In September 2014, I accepted the offer extended to me by Open Bible Baptist Church in Brunswick, GA to take the office as their pastor. The idea that there would obstacles and struggles was not a foreign one to me. I knew that there would be folks who would leave angrily at the preaching of the righteousness of God’s Word, and draw away men and women with them. I knew there would be people who would visit, and once they heard the old-fashioned songs and Bible teaching, would also determine they would never return. I was also very aware that even within the folks who were to remain that there would be times of turmoil and disagreements that would require large amounts of charity from those who would receive much less charity then they are giving. I knew, that coming to a town in the American Southeast and attempting to reestablish a church via door knocking and public ministry would be a tremendous struggle considering the plethora of “churches” already here who would never call upon their members to engage in such “radical” practices. I knew that there would be people who would come and claim that our church was the place they had been searching for all along, and then realize very quickly that their search must continue. I knew that there would be people who would make it their goal in life to remind me that just because I was a pastor that I was no better then them while at the same time they held me to higher standard then they would ever dream of applying to their own lives. I knew all these things and more BEFORE I agreed to take the office of pastor. I may not have had the experience to deal with each of these issues, but I still knew they would inevitably show up on the scene.
Do not misunderstand, I am not complaining at all. I just want to point out that I was not ignorant to the struggle ahead of me. I personally had never experienced the issues I listed above, but I was informed enough about the ministry and church life to know that stuff would happen and continue to happen throughout the course of the ministry. But, simply knowing, didn’t cause it to be any easier.
Now, some may read this and say “well, you haven’t even began to understand the struggles, I’ve been doing this for a lot longer than you and I’ve been through worse things than you.” That may very well be true, but I am not trying to present myself as a “victim” or as if my struggles are the hardest that anyone has ever had to address or endure. Such a thought on my part would be extremely foolish and carnal to say the least.
I don’t mean to present the ministry in such a dismal light, but to pretend that it is all sunshine and roses is not fair to men who may be considering the ministry as a path in their own lives. It is easy for a man to get a desire to pastor or be a missionary when he believes that he will never suffer. Pastoring is more than preparing and presenting 3 sermons a week and going golfing with your other pastor friends(nothing wrong with that stuff, but that is not the entirety of the office.) Many a missionary letter has caused all too many young men and women to believe that a missionary’s life consists of residing in a tropical paradise where thousands of souls are eager to hear and receive the message of the gospel. It will never hurt young men to have the “struggles” of the ministry presented to them BEFORE they enter it and faint.
I believe that understanding that the ministry would be a daily struggle physically, spiritually, emotionally, financially, etc. is one of the greatest things that my pastor and other men in my life could have taught me. I was taught and shown by example that there would be good times, but the ministry would also be an uphill climb the entire way. I observed men in the ministry who gave everything for people who only demand more from them. I watched a pastor who desired to teach people the Bible so they could live lives pleasing to their Saviour, and instead of being able to rejoice in their growth in Christ, he had to take that Bible and use to place those same folks under the discipline of the church, and I have watched that break his heart. I have observed the children of SOME very good men in the ministry walk out on the church and the Lord because they got bitter after watching the church folks abuse and take advantage of their father. I had never experienced any of that stuff personally, but I knew it all too often came with the ministry from observation.
So, you may be wondering where I am going with all this negativity, so let me get to it. 1 Timothy 3:1 says This is a true saying, if a man desire the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work. In the most common and thorough passage on the requirements and qualifications of those that hold the leadership of the church, it begins with such an important requirement, a desire. Now, it could be easy to get a desire if you think the path you are about to trod will be an easy one. It is easy to get a desire if you think you will be the exception to the trials, or that you will be the preacher that everyone, saved and lost, has been waiting with anticipated breathe to finally see go into the ministry so that they can flock to you like kids to an ice cream truck in August. But, if you know that there will be struggles that, all too often, will cause you to question whether it is even possible to continue on, you may not be so quick to starting unpacking your belongings in the office of bishop. The verse says that a bishop has a desire for a WORK, not a play-date.
After reading this, you may be wondering how a man would ever get such a desire after knowing the struggles lying ahead of him. Psalm 37:4 says Delight thyself also in the Lord: and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart. Hopefully, you understand that this verse is not saying God will give you a mansion or a fancy car if you just read your Bible and attend church services. It is telling us that if we delight in the Lord and the things he has commanded us to do, He will give us something. What will He give us? A desire. When someone is saved and begins to grow in the Lord, their desires change, and the Lord will give different desires to different people within the body of Christ. I have good friends of mine who are missionaries in places that I have no desire to go to (I am not saying I am not willing), but they have such a desire and love to be in that place that they give up everything precious here in their native land and set off to take the gospel to folks who may or may not want to hear it. Knowing the struggles and the tribulation he is about to face, what causes a man to do that if it is not a desire from the Lord?
Many people have asked me how I know I am “called” into the ministry, and while I could answer with emotional answers or terminologies that we all have heard used over and over, I chose rather to recognize that I have a desire that I am convinced is from the Lord Himself. It is a desire that wont go away regardless of the sleepless nights spent agonizing and praying over whatever trial I or others in the church may be going through at that time. It is a desire that stays present even when those that are my closest of friends try to convince to just quit. It is a desire that I have, even though I know that more troubles and trials lie in wait for me in this life if I stay faithful to the Lord and the precepts of the Word of God.
Some may say that this desire is the call to preach while others say that there is no such thing, but I am convinced that if a man truly desires to perform the work that God has given him in the ministry even after he is made aware of the struggles, then he needs to dig in and get ready, because the “best is yet to come.