When I started full time at St Thomas’ last year Gerard gave me two great pieces of advice: (i) book your holiday early, and (ii) take more than a week off, because it takes you a week to unwind. So when a good friend from college announced that his wedding was in England, it was time to plan a decent holiday – my first since starting full time.
Since I was heading to England, Simon very kindly contacted a few of his colleagues to see if I could meet up with them. It was a tremendous privilege to meet them – and the wisdom they offered was invaluable.
While there were many things we talked about (church planting, ministry in London, women in ministry, marriage, family, etc.), I thought I might put down a few reflections that were particularly helpful in thinking about the role of a pastor.
On awareness of pastoral ministry. Dick Lucas helped me to see that the role of a minister can easily be misunderstood by the congregation and that the minister needs to work to communicate what he does to help them appreciate some of the unique pressures and strains of ministry.
On the uniqueness of pastoral ministry. At the REVIVE conference I was able to attend, I heard Richard Coekin interview Kevin DeYoung. One of the questions Kevin was asked was how he dealt with the constant pressure(s) of ministry. Kevin responded, “There’s a certain ‘never-offness’ that the pastor experiences. I never have two days off in a row – except for holidays. It’s constant output. You will not make it in gospel ministry, healthy, unless you have deep friends.” Kevin then shared how he has a yearly retreat with several friends from his college days, all of whom are still in ministry together.
On the value of long term pastoral ministry. Vaughan Roberts shared about how he had the unique opportunity of serving as curate, then assistant minister and then vicar all at St Ebbe’s, Oxford. Ever since becoming vicar, he’s had a vision for staying long term and building up a team of people who were committed to serving there for the long term. It was so good to visit a ministry team that had done decades of ministry together. There was a richness in the relationships around the table at their staff lunch. It was very special to witness that and I have no doubt that it has been a key part of the growth and health of their church.
On the pastor’s role. It was very special to visit St. Helen’s and see the emphasis they place on raising up lay leaders who are excited and able to handle God’s word. The commitment they ask of their leaders is huge and the disciples they produce are exceptional. It was so helpful and encouraging to meet the pastors, interns and lay leaders who were involved in RML (Read Mark Learn – a two year bible study system where many many groups meet for dinner and study of Mark or Romans round tables together) and see how it worked. It was very helpful to see this early in my ministry. St. Helen’s is a church that takes the ministry of the word and the priesthood of all believers seriously.
While many notes were made on many other topics, one of the best things was definitely catching up with those ‘deep friends’ and having those ‘life conversations’ that span over several days. One of these couples, whom some of you may remember, were David and Amanda Burdis, who were part of our 5pm service in 2017-18. They left last year to go to St. Helen’s so that David could do ministry apprenticeship at St. Helen’s in London. It was so encouraging and refreshing to see them getting some great training for ministry and to spend some quality time with these dear friends. (Please do pray for them as they decide what to do after St. Helen’s.)
A few other highlights included: seeing Codex Sinnaticus (oldest full copy of the Bible) in British Library, staring into the image of Thutmose III (the Pharaoh who most likely experienced the Exodus) at the British Museum, visiting the spot were Latimer, Ridley and Cranmer were burned at the stake (for holding to protestant convictions) in Oxford, walking through King’s College in Cambridge, visiting Bunhill cemetery where John Bunyun, Isaac Watts and Susannah Wesley are buried, and of course celebrating Josh and Sophie’s wedding!
I am very thankful for wise advice and wonderful opportunities.
We all need those longer breaks and opportunities to invest in those deep life friendships – and the occasional overseas adventure!
May the Lord refresh and recharge you as well these holidays.
Together for Christ,