by Robert Earl Houston
This year I’m trying to see all of the Academy Award Nominated films. So far I’ve seen Lee Daniels’ The Butler; American Hustle; Captain Phillips; Gravity; 12 Years a Slave; and Nebraska. I’ve yet to see Dallas Buyers Club, Her, Philomena and The Wolf of Wall Street.
In a very good movie, Nebraska, there is a scene that sticks with me. In the movie and elder father thinks that he has won a million-dollar Mega Sweepstakes. He is determined to leave from his home in Montana (if foot by necessary) and is aided by his sons and, reluctantly, his wife. His younger son, sensing that his father doesn’t have long to live, drives him from Montana to Nebraska, a trip that should have taken less than 8 hours. However, due to his father’s drinking and injury which required hospitalization, it took 2 or 3 days for an 8 hour trip, not to his destination, but to his small hometown where his siblings and family members live. During the sit down (to watch TV, a family tradition) his brother’s sons ask his son “How long did it take you to get here?” They knew it only took hours and he said “two days” and they started laughing.
That stuck with me because in a few days I’ll be celebrating being called to this church 5 years ago and I’m celebrating this years 36 years in ministry. I have been blessed tremendously – but it wasn’t overnight. It took time.
Unfortunately in this generation, everything is on fast, quick and in a hurry. The self-imposed timetables that we as pastors place upon our work can be deceiving and frustrating. We point at pastors who have mega-churches and mega-situations and we are determined to replicate what God is doing in somebody’s ministry – not understanding that in order to get where that pastor is at, you may have to visit some painful places, tragic circumstances and hellish scenarios.
A few weeks ago a young minister told me, “Pastor Houston, I want to be like you.” I was flattered and then I told him, “Go through cancer, go through trouble, get lied on and talked about, suffer some painful situations, get sick without any insurance, and oh yeah, go through church trouble and you’ll be just like me.” You should have seen the look on his face.
I believe that ministry is not some 100 yard dash. It’s a marathon. Some of us have been on the track for 35, 45, 55, 65 and even 75 years and if we all be honest, we haven’t seen it all and each experience is going to be different. I remember talking with a pastor who wrestled with his call and for the first 30 years of his ministry his congregation numbered less than 50 and all of a sudden, the Church grew into a thriving congregation of 2,000. He said “I was eager, but I wasn’t ready. God had to show me that I’m on His timetable and not mine.”
The truth of the matter is that my first 30 years of ministry prepared me for my current ministry. I have a wonderful congregation and I’ve learned how to pastor with a steady hand, loving heart and open spirit. I’m now in the age of being called upon by other pastors for advice. I’ve been able to create a fellowship and dialogue with many of our local elected officials and this afternoon I’ll have the privilege of offering prayer to open this afternoon’s session of the Commonwealth of Kentucky Senate.
But it wasn’t overnight. I have pastored four congregations (and served on pastoral staff at one) since 1989 and full-time since 1991. It’s been a journey. I admit there were low points and high peaks. However, this journey is not given to the strong, nor the swift, but to the one who endures to the end.
For those pastors who are trying and trying and working and working and praying and praying. Keep at it! Bring your best to the pulpit – even if you have more pews than people. Even during moments of anxiety and frustration, bring your best, share your heart, be there for the people. Don’t look for the “next move” – be faithful in wherever the Lord has planted you in this season – if there’s a move it’s better to let God do it than you create it.
YOUR COMMENTS ARE WELCOME