Interview with a Pastor: The Making of an American Pastor

I most recently had a candid interview with a pastor about his ministry and what it was like leading a church. My questions are in BOLD TYPE. His answers are in regular font. The name of the pastor has been omitted as well as the church. If you are thinking of going into the ministry as a pastor, the answers to these questions may help you with your decision. I hope that you enjoy this article.

Tell me about your call to pastoral ministry. I surrendered to Christ at age six through a desire to be a part of God’s family. Earlier than that, I longed to preach because my Dad was a preacher. At age twelve, I came to an understanding and asked the Father, “Is this what you want or what I want? If this is what you want, then speak to be as clearly as you did for salvation and make me miserable again like that.” And he did, and at age thirteen, I surrendered to ministry. I was fortunate to have a Dad who would honestly mentor me in real time of the things he was going through.

Which pastoral responsibility do you enjoy the most and why? I would say the preaching, because of the deep passion for scripture. I would say the leading, because of the longing to follow Christ. I would say the disciple making because of the pouring into others and seeing the transformation that only happens in them but also happens in me when we have those discipling times. Any other ones? Because of our services, I don’t get to do this as much, but I enjoyed doing baptisms. That is a sweet moment with God smiling on an individual for their obedience in baptism.

Which pastoral duty do you enjoy the least and why? Anything dealing with confrontation. One of the things in ministry that drains the most is disappointment. You must weigh through the disappointing responses, disappointing perspectives, where you realize it’s not a biblical perspective or response. It’s not a response that’s a surrender to Christ. It’s not a humbled response. And when you see that among God’s people, that’s one of the hardest things to wrestle through. I talked with and read Macel Falwell’s biography of her husband Jerry Falwell. And she rightly said, He could handle the push back and the criticism by those who had no relationship with Christ. What wounded him the most was heavier and harder for him to carry were the negative comments of those who were followers of Christ.

Describe the amount of time you spend each week in ministry preparation. The average week is about twenty hours. Other times it could get heavier and be more intense. That’s a lot of hours. Yes, but that is the key moment that you must minister to everyone. And you can have counseling moments. You can have committee meeting moments. But the one moment where you pastor and minister to everyone is that sermon. And furthermore, it must be a message from the Father and not your message to the people. So, you have to be with the Father as the herald to hear the message. To pray it through with Him so to make sure that it’s His message, not yours.

Describe the amount of time you spend in the week in administrative responsibilities.  Oh goodness! Probably almost all the time, isn’t it? Yes. And particularly at our church. You also have ministries connected to you beyond our church. I would say forty hours. Wow! No, let’s make that thirty because you have moments like this as well. And we will say another twenty in pastoring with one on one. This is just a rough estimate.

Describe the amount of time you spend each week in personal devotions and prayer. Here’s the thing. It has to be every day. And I would say every day, at least an hour. I imagine that you are praying without ceasing too. There you go. There you go! Everyone that comes into my office, they don’t come in without prayer and they don’t leave without prayer. That’s the same truth for every meeting that we have, administrative meeting. But that’s beyond what I need to have in the morning and what I need to have at night, and during the day. Like yesterday, I had to get away and get into the sanctuary and just pray.

What is the area of pastoral ministry that you wish that you had been taught in school? Pain management. The reason I say that was my Dad was very honest when he mentored me. He said, I want to tell you what I am going through in real time. When you are knocked into the same ropes, you know that your Dad has survived and so can you. The ropes that I am getting hit against are not unfamiliar because I saw that happen to Dad. But one thing Dad could never convey was how hard the punches are, when you are getting knocked against the ropes. In my opinion Joe, if time is short, and I think it is, Satan is going to ramp up his attack on the Bride, and try to keep us less effective as possible. So, there is more spiritual attack and spiritual oppression that adds to that pain, that you have to learn how to manage, as Ephesians Six says, to stand.

Describe your ordination council. First of all, we want to make certain that they have displayed a call to ministry. There must be evidence that they have. When we have seen that, then we can put together an ordaining council that will be of pastors and ministers who are also ordained. And they will meet with the individual. The first one is to be ordained or licensed to ministry. We are going through theological things to determine if they can be licensed to ministry. After, there is an approval, then the church votes on whether to license to ministry. That gives you a window to watch whether they continue to display the characteristics to be licensed into ministry. Then we will convene the ordaining council. The ordaining council consists of pastors, ministers, and sometimes deacons. This council asks theological questions as well as the pastor-elect asks questions. This creates a mentoring moment as well, but through that time, the ordaining council must recommend to the church if the pastor-elect is to be ordained into ministry. This is a careful and cautious process before we recommend a man for ministry. How long does the ordination process take from the time the process is started until the time the pastor is ordained? If you go from the process of licensing until ordination, it could take a couple of years.

What is the one piece of advice you give to someone aspiring to become a pastor? Make certain the Father has called you. That is the very first thing my Dad said when I surrendered to ministry at age thirteen. We were in the car and he said, “Son, if there is anything else you can do, do it. But if you can’t, you know the Father has called you.” Make certain above all things that the Lord has called you, because it’s that calling that becomes the “not at the end of the road,” that causes you to hang on when you would love to let go.

 In conclusion, I was made aware of the struggles of this pastor and what he goes through not only daily, but weekly, as the head pastor of his church. It was interesting to hear a pastor state that he surrendered to ministry when he made up his mind that he wanted to be a minister at the age of thirteen. One has heard the term surrendering to Christ, but I have never heard the term surrendering to ministry. I guess it is the same as “The Call.”

In reference to the pastor’s passion for preaching, he spends about twenty hours in preparation each week on average. It is evident that he pours into others when it comes to discipleship. Unfortunately, because of his schedule, he does not perform baptisms anymore.

It is evident that he does not enjoy confrontation. Confrontation can drain a pastor and they face disappointment almost on a weekly basis. He referenced Macel Falwell’s biography about the late Jerry Falwell and how Jerry could take the criticisms of unbelievers better than those who were followers of Christ. What can wound a pastor the most is the ugliness of those who are supposed to love you when they criticize. I see this constantly in ministry where Believers who may mean well constantly criticize and ultimately push pastors out the door of their churches because of the constant attacks. Although these people may not understand what they are doing, if not caught and these people counseled with, this can cause division in the church.

The pastor wished that he had been taught pain management in seminary. He gave an analogy of his Dad in a boxing ring, fighting with those who hurt pastors. He stated that “when you are knocked into the ropes that your Dad had survived, then you realize that you can survive as well (paraphrased).” This pastor feels the punches and they hurt when it is delivered from the loved ones, the congregants that are beating you up in the church. He feels that we are in the last days and that Satan is stirring up hate and dissention among the followers of Christ. The spiritual warfare adds to the pain. But the rewards can be sweet when those who he is pouring into comes to Christ and he can see heart transformations right in front of his eyes.

Pastoring and shepherding is a lifelong commitment that is not for the faint in heart. It is a tough job and one that may not be highly paid. Many times, it goes without thanks and one can see that it could be a lonely occupation as to whom does the pastor trust? Besides his relationship with God and his wife and family, one can understand why pastors keep a distance from congregants in their church. That is why the pastor must stay in prayer and seek the Father’s will so that he can preach the message that is God inspired. It is only through this close relationship with God that the pastor can be successful in leading the lost to Christ.

If you love your pastor and care about him, please pray for him and his family. Please allow him the time he needs and give him and his family privacy. Do not be so demanding on him. God has called pastors to shepherd, but Christians are called to love one another as well as love their neighbor. Consider being a servant in your church by helping the pastor out instead of draining him dry. Consider praying for him before he gives his sermon so that God will speak through him. You can get engaged in your church and then see where God leads this ministry.

Joseph T. Lee © November 16, 2017, The Lantern & Shield Times LLC




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