Yes, I intentionally said obscure. Because that means that you aren’t well known, except by those you serve in shepherding and those within your sphere of influence. You have no book deals, don’t really utilize social media unless its to make your congregation aware of some important issues. If that spills over to others, then that is an added bonus. In fact, you probably aren’t a heavy social media user because of your attention to the task you’ve been called to do. This consumes most of your time.
Unfortunately, as Christians applaud the visible “pastors” in the limelight, promote their books and blogs, there is little sentiment left for your obscurity. In fact, some may even disdain it as being non-effective. After all, if you were really doing kingdom work, you’d have a wide impact and be in the spotlight to “reach people”, which may cause you to overlook the people right in front of you.
But your goal is to be faithful to the position for which God has called you. Your heart is burdened for discipleship. You want people to know the Lord and grow in grace and the true knowledge of God. You are engaged in activity that most don’t see: time in prayer, long hours of sermon preparation, agonizing over the struggles, rebellious sparks, and concerns of your congregation. You visit the sick and downtrodden, befriend your non-believing neighbors and network with other obscure pastors for encouragement and learning. You meet with elders, deacons, other leaders, and if in a denomination, your governing body’s organization over the direction and concerns of the church. You encourage outreach to the surrounding community, leading by example of loving God and neighbor so that your congregants will do the same.
You sometimes may feel a tinge of guilt or remorse at your obscurity especially in comparison with your more visible peers. You many wonder if you are doing something wrong because your congregation remains small. But then you remember that it is the Lord who adds to the numbers. Your concern is to proclaim the gospel and preach the Word, be faithful to the task of shepherding. You’ve recognized that the holy temple that grows up in the Lord as Paul refers to Eph. 2:21-22 rests on the foundation of Christ and your goal is to proclaim him and let the chips fall where they may, even if it means that truth drive people out the doors. You’ve recognized that growth translates into Christian maturity and not necessarily numbers and reject slick marketing techniques to draw crowds.
You also make sure that you don’t succumb to the temptations of self-promotion, delusions of grandeur or authoritarian leadership. You take precautions through means of good mentorship and open friendships, honesty and vulnerability, something most do not see. You keep grounded in your continual need for Christ and the work of the Holy Spirit in your life. You may even agonize over perceived deficiencies, especially when beleaguered with disgruntled congregants who demand so much. And to be sure, the demands at times seem overwhelming, something that only those who are closest to you know so well. You relate well to this article here about the punches that come with your calling.
So obscure pastor, please take heart and be encouraged. Your obscurity matters because you’ve focused on what matters. You may not be well known but your service is well appreciated by those you have touched, whose faith has been fueled and grown because of your faithfulness.
Yup. Can certainly relate. And any lame efforts to rise out of obscurity seem blocked. The Lord’s call to places that don’t make “Christianity Today” has been for many. We remember that Jesus does not promise acknowledgement; He promises a white stone with a hidden name. That is enough.
I’m not a pastor. I see this applicable to me too. A philosopher said, “What is the one thing that every one wants? Recognition”. I want to do all these even if they go unnoticed. Great post.
Excellent Lisa. My time at sermonaudio.com has shown me that there are great men of God that few will ever hear of. For all the reasons you give. There must be 50 faithful “obscure” pastors out there for every one that is well known and most of the well known ones are not too faithful.
I also agree with your piece at PnP about non pastors knowing pastoral theology. I have found that as I get older and more mature in the Lord that there is a “pastoral” aspect to my heart that I didn’t realize was there when I was younger. People ask my advice on stuff more often that I anticipated would ever be the case (not that it’s all the time or anything), especially younger men. Both in earth years and in the Lord. The confidence is humbling and scary. I find myself reaching for the ethical and practical, asking myself “what are the biblical principles here and how do they specifically apply to this person’s life circumstance?” It’s especially humbling when somebody is occasionally sent to me.
I will never hold the office of pastor. It’s not my call, but our church is huge on accountability in the pews. We have a large number of older, seasoned saints who look after the younger ones, thus taking some of the burden from senior leadership. This is encouraged and of course senior leadership is always deferred to if there are questions, but “discipleship” IS sort of pastoring lite. Is it not?
As the mother of a pastor, who is the type you are writing about, I truly appreciate your article. You know him well, it almost seems. DEEP is the only way to describe his love and desire to serve God. Thank you for recognizing that. God Bless you! Ruth Rogers