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‘7 secrets of survival’ cited for ministers in perilous times

FORT WORTH, Texas (BP)–In a day when pastors are faltering under the pressure of ministry, a Louisiana pastor reminded students at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary they can survive and even prosper if they keep the example of the Apostle Paul in mind.
Forrest Pollock, senior pastor of Istrouma Baptist Church, Baton Rouge, said that with every move scrutinized and every word critiqued, being a pastor is not a calling for the faint of heart.
“Many pastors do not survive,” he said in a March 23 chapel message at the Fort Worth, Texas, school.
But despite the increasing divorce rates among pastors and the depression and stress that can afflict them, the ministry has a rewarding side that is too often neglected, Pollock said.
“What a joy it is to be one of those called to hatch `em, match `em and dispatch `em,” he quipped.
Pollock drew from Philippians 3:12-14 to illustrate what he termed “seven secrets of survival” for ministers. The passage, he said, has added power in light of the fact Paul wrote to the church while imprisoned by Rome.
The first “secret” is from the first part of Philippians 3:12, where Paul wrote: “Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect.” Christians need to acknowledge they are not perfect, Pollock said.
“There will be spots where you fail. You’ll never live up to the expectations your family has and your church has,” he said, adding that even Paul admitted to having flaws.
Even with the mistakes and flaws Christians have, they are still able to be used of God to accomplish his purposes, Pollock said.
Ministers need a plan, the second secret Pollock drew from the passage. Paul’s efforts, he said, were directed toward becoming more Christlike, and ministers in training need to have a plan in mind to stay focused on God’s purpose.
The third secret is for ministers to accept the past and look ahead, Pollock said. In verse 13, Paul said that he was “forgetting what is behind.”
The apostle had a lot to forget, Pollock said, recounting Paul’s past persecution of the church and his indirect role in the stoning of Stephen.
But God’s will had prevailed, Pollock pointed out, and Paul became a servant of Christ instead of an enemy.
Ministers sometimes have to practice forgetfulness, Pollock said, if they want to avoid burnout.
Church members can say hurtful things, deacons can undermine a pastor’s authority and committees can disappoint, so ministers need to “practice selective amnesia,” he added.
“The thing to do is remember the best and forget the rest,” Pollock said.
Christians have to act with perseverance to see their calling through, Pollock said of the fourth secret of ministry.
“God has sent you to the seminary to finish it, not just start it,” he told the students. “You will face crises” in ministry, he continued. “The devil will throw perils of all kinds at you. You’ll make it.”
Paul’s fifth secret to “press on” was given by someone who had experienced peril, Pollock said, reminding students of the shipwreck, imprisonments, beatings and flogging the apostle had endured for the cause of Christ.
“Advance even when you don’t feel like it. Advance when you’re scared to death,” Pollock insisted.
The sixth secret is for ministers to keep their primary goals in mind: to know Christ and to follow his calling in their lives, Pollock said.
“You’ve got to focus yourself like a laser beam on the call God has given you,” he said.
Pollock gave the final secret by quoting verse 14, in which Paul wrote that his goal was “to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”
“What a high privilege it is to be called of God,” Pollock said, reminding the seminarians that of the many millions and millions of people on earth, only a very few are called to be ministers of the Lord.
The prizes in store for those that answer the call and keep the faith are great, he said.

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  • Cory J. Hailey