For pastors and ministry leaders, there are certain realities they must accept and be prepared for, said Mark Clifton, senior director of replanting for the North American Mission Board.
Clifton, who also is pastor of Linwood Baptist Church of Linwood, Kansas, spoke to a packed room of pastors and their families during a luncheon hosted June 14 by the Bivocational and Small Church Leadership Network. The event was held in conjunction with the Southern Baptist Convention Annual Meeting in New Orleans.
Storms in life
Preaching from Mark 4, Clifton — who leads a church of about 60 people — shared the story of when Jesus calmed the storm while in a boat with his disciples.
Clifton pulled four realities from the passage that pastors and their wives will face at some point in their ministry.
1. Ministry leaders will encounter storms even when they are traveling obediently with Jesus, Clifton, noted.
“Just expect it,” he said. “The disciples did exactly as they were told, and they encountered a storm that they thought was going to take their lives.
“Welcome to following Christ in ministry.”
For example, Clifton noted, nearly every person in their church is impacted in some way by addiction or cancer – whether it is them or someone they love.
“We are all in storms this side of heaven,” he said, “and you will encounter storms even when you’re obediently traveling with Jesus.”
2. No matter how skilled you might be, he noted, there are some storms that will overwhelm you.
“You and I at times can handle the day-to-day ministry, day-to-day family things, day-to-day work things,” he said. “But there will come storms that it doesn’t matter how skilled we are, how talented we are, how capable we are, the storm is stronger than we are.
“You get a phone call or text, and all of a sudden your life changes forever,” he said. “You weren’t planning on that, you’re not prepared for that, you can’t deal with that yourself. … There are storms this side of heaven you’re going to encounter.”
3. The best time to prepare for storms, he noted, is before “the winds start blowing.”
It can be easy to get tired and “mail it in,” Clifton acknowledged.
“There have been times in my life when I have mailed it in – I’m tired and I’m just going through the motions,” he said. “I’m not really pouring my life into the Word. Then, what happens when a major storm comes your way and you’re overwhelmed?”
4. The wind and the waves still know His name even when He’s asleep in the stern, said Clifton, noting the lyrics in “It is well” by Bethel Music.
“It may feel like He’s not following you, He doesn’t know where you are, He’s not working. Listen, He knows everything. … He knows who you are. He knows where you are.”
Clifton shared some tips to prepare for the storms in life.
First, he noted, it can be helpful to have a hymn or a song to turn to in times of crisis.
“You need some song you can sing in your head, you can play on your iPad — some song you can listen to over and over when you’re in that deep darkness. … Find a song that speaks to you.”
Second, he encouraged the group to find a Bible verse that brings comfort. “I need to be reminded every time I’m in a storm that my God has the power to raise Jesus from the dead. He can handle anything.”
Third, have a friend to turn to in times of trouble. “Have someone you can talk to,” Clifton said. “Be careful. It may not need to be somebody in your church.
“Be careful how transparent you are with some of the things in your life with your church members,” he cautioned. “Be judicial on that, but you need to find a pastor, director of missions, some other friend you can call in the middle of the night … and let them pray with you and talk with you.”