I. Am. Wrecked.
I’m literally beginning this blog in the parking lot of a coffeehouse trying to reign in my emotions. When something hits you to the soul, you can’t just pass it by without processing it first. Something just took place 15 minutes ago that has left me undone. There are four spoken words that have crushed me under their weight while lifting me up beyond the clouds.
“This is my pastor.”
I had rushed out of the office to an ER visit and noticed a newly built coffeehouse at a stoplight. It wasn’t my addiction to that “liquid blessing” that turned my gaze but the reputation that proceeded the name on the building. “Walnut and Park” is a little bit more than the average coffee shop. They connect and train the residents of KPEP (an innovative community corrections provider based here in Kalamazoo). And every time you visit, you support job training and experience in culinary arts for those in the KPEP program.
How awesome is that?
(Before I go further, please hear my heart, this isn’t a brag session of any ONE church. But this memoir was too much for me to leave in a journal as I will only boast about the Lord.)
So after my hospital visit, I stopped by and immediately greeted by a young woman who has been attending our church. The smile on her face would light up any room as she screamed “Pastor Dave!!!” She immediately went to grab her manager and tell her, “This is my pastor.” While I was meeting the manager, she went to find the other manager. And while that intro was happening, she grabbed her co-worker and said, “This is my pastor. You need to meet him.” So in the midst of this barrage of introductions, she begins to tell every person around her of how she found a church that introduced her to Jesus and loved her unconditionally. She told the entire staff how she was baptized. And that brought a statement from her coworker:
“If you get to go there, I want to go too.”
This product of the grace of God was so unrefined and fearless in her excitement that I felt convicted in my own heart about how calloused I can get to the ordinary moments in life. You don’t know the path of brokenness of her life and it’s not your business to know it. You don’t know what landed her in KPEP nor does it need to be listed. What matters is this girl has seen that the healing and renewal that Jesus offers is greater than that which evil can fracture and destroy. And she now stands there, serving coffee, smiling as a trophy of the goodness and grace of God.
“This is my pastor.”
I can’t remember feeling so unworthy of a title yet so privileged to be addressed as such. So as I reflect now, these four words have brought up two simple reminders:
You can’t pastor alone.
The day and age of the “one-man-show” is done (it shouldn’t have ever been here). If you build a ministry around you, it’s not the Kingdom you are building up but an empire. We are to make much of Jesus and His Kingdom. To do everything by yourself, you will not only break you under its pressure but stifle your growth and effectiveness. Every Friday, there is ministry that happens KPEP. The beginning of it had nothing to do with me nor my involvement. It was people hearing the voice of the Holy Spirit and giving them room to respond in obedience. There are so many pastors doing all the ministry that we forget that effective pastoring is enabling people to do the work of the ministry. We need to give opportunities for people to hear from the Lord and to help them find their fit. Which leads me to…
The longer I’m in ministry, the more that I’ve come to realize that effective ministry isn’t about launching programs but releasing people into ministry. That comes with a bit of risk as people are human (so are you) and working through different personalities and styles can be challenging.
I remember casting vision to the KPEP leader about marriage ministry as well as some other opportunities. As excited as I was about them, none of them were a fit. Like Saul putting his armor on David, we were willing to dream and, sometimes, even try some things on, but had to admit when it something didn’t fit right. Sometimes “releasing people” is engaging them in ministry that isn’t a fit. But where some may see the failure of an attempt, I see that a “closed-door” is actually fine-tuning of a vision. In scripture, God closed a door to Paul in a ministry he wanted to be released into. That “no” launched Paul into a new trajectory that impacted Macedonia. A “no” turned into God’s “yes.”
But note: Paul wasn’t sitting at home waiting to hear from God. He was engaged in ministry. And while doing ministry, Paul heard from the Lord. The more we release people to engage in ministry, the more we will position the people we lead to hear from God. We need to be willing to release them in a manner that will impact the Kingdom without any notoriety or nod toward your church or denomination. If we only minister for what we get back, it’s not Jesus we are exalting but our own egos.
To the pastor reading this: You are loved. You are appreciated. The work you are doing is not going unnoticed by the Lord. And as you lead, one of the greatest ways you can pastor is not doing the work of ministry FOR people but releasing them INTO ministry.
But remember: you and I are not models of perfection but the reflection of a perfect Savior. So reflect Jesus and love people and release them into ministry.
To anyone reading this: some of the best discipleship is to get involved. Don’t fret about the area per se but get active in ministry to the hurting around you. It’s amazing how clear we can hear the direction of the Lord when we are engaged in activities that reflect Him. As I had a conversation yesterday with a few high school students, discovering a lack of a fit, you discover a more fine-tuned focus on what really is a “fit.”
Love you all. Engage in Jesus liberally and reach out to people generously.
Go pastor your people and don’t settle for crappy coffee 🙂
Thanks for letting me ramble…