Thursday, October 18, 2007


When I was in Seminary, one of my professors used an expression I still find amusing to think about. He was the convener of our Student Pastor Track weekly conversations and the express purpose of our conversations was to share experiences and ideas, and offer support as we felt our way through Seminary and serving our first church.

Whenever it became clear that one of us would need to have a difficult and potentially painful conversation with a member of the church, our professor would call it "a prayer meeting." Others in our group would refer to this as a "come to Jesus meeting." Our convener also gave us a great barometer for whether to actually have such a conversation or let it go. He advised us that if were looking forward to having this conversation, we probably should not be having it. But if we were dreading the conversation, it probably needed to happen. I have to say, I have had very few of these types of conversations with church folks, and probably need to have had more... but confrontation is not something I seek out.

I have found, though, that God seems to have these conversations with me on occasion. And the terms "prayer meeting" and "come to Jesus meeting" feel entirely appropriate. I remember the first time I felt scolded by God. It was during my first serving Town Point and Trinity. I have always had a nagging question as to whether I should more fully live out my passion for mission and social justice by committing to full time ministry in these areas, rather than be a generalist as a pastor. I was driving to Town Point one morning, asking God if I should be leaving the pulpit and seeking other expressions of ministry. What I heard spoken to my heart was "you'll be a pastor until I tell you stop, and not before." I have not had quite a sense before or since.

More often, I have a moment of insight or clarity from God. This came this morning. I found myself feeling overwhelmed by the stewardship campaign. I was disheartened and overwhelmed that I/we are so behind in preparations for mailings, sermons, presentations, etc. Then I became discouraged by feeling overwhelmed...AGAIN. I am tired of feeling perpetually overwhelmed. "I just got finished feeling overwhelmed by Blended Ministry Parish preparations and voting" was my lament. When overwhelmed, my thoughts always turn to "there must be an easier way for me to earn a living." These were the same thoughts I was having on Sunday morning as I struggled to preach; it is always more difficult after being away for a week.

Thankfully, Lori Goldsmith, who has been serving in the office for the month of October with grace and distinction, came in prayed with me. I felt a lightening of my spirit. As I drove to covenant group, I came to what I hope is a turning point. I realized that being a pastor is it- this is the life I am called to, this is the life I have been equipped for, and this is the life I expect I will be living for the next 30 years. And I just cannot bear the thought of being perpetually overwhelmed for the next 30 years. So either I trust that God is in the midst of all of this, and that giving my best is all that God asks, or I don't. And if I really trust it, than feeling overwhelmed doesn't do any good or make any sense.

So I am giving it up- no more overwhelm. Just steady effort, giving God my best, and trusting the results in God's time. Hopefully, plenty more "come to Jesus" moments will keep me on track. It's a hard thing, this staying on track stuff....thank God for grace...otherwise it would simply be impossible!


  1. Amy,
    Thank you. I needed to hear this today.

    (this is the Susan you met @ the transitions into ministry conference)

  2. This is a great post. Thanks for it. I have had those moments, too. My issues lie with being a pastor and a pastor's wife. It is hard to be both. People think of me as pastor's wife most of the time, but I know God has called me to be more than that. I don't even know for sure what more, but I know that the pastor's wife stuff is less important than the calling. I don't know if that makes any sense, but thanks again for the post.

  3. words of wisdom indeed- thanks Amy :-)

  4. i too share in the overwhelmed - overload... a friend gave me a devotion from Oswald Chambers and he asked "Are you spiritually exhausted?" spiritual exhaustion is the result of service. he goes on to say alot about how as pastors we are called to pour ourselves out - to spiritually exhaust ourselves time and time again. his end point is that in order to lead this life...we need to know where to get our supplies.

    His ending quote - "God saved you and sanctified you to exhaust you. Be exhausted for God, but remember that God is your supply."

  5. I need a reminder of this as well--thanks for saying it!

  6. Oh! I have prayed the same prayer of lament: "There must be an easier way for me to earn a living!" And I have also felt overwhelmed, especially by things like pledging timelines, things that I've never felt passionate about. I'm learning that I don't control or create all things, that my reliance on God's grace is actually pretty important.

    Have you read Under the Unpredictable Plant by Eugene Peterson? It really helped me wrestle with some of these questions, and I highly recommend it.

    Thank you for sharing!

  7. Thank you so much for sharing that. I am doing the seminary student pastor thing so overwhelmed is with out a doubt how I feel. But thanks for giving me new perspective!