It’s a funny old life being a pastor in my context. I’m in a denomination that has a historical strength about the value of congregational governance, and yet in today’s world people are saying we need leadership, someone who will come in and cast a powerful vision that will grow the church, as long as the congregation can control the pastor.
Or so it feels. I can hear good folks saying, ‘Lead us but serve us; equip us to grow the church but you grow the church; preach the Word of God, but not the words that are hard.’ And so on it goes.
I confess that some of the time I feel torn between communicating the challenge of what it is to be a follower of Jesus and between just comforting people that God is good because it’s sunny, now let’s take up the offering.
It’s a funny old life being a pastor in my context. Everybody knows better than me and there’s articles galore on how I should do church, particularly for young adults. Relevant magazine is close to gospel, Barna research provides the foundation for change, acoustic worship is authentic worship, empower young adults and give them a cause.
I tried all that; had a grill around a fire with some craft beer, listened, empowered ideas, supported, provided a cause to support (freedom for women who had been trafficked into the sex industry), tackled elephant-in-the-room issues, did everything the books and online journals suggested. It was good. For a while. Until the cooler church down the road became, cooler.
I confess that a lot of the time I just don’t know what to do. Answers are hard to find and formulas don’t seem to have logical conclusions. I’ll fake it till I make it I guess.
It’s a funny old life being a pastor in my context. Worship is limited to a 75-minute slot on a Sunday, singing around a third of this time. Do you know how much preparation and effort goes into 25 minutes of your week? A lot.
The musicians don’t know how to play hymns, and the older people don’t resonate with sloppy wet kisses that heaven planted on big old earth. And the pastor, who empowered and encouraged the younger generation to take ownership of ‘worship’, is to blame. Roast pastor for lunch again?
I confess I get tired of the whining from all corners. We aren’t a niche-market church but we can’t be all things to all people either. We want to be wide and deep and rich in character, but we often seem to be narrow and shallow and poor in generosity (which is part of character).
It’s a funny old life being a pastor in my context. There’s no bishop or spiritual leader from the USA who’s calls the [spiritual] shots. Each week I have to speak appropriately about generosity versus consumerism, growth in portfolios versus the growth of philanthropy, and how much is enough – by the way, how long is a piece of string?
I confess that if I didn’t have to constantly think about money and dream up ways that may or may not provide passive income, then I’d be more relaxed and probably more fruitful. Percentage wise, it seems important in the New Testament to talk a lot about money, why don’t we use that as our model.
It’s a funny old life being a pastor in my context. And in many NZ contexts. We’re general practitioners with specialist skills in a generalist environment. We’re expected to be on knees, doing the renovations and fixing the carpet while balancing a bacon-and-egg pie for the bake sale.
I confess there are so many demands on pastors that it’s easy to conveniently forget the community/s we serve. We don’t know all things but we do know some things. Know us before you judge us.
It’s a funny old thing, confession. It feels good but carries labels that dampens the spirit and encourages quiet pause in cupboards rather than discussion and care from people who are deeply embedded in our lives.
The life of a local church pastor in my context is never boring. Our fallout and burnout and dropout rates are still too high. Way to high. If you’re a pastor reading this who feels tired, prioritise some time somewhere, anywhere, to recharge your batteries.
If you’re a congregant thinking of your pastor as you read this, love your pastor … seriously, tell them, because most pastors have relatively thin skins because they carry high levels of compassion and idealism about the future. May God bless my peers in pastoral roles; I confess it wasn’t my plan to be doing what I do, but there’s no better plan than sensing the call on your life and following in obedience.
I confess I’ll serve God with joy and gladness.
Grant Harris is the Senior Pastor of Windsor Park Baptist Church in Auckland, New Zealand, a church that was planted 67-years ago and comprises a broad mix of people who are seeking to reach a community that consists of a broad mix of people. He likes change and revolutions and in his spare times reads about change and revolutions. Mostly, he follows Jesus willingly, but acknowledges this isn’t always easy. The tagline of Windsor Park is ‘doing life and faith, together.’