One of my great joys in this season of life is that I get to be “pops” to 4 little granddaughters. It is fun watching them grow up. And, as they have continued to grow, I have noticed something. They are big enough now that it is impossible to pick them up with one hand.
The same thing is true for ministry and pastoring. The size of your calling requires two hands to hold it well…and to hold it for a lifetime. One hand is that sense of sacred responsibility. Our calling is a weighty and sobering responsibility. Eternity is at stake in the lives of our congregation and community. Every day we deal with the messiness of sin and brokenness. And we are not only called to show grace, we are also compelled by our calling to speak truth.
But it can’t all be heaviness and weightiness and responsibility. In order to carry ministry well you also need the hand of adventure and joy and fun. I love to see people who have pastored for 30 years and still are full of laughter and life.
I know what some of you are thinking… “You just don’t know my situation.” Or “Trying to lead these people is impossible.” Or “Ministry stopped being fun and joyful years ago.”
At points in my journey I have voiced those exact statements. The irony is that we stand up on Sundays and preach to people that they aren’t bound by their circumstances. We tell them with passion that the same power that raised Jesus from the dead is the power that is living inside them. With conviction we tell them that they can have victory in Jesus.
But if we are honest with ourselves, sometimes the life we preach about on Sunday is not the life we are living the rest of the week. So, how do we move from ministry always being a “have to” to being more of a “get to”?
I believe the last 3 verses of Matthew 11 give us some clues for how we can find joy and fun in the heavy responsibility of pastoring.
In Matthew 11:28 (NIV) Jesus says Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.
We extend that invitation of Jesus to those we minister to. But maybe we need to extend that invitation to ourselves. The invitation to come to Jesus when you are exhausted and stressed isn’t just for our congregation, it is also for me. Sometimes I have to remind myself that I am person before I am a pastor. I am not exempt from the needs of my humanity simply because I am a pastor or ministry leader.
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Here is what I know to be true about me. At times my whole life and identity gets consumed by being a pastor and leader that I don’t know how to just be a person. A person who needs the care and comfort and rest from my Heavenly Father. So, perhaps the path back to a life of joy and laughter is to stop long enough and be still long enough to allow God to love and care for you.
In verse 30 of Matthew 11, Jesus says My yoke is easy and my burden is light. Could that actually be true for those of us who lead in the church. As I ponder those words from Jesus, the word that most strikes me is the word “my”. It is His yoke.
I think one of the things that causes undo stress in the life of a leader is overfunctioning. We carry more and take more responsibility than God asks us to.
I regularly need to remind myself that the church I shepherd belongs to Jesus. I am a steward, not an owner. He loves His bride far more than I do and He said he would build the church. It is my job to be a faithful steward. Period. When I can believe that and live it out, his yoke becomes much easier and the burden of ministry becomes much lighter.
So, today, if you are exhausted and stressed, hear the gentle words of Jesus… “Come to me.” It is an invitation to you just as much as it is to your congregation.