“And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers,” (Ephesians 4:11, NASB95)
This verse describes the Biblical office of a pastor. First and foremost, God calls men to be pastors. Being a pastor is not something that we decide to do, but rather it is something that God compels us to do. In fact, most pastors that I know resisted the call due to feelings of unworthiness, a lack of ability, etc. However, when God calls there is no option but obedience. Being a pastor is a calling, not a career.
This week, something interesting happened to me. I realized that 20 years ago this week I had become a pastor. Yes, the first Sunday in February, 1994 was my first Sunday as pastor of Pisgah Baptist Church in Pisgah, Alabama.
I often say that I don’t know much now, but I didn’t know anything then and people always laugh. However, I am not kidding! Becky and I were 23 year old newlyweds when we moved into the pastorium in Pisgah. Those were precious days indeed. I could not have asked for a better first church to pastor. If you are interested, here is the link to a post from last year when I returned to Pisgah to conduct a funeral. https://gregcorbin.com/2013/04/04/part-of-my-heart-will-always-be-at-pisgah/
As I think about investing 20 years of my life as a pastor, I couldn’t help but be overwhelmed with gratitude to God. It’s a privilege to serve as a pastor. Today, I thought I would write about some of my greatest joys of being a pastor. Yes, in case you are wondering, there are aspects that are not pleasant. However, I prefer to subscribe to the wise words of a pastor I met several year ago: “Remember the best and forget the rest.” So, here we go! My greatest joys in being a pastor:
(1) Seeing lives changed through salvation. Without question, the greatest joy of a pastor is seeing people come to faith in Christ and letting Him change their lives. I have seen people saved in a worship service, in their home, in my office, standing on a street corner, in a gymnasium, and a host of other places. My favorite story of a person coming to faith happened while I was serving in Pell City. The choir was singing the special music – “Bow the Knee.” Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a man coming forward right in the middle of the song. It was a man that I had recently witnessed to in his home and who had been attending with his wife. He came forward and knelt down weeping. By the time I got to him, he was crying out to the Lord asking God to save him. After he finished praying, he looked up at me and said, “Pastor, I’m sorry I messed up the service.” With tears streaming down my face, I said, “You didn’t mess up the service, you made the service!” It has been my privilege to baptize several hundred people over the years. God is good.
(2) Seeing lives changed through the Word and growth. Practically all pastors really enjoy teaching the Bible. After all, that is a primary aspect of what we do. It’s such an encouragement to a pastor when someone “gets” it and really begins soaking up the Bible teaching and living it out. It brings a pastor great pleasure to see spiritual growth taking place among his people.
(3) A sense of fulfilling God’s call and pleasing Him. One of my all-time favorite movies is Chariots of Fire. It’s a movie based on a true story about two Olympians and their motivations for running. Harold Abrahams was a Jew who ran to overcome prejudice and anti-semitism. Eric Liddell was a committed Christian and ran for the glory of God. In one scene of that movie, Eric Liddell says “I believe God made me for a purpose. But He also made me fast, and when I run, I feel His pleasure.” In a very real sense, I never feel God’s pleasure more than when I preach. In my early days as a pastor, preaching was all that I really cared about, but over the years, I have also learned to view all of the other aspects of ministry in a positive light too. It brings God pleasure when I lead the people of God well and the church makes progress. It brings God pleasure when I spend some time with a person and help them with problems, etc. It brings God pleasure when I seek to comfort a family in grief.
(4) Friends for life. When I first became a pastor, I had a retired pastor tell me, “You can’t have friends in the church. People will get jealous.” Early on, I took that advice, but I am thankful I quickly came to my own conclusion. As a pastor, you love everyone, but there will naturally be some people that you grow closer to than others. Sometimes it’s through the activities of your children or sometimes a friendship just “clicks.” Without apology, my wife and I have close friends in the church. That’s part of being healthy people. Having good friends helps me be a healthy pastor so that I can minister to everyone. I am so grateful that Becky and I have friends for life from every church we have served. This is why it doesn’t bother me when I know that someone in my present church is still good friends with one of my predecessors. After all, there are several pastors in the state who have members that are still great friends with me! Friends are a treasure. I treasure them more as the years go by.
(5) Progress. There is no perfect church. All churches need leadership. While leading a church to change and progress is certainly not always easy or pleasant, there is a great fulfillment in seeing progress over the long term. By God’s grace, I have been able to see progress at each church the Lord has called me to serve. Sometimes the progress involved numerical growth in attendance, but sometimes it also involved greater unity in the church, better organization, paying off debt, renovating facilities, etc. I am not wired well for just doing maintenance. God has wired me to constantly be looking to move my church forward. By His grace (and often in spite of my short comings), we have seen that happen over the years.
This list could be longer, but I really need to stop. Next to my salvation and the privilege of being a husband and father, serving as a pastor is the greatest privilege of my life. While I certainly have not been anywhere close to a perfect pastor, I have sought with everything in me to be a faithful one. I am praying and believing the Lord that my next twenty years of ministry will be my best and most productive.