IN HONOR OF THE PRIESTHOOD
by Theresa Johnson
"There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse … And the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him."
He is your Pastor. By this I don't simply mean that he is ordained and carries ministerial credentials. Within the church structure, there are administrators, secretaries, etc., who also carry ministerial credentials, but they are not pastors.
A pastor, like a shepherd, lives day by day among his flock, leading and feeding them, encouraging the downcast, binding up the wounded and seeking the straying.
He is not a pastor by choice. God called him. It is a special calling, distinct from other tasks clustered under the pastoral umbrella. To underscore its distinctness, Paul lists it separately in his catalog of gifts in Ephesians.
He often wonders why God should call him to this task; this seemingly ordinary man. But He did. If he were not convinced of this within the depths of his soul, he would not and could not carry on. For those who share this calling, no further explanation is needed; for those who do not, no adequate explanation is possible.
The call to be a pastor defies clear definition and precise description. One senses it. One feels the inner compulsion, but it can't be stated as you could a mathematical equation. Perhaps the strongest reason he feels he has been called to be a pastor is the emotional and mental trauma experienced when tempted to abandon it.
And Satan has seen to it that He has been sorely tempted to do so. The picture the devil paints of quitting is done in appealing colors, a replica of the one he painted for Christ in Gethsemane. In dark moments of frustration he whispers, "Why go on? Your members aren't practicing what you are preaching. They don't lack knowledge; they just aren't living up to the light they already have! What have you got to show for your efforts. The negative foot draggers throw a blanket on every plan; the sharp tongued guardians of the truth drive people away; the gossips keep stoking the fires of turmoil. You'll never satisfy that troublesome trustee; he'll keep on giving a distorted version of matters. Why not leave it all behind. Go where you can use your talents for your own personal benefit."
But as the joy of anticipated harvest sustained our Saviour in the darkness of Gethsemane; so the joy of anticipated harvest maintains him in these dark moments.
He knows that the easy way out is an illusion. Satan is conniving to dicker him out of his pastoral birthright for a mess of his pottage. When he seriously considers abandoning this call from our Lord, a chilling loneliness creeps within, a nameless dread.
So he keeps on trusting that the problems that drive sleep from his eyes, and the frustrations that sap his strength and courage will, by God's grace, make him a better pastor.
God will strengthen him to "spend and be spent" (2 Cor. 12:15) even though it sometimes seems that the more he loves his flock and labors for them, the less they love him.
As Christ stands between His Father and Humanity, so the pastor stands between administrators and parishioners. He bridges the gap. He is expected to implement policies and promote programs, but this is not his major task, nor is he accountable primarily to administrators or trustees.
His major task is to lead his flock into an experience with Christ that will transform them into dynamic, glowing, growing Christians. This will impel them to share with others what God has done for them, what He is doing within them, and what He desires to do through them. For this he is accountable to God alone. To the degree that he succeeds, the policies and programs will have flesh and sinew. Otherwise, they will scarcely be more than clanking skeletons.
As a pastor, he may not enjoy the prestige others enjoy, nor have the aura of glamor that clings to some evangelists. Yet his task is more important than any. In fact, of all the positions on God's team, the Pastor is the most important.
No matter how sound and wise the decisions and plans of trustees or administrators may be, they will remain unfulfilled if he fails at his major task. The church is largely dependent for success on the preparation he has made with his flock (I am not leaving out the work of the Holy Spirit. I am referring to the human aspect.
The church school system will function effectively only so long as he succeeds in transmitting the importance of Christian education to his people.
These are reasons why the Pastor has the most important task in any Archdiocese. It is an awesome responsibility.
He is your Pastor. Love him and cherish him.
When our Lord asks, "Where is the flock that was given thee, thy beautiful flock?" (Jer. 13:20) His words will have particular meaning for your Pastor.
So will His words, "Well done."
Theresa Johnson is a member of St George Church in Pittsburgh, PA.
From Word Magazine
Publication of the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America