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A few years ago, a friend — also a pastor — gave me advice he’d received: stop counting and have fun.

I don’t have a chapter and verse to back up this advice, but I do sense some prudence in following its wisdom.

Stop Counting

Stop counting. In other words, stop thinking your ministry is insignificant because it’s small. Francis Schaeffer got it right: there are no little people and no little places.

I’ve spent a good part of my ministry focused on wanting more. Now I realize that ministry doesn’t give us an exemption from the command not to covet. Don’t covet other people’s ministries, or the size of their influence. Be content with the people God has given you, and shepherd the flock that’s among you.

Reading Hebrews 13:17 should sober every pastor: “Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account.” It is a serious thing to stand before God and give account for how we’ve pastored the people entrusted to us. In some ways, we’re blessed when we have fewer people for whom we must one day give account.

Schaeffer put it this way:

We should seek the lowest place because there it is easier to be quiet before the face of the Lord. I did not say easy; in no place, no matter how small or humble, is it easy to be quiet before God. But it is certainly easier in some places than in others. And the little places, where I can more easily be close to God, should be my preference.

In other words, bigger places often come with bigger problems.

Sometimes we think a church would matter more if it was bigger. But the worth of a church isn’t measured by its size. The church God has given you to pastor matters right now. Don’t wait until they’re bigger before you’re grateful for them; be grateful for whatever God has given you now.

If you’re not happy with the church God has given you now, you wouldn’t be happy if it were doubled. There are always bigger churches; the pursuit of more will never be satisfied.

It’s enough to pastor the people God has given us. Don’t focus on the people who aren’t attending your church. Pray for growth, but pastor the people God has given you with contentment.

Have Fun

Have fun in ministry? Sounds like scandalous advice.

Looking back, though, and I can see many blessings of ministry. It’s unwise to let these pass by without enjoying them. The person leaning forward as you preach? The marriage saved? The young adult who comes to Christ? The wedding you officiate? The appreciation shown to you from appreciative members? Enjoy it. Don’t let the blessings of ministry pass you by.

Besides, the world needs more happy Christians in general, and pastors in particular. Martin Luther said, “It is pleasing to the dear God whenever thou rejoicest or laughest from the bottom of thy heart.” Spurgeon wrote, “our piety is our pleasure, our hope is our happiness, our duty is our delight.” To serve God — even when it’s difficult — is an immense privilege that brings joy alongside the accompanying burdens.

“You are our glory and joy,” Paul wrote to the young church he’d planted (1 Thessalonians 2:20). “Those whom we disciple are not the enemies of our joy in Christ, but an expression of our joy in him,” observes John Piper as he reflects on this passage. Churches need pastors who know how to express joy at the privilege of serving God by serving as a pastor. You will experience enough weightiness; learn how to experience joy as well.

I’ve thought of this advice many times since I first heard it. Stop counting: cultivate contentment for the people God has entrusted to your care. Have fun: enjoy the blessings of ministry that God gives you as a pastor.

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