Old Dogs, New Tricks

It’s Pastoral Ministry Tuesday, a weekly glimpse behind the curtain of pastoral ministry to share what this pastor’s life is really like. Welcome.

Doctors, teachers and pastors all have to make an investment in continuing education.

This current season of “distancing” has made most of the pastors I know dig deep and pick up some new ways to shepherd the flock of God of which we’re a part.

Sadly, the primary offer I’ve been receiving from outside sources has been help in keeping the money coming in. My primary concern (and I’m not alone in this) has been “how do we enable the saints to gather when we’re all supposed to stay home?” My second concern has been, “how do we continue to make groceries accessible for our most vulnerable connections from our food pantry?” And my third has been, “how can we best encourage our single adults living alone in this season?”

But what my email inbox is packed with are mostly offers to help stabilize or even increase our giving in this season for the right price.

The offer in 2nd place are all the companies who want to help us up our social media game and keep us supplied with content we can push out to our church to keep everyone coming back – or tweeting us out – with a view to the day we inevitably gather together. Again, for the right price.

Suddenly, being able to Instagram, podcast, Twitch, Tweet and Zoom are all valuable skills that we never covered in Bible College.

I think as pastors we should all be collectively working through what being the church is going to look like in these days and what practices can we invest ourselves into that will not only produce good fruit now but set us up to thrive in the future. The impulse is to curse at the darkness or grumble about persecution or blame someone for the trouble we find ourselves in. An alternative approach is the simple but challenging, look to see what the Father’s doing and join him in doing it.

But that path will require both pastors AND congregations being willing to pivot and do things differently. New ways in new days. And rather than piling more expectations on the pastor, we need to be willing to call for a do-over on their whole job description.

The primary temptation will be, I think, to just do things we’ve always done but just do them harder.

To borrow from Tod Bolsinger – we are apt to insist we canoe these mountains because canoes are what we brought to get the job done. But canoes aren’t made for getting over mountains. And there be mountains, my friends.

This is going to be an especially tough season for our church planting pastors. They are about to find out what kind of support system they are really attached to. Will this be a “thoughts and prayers” season or will they find their denominations and networks have their backs in tangible ways? Many of my church planting pastor friends are paying their bills while they plant by working jobs that are the most vulnerable during this time. Uber, restaurants, coffee shops, places where people gather, various positions in the service industry, those being hit hardest by the “stay in place” order.  

Can they make it for a month without a paycheck? And what if this goes for more than a month? What if the place they were working at closes for good because of the shutdown?

A pastor in Florida was arrested today for keeping services going at his “mega-church.” Maybe it was faith, misguided perhaps, that led him to keep the in person gathering going – but maybe it was financial need. Some of us have set aside a month’s worth of money in case something like this ever happened. But a lot of us are living one Sunday to the next. I’ve been there. And a pastor may feel extra pressure now to gather the saints because, quite frankly, the trend is “no show, no income.”

And if you have the kind of overhead some Megas have the budget need is so great that you’d rather been in jail for “persecution” and get the extra funds that might generate than try to make a go on the third of your regular income that will come in during virtual gatherings. I’m not saying this was that particular pastor’s motivation, it’s just a possible explanation for pastors pushing the saints to gather in a season in which gathering in person could be deadly for some.

And please don’t think this is just a greedy senior pastor – we built this city. They are thinking of staff and a physical plant and a ministry and and and… We built this city. It’s our circus. They’re our monkeys.

So, for my pastor friends I only have solidarity to offer you. I have nothing to sell you, no virus proof strategy for these days. All I am trying to do is all the old things, the true things the Jesusy things we all do but in new ways in these new days. I’m relying on younger, smarter and more clever and creative people than me. And I’m falling back on the one thing I can count on – talking to God, looking to see what the Father is doing and joining him wherever I spot him.

And I offer that strategy free of charge to all of you.

Peace of Christ to you.

If you’re a planter and in trouble and I can help you in some way or pray with you – having lived for 10 years week to week to see if the church would make it to the next – I’m here and I’m available to you…no answers, and no cash, just willing to listen and pray and process with you.

If you’re a network or a denomination and you’re not actively arranging support for your planters – you suck.

Published by APastor'sStory

Trying to squeeze this life for all the juice I can get out of it.

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