Our grandson has just made the middle school track team. He is not a big, fast runner with great endurance. He does run the 800 meter, which appears to be a paced sprint. Yesterday was their first track meet at Northern Guilford Middle School. Northern Guilford Middle and High school is one of the newest high schools, middle schools in the Guilford Country system. Being the newest also means the best facilities of all the public schools in the GCSS. It is a school facility we should all appreciate.
There were middle schoolers of all shapes and sizes, abilities and lack of ability all over the place. Some of these students (especially from Northern) looked like they were already on track for a college track scholarship… wow were they fast. One kid on the 1600 almost had the whole last lap to himself. He had a good stride and a great pace. This guy knew what he was doing.
Then came the “Oh No” moment. During one of the relay races, on the last turn – running neck and neck, our guys dropped the baton. That race was over right there. I felt so bad for them. The hardest part of a relay race is not the running, not even knowing which runner to put in what leg of the relay, but the critical part is making a smooth hand off of the baton.
Dropping the baton is also important in the life of the church. Earlier this week I was reading a blog (I believe it was), a Christian Clergy blog where the clergy blogger was stating that Evangelism is the only thing pastors should be doing these days in the church. He even went so far as to say that all that old time pastoral work of caring for the flock was out of date. We are not to spend our time visiting the sick, teaching Bible studies or spiritual renewal, caring for the so-called needs of the congregation. We are to be out bringing people into the kingdom.
I was shocked and stunned as I read this. I couldn’t believe my eyes. I sure hope I read him wrong. But then another clergy blogger… also speaking in “aren’t you impressed with my intellect” language, voiced the same opinion.
I was about to respond when this new clergy blogger responded in words I could relate to. I wish I could locate the blog so I could quote it. But I guess I will just have to try to remember the gist of what he said. Our calling in ministry is the call to care for God’s people in all situations of life. As pastor we are called to care for our flock – the people we are charged to serve and the wider parish of those in need. Yes, that means we are to visit in homes, care for the elderly, the infirm, the sick, those in prison, counsel with those who seek our understanding, preach sermons written to speak to the needs of our folks and all folks going through the dark night of the soul. We are also called to create an atmosphere in the church where all people feel loved and welcome. This means we spend many nights in hospital waiting rooms, the bedside of our folks in nursing homes and Hospice facilities. And yes it means that sometimes our families come in second place to the work of ministry…but that is also part of the calling.
It is not a nice, easy, stressless 9 to 5 banker’s job. It is caring for people with the love of God in all situations, circumstances and all times. If you are not willing to give it 70 – 80 hours a week, you should find a nice office job somewhere. The ministry is a calling upon your whole life… first place in that life.
But here is the deal… until our folks know that we love them… and they know that by our words, actions and heart… they will never give us the political capital needed to do the work of evangelism. Yes, I believe evangelism is part of the calling as well. But it should happen through the ordering of the ministry of the entire church through the leadership of the pastor. It grows out of a love for each other and a willingness and desire to share that love with all outside our doors.
When we do not care for our people and seek to do evangelism it is understood as the old numbers game… making the old barn bulge. They see it, know it, and reluctantly go along with you. But it will not last long before you find open revolt. Why? Because you haven’t taken the time to love them and show them that they matter. What you have done is tell them they are less important than the ones you are trying to reach now. However, if you go the extra mile and really love them, show them you love them… they will follow you into legitimate areas of ministry… even ones they feel are out of their comfort zone.
Yes, evangelism is important. But caring for your charge comes first, last and always.
When I was appointed to the Leaksville Church in Eden, I compared the pastoral transition to a quarterback throwing a pass down field and the receiver catching it in stride… not missing a step. We build upon what others have done before us… add our layer of ministry… as others add their layers after us. We can either add to the ministry of the church or take away from it by our approach. If we decide making a name for ourselves is more important than the growing of ministry, then the church will falter in its steps while we are there. If we build upon what has gone on before us we will find that we leave a much stronger church. We are a brotherhood/sisterhood. When we see it as I AM IN CHARGE we lose at lot… and so does the church. Don’t drop the baton.
You will notice at the bottom of the header (above) are a list of my books. I have added the last one so you can order The Grieving Heart in paperback form. All the other books are eBooks. I hope that you will take the opportunity to read these and I hope they will help to bring you comfort and grace in time of need.