When I read C.J. Mahaney’s chapter called “Ordinary Pastors”, I was moved by the authenticity of his heart. He tells the story of D.A. Carson’s father and his humble service as a pastor to a small church. This chapter speaks to pastors who are faithfully serving in their churches and wondering if they are really making a difference. Honestly this chapter can speak to those who may be lured into a false sense of success due to the number of people attending. C.J. challenges us to really look at our calling that God has placed on our lives and examine if our lives reflect that calling. This chapter comes from a book called The (Unadjusted) Gospel, which is a collection of sermons preached at the 2010 Together for the Gospel conference. Overall, this is a tremendous collection of sermons that are worth reading and studying. Enjoy this excerpt from C.J. Mahaney’s sermon:

Too often, ordinary pastors are discouraged pastors.

Tom Carson was an ordinary pastor and often a discouraged one. His son Don Carson devotes an entire chapter to this (chapter 6, “Discouragement, Despair, and a Vow”). In that chapter we get a glimpse of Tom Carson’s private journals, entries such as this one:

Sunday, Mar. 5, 1961

Rose 6:50 a.m. Prayer and study. Preached (poorly) from 2 Cor. 2. Twenty-four present…Rested. Studied. Evening 19 present. Preached from Rom 1:1–17 (poorly).[1]

Tom Carson wasn’t writing this for anyone else. He had no idea this journal entry would one day be published. And he was obviously discouraged. His son Don writes, “The reasons for such discouragement are many, but some of them, at least, overlap with Tom’s self-doubt, guilty conscience, sense of failure, long hours, and growing frustration with apparent fruitlessness.”[2] Perhaps this describes you. At some point in our lives, we can all relate to Tom Carson.

Pastoral Ministry Defined

I want to interrupt our tendency to unfavorable comparison, unattainable aspirations, and the resulting discouragement of soul. I want to ask a question: Why are we discouraged?

Often we are vulnerable to discouragement because we have forgotten what pastoral ministry truly is. We measure ourselves against unattainable standards, and inevitably we do not measure up.

So if you find yourself discouraged, you’re not alone. I’m familiar with this state of soul. And the most effective way I can encourage you is to remind you of the definition of genuine pastoral ministry as revealed in Scripture.

In 2 Timothy 4:1–5, we find a biblical definition of ministry that will clarify our goals, purify our hearts, and liberate our souls. This passage can protect us from the temptation to compare ourselves with others. It can realign our motivations for ministry. It can protect ordinary pastors from discouragement. And it can sustain us through many years of joyful service to God’s people. Paul writes to Timothy (and to all of us):

I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.

Pastors, this is your definition of ministry.

But it is more than a definition—it is a charge! Paul, who is facing imminent execution, says to Timothy, “I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus” (v. 1). When reading it, we should imagine Paul’s voice appropriately raised, infused with seriousness and urgency. In these words, Paul places Timothy—who, in comparison to the apostle Paul, is an ordinary pastor—under a divinely inspired obligation.

And this divinely inspired letter is not just personal correspondence between Paul and Timothy. “These words,” John Stott writes, “are Paul’s legacy to the church. . . . It is impossible to read them without being profoundly stirred.”[3] These words are Paul’s charge—and God’s—to every extraordinary pastor and every ordinary one.

We all have differing gifts, influence, and even fruitfulness. Let’s be honest: I can’t match the gifting and influence of John Piper or Al Mohler. And neither can you. But regardless of our varying gifts, we all have the same charge: pastoral faithfulness.

Pastoral ministry that is pleasing to God is not ultimately about gifting, influence, or even fruitfulness. It is not about how many books you have written, which conferences invite you to speak, or how many of your sermons are downloaded on iTunes. It is not even about whether your church membership numbers grow or shrink. Pastoral ministry that is pleasing to God is about faithfulness to the charge of 2 Timothy 4. You and I are called to be faithful to this charge.

[1] D. A. Carson, Memoirs of an Ordinary Pastor: The Life and Reflections of Tom Carson 
(Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2008), 82.

[2] Ibid., 92.

[3] John Stott, The Message of 2 Timothy (Leicester, UK: Inter-Varsity, 1973), 105.

Content taken from The Unadjusted Gospel edited by Mark Dever, J. Ligon Duncan III, R. Albert Mohler Jr., and C. J. Mahaney, ©2014. Used by permission of Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers, Wheaton, Il 60187, www.crossway.org.

You can pick up your copy from Crossway.org or Amazon.com: The Unadjusted Gospel

This article originally appeared on Crossway.org. Used with permission.

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