Sometimes I think the pastoral ministry is over-hyped in American evangelicalism. It’s not uncommon for a young man to enter the ministry and expect tons of amazing things to happen in his ministry – things that he’s read about in the conservative evangelical world. He might think that his ministry will be very well received and include regular “authentic” meals shared with his “community group,” frequent tear-filled prayer meetings with his elders and deacons, vibrant youth ministry full of teens boldly sharing their spirituality, and theological conferences where everyone in his church is moved and edified.
As time goes on, however, he doesn’t see these things happening so he becomes disgruntled that his ministry is so ordinary compared to those he’s read about in books and on blogs. He either thinks his congregation is lacking spiritually or that he is. But if you take away the hype, you realize the pastoral ministry is quite ordinary – and that’s OK! Here’s what Eugene Peterson has to say about this:
“Pastoral work… is that aspect of Christian ministry that specializes in the ordinary. It is the nature of pastoral life to be attentive to, immersed in, and appreciative of the everyday texture of people’s live – the buying and selling, the visiting and meeting, the going and coming. There are also crisis events to be met: birth and death, conversion and commitment, baptism and Eucharist, despair and celebration. These also occur in people’s lives and, therefore, in pastoral work. But not as everyday items.”
“Most people, most of the time, are not in crisis. If pastoral work is to represent the gospel and develop a life of faith in the actual circumstances of life, it must learn to be at home in what novelist William Golding has termed the ‘ordinary universe’ – the everyday things in people’s lives – getting kids off to school, deciding what to have for dinner, dealing with the daily droning of complaints of work associates, watching the nightly news on TV, making small talk at coffee break.
I appreciate his counsel. I should not get upset or depressed because my ministry is not cool, glamorous, or extraordinary. I’m an ordinary pastor of ordinary people, and I should be content with that.
The above quotes are from page 112 of Peterson’s The Contemplative Pastor.