Perhaps every church should make a contract with its laity. The crown jewel of the contract would be the ministry calling of every person in the church. The ability of a church to impact its culture is not limited to its pastor, its facilities or location. In fact, if a church has too many assets other than the ministry calling of the rank-and-file, those assets can actually hinder the church’s ability to make an impact. The more the congregation is “wowed” by superstars the less the average person feels they have to offer. The church may grow large; it may be a neat place to be; it may offer its members a wide array of services, but all of that does not guarantee “culture impact.” This should be a great encouragement to over 90% of churches in America, the vast majority of which will never have pastors with superstar abilities or multi-million dollar budgets. But they do have one thing: people! And even if they don’t have a lot of people, maybe God will use one or more of their people in a way that makes a great “kingdom impact.” That impact may not be obvious for years, but as long as everyone is faithful to the calling God gives them, the rest is up to God. For example, [Read more…]
Michael, a single’s pastor invited me to lunch. He was concerned because he had two groups of single adults at his church. He called the singles in their early 20’s Singles One, and the singles in their late 40’s Singles Two. But the church had a lot of singles in an age bracket between these two groups. Mike referred to them as the Singles 1.5’s. He had been trying for months to get Sarah and her friends to start a class for their age group. But they wouldn’t do it, and he was frustrated. So, my job at lunch was to convince her it was a good idea to start a class for the 1.5’s at their church. (Hey, he was buying lunch so I figured I should at least try. Right?)
Over lunch I asked Sarah, “Sarah, I understand you are one of the Singles 1.5’s at your church?” She laughed and said, “Yeah, that is what Mike calls us!” I said, “Well, Mike tells me there are a good number of you at the church, is that true?” She said, “Yes, there are.” I said, “Well, why don’t you all start a class for singles that age?” She said, “We don’t want to.” I could tell she was not at all happy about my questions so I dropped the subject. At least I’d tried–or had I? [Read more…]
I wasn’t surprised when only about twenty people showed up at a small evening service where I was speaking. Nor did the remarks a lay leader made during the service catch me off guard. Her task, as part of the annual emphasis on mission, was to promote the ministries of the church’s missionaries.
She reminded the sparse crowd that it was their responsibility to pray for, and financially support their missionaries. So far so good, but unfortunately her challenge became destructive just where most missionary motivational speeches go bad. She told them that because they had normal lives, and God had not called them to be missionaries, their role was to support those God had called into “the ministry” with their prayers and finances. It was similar to a challenge a school might give to encourage students to attend a homecoming game. If you can’t be an athlete be an athletic supporter!
As she spoke, few tried to hide their expression of apathy. When she finished, it was my turn. I began by saying, “Unlike the old country song, my heroes have not always been cowboys, rather, my heroes have always been people just like you.” A few smiled faintly as if to say, “Yeah, right. When have I ever been a hero in the church?” I had to be careful. I didn’t want to attack the lay leader. But, at the same time, it was important to challenge part of her message because what she implied was a lie. Sure, the missionaries deserved the church’s support – that part was true. But to tell these people the best they could do was to support those who had a “real call to the ministry,” was a lie. [Read more…]
Sometimes the work of ministry seems filled with conflict, which can make the pastor’s calling difficult and frustrating. Most pastors are highly committed and many are driven to care deeply for others. This is a great strength, but it can become a tremendous weakness when the pastor attempts to satisfy all of the expectations—fair and unfair—of the congregation.
As a result of this misguided caring, two things happen. First, leaders become exhausted, sometimes destroying their lives and those of their families. Second, leaders send the wrong message to their congregations: “Yes, I am the one who can heal your wounds salve your pain and make your life work.”
In order to thrive in ministry we must learn how to discern between legitimate and illegitimate expectations and how to help others have the same discerning wisdom. [Read more…]