Healthy pulpits are aided by the pastor’s personal health in the private presence of God. To be sure, a pastor may preach a good sermon on Sunday, and fail to apply or experience the truth personally. This why Baxter warned his readers against “build[ing] up an hour or two with your mouths, and all week after pull down with your hands.”
I could tell he was nervous. My oldest son Timothy and I had been working on his catching and fielding skills for months, and it was the first T-ball practice of the season. As much as I tried to temper his expectations, he wanted nothing more than to show his coach and his team how well he could play. The coach called out his name and told him, “Here it comes!” Timothy broke down into his “action” stance and readied himself. Pop! The ball sailed across the ground toward the pitcher’s mound. Timothy was laser-focused and every inch of his four-foot-tall self displayed a dogged determination to stop the ball. Just before the ball reached him, Timothy stumbled and the ball went rolling past him. He was in shock. His disappointment in himself was evident, and it continued until the end of practice.
Shepherding my child through his disappointment and helping him set new expectations for future practices showed me how much I needed to reevaluate my own expectations in ministry. As a young pastor of an established church, I had to learn (and am still learning) that disappointments and frustrations are inevitable. Whether these unmet expectations are my own or others’, pastoral “missed grounders” and “strikeouts” are simply part of the game.
I needed to learn the very same lesson I was trying to teach my son after his first T-ball practice: we should not expect perfection, but progression. Just as Timothy needed to recalibrate his expectations from being a perfect player to being a progressing player, I needed to know that I am not called to be a perfect pastor but to be a pastor in progress.
What Makes a Good Servant of Jesus?
If anyone could succeed in ministry it was Paul’s disciple, Timothy. He had the best credentials; not only was he associated with and commended by Paul, he also had experience working with churches in key cities including Thessalonica, Macedonia, and Corinth. Though he was young, he had already helped Paul write a number of Christian books—2 Corinthians, Philippians, Colossians, 1 and 2 Thessalonians, and Philemon.