Matt Redmond, introducing the Gospel Coalition’s Ordinary Pastors Project, exhorts fellow pastors to “Be encouraged.”
Be encouraged in the midst of ministerial duties that are mind-numbingly mundane.
Be encouraged in a world drunk on the sweet nectar of the spectacular.
Be encouraged when you preach the gospel clearly.
Be encouraged after years of faithfulness, even if you don’t have numbers that impress conference organizers.
Be encouraged in the tedium.
Be encouraged when you see the same faces week-in and week-out.
Be encouraged as you marry and bury, counsel and speak at the local lodge’s spring pancake breakfast.
Be encouraged when dreams of thousands have careened against the retaining wall of reality with hundreds. Or dozens, even.
Be encouraged when no one has heard of you, your church, or your town.
Be encouraged in the midst of decline.
Be encouraged when you must stop preparing your sermon to clean the bathrooms.
Be encouraged, because you stand before God redeemed and loved because of Christ’s righteousness credited to you.
Be encouraged, for this right standing before God is not based on the success of your ministry, loved no less because it is ordinary.
Be encouraged, ordinary pastor.
Be encouraged when growth is slow and measured by generations.
Be encouraged when guilt, fear, and the specter of failure form an unholy alliance against you.
Be encouraged when young men grown fat on the feast of podcasts question your every move.
Be encouraged when no one knows your name; it is written in blood in the book of life.
Ordinary pastor, be encouraged: Your faithful labor in the darkened forest of obscurity is heroic.
This is not mere rhetoric. And it’s not romanticizing. This is the reality. Carson [Memoirs of an Ordinary Pastor] writes:
Most of us, however, serve in more modest patches. Most pastors will not regularly preach to thousands, let alone tens of thousands. They will not write influential books, they will not supervise large staffs, and they will never see more than modest growth. They will plug away at their care for the aged, at their visitation, at their counseling, at their Bible studies and preaching. Some will work with so little support that they will prepare their own bulletins.
They cannot possibly discern whether the constraints of their own sphere of service owe more to the specific challenges of the local situation or to their own shortcomings. Once in a while they will cast a wistful eye on “successful” ministries. Many of them will attend the conferences sponsored by the revered masters and come away with a slightly discordant combination of, on the one hand, gratitude and encouragement and, on the other, jealousy, feelings of inadequacy, and guilt.
I would encourage you to check out the Ordinary Pastors Project, where people write in to commend and highlight God’s work in the life of an “ordinary pastor” who is making a difference. Here are the entries that have appeared thus far:
- Our Worship Glorifies God
- In the World’s Eyes a Dismal Failure
- Live Sent
- Serving an Extraordinary God
- Doctrine Comes to Life in Community
- Good Pastors Don’t Let You Off the Hook
If you’d like to honor and encourage the ordinary pastor who shaped you, tell TGC about him in about 500 words and include a photo, or record a video testimonial of five minutes or less and send the link to [email protected].