Tuesday, March 11, 2008

On being a pastor and wanting to see fruit

In all honesty, for quite some time I've believed that there was something wrong with me as a pastor. The reason is simple: I want to see the good fruit of the Holy Spirit's work come about in the congregation through the result of my ministry. Nothing wrong with that, but when I don't see it I wonder, "Why am I even bothering?" I get depressed and despondent and wonder if my work hasn't been in vain. Like I said, I thought there was something wrong with me. My tradition and background places such an emphasis on "success" being "proclaiming the pure Gospel". i.e., if a preacher just stays faithful to the Word then he's done his job and that's all he needs to keep going. Doesn't matter if the congregation grows in numbers. Doesn't matter if the congregation rejects the pure Word. The fruit the pastor should look for is the pure Gospel being proclaimed. Now this morning I'm reading through Thessalonians and the Lord has granted me a gift: The Apostle Paul had the same struggles. He wanted to SEE results. So much so, in fact, that he worried and obsessed over the state of the Thessalonian's faith. It kept him up at night, so to speak. Were the Thessalonians growing in their faith? Were they withstanding trials and persecution? For that matter . . . did they remember me and my ministry among them? It bothered him so much that he sent Timothy. And it wasn't until he got a good report back--that they did indeed think of him fondly, that their faith remained strong and growing--that he could say, "NOW we really live. Our efforts were NOT in vain." Good stuff, there. Reminds me that I'm just like all ministers: I started out on this path because I wanted to see lives changed by encountering Christ, and seeing actual fruit coming about through my ministry is a definite reward. It is a gift from God, something that allows me to get up the next day and minister once more in God's name. To get back in the pulpit again on Sunday and preach His Word. When that fruit is not there, it's natural--and perhaps even expected--that I'll despair. It's natural for me to either re-evaluate my approach or desire to move on to more fertile ground. I'm not weird or broken . . . I'm just a lot like Paul. Good news, indeed. Now, if you'll excuse me, I've got to shut down and try to fix my laptop power cord that the dog has just chewed in half. Can't live without my laptop!