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)

The Plodding Pastor

tortoise_and_hareA minister friend of mine was sharing some of his struggles. They’ve been through a major building program and thought the enhanced facilities would facilitate numerical growth. It didn’t. He’s been at the church a good long time and has seen a lot of ups and downs. He told me, “I’m a plodder.” He is, and it seems to me that’s good.

Anyone can start a race well; the starting line of a marathon is crowded, the finish line not so much. Anyone can be energetic and put forth good effort, for a short time. To do so for the long haul is a different matter.

Remember Aesop’s fable of the tortoise and the hare? The hare had the advantage with speed, the tortoise with perseverance that translated into plodding, and it won the race for him.

A long and faithful ministry is done one week at a time, one sermon at a time, one Bible study at a time, one day at a time, one hospital or nursing home visit at a time, one (do I have to write this?) board meeting at a time, one conversation at a time.

We pastors have been entrusted with a unique call and, as Paul writes, “Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful.” (1 Corinthians 4:2) My friend’s success in ministry, and mine too, as well as yours, finds its ultimate measure of success in that final debriefing by the Master Himself when, by His grace, we can hear Him say, “Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!” (Matthew 25:21,23)