Wednesday, June 25, 2014

when pastoring a church is a weighty challenge

"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light." - Jesus, in Matthew 11:28-30

When Mr. Fantastic accepted his current job as a lead pastor and we were planning our move to Austin, we were given some advice by a friend who had pastored for several decades.

"Pastoring is heavy in a way that's hard to explain. You won't know what that means until you're there. No one does. You can do it, though."

Mysterious, ominous advice is not my favorite.

But he was right. And I don't have any better words for the challenging nature of pastoring than he did. Even though I have despaired of its constant pressure at times, that weight has brought me lower and deeper into Christ.

For that I am deeply grateful.

As a pastor, there are many days it seems no matter what decision is made, the resulting consequence will be failing the expectations of someone, somewhere. There are business-type problems (budgets, organizational decisions, etc.) that seem insurmountable. There are ministry-type problems (hurting souls, theological disagreements, etc.) that require more wisdom and grace than a human can muster. The critics are often your friends- no, truly they are your spiritual family, and it takes a great deal of energy to balance your personal and professional life when they overlap so intimately.

We have learned to wear Christlikeness as a garment, and to love the weightiness of His robes. Jesus, He is humble in heart and offers rest to those who follow Him to the cross.

So we come to Him with weary hearts that love His kingdom. We come to Him with our squabbles and disagreements, believing the best and trusting His grand way of sorting out our hearts. We come to Him and we lay down our agenda, our frustration, our hurt feelings, and our misunderstandings.

We take up the cross, and find it is not painful as we thought it would be. In fact, it offers us rest.

Rest from agendas, from self-righteousness, from the constant thrum of the beating of drums that calls us to do more, be more, make more, more, more, more.

The cross says it is finished. The rugged beams, crossed over one another, with nails ready to rid us of our sin, it all means that success looks more like humility of heart than perfectly meeting the expectations of others.

And this all makes us love Jesus more than we thought possible at the very beginning of our journey. The heat of the weariness has marked us, and we are not sorry to have been seared by its branding fire. We belong to Him in new ways now. We don't want another path.

Because He quietly, humbly bears the weight of pastoring that we can't really explain with words. He is in the secret places of our hearts, comforting us, loving us, accepting our sacrifices of praise, encouraging us to take one more step in faith.

Today, if you bear a weight that can't really be explained, I am praying for God to lead you to the cross, and that His rest rejuvenates your life. May your need open deeper places in your heart, and may His love fill the reserves with fresh, living water.

Jesus is just the best, isn't He? He turns our weariness into a gift of His deep love. And then He touches us and changes us forever. There is truly no one else like Him.

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