Thursday, May 10, 2012
The Servant Pastor?
In July 2011, I became the pastor for a small struggling Presbyterian church in northwest Houston. I jumped into this job and tried to help as many situations as I could. I found that it is a VERY different situation from the one I always pictured in my dreams during my years in seminary. I always thought that if I practiced good preaching, good teaching, and good pastoral care, I could make a difference. While I still think those three are my strongest skills, I have noticed that other skills take a large amount of my time - and get much less respect.
When I recently taught an evening lesson at my former "home" church, one of my friends there asked me what I had been up to at my church lately. I remarked quite truthfully, "Well, today I fixed the Coke machine." It got a huge laugh - and yet I had answered him honestly. I guess that if they saw me struggling to repair the youth group's soda machine earlier in the day, they might not have expected so much from me during the lesson. But that machine needed repairs - it provided an easy source of income and funding for our youth group.
Recently, an elder asked me how the window on the second story of the historic chapel had been fixed. I explained that another elder and I had put the big extension ladder up there, I climbed up and repaired it using tools and materials from a bucket that I pulled up and lowered down as I worked. I balanced myself in the small entrance roof while I fixed this window. She was aghast at my actions and lovingly fussed at me for doing such a thing. But that window was rotting away, and several people had seen it as they drove past our church.
When I buzz around the campus, hurriedly going from place to place as I work on various tasks, there is an elder who always stops me and tells me to "take it easy." I love her and I know she is concerned about my well-being and probably my long-term health. But I did the same thing for 29 years of teaching...sort of hard to break that habit.
And yet...I continue to do these jobs around our church. I know that including others in various church jobs is a good thing to do, but I also want to help as much as I can. I cannot and will not be the type of pastor who sits around "thinking thoughtful thoughts" while others do the physical labor that is often required in a church. If boxes need to be moved, I'll move boxes. If benches need shifting, let them see me on the other end of the bench. If an event needs setting up or taking down - especially if everyone is tired or the weather is lousy - let them see their loving pastor as a totally willing part of the crew.
A very long time ago when I was still a classroom teacher, I once told my students that I would never ask them to do anything that I was unwilling to do myself. They held me to that statement.
Same thing goes for this church that I serve willingly and lovingly. I will never ask any of them to do anything I am unwilling to do myself.
Notice the verb in the sentence above: SERVE
Jesus came to SERVE.
Good enough for me!
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