African pastors urged to ‘endure hardships’

By Taurai Emmanuel Maforo*

MUTARE, Zimbabwe (UMNS) — Waving his hands, stamping and dancing around in the pulpit and breathing the fire of the Holy Spirit, the Rev. Evan D. Young bellowed, “There is a brighter side elsewhere beyond our circumstances!”

Pastors watched intently in the Africa University chapel on the fourth day of the 2013 pastors’ school. They responded in loud shouts of acclamation as Young, a clergy member of theBaltimore-Washington Annual (regional) Conference and a chaplain with the Maryland Air National Guard, boldly proclaimed words of encouragement.

“I cannot make your burdens any lighter,” Young said. “All I can do is offer some encouragement – words which Paul said to Timothy in his ‘last will and (testament)’ … because there are times in ministry when we are beat down, shot down.

“Don’t forget to fan your fire. God never promised bright and shiny days.”

Like the apostle Paul, the preacher did not promise his hearers a flat plain but, rather, the possibility of a bumpy road in the ministry ahead. He drew parallels from the life and ministry of Paul who, even with a “thorn in the flesh,” said, “When I am weak, I am made strong” (2 Corinthians 12:10).

Pastors are not spared from socioeconomic and political challenges and realities of the world. “It is difficult to preach when you are going through your own struggles,” Young said, “but you need to preach on and carry on the torch.”

The Rev. Togara Bobo a pastor at St. Johns United Methodist Church, Chikanga, Mutare, described the message as “powerful, contextual and relevant in assisting the pastor to respond positively to the socioeconomic and political circumstances of our time.

“It is the word of the time,” Bobo said.

Endurance in ministry

Ministry burdens dampen the spirit of many clergy and extinguish the powerful flames of their callings, Young said. This may result in the pastor giving up, but Young urged the congregation to endure through trying times.

“Endure hardships,” he said. “Everything won’t be as easy. Stumbling blocks will come into your life, but all you got to do is to endure.”

For Young, the ministry is like a battlefield where conditions are not pleasant or comfortable, but sometimes gruesome. He reminded the church that if God is for us, nothing and no one can be against us, despite the challenges (Romans 8:31).

However, he said, pastors have a responsibility amid trouble. “Just don’t endure,” he said. “Endure like a soldier. A soldier never complains, never gives up and follows instruction.”

Young implored the pastors to “fan the flames that are within you.” This includes responding to the call to ministry.

“Sometimes we get stale and the fires extinguish,” he said. “The flame of the Holy Spirit is what warms us in the wilderness in the long nights. You need to get some warmth in the midst of a cold experience. Where the Lord is, there is fire — the fire of the Holy Spirit.”

The congregation moved and swayed, raising hands, clapping and shouting acclamation as they joined Young in singing, “We are gonna make it. Just be sure you keep holding on,” as the sermon came to a glorious end.

*Maforo is a communicator with the West Zimbabwe Annual Conference.

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