I am a pastor, and I am young.
Sometimes I love that both of these things are true. Other times I love that one of them is true but desperately desire to change the other. Yet, on some occasions, I dread that they are both true. It’s in those seasons that fear, pride, despair and serious insecurities creep in. Walking through each of these seasons has taught me a couple of things that I wish I could have been told over and over in preparation for pastoral ministry at a young age. It is true that each of these points is true for any pastor. Though in my life as a young pastor these realities have become warm blankets for my soul.
Understand your ministry as grace.
A few years ago I was on a camping trip with some friends of mine, some of which happened to be pastors. There was one pastor there that I really looked up to. In my eyes, this guy had it all together. He was an incredible preacher who exposited the text unlike any I’ve seen. He was a theological titan who I would dare to say is, doctrinally, one of the smartest men I know. Yet he pastored a very small declining church with people all primarily over the age of 65 in a small rural town. This was the kind of guy people should be downloading on Podcast each week and he should be pumping out books left and right. Yet there he was with his small, aging church. What’s more is that he told me horror stories about congregants leaving in the middle of his wonderfully crafted sermons declaring that he was doing things incorrectly and unlike they had ever seen before. I remember after one of his stories asking him if he ever thought about leaving that church to find a new one. His response pierced my heart and forever shaped the way I viewed ministry. He said, “I have absolutely thought about it. But, you know what? If I die at 80 years old and this is the only church I pastor and my people never grow to love me or appreciate what I am doing, it is still infinitely more than I deserve.”
What my friend understood that I struggled with was that ministry is grace. If we ever get the chance to shepherd a group of Christ’s blood bought people it’s only because of the grace of God. This was important for me to hear because it turned heart wrenching counseling sessions, mundane business meetings, hard late nights of ministry into moments in which I was tangibly experiencing the grace of God in my life. The Christian life becomes more beautiful when we understand what we deserve compared to what we have in Christ. Many young pastors view their current church as a stepping-stone to the next bigger and better church. This must end. We must affirm that we don’t deserve any ministry, therefore when we get a chance to minister to any church it is nothing but a gift.
In all things, point your people to Jesus.
For any pastor, especially the young one, it is easy to become self-centered. We can even see this in ministry too, when guys perform ministry duties so that they are made much of. In the nicest way I can let me remind you, young pastor, that by yourself there is nothing in you but sin and death. What you bring to the table is wickedness and heartache. You only have something to add to the table in so much as you are bringing Jesus to the table. This is true in all things.
When you take to the pulpit, with all of your might, point your people to Jesus. Exhaust yourself every Sunday morning to show your hearers the beauty and rest that is found in Him. When counseling direct your people straight towards the freedom found in Christ. When mentoring, strive to make those who are following you look more like Jesus.
In you, it is not hard for your people to find sin, brokenness, and ruin. In Jesus, it is not hard for your people to find righteousness, justification and rest. So with everything you have in ministry for as long as you have a ministry, point your people to Jesus.
Remember the gospel.
I mean this in multiple ways. First, remember the gospel for your people. If you are writing programs, developing curriculum, preparing sermons, never leave out the gospel. Yet, what I want to focus on more specifically is for yourself. Maybe I am unique, but the most frequent feeling that being a young pastor has made me feel is insecurity. Everyday, I doubt my ability, knowledge, wisdom, skill, etc. This doubt leads me to try to prove that I can be and should be a pastor by knowing more, preaching better, sharpening any skills I might have. If I ever failed to do any of these it led to deeper insecurities and despair before my people and before God. It didn’t take long for me to realize that the remedy of this despair and insecurities was the gospel.
In the life, death, and resurrection you can find the security that you need to be a faithful pastor for the glory of God. When you are in Jesus, there is nothing bad sermons, upset members, or failed ministries can do to your security before God. Allow this work of God to become your boast for you have nothing else to boast in. Remember that the redeeming blood of Jesus that you preach to your people, belongs to you as well.