For us who've been sent out into the churches, we've experienced the evil that sin visits on Christians and unbelievers. We've watched as families have erupted into chaos because of infidelity, addiction, and terminal illness. We've sat in hospice with widowers who've said, "I never believed a word of that crap. I just went to church to keep the peace at home." We've been impotent to prevent uprisings in the church, false claims being made to drive people out of the church, and differences of opinion leading to full-blown church splits. For us pastors who've been sent out into the churches to serve the living God, we've been changed by our experience in ways even we don't understand.
As individuals, we're not needed by our brothers and sisters in Christ. We are, instead, the instruments through whom God speaks and works to deliver His saving gifts. We are His hands and feet that come to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We're not your family, and most of the time, we're not even considered your friends. But, in faith, we're called to serve you, the Father's children. And so long as we're called to serve, our vocation is never done because "God's mercies are new every morning." (Lamentations 3:22-23)
Even when we walk out of the church, we enter the rest of the world armed with God's Word. We are the tip of the spear in God's war against sin, death, and hell. We are called to serve at the church altar, kitchen table, hospital bedside, cafe counter, cattle stall, and places unimagined when we were still naive seminary students, excited to "fight the good fight of faith," as the apostle described it.
We're expected to be crisis counselors, office administrators, marriage counselors, youth mentors, handymen, advocates, activists, doulas, mechanics' assistants, snow removal experts, landscapers, bakers, grill masters, youth leaders, summer camp chaperones, and a multitude of other jobs we've not been trained for, and every once in a while someone insists we also be skilled at preaching and teaching God's Word.
That's our call. As St. Paul writes, we're to "become all things to all people, that by all means [we] might save some." (1 Corinthians 9:22)
Pastors are called to be fully engaged, looking after the Good Shepherd's flock, with the rod of God's Law and the staff of God's Gospel, because no one else will.
Your pastor is called to lead from the front, but also to walk beside you, to catch you should you fall. But, even though all the responsibility for the care of souls is on him, it's not about him.
We're trained to get out of our own way, and more importantly, get out of our Savior's way, because, "He must increase; I must decrease." (John 3:30)
For this reason, the Lord has outfitted your pastor, not with earthly armor and weapons, but with the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for his feet, the readiness given by the Gospel of peace. In all circumstances, he's charged by God to take up the shield of faith, with which he can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one. He is to put on the helmet of Salvation and is armed with the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God. (Ephesians 6:10-18)
So whether you're life is chaos, you're in pain, or fighting for survival, God has sent pastors out into the churches for you. When you think you're going to die, God sends His messenger to proclaim to you, "That Jesus has risen and you shall arise." When you imagine God doesn't love you, He speaks through His pastoral instrument to deliver the good news, "That nothing can separate you from the love of God in Jesus Christ." When you confess that you did your best but you've lost hope that God could ever forgive your failures, your heavenly Father sends you a pastor to deliver His gifts of salvation with words, water, bread, and wine, to declare to you: "As a called and ordained servant of Christ, and by His authority, I declare to you the entire forgiveness of all your sin, in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. AMEN."
Pastors represent many things to many people, but their true calling is to serve as God's instrument for proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus Christ for you for the forgiveness of sin from the pulpit, at the font, and at the Lord's Table, and wherever a baptized child of God calls out, "Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner!"