What’s the worst day of the week for pastors? Probably Monday. For the previous seven days we’ve poured ourselves into sermon preparation, pastoral visitation, counseling, evangelism, problem solving, prayer, etc. The Sunday climax (anti-climax?) has come and gone. We may have been discouraged by low attendances, limited or negative feedback, etc. Our mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual reserves are in the red. Yet we have to climb the mountain all over again. Monday “blues” can very quickly become Monday “blacks.”
However, without ignoring the real difficulties, let us also remember the joys of pastoral ministry. Here are seven I try to keep before me, especially on Monday mornings.
Every time I enter my study I think, “What a privilege!” Many are stuck on frustrating freeways or down dangerous mines; others are at monotonous conveyor belts or life-threatening fires; still others work in the midst of cursing and swearing. Yet, here am I looking forward to my Bible, good books, and quiet hours spent in the study of God and His grace. I never enter my study without turning to God and saying, “Thank you. I do not deserve this.”
Preaching can be frustrating and even frightening. But it can also be so enjoyable and even exciting. How many times we see God work as we speak His Word. We see souls being sobered, saints being encouraged, the sad being uplifted, seekers becoming finders, and sinners becoming servants. Sometimes we sense unique and (humanly) inexplicable help when expounding a difficult passage, or making a pointed application. “Where did that come from?” we sometimes wonder. It is the Lord.
I love my study. Sometimes, I love it too much. Books are far less complicated than people. When I was a full-time pastor, I tried to visit every home or family once a year. In my second congregation, that worked out about 3-4 visits a week. The sick, the elderly, and the bereaved added another 3-4 a week. Problems and counseling added maybe another 1-2 a week. So probably ten visits a week on average. That meant two afternoons and two evenings a week. If it was Florida, that would be easy. However, it was the Outer Hebrides: often raining, cold, wet and windy (and that was the summer). I have to admit, it sometimes took my wife to say, “Come on David, get out of the study and get visiting!” And though I sometimes went reluctantly, I almost always returned home encouraged and uplifted by the fellowship with God’s people, and from hearing what God was doing in their lives with His Word.
No one enters pastoral ministry for money. In fact, there will be times when you are really tight financially, and you will wonder how you can get by. However, God will always supply your needs. He moves His people in remarkable ways to give exactly what you need. And even when you don’t “need” it, God’s people will often express their gratitude by loving gifts. How many times I came home from visiting in the Sottish Highlands and Islands with fresh eggs, joints of lamb, wild salmon, etc. You can taste the love of God’s people in a special way in these special meals.
No, “we are not professionals,” but we are in a profession, “a vocation based upon specialized education.” And what great colleagues we have in this vocation! Thirty years ago, I worked in the financial services industry. It was cut-throat competitive. Now it’s my joy to have godly pastors and missionaries as my colleagues and co-laborers. Since coming to the USA I’ve been privileged to attend The Ligonier National Conference, The Gospel Coalition Conference and the Desiring God Conference for Pastors. What a contrast to the financial conferences I used to attend! Of course, there are differences and disagreements between us, but our shared love of Christ and His grace is more powerful than what divides us.
One of the greatest joys I had as a Pastor was to hear my wife and children being prayed for at every weekly prayer meeting. And I believe that was a reflection of the private prayers of my congregation. Yes, pastors and their families are special targets for Satan, but they are also given a special place in the Church’s prayers.
Pastors have to work long hours. However, it is often forgotten how much time they have with their wives and children. To have coffee-breaks with your wife, and often three mealtimes a day with your small children, what other calling will allow you to enjoy that?
Pastoral joys will last forever. Christ’s good and faithful servants will enter into the joy of their Lord (Matt. 25:21). “They that be wise, shall shine as the brightness of the firmament; and they that turn many to righteousness as the stars for ever and ever” (Dan. 12:3).
Although due to my Seminary responsibilities, I am now only a part-time pastor, I’m thankful for the many pastoral connections and opportunities I still have, both in the Seminary and in my local church. So, though I still have Monday morning blues, I am still privileged with pastoral joys to strengthen me. Let’s remember the joys, focus on the joys, and value the joys.
Extracted from The Christian Ministry by David Murray $0.99.