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The Essence of a Pastor

The Essence of a Pastor

Five pastors share stories about the core of their calling.
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Why are you in ministry? At times it's hard to remember, isn't it? Especially when you're bogged down by dull or difficult tasks. Sometimes it takes a little reflection to remind you of what's truly important. We wanted to rediscover the core of the pastoral calling.

So we asked five church leaders to each describe one experience that illustrates the essence of being a pastor. We trust their stories will prompt you to do some reflecting of your own, and reignite your passion for ministry.

David Swanson

Resting in Christ

We work better than we rest.

On a Saturday afternoon this summer, I sat in a room with 35 members of our fledgling church. This was our first retreat. We had left Chicago to spend two days secluded near a lake in Wisconsin. The people in that room had given vast amounts of time, energy, and resources to help launch our church. Church planting is such hard work that it's easy to for-get whose work it actually is. We may believe that only God can establish his church, but, much of the time, we work as though success depends solely on us.

For this retreat we chose to meditate on Jesus' invitation in Mark 6:31: "Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest." Over the two years of our church's existence, we've realized that we work better than we rest. We began our conversation that afternoon with two questions: "What about our culture makes rest difficult?" And "What char-acteristics of our church make rest difficult?" After diagnosing the cause of our struggle to rest regularly, we ended with a final question: What needs to change within our church so that we can begin resting in Christ?

Our Wisconsin conversation was eye-opening. We were able to identify many hindrances to resting. Left unattended, these obstacles reinforce the lie that success in ministry and life is ultimately up to us. The most energizing part of the conversation, the moment I felt truest to my calling, was listening to our church imagine new ways of living. We heard in Jesus' words an invitation. Accepting it would cost us something and require new ways of thinking about church and daily life. But it would ultimately lead to the abundant life promised by our Savior.

-David Swanson, pastor of New Community Covenant Church in Chicago's Bronzeville neighborhood.

From Issue: Ministry's Core, Fall 2012 | Posted: November 12, 2012

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