Formations 06.20.2021: Perseverance in Preaching

Acts 18:1-17

Preaching isn’t an easy gig. It’s much more than speaking God’s truth. It’s living out that truth in numerous practical and not-so-practical ways each week. If you are a pastor, part of a pastor’s family, or close friends with a pastor, you know the dramatic demands on a pastor’s life. Planning multiple worship services and Bible studies. Preparing sermons. Leading meetings. Counseling. Listening. Sharing. Visiting the sick. Officiating weddings and funerals. Being on call every moment of every day. Living life in a sort of fishbowl where everyone is always watching and judging.

Some pastors, at least in the United States, earn six- or seven-figure salaries and live in luxury. Most, though, live humble lives, sometimes struggling to make ends meet in a society that increasingly sees church attendance—and thus financial giving to churches—as unnecessary. At the Baptist church where I grew up, our pastor has led the congregation for more than thirty years. I can see and hear his weariness whenever I’m with him. The creases in his face speak as much to sadness and stress as they do to joy and laughter. He is still passionate and dedicated, but the years of devotion to God’s church have taken their toll on him.

It’s that way for many preachers. What keeps them focused? What motivates them to return day after day? What holds them back from crumbling under the pressure?

Paul’s life as a preacher was different, of course. He wasn’t interviewed by a search committee and hired to lead a particular congregation, with a guaranteed salary, benefits, and retirement. He traveled from town to town, urging people to believe the truth about Jesus Christ the Messiah and come to faith. Our text tells us that he supported himself as a tentmaker between sabbath days, though when the sabbath came he was consumed with arguing “in the synagogue” and trying “to convince Jews and Greeks” (v. 4). He faced vicious opposition and was even brought before a tribunal (vv. 6, 12). He was definitely not making six figures or living a luxurious life. What motivated him?

The text tells us that too: Paul had like-minded friends (vv. 2-3); he had places of refuge (v. 7); he had some success at leading people to Christ (v. 8); and he had assurance that God was with him (vv. 9-10). Those four things can be helpful to pastors today, too. If you’re a pastor, do you have those things? If you care about a pastor, can you provide any of those things? What would God have you do?

Discussion

• What do you know about your pastor? How do they maintain the motivation for the job?
• List the responsibilities your pastor has each week. What do you think would be fair compensation for these duties? Does your pastor receive that level of compensation?
• Most pastors aren’t in the job for the money. Consider asking your pastor about being called into the ministry. What drew them to it? What keeps them in it?
• Consider the four things that likely motivated Paul in his difficult ministry: friends, refuge, success, and assurance of God’s presence. Does your pastor have these things? What can you do to help your pastor feel supported?
• Pray for your pastor and other leaders in your church. Encourage them and support them in as many ways as possible.

Kelley Land, a graduate of Mercer University, has been an assistant editor of Smyth & Helwys curriculum and books since 2001. In addition to this work, she is a freelance editor for other publishers and authors. She also regularly volunteers for Jay’s HOPE, a nonprofit serving families of children with cancer. Kelley enjoys spending time with her teenage daughters, Samantha and Natalie, her husband John, and the family’s two dachshund mix pups, Luke and Leia. She likes supporting community theater productions and is often found playing board games with a group of rowdy friends. She loves Marvel, Star Wars, Harry Potter, and Doctor Who. And she writes middle grade and young adult fiction for the pure joy of it.

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