With all of the persistent disruptions and seem-impossible-to-reconcile tensions in recent days, may I take a moment to affirm all of those dear men and their families who have remained in pastoral ministry. You may not realize it, but it has been tremendously therapeutic to my own pastoral eyes, mind, and heart to observe, up close or at a digital arm’s length, your refuse-to-quit tenacity. While I am sure, if you are like me, you feel like you have not handled everything perfectly, thank you for just occupying the crucial, boots-on-the-ground position of pastor. As our former President Theodore Roosevelt, a man of insistent action, put it:

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

Here are a few thank you’s that are well-deserved and long overdue from a fellow pastor that you have often refreshed and steadied without even knowing it:

  1. Thank you for not allowing the online or in-person critics to sideline you with their looks or words of how you could have done better.
  2. Thank you for the sweat, blood, and tears you have regularly invested to just keep the work of God going-especially in the oft-unseen and mundane tasks.
  3. Thank you for being willing to learn the art of perpetual, God-led pivots away from that which you are comfortable and towards that which makes you-and obviously others-uncomfortable.
  4. Thank you for maintaining a sweet, resilient spirit in the face of those who have faded and faltered in their consistent, incarnate relationship with/responsibilities towards the local church.
  5. Thank you for being willing to “risk it all” on what God has led you to preach, stop, launch, confront, and expand.
  6. Thank you for the new skills and platforms you have been willing to learn to extend the gospel creatively to more people in your community and our world.
  7. Thank you, smaller church/bi-vocational pastors, for practically living out the mantra of “little is much if God is in it” no matter how intimidatingly “big and important” other ministries appear to be.
  8. Thank you, larger church pastors, for sacrificially deploying your human and financial resources to shore up newer, weaker fronts of kingdom ministry home and abroad.
  9. Thank you, assistant pastors, for the emotional, think-out-loud partnership that you are providing to your senior pastor as he continues to recover from and process the ongoing changes in our world and churches.
  10. Thank you, missionary pastors, for leading your flocks and new leaders through tumultuous times while regularly being under-resourced, disconnected, and hamstrung by third world deficiencies.
  11. Thank you, pastors’ wives, for the intimate, emotional support that you alone have been able to provide to your husbands in the private spaces of their hearts and homes. (We pastors, without your tender but tough encouragement, would not still be in the ministry without God’s grace being manifested through you!)
  12. Thank you for being humble enough to get counseling and mentoring for areas where your emotional, mental well-being are deficient.
  13. Thank you for staying on message with the simple, unadulterated Gospel of Jesus when the world and unfortunately many of God’s people were sidetracked by recent panic, division, and distractions of this present and unraveling world.
  14. Thank you for being content with being a pastor and believing that, despite its shortcomings and frustrations, you can make the biggest difference for the Lord right where He has you.

Truly, just staying by the stuff makes you a hero in my book and, more importantly, the Lord’s as well! By the way, the originator of the “man in the arena” sentiment continues to occupy a place of “rare air” in our American culture, Mount Rushmore. A place, by the way, not occupied by the critics, the holdouts, the timid, the quitters. Yes, it often feels easier to vacate the God-assigned position that is the source of so much mental stress and emotional angst, but…you will not regret the ultimate thanks that is yours, by God’s grace, if you will just hold on until Jesus sends for/comes for you.

Lu 19:13 “And he called his ten servants, and delivered them ten pounds, and said unto them, Occupy till I come.”

Photo by Ronda Darby on Unsplash