Others affirm that call and encourage us in its pursuit, but it is the call of God that launches us into ministry. Our relationship with the Lord is what sets us on this journey.
It’s frightening how easily we can lose sight of the primacy of that relationship. In the busyness of doing all the things we believe we must do to be effective pastors, the one relationship that sets this all into motion is easily put on the back burner so that we can do all the things we believe God is calling us to do.
Across the ages, volumes have been written as guides to day-by-day holy living. There are not enough pages to begin to explore the significance of nurturing and maintaining such a daily walk with the Lord. The significance of the daily disciplines of prayer, Scripture reading, and inspirational reading cannot be understated. In the busyness of life and ministry, pastors cannot afford to neglect these. No amount of training or education and no résumé of impressive years of service can satisfy what can take place in the life of a pastor as he or she daily places trust in the Father and commits anew a life of service to him. Of all relationships, this is first and foremost. We must both guard and nurture our relationship with our heavenly Father.
In God’s providence, he brings into our lives those we lovingly call family. Our families are a great treasure to us, certainly one of the greatest blessings God has entrusted to us, for which he asks us to be faithful stewards. Marriage is used as a symbol in Scripture to describe the mystical union between Christ and his church. Scripture commends it as an honorable relationship. Scripture also uses the model of parenting as a means by which we understand the deep love that our heavenly Father has for us and our families.
While the God-given call can be a rallying point to enhance a marriage, it has also proven to bring much stress into the marital relationship.
The marriage relationship is a sacred covenant of love. My wife and I made that commitment to one another before she knew she was marrying a pastor, and yet we have shared our commitment to follow his will, at all costs. We have experienced together the many joys of pastoring and shared the many hurdles that go with it. My call to ministry has become a significant part of our journey together. And yet, while the God-given call can be a rallying point to enhance a marriage and bring a united sense of calling and purpose to a couple, it has also proven to bring much stress into the marital relationship. Many ministry mates find themselves in competition with the church for the attention of the pastor. This threat becomes complicated because God is the Lord of the church and he has placed the call upon the pastor. Suddenly, the ministry mate seems to be in competition with God himself.
Nothing could be further from God’s desire. God’s plan is for marriage to be a lifelong commitment between two people. Our desires for companionship and for sharing mutual love and support are by God’s design. God is not expecting the pastor to neglect his or her marriage for the sake of the church. Time and energy are to be reserved for the marriage. It is not God’s design for church to ever become a threat to the pastor’s marriage. But to safeguard what in our humanness might otherwise take place, we must assume the responsibility of being wise stewards of this significant relationship in life. The challenge is to look for ways in which the marriage can be strengthened and enhanced by the opportunity to serve in ministry.
The stewardship of family often includes the privilege of parenting. The relentless expectations upon pastors can easily distract even the best-intentioned pastorparent. Yet the sacred trust of parenting demands a conscientious balancing of time and energy so that children receive the guidance and encouragement they so much need. While ministry places more demands on the parsonage family than might be the case in most other professions, there is also a flexibility in scheduling that isn’t present in all careers. The wise pastor-parent can make that work to the advantage of family life by being involved in daytime activities in which other parents may not be able to participate.
A worthwhile goal of the pastor-parent is that the preacher’s kids would come to love the Lord and to love his church too. Children of pastors, like spouses of pastors, may too easily find themselves competing with the church for the attention of the pastor and resenting it. There are certainly occasions when the pastor must fulfill ministry responsibilities that may override family plans. The stewardship of the relationships within the home demand that, ultimately, the family comes before the church in the pastor’s priorities. Although the pastor’s relationship to the Lord must come first, the Lord does not want a pastor to neglect his family for the sake of the church.
I had a conversation with a layman about a pastor who seemed to have lost all of his children to the church while being a workaholic pastor. I then commented, “I don’t believe God is calling me to do that.” And the wise layman heartily agreed.
In the stewardship of relationships, this is a good place to affirm the role that friends must play in the life of the pastor. Gone are the days when the church
The pastor is no different from the rest of humanity in his or her need for support, encouragement, and nurturing relationships.
concluded that the pastor must not have close friends within the church, but prudent is the pastor who chooses such friends wisely and exercises discernment in what is shared. Pastors, whether single or married, are not exempt from needing close, intimate friendships in life. The absence of such leaves the pastor and the pastor’s family isolated and alone, an unnecessarily vulnerable position for anyone. The pastor is no different from the rest of humanity in his or her need for support, encouragement, and nurturing relationships. We need a support system in place when life becomes difficult. It’s not an option for pastors; it’s essential.
I met with a young pastor for lunch one day, shortly after he had begun his first pastorate. I asked if he was connected with other pastors or if he was feeling pretty much “alone” in ministry. His honest response revealed his loneliness, and I kindly challenged him, “You can’t make it that way!” We began a mentoring relationship that blossomed into a mutually beneficial friendship that lasted the duration of my ministry in that place and beyond. I have come to see that my stewardship of relationships includes the tremendous opportunity I have to build supportive relationships with others. It is both a responsibility and a joy.
How grateful I am for the individuals the Lord has placed in my life as friends!
How grateful I am for the individuals the Lord has placed in my life as friends! They include laypersons and fellow professional ministers, people who have become “closer than a brother.” Carving out time for the nurturing of these relationships has provided a lifeline in the many challenges of life. These individuals have helped me to be at my best, “as iron sharpens iron.”
How blessed we are for the relationships the Lord has provided in our lives. To have the privilege of walking with the Lord in close fellowship day after day is a privilege like no other. For those who are married and for those who have children, there are no relationships that compare with the potential for joy and companionship that our families bring throughout our lives. The longer I
Relationships are blessings from the Lord, blessings that require our careful stewardship.
live, the more I cherish as a rare treasure the friends the Lord has brought into my life. All of these relationships are blessings from the Lord, blessings that require our careful stewardship. In all of the demands and busyness of professional ministry, may we not lose our grip on the stewardship of these vital relationships.
TIMOTHY B. PUSEY is pastor of Meridian Valley Shepherd Church of the Nazarene in Meridian, Idaho
Taken from Foundations of Church Administration, edited by Bruce Peterson, Edward Thomas, and Bob Whitesel ˝ 2010 by Beacon Hill Press of Kansas City, Kansas City, MO. Used by permission of Publisher. All rights reserved. Visit www.beaconhillbooks.com to purchase this title