I wrote this for a class, and there is nothing here that is too profound, but I resonate with it deeply. It is not a full blown ministry “manifesto,” but my heart is in here a little bit. I have no grand ideas or five year plans. I don’t have all the answers. No one will want me to write a book, or meet with their search committee to discuss these things. It’s just for me. When I was asked to put five “values” together that would guide my future ministry, here is what sprang to mind:
I want to be the kind of pastor who keeps discovering what God wants to do. For this to happen, I intend to not “plan myself” into a corner. We lead busy lives, often because we define ourselves by performance levels, without grace. I am not advocating laziness. I just feel that being called to a life of uniquely “spiritual” leadership demands I learn how to slow down and actually be in the moment with God once in a while. I do not want to be the kind of pastor who is so wrapped up in the timing, or the details of the church bulletin, that I forget to actually worship God alongside those I am leading. It is not about me or what I want, it is about learning how to listen and respond in obedience. If I am always over-committed and constantly overwhelmed, I will not be available or connected enough to lead anyway.
I want to be the kind of pastor who is searching for ways God is already moving. This sounds similar to what I just said, but what I mean here is that I want let go of all my preconceived notions and reservations. Instead of spending my time dreaming up new programs to run, and always thinking about shoring up weaknesses in the body, I want to see how my community is already strong. I want to be consciously trying to figure out how to let the community be who it already is in a redemptive way. Models are great, but they are only as useful as the realities they are trying to reflect. Who cares what worked for Saddleback in southern California, what works for us? I want my eyes trained toward seeing redemptive goals, focusing on strengths, and playing to them. Let’s be who we are and simply be faithful.
Speaking of faithful, I want to be the kind of pastor whose standard is being faithful. I know that is a non-standard metric. It doesn’t make a very good pie chart. Yet so often, when I talk to people about my worshipping community, it is always more about the numbers of bodies in the seats, than about being faithful. Why do we do this? I would rather hear about what God is doing among us than the body count or the business end of church economics. I would rather be the faithful pastor of a church of ten, than fill stadiums because I am good at entertaining people. No matter how many “talents” God has graced us with stewarding, what matters is that we are faithful. Church should never be thought of as “cheaper that a movie, plus we will help you get rid of all that guilt.” We need conviction, confession, and to be challenged toward Christ-centeredness. I want church to be a place of trusting God to bless us in our brokenness; a place where struggles and victories can truly be shared in safety. If someone asks me how I am doing and I really just want to break something, I am going to actually say that. “Fine” is nice for a customary greeting ritual, but can be a terrible barrier to deepening relationships. Sugar pill Christianity is not the medicine of a broken world! I want honesty and authenticity. You can keep the gloss, I want to dig down to the earthy humus where new life can grow.
I want to be the kind of pastor who is not always trying to control the outcome. To be honest, I have grown very aware of how fear controls me. I want to be about empowering others and sharing the authority to dream dreams and get creative. I want to lean into the idea of actually trusting the people God has placed around me. If I dropped dead tomorrow, I do not want what I have been building to fall apart without me to manage it. I want someone to take the lump of clay I leave behind and make it their own. Controlling everything is not discipleship. If you are not making disciples who make disciples, you are not making disciples at all. You are making dependents. Discipleship happens when you help someone else learn to do it their own way. “I do you watch,” must move to, “I do you help,” then to “you do I help,” with the goal of, “you do I watch” in mind. Anything short of this is just short-term gains and long-term loss. I want to be a pastor who keeps the bigger picture in mind. Someone has to.
I want to be the kind of pastor who practices hospitality. There are practical sides of fostering relationships that make for a more functional community, but that is not why I wrote this. Fellowship for fellowship’s sake is it’s own agenda. I want to share life with people. I want to graciously give and graciously receive. Many good things happen around a table, even if all it has on it is a cup of coffee or a deck of cards. I want to create excuses to get together and celebrate, even for cheesy things. I want to have people actually come in my house and for me to visit theirs. I want people to eat good food with. I want to see a backyard full of people and some smoke rising off the grill. Fellowship is not wasting time. We often fill our planners with so much “productivity” that we forget how to just be together and share life; to remember the God who drew us all together. We need to re-learn how to play. Let’s live a little.
There you have it. Nothing here that will sell books or fill stadiums. No seven steps to be a better you. But this is who I feel God is creating me to be, and a few things I hope to remember when that day comes I find my place to serve. Idealistic and impractical? Maybe. I guess we shall see… Someday.