September 13, 2023 -- TJ Freeman
Pastors need to be encouraged.
How does that statement strike you? Do you believe it’s true, even for you or your pastor?
Paul’s ministry in the book of Acts, and the testimony of his epistles, demonstrate the value of encouragement. The Apostle himself regularly reported on the blessings of being lifted up by men like Barnabas, Silas, Timothy, Philemon, and Epaphroditus. He also instructed the early church to engage in the regular practice of encouragement. We were designed to be supported and built up by our brothers and sisters in the body of Christ.
"Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.“ --- 1 Thessalonians 5:11
Encouragement would not be necessary if it were not for the tendency to become discouraged. The responsibilities of a pastor frequently place him in the midst of discouraging circumstances. He must regularly interact with the trials, temptations, failures, and sufferings of others while facing troubles of his own. He must also deal with the deceitfulness of his heart and the discouragement it so readily produces. Rural pastors are not exempt from this struggle. If you’re a rural pastor, as tough as you are, you need to be encouraged too!
Not all encouragement comes from people who are alive today. David Brainerd, a faithful rural pastor, has left us with an inspiring account of ministry in the middle of nowhere that will encourage you to press on.
Encouragement from the Life of David Brainerd
David Brainerd was a faithful rural pastor, but that was not what he set out to be. After some drama at Yale that resulted in his inability to be ordained to preach in New England, Brainerd was sent as a missionary to the most untamed regions of Pennsylvania and New Jersey in 1742.
Brainerd’s ministry was marked by illness (he died of tuberculosis at age 29), loneliness, depression, and hardship. Feeling encouraged yet?
Despite the challenges of rural ministry, Brainerd pressed on, leading many to Christ, and encouraging countless saints through his writing. Men like William Carey, Adoniram Judson, David Livingstone, and Jim Elliot cite Brainerd’s journals as part of the catalyst God used to propel them into ministry.
My soul longs to feel itself more of a pilgrim and stranger here below; that nothing may divert me from pressing through the lonely desert, till I arrive at my Father’s house.” -- David Brainerd
Thankfully, most of us will never experience the same degree of rural life that David Brainerd knew. Yet, all rural pastors can relate to the unique hardships of shepherding people in remote places. What encourages me most about Brainerd’s ministry is his willingness to serve with joy no matter his circumstances.
As you consider your circumstances, are you able to follow Brainerd’s example? Can you, like Christ, the Apostle Paul, and men like David Brainerd, endure hardship for the sake of the gospel in your small town?
If you haven’t read it lately, consider picking up a copy of “The Life of David Brainerd,” by Jonathan Edwards. You’ll be encouraged by our long-departed brother as you labor in rural places for the glory of God and the good of the church.
As the senior pastor of Christ Church (formerly Wellsboro Bible Church) since 2012, TJ has a passion for the rural church. Prior to his arrival at Christ Church he served as a church planter, Biblical counselor, discipleship pastor. and history teacher. He enjoys the outdoors (but only when it’s hot out), and is passionate about sushi. TJ and his wife Katie have two daughters; Charlotte and Charity, and two sons; Hudson and Grant. TJ serves on the board at the Brainerd Institute for Rural Ministry and can be heard on the Rural Pastor's Talk Podcast.