Pastoral Ministry: Joy and Grief

The writer of Hebrews remarks in Hebrews 13:17 of church member's responsibility before God to the pastors/elders that God has placed over them,

"Obey your leaders adn submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning. For that would be of no advantage to you."

In that admonition, the writer of Hebrews lays out to emotional environments in which a pastor continually finds himself in--joy and grief. The life of pastoral ministry is always to be a ministry of joy even in the midst of grief because our joy is always to be in Christ and his worthiness of being enjoyed is never diminished or changes. And so even in the midst of grief in pastoral ministry, there should always be an abiding joy in Christ.

However, there are undoubtedly experiences within the life of a pastor that illicit great joy and great grief. There is nothing like the joy that a pastor experiences when he sees evidences of God's grace in the life of God's people, a biblical understanding of the Gospel which naturally produces a biblical living out that understanding of the Gospel.

On the other side of the spectrum though, there are times of great grief. There is grief that is do to the death of church members or the loved ones of church members, sickness, and other tragedies that come our way in a fallen world. However, the grief that the writer of Hebrews has in mind is, like the joy mentioned above, directly connected to the church members' response (obedience/submission) to those who have been given charge to care for their souls. It is indeed a time of great grief for a pastor when he sees division or rebellion or outright disobedience to the Scripture in the Body of Christ.

There is something very important implied by the reality of this joy and grief in the pastor's life. And it is a reality that should humble the pastor before God in the face of God's amazing grace to him. That reality is that the presence of joy and grief in the pastor's life over what is happening in the church and among the people of God is evidence that the pastor takes his calling from God seriously. He is serious about equipping the saints for the work of ministry until we all attain to a unity of the faith and a knowledge of the Son of God. He is serious in his calling to exhort in sound doctrine and refute those who contradict. He is serious about his calling to keep watch over the souls of these sheep that have been entrusted to his care.

Why should this reality produce humility in the pastor and awe before God? Because it is evidence of God's amazing grace that has been lavished upon him. The pastor knows better than anyone his own sinfulness and the change that Christ has made in his life, bringing him from darkness to light, exchanging his heart of stone for a heart of flesh, and creating this new creature in Christ. And with that knowledge of who he once was, who Christ has made him, and the ongoing struggle to become in practice what he already is in position, the pastor is reminded that a seriousness and a caring that produces joy and grief over the spiritual state of those within the church is only a reality in his life because of God's grace to him in Christ that has produced such a change and that continually is changing him more and more into the likeness of Jesus Christ.

And so welcome not only the joy in pastoral ministry, but also see the evidence of God's grace to you even in the grief of pastoral ministry because it indicates that by God's grace, and only by God's grace, do you take your calling from God as a pastor with life and death seriousness.

Thank you Jesus.

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