Every month I write a church column for the local newspaper. Here’s this month’s entry.
“You’ve got three years, starting today.” That was the challenge issued by a friend of mine several years ago. “Imagine you got a call from the Bishop, and he told you that you have three years left in your current church. And you will not be replaced by a new pastor. What’s your plan for leaving behind a church that is vital, self-sustaining, spirit-guided, thriving, and growing?”
Think about that from your perspective. What if the powers-that-be in your church told you that after three years you’re losing your pastor, there will be no new pastor, and that your church is expected to be vital and growing anyway? What does that vital and growing future look like? Who is doing the work of the church? Who’s visiting the sick? Who’s leading book studies and Bible studies? Who’s working with the kids and young families? Who’s giving the Sunday message? Who’s following up with new visitors? Who’s keeping the calendar? Who’s in charge of music?
I experienced that once. My pastor died while he was serving our church. He was a great leader and a courageous man. Unfortunately, he was also a man with serious heart problems. We all knew his health was a concern, so members of our congregation took over pieces of what we thought was the pastor’s job. And when he died, we were left without a pastor for six months. And during those six months the church actually grew. We discovered that much of what we thought was his job was really the church’s job, our job. We learned to be a church, and in doing that we learned that ministry is everybody’s business.
If you are a member of a church, then you are (or should be) in ministry. What is your ministry? To what kinds of ministry do you feel called? To whom can you look for guidance in discerning your call? And what if you only had three years to prepare your church for vitality without pastoral leadership? Blow your pastor’s mind sometime: march into his or her office and ask, “How can I help you?” Then take up that ministry with a sense of urgency and joy.
Act now. Time’s a-wasting.