“I am just a valet.” I have been saying that a lot lately because I do not have the title of Pastor. But I say things because it is highly possible that, I am grumpy about it, some days hurt, other days confused. It is an irony of sorts because being a valet is a ground level position at the car dealership in which I am presently employed, and I know and have taught that the Bible teaches that God has called us to be servants and the greatest among you is a servant of all (Matt 23:11). Yeah, I know it, but I don’t have to like it do I? But like everyone the Holy Spirit must give me an attitude adjustment, more times than I am willing to admit.
Lately, it has been hotter than the “hot place” on the blacktop where it can reach 120 degrees Fahrenheit. Thank God my managers both named Chris (one who I call Chris Sandals because he always wears them, the other Longbeard because he has an amazing beard) obtained a cooler for us with bottled water and ice, so we do not faint on the lot.
Despite the weather, you still smile and greet customers and park cars all day long in a very busy dealership. When I was a real pastor (that’s a joke-take it easy) I loved greeting people as they came into church. It meant a lot especially to our older people. It showed respect. When it comes to a business when people are greeted with a smile and warmth they like it too-go figure.
The people at the dealership have been very generous with me because of my previous fifteen-year experience in the automotive industry. But I am a valet-bottom line. I like the job, it is busy, time flies and I get to meet many people, pray with them and testify to the Gospel of Christ. By the grace of God, I am a bold witness, always have been always will be.
Maybe you are a minister who works in a secular position. You have been a pastor, evangelist, missionary or preacher or teacher but through different circumstances you need to support your family. Your church cannot pay you a salary, but you continue your church responsibilities.
Some of you have a call to preach but you do not pastor a church and may attend church for the time serving in some capacity. This does not make you any less a minister. In fact, the man that serves God in these “two worlds” has a holy calling. His work with the church is holy and his work in a secular position is holy to God. Truly he is worthy of double honor (1 Tim 5:17).
You are always a Pastor; you have the heart of a shepherd. You are not some after thought of God who saw you as some second or third stringer and said, let’s use him as a substitute for the first-string minister. It’s a lie. Your call is just a valid as a man who Pastors a church. Don’t forget it. Besides you can reach people the average Pastor only dreams to reach. It keeps your feet on the ground if not behind the pulpit because you are not pastor, or Reverend so-and-so to them. You do your job and that is what you are there for in their eyes, but God has placed you there for his purpose and allowed you to work eight or nine hours a day with people who need Jesus, and they are so annoying! But God will give you a love for them and provide windows of opportunity to tell them about Christ.
What I am endeavoring to say is that I relate to you who have either no church or must work to pay the bills and I understand how hard these times are for you. What I do not want this article to be is some lame pep talk to keep you pacified, or a snotty rebuke saying, “suck it up buttercup.” Lord help us, no. It is my own feeble way to help you remember the One you serve, and that God is for you and with you despite these circumstances.
I was not sure I wanted to write this. Why? Well, first, it opens some wounds in my own heart that I may not want to deal with and second, I do not want the readers to think this is just an eloquent whine about my own situation. Third, it is not easy to minister to ministers. People have said that I would be a Pastor ministering to other pastors, and I thought, “You must be joking.” In my humble opinion I have found that ministers are some of the socially awkward, fractured, hurting people I know despite how gifted they are. They are hard to reach sometimes. But the Bible teaches that God works in their weakness (2 Cor 12:9-10). That is why God utilizes them so wonderfully to help others, but the catch is only God gets the bragging rights (1 Cor 1:26-30). Man, the people God used in the Bible had gaping defects and flaws-real issues that would disqualify them in our eyes but apparently not in God’s eyes (1 Sam 16:7).
You know how they say that doctors are the worst patients. It is the same with pastors and preachers. They know the Word, they are experienced, they have taught and given advice, they know what they believe and well sometimes are not as open to counsel because let’s be honest most of us thought we should have some immunity from this kind of thing having sacrificed so much to serve God in ministry. It just plain stinks to end up back at square one. I am wondering if it is because some ministers trust has been violated by people and they question the motives of those reaching out to them. They feel like they failed, have been disqualified or are second guessing their call to ministry. They have showed mercy and forgiveness, counseled people who struggle with addictions and abuse, loved the unlovable. Now they are the one who is hurting, and it is hard to be on the receiving end isn’t it?
I do not want to write a book here and so I want to say some brief things I hope will help. Please be patient with me because I could not completely understand your situation, but I am only putting out there something I hope will encourage you. It is from the heart dear brother and sister, please believe me. I wept a lot writing this as the Holy Spirit probed my own heart and read this to my wife whose heart broke as I did.
First, go to Christ as the One who loved and gave Himself for you (Gal 2:20), He called you to himself by his grace (Gal 1:15) when no one else was around, before your spouse and children, before your church and denomination. In many ways you are like the Psalmist, “Whom have I in heaven but You? And there is none upon earth that I desire besides You.” (Psa. 73:25). Authentic preachers are strange and unique creatures whose sole inheritance is the Lord (Deut. 10:9) they are built differently though human in every way. Get to know the Lord better and “pursue the knowledge of the Lord.” (Hosea 6:3NKJV). He is still the same one who set you apart for himself and would share you with no one else (Psalm 4:3). He loves to have you around his throne in prayer and holds his ministers like the seven stars in his hands as his holy messengers (Rev. 1:20). Wait for your next assignment in his presence as much as you can. Go to the old vintage of God’s wine cellars and read those classical Christian authors who emphasized on heart religion and the pure Gospel. Those that taught we are saved by grace alone, though faith alone, in Christ alone, according to scripture alone and for the glory of God alone.
Second, along with this remember God will give you grace despite your lack of time. One of the most difficult challenges of being a Pastor full time is organizing your schedule but now you will have hours and a schedule that will limit your prayer and study. Your family time and other things will dog your steps. Do not let anyone kid you, your time in his Word and prayer is everything as a servant of God. The good news is that I have found that God will compress the time you can spend with him with blessing and insight. He knows how tired you are and the limit on time.
Let me explain. Remember when David was running from King Saul, and he fudged his information to the high priest told him he was on a mission from the King and did not have time to grab supplies or weapons (1 Sam. 21:1-9). “The kings business requires haste.” (1 Sam. 21:8). There was little time for explanation. Abimelech graciously gave David the sacred bread and then gave him the sword of Goliath. God knows our weak frame and we are only dust (Psa. 103: 14). We get tired and frustrated. But notice with David, God gave him a “forbidden” blessing the bread of presence. Then he gave him a weapon of past victory the sword of the Giant Goliath. Did you see that? God has stored up in his Providence exactly what you need in this time when you feel pressured or inadequate. Things unexpected or forgotten. God will remind you of past victory and has provided the resources you need. It refreshed him body and soul and he will refresh you because you have refreshed others (Prov. 11:25).
My Uncle Tony, worked hard in construction until he was very old. He had a grip like a vise. I would visit and his Bible was always open in the kitchen. When he would prepare for his Italian Bible study, he was tired. Yet God would give him wonderful nuggets. He said to me with tears in his broken English one time, “Stevie, I feel like I steal from the Lord.” Wow. I weep when I think of it. No. It is not stealing you are simply loved by God, and he wants to bless others with his truth through you dear friend. God will work with us despite our lack of time and energy.
Third, do not let people’s opinion shape and form your beliefs. If you do not determine what God would have you to be, others will. It is a recipe for disaster! If you do not pray and ask God for the next steps it could make you spin in circles. It can happen. The first part of the Bible was a story of people who wandered in circles. God wants to reveal his Son in you so that you might preach so your immediate response should not be to consult with any human being (Gal 1: 16). This call is special God has placed on you he will for his own names sake lead and guide you. God’s reputation is on the line with you and since he is a good and kind heavenly Father, he will help you know what to do, just trust him he will not allow the family name to be dragged through the mud by unbelievers.
Fourth, it takes faith to believe that you are still called of God despite this interruption of God’s Providence in your life. This is a test of much of what you have preached before since you emphasized that everyone is called to serve God in a holy capacity no matter their work. You desired to equip people to obey the Great Commission of our Lord and Master Jesus Christ. We are forgiven sinners who must reach rebellious sinners with the Gospel (Matt 28:19-20). You now have been given an opportunity to practice what you preach. In a great sense a bivocational minister truly fulfills the prayer of Christ, “I do not pray that You should take them out of the world, but that You should keep them from the evil one.” (John 17:15NKJV).
I learned recently that since the Protestant Reformation a person’s vocation from cleaning floors to being a wealthy CEO is sacred to God. At one time only those called monks, and priests were considered holy in their work but no longer. I have to say that a minister is a special gift of Christ to the body of Christ the church and are necessary to the growth and health. But these gifts are for the rebellious also (compare Eph. 4:8; Psalm 68:18). There is a whole world out there not needs an encounter with the God the Bible talks about. If you have a call from God and love pulpit ministry, I understand that. You should. But now God strategically places you around people everyday that break your heart because they are so LOST and you long to tell them about Jesus. They need you dear friend. It is no mistake he has sent some of you, ministers for many years to reach them.
Fifth, this is a test of all you believe. Please listen to me on this because this is not a question of the sincerity of your faith but the development of your faith, “These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold—though your faith is far more precious than mere gold. So, when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world.” (1 Peter 1:7NLT). What you believe about God in trial IS WHAT YOU BELIEVE. Oh, our families have watched helplessly as we step into the crucible as Christ sits over your life as a refiner and purifier of the mettle of our lives and doctrine (Malachi 3:3). This is intimate, personal. There may have been misunderstanding about God in our lives and so God is setting the record straight.
What if I told you that when Jesus said he called us to bear much fruit for the Fathers glory (John 15:8) it meant others would eat it, “The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life, and he who wins souls is wise.” (John 15:8; Prov. 11:30). Unripe, sour and bitter fruit is terrible, so is a man or woman who persists in immature doctrine and practice. Again, if we are transparent, those who study the scriptures like us, may know more than we apply. We are knowledgeable but immature. Is it possible that we cannot move to the next stage of our lives until there is an evidence of growth? It is possible.
We are called to declare God as he is from Scripture, not what he would like him to be or to make him relative or cater to the culture. We are false witnesses if we do. We are to declare him AS HE IS. Christ is the foundation of the church. Our lives and preaching must be centered around Jesus. The real test of what we have say and do is right now. The incorrect beliefs and ideas we have are like wood, hay and stubble. They will be burned to ashes. The right beliefs we have are like precious metals and gems and they will survive and be purified (1 Cor 3:12-15).
Seventh, God has just deployed you to the battle where the hottest fighting takes place. You really need the armor of God every day (Eph. 6:10-18) so you may declare the Gospel boldly. Jesus and Paul hardly ministered in synagogues anyway, he was more in the fields and streets preaching and healing. You have escaped the gravity of planet church in which the placebo effect of entertainment and moral deistic therapy is failing many souls. God obviously sees you as faithful enough to send you out to work among unregenerate (1 Tim. 1:12). Be careful in these times. Satan will tempt you to give up and backslide like Demas who used to be a faithful minister! (2 Timothy 4:10). I am convinced that Christ knows you will maintain your testimony among unregenerate people because they need the Gospel desperately.
Finally, you will receive from the God of all comfort hope, compassion and love that you can give to comfort to others (2 Cor 1:3). Paul says, “For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you.” (1 Cor. 11:23; see also 1 Cor. 15:3). He received teaching to give to others from the God of the Scriptures, but he also received comfort when he was going through times that were so dark, he thought he was going to die and he could give that hope of life to others. There is some sense that Paul saw his trials and tribulations as identifying with Christ and for the sake of the church. He felt his trials would prevent the churches he pastored from going through unnecessary pain and anguish (Col. 1:24; 2 Cor 1: 6NKJV). That is quite a perspective and I do not understand it completely but what you and I are going through has its own mystery and it benefits others. He did not let his trials immobilize him into inactivity. I hope that means something to you because unlike so many preachers today your counsel will be from valuable life experience. Even Christ’s wounds healed people. Maybe yours can bring healing as well? Paul affirms that what he and others like him endure gives them the ability to “comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.” (2 Cor 1:4). In theology that is God being the first cause and he comforts us directly making us the second cause of comfort to others going through difficulty (2 Cor 1:5). Powerful.
If the Christian church in all its gifts, service and administrations is going to succeed in reaching people with the Gospel it is because of people like you with your own unique qualifications and gifts that will bring growth, development and symmetry into the body of Christ.
Dear brethren we send our love to you and all those that labor in the Lord’s vineyard.
Stephen Gibney Copyrighted August 2021
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