It doesn’t take long for a pastor to discover the discrepancy between need and resources in his ministry. Needs are infinite, or seem to be so. The pastor’s resources of time, energy, and skill are radically limited. It’s a dilemma, and one ripe for frustration, guilt, and burn-out.
The pastor’s most besetting temptations are anxiety and pride. Anxiety determines the lives of many pastors. A family blows up over here; another member is terminally ill; the finances are looking weak: Every moment has its crisis, and the anxiety-driven pastor spends his time and energies responding to the crises. It’s draining because every encounter is a painful one; it induces cynicism, because pastors end up spending much of their time with the 15% of members whose lives are chaotic and very little time with the 85% who live healthy, harmonious, fruitful lives.
Pride is the other temptation, and is linked to anxiety. Pastors feel anxiety over the various challenges of ministry because they think they need to fix the church. If there’s a problem, the pastor is the all-purpose savior.
Every “solution” to this dilemma has to be worked out over a lifetime. There is no single-moment, magic-bullet fix. To stay on course and stay faithful and stay sane, a pastor has to have a profound sense of calling. He has to be able to stand apart from the crises of the moment and stay on course, doing the things he was ordained to do. That means leaving some things – perhaps many things – undone.
And this is where the other critical factor comes into play: Pastors must carry out their vocations in faith. Shepherding in faith means recognizing that Jesus is the Good Shepherd of His church; shepherding in faith means trusting that Jesus will care for His sheep and lambs; shepherding in faith means trusting that Jesus will make up for the shortcomings and failures of the pastor, that He will fill the gaps and do His work. A pastor who acts in faith can leave many things undone because He knows there is another Shepherd who covers him. A pastor who acts in faith knows that he’s not the savior of the church. Jesus is.
All that means that a pastor actually has infinite resources to meet the infinite needs of his congregation. Those resources are not the resources of his skill, training, or diligence, not matter how skillful, well-trained, or diligent he is. The available resources are the infinite resources of the Shepherd who leads His sheep by the Spirit.