When we talk about career, we don’t only mean those working in the so-called “corporate.” This includes even the church workers. Yes those who we call “pastor” or “deaconess.” But unlike our conventional idea of profession, being a church worker is beyond just career. It is a VOCATION and a CALLING.
Being deeply involved in youth ministry in the church, I and Shai grew up in the spiritual nurturing of these workers. This is the reason why most of our Ninongs and Ninangs in the wedding are either a pastor or a deaconess who have immensely touched our lives. Both of us also grew up in a traditional community church where the pastors and deaconesses are like people with “superpowers” as they take care of all aspects of ministry. A jack-of-all-trade as we may call it!
Last Sunday, Shai was invited to speak at the celebration of the Workers’ Sunday at the Trinity United Methodist Church in Bataan, her home church. In her sermon, she talked about the struggles and joys of being a church worker, which I tried to summarize in this blog:
“I’ve always had high regards to our dear church workers – the pastors, deaconesses, and church staff including their family – because of their passion and commitment in the ministry. So today, I’d like to talk about why we should be thankful for them.”
She had related the life of the church workers to the life of Paul including the hardships that he had to undergo:
I have endured “much greater labors, with far more imprisonments, with more severe beatings, facing death many times. Five times I received from the Jews forty lashes less one. Three times I was beaten with a rod. Once I received a stoning. Three times I suffered shipwreck. A night and a day I spent adrift in the open sea. I have been on journeys many times, in dangers from rivers, in dangers from robbers, in dangers from my own countrymen, in dangers from Gentiles, in dangers in the city, in dangers in the wilderness, in dangers at sea, in dangers from false brothers, in hard work and toil, through many sleepless nights, in hunger and thirst, many times without food, in cold and without enough clothing. Apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxious concern for all the churches. Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is led into sin, and I do not burn with indignation?” – 2 Corinthians 11:23b-29
“After the dramatic conversion of Paul (Saul), he knew that his life wouldn’t be easy. Our Pastors and Deaconesses also knew, from the moment they responded to God’s call, that their journey wouldn’t be smooth but will be full of sacrifices.”
- No equitable salary and pension
- Don’t have a permanent house
- Limited time with family
Shai narrated the persecutions experienced by Paul and by the Christians in our current time, which can be figuratively related to the situations of our workers.
“Paul writes, ‘Beside all this…’ or we might say, ‘In addition to all these hardships, what else could possibly be added to this list of overwhelming hardships? That is the “daily burden of how the churches are getting along.”
- Emotional hardships – unkind words, indifference, cruelty of actions from people, etc.
- Physical hardships – exhausting schedules of visitations; bible study; prayer meetings; birthday, thanksgiving and funeral services, etc.
“Paul is so concerned about others that he bears their burdens as if they were his own. When people are weak or sick, he shares their pain. When people are led into sin he gets emotionally involved. Paul carries the heavy burden of all the sorrows, failures, joys, and pains of each person in his churches.
The concerns of church workers are like the “daily concern” of a parent for his/her child. It is obvious that our Pastors and Deaconess are concerned for us, which they express through their support and prayers for our personal needs. That is what we see. But that is not all there is.
The workers also share with our joys and sorrows. They lead us in thanksgiving for all our blessings. They are overwhelmed with excitement for the young couple to be married or with the coming of a new baby; they share with the burden if a family member is sick and with the grief of their loss. They carry all of those emotions and concerns around with them every day.”
Despite these challenges, our workers remain faithful in their calling to be God’s instruments of doing mission and touching many lives. Alongside with their personal sacrifices and hardships, they play many roles in our everyday lives, in the life of the church and even in the society:
- They nurture us spiritually
- They are our father, mother and a friend
- They help us make right decisions
- They give us moral advice and guidance
- They speak the truth and denounce the evil in the society
- They help us engage our faith in social realities
Shai also mentioned that unfortunately, the church is in dire need of workers: “There are only few young people who are entering into the ministry. We don’t want our church workers to become “endangered species.” Thus, she called on parents not to discourage their children who feel the calling to become a church worker.
“It is Biblical for a church to recognize and honor the godly ministers who serve faithfully the flock of God. Paul wrote the following words to the church at Thessalonica: ‘Now we ask you, brothers, to respect those who work hard among you, who are over you in the Lord and who admonish you. Hold them in the highest regard in love because of their work” – I Thessalonians 5:12-13
If you haven’t done so, go take some time to thank and appreciate our church workers today!