Our Lectio Divina for today:
So don’t be embarrassed to speak up for our Master or for me, His prisoner. Take your share of suffering for the Message along with the rest of us. We can only keep on going, after all, by the power of God, who first saved us and then called us to this holy work. We had nothing to do with it. It was all His idea, a gift prepared for us in Jesus long before we knew anything about it. But we know it now. Since the appearance of our Savior, nothing could be plainer: death defeated, life vindicated in a steady blaze of light, all through the work of Jesus. This is the Message I’ve been set apart to proclaim as preacher, emissary, and teacher. It’s also the cause of all this trouble I’m in. But I have no regrets. I couldn’t be more sure of my ground—the One I’ve trusted in can take care of what He’s trusted me to do right to the end. 2nd Timothy 1: 8-12 (MsgB)
Allow me to return to part of my personal kalós story here.
As I’ve stated earlier, I’ve been in pastoral ministry for 30+ years. I’ve served as an associate pastor in both smaller and larger churches, been the senior pastor of a church of around 350 people, and served as founding pastor of three different church plants. Over that amount of time, I’ve experienced many great joys in serving Christ and His people, and, of course, like any pastor who’s truly honest about their experiences, I’ve had my share of disappointments, mis-steps, and downright failures as well.
Back in the spring of 2008 when the church I had planted in Cedar Rapids was running at its highest numbers, I was invited to do a workshop at a pastors’ conference in our denomination. So here I was, pastor of a moderately successful church, running my workshop for pastors and church leaders, when right in the middle of my presentation, one man suddenly closes his notebook, stands up rather abruptly, and walks out of the room.
Now, I must tell you that my insecurities got the best of me, and I kinda stammered a bit, cleared my throat, and offered up a joke about how I must have offended this brother’s doctrinal position, and then went on with the rest of my presentation. As I recall, after my workshop, we all took a lunch break, and as I was chatting with a few of my fellow pastors, munching on a sandwich, suddenly this same man who had walked out of my workshop came up to me. My first thought was, “Oh-oh, here we go,” as I was expecting to hear how something I’d said was offensive to this guy.
But much to my surprise, the man was very apologetic for leaving the room the way he did. He then went on to tell me that while he was sitting there in my workshop, he got an emergency message from his wife. Something had apparently developed at his house and he had to take care of it immediately. I breathed a sigh of relief and told him that I fully understood his dilemma and asked him to sit down with us. But his response went something like this:
“No, Pastor, I need to get back home to keep working on the problem, but I do need to tell you something. You see, once I got home, and got the emergency under control, I thought to myself that I’d just skip the rest of the afternoon session, and keep working in my office. But the Lord just wouldn’t leave me alone, Pastor! Jesus insisted that I get back into my truck, drive the 20+ minutes back here to the church, and hunt you down and tell you this “word” God is giving me for you.”
So now, this guy had my attention. I asked him what the word was. He simply grinned and said, “Keep going!” I smiled, thanked him for his kind efforts, and then, as quickly as he had appeared in the room, he walked out the door, got into his truck, never to be seen again!
Keep in mind that things were going very well for me and my church at the time and I was in a pretty good place with God, so I just assumed that this man’s “word” of “keep going,” was simply a nice encouragement from the Master to keep on keepin’ on with all I was doing in ministry, and pretty much just left it there.
But, interestingly enough, within the next few weeks, all hell began to break out at my church. Some of my key leaders started to get really upset at me, criticism was abounding all around, and within six months, three-quarters of my board had resigned, moved or left the church. Later that summer, a massive flood hit our city. Our community was devastated. Our church body jumped into the fray, diverting all our time, energy, and resources toward flood relief.
Looking back, while it was a true joy to step into our city, playing a key role in assisting families and businesses hit by the flood, the work took a much larger toll on me and our church family than I realized at the time. By winter, we had one physically exhausted leadership team, a tired and worn out congregation, plus the added tension and stress from trying to fill the key positions vacated by those who had left earlier in the summer due to the disagreements over leadership issues.
As hard as that season was, things only got worse over the next several years! I’ll spare you the ugly details, but the end result was that our church we had started in 1998 and grown to 350 people in 2008, lost its momentum, resulting in a multi-year tailspin that, quite honestly, left both me, and the faithful few who kept showing up, wondering what the hell had just happened to the nice friendly church we once had!
And through it all, there was one phrase that kept echoing in my soul…
You know, there are a lot of reports out there on how many pastors are leaving the ministry each year. One statistic I see popping up regularly on the internet says the number is close to 1,500 per month. In truth, I believe that many of these reported “statistics” are highly exaggerated, but I will say this: In all my years of pastoring, I’ve never come across a pastor, myself included, who didn’t seriously wonder, at times, if he or she should throw in the towel. I have one pastoral friend who quips, “Marty, I quit the ministry every Monday morning, but by Tuesday, I realize that Jesus is stronger than my problems, so I get back on my horse and keep riding!”
Dear friends in pastoral ministry, let me encourage you today, like Paul encouraged his young apprentice, Timothy…
Guard the kalós…and keep going!
For me, I’m truly glad I didn’t quit. Today, I’m doing things in ministry I’d never expected to do and I’m working at these things only because the hard times led me to springs of living water I’d never pursued on my own if life and ministry hadn’t become dry and crusty.
So, how about you?
Quite possibly, you need to hold on to this same phrase I heard spoken to me in back in 2008.
My prayer: Jesus, as You know very well, there are times and seasons in life when it appears the dark winter will never end. Indeed, for those of us in pastoral ministry, who have been called by God to guard the kalós, it is not an easy job, nor is it one for those with weak-hearts or fragile souls. Holy Spirit, when I feel the temptation to throw in the towel, remind me that I’m not alone and that I can truly keep going because of the kalós, the good work of Christ that still remains in me. For Your name’s sake. Amen.
My questions to ponder: What core truths about my call to the kalós, the good work of ministry, do I need to remind myself of today? How might I take Paul’s strong words of encouragement to Timothy and use them today to bolster both myself and others around me who might be considering quitting the ministry?
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