By Frederick J. Davey
As of March, I have completed forty years as a minister of the Church of God, all of which has been spent in the pastoral ministry. Why would a person choose to be a pastor? Why do I still want to continue in this field? To explain why, I first need to say that I did not choose the ministry; God chose me. Of this I am very sure. I was called to be a minister while still in high school. During some of the difficult times in the work of God through the years, that calling has kept me at the task. Otherwise, I think I would have given up.
I love the term pastor, which has come to be the most common term used to describe the minister, because of its deep biblical meaning. It brings to mind the shepherd’s various roles: to nourish, protect, and lead the sheep. It helps me remember that I am not the owner—not even the chief shepherd—but an undershepherd under the “Good Shepherd,” Jesus Christ.
The term pastor reminds me that I am to be concerned with all the sheep—the weak and sickly, as well as the strong and healthy. Those with special problems need special attention and help that the shepherd can supply. The highest compliment I have ever heard given to a pastor was, “You pastor all the people.”
I love being a pastor, not only because of the call of God and the beauty of the biblical meaning of the task, but because of the people I have had the pleasure of serving. Judging from my experience, at least 90 percent of the people of the Church of God are the finest persons in the whole country. These people have loved me when I have been unlovable, taught me at least as much as I have taught them, and supported me through many difficult and confusing times. I have left a part of me everywhere I have served. I have also taken with me a part of each congregation.
Sometimes I have felt frustration when the people did not move as quickly as I wanted them to move. At other times they moved so fast that I felt like the man seen running along behind a fast-moving crowd, saying, “Let me through—I need to get up front—I am their leader.” But so often I have been blessed by coming to understand with them the direction and speed the Holy Spirit would have us move, sharing sacred moments when we could sense the “breath of God” in our midst.
Many do not understand what it means to be a pastor. One of my two sons—both of whom are involved in pastoral ministry today—indicated as a preteen his idea of the work of a pastor. We were driving past a large church in our neighborhood one evening. Each of the buildings of that campus was ablaze with lights. He looked them over, and then exclaimed, “Wow! That pastor sure has a lot of lights to turn off!”
Opening and closing buildings, doing maintenance work, wrestling with balky office machines, planning for special times with your family, only to have them interrupted, listening one more time to Aunt Suzie’s complaints while she maintains she “isn’t one to complain”—to be a pastor is all of that and more.
To be a pastor means straightening and cleaning a room because the cleaning staff missed it. It is hearing that someone you went out of your way to help has chosen another church body. It is helplessly watching while people you love make self-destructive choices. It is working sixty hours a week and smiling when someone tells you how lucky you are to have to work only one day a week.
But being a pastor is also being there when a saint of God triumphantly graduates to heaven; it is watching a new Christian grow and mature and thanking God with young parents as they hold a newborn baby in their arms. In short, it is sharing life with some of God’s finest people.
Are there disappointments? Yes! Discouraging times? Sure! Frustrations? Plenty! But it all seems worthwhile when someone steps up and calls you “pastor.” No job is so great, no responsibility so satisfying as this that I have found. To be called “president” implies power and prestige; to be designated “doctor” or “professor” suggests educational achievement; but as for me, just call me “pastor.”
Longtime Church of God pastor Fred Davey wrote this article, which was originally published in the May 1992 issue of Vital Christianity. Republished by permission.
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