A couple of years ago I had lunch with one of those Yodas–those wise, older pastors who have been in ministry so long they ooze wisdom without knowing it. This gentleman could offer commentary on nearly anything and it would be laced with something helpful. He’s been at the same congregation for more than thirty years, and in ministry for more than thirty-five years.
That takes some doing. It doesn’t just happen. It takes something to live one’s life with integrity in a fish bowl, make the sacrifices full-time ministry asks of you, help grow a church over decades, and still smile a lot—after nearly forty years. Such pastors are my heroes. I hope to be one of them.
Like many of the “samurai” pastors I’ve met, he too had a story of an emotional/burnout crisis that forced him into an extended leave from ministry of many months to recover. However, it was during that time he learned many lessons and corrected course in a way that brought sustainability to his ministry, as well as increased joy.
I could give you many pearls from that lunch we had. However, here’s one I took with me and continue to let ruminate in my spirit: “No matter what, keep throwing your 95 mph fastball.” Translation: Do what you do best–and don’t stop doing it. It’s OK to have a curve, so to speak, but pitching is fundamentally about the fastball. Find out what your fastball is, and throw it consistently with excellence.
Many pastors don’t know what their fastball is. Or, if you asked them, they would hesitate to tell you for fear of coming across as prideful. Humility isn’t pretending we do nothing well or God doesn’t use us in some wonderful ways. That’s false humility–and actually a bit dishonest. Real humility actually thrives in a person’s heart when one is confident in the gifting God’s Spirit has provided. Pride is more commonly trafficked by those who are insecure in their own gifting. Pride feeds on the approval of others because one doesn’t feel God’s approval. Humility recognizes the source and supply of our gifting, and uses it according to the Will of our Supplier.
God has gifted you. How? What do you do well? What do you do best? For some, it’s actually many things—they are a virtual Swiss Army person. For most, it’s preaching, pastoral care, organization, vision, strategy, evangelism or some combination of these.
Know thyself. Thank God for what He’s equipped you to do for His glory. Then do it. Again and again…
with excellence…and joy.
Eric, in Chariots of Fire says, “When I run, I feel God’s pleasure.” Well, what’s it for you? If you don’t know…ask those closest to you…spend time in prayer and Word—which says, the Holy Spirit allots spiritual gifts to everyone, just as He chooses (1 Cor. 12:11). He chose something for you. Give thanks for it, and honor God’s gift by using it fully for His glory.
Find your fastball. Then, THROW IT. Throw it for years. Throw it when you’d really rather throw a curve or change-up. Throw it when others tempt you to doubt it. Keep throwing it.
One last thing—don’t envy others’ gifting or pursue a calling that’s the one you wish you were given. Don’t fight in Saul’s armor. Don’t try to be Billy Graham or Rick Warren.
Be you. All the way.
By all means, let’s learn what you can from others. Let’s develop all our skills as best we can. But, don’t stop throwing your fastball. We’ll last longer, smile bigger, and feel God’s pleasure as we do it day-to-day.
That, my friends, sounds really good to me.