I have a short story for you, that includes Jonny. But first…
Pastor, do you plan on staying at your current church for a while? Planning on continuing in your present pastorate? If the answer is yes, then read on…
JUST ONE THING
If you plan to stay, please just do one thing for your church leadership, and your church membership, and for your future visitors, guests, and members. Just one thing, that’s all we ask. Just one.
What is the one thing we are asking of you, for the sake of your leadership and your congregation? In one word…
Or, two words…
Okay, back to one word…
That’s what we expect from ourselves – both me and Jonny. If we expect our people to want us to stick around, we’d better keep improving, keep growing, and keep getting better at what we do. After all, what’s the alternative?!
Stall? Circle? Coast? Glide? Fake it? Or worse, deteriorate? Worsen? Spoil? Rot?! Oh, sorry. Too far! Too far! You get our drift… no pun intended. Well, maybe a little.
As a pastor, what are you doing that is causing growth in your life, and in your ministry capacity? Surely there’s something you are already doing to grow, or you wouldn’t be reading this blog right now! We know our readers pretty well. You want to develop yourself. You want to grow.
But, sometimes, especially for us older pastors, there is a danger that we might think we are entitled to the position, the calling, just because of our tenure. No, no, no. We are called by God to serve our people with open hands and humble hearts. Every week we have to come with a message from our walk/talk with God from that week.
Every week we must remember the hurting people, and call or visit them. Every week we have to develop leaders and volunteers. Every week we must not forget the widow, the orphan, the CEO, the teacher, the shift supervisor, the single mom, the wayward teen, the successful high school star, the maintenance worker, the children’s volunteer, and any other person God puts in our path.
Our work doesn’t just happen on Sunday mornings. A lot of it shows up then, (hopefully we’ve been working hard all week prior, to deliver a meaningful message) but other work happens at any given time of the week, 24/7.
We have to keep getting better. We have never earned the right to stay, we are always earning it. Now, our salvation? Yeah, that’s a gift, ours to keep! Our position? Not the same. The role of the pastor is too vital in any local church to think we could coast, or that we’ve invested enough to drift our last few years into retirement.
THE JONNY STORY...
Hard transition. Back to the Jonny story. Who does he think he is anyway?! Does he even know that I am his boss? It was about five or six weeks ago. On a Thursday morning.
So he walks into my office kind of tentative like, you see? And he says something like, “permission to speak freely?” I replied, “Of course. Always. You know that.”
Then he asks me… “the question.”
“How much time did you spend on your sermon last week?”
Now, I’ll have all of our readers know, right here, right now, that I was complimented plenty on that sermon! Both in person, through email, and even in a phone message!
I had to work through a fairly lengthy passage in a book we’re preaching through. It did not lend itself to three points and a poem, or a cute outline.
But he knew. He knows me.
And I knew too. I knew I hadn’t nailed it. I knew it wasn’t my best work. I was tired. Just after the holidays. Just after the crisis with my son and his car accident. Hey, I had bona fide excuses. Wasn’t I allowed to be a human being just one Sunday?
But it was Jonny. He loves me. He wouldn’t ever want to hurt me, wouldn’t ever purposely want to add an ounce of stress to my life. Unless the wound of a friend would be faithful. Unless it was what I needed to hear. Unless the only person who had the true moral authority to tell me, was him.
Hey, I’m the 200churches guy getting called out by the other, younger, longer-haired 200churches guy! Ouch, man. It hurt! I’m not gonna lie.
I was a big boy though. I thanked him for the honest feedback (I won’t recount the entire conversation, especially since I couldn’t remember it), and was sincerely glad for it. But it stung. It caused a little lack of confidence. A little insecurity to well up inside of me. Was I loosing a little of my edge? Was I passing my prime? Was I… getting old??!
That was on a Thursday. I was running scared now. Sunday’s a comin’ right?! I worked and prayed like I normally would, but I just added a little edge to my prep. Fear? I don’t think so. I’d like to think it was determination and edge.
By the time I got up on the platform Sunday morning, I was confident, and I was determined to face down the person, who because of one loving, innocent, caring question – was now my harshest critic!! :-)
After the service I stepped into the lobby and he ran up to me with the biggest high five – my best-est message, he said. My heart rallied. My confidence might yet return. The past several weeks I have kept the edge, just that “extra mile” of preparation to make sure that I leave it all on the field on Sunday mornings.
This past weekend God visited me on Saturday night in a way I cannot recall ever happening before. My message this past Sunday was more for me than anyone. My heart burned with it, and I could not give it fast enough or passionately enough. God brought tears to my eyes, and to some others. I was overcome by the greatness of Jesus.
I think I just needed that little comment from Jonny, that one question. It was not easy for Jonny to speak to me about my message, but I want to publicly thank him for fulfilling his responsibility to me, to God, and to our church.
Our mission is authentic relationships with God and others 24/7. Part of authentic relationships is truthfulness even when it hurts. And for Jonny, looking out for our church people by challenging me to be my best not just most Sundays, but every Sunday!
I know, we can’t hit a home run every Sunday, but if we strike out, we’d better strike out swinging!
My commitment has always been to keep improving at my church. That’s why I pursued my M.Div. at 47, and made the necessary sacrifices in my life to complete it. That’s why Jonny and I started 200churches, so that we could get better by serving other small church pastors. We’ve been blessed the most, out of anybody!
So in your small church, if you’re going to stay…
Have a phenomenal weekend with your church family! We will.
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