I have pastored for thirty years. You might say in that time I’ve seen it all!
I have spent mountaintop moments that have brought hope and optimism. I have experienced valley times that are despairing and cause me to wish I had gone to barber school for a career. We all can say that about our work and our lives.
Throughout it all I have adhered to some principals that keep me clear and guide my decisions.
. . . . . .
For instance, at one congregation after a Church Conference vote to begin a building project of $1.2 million dollars (by the way, it ended up costing way more!), I was given the microphone. There had been speakers from the Building Committee talk in support of the details of the project and how it would impact the ministry of that church. I had spoken as well to share my excitement and why I thought it was a good idea. Others had stood to voice opposition. The vote once taken, was in the affirmative to move forward, but not unanimous (although it was a very strong yes vote).
After getting the microphone, I said something like this, “We have voted to do this project. It will take a lot of money, effort, time, energy. We didn’t all vote for it. Yes, I am in support and you know why. However, I am everyone’s pastor whether you voted yes or not. Don’t forget that.”
That is a principle I have used to conduct myself at every place I have pastored. Every congregation is made up of a bunch of different folks with different ideas. I determined long ago that I will not hold ideological or theological disagreements against anyone or judge people by those differences, whoever they are. I also wouldn’t use those disagreements as criteria for evaluating staff. Neither would I allow those differences to be part of decision-making. They are just differences. How we communicate and handle them is important though.
As a matter of fact, if we handle them well, those differences could make us a stronger community. Last time I wrote a blog I spoke of my challenge when chaos enters my world. The point was that people matter more than keeping the clutter in its place.
In our traditional worship service we have two stations to receive the elements of bread and cup on communion Sundays. However, there are three sections of chairs. That gets confusing at times and somewhat messy. People have to wait for each other. They have to cut through lines. There are times that you have to yield to let someone through or maybe give them passage back to their seat.
Once, someone asked me to come up with a solution. I came to the conclusion that no solution was needed. Why? Because in the unruliness and messiness that ensued came community. Community is messy, it is yielding, it is serving, it is rubbing elbows and legs while you are trying to get back to your seat across an already seated row of worshippers.
There are so many different kinds of us. I promise you I am every person’s pastor.
You each belong to one another too. I encourage you to practice the discipline of community.
Grace and peace be extended to you.
And also with you. (you respond!)