In 2 Corinthians 11:16-33, the apostle Paul tells the church in Corinth what it cost him to do ministry. Labor, prison, beatings, persecution, shipwreck, muggings, danger from friend and foe alike are all on Paul’s list. My experience is downright pedestrian compared to Paul’s. At best, I’ve lost luggage on two ministry trips and suffered from jet lag on others. At worst, I’ve been criticized, discounted, betrayed, and dismissed.
While I cannot identify with all of Paul’s hardships, his statement in verse 28 resonates with my soul, “And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches.” I understand feeling a sense of burden and anxiety over the health of a church. I know what it is to wake up at 1:30AM with the name of person on my mind and the sense that I need to pray for them. I know what it is to stare at the ceiling at 3AM wondering how to lead a congregation. I have spent time on vacations thinking what sermon series to begin next to challenge and encourage a church. I have scheduled elders’ meetings, visited hospitals, and conducted funerals on my day off.
I don’t say this to complain, whine, or ask for sympathy. It is simply a recognition that pastoring, leading, and shepherding a congregation requires hard work and diligent effort. It fits in with Paul’s instruction to the Ephesian elders in Acts 20:17-35 and Peter’s instructions in 1 Peter 5:1-3.