Five-year "highs" and "woes"

Having just passed the five-year marker in my sojourn in W. Central Illinois (and also five years in the Ministry), I have been thinking of the “highs” and “woes” that come with such a milestone. “Highs” include the following:

  • No pastor here has made it this long since, like, the seventies I think.
  • It has taken about five years, but I think my dear wife and I have learned contentment in the midst of frequently challenging circumstances.
  • There have been some very good changes here in the last five years: weekly communion; exclusive use of the chalice at one congregation; earlier service time to make room for Bible class between services; a deeper appreciation for the liturgy has been fostered among the faithful; among other things.
  • I think that we have helped at least one of the congregations develop a more positive reputation in the community.
  • I have learned a little bit of humility.
  • I have developed a good relationship with a few of the youth here.
  • I have been able to be involved with some service opportunities in the community, such as the Library Board.

“Woes” include:

  • After five years, aside from feeding the faithful with the pure Word of God, I feel like I have accomplished little in the way of extending the kingdom.
  • At one congregation we have half the number attending regularly than when I first arrived (When I first arrived we averaged around 40; now we are at around 20)
  • We have lost several families to the local E.L.C.A. church (I think half of their members originally came from one of these two congregations over the last 20 yrs.).
  • I do not feel like I have a firmer grasp of the task of a pastor than I did five years ago. In fact, I would say that I feel more unsure of myself now than I did five years ago.

I’m sure I could list some other things under both of these, but this is all that is coming to me at the moment. I’m a little down in the dumps and cynical today about the whole thing. I mean, what have I really done these last five years? I suppose the theological answer would be: nothing–God has done it all. And this would be right, except for the mistakes that I have made or the stumbling that I have caused others. Perhaps my expectations were misplaced. When I came here I really thought that people would love to hear good theology. I thought that people would rejoice in it, like I did. I guess that was naive. Thank God for those who are faithful hearers of the Word! What would I do without them?

Advertisements

About Rev. Paul L. Beisel

Graduate of Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne, IN in 2001 (M Div.) and 2004 (S.T.M.); LC-MS Pastor and Adjunct Instructor for John Wood Community College; Husband of Amy and father of Susan, Elizabeth, Martin, and Theodore.
This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

11 Responses to Five-year "highs" and "woes"

  1. Lawrence says:

    After five years, aside from feeding the faithful with the pure Word of God, I feel like I have accomplished little in the way of extending the kingdom.

    The Holy Spirit will extend the Kingdom as necessary. As long as you are properly feeding the faithful, you’re doing what your supposed to do.

    At one congregation we have half the number attending regularly than when I first arrived (When I first arrived we averaged around 40; now we are at around 20).

    Is the church currently under duress for some reasons? Sometimes those 20 people leaving will leave the remaining 20 with a more spiritualy healthy church?

    We have lost several families to the local E.L.C.A. church (I think half of their members originally came from one of these two congregations over the last 20 yrs.).

    Would you prefer smaller healthy congregations, or large cancerous ones? Sorry to sound judgemental, but many times it’s just not the pastor’s fault when people leave. There are a few things that even pastors are incapable of solving with direct intervention.

    I do not feel like I have a firmer grasp of the task of a pastor than I did five years ago. In fact, I would say that I feel more unsure of myself now than I did five years ago.

    Sounds to me like you had a firm grasp to begin with. Don’t make your self feel bad about things outside of your control.

  2. ghp says:

    Amen, Lawrence, amen!

    Rev. Beisel, you have proven yourself to be a good and faithful undershepherd. While your sheep are in the best position to definitively make that observation/judgment, everything that this layman from NW Indiana has seen/read from you indicates to me that you “get it”.

    You are not called to be “successful”; rather, you are called to be faithful in the execution of your Office (as are all of us in our given vocations). That you take it seriously enough to worry about the right things indicates that you’re on the narrow path.

    May God continue to abundantly bless you, your family, and your flock!

  3. Anonymous says:

    We Lutherans respect our laity. The church is people, the people of God. And when you come to your congregation, you’re not bringing the church; you’re coming to the church that is. And you better respect them as children of God and help them to see what a child of God should be like and what they should be doing. Our job is to be good teachers of Law and Gospel. Let’s respect our laity, let’s instruct our laity, and let’s use our laity. One old man told me once that we’re preacher churches. And he wasn’t 100% wrong. There sure are some proud preachers around and they are no blessing to the church.

    Dr. Fred Kramer
    CTS, 1951-76

  4. Anonymous says:

    Paul,
    Everything you’re thinking, feeling, experiencing, etc., is perfectly normal.
    Therefore, you are OK.
    As my bishop said to me on the occasion of my ordination, “Robert, you do not have to die for your congregation. Jesus already did that.”
    Hard words to swallow, but true. In the end, all the good that gets done is His doing, which is something one can only learn to believe through that difficult and exacting teacher, Dame Experience.
    Dr. Baker

  5. Chris Jones says:

    After five years, aside from feeding the faithful with the pure Word of God, I feel like I have accomplished little in the way of extending the kingdom.

    If you have fed the faithful with the pure Word of God, you have accomplished everything for His Kingdom.

  6. Rev. Eric J Brown says:

    The adjustment to rural life can be a trying one – I went through it as a High Schooler when my dad was called to rural Nebraska. The fact that you family has adjusted is by no means a small thing.

    Also – don’t worry about “The Kingdom of God” in some large, abstract way. You have been given a very precise part of the Kingdom to worry about – and it sounds as though you are doing well there. Well, congrats on 5 – I’m looking at 3 in 2 weeks or so. Milestones.

  7. The Rebellious Pastor's Wife says:

    You sound like you (and your family) are exactly where we were at five years. Though we weren’t rural.

    Word to the wise: Another call, and it starts all over again – contentment goes, trust needs to be built again, people leave because it just isn’t the same (and it may not be about Word and Sacrament – it may be because the pastor would rather have a Bible verse on the sign than a cheer for the local high school football team).

    God bless you in your work. I am sure He is saying “well done, good and faithful servant.”

  8. Anonymous says:

    Luther was people centered, Christian centered, church centered. And some of us, I’m afraid, aren’t oriented that way. That is too bad. Maybe that isn’t good Lutheranisn that some people sport in our time.

    Dr. Fred Paul Kramer
    CTS, 1951-76

  9. Pr. H. R. says:

    “I don’t have the gumption to say what I really want to say with my own name attached, so I’ll quote Kramer as a sort of snide snipe.”

    Anonymous
    Beisel’s blog, 2007

  10. Anonymous says:

    I’m not sure what Dr. Kramer meant by implying that Luther and the Lutheran Church is supposed to be “people-centered.” The Church is to be Christ-centered. To be anything but Christ-centered is to be off-center, i.e. “eccentric.” Perhaps that is a good description of the Lutheran Church in these days.

    I have another take on Luther. I found it in the Small Catechism. In the “Table of Duties” Luther quotes the following verses from God’s inerrant, infallible Word.

    First, verses Luther chose to describe the Duties of Pastors:
    1 Timothy 3:2-4 (ESV)
    2 Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach,
    3 not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money.
    4 He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive,

    1 Timothy 3:6 (ESV)
    6 He must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil.

    Now some verses Luther chose to describe the duties of a layperson:

    1 Corinthians 9:14 (ESV)
    14 In the same way, the Lord commanded that those who proclaim the gospel should get their living by the gospel.

    Galatians 6:6-7 (ESV)
    6 One who is taught the word must share all good things with the one who teaches.
    7 Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap.

    1 Timothy 5:17-18 (ESV)
    17 Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in preaching and teaching.
    18 For the Scripture says, “You shall not muzzle an ox when it treads out the grain,” and, “The laborer deserves his wages.”

    1 Thessalonians 5:12-13 (ESV)
    12 We ask you, brothers, to respect those who labor among you and are over you in the Lord and admonish you,
    13 and to esteem them very highly in love because of their work. Be at peace among yourselves.

    Hebrews 13:17 (ESV)
    17 Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.

    Interesting, huh?

  11. revlao says:

    Hey, Paul, I don’t do the blog thing much, but I ran into yours by way of Schaaf, and I don’t know how I got there…

    You all look great. Has it been five years already! (My fifth is coming up in December.) Congrats on the pending arrival, and many blessings in the Lord–Lance_+

Comments are closed.