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A Pastor’s Reflections: The Tides of Ministry

July 9, 2013


One of the interesting things about the pastorate is that there are seasons—there are times when things are very quiet and peaceful, and there are times when it seems like the wheels are falling off the wagon. At first, I didn’t immediately notice this pattern, but the more time I spent in the pastorate I became aware of it.

There will be times when you will feel like Chicken Little—the sky will seem like it’s falling. You will have several counseling situations that are chewing up your time. There will be difficult decisions on the session, and perhaps there will also be a significant conflict at presbytery. All of these things will be happening at once. You’ll probably lose sleep, be stressed out, and feel like you’re hanging on by the tips of your fingers. On the other side of the coin, there will be times when you don’t have any significant counseling situations and everything is peaceful in the church, session, and presbytery. These different tides change every couple of months. Just when you think that you can’t handle any more disruption and rancor, things will calm down and get peaceful. I have no idea why things unfolded in this manner. All I can say is that, this is the way it happened.

So what are you to do? Will you be tossed about during the changing tides? Like a cork bobbing in the water, will you simply move wherever the waters carry you? I hope not. Once I realized the patterns of the tide, I may not have been able to change the circumstances that providence brought to my front door but I could certainly make the most of the peaceful time that I had. During the quiet times I worked as hard as I could to make the most of the time—I studied, engaged in lecture-prep, and read as diligently as I could. While things were quiet I used the time as efficiently as I could. Why? Because I knew that at some point the tide would change and I would not have the same amount of time or peaceful conditions to get things done. In other words, make hay while the sun shines so that when it gets dark, you’re not caught short handed or ill prepared. Another thing to do is pray. While things are quiet pray that the Lord would grant you his grace so that when the tide comes in and things get difficult, you’ll be ready to handle the chaos.

It could be that your pastorate will be quiet and uneventful for the duration of your ministry. Like a beat-cop who faithfully patrols the neighborhood and never has to draw his sidearm, you may never have difficult circumstances. But chances are that since the church is filled with redeemed saints who nevertheless struggle with sin, you will have periods of peace punctuated by periods of chaos. Be prepared for those difficult times.