I'm in San Diego right now for the National Pastors Convention with about 1500 pastors and church leaders. They have a digital cafe here, so I'm blogging a bit. This is my first time attending; I was invited to come to do a couple of seminars, one on "The Suburban Christian: Understanding How Suburbia Shapes Us" and another on "The Suburban Christian: Ministry to and from the Suburbs."
What's interesting about being here is how many folks I've run into that I know, some of whom I have not seen for years. I saw one fellow that was in my InterVarsity chapter fourteen years ago who is now a pastor. And I also bumped into the former associate pastor of Blanchard Road Alliance Church, where I was on the leadership team of the singles group during the time that I was writing Singles at the Crossroads. It's a very small world.
The opening plenary featured Brian McLaren, who talked about the challenges of pastoral ministry and what has been helpful to him as he's faced criticism and difficult times. It was a well-done presentation of universalizing some of his personal experiences and applying them to the audience here. After all, some of the folks here may well have been some of those very critics. But all pastors face criticism and unfair attacks and can identify. (McLaren mentioned that his friend Bart Campolo told him something like, "The next time you get a hate e-mail, forward it on to me so that you're not the only one who has to feel the pain of it.") McLaren also said that we need to be friends to ourselves, because so many of us are our own worst critics and treat ourselves worse than we would treat our own friends or enemies.
All this is a reminder of how challenging is the call to pastoral church leadership. In many ways, this convention represents an alternate life of mine. In college I was a double major in biblical studies/theology as well as pastoral ministry, and at one point I thought I would go into pastoral church work. I took Greek and Hebrew, learned to exegete Scripture and prepare sermons, had classes on pastoral counseling and how to baptize, marry and bury people. For various reasons I ended up going to graduate school and then got into publishing, for which I'm tremendously grateful, but I think I've still brought a pastoral eye to my editorial work and feel an affinity for local pastors ministering in difficult circumstances. IVP's publishing vision is to serve the university, the church and the world with thoughtful Christian books, and we tend to interact more often with students and faculty in the academy than local pastors. So it's good to be here and see how we can better serve the church.
So anyway, if you'd like, you could pray for my seminars (Friday and Saturday morning), and I'd be quite appreciative. But more significantly, do pray for the pastors here and pray that they would find restoration and refreshment for their work. And pray for your own pastoral staff, and think of ways to encourage them in their ministry.