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Challenges and Victories:
The Life and Times of a Pastor

By T. L. Lowery

A young pastor was called to fill a vacant pulpit. He approached his new ministry with excitement and vigor. Shortly after accepting the pastorate, however, he learned the church treasurer was involved in an affair with a woman in the congregation. Two prominent families were at stake, and the affair was about to become public knowledge. He began to pray intensely about how to handle this potentially explosive situation.

In his study of the shepherd’s role, he found the biblical solution to be one of reconciliation through love and repentance. He chose to love the families and attempt to salvage their marriages and rebuild their faith. Today, 25 years later, not only are those families still together, the young man involved in the affair has accepted the call of God to preach and is himself a loving pastor.

Old and New Testaments alike portray the role of a shepherd or pastor as a demanding yet fulfilling ministry worthy of honor and high esteem.

JOY OF SHEPHERDING

The Old Testament word for shepherd (râ‘âh) is also the word used in the context of feeding sheep. It can easily be argued, then, that the term shepherd means “the feeding one.” Isaiah foretold the ministry of Jesus using this concept: “He will feed His flock like a shepherd” (Isaiah 40:11*).

The modern pastor, as pastors in every generation, has the honor of standing before God’s flock and saying, “Thus says the Lord.” The feeding one (pastor) has that singular responsibility as both a challenge and a joy. Just as athletes get into what they call a zone during athletic competition, the pastor can enter into a zone in his or her pulpit ministry. By zone I mean that the ministry of the Word becomes the focus of the pastor’s life. The Holy Spirit sets on fire every study session, every prayer session, and every message. In such a zone, the pastor knows that God’s message is being presented to the very people He wants to hear it, and that it is being delivered by the very preacher whom God intended to preach it. Nothing can compare with the thrill of knowing you are in perfect stride with the Holy Spirit—walking with Him step for step—from Sunday to Sunday, presenting the gospel under His anointing.

The concept of feeding the flock carries even further into the pastor-member relationship when it comes to providing personal guidance to individuals in the congregation. The pastor is often approached with questions or concerns that surface from deep within the heart of the member. Often prompted by a message the pastor has brought to the congregation, members will come to the pastor for counsel or clarification. These questions and concerns sometimes revolve around a need for intimacy with God. The sensitive pastor recognizes that need and directs that person into the presence of God. It is a double blessing for the pastor when a message has prompted someone to seek answers and the pastor is then able to accompany that person to God in prayer and witness God’s power at work.

Parents are excited when their child takes on new and more challenging responsibilities as he or she matures. A pastor also experiences joy as he or she assists a newborn Christian in spiritual maturity. As this person assumes responsibility within the congregation, the pastor again experiences pride and joy. These experiences are multiplied for the long-term pastor who has the privilege of being a part of such events for several generations in the same family.

JOY OF CARING

Jesus expects His church to be involved in meeting physical needs within the communities in which it serves. The needs are great and the means of meeting them are usually strained.

A young pastor became aware of the plight of poor families in his area and began to gather food from his congregation for a food bank. As calls began to come in for assistance, his congregation focused on its food bank as its ministry to the community.

Calls for food quickly outgrew the supply. The congregation began to visit grocers with requests for donations. Soon the federal government contacted this pastor and recognized the church as one of the thousand points of lights. They began to receive commodities from the government to distribute among the poor.

Every child that comes through the building the church built for food distribution receives a candy bar or an ice-cream bar from the pastor. The joy of providing for the needs of the poor is immense.

JOY OF ADMINISTRATION

To serve as the primary administrator of the church is to take on the challenges of building a staff, organizing for growth, and often building facilities. Paul said, “Therefore take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood” (Acts 20:28). Scripture makes no difference between the office of overseer and shepherd. As an overseer, the pastor has the challenge of developing not only the ministries, but also the organization of the church he serves—a task that can be filled with joy.

As the church grows, the need arises for paid staff members who are dedicated and capable. The pastor will initially need to rely on volunteers to handle various aspects of church organization.

From the first staff member (usually a secretary) to the last, each employee needs to reflect the pastor’s vision and philosophy. He must carefully select those who will facilitate the free and open exchange of ideas and information. The ultimate victory in building a staff is the cohesion that comes when the Holy Spirit unites the members into a team for the good of the church.

CONCLUSION

The victories make every effort and problem worth the time and energy. Most important, however, are the loving relationships developed between the pastor and the congregation—a love born of and prolonged by the presence of the Holy Spirit. Emotionally, physically, and spiritually the church becomes a cohesive and powerful body of Christ serving God and rejoicing in His presence.

T.L. Lowery is assistant general overseer, Church of God, Cleveland, Tennessee.

*Scripture references are from the New King James Version.

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