Few search committees look for one. Few young men aspire to become one. But it’s what most churches need. I’m grateful for the average pastor.
You know the one. He never won a preaching award in seminary. He will never sound like Matt Chandler or John Piper. He knows he could be better at almost every part of pastoring. He often feels inadequate when he compares himself to those who are more gifted, and those who have bigger ministries. Books weary him sometimes, not because he resists learning, but because he realizes how much he has to learn.
But he settled in a long time ago. He’s not looking for the next move in his pastoral career. He stands up on Sunday and preaches biblical messages — nothing fancy, mind you, but good, biblical messages. He prays for each member of the congregation by name. He studies and baptizes, prays, and makes hospital visits nobody knows about. He feels a little tender when criticized, but also feels uncomfortable when praised.
One day, decades later, he’ll finish the vocational part of his ministry. Someone will buy a cake, and they’ll serve it up in a church basement. A few will stand up and say nice things about his ministry, while others will stand in the back, silently grateful to be rid of him. And he’ll move on, uncertain of the difference he’s made.
But make no mistake: behind all of this hiddenness and feelings of inadequacy is a giant of a man who has stayed faithful, served for the pleasure of the One who matters most, and who has made an eternal difference in the lives of many without even knowing it.
Where God Does Some of His Best Work
We measure things differently than God does. We look for the impressive, for the gifted, for the extraordinary. God seems to show up in ordinary, forgotten places, and to use the people that everyone else passes over.
We like the spectacular. And yet God does some of his best work behind the scenes through the faithful, plodding ministry of men and women who’ve learned to say, “We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty” (Luke 17:10).
God does more than we realize in average churches with average pastors who preach average sermons. As people gather, sit under God’s Word, pray, share bread and wine, are loved, and love, God shows up, Sunday after Sunday, and shapes hearts and minds for eternity.
I know because I’ve benefited from the ministry of average pastors. None of them will ever be famous. Many of them have been mostly forgotten in the churches in which they served. But they have marked my life and taught me the things of God, and I am better off for them.
Of course, I’m writing as an average pastor too.
The world needs more average pastors who show up, week by week, faithfully discharging the call that God has given them, loving the average church before them, never really grasping the difference they’re making. The world isn’t worthy of them. But God will use them, even in their averageness, in ways that we can’t imagine but will one day see in eternity.