we need to get in the trenches!
Do we have any idea how easy it is to lose our way – in the thick of serving God no less.
This post is being prompted by a few things:
1. my son is fascinated with all things army-like: the brotherhood, the tough stuff, the strain and the glory. It’s a guy’s dirty, glorious dream: to be a hero, to make a difference, to have a buddy, to save a life. (it used to be the girl’s version was to be a mother-hero, built a great home, gal-friends and raise a life…but the script has changed alot. We save that for another time).
2. the daily reality of meeting people who are just – plain – struggling: not sure how to navigate work, feeling unsure about kids, sad and unhappy in marriages, not at peace in ministry, ‘why our kids are leaving the church’….. the list is long and I have not included climate issues, Boko Haram, ISIS and Wall Street.
3. the quiet question in many hearts about why the church has pastors who do business, who are always drinking and eating (their facebook posts), who seem …unreal, unlike the rest of humanity; sweating it out in the trenches.
4. my, our ongoing search to live well and leave a legacy.
Many years ago as a young pastor, a church member asked me a brilliant question. She was tentative but she really wanted to know; so she took the risk and asked, “what do pastors do all week?”.
What are we doing pastors?
It’s a question I continue to ask myself and sometimes trouble other pastors about. But first –
if you tend towards guilt, this question is not to induce guilt.
if you tend towards sloth, this question is not to induce work
if you tend towards not upsetting the status quo, this question is not to induce fear
This question is to incite you to hit refresh on that ‘purpose’ button of your life!
Why O why do you do what you do? Why do you spend time the way you do? Why have you responded/reacted? Why have you held back?
Above everything else, pastors must be a small step behind the Great Shepherd and a small step ahead of the flock.
What do i do all week? In order or priority:
1 / Talk to the Great shepherd; mostly letting him set the agenda. Turns out he mostly wants to talk about me. He said my work is the overflow of my life. So the spotlight’s often on the stuff I dont enjoy paying attention to: my shadows; yet it is liberating and freeing to know He sees it all and still loves me. In other words, I tank up!
2/ Listen to people. This is like my strength (no!)….but it needs to be done. I jump to conclusions (you too?). I’m too smart many times. I finish people’s sentences and map out their spiritual paths in my image. Hasn’t worked well; so I am learning to listen. To real people. To thought leaders. To the leaders God has asked me to work with.
3/ I work at whatever plans I have laid out. None of them perfect; but giving up too quick means I never learn what truly works. So give stuff time to work. This is hard I know. The results are not often quick enough, there will be disagreement. I get impatient. But, I fight the distractions to compare and compete and just hunker down to do my work.
4/ I throw out my plans when something very obviously better comes along. It doesn’t happen very much; but it does. The Spirit sometimes prompts you to pay attention to someone or something; and from experience — JUST DO IT! You will be so glad you did; because it’s not just for the person; it’s to revive you as God’s ministry co-labourer; restoring your joy that you are working with God. It’s sweet!
5/ I don’t calendar full days all week. You heard that. You will soon red-line (which is the beginning not of wisdom but burn-out). I plan ‘space’ times: time i give myself permission to read, to do something that refreshes my soul. There is designated family times, there are seasons to cut back because the children need me more. I take my Sabbath. YES! As a pastor-writer-mother, a full 24hr Sabbath rarely happens; but 4-5 hours can be planned for. To make up for it, I have extended Quiet Times in the week, an annual personal retreat, and date nights with the spouse. Actually, I have a time slot each week to review my week and adjust my calendar!
6/ I pray regularly that God will lead me to the needs and help me to make a difference. As a pastor, our call according to Ephesians 4 is to equip God’s people. We may not join the Justice League, draft bills against trafficking, speak at Ted… but we may! Let God carve the path for you as you daily dig in and enter the trenches to comfort the afflicted, soothe their wounds with Truth and Love, set their sights beyond their limited horizon, lift them up and strengthen their feeble joints. Pastors get to champion the people’s dreams, cheer them on to success, sit with them in sorrow, bury their sins and resurrect their hopes. Along the way, many pastors have refined their calling and sharpened their sword.
So, get in the trenches. Like that old story of the man who picked up that one star fish? It made a difference to that star fish; and who knows, that star fish may tell others later as it bobs in the sea, ‘don’t get marooned on the shore’.