Mark D. Roberts

Part 8 of series: Grace in the Rearview Mirror: A Pastoral Retrospective
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There were many times during the past sixteen years when I thought I had the best job in the world. Yes, of course there were other times as well, and I’ll have something to say about them in due course. But for most of my years as pastor of Irvine Presbyterian Church, I felt extraordinarily blessed.
When did I think I had the best job in the world? There were many times, actually. Often it would happen on Thursday mornings. Thursday, you see, was my sermon prep day. It began with what I called The Pastor’s Study, a dialogical Bible study of about fifteen people. We’d focus on the text I was going to preach on that week. I’d prepare some comments and background. Then we’d dive into the text and its meaning for our lives. This was some of the most fun I had as a pastor (truly), and I learned a great deal while sharing life with some great folks. Then, after the Pastor’s Study, I’d spend the rest of the day working on my sermon. There were many times, dozens and dozens, when I’d think to myself: “What a fantastic job! I get to study the Bible and talk to people about it, and they pay me for this!”
I sometimes felt as if I had the best job in the world when I got to officiate at weddings, especially weddings for people I knew well or their children. First I’d get to meet with people and share some sweet moments as I did pre-marital counseling and worked with them on the planning of the wedding. Then I’d get the best seat in the house for the wedding itself. (Well, not a seat, actually, because I’d be standing. But you get the point.)
One of the greatest privileges of being a pastor is that people share their hearts with you. They come in with the most tender parts of their lives, sharing their fears, their failures, their dreams, their hopes. Yet the wonderful part for me wasn’t just the trust involved in such conversations, but the joy of seeing God work in people’s lives in a deep way.
This points to what I believe is the greatest blessing in being a pastor. In so many different ways over the years I was able to be used by God in people’s lives. Sometimes I’d preach a sermon and a people would put their faith in Christ for the first time. Or I’d pray for folks and experience God’s grace at work in their lives. Or maybe I’d throw out some wild idea in a meeting of my elders, only to see that idea turn into a ministry that made a real difference in people’s lives. (Photo: the sanctuary of Irvine Presbyterian Church on Easter morning)
For example, I’ll never forget an Easter morning several years ago. I preached, as always, a sermon that focused on the good news of the resurrection, and that called people to put their faith in Christ. (Actually, to be precise, I preached that sermon four times each Easter morning.) One year, after the second service, a woman from our congregation came up to me in tears.
“I need you to know what happened during the last service,” she said.
“What was it?” I asked, not sure whether her tears were joyful or sorrowful.
“I brought my mother to church today, as I have for so many years. She isn’t a believer, but she’ll come with me on Easter. I always pray that she’ll become a Christian, but it never happened . . . until today! When you invited people to give their lives to Christ today, my mother did! And then she told me! I am overcome with joy and thanks, and I wanted you to know.”
Then I too was overcome with joy and thanks. After I finished greeting the other worshipers, I made my way to a small room behind our sanctuary, where I could be alone. I literally got on my knees and wept with joy, thanking God for the sheer privilege of preaching the gospel. What an amazing thing to be a part of God’s saving work in people’s lives! And you know what, you don’t have to be a pastor to experience this sort of joy. All of God’s people are called into His service.

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