Richard Baxter, a Puritan author of the seminal “The Reformed Pastor,” is credited as saying, “I preached as never sure to preach again, And as a dying man to dying men.” To those who have been called to the work of the pastor ought to have this engrained in the hearts and minds, especially younger men looking to become ministers. In undertaking the Gospel ministry, it seems to me that the passion for making oneself less known to make Christ well-known through the foolishness of preaching ought to be at the heart of one who pastors, or wants to be one. It certainly is the case in me.
I have been asked why be a pastor? What good is it, some may ask? Could you imagine yourself doing something else? Well, if you can you better go on and do it. I have been told on numerous occasions that being a pastor is a hard work, it is a true calling. We all know the qualifications of a pastor in 1 Timothy 3:1-7: he ought to be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own household well, and with all dignity keeping his children submissive. Furthermore, a pastor ought not to be a recent convert and must be thought well of by those outside the church.
What makes the ministry an even greater calling is what we are told in James 3:1, that those called to be teachers will be “judged with greater strictness.” In Acts 20:28, we are seen an exhortation given to pay “careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock…to care for the church of God,”. Indeed, Baxter reminds us that men, “who have undertaken the work of the ministry, do so obstinately proceed in self-seeking, negligence, pride, and other sins, that it is become our necessary duty to admonish them.” Baxter’s point is that there are many who fail to meet the requirements of a minister, who do so out of vanity, and, at a basic level, do not, even could not, care for the flock of God. Even still, the Lord promises to give his people shepherds after his own heart to feed his people well in spiritual truths (Prov. 3:15).
So, why do I want to be a pastor? First, I do not know what else I would do but preach. Let me explain: I did not answer the call the ministry merely because it was the only thing I was good at, as if I were doing it on my own. A few years after becoming a Christian, I knew the Gospel had made such an impact on my life that I could not possibly think of doing anything else that did not involve preaching and modeling the Gospel for those who do not believe. The good news of the Gospel of Christ having come to save sinners is the most wonderful news in human history! Think of it: What better news is there than to know your sin against a holy God may be forgiven? What better news than to know that your life can be transformed in ways you did not realize? Why, what else can I do but preach such a message of grace? There’s no chance in this world that I would pass this by, and feeling like I failed to do something I knew I should have been doing a long time ago.
Second, the longer I am in the local church the more I fall in love with the members of the local church. I have been a member of a PCA church for two years, and was able to serve as a pastoral intern for a summer at another Presbyterian church in Georgia. In both cases, I have loved, and still love, the people in those churches. They have molded me and shaped me in profound ways, which I believe them to be a gift of God. I earnestly believe God has brought me to those two churches to make me more like him, and I am thankful to God for them. Seeing them build one another up, seeing them build me up when I have been down, has been infectious to me.
Being able to show people the Christ of Scripture from Scripture is something that excites me! Seeing people grow in Christ is such a beautiful thing, and I am thankful God has blessed me to be able to see the growth! But, the people of God have also modeled for me, and modeled it well, at least in the churches I have been in, what it is to live in Christ’s promises and rest on him in simple faith. When I was just beginning to read theology, I must admit I often looked down on other Christians for not reading the things I was reading. Overtime, however, the Lord has humbled me to such an extent that now I can see clearly how beautiful Christian faith actually is.
What is also on my mind is the potential pain, grief, and quarrels that will come up in ministry. My own pastor growing up related to me on some of the issues he endured in his time in ministry. He asked me, “Is that something you are willing to deal with?” The more I thought about it the more these questions came to mind: Is walking into a hospital room with the child of faithful members dying of cancer something I am willing to deal with, and listen to a father respond angrily with God on why it’s happening to his child, and the mother crying to God to save her child? Am I willing to walk into a nursing home with an elderly person in the evening of their days wondering if their life still has purpose? Am I willing to preach at the funeral of a young teenager who died in a car accident on Saturday, and then preach the following Sunday on the greatness of God? Am I willing to spend hours with a young couple, in which one is in the hospital and they’re unlikely to leave again? Am I willing to endure feeling like a failure when my church does not grow, or when one of my most faithful members abandons the faith?
How does a minister handle tragedy? I am not sure how I would because I have yet to see such tragic circumstances play out. One thing I am sure of is this: the Lord will be with him, as he is with those in such circumstances. I recently wrote that if I did not believe in the sovereignty of God I do not know how I would endure tragic circumstances or bad times. But, since God is sovereign, I know that he will uphold me by his righteous right hand, and will neither leave me nor forsake me (Is. 41:10). In each of the circumstances I laid out above, I believe without a doubt that the Gospel can touch on each of those in a unique way, and I want to walk alongside people to see the Gospel at work. If I thought the Gospel were not sufficient for people in all trials of life, why preach it? Why devote myself to it? But, the Gospel is sufficient, it is the power of God unto salvation. It excites me to be able to preach the Gospel for the rest of my days, or until Christ returns.
Lord, prepare ministers for the work you have laid before them. Help them to become more like yourself, to have their hearts totally devoted to you. Raise up godly men, men after your own heart, who love your people, who desires to preach the Gospel you have blessed us with. Keep your bride pure and blameless until the Marriage Supper of the Lamb. To this we look forward, and ask your blessing upon our feeble work of preaching. Lord, we fail every day, but you are our strength. Give us this day the power and comfort of your Spirit, so that we may walk in your ways ever close as we live and preach your Word. Be with us, your Church, O Lord. I ask this in the name and for the sake of our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.