Winter 2016

My Thanks to You Who Are Pastors

In recognition of both the routine and the readiness

by Garth Warren

Yours is a sacred calling. People willingly entrust their lives to your shepherding, so yours is a praying life, a planning life and, sometimes, a broken life.

You reconciled long ago that the vast majority of your shepherding can’t be quantified on a spreadsheet or in the bottom line of an annual report. Your work is largely unseen by most of your congregants.

I am writing to express thanks for all you’ve done to prepare for your vocation and for continuing to fight the good fight.

It was my great honor to serve as an executive pastor for nearly seven years, drawing upon my background in business and coaching. So I know the routine of weekly staff meetings, monthly planning sessions, seasonal calendaring events and the all-consuming energy necessary for a fall ramp-up. Each fit fairly neatly into my Outlook calendar.

And then, for a brief few months, I wore the dual hats of campus pastor and executive pastor. And in so doing, I gained an indelible glimpse into the complex realities of your life. I’d already seen your faithfulness to the routines of the church year. But now, what became abundantly clear was your ever-present readiness and leadership responsibility for that which you could never predict.

Two mornings in particular increased my admiration for you during that season as campus pastor.

One Monday late last fall, I received four calls before 10 a.m.:

  • Garth, the child of one of my best friends died in an auto accident yesterday. Can you please help me think through what to say and how I can come alongside him?

  • My wife has decided to leave me, please pray.

  • I know I don’t go to your church anymore, but we just found out that my brother-in-law took his life. Would you help us with the funeral?

  • I am calling from Mayo in Scottsdale. Doctors say I am too sick for the procedure I came all the way out here for, and they are sending me home. What am I going to tell my kids?

On a different Monday morning, a man and his wife showed up for an 8 a.m. appointment. I was expecting a conversation about difficult personal issues. But it turned out that, after having heard his son’s baptismal testimony the week before, the man wanted to be baptized, right then and there.

Both mornings required me to be “on,” to be ready and to be walking in step with the Holy Spirit. And both mornings represent what you face again and again: the deep, unexpected need for your pastoral care mixed with opportunities to share and affirm the hope of the gospel.

As noted earlier, the vast majority of your work goes unnoticed by the congregation, yet we are ever grateful for every unseen moment.

May you and your family be greatly blessed here on earth and most certainly into all of eternity.

Garth Warren is chief development and communications officer of the EFCA and chairman of the board of Tyndale Theological Seminary in Amsterdam. He previously served as executive pastor of a large nondenominational church in Lake Forest, Illinois. He and his wife, Kristy, worship at Park EFC in St. Louis Park, Minnesota.