Reviews and Recommendations
The pastor’s problem I want to mention is not unique to any single pastor or church. The comments here are not about an individual but a problem that is impacting the church at large. It impacts you and you may not even realize it.
A pastor’s problem comes from many competing interests. The following article will unfold it for you. I challenge you to read it through because I can assure you Dr. Carson is right. He does a great job of explaining why the pastor’s problem exists. You won’t like the answer. But Dr. Carson doesn’t give it to you directly.
Those competing interests that create the pastor’s problem come from good people wanting good things. That’s the problem. We have to learn the difference between goods things and the best things. There are MUSTS in a pastor’s life and ministry. If what we want keeps him from the MUSTS, then in the end it harms us. So the article is not just about a pastor’s problem, is it? Think about it!
Soli Deo Gloria!
Gospel Coalition Editors’ note: The following article is an excerpt from Praying with Paul: A Call to Spiritual Reformation (2nd ed.) by D. A. Carson (Baker). In addition, The Gospel Coalition, in partnership with LifeWay, recently published a new group study curriculum for Praying with Paul, co-written by Carson and Brian Tabb. You can also listen to Carson teach on this subject when you register for his workshop at The Gospel Coalition National Conference, April 13 to 15 in Orlando.
I would like to address rather directly the clergy. Do you desire, with all your heart, what is best for the congregation you serve? Then you must ask yourself how much time you devote to praying the sort of prayer that Paul prayed in Philippians 1:9-11. Part of the problem we ministers in the West face when we butt up against this challenge is that, while we know we have been called to the ministry of the Word and prayer, several notable pressures impose themselves, pressures so persistent that they end up shaping our values and therefore our schedules.
The pastor’s job has been diversified. We no longer give ourselves to the ministry of the Word and prayer, because we have become professional counselors, fundraisers, administrators, committee members, referees, politicians, and media personalities. Many pastors are confused about their own identity and may suffer from low estimates of the value of their work.
Up until 30 years or so ago, clergy were generally respected in the Western world. Three decades of rising secularism, of the media’s persistent presentation of clergy as wimps or charlatans or both, of public perceptions that we are obsolete (like dinosaurs) and arrogant, and we may feel a little insecure. Many of us work with professionals and even teach professionals, but we quickly discover that we are not treated like professionals ourselves. It can be argued that such pressures should not bother those who follow in the way of the cross. In practice, however, many clergy overcompensate, acting far too much like professionals and far too little like those given to the ministry of the Word and prayer.
Not a few clergy feel discouraged and unfruitful. Many pastors work for months and years without seeing a single convert. Some have bright ideas but feel they cannot pull the weight of ecclesiastical tradition with them; others value the traditions from which they spring and feel threatened by the endless succession of faddish innovation. The years trickle past, and dispirited resignation sets in.
Some clergy bury themselves in endless activism. Through no one’s fault but their own, they give themselves to endless work, always keeping busy but never carving out time to study, think, meditate, and pray. These and similar pressures corrode our values, deflect our aims, and finally corrupt our schedules. If we regain biblical priorities, all these pressures will appear in a different light.
Has the job been diversified? Once our priorities are straight, we will learn to relegate tasks to their appropriate rank according to the values of Scripture. Delegate some things; cancel others. You do not have to have a bulletin; you have to pray. You do not have to chair every committee or attend every meeting; you have to pray.
LINK TO BALANCE OF ARTICLE AT GOSPEL COALITION Click image to get book from Amazon