“My life is being poured out like a drink offering for you,” Paul wrote to a church he planted (Philippians 2:17, paraphrased). You know this feeling of emptying yourself if you minister to other people.
I got a letter from Joe Chambers who pastors in Colorado. He’s been part of our Soul Shepherding community for years. He reached out to me because he needed someone to read his journal. He needed a pastor to pour into him.
We all need a pastor. You especially need a pastor if you are a pastor.
Joe’s reflections illustrate how we all need to be poured into by God and people in the Body of Christ so we can keep pouring into others. He encouraged me to share his story with you.
A while back, I (Joe) got a call in the middle of the night. It’s good I picked up — it was a woman in my church. Her husband had just found out she was having an affair with a co-worker. I gave this wife and her husband a number of pastoral counseling sessions and thankfully their marriage was restored.
I recall a recovering alcoholic in town reaching out to me with questions about Jesus. That’s what every pastor wants! So I met with him for coffee week after week. I was so thankful when he trusted Christ and got involved in the life of our church!
Then I was privileged to help another man in town come to faith in Jesus. I baptized him and discipled him to Jesus as we walked, talked, and prayed together for years, which included him becoming a leader in our church.
A mother and her adult daughter breathed a sigh of relief to find our church, describing it as a “safe place.” But the young woman’s husband was hostile to church because previously they’d been wounded in a legalistic and controlling church and God hadn’t answered their prayers to have a child. I refused to give up on him and took every chance to visit with him and be friendly till finally, he enfolded in our church too. Imagine our joy when God answered our prayers and sent them a healthy baby!
Sometimes I have to speak the truth in love to people. Like the married man who was separated from his wife and started dating other women. I prayed with him and we looked into the Scriptures together. He was serving as a lay leader in our church so I had to ask him to take some time off to settle his marital status.
Other times I have to turn the other cheek, like when people I minister to criticize me unfairly. Jesus did this and he helps me to forgive and be gracious.
I’ll never forget the day a single mother who volunteered in our church called me crying hysterically because her father had suddenly died. My wife and I dropped everything to be with her. She literally sobbed in our arms. The Lord helped us to carry her through the funeral and her season of grief.
But now I must stop typing as tears flow from my eyes…
All of these people have left my church. Even though I invested so much in them. Even though they all had become involved for at least eighteen months if not many years.
Some people found a bigger church with more programs. Worse, some stopped attending church at all.
I miss each person. I remember their stories. I see their faces in my mind. They were part of our family and now they’ve left.
At times the calling of a pastor leaves us disappointed, even empty. That’s why we pastors need a pastor too. This helps us to hold onto Jesus as our Good Shepherd as we hold his sheep — for a season.
“Christ Jesus totally poured himself out for us — becoming human, living a humble life, and dying on the cross. Therefore God exalted him to the highest place!” (Philippians 2:7-9, paraphrased).
Bill and Kristi share from their own experiences and their search for true joy during times of trial in this post’s companion podcast, Finding Joy When Ministry is Hard.