When Your Pastor Goes into Labor

Mark Beuving —  February 4, 2013 — Leave a comment

A post with this title could go in either of two directions. It could be about a female pastor delivering a child (and as I write about this option, I definitely picture labor setting in mid-sermon). Or it could go in the following direction:

 

In Galatians 4:19, Paul uses some startling imagery to talk about his relationship with those to whom he ministers. He refers to them as:

“…my little children, for whom I am again in the anguish of childbirth until Christ is formed in you!”

What do you make of this? Pretty crazy, right?

We would expect Paul to say that he loves the Galatians. We wouldn’t be surprised to hear him say that he greatly desired that they behave like Christ. But what Paul actually says is way over the top!

Why is Paul so concerned over what the Galatians are believing? Because they are his little children; his offspring. And Paul is their father, right? Well, not exactly. Paul is the mother. And according to this analogy, the Galatians haven’t been born yet. Paul is a laboring mother to these Christians, his contractions are extremely painful (“the anguish of childbirth”), and his intense pushing is meant to result in a Christ-formed version of their current selves.

My wife holding our then-newborn second daughter.

My wife holding our then-newborn second daughter.

You can’t say Paul didn’t have an imagination. Nor can you say that he didn’t love those he ministered to. I have witnessed two birthings, and I can attest to their intensity (my wife understands Paul’s phrase “the anguish of childbirth” on a much deeper level than I ever will).

If there are any pastors out there who are in it for their own benefit, who don’t particularly care for their flock, who can’t remember the last time they felt the burden of caring for someone’s soul—these are not Paul’s kind of pastors.

Paul’s kind of pastor sees Christlikeness as the goal for every person he interacts with. He wants to look at the people God has placed in his care and see Christ. Paul’s kind of pastor prays that this will happen. But he doesn’t stop there. He preaches in order to focus their minds on the truth. But he doesn’t stop there. He admonishes and encourages them toward the goal. But that’s still not all of it. He sees them as his own children and believes himself to be divinely tasked with laboring (in the maternal sense) until the image of Christ shines brightly in each soul under his care.

To the “ordinary Christians” out there: how badly do you want to be like Christ? If Paul was willing to go through spiritual labor for his spiritual children, should we not value the goal of Christ being formed in us? Paul spoke these words to the Galatians in order to show them his concern on their behalf so that they would take his warnings and teaching seriously. Let’s work with our pastors to this end (Hebrews 13:17 points us in this direction).

To all of our pastors: you have babies to birth. Paul wouldn’t have you believe that your task is easy. Push and strain with all you have—the end result is worth it. Never lose your motherly heart for us, your children in the faith. God has made you our mother, please don’t let your anguish become anything less.

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Mark Beuving

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Mark has worked in youth, college, and worship ministry since 1999, and now serves at Eternity Bible College as the Associate Professor of Interdisciplinary Studies. He is passionate about building up the body of Christ, training future leaders for the Church, and writing. Though he is interested in many areas of theology and philosophy, Mark is most fascinated with practical theology and exploring the many ways in which the Bible can speak to and transform our world. He is the author of "Resonate: Enjoying God's Gift of Music" and the co-author with Francis Chan of "Multiply: Disciples Making Disciples." Mark lives in Simi Valley with his wife and two daughters.