I have been actively searching for a church to pastor for over a year now. Compared to some that is not a long time, but it does tend to leave me discouraged nonetheless.
In going through this process, the truth is that I need encouragement and I know that if you are looking as well, you probably do too. So here is some encouragement from one who knows where you are. If nothing else, may it be a reminder that you are not alone in your search. I am there with you.
Through this experience thus far God has awakened my eyes again to the necessity of faith. Faith is something that tends to fall to the background when everything is going well and you feel settled where you are (at least it does for me). I have been rediscovering how often the Bible speaks to faith and how prevalent the call is to exercise faith in God and his plan. For example, I have been reading through the Gospel of Matthew and in just the two chapters after Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount (8-9), Jesus acts in response to the Leper’s faith (8:2-3), the Centurion’s (8:10,13), calls out his disciple’s lack of faith during the storm (8:26), heals the women who bled for years (9:22), healed a ruler’s daughter (9:18, 25), and healed blind men (9:29). All of these interactions centered on faith. That is within the scope of just two chapters of Matthew.
Jesus calls us to walk by faith, knowing that he has a plan. In his Sermon on the Mount, he said,
“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”
“Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.”
These verses are some that I have seemed to gloss over previously, yet during this time of not knowing what is next in my life, they ring louder and louder. In this time, we are called to trust God and walk by faith for today. Let tomorrow worry about itself. God knows where we are.
This time of searching can also cause us to feel insignificant, especially when we currently do not have an outlet for pastoral gifts. For me, I love teaching and preaching. I love preparing, discovering the perfect big idea for my sermon, finding the best sermon structure, and the feeling of satisfaction when you find the perfect introduction with an excellent 'hook.' However, where I am at, I do not have the opportunity to regularly preach and teach. Nor to exercise many other pastoral responsibilities/privileges, such as helping a couple walk through a rough period in their marriage or having the honor to baptize new believers. These are all things I so desire to do, as I am sure you do as well.
But the truth is that even though that is not where God has us at this moment, we are not insignificant. Matthew 6 tells us that. We are valuable to God.
There was a brilliant post recently by Michael Kelley in which he said,
“When I feel small, there is the gospel that reminds me that my size and worth is determined by that which was sacrificed for me. And there is no greater sacrifice than that which has been given. Thanks to that sacrifice – His sacrifice – I am not small. I matter. I matter in the kingdom, and I matter in the world. And when you matter these challenges are not to be shrunk away from out of fear but are to be counted with courageous hope."
Our value is not defined by our desired pastoral position. We matter whether we are there or not. Therefore, we have a role to play our current churches and in God's kingdom while we wait.
So what can we do while we wait to be pastors?
Here are some of the things I am doing during this time of searching that may be helpful to you as well:
1) Focusing on my personal walk with God. This process is pointing out a blaring lack of faith in my life. I need to seek to work through this now, before I am in a position to call others to exercise their faith.
2) Practically, I have been preparing by picking out possible books to preach through once I am a pastor. I have been preparing to preach through the Gospel of Matthew. So I have been reading that Gospel often, reading theologies of Matthew, and already preparing sermons in Matthew, so I have a jump start. I also have a couple other books on my radar as well (Ruth and Revelation), so I have begun some preliminary research into those as well.
Even though I have never been a pastor before, I do expect that the first few weeks will be a whirlwind, so if I already have a book or two picked out to begin preaching with a few sermons ready to go, the initial transition will be made much smoother.
3) One other thing I am doing is preparing my own curriculum for Old Testament and New Testament survey classes for adults. I have desired to be able to do this in a church for some time now, so I am taking this time to prepare those courses as well.
So right now, you are not insignificant. You are valuable to the kingdom and have a role to play. You have also been given precious time allow you to prepare to be someone’s pastor. Use it well.
Remember, Jesus loves you and desires for you to grow through this process.