Some days, even after thirty-some years of active parish ministry, I simply don’t feel that well suited to being a pastor.
A disappointment tips the scale, and I am gripped by a growing sense of discouragement.
A loss is felt – either because people move away, because of a death, or simply as a result of the shifting landscape of peoples’ spiritual lives or family dynamics – and I grieve all over again for the way these losses tear at the fabric of community.
Life is difficult. I get it. I am a pastor, and I am well accustomed with the challenges and struggles people experience – not only those within my pastoral charge (as we Methodists refer to our flocks), but those well beyond it, in the larger community and among the circles of relationship of those I know. Yet this doesn’t lessen the impact of disappointment or loss.
“The world is my parish,” John Wesley once said. Pastors aren’t appointed to churches to be mere chaplains. We are sent among God’s people to equip them to be ministers in the world. Pastors are like personal trainers, helping others get in spiritual shape so that they can live as followers of Christ for the sake of the world. Trouble is, too often people are content to purchase a bargain gym membership and then fail to show up and work out! The church atrophies. Leadership dries up. People walk away.
I still believe that God wants to bless the whole world, no exceptions! And so I get up each morning knowing that the work is not going to be easy. My hope and desire is that my efforts for the sake of God’s realm on earth will bear fruit, but I am also realizing that I don’t control the results of anything. Not really.
I am learning to turn my work over to the Spirit of God who moves about freely in the world without regard to human borders or divisions. I am learning to release the imperfect work of my hands, my heart, my mind and my spirit, to the one wise God who is able to use even me to create a more just and compassionate world.
(c) 2014 Mark Lloyd Richardson