In April of 1976 I graduated from Northwest Bible College in Edmonton. On July 10th of that year Donna and I got married in Thunder Bay. On August 1st we began ministry in Thunder Bay, Ontario, working with my dad as the Christian education and youth pastor. Forty years later, we are here in Saskatoon enjoying the time of our life. Forty years later I also recognize some things I didn’t have a clue about when we began in ministry.
I didn't realize how much ministry thrusts pastors into "spiritualwarfare." I had a rather romanticized concept of ministry. People would call me pastor. I would preach and teach. People would become Christ followers. Parishioners would make me raisin pies and casseroles. All of these things have happened and they have made Donna and I feel special. What I didn't expect was the scheming of the enemy against my own life, our family, the lives of those we ministered to, and the churches we have had the privilege of serving. While I don't (and I hope my ministry verifies this) think it is Christ honouring to bring attention to the devil over and over again, we do, on the other hand, need to recognize Satan hates the church and hates people who love the church. We need to stand, and having done all, to stand. I wasn't as prepared for his onslaught as I needed to be, and because of that, I didn't always stand as firmly as I should have.
I was surprised by how much ministry is about leadership. In the early years of ministry I just did what needed to be done but I didn't give much thought to why I was doing it. The result was a lot of people followed a very young pastor who was leading them nowhere but back to church for meetings next weekend. Pastors have responsibility to help churches follow Christ's command to be going, teaching, disciple-making communities. Our job is not to get the church through the week without a major crisis. Our job is to equip the church to get into the world. We need to allow the Holy Spirit to develop within us the skills to navigate through conflicting interests within the church family. And probably most importantly we need to figure out that people won't take our hands until they have seen our heart.
I understand more than ever that I must never give up on ensuring that time in prayer and the Word is a huge part of ministry. I sat down at my desk first thing on Tuesday morning this week and made my "to-do list." It had 29 items on it. I am confident other things are going to come up through the week—they always do. They all need to get done, but they must not get done at the cost of not spending time in Scriptures and waiting upon God. The pastoral position is above all one of spiritual service. You cannot serve with a whole heart without giving yourself to spiritual things. Spiritual results require spiritual work.
I never dreamt of how many great people would become great friends. Have we met some mean Christians? Very few. And yes, they were a real pain. But for the most part the Christians we have had the privilege of serving and loving and leading have been absolutely awesome. They have loved us in our weaknesses, walked with us through our stumbles, played Rook with us later into the evening than was always smart, encouraged us in our strengths, loved our sons and are now loving the next generation. We have had some phenomenal people serve on staff with us. We are better people because of the people we have met in ministry and we are especially grateful for our time in Saskatoon and at The Neighbourhood Church. You have consistently loved us, put up with us, and allowed us to be ourselves. You have been a great gift to us.
We don’t know what the future holds but I’m encouraged to know that Moses entered his most fruitful years of ministry when he turned 80. The way I figure it we've got 20 more years of ministry ahead of us and then we'll start getting really effective!
—© 2016 John Drisner Photos courtesy John Drisner and © istockphoto.com.