As I said before, this week marks 8 years as pastor of Old Powhatan Baptist Church. I have learned a lot, forgotten a lot, grown a lot, failed a lot… you get the point. Here is part 2 of a series on things I have learned or that have been reaffirmed in the last 8 years.
3. Family is essential to ministry. Aside from the work of God through His empowering Spirit, my wife Jo Anny is the most important part of ministry. Her willingness to serve people, ministries, our family, and our community astounds me. My girls, Chesed and Charisa, are patient with the pressures and necessities of daddy’s “work” and love the church, the people, and the ministry of OPBC. But one thing I have come to be convicted of is that, while it is mandatory that I lead, serve, and protect my family, too many pastors make the mistake of leading, serving, and protecting their families in a way that distances them from the primary means of spiritual growth and community that God has given to us… the church itself. I am thankful that, though we all need breaks and vacations sometimes, my family loves the church as I do, loves hosting people at our house, loves living in community, having an open life to those we love. My girls are great at visiting shut-ins and hospitals. They are compassionate at the many funerals they have attended. They are the best helpers on mission trips.
In all, pastors, DON’T PROTECT YOUR FAMILY FROM YOUR CHURCH. Church is messy, and the more you isolate your family from the messiness, the more isolated they will grow from the church, and in turn, from you. Involve them in ministry, open your home, give up your personal time. The gain is so much greater.
4. My adequacy for the task and the calling as pastor comes from Jesus. Endurance is only through His Empowerment. This plays itself out in many ways, but one has drawn my attention recently.
All of the pastoral handbooks and help books tell me that in order to best serve the church, I must place more and more boundaries, margins, distance, etc. in my life. I’ve tried that… and I don’t know if that works in bigger churches or not, but I am convinced that there is a better model.
For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. (2 Corinthians 4:5)
In all of Scripture, while I find many instances of people finding respite with the Lord, I find no mention of Paul, Peter, and others wishing that they had time “away” from the body of Christ. Instead, the maturity of the Apostles comes out IN body life, not apart from it. The equipping, “pouring out,” “servants from Jesus’ sake,” “fulfilling the work of ministry,” could only be done in community, and where community wasn’t available (due to exile or imprisonment), the desire for community was paramount.
I want to say this plainly. Time away does not equal empowerment and new energy to lead ministry. Most pastors would be better served protecting the church from their pastor than trying to protect themselves from the church. You will find more energy for ministry, more empowerment to endure, more enlightenment to teach, not by spending a week away as often as possible; not be “escaping”; but by seeing the work of the Spirit who is empowering you to minister do the same work in OTHERS, by speaking to OTHERS about how the Word of God is changing them, by ministering alongside OTHERS, by serving OTHERS. Pastors, may we be the ones who model our need FOR the body of Christ, not just our need to get away FROM the body of Christ. And we wonder why people don’t value the body of Christ as they should… could it be that we talk to much about our need for a “break” from the people we are called to love the most and who are called to love us? Just a thought… and one that has changed my life and ministry.
Pastor, pour yourself out. Not to try to prove your righteousness to God or others. Not to make yourself feel better about all that you can accomplish. Not because the work of ministry hinges on your abilities. Pour yourself out because YOU need the Body of Christ as much as (if not more than) the Body of Christ needs you.