With our pastoral installation service coming up on February 11th, I’ve taken some time to reflect on my short tenure as pastor at Summerville First Baptist Church. Below I’ve listed four pitfalls which continue to tempt me in my work as pastor.
- Forgetting to pray prior to working in the office.
Lack of prayer, an insidious trap in ministry, tops my list. The issue isn’t praying in general. I would hope all Christians pray regularly. However, the issue is the morning routine. Getting up, getting ready, getting going, getting into the office – a normal daily routine. I find myself falling into the ritual of normalcy. I am often tempted to sit down at my desk and start hammering away at emails, questions, and sermon work. Such a temptation (work before prayer), I believe, is normal to the average Christian. The temptation to start the humdrum of life without prayer, however, hides a deeper heart issue. I am tempted to think success in ministry relies on my own strength. Far better to ask God to guide the steps of my day. I am a creature. I am entirely needy. I need God to work through me, rather than compete in an arena of the mundane by myself. I am thankful for my professor Dr. Robert Caldwell’s example. In all my classes with him, he faithfully started each class with the Bible and prayer. His example helps remind me to stay in prayer.
Verses I meditate on: Hebrews 13:7, 1 Timothy 1:15, 1 Timothy 2:1
- Everything is willing to cut into sermon preparation.
Everything from emails to hospital visits wants to cut into sermon preparation time. I do feel the temptation to let sermon preparation take a back seat to “real ministry.” With members in the hospital, homebound, and generally in need of prayer, it’s easy to cash in an hour of study for an hour of visitation. However, preaching the word of God accurately takes a significant time commitment each week. I must lead the church to good and fruitful pastures. If I do not treat the preaching of the Word of God as a premier ministry, how can I expect my people to consider listening to the Word of God as worship?
Verses I meditate on: 2 Timothy 2:14-16, 2 Timothy 3:16
- The work is never finished, so take it home.
My family often goes to sleep before I do. I like to work in the evenings. I find music or a background TV show helps to make some of the more mundane tasks of late night administration go easier. However, I have also found myself thinking, “I wish I could get these boys in bed, so I can get to writing.” With PhD class work, writing, and administration, I always have something to do. I don’t think working in the evenings presents much of a problem. However, wanting to sacrifice family time in order to get more time with an email is wrong. Even worse, sacrificing my attitude of love to work. Elijah (4yo), my son, said, “Hey! You were at work all day, so now it’s time to play with me, okay?” Yes! He is right. He deserves my time in the evenings. But not only does he deserve my time, he deserves my positive and loving attitude.
Verses I meditate on: Malachi 2:13-16 (I named my second son Malachi to remind myself of this truth).
- Jealousy is crouching at your door.
I grew up reading biographies. Starting with my mother reading them to me and up till the president time, I love reading a biography of great men and women. Some of these men and women were doing ‘great’ things in their teenage years. Online someone asked, “who is a great up-and-coming young pastor?” The strangling cords of pride and jealousy made me want to throw up two thumbs and say, “this guy!” Oddly enough, no one even suggested my name. Go figure! I want to do great things for God (no one ever strives for being forgotten). However, the problem with my jealousy is my definition of ‘great’ things. If all I was ever able to do as pastor at SFBC was to faithfully take care of our senior and infirmed members for the sake of Jesus’s name, then such an action would be a ‘great’ thing. The great feats of mankind are not always what God sees as faithful ministry. God will forge his own Paul, Moses, and Elijah. In terms of authors of the New Testament, most pastors would want to be John, Paul, Luke, or Peter. But someone must be faithful Jude. I love how he puts it, “although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith.” Yes, I want to write theology like Paul’s letter to the Romans. But as a pastor, I find it necessary to sit by the ailing and help them to contend with their faith. I am far better off cheering the spirits of one forgotten saint in need of fellowship and convalescing than dreaming of the greatness for which God could possibly use me.
Verses I meditate on: Matthew 10:42, Matthew 11:11