We all have heroes—those persons we look to to find strength and courage who remind us evil will be vanquished and good will ultimately reign. While as Christians we look to Christ as our hero who conquered evil by his substitutionary death and resurrection to new life, the Lord allows us to see reflections of His strength and courage in other faithful brothers and sisters in Christ.
Bi-vocational and small church pastors are my heroes—those brothers to whom I look to find strength and courage to persevere in the faith and in difficult ministry. Bi-vocational and small church pastors may never be invited to preach at The Gospel Coalition national conference or Together for the Gospel; they may never be asked to endorse the latest Christian book, much less write one; they may never be highlighted at the denominational meeting or the retreat of their national network of churches. But, bi-vocational and small church pastors have the same responsibilities as all other pastors. In fact, I could argue they have more responsibilities because larger church pastors have staffs and interns and assistants who can take a large load off their plate. Bi-vocational and small church pastors, on the other hand, often have no one else. Who else is going to prepare the sermon, visit the hospital, counsel the broken-hearted, make evangelistic visits, disciple the men, even fold the bulletins in some cases?
Sadly, though, I sense that my bi-vocational and small church brother pastors are often discouraged in their ministries. So, allow me to offer seven reasons for my bi-vocational and small church brother pastors to be thankful. Rejoice and be thankful for…
1. Your Savior
The Triune God has saved you! The Father planned your salvation; the Son accomplished your salvation; and the Spirit applied that salvation to you in history (1 Peter 1:2). You now experience what the Old Testament prophets looked forward to and what the angels merely admire—the salvation revealed in Jesus Christ (1 Peter 1:10-11). Rejoice and give thanks for this great salvation, and rest in your savior. No matter what you will face, no one can take this great salvation from you.
2. Your Call
The fact that you are serving in pastoral ministry is no accident. God, by His Holy Spirit has set you apart for gospel ministry—ministry where you’re presently serving. So, remember that God has called you, and the Holy Spirit has made you a pastor “to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood” (Acts 20:28). Remember your call and give thanks!
3. Your Place
God’s eternal plan is to exalt Christ as King and Lord over all things, uniting all things and placing all things under Christ (Ephesians 1:7-10, 19-22). The ascended Christ has structured his church for this eternal plan. Christ has given pastors to equip the church with the gospel word (Ephesians 4:11), so that as the church speaks this gospel word in love to each other, we are mutually building one another up until we attain Christ-like maturity (Ephesians 4:12-16). Your place, pastor, is to faithfully preach the gospel word. As you do that, you are participating in God’s eternal plan. Recognize that you are a gift to the church and give thanks!
4. Your Gospel
While you may never get the invitations the “celebrity” pastor get, while you may never feel that you preach as good as those radio and internet pastors, I can guarantee you that none of them has a better gospel than you. Whether you pastor a large church or a small church, whether you’re in the city or the country, whether you’re a young pastor or an older pastor, we all have the same gospel. So, rest in this gospel. Preach this gospel faithfully. And give thanks!
5. Your Ministry
Your ministry is really not your ministry. It is “a stewardship of God’s grace” (Ephesians 3:2). So, remember that you are just a manager. While we pray for fruitfulness, the Lord calls us to be faithful. We work in God’s field, planting and watering, but God produces the growth (1 Corinthians 3:6-9). So, don’t be discouraged, but keep working in God’s fields, faithfully preaching the gospel, trusting God for the fruit. And whatever the results may be, be thankful!
6. Your Suffering
The call to follow Christ is a call to follow in His sufferings. But God does not waste our suffering. He uses it to strengthen our faith (1 Peter 1:6-7) and to conform us to the image of Christ (Romans 8:28-30). So, don’t be surprised by suffering, but give thanks that God is at work in you for your good!
7. Your Reward
Finally, remember that after suffering comes our reward (1 Peter 1:8). The suffering we face now is temporarily and light and is only preparing us for the eternal and weighty glory we will experience when we are glorified (2 Corinthians 4:16-18). Even as we follow Jesus’ footsteps into suffering now, we are following Jesus’ footsteps into resurrection, vindication, and glory (1 Peter 3:18). So, don’t lose heart! Instead, give thanks!
Give thanks, my faithful brothers, that God has saved you, called you, and given you as a gift to His church. Give thanks that by your faithful gospel ministry you are participating in God’s eternal plan to exalt Jesus as King and Lord over all things. Give thanks that the God who called you and gave you a ministry will sustain you through the difficult days of ministry until He brings you home to your reward. Give thanks! I know that I give thanks for you every time I remember you!