by Tom Goodman
March 9, 2012
"Church ministry makes hitting a baseball look easy."
In his writing and speaking, John Ortberg has a clever way of starting off with an amusing anecdote and heading into touching or thought-provoking territory. The start of college baseball season reminded me of a 2009 article of his called "Hitting a Baseball and the Other 'Hardest' Things." He recalls the time when, after leading a chapel service for the San Francisco
Giants, he was asked if he wanted to take batting against the same pitcher who threw batting practice for Barry Bonds. For fun, the pitcher even wrote up a scouting report on Ortberg: "Took ten minutes of batting practice. As a
hitter, John makes a good pastor."
But, as daunting as it was to swing against a pro, Ortberg still finds pastoral ministry tougher. "It would be fascinating," he writes, "to do a survey and find out which aspect of congregational leadership is the single toughest
challenge." And then he lists some aspects of ministry. As you read his list, pray for those of us who serve as pastors:
There is the challenge of trying to preach fresh, creative, substantial messages that reflect the best in increasingly complex scholarship and are integrated into the preacher's soul. And to do this when people compare it to whomever their
favorite international preacher is. And to do it again next week, and the week after that, until you grow old and die.
There is the challenge of casting a vision of what might be done tomorrow, when you feel the gravitational pull of human nature to slide backwards into less challenge, less sacrifice, more comfort, and more inward-focus.
There is the challenge of resolving conflict. People keep having problems with other people. They keep trying to assert influence, grab power, get their way, and resist change they did not initiate. There is the temptation to try to
ignore it, smooth it over, stomp it underground, or run away. Having the patience and strength to untie the knots is a Herculean effort.
There is the challenge of acquiring and developing the right talent on the team. Finding the right people with the right gifts and putting them into the right lanes to run the right race in alignment with the big mission is a major league
challenge. And the job is never done. Someone's always in the wrong lane or pulling a hammy.
There is the resource challenge, which is currently rearing its head in almost every ministry I know.
There is the worship challenge, which involves not just worshiping God with integrity and honesty but doing it in a way that resonates with an increasingly niched and diverse population.
Then there is the volunteer challenge, the change-navigation challenge, the technology challenge, the evangelism challenge, the assimilation challenge, the infrastructure challenge, and the pastoral care challenge.
There is the 1 Corinthians 9:27 challenge, which is tops on my survey: "I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize."
If that list doesn't prompt you to pray for every pastor you know, I don't know what will! Thanks for your prayers.
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