‘So keep watch over yourselves and over all the flock which the Holy Spirit has placed in your care. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he made his own through the blood of his Son’ (Acts 20:28, Good News Translation).
My local congregation is currently in a pastoral vacancy. One of our lay leaders is responsible for arranging lay readers and guest pastors. Congregational life continues, and we are grateful to pastors based nearby for helping with pastoral needs or spiritual issues as they arise. Since we are in suburban Adelaide, we enjoy easier access to such support than do many of our LCA/NZ congregations.
Vacancies are more difficult where we are thinner on the ground.
Your congregation might also be in a pastoral vacancy; if so, I pray God soon provides you with a new pastor.
We don’t currently have enough pastors to fill the need of every place. It means that finding the right pastor and having him come to your congregation can require great patience and persistence.
In this short article, I want to encourage those members of the church who keep the wheels turning during a vacancy.
While we don’t desire a vacancy, it can be a blessing when people step up to serve. God still draws us together for regular worship, bible study and fellowship. His gifts enable us to grow in faith, life and witness. As members of the church we aren’t mere consumers, waiting for others to serve us.
God calls us to be participants, actively contributing to congregational life and living out the new life Christ has given us.
I want to say how much I appreciate how you, as local members, serve your fellow believers and the community at large, and continue to do so whether or not you have a pastor. It is your church. Thank you for what you do – it is precious in God’s sight.
I would also like to encourage more of you to consider becoming pastors or to challenge others whom you think might be right for that calling. The pastoral ministry is a priceless vocation, instituted by God and blessed by him. Pastors need to be strong in faith and faithful in serving, yet also humble, knowing their human frailty and need of gospel forgiveness.
The process of preparation can appear daunting, and it requires personal sacrifice. We are trying to increase access to the training, but it will always require substantial discipline and effort. It may not be for everyone, but I’m sure that God wants more of us to study for the pastoral ministry at Australian Lutheran College.
An old saying goes that if a thing is worth doing, it’s worth doing well. That applies to our congregations, to our lay leaders, and to our pastors. Thank you and God bless all of you, lay and ordained, who serve the church. Thank you for keeping the faith and being a witness to others. Thank you for always pointing us to Jesus, who is, and will always be, our ultimate pastor, the supreme shepherd of our souls.