I've had a few folks, especially in the last few years, say that the hardest job in the church is that of the Worship Pastor, or Minster of Music, or whatever you call it. Everyone has an opinion about the style of music--more newer, more older--or more people, or fewer people, choir, organ, brass, drums, electric guitar, hymns, choruses, Bethel, Elevation, Passion, Getty, T4G, Vineyard, and on and on it goes.
I appreciate the sentiment, and even more the sensitivity to the challenges. At one level I agree. People are deeply passionate about their musical preferences and traditions.
But at another, I can't imagine the holy burden of being a senior pastor. In seasons of my career I've had a little taste. Serving a church without a pastor, I would feel the weight of the spiritual battles of many people. I slept less. I had to pray more. In that way, it was harder than what I do.
But I think there's a harder ministry than that.
It's a ministry you don't need to be a seminary grad to do, or a college grad, or even a Sunday school grad.
You don't have to be ordained; it isn't reserved for only men, or only women, or only adults.
Figure it out yet?
It's the ministry of presence.
You walk into the path of the freight train of unspeakable grief and stand your ground on the tracks, being fully present with the person in crisis. Or you sit in the hospital waiting room where the silence is louder than a heavy metal concert and you wait. Even when you don't want to be, you are simply and profoundly present with someone who is hurting.
The hardest part is the feeling of powerlessness that accompanies the silence.
I recently heard Rick Warren, who knows the darkest caverns of grief, say that "the deeper the grief, the fewer the words."
And that's what makes it so hard. We are accustomed to using our words to help people feel better. But words are powerless, or nearly so.
When there's no way to feel better--not yet anyway--the only thing better than words, than preaching, than music, that anything? It's your presence.
So that person you know of who is hurting... or when the time comes that someone you love is in this kind of pain...
I will be so bold as to commission you to be the Minister of Presence for that precious child of God. Even though it's the hardest, it's also the most powerful. There's a real good chance you will be one of just a few who know how to use very few words paired with very many hours to do the hardest ministry there is.