by Abraham Cremeens
"As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry."
(2 Timothy 4:5, ESV)
This verse came up in my Scripture memory queue for the week. It is a great verse. It is a sobering verse. It is a challenging verse.
Pastoring is hard. It is rewarding, but it is hard work. In the book of 2 Timothy, Paul encouraged Timothy to "fulfill [his] ministry," but such an endeavor seems quite daunting. One of the challenges of pastoring is that you are never done. No one reaches final maturity in Christ until they see him face to face. That means all progress, every single day, is only a partial fulfillment of the whole.
Some days, I miss my earlier career in factory work. We made steel truss plates and had a number to hit every day. You received a bonus if you went over the quota, and so I went 10% over every single day and had the satisfaction of driving home from work having fulfilled my task above and beyond. Not so with pastoring. Don’t get me wrong, we experience tremendous joy any time a sinner repents, a marriage heals, and faith deepens. But we are never done. And some days, that is hard.
I start here because it is the beginning of a very genuine thank you to my brothers and fellow pastors. The elder team has consisted of a variety of men over the years, but currently, we are six: Bill, Gami, Mikel, Paul, Will, and myself. We have pastored together and aimed to fulfill our ministry together for a few years now. And I am deeply grateful for these men.
No ministry year is easy, but this last year and a half has been especially intense. I heard a few weeks ago that 20% of pastors resigned in 2020. Pastoring is hard. So, brothers, allow me to say thank you.
I’ll start with those who are not employed as ministry staff: Paul, Mikel, and Bill. Thank you for your sacrifice, love, and care in fulfilling your ministry—all while balancing an entirely different career. I have no idea what that is like. You pivot week after week with many different hats to wear. When pastoring is at its hardest point, you still have to give your best to your job. When your job is at its most difficult pace, you still have to give your best to pastoring. I don’t presume there is no overlap, but I do know you have to balance your life like a ninja. I’m thoroughly impressed with you. You bring so much to the team and to our church family for the glory of God. You do it well. You actually make it look easy. Thank you for your drive to fulfill your ministry.
To the staff elders: Will and Gami. Thank you for going above and beyond. While you don’t have to pivot between a different job and that of pastoring, you do carry the ever-present pressures of pastoring as a career. I know it’s hard to go home and give your best to your family after a tough day. Maybe it was the email that came at 4:55p. It could be the counseling opportunity that aches your heart. Even the best parts of pastoring, those many moments of celebration, take an emotional toll. But I’m encouraged by your lives. Thank you for your resilience toward fulfilling your ministry. I am grateful to be on this team with you, to be in the trenches with you, to finish the race with you, and to fulfill the ministry with you. You do it well, and I have learned much by being around both of you.
Finally, to our wives: Sarah, Cathi, Jessica, Geri, Kay, and Kari. We (your husbands) will never really know all that you go through. If pastoring is hard, then being a pastor’s wife must be even harder. I can genuinely say that we would be less effective in fulfilling our ministry apart from you. Our church family would be less fruitful without you. Your sacrifices are often invisible, but your impact is not. God sees all. If I offer my brothers a thank you, I gladly shout THANK YOU!! to you. Thank you for loving God, our church family, and your fallible husbands.
I’m excited for what’s ahead because, while pastoring is hard, it is also great. Whatever 2022 holds, Lord willing, I’m grateful to move into it with you. Let’s keep locking arms and engaging ministry on our knees. Let’s fulfill our ministry together.