JACKSON, Mich.—“The calling of the pastor is more than a job; it’s a wonderful ministry.” Starting with that statement, Tom Townsend, pastor of Calvary Baptist Church, Battle Creek, Michigan, shared “What I Have Learned after a Lifetime in Pastoral Ministry.” His reflections were the main feature of the quarterly meeting of the Southern Michigan Association of Regular Baptist Churches Sept. 3 at Lansing Avenue Baptist Church.
Tom has served in pastoral ministry for 45 years and plans to retire from the full-time pastorate in 2021. He shared with the group lessons he learned growing up as a pastor’s kid and then while serving in four associate and senior pastorates. Many of his most important discoveries came as he and his wife, Connie, were raising their children to adulthood while balancing the demanding responsibilities of shepherding the flock of a church.
He says, “Don’t discount in pastoral ministry the value of the relationships that you share together as a couple and family.” He reminded the pastors, “Your wife needs a partner, and your kids need a father.”
He then encouraged those in attendance who had grown up as pastors’ kids to share the life lessons they learned by observing their fathers in pastoral ministry. Pastor Tim Rowland of First Baptist Church, Bronson, Michigan, says that watching God spiritually shape and use his father, Bill, was a major influence on Tim in yielding to God’s call to ministry. “Nothing can replace the value of watching God work in your dad’s life as a pastor.”
Tom also encouraged the pastors to get involved in a community service club because it would force them out of the office and into relationships and projects in the community. Tom himself served with the Rotary Club while pastoring in various cities. “I developed good relationships with many civic leaders and businesspeople,” he says. “It allowed me to have opportunities for spiritual influence in the community.”
Concluding the session, Tom challenged the pastors, “Never move away from your calling. Remember that it’s the Word of God that God uses to accomplish the work. Invest in your leadership and help them to grow spiritually. And more than anything, pray, pray, pray!”