The apostle Paul exhorts the congregation of Thessalonica to “respect those who labour among you and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, and to esteem them very highly in love because of their work” and to “be at peace among yourselves” (1 Thessalonians 5:12–13). He is exhorting the congregation to care for the elders who, in turn, are care for the flock. Shepherds are sheep, who need the practical supportive ministry of those they minister to. Shepherds and sheep, sheep and shepherds; it’s a symbiotic relationship. Each needs the care of the other.
I recently came across the article below—“A Week in the Life of an Ordinary Pastor”—by Chris Griggs, lead pastor of Denver Baptist Church in Colorado, who contributed the article to the Gospel Coalition. I was immediately struck with how I could relate to every point—both the challenges and the blessings in the life and ministry of an elder. I shared the article with another long-time pastor, who also commented on its relevancy to what he experiences. It seems that this is an ordinary week in the life of an ordinary pastor.
In consultation with Stuart (main editor of church website content), we thought it would prove helpful for our congregation. Perhaps it will aid us to understand some of the “ordinary” experiences of the eldership in order to facilitate meaningful prayer for our elders. May it help us to all “be at peace among ourselves.”
On Tuesday afternoon, the pastor is pulling into the church parking lot after a long lunch meeting with a member when his phone rings. “Hello pastor. As you know, my wife is still recovering from surgery. It’s been a really hard couple of weeks, and I just wanted you to know that nobody has cared for us. Well, a little, but not like we expected. I appreciate you coming to the hospital to pray with us, but we won’t be coming back to your church.” The pastor offers an apology and hangs up the phone—discouraged.
An hour later, he makes a call to check on a sick member. “Pastor, thank you so much for the call. We’ve been so overwhelmed and blessed by the way the church has loved and cared for us during this crisis. Thank you for everything.” After praying with them, he hangs up the phone—grateful.
As he prepares to leave the office for the day, a deacon drops by unannounced. “Hey pastor, do you have a minute? Listen, some folks are really struggling with what happened in that last business meeting. They don’t feel they had much of a voice in the decision, and they’re pretty upset. Just thought you should know.” The pastor leans back in his chair—fearful.
That evening, at a local restaurant, another deacon stops by his table on the way out. “Good to see you, pastor. Listen, I want you to know that we are thankful for your leadership. We support you and the other leaders. Let me know if there’s anything I can help with.” He finishes his meal—encouraged.
The next morning, he takes a break from preparing for Wednesday Bible study and checks his email. “Good morning, pastor. I was hoping to meet up, but everyone’s busy. Anyway, I wanted to let you know that we’re going to start visiting other churches. Just looking for something different.” He hangs his head and lets out a deep sigh.
Later in the day, he opens a card that came in the mail. “Pastor, thank you for preaching the word each week. My family has grown so much in the Lord, and we appreciate your hard work to carefully teach us the Bible.” He tucks the card in his Bible so that he can read it often.
That evening, his phone rings at 10:20 PM, which is unusual. “Hey pastor, Mom isn’t doing well. The hospice nurse says it won’t be too much longer.”
“Okay, I’ll be right over.” He gets out of bed and gets dressed.
After returning home in the middle of the night, a notification on his phone wakes him at 8:45 AM. It was a long night, but he grabs his phone and plays the voicemail. “Pastor, I came by to see you at the office … again. Where are you? I need to talk to someone and nobody is ever around. Call me.” He hangs up the phone—exhausted.
Early Saturday morning he sits at his kitchen table, working on the sermon he tried all week to finish by Thursday. He types out the next sentence feeling disappointed in himself—yet another Saturday where he still has sermon work to do.
Saturday evening, around 10:30 PM, after a full and fun day with his family, he kisses his wife goodnight and makes his way back to the kitchen table to finish up his sermon. Finally done hours later, he quietly crawls into bed and falls asleep praying.
The alarm goes off early on Sunday morning. The pastor prepares for the day. He gathers with the saints to worship Jesus, enjoy the fellowship of believers, and preach about the grace and comfort of Christ.
He walks among the flock, shaking hands, listening to prayer requests, and welcoming new faces. After lunch, he grabs a quick nap in his recliner before it’s time to head back for evening activities. His heart is thankful for the call to be an undershepherd of Christ’s flock.
Awesome and Awful
Every pastor can relate—at least on some level—to such a week. Some weeks, being a pastor feels like riding an emotional roller coaster. Like the apostle Paul, we have days when our concern for the church is a daily pressure (2 Corinthians 11:28). But also like Paul, we have moments when we’re on our knees praying with others, weeping together on account of the gospel’s blessings (Acts 20:36–37).
The mature pastor knows three things.
This is what it’s like when we “shepherd the flock of God among us” (1 Peter 5:2). The mature pastor knows three things. First, Jesus is the chief shepherd who has called him to be an undershepherd of the flock. Second, shepherds look and smell like sheep, because that’s what they are. And third, all sheep have a way of making the ministry both awesome and awful.
We must remember that what the sheep really need is a heart so full of love for Jesus that it spills out in ways that look and sound like Jesus. That’s why you are their pastor, to preach the good news of Jesus to them, to be among them to teach them to trust Jesus, and to help them get to the end of their race with joy in Jesus.
Each Sunday you walk them down the aisle to Jesus. You remind them of his grace, you seek to stir up hope, and you encourage them that this life is a vapor (James 4:14), that soon they will joyfully bow before their King in glory. On that day, he will wipe away every tear. The emotional roller coaster will come to an eternal end.
One of a Thousand
In The Pilgrim’s Progress, there is a picture of a pastor displayed in a room of the Interpreter’s House. He has “his eyes lifted up to heaven, the best of books in his hand, the law of truth written upon his lips, the world behind his back, ready to plead with men, and a crown of gold did hang over his head.”
Christian asks for an explanation. The Interpreter replies: “The man whose picture this is, is one of a thousand: he can beget children; travail in birth with children; and nurse them himself when they are born…. He is sure in the world that comes next to have glory for his reward.”
This is you, pastor. One in a thousand, with glory to come. You have been called to a noble task. Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. Run well and serve in the strength of the Lord, so that on the day of accounting you can joyfully present the bride to Jesus as you hear him say, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”