In high school I was voted “most likely to become a rock star.”
Okay, let me nuance that a bit; I actually wanted to become a musician. I wanted to play music, travel, and make money. I desired to be successful and make a name for myself. I had dreams and goals of making it “big” in the world of music. Now I find myself in the pastoral ministry—far from the world of music, fame, and money. But within ministry there is that desire to be “successful.” But ministry “success” is usually defined differently: impacting a large number of people, having a successful church, growing a large ministry, publishing books, preaching at conferences, and the list can go on.
Please understand, these ministry goals are good, with the right motivation of course. I am thankful that God has raised up men who have successful ministries. I have personally benefited from the fruit of their labors, whether through sermons or books. But not every pastor will be preaching to thousands or publishing books. Not every pastor will have the spotlight on them like Peter or Paul. But many of us will spend our time doing the work of an Andrew or Matthias.
In light of this, maybe we need to define “success” differently. Maybe if you’re like me, you need to find the extraordinary in the ordinary. Here are a few things to remember.
Willingly submit to Jesus.
Any day you walk with Jesus is a good day. In the simple and ordinary task of reading the Word and praying we get to experience the extraordinary presence of Jesus. While as pastors we have people to pray for, ministries to steward, and sermons to preach we must never neglect our walk with Jesus by daily submitting our wills to His. Many pastors (including myself) need to be reminded of the powerful truth of “He walks with me and He talks with me, and He tells me I am His own.”
By His mercy, we are His. Willing submission is what we need. While God may increase your influence by calling you to a larger church, don’t forget that the extraordinarily ordinariness of your daily submission to Jesus is what provides you the ability to make an eternal impact in the lives of others.
Lovingly shepherd your family.
As an overseer there is the temptation to divide the “public” and “private” workings of our callings. However, Scripture offers a holistic view of a pastor’s calling, which includes his family ministry. Loving your wife and children is your first ministry. What a shame it would be if we spend our time as pastors taking care of others while simultaneously neglecting our families. Serving your wife and shepherding your children will create more of an impact than having the most “successful” ministry, in my opinion. In the ordinary of changing diapers, paying bills, and washing dishes we find the simply rhythms of life that grant us the opportunity to make an eternal impact in our families.
Humbly serve the local church.
Whether the church has 30, 100, or even 1,000 plus we are simply called to serve His people in the local church. Serve the Bride of Christ in your preaching. Preach the Word boldly. But also serve in the ordinary ways; cleaning the water off the sink in the bathroom, saying “good morning” to the door greeter, and being the first to say, “will you forgive me.” Serve the church in the hospital waiting room or on the back porch drinking sweet tea with a widow (I serve a rural church in East Texas). In the mundane of gospel ministry and the ordinary grind of pastoral work we can do extraordinary things for God’s Kingdom. Serve the church by your ordinary example.
Faithfully steward your influence.
Most pastors I know are driven and goal oriented. This is a good thing. God has called us to lead His people in the gospel. The amazing reality is God has given us an opportunity to use our lives to influence others. But sometimes we can overstep our influence by not faithfully stewarding what God has already given us. Seeking to be a “big deal” when we’re not is embarrassing and shameful. The “big deal” in ministry is Jesus not us.
Jockeying for a new position, climbing the ladder, or getting a seat at the table out of selfish motives is antithetical to the gospel of King Jesus. If God chooses to expand your influence then faithfully steward that opportunity. If God calls you to move to a larger church then obey Him. But in the mean time faithfully steward your influence, no matter how big or small, by pointing people to Jesus. Be faithful to what God has given you (see the Parable of the Talents).
In My Utmost for His Highest, Oswald Chambers writes,
The true test of a person’s spiritual life and character is not what he does in the extraordinary moments of life, but what he does during the ordinary times when there is nothing tremendous or exciting happening.
Who we are in the “ordinary times of life” reveals who we truly are in Christ. Finding joy in the mundane. Experiencing Christ in the chaos of parenting. Taking out the trash after the Wednesday night fellowship meal. The “extraordinary in the ordinary” starts by focusing less of the tasks and more on the simple rhythms of life itself. From the living room to the pulpit, the coffee shop to the back porch, Jesus is with us. As pastors we must find “success” in the simple grind of life. In this we become extraordinarily ordinary for the glory of our extraordinary God.
Featured image credit, edited for size.