I realize how important it is for people to have a pastor. I also realize after so many years in the ministry how hard it is to provide it in a meaningful way. On the one hand, the Bible says that the main job of a pastor is to "to prepare God's people for works of service so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ (Ephesians 3)". So it only makes sense as a congregation grows that leaders need to invest in other leaders who can then provide care and nurture for people. So we are always trying to do that--to train leaders for small groups, to launch groups where people can fulfill the "one another" ministries that are mentioned in the Bible.
And yet at the same time I also know that nothing energizes my own ministry like life on life ministry with individual people. Yes at times it is draining, but it is equally invigorating. It keeps you in touch with the joys and sorrows of ordinary people. It informs your preaching and your plans for ministry. But how do you do it without being completely overwhelmed and burned out? My sense is that it requires balanced initiative on the part of pastors and people. On the one hand, part of my job is to reach out to you--knowing from the outset that I will not be able to get to everyone. Sometimes it becomes nothing more than a greeting on a Sunday morning, or a phone call. Other times it becomes a meeting for coffee or a meal or a visit in the office. Almost always, I find myself enriched through those times. Almost always, I get to be a spectator in the work of God in that person's life. You realize when you hear people's stories that there are often tales that rival a Shakespeare tragedy or comedy. You are also humbled that you not only get to view their life but hopefully to leave them with something that will encourage them in the journey
But let me also encourage you to take steps, to take initiative as well. I appreciate it when you say, "Let's get together in the office, or over coffee or over a meal." It can be a challenge sometimes to get the calendars to line up, but when they do, I feel God's Spirit and presence so often. Also when I see you again at worship or the fellowship hall, there is sense of knowing you in an entirely different way. You aren't just a person passing through, but someone you know on a deeper level that creates a bond. It is those bonds of the Spirit that make ministry encouraging and often exhilarating. So what is the bottom line? I would encourage you to step-up--call, send an e-mail, make an appointment at church. And then look for others whom you can pastor!! Does that sound strange to you? To be a pastor is many things, but one of the biggest things is to give care. You are called to that as much a I am? Think how vibrant and alive the church can be if every true believer saw themselves as called to care for (yes, pastor) others. You say, "Well I can't do that!" But let me challenge you. Can you listen? Can you encourage? Can you pray with people? If so you have the ability to pastor. It's really not that hard.