The Benefits of Being a Full-time Pastor
Recently, I was given the opportunity to teach a career class to a group of high school students on what a Pastor does for his job. There are the basic and unavoidable aspects like education, spiritual disciplines, and the untypical work
week, but my heart comes back to two ideas.
Having worked in the paid full-time ministry, then outside the paid full-time ministry, and now back in the paid full-time ministry, I am so grateful for the people who have set me apart to do ministry. What a privilege to be given. I am freed up to study Scriptures, pray, write, plan service opportunities, and visit with people for a living. Although I believe that every Christian has the opportunity to be a full-time minister in whatever career they are in, I find it liberating to have as my sole focus bringing about God's will in the community I live in.
But with liberation, comes responsibility. Paul wrote,
"For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery...For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love...For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Galatians 5:1,6, 13-14).
It is a great honor and freedom to be set apart to
do ministry full time, but it is also a freedom that we need to make
sure we do not abuse. All freedom should be used to become servants one
to another. Freedom becomes dangerous when it is morphed into meeting
our selfish needs.
The second idea that stands out to me is that because the people who support us in our ministry have granted us this great freedom, we have a tendency to try to please them and not focus on pleasing God. Pleasing churchgoers and pleasing God seem like they would go hand in hand, but there is a slight difference that is more than just semantics. Pleasing people might lead us to not challenging them in difficult areas. Although it would would help them grow, we might not want to rock the boat. Keeping our perspective right and continually seeking to please God will lead us to do the tough things even when they are unpopular.
There is a great fable entitled The Nightingale and the Crow. It's a
touching fable that deals with a beautiful nightingale submitting
herself to the judgment of pigs on whether a nightingale or a crow can
sing better. The moral of the story is to not let pigs judge you. If
we let anyone other than God judge us, then we are going to struggle in
ministry because people can be particularly cruel to ministers at times.
We would do well to remember who will always provide for us.
These are also good principles whether in the paid ministry or life outside of it. We need to be grateful for what God has given us; we need to focus on ministry at every opportunity; and we need to please God when men are crying for the opposite. No matter where we find ourselves in life, those are solid teachings to be lived.