Our Lectio Divina for today:
The whole point of what we’re urging is simply love—love uncontaminated by self-interest and counterfeit faith, a life open to God. Those who fail to keep to this point soon wander off into cul-de-sacs of gossip. They set themselves up as experts on religious issues, but haven’t the remotest idea of what they’re holding forth with such imposing eloquence. This salvation only comes to those who continue in faith, love, and holiness, gathering it all into maturity. You can depend on this. 1st Timothy 1: 5-7; 1st Timothy 2: 15b (MsgB)
Let’s face it, my dear friends. If you’ve been in pastoral ministry as long as I have, there comes a point where your good intentions run out, your patience has met its limits, and your kind and gentle spirit has seemingly been run over by a church van!
After 30-plus years of faithfully serving the body of Christ, I’ve found myself, in recent years, going to the Lord in prayer and complaining loudly, “Jesus, I just don’t get it! It’s not fair! Here I am, now in my third decade of doing this pastoral stuff for God, yet You only had to put up with all this messiness for only three years! Oy Vey!”
After a few moments of silence, I always seem to hear the same response from the Master. “Yes, Marty, I do fully understand your difficult situation…but remember son, I had to go to the Cross. What about you?”
End of discussion.
You see, the kalós, our work of pastoral ministry, is unlike any other profession the world offers. But before I focus on some of the negatives to our job, let’s remind ourselves of some of the true positives:
- You and I get to work for God, the Creator of the Universe. The Big Cheese. The Higher Power. Talk about having friends in high places!
- You and I have the honor of coming alongside folks who are looking for purpose and direction in their lives, and rather than offering them some meaningless fluff the world offers, you and I can offer true hope: The Hope of the World. Jesus, the Son of God. Alpha. Omega. Amazing!
- You and I are given the privilege of serving the Body of Christ, being a conduit of God’s in-breaking presence in this darkened, sin-filled world. Teaching, preaching, instructing, modeling to the best of our ability, what it could like when one man or woman gives their life purpose over to the King of Kings.
Now, for the sake of time, let’s look at just a few of the negatives:
- For most of us, our jobs in pastoral ministry offer very long-hours, too little pay, and very limited positive recognition for all we do. Let’s face it, most of our parishioners think we only work one day per week, get paid way too much for just being spiritual, and that we, as pastors, don’t have to fight the same battles they do laboring in the secular world.
- The extreme pressure to grow and expand our church’s ministries is intense. We pastors generally put that pressure on ourselves, but don’t forget the well-meaning church boards with little vision and the opinionated pew-sitters with many criticisms who constantly nit-pick the finer details of ministry…looking to you, the pastor, of course, to fix all the problems since you are the one being paid to do so.
- Being a pastor is often a very lonely and thankless job. We generally have few true friends with whom we can be totally real and honest, and many times, our spouse and families find themselves living painfully under the scrutinizing pressure of the church’s microscopic lens.
And through it all, our pastoral hearts can grow cold, our energies wane, and over time, the condition of our soul erodes to the point that many of us today, are simply calling it quits, leaving the ministry, unable or unwilling to finish the good work, the kalós, we felt God called us to do.
As I see it, this is why Paul, the older apostle, who had experienced his own set of difficulties while performing his pastoral duties, wrote the things he did to Timothy, the younger pastor, who was seemingly ready to throw in the towel as well.
Let’s re-visit Paul’s words of encouragement here in today’s text:
The whole point of what we’re urging is simply love—love uncontaminated by self-interest and counterfeit faith, a life open to God.
Hmm. Sounds refreshingly simple, doesn’t it?
Maybe you and I, as pastors, need to quit trying to be everything to everybody and simply return to the basics Paul is speaking of here? Maybe we need to reduce our job descriptions down to just a handful of “to-do’s” like we’ve been discussing in this blog series so that we can continue this trek, this kalós, we’ve been called, by the Master, to do.
Kinda reminds me of another text Paul wrote to his friends in Colossae:
So, chosen by God for this new life of love, dress in the wardrobe God picked out for you: compassion, kindness, humility, quiet strength, discipline. Be even-tempered, content with second place, quick to forgive an offense. Forgive as quickly and completely as the Master forgave you. And regardless of what else you put on, wear love. It’s your basic, all-purpose garment. Never be without it. Colossians 3: 12-14 MsgB
Anybody up for a change in attire?
My prayer: Father God, I readily admit that the negatives of pastoral ministry can wear me down to the point of quitting. Yet, I see here in Paul’s words of encouragement to Timothy, that rather than giving up, I simply need to pare down my job description, reduce my layers of ministry clothing, and return to the basic, all-purpose garment called love. Holy Spirit, show me the way. For Your name’s sake. Amen.
My questions to ponder: As we come to end of this section of our blog series, here’s an overview of the kalós, this precious treasure of pastoral ministry, as we’ve discovered it thus far from Paul’s writings to Timothy:
Kalós: Our Core Message:
Jesus of Nazareth: Son of God, Crucified, Died, Risen. God’s Plan A for Salvation, Reconciliation, and Redemption. Our Master and Savior. Both now and forevermore.
Kalós: Our Core Work:
- Soul Care: The core work of stewarding one’s own walk with Jesus through the proper care of our soul.
- Prayer: The core work of bringing all things to God, through Christ, using the ancient gift of prayer.
- Gentle Listening: The core work of caring for others through the fine art of spiritual direction, asking great questions followed by the grace to be a gentle listener.
- Life-Giving Words & Works: The core work of offering both Christ-centered words and works that give life-giving hope to those we are called to serve.
- Faithful Generosity: The core work of freely and faithfully giving away every good thing the Master has given us.
- Simple Love: After all these things, the core work Jesus calls us to is to simply love; for it is faith, hope, and love that, in the end, truly reflects the heart of the Master.
How does this kalós overview compare to the job description I’m presently working? What changes do I need to make to my present work so that it better reflects the “precious treasure”?
So, what is God speaking to you today as you guard the kalós, the precious treasure of pastoral ministry, in your life?
In this 26-session blog series, Kalós: Guarding the Precious Treasure, we explore the kalós*, this precious treasure of pastoral ministry that has been deposited into us by the work of the Holy Spirit. We invite you to come along with us, bookmarking this blog’s home page for easy, on-going referencing.
As you go through this blog series, we also suggest that you use the ancient tool of Lectio Divina as you approach each scriptural text we give you in this blog. Lectio Divina is a slow, intentional reading of the Holy Scriptures. Take your time as you ponder the text slowly, allowing the Holy Spirit to illuminate God’s Word for you as you read. Ask the Master as you read, “Jesus, what in this passage do I need to hear today?”
*So, what is kalós?
Kalós comes from a New Testament Greek word which simply means “good.” The apostle Paul, when writing to his young apprentice, Timothy, decided to combine this common adjective, kalós, with a second Greek word, parathéké, a noun which means a deposit or trust committed to one’s charge. As a result, the apostle ends up with one, very powerful phrase! A command that both Timothy, and you and I, truly need to take note of as we continue this ancient work of serving Christ and His Church! “Guard this kalós (this good work, this beautiful deposit, this precious treasure) placed in your custody by the Holy Spirit who works in us.” 2nd Timothy 1: 14