Obscurity as a Good

Photo by Dan Gold on Unsplash

As pastoral shepherds, there are times God places us in visible roles and on visible stages, but we must embrace these stewardships with great prayer and multiple layers of accountability. If God wants you to be more visible, it is wise and protective of your soul to let him put you there in his way and in his perfect timing.

I like to think of shepherding pastoral calling like a turtle on a fencepost. I am reminded regularly that no turtle gets to the top of a fencepost on its own. Someone has to put the turtle there. This is true for every pastoral leader. However low or high your pastoral ministry fencepost, make sure you are not trying to crawl to the visible top on your own. If God want you there, let God unmistakably put you there.

Tom Nelson, The Flourishing Pastor: Recovering the Lost Art of Shepherd Leadership

Nelson writes here about pastoral ambition and the desire some have for success, notoriety, and fame. Bigger pulpits, bigger congregations, and bigger influence. He warns against this impulse. He acknowledges the ways obscurity can be good, and how God can use corners of quiet service to refine, shape, and prepare leaders for future ventures.

But notice, too, that Nelson states that a pastoral ministry fencepost, whether it be low or high, is a fencepost, a setting where God places you. No matter your assignment, you did not get there on your own. It’s a trust to be received. You are there for a purpose and a reason, and that there is work there for you to do as a steward in God’s house. There is a Word to preach and people to serve. To be entrusted with responsibility is a privilege. You’ve been chosen.

This is an important truth for pastors to remember. It recalibrates our approach to pastoral work. Seek the right post, for the right reasons, at the right time, and trust that God has work for you to do, and work to do in you, wherever and to whomever he calls you.

It is a helpful truth for congregants to remember, too. Be discerning when you call your pastor. Seek the right person, not necessarily the most credentialed, accomplished, or impressive person. Ask God to guide you, maybe even to obscure places, to find the person God has prepared to best serve your congregation.