My first month as a newly minted pastor has come to a close. This milestone will never happen again. I will never again be startled when someone calls me “Pastor JT.” I will never again preach my first sermon to my new church. The calling to be a pastor began before this heart beat for the first time in my mother’s womb, before I was transformed by the love of Jesus, and before I ever thought of attending seminary. What took many long years of discernment has finally come to fruition this last month. It has been a joyfully exhausting month of trying to remember names, getting adjusted to a ministry workweek (no such thing as 40 hours, 9-5), and growing my heart in love for the people God has placed in my shepherding care. This past month has easily been a highlight of my life. Thank you Lord.
In the midst of trying to keep my head on straight I have reflected on four things that the Lord has sought fit to impress upon me as a fresh out of seminary pastor:
Prioritization Is Essential
If I have learned one thing above them all this last month it is the essential task of being able to prioritize your schedule. If you don’t decide what you are going to spend your time on then other people and distractions will decide that task for you. An open door policy is great, but an open door also can hijack your daily priorities. I am learning how to schedule the day so that there is some built in open door time when people need to talk. The pastor must prioritize time for the people he is called to shepherd and he must also prioritize time for study and communion with God so that he is able to lead well. The Christian Post wrote a helpful article on how to prioritize study time. The pastor also needs to prioritize non church time, i.e. time with family, time to exercise, time with friends. If these are not a priority the work in the office will consume your schedule.
Created To Be Called
Reflecting on the month I have repented that I ever doubted that God knew what He was up to with my life. There were many moments over the past years (particularly in seminary) when I had no idea where God was calling me. In hindsight this blurry judgment on my own part was completely unfounded. How could the sovereign God who acts providentially in all of creation let me dangle to and fro in my own direction for my life. He didn’t. He knew all along who he was molding and forming and He knew all along the people He was calling me to shepherd, the beautiful sheep of Bellevue Evangelical Presbyterian Church. I was created by God to be a pastor. I was created by God to trust Him in His calling. Like Job and Habakkuk I now have the confidence to trust God’s sovereign hand.
Necessity of the Scriptures
The busyness of the first month has impressed upon me the scary reality of how easy it has been to put aside Scripture for personal study and instead use it simply as a ministry tool. It’s the same principle at work in seminary, that the Bible can become a textbook void of life if you let it. Just because you are a pastor doesn’t mean that the Scriptures are instantly devoured. We are human, not superhuman. This possibility of neglecting the Scriptures scared me and has Lord willing set me on a path of devouring the Word of God as a Christian is called to do.
Live to Please God, Not Men
Lastly, this first month has revealed the odd feeling of being on display for the community and church to see. They have called a new pastor and for much of this month people have been forming opinions and relationships regarding me. I have been tempted and even succumbed to by some degree to please people, to try and look like a shiny new golden mouthed preacher. I have been hired but to some degree I felt as though I needed to also prove that they made a good decision. Instead Colossians 3:23-24 needs to be my rallying verse to live this life to please God, not men:
Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.
At the end of the month I rest in the reality that God knows what He is doing. He has called me prior to Bellevue to be their pastor. My work as a pastor is for His glory and His mission. Soli Deo Gloria.