I was recently asked for an interview.
This request was from my friend, Pastor Mark Pate. He is currently enrolled in a pastoral leadership class, and this interview was an assignment. My answers to his four questions have been edited for this article. I’m sharing with a prayer that God will use them to bless others on the beautiful journey of ministry.
- How did you know you were called?
I avoided it for as long as I could. The church we were attending in 1994 was in a state of revival. Several had experienced and announced what they described as a calling to preach. However, I knew that for me, God wanted more than just another preacher.
After a few months of praying and waiting, I was finally broken and knew I had to take steps of faith. The first was to tell my wife, my pastor’s wife, and finally, my pastor. Lisa laughed. My pastor cried. I prayed.
During the next several months, I experienced phenomenal spiritual growth. I sought the Lord and eventually had a written list of things that I knew God would have me do. I knew with absolute certainty from that season of growth that God had called me into church leadership. Since then, I have learned so much about myself and ministry. I’m more convinced than ever of my calling to serve God by serving others.
- What is your favorite part of pastoring?
My favorite part of pastoring is being involved in the regular routine of the community. I enjoy the weekly challenge to share biblical truths with the same congregation and see them receiving and growing. More than ever, I enjoy mentoring my staff and our church volunteers, whom I’m blessed to serve alongside. Weekly interaction with the family of God is so wonderful.
I also love that my effectiveness is increased with every opportunity to coach and consult with other church leaders.
- What are the greatest challenges?
In this season of pastoral ministry, the widespread apathy of those who have made a profession of faith is tough. Too many people act haphazardly with attendance habits, and their personal lives reflect the same carelessness. It’s not that people choose not to attend every Sunday. It’s more that they have never truly committed to their own spiritual growth.
Another challenge is that I’m not great at shutting down my mind and relaxing. It’s not uncommon for me to work on ministry-related tasks for four to six hours on a non-office day. This is a danger because it can lead to chronic fatigue. I’m constantly trying to retrain myself to do better at taking a weekly sabbatical time. However, my mind enjoys the reading, thinking, and writing involved in ministry leadership.
The greatest challenge I have personally experienced and witnessed in others is an identity crisis. There’s a huge risk in getting so caught up in ministry that you can forget who you are in Christ. I am a Christian and a follower of Jesus Christ before I am a pastor. I can still be whole in Christ and serve Him even if I am nobody’s pastor. I am not what I do.
- What advice would you give a person thinking of going into the pastorate?
I’m probably not the best person to answer this question. I’ve told many that they were either crazy or called. For anyone to dare want to be a pastor without the absolute assurance of Christ’s calling is absurd.
I’d recommend the following for any young adult who insists they are called. Read everything you can about servanthood, church leadership, and ministry. Get a practical education from a Bible college and concurrently serve under a seasoned pastor with very few insecurities.
Learn to love your Bible before you begin the weekly grind of pastoral preaching. Learn to lean on God wholeheartedly before you are forced to understand your limitations and have your weaknesses exposed in the rigors of pastoral service.
And for the love of God, learn to love people. You are called to work with people, and people matter more than anything. As you grow in Christ, do all you can to develop interpersonal relationship skills. Then get ready to stay in the background and let Jesus be the main star of the pastorate.
Thank you, Mark. As you presumed, I was glad to answer these questions.