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  • Practicing Presence in Ministry

    Brett Vaden

    “Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight.”  –Romans 12:14-16

    In seminary while attending a chapel service I heard a pastor say, “seminary should be a whine-free zone” (he didn’t have any thoughts on whether it should be wine free). He reminded the students that in this season of life their main duties and focus revolved around reading and studying God’s Word, and therefore they should be without complaint. Part of me resonated with what he said. I truly enjoyed the classes I took and understood the importance of preparing for my calling. There is so much goodness, wisdom, guidance, growth, and counsel gained from seminary — endless things for which to be thankful. Seminary classes specifically provide a framework for understanding how to minister to people, but they don’t teach you how it feels to sit with specific individuals in specific situations. You can gain great insight concerning why people are struggling, what questions to ask to help them understand why they are struggling, and even various remedies of how to practically help. But no case study discussing a couple who lost a child can prepare you for the weight and grief of sitting and mourning with a family who’s been through it.

    Being a pastor is a complex calling with numerous of responsibilities. On any given day you may need to work on sermon prep, speak with a couple whose marriage is falling apart, have a budget meeting, and lead your family in evening devotions. These important parts of your day take different gifts and different types of attention. Each of them requires your full presence. Resist the temptation to enter into a situation thinking  “how do I fix this person or circumstance” but instead pray continually to be able to see the child of God before you. Can a pastor be expected to do all of this? Not in their own strength. It isn’t easy, but here are four things to remember as you head into a day that seems impossible.

      1. Trust God. Remember, the Gospel is not “work harder, do better.” It is not lean on my own understanding and strength. The Gospel is, trust in Christ crucified. God is for you and has called you to this.  He will not leave you or forsake you. He will be with you for each of these endeavors. Delight in your need of Him. Don’t be ashamed of your weakness. Part of leading well is admitting and asking for help.The Bible says much about God using people in difficult situations for His glory.  Pray often for God’s help and an attitude that readily admits your need for Him, and for others.
      2. Remember your calling. It is not an accident you are in this role. God called you and the church (community) affirmed that calling. Trust that God is working for people to grow in their love of God but also for your to grow in your love and dependance on God. Pray often for God to remind you of His Sovereignty, Purposes, and Faithfulness.
      3. Don’t be afraid. God works even when we are not our best. We all have times where we are not going to be able to make the best decision and say things exactly like we want to. In spite of our best and worst days God is working and changing the world through us. Pray often for a humble heart that is quick to repent.
      4. Be patient. God does not work on our timetable and no one else does either. Trust in God’s work in the people’s lives you are ministering to and be faithful to pray and be present with the people of your church.