I know a pastor who lost his wife a year and a half ago due to medical malpractices. He serves with me on the missional board of directors. The incident took a huge toll on him, and he does not even have much hair left on his head. Being a man of such few words and considering that I had not known him very long, I was not sure what to say to console him. However in the midst of that, I was thankful that he shared his pains and began his arduous recovery process. Because pastoral ministry is such a different occupation in that there is no particular reason or purpose besides a calling from God to go into it, I felt it was already a difficult path to take, let alone having to do it after suddenly losing your wife. However, he's still vigorously serving and even considering retiring early to devote himself to the mission field. His passion exudes from his heart as he speaks even with spit flying out of his mouth. He was even humorous, making us laugh, as he explained that his balding head is not due to ministerial stress but due to the fact that his mother's grandfather was bald. I tried to figure out the secret behind his positive attitude. I tried not to compare, but since his age is the same as mine, comparison was inevitable. We have many similarities: our height, having studied in the states, a widowed mother that prays, and ministerial experience. If there are a few things that are different, they would be that unlike my children, his daughter is married and his son's wedding is coming up soon. Additionally, my mother's grandfather may not have been bald as I can still feel my hairs bouncing on top of my head when I drive with the windows open.
Coincidentally at the time, Korea released some new statistics to the degree of occupational satisfaction and to my surprise, after a judge and a pilot, being a pastor was ranked third. My surprise may have been due to myself pondering as to what the secret behind this pastor's joy in ministry even after losing his wife. When researching what constitutes a "degree of occupation satisfaction,' among many things, possibility of growth, working conditions, societal reputation and salary satisfaction gets taken into consideration. There are so many churches closing their doors with many pastors unable to serve in ministry, resorting to occupations such as driving taxies in LA. It's not an overstatement to say that there are many pastors that are working disreputable jobs while earning a salary of a recent college grad, requiring their wives to work to pick up the slack. However, it is clear that pastors hold their occupation to a different regard than society dictates as their satisfaction degree is ranked third, even one up from a university president which was ranked fourth. Even if the doors of our church close, the Kingdom of God lasts forever. Even if I have to drive a car to make ends meet and even deliver items, I can still evangelize. Even if I am working in a disreputable environment, it becomes an opportunity to exhibit the true value of pastoring. Even if my salary is low, it is an opportunity for a desert trial where I can experience God's manna provision. It would be hard to say I wouldn't be satisfied. I think I know now what his secret was without having to ask. It seems there are still great pastors around. There is hope.
Rev. Bryan Kim is the lead pastor of Bethel Korean Church, located in Irvine, CA.