It seems as though every year from about mid-August until late September, the East Coast, the Florida Coast and the Gulf Coast are pelted with tropical storms and hurricanes. This year is no different. The city of Houston and the surrounding Gulf Coast areas are facing the task of cleanup and recovery after historic rainfall and flooding left in the wake of Hurricane Harvey. Even now, three more hurricanes are churning toward landfall of the American and Mexican coastlines.
Another year, another storm, and yet the task of the pastor remains the same—preach the Word, in season and out! In his responsibility of proclamation, the pastor must be a model of consistency and endurance. To put it another way, the pastor’s role as servant-leader is to model the biblical principle of perseverance.
The writer of Hebrews reminds us, “For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God, you may receive what was promised” (Hebrews 10:36). Yet, it seems as though endurance, perseverance and consistency in the life of the minister, much less the child of God, have been eradicated by the politically correct, consumer-oriented, tech-savvy, selfie-driven mindset of the American culture. This mindset of the most prosperous country in the world demands a comfortable life that should be pain-free, opposition-free and trouble-free.
Even among evangelicals, the idea prevails that the Christian life should be stress-free, trouble-free and free of any type of opposition or struggle. As a result, many in the church today have forgotten that the Calvary road was a dusty road. It was a hard road, but it was down such a road that Jesus reminded His disciples they must walk when He said, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me” (Matthew 16:24). For the believer of the 21st century church, persecution, disappointment, conflict, danger and stress will be the normal lifestyle, not the exception. Therefore, every effective pastor must model a heart of faithful, humble servant leadership.
Many biblical examples abound for the saint of God to emulate, but one such pastor from church history who stands out as a worthy model of perseverance is the Anglican pastor of Holy Trinity Church, Cambridge, Charles Simeon (1759-1836). Born the son of a non-believing wealthy aristocratic English lawyer, Simeon was educated at the Royal College of Eton, an elite boarding school for the upper class. He was known as an athletic show-off who looked more like a momma’s boy in his fanciful daily attire. The mindset he developed at this premier educational setting was pain-free, stress-free and opposition-free. Thus, upon his enrollment to the King’s College, Cambridge, in the spring term of 1779, a new spiritual reality set in at his conversion to Christ on Easter Sunday. His understanding of the Christ-life led him to choose a life of celibacy along with the spiritual discipline of rising every morning at 4 a.m. to spend the first four hours of his day in prayer and meditation. Yet, such a life of selflessness and sacrifice did not eliminate the years of persecution, conflict and pain rendered by the hands of his own parishioners at Holy Trinity Church as well as those at his own school of Cambridge.
Charles Simeon served as vicar of Trinity Church from his appointment in 1782 until his death in November 1836. For 54 years, Simeon gave of himself tirelessly and selflessly in his preaching and service to the community, in his study and training of Anglican ministers at Cambridge, and for the ultimate glory of the cross of Christ and His Kingdom. For the first 12 years of his pulpit ministry, his associate pastor was favored and compensated at a greater annual rate; yet, Simeon persevered. After nearly 30 years of preaching and teaching, he was criticized by his students and parishioners for requiring too high a standard for holiness of life; yet, Simeon persevered. For more than 13 years of his life, from the age of 47 to 60, he experienced poor health; yet, Simeon persevered. Despite the conflict and struggles, he renewed his call to his ministry of the Word, which lasted another 17 years. Charles Simeon persevered.
What kept Simeon faithful to the end? How did he continue in the face of constant opposition as well as his waning health condition? The answer is the same for every minister of the Gospel for today’s church—a humility of heart for the gift of salvation and a reminder of the responsibility of the call to preach the Word.
Another year, another storm, another reminder: pastors must reflect the biblical trait of endurance. Preach the Word!