Blessed Are Those Who Face Plant
"The Imperfect Pastor" by Zack Eswine is based on the story of a pastor who, in his search for greatness, fell flat on his face. But in falling on his face, he found health, life, and rest as a pastor. And as a person. In particular, he learned that he is not meant for extraordinary achievement, but for faithful, ordinary labor. He is not meant to change the world, but to love his wife and children and quietly serve his little church. It is a story that speaks to all of us, especially myself, as we try and change the world and end up neglecting the ordinary life and work around us. Here is an excerpt from the book:
In this light, listen in for a moment. Years later, on the other side of the ruins, I found myself listening to a young pastor’s desires. I saw and heard myself in him. Maybe you will too.
“No matter what, I want to go all out for the ministry,” he said.
His passion inspired me, but the context worried me. We had just spoken at length about his difficulty as a husband and father along with a recurring bend within the road of his soul. I took a breath and paused, staring down at the bowl of pad thai in front of me.
“If the ministry is what we will go all out for,” I began, “then how we define ‘the ministry’ seems important, you know?” I took a bite and chewed.
“I just want to preach the Word,” he declared. “No matter what The Calling We Pursue 24 happens, as long as I keep saying what God said, he will bless it. I know God has given me purpose.”
There was urgency in his voice, hurry in his eyes. Both were like a mirror to me. I twirled peanut and noodles around my fork (the chopsticks had long ago begun their humbling work with me). I was hunting for words.
“Yes, God will bless his Word,” I ventured. “You do have purpose,” I affirmed.
I lingered more with the bowl, trying to find what to leave unsaid. “I spoke at a conference once,” I began. “I preached five times. It was one of those moments when God’s presence was tangibly felt. In fact, after that particular conference, the rest of my year was planned full with preaching all over the country. God does bless his Word. I’ve seen him do it firsthand.”
“But,” I said, and then stopped. I stood at a crossroads in my mind, wondering how to say what was next. “On my way home after that last sermon amid the divine blessing of that night, my wife of fifteen years told me she was leaving me.”
There was a quiet between my young friend and me. I sipped my Coke. I was afraid I’d said too much too soon. He knew the circumstances of my life. But was he ready to learn something of what such circumstances might have to teach us? Moreover, was I ready to try and give some kind of voice to it?
“I’m trying to suggest,” I said, “that ‘the ministry’ involves more than the question of whether our sermons are powerful and we influence crowds of people. Going all out for God means more than going all out for sermons and crowds.”
Later that night we stood beneath the stars.
“When I get back home,” he said, “I finally begin as a pastor. Maybe soon I can get to seminary and get equipped and then become a professor somewhere. I can’t wait to get there. Two years as a pastor and then . . .”
I found myself staring at the gravel driveway like it was a bowl of pad thai. I searched again for what to leave unsaid. I heard my Desire 25 voice in his. He was restless to do something great for God. His pastoral work was a platform to use to help him get somewhere other than where he was. And yet he did not know how to include changing diapers or holding his wife’s hand in his definition of greatness.
“What if you are there already?” I tried. “I mean, what if you are already what God has in mind for you? You are a blessing to people in Jesus already. What if the place of ministry where you are with the family that you have is the place where God means for you to be with him?”
His face seemed pained.
“Please forgive me if I’m saying too much,” I said. Then I paused. “It’s just that you are talking to a man,” I mustered, “who got everything he dreamed of and lost most of what really mattered, and all of this in the name of going all out for the ministry and serving God. I’m just trying to say that it seems really important to know what we mean by ‘the ministry’ if we are going to go all out for it. My desire is that what you are going all out for is actually the thing God intends with the definition God gives it.”
He looked away into the sky again. “I don’t know where to start with all that,” he protested.
This blog is written by the authors of Cypress Press, meant for the creative illustration and application of God's Word.