermons I got to hear at the Doxology Spotlight Conference in Waukesha last week mentioned that the work of pastors in the 21st century is “not for sissies.” It caused me to remember a conversation with a now sainted Veteran of the Cross who told me once that he admired the young pastors today and that he couldn’t be a pastor these days. “We had it easier when I was a pastor.” I have no way of measuring the truth of what he said, but he obviously had his reasons for saying what he said.
I, like most of my peers, try not to complain about the challenge of ministry in this day and age. I see most of the challenge being about a fairly simple truth. I can summarize it in three simple statements which I challenge anyone to contradict.
1. The world is changing at an increasingly rapid rate. Some would say at blinding speed.
2. The Church’s challenge (hence the pastor’s challenge) is to preach an unchanging Word (Christ) to this rapidly changing world.
3. This challenge is extraordinarily difficult–not just for pastors–but for all Christians in general.
With the growing threat of low-level persecution of the Church and religious freedom in America today, with America becoming increasingly pagan every year, and with Christians reflecting these changes by jumping from church to church over factors which range from vain to the modestly sincere, it is by no means an easy time to be the Church. Hence, this work to which I am called is not for sissies. It takes a spine. It takes the capacity to let water flow off the duck’s back. It takes a “love for the loveless.” In the end, it takes Christ, abused, scorned, flogged, tortured, crucified, and risen again. He bore the greatest cross of all. His resurrection and promises to His disciples put our crosses in perspective.
After the Doxology conference, I went to the District Pastors Conference and had many conversations, too many, with pastors who are feeling the hurt from these same challenges. I’m glad they felt we could talk about it and am humbled that some shared those things with me. I was raised, I see now, in a household that taught me to honor the pastor. Indeed, there are times, 17 years into this endeavor, when I still can’t believe that I am part of this work. I count my peers as real brothers, (and often better brothers than I deserve), even though I had no brother in my own home as a child. I pray for them and I hope they pray for me.
God grant us all, pastors and Christians, the strength to carry on in this challenging world in these challenging times. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. Heb. 13:8.