The role of the pastor is complex and unique, and pastors who successfully serve through difficult times only do so by leading out of God’s love.
“You’re a prophet. You’re a project manager. You’re a janitor. You’re a counselor. You walk through tragedy with people. You lead deacons meetings and elders meetings and volunteer meetings. … You do all these things,” Jay Watson, lead pastor of Life Community Church in Nolensville, Tennessee, told those gathered Nov. 15 for the afternoon session of the 2021 Alabama Baptist Pastors Conference.
“You walk with people through the worst moments of their lives. They’re hurting, they’re in pain and sometimes they attack you. And most of the time you can’t tell anybody about all that’s being put on your shoulders.
“You have to ask yourself the question sometimes, ‘Why am I doing this?’”
Don’t forget the “why,” Watson urged.
“Jesus Christ has changed you forever. You have been saved, you have been changed, you have been redeemed … by His perfect love. The grace, mercy and forgiveness He’s showed you, you’re called to do that. I’m not talking about preaching; I’m talking about actually living it out. Abilities alone is just noise.”
Speaking from 1 Corinthians, Watson noted how those early church members were boasting of the spiritual gifts they had been given and corrupting worship. They had lost their way, Watson said, and Paul was reminding them of a more perfect way.
Pastors today can fall into the same trap, boasting of numbers and spending more time on social media posts than sermon preparation. Watson confessed his own pride during the early years of his pastoral ministry. Five years in, “I was just somebody trying to keep it on the rails,” he said.
After nearly 15 years at the church where he almost burned out , he’s learned the pastor cannot carry the entire load.
“[God’s] not interested in your success,” Watson said. “He wants you to be faithful to what He is calling you to do. He loves you. God’s love is the more perfect way. It’s not pastor love. It’s not people love. It’s unfailing, unwavering, always faithful love of God.”
The poetic words of 1 Corinthians 13, often used in weddings to describe an ideal human love, instead perfectly define God’s love. Read them again in the context of all the things happening around us, Watson urged — that’s how pastors face the difficult times.
“Living out of God’s love is how you make it through the weeks, it’s how you endure,” Watson said. “If you lead out of God’s love, the Holy Spirit will empower and equip you for God’s glory.”