I did a search of the word “volatility” online and came up with some interesting descriptors: evaporating quickly, explosive, changeable or flighty, fleeting, unstable or unsettled, fickle, tending to fluctuate sharply and regularly. What does volatility have to do with pastoral ministry? If you consider any of those definitions, it’s not a far reach to apply it to our work as pastors.
I’d like to focus though on the last definition, because we hear the word so often in relation to the financial markets. We live in uncertainty in the markets, with daily pressures on those markets due to circumstances beyond any of our control, everything from the soft price of oil to the economy of China. If you’re like me, and you have any investment in the Alliance Retiral Fund or other vehicles, you’re hoping for less volatility and more stability which leads to the growth of those funds. For those of you, like myself, who spend significant time in the US, the exchange rate of the dollar is real cause for concern when you currently lose almost a third of every Canadian dollar exchanged. Volatility. We can’t control it.
That’s where I find tremendous comfort in the sovereignty of God, who has control over everything, including my financial challenges and my pastoral ministry! If it weren’t for the sovereign nature of God, combined with his love, compassion, and care for His children, our stress levels would be through the roof! Yet, as I read the scriptures, I am reminded again and again throughout that although markets and circumstances change, God never changes and always was and always will be the Sovereign One! I can also take great comfort in knowing that His promises are as true today as they have always been, and I can take comfort in trusting Him and those promises.
With that in mind, let me state a few thoughts that come to mind which relate to volatility in the markets, the sovereignty of God, and the daily challenges of pastoral ministry. Most or all of them are obvious, but are good reminders. I’ll just mention four for our encouragement.
First, the markets are a constant reminder that there are regular swings, involving highs and lows. After 35 years of pastoral work, if I’ve learned anything it’s the changing nature of the work and there are certainly highs as well as lows. But the constant in it all is our sovereign God! You can count on the fact there will be good days and difficult ones, but God is sovereign over them all.
Second, the markets are often difficult to comprehend as to their changes, with some reasons being more obvious but others being unclear. In pastoral work, you can often discern the influences that are making your work challenging, but at other times there are spiritually unseen, mysterious, unclear reasons for the challenges you are facing. Again, you rely on the sovereignty of God who knows all things, and knows how to make you able to lead in all circumstances.
Third, I’ve been reminded by our financial counselor as well as others, that unlike many who will buy when stocks are high and sell in a panic when they’re at a low, it’s sometimes important to stay the course to allow time for the markets to adjust. As a pastor, how many times have you wanted to give up, give in, throw up your hands and throw in the towel, and either change your occupation or change your church setting? No matter what your challenge, God is still sovereign and by His Spirit can give you the ability to persevere, stay the course, and see it through.
Lastly, another piece of sound advice we’ll often hear in regard to the markets is to stick with the fundamentals, meaning there are certain practices and principles which, if followed, should bear fruit over time. In your pastoral ministry, God is sovereign, nothing surprises Him, and if you stick with the fundamentals of your relationship to Him and the fundamentals of good leadership, your life and your ministry will bear fruit. Count on it!