Pastoral Self-Indulgence

Apr 03

Pastoral Self-Indulgence

I’ve heard it said that one of the gifts of marriage is that it makes you into a better person (iron sharpens iron, etc.). I think this is true of being a pastor as well.

Part of the job of a pastor is to think of other people more than yourself, which is the call of every Christian, of course. I think it’s a little more “obligatory” when you’re a pastor, though. I think that’s a good thing–it is helping me become more of that kind of person (slowly, over time).

A few days ago, as I was driving down the interstate, I had an interesting thought: What if that’s the real reason God has made me a pastor? Not so much for other people’s benefit, but for my own. That’s a little uncomfortable for me to think about, since I see my “job” as being there for other people.

But what if there’s a bigger reason for me being a pastor? Well, is there really any reason to be a pastor that is more important than helping others draw near to Christ? At first, I would say no. But what if the bigger reason isn’t for other people, but for me? Does that sound selfish or self-indulgent? On one level, it does. But on another level, maybe not.

The Apostle Paul seemed to indicate his own walk with the Lord was just as, or even more, important than helping other people in their walk with the Lord. What use is it, he asks, if he helps others qualify for the prize, but he himself becomes disqualified?

What if the reason why God made me a pastor is more than just helping people in my congregation know God, more than helping to establish a strong vibrant church in our community, even more than seeing this community come to know Christ? What if, just like marriage, God has placed this calling on me in order to mold me into something/someone that He wants me to be for all eternity? Is there something specific God has for me in eternity that He is preparing me for while I am here on earth?

I mean…What if no one in my church ever gets to know God better, no matter how hard I try to see that happen? What if our church never becomes a strong, vibrant church in our community, no matter how hard I try to see that happen? What if no one in this community ever comes to know Christ, even though I try so hard to see everyone come to know Him? Would this be all in vain? Yes, unless there was some higher purpose than those things.

I know that I should pursue those things for my church and community, regardless of whether they materialize or not. That indicates to me that God wants me here as pastor for more than just those things, as important as they are. He wants me here because He wants to do some pretty significant things in MY life that will make me more into the person He desires me to be.

I don’t have control of outside circumstances, or other people’s decisions for Christ. But I do have the choice to let God have His way in my life, and to allow Him to work in me any way He wants to. If I do that, my job as pastor has been a success, regardless of any other outcomes. If I am faithful to the task, regardless of outside circumstances, I will have become more like Christ in ways I cannot now imagine. I have a feeling the biggest reason why God has called me to pastor is not so much for what He wants to do and work in other people, but for what God wants to do and work in me.

Self-indulgent? Come on now, don’t you think the same thing is true for your own life?

2 comments

  1. Tim, this is an AWESOME reflection!

    Having said that… it’s too late for this: “I mean… What if no one in my church ever gets to know God better, no matter how hard I try to see that happen?” I know I’m a lot closer to Jesus since you came here. Thank you.

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  2. Great thought! I absolutely agree with the sentiment that part of the reason God calls you to service to others is for you to grow closer to Him. Christ was a servant in part to illustrate what growing closer to God really looks like.

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