Count the Cost
Another letter from a Pastor of how he needed to count the cost of serving Christ.
Serving the Lord full-time, sacrificing everything some days, and trying to do the right thing in accordance to God’s Word is an automatic guarantee of success, garnering the love and favor of your congregation. If anyone is reading and believing this, they must be living in a state of delusion and have yet to have reality come crashing through their door.
As a young man, I was serving as a senior pastor in a small country church when I was invited to come to another church where I would serve under the senior pastor for a year, he would retire, and I would transition into the senior pastor role. I accepted the position to help this man in failing health, believing this was where the Lord wanted me. I also believed that the senior pastor would be a great mentor. That was not the case.
One year stretched into five and the last two of those five years, the senior pastor was 100% homebound with health issues but still unwilling to release the reigns and retire. He never mentored me in anything. In fact, whenever I asked a question, he either kept the answer so generic so as not to divulge anything helpful or the answer was delivered so rapidly and mumbled that you couldn’t understand. If you asked him to repeat, he would say, “I’ll show you next time.” “Next time” never came.
After five years of being held back at arm’s length, the pastor did retire and I was voted in as the senior pastor of the church. To say those five years in the associate role were difficult is an understatement. The pressure was unbearable at times. Unknown to anyone except my family, I suffered a mental/spiritual breakdown and nearly walked away from the ministry. However, I stayed and “toughed it out.” I’ll share the reason why in a moment.
Another issue arose a few years into the senior pastorate of this same church. An officer within the church was accused by a woman of an inappropriate sexual touch and comment. When confronted, the accused vehemently denied it. Since the alleged event happened in a private place with no witnesses, there was no way to corroborate either side of the story. The accuser and her husband wanted the issue dropped.
I sought counsel from several prominent national para-church organizations and talked with Christian counselors about what should be the next Biblical step. Their counsel was exactly what I believed was the right and Biblical way to handle the situation, so I implemented their advice.
Within a year, other events transpired that led to the accused man confessing and admitting what he had done. He was immediately removed from office and disciplined by the church. However, this led to several leaders within the church accusing me of having been deceptive and trying to cover up the man’s sin. That was never the case at all!
The church was hurt, angry, and feeling the need to lash out. I became the target. My integrity was brought into question, even though I had followed Biblical guidelines and sought Biblical counsel from Godly peers about dealing with the situation. My explanation of this fact was unacceptable. I fully expected a vote-of-confidence to be taken and I would not receive a favorable vote. Mentally, I was packing my bags.
The storm eventually blew over and the church’s feelings toward me returned to a positive level. However, this man and his family’s spirit never recovered. After a few years, they all left our church, angry about something else. I had done everything I could to befriend the man, love him, and help in restoring him. Those efforts were thrown back in my face as I was personally attacked on their exit.
Once again, I was done. Everything inside me wanted to quit and walk – nay, run away from the ministry. As I look back on 33 total years of ministry, there have been many instances where it would have been easier to throw in the towel rather than deal with the issues. So, why didn’t I?
Jeremiah is one of my favorite Bible characters. He said in Jeremiah 20:7 and 9, “O LORD, thou hast deceived me…I am in derision daily, every one mocketh me… (9) Then I said, I will not make mention of him, nor speak any more in his name. But his word was in mine heart as a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I was weary with forbearing, and I could not stay.”
Like Jeremiah, I have been angry with God many times and have spouted off my displeasure. I can almost see my Heavenly Father watching me throw a tantrum and saying, “Are you done yet?” Once I get over my snit, my heart burns with God’s Word and I can’t keep quiet. I know what God has called me to do and I have to do it. The Lord has given me no other choice and He reminds me of that every time I want to quit. I understand what Jeremiah means when he talks about a burning fire in his heart.
Paul told Timothy to be “instant in season and out of season.” Any preacher can be an “in season” preacher. That’s easy to minister and lead when everyone loves you and sings your praises. But let me tell you, young preacher, you will have more “out of season” experiences than “in season.”
The pastorate is a calling, not a job. If I could do the last 33 years over again, would I? That’s not a fair question. If I could do it again, then the answer has to be no. That would make it a “job.” If God called me to do it, the answer would be yes.
Don’t ever be afraid to do what God has called you to do. Instead, be afraid to not do it!
I don’t know if this is something you would want to incorporate or if this is just good for your understanding. I know exactly when God called me into the ministry.
I was at the University of Toledo as a pre-med student. Almost immediately, I got involved in a Christian organization on campus called Chi Alpha. Unfortunately, they were a part of the Assemblies of God but this was the only group that wanted to do evangelism on campus. The Baptist group wanted to have Bible study and get-togethers but didn’t have a heart to actually do anything.
Once a week, we had a church service/Bible study on campus and then during another night, we went out on campus. I was exposed to Muslims long before I even knew what a Muslim was!
One night during the preaching, I heard the voice of the Lord as loud and clear in my heart as if someone was sitting right beside me talking. I have no idea what the sermon was about but the Lord said, “You are doing the wrong thing. I don’t want you to be a doctor. I want you to be a preacher.”
I can honestly say I didn’t fight it but I did ask for the Lord to repeat it because it just came out of nowhere.
That night in my heart, I immediately gave up being a doctor and said yes to the Lord about becoming a pastor. I finished out the school year since there was only about 2 months left but immediately talked to my home pastor about colleges and his recommendations. I went to Tennessee Temple the next fall before TTU turned liberal (and now, doesn’t even exist).
I have no doubt that I’m doing what God called me to do. There have been times where I have been so discouraged and angry over situations and have vented my frustration, wrote my resignation letter, and my resume. But I’ve never quit because of the reasons I stated in the article for your book but also due to a fear of NOT doing what God has called you to do.
I am responsible for leading my wife. She told me when we first met that God had called her to be a pastor’s wife. I’m afraid to step out of God’s will and lead my wife a direction the Lord has not called us to. Doing that would be far worse than anything we experience while being in the place of God’s calling.