Revisit Your “Why”

Written by Daron Brown
From his column Pressing On

A Renewed Mindset_articleAs the global pandemic unfolded, church experts predicted, among other things, a mass exodus of pastors from churches. Nearly two years later, some pastors have stepped away. Thankfully, pastoral departures do not seem excessive.

It is not for lack of stress. As I meet with peers, we discuss the politically charged environment, difficult decisions, exiting members, declining attendance, dwindling funds, and dropping morale. The past couple of years presented a series of no-win situations for those of us in pastoral leadership, and the challenges are far from over. This begs the question: Why in the world haven’t more pastors thrown in the towel?

Over coffee a friend said, “If it weren’t for this call, I would hightail it to Wyoming and live out my days as a ranch hand.” I nodded. I have no personal interest in being a ranch hand, but I knew what he meant. We had always heard the truth that your call is what keeps you in ministry. That morning we were in a moment where truth was more than true. It was deep and lived. God’s call, and nothing else, was keeping us in ministry.

God’s call, and nothing else, was keeping us in ministry.

In Revelation 2, John relays Jesus’ words to the Church in Ephesus. They are commended for their hard work and their commitment to truth. Twice they are praised for their perseverance. They endured hardships for the name of Jesus. And yet, Jesus tells them, they have lost their first love, presumably their love for Jesus and one another. Jesus sounds like a marriage counselor as He instructs them to change directions and “Do the things you did at first” (Rev. 2:5 NIV). In other words, Jesus calls them to reflect on “why” they became believers in the first place. After all, what good are those commendable traits without the love that initially moved them?

Likewise, as struggling pastors, we remember our call. Revisit our why. Our call was more than a singular event—a past tense moment. The God who called us then calls us now. When we were called initially, God wanted and received our full attention. More things likely compete for that attention these days, but the call which propelled us to respond then is the same call that seeks to propel us now.

To be called by God means, among other things, that our purpose is not rooted in us. Our reason for being does not arise from our abilities or charisma or productivity. Those things are sinking sand. They are useful in our ministry, but they get in the way when we rely solely on them. Our purpose is grounded in something sturdy. The God of Heaven and Earth has come upon us. God’s finger landed on us. God said, “I want that one. She is mine. He is chosen. Claimed for My cause.”

Of course, there are times when ministry is messy, and the church is less than healthy. There are times when the hours are long, and the fruit is scarce. There are times when situations can be abusive. Certainly, we must not neglect self-care or caring for our families. It is an imperfect world, and I can understand why some men and women leave pastoral ministry.

My call did not come as a burning bush or a blinding light. It was more like a persistent tug. For years, God would not leave me alone. Then came September 30, 1993. It was Thursday night of revival on Trevecca’s campus. We were in the Benson Chapel of the McClurkan Building. The preacher’s name was Diehl. Those names are heavy with a sense of God’s call. I knelt at the altar and said “Yes” to God.

I occasionally return to that spot. I go to revisit my why. When I do, I am reminded that the persistent tugging never ended. Even after my decision, God continues to tug at me, to this day. The God who called me then calls me now.

May you, dear pastor, experience this same marvel, even in the midst of times like today, and be propelled forward with fresh energy.

Rev. Daron Brown lives and pastors in Waverly, Tennessee.