BEST. JOB. EVER!
Are you a young person pondering a career? Have you considered becoming a pastor
or a Christian day school teacher? This twelve-part series is meant to coincide with the work of the
President’s Committee on Partners in the Public Ministry (CPPM). Its aim is to help you think more deeply
about the great importance—and many blessings—of the public teaching and preaching ministry.
(“I will be with you.”)
It should be noted that, while the articles in this series are intended to encourage Christians—perhaps especially Christian young men—to consider the vocation of the public ministry, the reality is that we don’t actually have a pastoral shortage problem. How could we, since it is the ascended Christ Who “gave gifts to men,” and included among those gifts are “pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ”? (Ephesians 4:8,11-12) Christ has not scaled back His gift-giving, and He will not leave us short-handed in His work of gathering His elect. Jesus’ words to His twelve disciples are still applicable in our circumstances: “You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide.” (John 15:16 ESV)
If there is, in fact, a problem, then it is not with the number of pastors but with our own perceptions and attitudes concerning the necessity of, and the blessings bestowed through, the public ministry. We live in a world that is corrupted by sin, and this corruption is at work in us, too. So, while the unbeliever is consumed with thoughts of material benefits and temporal blessings, the Christian is not immune to such thoughts either. In other vocations, employers lure prospective workers with various incentives—health insurance, retirement accounts, paid vacation, and so on. Our churches have followed suit as we keep in mind the Lord’s word that “those who preach the Gospel should live from the Gospel.” (1 Corinthians 9:14) Such avenues of temporal support are our attempt to “share in all good things” (Galatians 6:6) with those who labor among us by publicly preaching and teaching God’s Word.
Christ, however, does not “lure” or “incentivize” anyone into the public ministry. He uses no slogan or commission to gin up interest in this high calling. He simply takes possession of the individual’s heart and mind through the teaching and preaching of the Gospel. He then places that individual where He would have him serve in His kingdom with the promise that He will be with him and bless him in that area of service. Anyone who enters the public ministry for the kinds of material support that it affords will generally view that support with disdain, regardless how much is offered. Conversely, those who enter the public ministry for the sake of serving Christ will always find His blessings more than adequate.
Are there difficulties and stresses that arise in the public ministry? Yes, just as there are in other vocations. These difficulties and stresses, however, are always the result of sin, the very sin which Jesus died on the cross to take away. When we expose that sin through a right proclamation of God’s Law and forgive that sin by preaching the message of the cross, Jesus’ promise is that He is there with us, as our sure foundation, blessing His Word and building up His kingdom.
Here’s the best part of this truth—the same Gospel that pastors are privileged to preach applies equally to them, because—let’s face it—pastors are descendants of Adam, too. They get easily frustrated when things don’t go as they plan. They get angry when someone says something mean. They get self-righteous when their faults are pointed out. They lie awake and worry about matters that are beyond their ability to control. Left to us, the church, as well as our own lives, would certainly end in ruin. How comforting it is to be able to lay one’s head down each night and arise each morning knowing that Jesus, by promise, is with us through the same Gospel, forgiving our sins and preserving us unto eternal life. In that, pastors and teachers have nothing less and nothing more than what all believers have, which is Jesus.
Frank Gantt is pastor of Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church in Loganville, Georgia.