The Pain of Pastoral Regret

1 09 2007

This post, and another one later today will probably be the last I’ll post while I’m in the role of a Pastor. In God’s will I’ll be keeping ‘Double Usefulness’ going in the days to come, but our lives and my role in life are about to change significantly. As of tomorrow night Carolyn and I will become ‘missionaries in training’ with Baptist Missions, in preparation for going to Peru next year. Today is a time of preparation and reflection, as I’ll preach for the final time as Pastor tomorrow morning, and then the church have very kindly arranged a special service for us in the evening. I thought I’d add two posts to the blog as my last point as a Pastor – isn’t that what we often do in our preaching anyway: say ‘and finally’ and continue for another ten minutes?!

This first post could be labelled as a negative reflection – but I prefer to think of it as a dose of healthy realism. I’m reading Bonar’s ‘Memoir and Remains of Robert M’Cheyne’ at the moment and am finding it so edifying. As M’Cheyne prepared to go to St.Peter’s in Dundee he reviewed his ministry up this point, and wrote some thoughts in his diary which we can so readily identify at this stage in our lives. He had done his best, but knew that it was only a little in real, eternal terms. He deals with the pain of pastoral regret, with the sense that many (perhaps all?) pastors feel from time – that they simply have not done enough (nor can they do enough) in their service to God, that there are tasks, sermons, and elements of care that they could have fulfilled so much more fully. M’Cheyne writes:

‘Lord I feel bowed down because of the little I have done for them which Thou mightest have blessed! My bowels yearn over them, and all the more that I have done so little. Indeed I might have done ten times as much as I have done. I might have been in every house; I might have spoken always as a minister. Lord, canst Thou bless partial, unequal efforts?’

Praise His holy name that He can and does bless our puny efforts to glorify His name. What a joy and what a terror to surrender our best labours, worn at the edges with sin and failure as they are, to the God who will try all of our works by fire!

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