One Sunday a long time ago, in the middle of the third point of my sermon, I lost my nerve. On Friday and Saturday doubts about the usefulness of the message had muttered darkly in the back of my mind, but I’d pushed ahead, ever the good soldier. But Sunday at about 11:40 a.m. my faith fled the field!
We have been entrusted with the Jesus-lamp. All believers are, I know, but our daily calling, especially on Sundays, is to take our people by the hand and lead them into dark rooms where secrets and mysteries hide and then hold out our marvelous Lamp.
Pastors draw energy from promising and interesting challenges—a new discipleship strategy, a surge in visitors, young believers eager to grow, the next sermon series. But sometimes the rains don’t come. The pandemic drove most pastors into a wilderness of bewildering tech demands, preaching to an empty room, and trying to shepherd without presence. Add to that the debilitating conflicts so many pastors face among their people. Badlands indeed.
Perhaps, with our noses pushed so hard upon the grindstone, we might lose sight of the gifts God gives us. For one thing, he has made us a Wordworker—one among the “apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers, to equip God’s people for works of service.” Sit back for a moment and think on this gift.
What is that feeling? It was as if I’d dressed in the crisp white of the kingdom, as if I’d arrived in the stately uniform of a royal official bearing a scroll inscribed by the Lord Christ himself. The message on my lips came with royal authority.
Pastoral work is hard and draining. The blessed counterbalance to the wearisome weight of ministry is “the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace.” That’s what can keep us putting one foot in front of the other. Dispensing and embodying God’s grace in Christ is like spiritual adrenaline energizing a weary runner.