“Oh, the real pastor not here today?” She said it honestly the first time, as I greeted the small gathering for worship before our weekly food pantry opened. As years passed, she begins to say it endearingly with a smile. We both knew she now saw me as someone who served her pastorally, but that first time she saw me fill in for the “Senior Pastor” who was absent that day, she spoke the first thing that came to her mind. As someone who has spent most of my years in pastoral ministry so far supporting a “Senior Pastor,” I’m well aware of the importance of being honest about how we want others to view us.
Let’s face it – we like to appear confident. Many of us who serve as leaders often have people looking toward us on a regular basis, and we find ourselves wanting to be the person they’re looking for us to be. When a question arises, we want to be able to offer the answer. When a problem arises, we want to be able to offer the solution. Even as some of you are reading this, you might be thinking, “Well not me, I’m humble enough to admit when I don’t know, and I can lead people into humility.” We’re so good at this – we can even have confidence in our ability to be humble. We want to be experts in every field, accept any challenge thrown our way, receive any responsibility gladly onto our plate, all with a gracious smile on our face. We live in a world that will celebrate these responses and this behavior and reward it by looking our direction again next time.
But there’s a problem with this: it’s deceitful. It’s deceptive to those we lead and serve, and it’s deceitful to ourselves. It’s perpetuating the same brokenness found in every boardroom and every cubicle in just about every area of the business world. It’s following the pattern set by Adam and Eve in the garden long ago, when they reached to grasp possession of something, they had already been set free from needing to have.
The truth is, we are limited beings. Take a moment and let that sink in, and not in a “false humility” kind of way. You cannot do everything currently on your “To Do” list. You cannot answer every question you will be asked this week. You cannot solve every problem or struggle that comes to you this month. There are some incredibly complex struggles being endured by those you love – and you’ll need to recommend a trusted professional counselor nearby. There are some financial or administrative details you might have misunderstood or made a mistake on, and you need to consult a business professional. This should not be seen as a design flaw in your abilities, or a deficit in an account that should be overflowing.
In John 16, Jesus is preparing his followers for the seasons of ministry to come. He doesn’t paint a rosy picture. He’s honest with them and confesses that some of them will be killed by those who assume they’re serving God. There will be times when people are so focused on being good at religion, church growth, and protecting the empire – they will be blinded to the things of God. But we are not left alone to try and conquer or succeed in such a world. We are promised an advocate, the Holy Spirit, who will guide us into all truth.
But there’s something interesting about this Spirit, “He will not speak on his own; he will only speak what he hears…” That means even as we receive this from Jesus, it is not to enable us to be increasingly self-sufficient or self-empowered. It is a gift that requires us to be continually reminded of our dependence. It is a living and breathing invitation to exist in relationship with a Triune God in ways where we are set free to declare “I need,” to a God who declares “I provide.” We receive this invitation not as individuals, but also as a humanity for whom Jesus has offered New Creation life.
To put it practically – the struggles you might be facing in your role as pastor and shepherd may often discourage you. There will be moments you look at the brokenness or suffering of a member or family, or the amounts of red in your accounting – and wonder how you could be expected to continue on this path with your head high? In those moments, let me assure you – it’s okay to lower your head. Lower your head in prayer, alongside others who are seeking the will, guidance, and presence of God. Lower your head to look around you – to those who might be more specifically gifted to respond in the particular challenges you face. Lower your head in service, focusing on the feet God has given you to wash. Finally, raise your head in worship – thanking a God who continues to provide abundantly more than all you could ever ask or imagine. You might even find such a response fulfilling your role as pastor more than you ever thought possible.
About the Author
Chadwick Anderson is husband of Sarah & together they are on the adventure of raising four daughters. They serve as FM missionaries in Gyor, Hungary, where Chadwick serves as pastor of a growing English-speaking congregation. Before this season, he has served at Moundford Free Methodist Church in Decatur, IL, for 13 years. He has a B.A. in Youth Ministry from ONU, an MDiv from Wesley Seminary, and usually some fresh roasted coffee beans from Ethiopia. He loves helping others to discover the heart/presence of God in ways that bring transformation and writing or speaking poetry. To learn more about their ministry or connect, check out: www.andersonfamily6.com