Having been in ministry for over 20 years, I have come to a conclusion about how we pastors do a great disservice to our congregants.
God has given us the awesome burden to lead local congregations – this is no small thing. This is huge. We are in charge of leading a group of God’s people. It is our responsibility to equip them for their ministries.
And we love our job.
We pastors are passionate about what we do. We read all the latest books and websites and blogs and magazines on how to be more effective in church ministry. We follow the tweets of all the greatest gurus of church leadership. We love to go to conferences. We are eager to talk to our elders, to our family (and to anyone else who will is willing!) about what we do in ministry. Our lives revolve around church – how to be more effective at this, how to reach more people with that.
This is good. This is our primary calling.
But here also lies our disservice.
This is not the primary calling of everyone else in our church.
Our people have different callings. This man is trying to get a small business off the ground. That woman is attempting to be the best doctor that she can be. Another man is wondering how he can impact the young people on the soccer team he coaches. This other woman is struggling in how to balance her career with being a mother. That young person is looking for guidance on what major to select in college. And on and on it goes.
They need us pastors. They need us to not be so wrapped up in the machinations of the church that we forget that they need to be equipped for life outside the life of the church. They need to know that all of us in this particular body of believers are in this together – to both make this particular church in here successful in doing its crucial ministries and to encourage each other as we live out our particular callings out there in the world.
Yes, it is proper for us pastors to be passionate about how we do church ministry with excellence for God’s glory. We are charged with the responsibility to proclaim the Word of God and to administer Baptism and Communion. We have been given the task of assuring that all the rest of the important things we do as a church are done and done well: Children’s Ministries, Family Ministries, Marriage Ministries, Youth Ministries, Service and Benevolence Ministries, Teaching and Equipping Ministries, etc. There can be no diminishing the importance of these things.
Herein lies the rub. This is where it gets tricky. We are leading a church that requires that our people get involved and do their best in making these things happen so that all the important ministries of our church succeed. These things are really, really important.
But they are not the sole callings of the people that are doing them. For many of our people, these things are not even the primary calling on their lives. They have lives outside the ministries of the local church. Their primary callings are out there.
When I stand in the pulpit and preach that God wants to use his people in great ways for the advancement of his Kingdom, I had better not make it sound like the only way that God’s people can do that is by being more involved in the ministries of the local church. I had better say that God’s kingdom is advanced through their callings, that is, in their various vocations. These vocations include what they do at work, how they raise their families, how they interact with their workmates, neighbors, and friends, what they study at school, and yes, where they volunteer here at the church.