I want to say a word on behalf of a sometimes overlooked category of ministry. I refer to the Baptist pastor who maintains a sense of God’s calling to ministry and serves God and people faithfully, month by month, year by year; who sees his or her task as a great privilege; who keeps the faith and points the congregation to meaningful Christian living; is loyal to the local congregation and to the Baptist understanding of faith and ministerial ethics; refrains from criticizing the church to family or congregants; and seeks no other reward than the “well done good and faithful servant.”
There are so many of these who are content to work unnoticed and generally enjoy what they are doing. They are the majority.
I am totally mindful of the great number of Baptist pastors who have become disillusioned, hurt or just burned out, either through the challenges the COVID epidemic caused or through unfair, mean and hurtful attacks by the those who assume power in the congregation.
I know some, have met or heard of others and fully understand the enormous damage a pastor can experience to his or her own sense of spiritual well-being and opportunities for future appointments. The pain and hurt to family members can scar in ways that are almost too hard to bear. When there is a partner who loves and stands by the one being criticized, and where there are children who cannot fully understand what is happening, the effect can be enormous. It is little wonder that, in such circumstances, ministers may wonder whether it is worth the struggle.
Genuinely conceding the motivation of this second category, I nonetheless want to pursue the issue that so often slips under the radar — the pastors who (to slightly amend Paul’s words in 2 Timothy) are fighting the good fight, running the race and keeping the faith.
Ministerial problems and withdrawal from congregational or denomination leadership are reported on often and comprehensively. I fear therefore, young people, indeed older people too, sensing God may be pointing them toward pastoral service may be dissuaded by the amount of press given to those who leave the pastoral ministry. They may hesitate from pursuing what may otherwise be a very productive life as a minister of the gospel.
I want to assure them the pastoral ministry is a totally worthwhile vocation.
I offer two examples, two Baptist pastors from different countries whose lives have influenced many. These two serve as examples of the good and satisfying life innumerable Baptist pastors enjoy.
Bob and Bill never have promoted themselves as wanting to be anything other than a pastor. They have no regrets about the path they have followed.
“They have no regrets about the path they have followed.”
Bob Whitten has served a lifetime as a pastor. Now through teaching an effective Bible class every Sunday at McLean Baptist Church in Virginia, although long retired, he still serves as a pastor. After some earlier congregational ministry, Bob was called, with his wife, Barbara, to serve a small congregation in Virginia, Westwood Baptist Church. Westwood has become a flourishing suburban church. Bob’s great work in church planting and church development is still being honored in various ways.
He subsequently joined a counseling service and had a good experience helping people who were struggling through life. Bob never has actively sought office but has served the local Baptist association and Virginian Baptists in various ways, has attended three BWA world Congresses and when he finally retires will look back with great satisfaction with thanksgiving to God for a life of service.
Bill Brown from Victoria, Australia, has every right to call himself the Rev. Dr. William Brown, yet to everyone from children to seniors, he is simply Bill Brown. He became the youth pastor of Syndal Baptist Church in Melbourne, and his potential as a leader was soon obvious.
When the senior pastor, Geoff Blackburn, who had mentored Bill, retired, the church accepted Bill as its senior pastor. During the ministries of Geoff Blackburn and Bill Brown, the church has grown to be one of the largest congregations in Victoria. Bill has had a long and remarkable ministry, characterized by his grace and humility and his skill at handling the challenges that are inevitable in a growing congregation.
After serving that one church for his whole ministerial life, Bill maintains a very positive attitude to the church and the ministry.
“Bill maintains a very positive attitude to the church and the ministry.”
Neither Bob nor Bill regret following the Spirit’s leading to become congregational ministers. Of course, in any ministry there are countless problems throughout the journey but the joy of service, for both men, transcends the difficulties and challenges.
I could have used as examples other pastors, women and men, who had a succession of pastorates but also share the sense of deep satisfaction as Bill and Bob do about their experiences in ministry.
After completing 60 years of ministry, much of that spent in denominational leadership at home and overseas, I can wholeheartedly affirm that being a Baptist pastor has for me been thoroughly worthwhile. I have been blessed more than I could have expected and (probably) more than I deserve.
I can do nothing other than express appreciation to the Lord for the privilege of serving God and God’s people in Australia, the United States, Papua New Guinea and with the Baptist World Alliance in numerous countries where Baptists are found. I can assure any person debating whether to follow God’s leading to train for ministry that becoming a pastor can offer a wonderful and fulfilling life.
Bob and Bill confirm that as congregational ministers; I confirm it as a denominational leader. I still view pastoral ministry as a “high and holy calling.”
Tony Cupit trained for ministry at Morning College in Sydney, Australia, was ordained in 1963, and served as pastor of Telopea Baptist Church, (1961-1963) and Thornleigh Baptist Church, (1964) both in Sydney, prior to going to Papua New Guinea. He and his wife, Margaret, served the Enga people for seven years (1964-1971) where he was field linguist for Baptist Mission Australia and chief translator of the Kyaka Enga New Testament. He then served as overseas secretary for Baptist Mission Australia (1972-1978) and director of mission and ministry for the Baptist Union of Victoria (1978-1989). He served as director for evangelism and education with the Baptist World Alliance (1990-2005) and undertook other ministries for the BWA for five years after that. Finally, he served as acting senior pastor and then minister for pastoral care (2013-2016) at McLean Baptist Church in Virginia and as minister for pastoral care at Ashburton Baptist Church (2019-2022). He retired in 2022 after 60 years of ministry.