What is a pastor? Are You considering ministry?

I've been given the opportunity to teach a career class this morning on what a Pastor does for his job.  I'm going to talk about the basic things like education, spiritual disciplines, and the untypical work week, but my heart comes back to two things.

Having worked in the paid full-time ministry, then outside the paid full-time ministry, and now back in the paid full-time ministry, I am so grateful for the people who have set me apart to do ministry.  What a privilege I have to study Scriptures, pray, write, plan service opportunities, and visit with people for a living.  Although I believe that every Christian has the opportunity to be a full-time minister in whatever career they are in, I find it liberating to have as my sole focus bringing about God's will in the community I live in.

But with liberation, comes responsibility.  Paul wrote,
"For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery...For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love...For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself”  (Galatians 5:1,6, 13-14). 
It is a great honor and freedom to be set apart to do ministry full time, but it is also a freedom that we need to make sure we do not abuse.  All freedom should be used to become servants one to another.  Freedom becomes dangerous when it is morphed into meeting selfish needs.

The second thing that stands out to me is that because the people, in the church we serve or outside of it, who support us in our ministry have granted us this freedom, we have a tendency to try to please them and not focus on pleasing God.  Pleasing churchgoers and pleasing God seem like they would go hand in hand, but there is a slight difference that is more than just semantics.  Pleasing people might lead us to not challenging them and helping them grow because we don't want to rock the boat.  Pleasing God will lead us to doing the tough things even when they are unpopular.

I read a great fable on this over at another blog: The Nightingale and the Crow.  I could not find this on any other sites, so it might not be public domain like Aesop's Fables.  It's a touching fable that deals with a beautiful nightingale submitting herself to the judgment of pigs on whether a nightingale or a crow can sing better.  The moral of the story is to not let pigs judge you.  If we let anyone other than God judge us, then we are going to struggle in ministry because people are particularly cruel to ministers at times.  We would do well to remember who will always provide for us.

These are also good principles to live by in life outside of paid ministry.  We need to be grateful for what God has given us; we need to focus on ministry at every opportunity; and we need to please God when men are crying for the opposite.  No matter where we find ourselves in life, those are good teachings to be reminded of.