I have a problem. It’s my ego…
I never really noticed the problem as a youth pastor. I never considered myself to be much of a ladder climber. I was content to be a youth pastor. I never took attendance on Wednesday nights. I just loved doing ministry.
Then I turned to the dark side. That’s what we youth pastors would say to all our friends who became senior pastors. We accused them of turning to the dark side. I thought it was a joke, but in some ways maybe it wasn’t.
When I became a Sr. Pastor, all of a sudden I seemed to be constantly evaluated by the size of my congregation. I had to turn in my numbers every month. All of the sudden, I had to be concerned about the offerings. We had to make sure the bills were paid. Our denomination has an assembly every year where we report. There is a book that contains the stats of all of the churches in it, including attendance and finances. It seems like we are always being measured by a business model that measures success by numbers and revenue. Honestly, it messed with me a little.
I began to realize that my ego was heavily tied to my ministry. I was turning to the dark side, literally. And I don’t think I am alone.
I’ll never forget when one of our members asked me the question, “How come God never seems to call pastors to smaller churches?” I really didn’t have an answer for him. It seems that many of us pastor types have bought into a business model that says we are more successful if we are pastoring a large congregation.
This week, we lost an amazing member of our church. She battled cancer for 5 years valiantly and inspired my entire congregation along the way. I was actually in Puerto Rico when I got the news. We had to wait a day before we could fly home. I didn’t want to be in Puerto Rico anymore. I wanted to be home, mourning with the family and my church family.
I am beginning to realize that there is something special about being in ministry for the long haul. It means something to celebrate with people when their kids graduate from high school, and to mourn with them when they lose a loved one. There is something important about being there to marry people, dedicate their children, and bury their grandparent. There’s something about walking the journey together, taking communion together, placing ashes on their foreheads on Ash Wednesday, baptizing them, and sending some of them out as ministers of the gospel.
The picture below is a picture of some kids from my church at Tyler’s 3rd birthday party.
Next summer, most of these kids will go to NYC in Louisville with our church. Someday, I will watch them get married, and perhaps perform some of those ceremonies. There is something very healthy about long-term pastorates.
I’ve decided that I am sticking with these people. The church may grow, it may not. I will preach the Word. I will administer the sacraments. I will laugh with these people. I will cry with them. But more than anything, we will go through it together.
You see, the ministry isn’t really about me. It is about being willing to sweat and bleed for a group of people the way Christ was willing to sweat and bleed for me. I believe our church will grow, but I will not allow a number on a page to define me. I will be defined by the way I care for those I have been entrusted to serve!
Anything else isn’t ministry, it’s self-serving…
Just a thought,