I was elected pastor of my church in my third semester of seminary. At the time, I had no real concept of what a pastor does. I thought it was all about preaching on Sunday. Within just a couple of Sundays I found out that it is much bigger and grander job than that.
I discovered the following:
- The quickest way to lose power is to boss people around.
- One steers the ship of faith just as one steers a motor boat—from the rear.
- People who invoke authority have none.
- People who stand on their credentials have to.
I found that pastoring a church is really a very simple job, because the job description only has three words, “Love the church.” Or to put it in greater detail:
If I am the best, most learned preacher in the world, but I do not truly love my parishioners, I might as well read the phone book to them in place of the sermon.
If I am able to forecast social and political trends, if I am a walking encyclopedia of biblical trivia, and if I am a man of faith who can work miracles, but I do not love my parishioners, I am totally worthless as a pastor.
If I give all my possessions to charity to demonstrate a life of total reliance on God, and if I carry an organ-donor card, but I am not known for my love, there’s no point to it at all.
I must be patient with my parishioners. I cannot ever be envious of pastors with larger churches, or businessmen with larger incomes, I cannot brag about my personal accomplishments, I cannot be full of myself, and I must never run roughshod over the “little people,” or even perceive that anyone fits in that category. The phrase “advancement in my career” does not mean climbing the ecclesiastical hierarchy, or becoming famous or even conspicuous. It means perfecting my love.
I must never insist on having my way. It is their church, I am their servant. I cannot be irritable or resentful in front of my congregation, however appropriate those emotions may be.
I cannot gloat over the errors of sinners, but must regard the sinners as lovable, and the errors as tragic.
I must rejoice only in the truth.
When it comes to my congregation, I have to put up with anything. I have to truly believe them every time they make a promise, no matter how many times they’ve failed to keep promises in the past. I have to allow any personal indignity that comes my way to slide off my back.
My parishioners must feel that my love has no boundaries, no conditions, and no end. They should feel free to confide even the most disquieting, painful, embarrassing, and humiliating experiences in me, because they know I am always on their side.
When I get old, my preaching will stop. When I am old, my abilities will fade. When I am old, I won’t be able to remember all the clever things I know. But my love can survive even the greatest disability of age or disease.
I cannot know all things. I should never pretend to have all answers. “I don’t know” is always a proper answer to a question if it is true; it is humble. God is too great to fit in my brain.
My faith in Jesus Christ, my hope for the resurrection on the last day, and my love for others are all important things, but the most important one is love.
Based on 1 Corinthians 13