Keep Going with the Calling!

piperHaving recently retired, I found this article by a favorite author of mine, John Piper, to be exhilarating and inspiring. Most of you are still in the trenches of pastoral ministry but I believe could still find encouragement in what he writes. It also provides good fodder for the sermon delivered to the older members of the congregation. Enjoy!

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Sanctified Stubbornness

turtleshowsmallBeing stubborn is often seen as a negative attribute, but I’m thinking it can be sanctified for good use! I’m further thinking that sanctified stubbornness is good for a pastor’s heart. Words like determination and perseverance are synonyms, but there’s something “edgy” about stubbornness so I’m sticking with it. Even the word itself, with its three sets of double letters (bb,nn,ss), exemplifies and emphasizes its definition!

Pastoral ministry is, to coin a phrase from Eugene Peterson, “a long obedience in the same direction.” I’m thinking of a pastor who served a small rural church part-time several years ago. He had major struggles with a key, longtime leader in the church. From my conversations with my pastor friend I gathered that the troublemaker was getting close to leaving the church, but before that happened my friend resigned. I realize I may not have been aware of all the dynamics playing out in the situation, but it might well have been a situation where the pastor quit too soon.

We’re in a race, as the apostle Paul put it. I’d like to take Paul’s analogy and give it a bit of a different slant. This race, for the pastor, is often a case where the race is between the tortoise and the hare, and we’re the tortoise. A heart committed to the slow and steady running of the race will likely win in the end.

What helps us exhibit this sanctified stubbornness is a profound sense of call from the Lord. We need to determine that until we’re “uncalled” we will continue to carry out our call!

Often, these unholy hassles come from one or two, or no more than a small contingent of people. Why would we allow a small minority of our parishioners to cast the vote for us to stop doing what we believe God has called us to do?

Yes, I believe there’s a place in the pastor’s heart for some sanctified stubbornness! You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised.” (Hebrews 10:36)

Steeping the Tea, Steeping the Teaching

TeaSteepI’m an avid coffee drinker, but sometimes in the afternoon I enjoy a cup of tea. I was recently watching my cup as the teabag steeped in the hot water – what else does a retired pastor have to do but watch tea steep? It occurred to me that just as I steep my tea I had to learn as a pastor to let steep that which I wanted to preach or teach.

The unrelenting schedule of a weekly sermon or teaching was sometimes difficult to keep up with. It’s easy to find yourself hurrying and scurrying to prepare for a presentation that’s coming up too soon. What I came to realize was that I needed to study and reflect on a Biblical passage or subject for a message more than just a few days before delivery. Letting it brew and stew, or steep, for a longer period of time helped me to do more justice to that which I had to deliver. It allowed me time to reflect, to let what I was going to deliver impact my own life first, and to find fresh and creative ways of communicating the truth without resorting to clichés.

Lectio Divina, the quiet and reflective study of a small portion of scripture, is the spirit which I find helpful to use in processing the material that’s to end up in a sermon or teaching several days or weeks away. Turning my mind and heart into something like a quiet library rather than a bustling office or a noisy factory is more conducive to hearing the still small voice of the Lord more easily.

Then, too, I have often been amazed at how an insight, an illustration, or a practical application will seem to pop into my thoughts out of nowhere, when I was focused on something entirely different. This rarely happens when I’m hurried and harried in preparation for a presentation that’s too close for comfort.

It’s good to do what the psalmist did. I meditate on your precepts and consider your ways.” (Psalm 119:15)

Yes, my tea and teaching have something in common. Both are better with steeping!