Subject to Change – 3

“Pastor doesn’t care about us…he’s only interested in new people…”

“Those people have no concern for others…they just want everything to be the way they like it….”

“Pastor’s just trying to make a name for himself so some bigger church will call him and pay him more money…”

“No wonder the last pastor left. These people have no vision at all…”

Here’s where that whole “peeking behind the curtain” episode I mentioned a few blogs ago proved so important. These statements, no matter how they might be buttressed by anecdotal stories and the kind of undeniable evidence that makes your friends think you have an open-and-shut case, are simply not true.

Pastors do care, though they may feel overwhelmed by what seems to be an endless set of congregational expectations. Ministering to people like you is the core motivation that led them to choose this life path. I’ve met hundreds of pastors, maybe even thousands, and have yet to encounter one that I’d feel comfortable insisting that he’s little more than an empire builder.

And here’s something pastors need to know. Your people do love others and want to see them come to faith. They do want their church to excel at affecting your community and they long for their efforts under your banner to fuel their own reason-for-being. They’ve processed dozens of sermons and been challenged with the mission—the same mission that brought you to their little town—so often that they feel defeated by the gap between where they are and what they’re convinced that God wants them to be. Don’t write them off or toss them onto a pile that’s carelessly labeled.

They want what you want.

When I became pastor of Maranatha Worship Center in Wichita, Kansas, in the late summer of 2000, twelve 8 x 10 photos greeted me as I walked through the church hallway. These were my ancestors in the role of congregational shepherd. Their pictures, and the nameplates that reminded of their tenure, served as the remaining evidence of their sweat and toil encased in a $5 frame. I made a mental note to have my picture taken.

I was pastor number thirteen, an apparent tribute to my good fortune as I assumed the leadership chair in this church’s 78th year. The current label was the church’s third name, the building it’s third location, and the somewhat stern faces of my dozen predecessors reminded me that this was their journey before it was mine.

But it wasn’t their faces that motivated me. Within a month, I had removed the 8 x 10s, combining these historical head shots into a single collage with a $40 frame. Now they all stared at me together, and some of their eyes seem to follow you… but they and their dreams didn’t generate my marching orders.

Honestly, it wasn’t the large and somewhat awkward picture of Jesus hanging in a nearby classroom that drove me either. Yes, it’s His Church and His Commission and His Kingdom. In fact, everything of consequence in that place was and still is actually His. It’s just that I discovered that Jesus and me weren’t playing on some exclusive team on that Wichita corner. He’d recruited a lot of other teammates for our effort.

They were my motivation. In my first months on the ecclesiastical job, I met the lambs I was assigned to feed. Some had been in the flock a long time, those who still had First Assembly of God bumper stickers on their cars—a reminder of what the sign at the previous location had said. A few could remember the days of Pentecostal Tabernacle, a decade or more before the Great Depression disrupted their teen years. This was the congregation I came to pastor, even though no one had hung their pictures in the hallway.

Twelve pastors, twelve visions, twelve new days and new dreams had each taken their turn in the pulpit over the decades, but it was the people that remained. And while their collective sense of direction seemed to need a new compass and their hymn preferences seemed to prefer a language no longer sung or spoken, they still possessed a distinct and clear heartbeat. Those graying and balding heads nodded with firm affirmation that a passion for Christ’s work still beat in their hearts—a passion nurtured by God relationships with many anniversaries.

And that’s the second thing people wish their pastor knew about leading them in change—they really want the same thing you do, even if they want it for different reasons.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: