We lingered in the cafeteria, picking our way through a lunch of potatoes, beans, and fruit. Strangers to each other until moments earlier, we worked at making conversation between mouthfuls of food.
“Do you travel much?” he wanted to know, perhaps hoping some wider window on the world would open to him.
“Yes,” I said with a rueful smile. “Sometimes too much.”
“You are a pastor, right?” I asked. He nodded silently, eyes fixed on his plate. I reached for the inevitable next question that always passes between pastors.
“How many churches are in your district?” I had already mentally made my educated guess: at about 55 years old, he would have one, possibly two mid-sized congregations in the city area he served.
“Twenty-two,” he said softly, still eyeing the beans.
The sharp intake of breath from my side of the table clearly startled him. He looked up, a tired smile playing around the corners of his mouth.
“You have 22 congregations in your district?” I asked incredulously, suddenly ashamed of the times I had lamented serving two or three. “How many members are in your territory?”
I sat back in my cafeteria chair, my fork pointing absently to nowhere, amazed by the modesty of a servant of God content with his great burden. As I pressed him further to describe his responsibilities, I saw what I had previously missed: the settled confidence in Christ; the sturdy joy that lit his eyes when he talked of training local elders, baptizing hundreds of new believers every year, organizing new congregations.
Around the world of Adventism, his story is far from unique. The burdens carried by local pastors are immense, broad and deep, complex and never-ending. In ways too numerous to tell, they are the glue holding God’s remnant people together. Our pastors are the indispensable servants to whom we owe far more than we usually admit.
This week, pray for the pastors nearest you. Ask the Father to give them joy in the midst of their work, and not only at the end of it all. Offer a word of encouragement in the name of the One they serve so well.
“Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ” (Gal. 6:2).
— Bill Knott