Acts 20.18-19 says, “And when they were come to him, he said unto them, Ye know, from the first day that I came into Asia, after what manner I have been with you at all seasons, Serving the Lord with all humility of mind, and with many tears, and temptations, which befell me by the lying in wait of the Jews:”
Paul spoke to the pastors of the Ephesian church, recalling how he had planted the church. He said, “You remember how I was with you at all seasons.” Whether you are planting a church or you are shepherding an existing church, pastoring is a difficult thing. No one in their right mind chooses to be a pastor. Being a pastor must come from a Divine origin. This reality becomes practically important because of the seasons of ministry. We might call them ministry cycles today, but the meaning is still the same. There are times when ministry is easy; there are times when ministry is hard. Sometimes the difficult seasons loom large and cast long shadows over the more pleasant aspects of ministry. Sometimes many tears are shed, and no one on earth but another pastor will ever understand those tears.
Paul shed many tears; he experienced many trials (2 Corinthians 11.23-28). Some of those trials were from his former colleagues. When Paul walked away from the Sanhedrin, Paul had burned his bridges, at least in the minds of others. Paul’s detractors were so angered that they were out for blood.
I doubt that any of us have feared for our lives because of pastoral ministry. If you have, you will have to admit that such an experience is extreme and rare. That being said, there are those who would love for nothing more than for us to fail. Sadly, even our own brothers and sisters in Christ — our familiar friend, as the psalmist put it (Psa. 41.9) — would like for this to happen. Sometimes our non-believing enemies show us more respect than a brother in Christ. Such seasons of ministry are extremely difficult. There is a loneliness in leadership that cannot be explained to someone who seeks to be a leader (the next article will address the isolation of ministry).
One of the purposes of our fellowship is to provide a support of connection. As pastors, we can understand that look, that sigh, that inexplicable smile, that hope rooted in faith that others might take as Pollyanna-like optimism.
Let us remember that we are broken, hurting people ministering to other broken, hurting people. Sometimes those other people are our fellow pastors. Let us gather to encourage each other to remain faithful in the battle, to endure the hardness of ministry as a soldier in the hot, Afghani desert. There is a connection that we have as Christ’s undershepherds. Let us hold up each others’ arms as did Aaron and Hur for Moses. Let us appreciate the connection of the Gospel and its ministry to which Christ has called us.