Thursday, August 26, 2010

Toiling in Obscurity

The following is excerpted from Shepherds Balm, a devotional tool for pastors and Christian leaders published August 2010 and available at

Why does God test those he calls with a
time of obscurity before he entrusts them
with their missions? Could it be that he desires
relationship before service? If we were to get our
commission right from the start, we'd never have
time to get to know God as a person, would we?
We'd be busy working...

Relish the times of obscurity. You may wish for
them when you've been commissioned and the busy
days come.
Be flattered if God “puts you on the shelf” for
awhile. He just wants to get to know you as you
before he knows you as his worker. You the person,
with your fancies and foibles, with your delights and

God seems to love obscure pastors. After all,
there are so many of us! Like most pastors, we don’t
have “big names,” aren’t famous, and are in no
danger of becoming so. This is quite in keeping with
the way God loves to operate, employing ordinary
people, the weak, the foolish, the obscure—as
vessels and channels of His blessing to men. Finding
joy in our seeming obscurity is a secret storehouse
few enjoy.

Indeed, obscurity in ministry has its challenges.
There is generally a lack of resources- talent, money,
personnel. There are traditions we may neither
understand nor agree with. There is often a lack of
vision as the people see no point in dreaming as they
are content where they are.

The pastor in obscurity is also at risk of
depression as results and affirmation can be hard to
come by. Similarly, there are many temptations
which we must be on guard against. It is easy to take
on a dictatorial stance as there may be few whom we
can share the leadership load with. We can often fall
into the habit of laziness because of the lack of
accountability. Then there is the tendency to envy
larger churches with more influence and resources,
or to imagine they must be using methods filled with
compromise to fill their pews.

Finally, there are great benefits in ministry in an
obscure place. The sense of community is generally
stronger and more organic. It can be easy to observe
real visible change not only in the church, but in the
community in a small amount of time. We also enjoy
greater accessibility to public officials, local media,
the business community and school systems. There is
also freedom to experiment- lower cost and risk.
— Richard Earl

Do everything readily and cheerfully—no bickering,
no second-guessing allowed! Go out into the world
uncorrupted, a breath of fresh air in this squalid and
polluted society. Provide people with a glimpse of good
living and of the living God. Carry the light-giving
Message into the night so I'll have good cause to be
proud of you on the day that Christ returns. You'll be
living proof that I didn't go to all this work for
nothing. Even if I am executed here and now, I'll
rejoice in being an element in the offering of your faith
that you make on Christ's altar, a part of your
rejoicing. But turnabout's fair play—you must join
me in my rejoicing. Whatever you do, don't feel sorry
for me.
— Philippians 2:14-18 (The Message)

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