There is encouragement for you in the account of Jesus speaking with Peter as recorded in John 21:15-19. Peter was discouraged, he felt defeated, and not exactly engaged in the mission that he had previously responded to when the Lord called him. The focal point of this narrative is in John 21:17 when Jesus said to Peter, “Feed my sheep.”
I point this out because you have likely been there, too. As a small church pastor it seems like there is a shorter distance to discouragement from the pulpit. Sometimes having a ministerial staff and a large congregation can insulate a pastor from having to admit his discouragement. Pastors are human and subject to down times and that is exactly were Peter was with Jesus on the shore as recorded in John 21:15-19.
The good news is that the same directive that Jesus gave Peter is the same for us as small church pastors. The business of a small church pastor is to be about feeding the Lord’s sheep, because that will keep us about His work and help buffet us from the Devil’s work.
The Devil’s Work
The Devil is about his business of discouraging, hindering, and tempting small church pastors to covet a flock they have not been called to shepherd. He seeks to prevent them from feeding their sheep and he seeks to hinder them from being steadfast at feeding their sheep.
As a small church pastor, know that Satan will present you with other lines of work that appear more profitable. He will allure you with the ways of the world that appeal to your flesh. He will fill your church pews with unending drama and your board room with contention. He will assault you with slander. He will torment you with false accusations. He will set you up to focus on defending and correcting your own reputation.
The Devil will do anything to keep you from feeding your sheep. He will employ persons in your flock to stir up discontent against you. He will move people on social media to drag you into aimless debates. He will cause your friends to openly question your calling to ministry. He will use your family to discourage you from serving the saints. He will persuade your parishioners to abandon fellowship with your congregation.
The Lord has called you to stay steadfast at feeding the sheep He has given you. Do not covet another minister’s calling. Do not flinch when colleagues ridicule your attendance numbers. Do not stop feeding the sheep to throw stones at the Devil’s dogs or diminish your mission chasing the Devil’s rabbits.
The Lord has not sent you to gain popularity in ministerial circles or in the pages of denominational papers. He has not called you to be on the best selling author’s list or have national notoriety with a radio broadcast. He has not commanded you to get rich on the conference speaking circuit or to achieve acclaim as a church growth guru.
The Lord’s Sheep
It’s important to remember that however many sheep are in our care, they are the Lord’s sheep. We are not called to be ranchers of cattle, but shepherd’s of sheep. Sheep require constant oversight, they go wayward and take more work than profit rich cattle.
When discouragement creeps over your thinking, remind yourself to take heart that Jesus was “touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we” (Hebrews 4:15). You are His under-Shepherd and can lay your burdens at His feet for encouragement beyond the value of any book, consultant, or coach.
When you crave a little affirmation you can take comfort in 2 Timothy 4:8, when Paul says, “Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing.” Let others have their reward here and now, but yours is in eternity and the wait will be worth it all.
When you begin to doubt if the effort is worth it for a few or a family sized congregation, contemplate the promises from the Lord Jesus when He said, “where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them” (Matthew 18:20) and “I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:18). Jesus’ sacrifice on Calvary is proof that no soul is too few and no small church is too insignificant.
Pastor, your business is to be about feeding the Lord’s sheep.