In a recent blog I read this thought from Paul David Tripp: “From Belfast to Los Angeles, from Johannesburg to New York, from Minneapolis to Singapore, from Cleveland to Berlin, I’ve heard stories and felt their [pastors’] discouragement, bitterness, aloneness, fear, and longing. As I’ve told my story pastors have felt safe in telling me their stories. And it has hit me again and again that there are too many pastors with sad stories to tell, and I’ve wondered again and again to myself, What’s gone wrong with the pastoral culture?”
I too have heard those stories. I have stories of my own. It seems that none of us is alone in facing the challenges of pastoral life. But I read another quote in the same blog that is worth sharing. The blogger quoted Richard Baxter: “It is the common danger and calamity of the Church, to have unregenerate and inexperienced pastors, and to have so many men become preachers, before they are Christians…O that all our students in our universities would well consider this!” What caught my attention was that Richard Baxter wrote these words over 350 years ago, in 1656. Regardless of time, culture, external pressures, or internal frailties, the pastoral life offers formidable challenge as well as tremendous opportunity for kingdom service.
Most, if not all, of us live in the reality of the pastoral culture to which Tripp refers. If we deny the experiences of fear, hurt, and pain in ministry or the feelings of inferiority, insecurity, low self-esteem, and failure that often accompany the servant of God, we are in an extremely small minority of servant leaders or are in denial of the reality of our life’s journey. Either way, we are faced with an unhealthiness that can rob us of the joy and peace of heart that God desires us to experience.
SHAPE is providing many pastors with a journey of hope. We may feel incapable of bringing about transformation in the world around us sometimes, but many are finding that they need not face life’s hurt and pain and challenges alone. We are the body of Christ together, and together we are finding help and healing and hope in ways we have not found in journeying alone. And who knows, in practicing being the body of Christ together, perhaps the Holy Spirit can bring about a transformation that can fix whatever has gone wrong with the pastoral culture. I, for one, still believe in the transformative power of the Holy Spirit. What about you?