While in many ways it has felt like an eternity, I still find it remarkable that we are quickly approaching the one-year mark from my first Sunday as a senior pastor. Of course, this year has been unforgettable—and historic—for all of us in so many ways. But in particular, this year has been one of the most incredible experiences for me as a pastor.
I have served in ministry in various capacities for quite some time. My call to pastoral ministry had always been clear. I have long known that God had been preparing me and calling me to shepherd the flock and preach the Word as a senior pastor.
In my time of preparation, I took all the necessary steps to prepare for this task. I attended seminary where I read dozens of books on ministry. I served on staff at multiple churches under other pastors. I prayed often. I read Scripture. I asked questions. I sought answers.
I entered into my first year as a senior pastor having prepared well. More importantly, I had been prepared well by others.
But there is absolutely a difference between “knowing” something based on what someone tells you and truly knowing something based on your own experience. And in my first year as a pastor, there are a number of things that I have come to truly know.
1. Prayer is absolutely vital.
Prayer is an open acknowledgement that God is God, and we are not. And in pastoral ministry, prayer is absolutely vital. Time and time again, I have been faced with difficult decisions far beyond my scope of expertise. In those moments, I have come to rely frequently on prayer. It is through prayer that the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, guards my heart and mind in Christ Jesus.
2. You hurt for your sheep.
The task of being a pastor is far more emotionally draining than I ever realized. We weep with those who weep. And as a pastor, I am aware of a lot more weeping than I had been before. When the people of God hurt, I hurt with them. In the same way, I also hurt when I watch followers of Christ rebel against his Word. It hurts to witness part of the church family do harm to themselves spiritually.
3. Managing time is a challenge.
I have always known that time management was a vital component of pastoral ministry, but this first year has certainly tested me in this area. The tasks of preaching, of shepherding the flock, of tending to those who are sick, of handling administrative duties, and countless other demands all compete for the pastor’s time. If I am not careful, it is my family that sacrifices the most.
4. There is no substitute for preaching the Word.
Truly preaching the Word is hard work. It requires lots of reading and preparation. It demands that I communicate hard truths that won’t make me popular. But it has become clear that there is no substitute for it. The times when I have felt the most drained or discouraged by my own sermons are the times that many of you have encouraged me in saying that God used his Word in a mighty way in your own life. There is simply nothing else like it. That is why it is the pastor’s primary task.
5. God is faithful.
The faithfulness of God is never to be subjectivized. In other words, I do not believe God is faithful because I have experienced his faithfulness—I know God is faithful because that is who he is, and that is how he is revealed in his Word. But I have come to understand and experience the faithfulness of God in a significant way over the past year. Even when I am faithless, he remains faithful.
I’ve been a senior pastor for a whole year now. I know I’m no expert, but I have learned a tremendous amount during these past 12 months. And of course, in no way do I suspect that I have come to know everything that there is to understand about ministry. But I am thankful that God has allowed me to learn these things with the saints of Central Baptist Church in Paris, Kentucky. I look forward to the many lessons I will learn as we continue on this journey in the years to come.