Self-Control for the Sake of Ministry

What does it mean to say “no” to ourselves on behalf of those we serve and influence?
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This past week I was in an ordination workshop. The class was made up of people in the process of being recognized as set apart for the ministry of shepherding God’s flock. What this all means is still being worked out both for me and for my church. For the record, I have no actual agricultural experience. The closest is of the gardening variety and pet-sitting. I feel unqualified and doubtful most of the time. Nonetheless, it’s a journey worth travelling, even if it is rather daunting and lonely.

Daunting because of the weight of responsibility (wandering sheep, wolves, treacherous terrain). Lonely because of the self-sacrifice that’s required (sleepless nights, vigilance, few social benefits). Don’t get me wrong; being a pastor isn’t the only role that’s demanding. Perhaps I’ve wallowed on rusting grass while gazing longingly at green fields a bit too often. Truth is, life can be daunting and lonely for anyone, especially at a time with a great deal of uncertainty and social anxiety.

Changing Times Call for Self-Controlled Leaders

The backdrop to our preparations is the ongoing turmoil we see evident on our social media and news. What’s happening in the United States is impacting Canadian ministries and congregations as well. As a pastor, I find that I have to tread a fine line between engaging in what I believe to be important social issues and not alienating those who may hold different viewpoints, especially those within my congregation. In calmer times, there is already enough diversity within the church to cause division. But with recent events and the unfettered access to un-vetted, unloving opinions, we are seeing the proliferation of fear, disdain, and hostility. It is so tempting for me to drop a comment or two (or three or four) in attempts to defend people, stand for righteousness, and silence offensive voices. And when I get the “likes” I inwardly seek, it feeds into my sense of right-ness.

It’s precisely in these kind of moments when God’s word breathes life into my soul. Galatians 5 has been foremost in my mind in the area of self-regulation or self-control. In contrast to slavery, God’s Spirit gives us freedom—freedom to make choices not out of fear of punishment, but out of joy and hope in Christ who reconciles all things through his body and blood. And we are to use that freedom carefully, to serve and to love, not to provoke or exasperate: “If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.” These are Paul’s words, not mine.

April17, 2017 at 8:00 AM

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