It is our duty and our privilege to exhaust our lives for Jesus. We are not to be living specimens of men in fine preservation, but living sacrifices, whose lot is to be consumed; we are to spend and to be spent, not to lay ourselves up in lavender, and nurse our flesh. Such soul-travail as that of a faithful minister will bring on occasional seasons of exhaustion, when heart and flesh will fail.
The Minister’s Fainting Fits, Lectures to My Students, Lecture XI, 1856
Recently a Vicar pal and friend Peter came to preach at my invitation. He started his sermon by saying:
"David didn't tell me to preach this but I am going to preach the sermon that is the one sermon a pastor/Vicar can't preach to his own church"
His sermon (11.3.12) was courageous, a blessing and you would do well to make time to listen to it.
It is often said 'Good pastors make good churches' but may I suggest that in fact 'Good churches make good pastors'
Being a Vicar /Pastor is a great and wonderful thing at times and it requires much of one as I am discovering as I cover a sabbatical. Vicars are so often expected to be all rounders (even though in my tradition we say we believe in the priesthood of all believers): we are called to be pray-ers, preachers, administrators, treasurers, counsellors, carers, fund-raisers, rebukers, IT experts, facilitators, shepherds, leaders, models of family life, givers of wisdom, correctors, vision-casters, conflict-resolvers, heralds of the kingdom, social media gurus, evangelists, architects, team-builders, missionaries, lovers of the poor and lonely, punch bags, school governors, attention givers, social workers, listeners, buriers of the dead, project-managers, theologians, meeting-chairers, trustees of charities, form fillers, mentors, encouragers, planners, caterers, havers of difficult conversations, welcomers, mercy-givers, deliverers, ethicists, caretakers, problem solvers and child entertainers. Quite an exciting list and by no means an exhaustive one.
Let me tell you something. Your Vicar is a sinner like you and as in need of grace and lots of it- as you are. They are very imperfect indeed- if I am anything to go by :) My pastorate is only any cop at all because my church is such a blessing to pastor and is full of amazing folk.
This talk may bless you in three ways.
1. If you are a Vicar or are involved in some capacity leading a church it is a testimony to what that involves and a record of some of the pressures you may be under and it acknowledges them and brings them into the light. It will be a window into your own life. If you feel able you to might even send it to your Church Wardens, PCC, Leaders, Elders or whatever structure you hold in order to give them an insight into your world and in order to show them how to care for you. This talk might bless you I pray, particularly if you are in a time of struggle and might be the vehicle of encouragement you badly need.
2. If you are a member of a church then your pastor/ Vicar may be in need of care or blessing and this will give you a few clues on how to bring that about. It will bless them to know that you and perhaps others have listened to this talk and then think of a ways you might bring them/their family some encouragement and blessing. You might suggest your wardens, small-group leaders or the PCC listen to it and then assess how you are doing on the 'caring for our pastor' test. If you know a Vicar do send them this talk.
3. Maybe you might be being called to be a pastor. I hope some of you are- the church needs you. If so, this will give you a bit of forewarning on what you might be in for. Peter encouraged me into ministry and I love it but it is hard at times as Peter testifies from his life and as the Scriptures tell us it will be. But here's the thing though. The blessing far outweighs the cost.
One final thing. The Chuck Swindoll story that Peter tells at the end of the sermon brought me to tears. If you, my dear readers, can do anything for me you can commit to pray for me as the dear lady did especially over the next year as I undertake to plant a church. I am going to be in need of a great measure of God's grace. Pray for me and then pray some more.