I Was the Best Pastor. Ever.
Not long ago I wrote a blog entry entitled, “I Was The Worst Pastor. Ever.” It was a bit tongue-in-cheek, but dealt with some serious reflections I have as I prepare to leave pastoral ministry for a new ministry pursuit.
A blog with a title such as today’s entry is clearly audacious. I’ll probably receive more scorn making this claim then I did when I owned the “worst ever” label. But I realized one good extreme deserves another, and I think if you hear me out, you may eventually find yourself agreeing. I was the best pastor. Ever.
In my book, “I Will Walk With You,” I share the divine nature of my calling to be a pastor. While I was, in fact, called as a child to pastoral ministry, I ran from it as an adult. It took a healthy measure of both human and divine intervention to get me on track.
One day while driving, alone in my car, I blurted out, “God, you don’t want me. I’m a wholly incompetent man.” I heard God respond, clearly, “Yes, but I am a Holy, competent God.”
I was a program director at a top country station in those days, and while in an event in Nashville, I had another supernatural encounter. I was in a crowded room full of radio and music industry leaders, and was having a conversation with an artist named Lee Ann Womack. As we talked, the record label reps began to play Lee Ann’s new single for us, “I Hope You Dance.” I was mesmerized by the beauty and truth of the song. Then came the line,
“Time is a wheel in constant motion
Moving us along
Who wants to look back on their years and wonder
Where those years have gone?”
In that moment, I was alone with God there in that room. I heard him say to me, “I’ve been asking you to do something for me. When are you going to do it?”
In both encounters, there was this assurance that the work I was being given to do was not my own. I was the instrument that God would use. I could never do the job by my own power. God would supply all that I needed. If I were to follow, listen, abide, and obey, He would be my source.
Pastoral ministry can be a very humiliating job. It can be discouraging at times, and it can be brutal. No one can do this job without God’s Holy Spirit upon them.
A pastor who follows Jesus, a pastor who abides in Him, is a representative or ambassador for the best pastor of all… Christ Himself.
Certainly there are many imperfect pastors, and I would never claim to have gotten everything right. But for those who follow after Jesus, does grace not apply to a pastor who allows himself to be refined and remade? In other words, we will never get it all right here in our flesh, but a system of prayer, confession, and discipline helps a pastor to stay focused on where Jesus leads.
(I’m guessing some of you are thinking of pastors who went astray about now. I’m not justifying them at all; my suggestion is that we are all susceptible to wandering if we forsake our daily prayer, confession and discipline as pastors.)
Over time, God has taught me to rely heavily on the last half of Galatians 5 where we are clearly shown the difference between Holy-Spirit driven things, and earthly/fleshly-driven things. I’ve come to understand that if I allow my mind to be transformed by the Spirit, and assess decisions according to the fruit of the Spirit vs. fruit of the flesh, I can stay better focused on who God wants me to be.
So, I no more believe myself to have been the best pastor ever than I believe I was the worst pastor ever. But I do know that I walk with the one who is the best, and when God sees me, I am covered by the grace-filled blood of Jesus in all things. God sees the Jesus-followers through a Jesus-lens. When He sees me, He sees the best pastor. Ever.
(It’s fully possible that I wrote this today for me alone. I needed to hear this message. I needed to be washed in the truth that it’s not by anything other than the Spirit that I want to live. Modesty causes me to want to explain away the “best ever” title. But I can’t. Because today, I’ve been reminded to see myself in Jesus again, and frankly, He’s the best. And I am in Him, and He is in me.)