The Foolishness of Ministry


"These narratives pointed me to the fact that pastoral ministry is a life, not a technology. How to books treat pastoral ministry like a technology. That's fine on one level-pastoral ministry does require certain skills, and I need all the advice I can get. But my life as a pastor is far more than the sum of the tasks I carry out. It is a call from God that involves my whole life. The stories I read helped me to understand my life, comprehensively. My life, too, is a story, and it is the narrative quality of my life that makes my ministry happen. Others see and participate in the story as it is told. I have discovered that when I follow Jesus in my everyday life as a pastor, people meet Jesus through my life."David Hansen, The Art of Pastoring: Ministry without all the answers

I do wish I could have met David Hansen. I believe he came to understand and articulate so much that is missing in modern pastoral ministry. In this book, Hansen describes his growing understanding of life as a pastor as reflected in his ministry in Montana. I so appreciate the introduction's main point: being a pastor is so much more than the sum of the tasks I carry out! It is a calling, a life, a living parable of God's grace.

What do I mean? I think Paul states it well:

For consider your calling, brothers, not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. - 1 Cor. 1: 26-29

All too often pastors, especially young pastors, try to act like they have all the answers; like they are the experts. Well technically they are. They have the training and how-tos to do ministry that others are lacking. They often have biblical and theological training that far exceeds that of those in the pews.

Unfortunately, what they are missing is the grace of God that comes through life. This grace helps us understand who we are, to whom we are ministering, and to what God would have us to do and be in this situation. Such grace comes not from knowing the "how to" but from learning to listen to God.

How do we teach this? I do not think we can. Only God's grace can do this work!

I am afraid that some never get it. They are part of that 10% who graduate from seminary, work in the church for a year, and then never go back. Others continue in the church because they have nothing else to do. They often leave behind broken churches, live a life of heartache, and they look forward to early retirement.

Others have all kind of issues and difficulties because of their arrogance and foolishness. Yet, by His grace, God knocks off the sharp edges and molds them into a "foolish" pastor. I believe and hope that this has been the case with me!

Finally, some have the grace of God evident in their life resulting in true humility that comes from living a life before God and others marked by repentance and faith. Such repentance and faith come from the heart and not merely the head. These folks trust in Christ alone to be "to us wisdom from God, righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption." (1 Cor. 1:30)

These folks are a gem. They are willing to be honest and transparent, not because it will grow their church, but because they know Jesus. These folks are naturally attractive to true believers and those who are lost. Thankfully, such traits are not just for pastors! As all of us grow into them, we will also be naturally attractive to those in need of grace. The issue is that often those being led do not get to this point unless they have someone to show them the way. This is the crazy calling of a pastor!

Honestly, such brokenness and humility is foolishness in the world's eyes. Who cares! The world is wrong about almost everything. I would rather be a living parable of God's grace than a worldly successful poser. How about you? 

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