Saturday, November 13, 2010

Supporting My Ministry or Supporting THE Ministry?

I have been thinking about being in one parish for now, well, a few weeks shy of 18 years, and some of the things I have been thinking about a scary to me.  Now, don't get me wrong -- I believe in long pastorates.  I told them at the Sem when talking about placements, "I have only a couple of moves in me..."  Those words have been borne out in the history since (two parishes in 30+ years as a Pastor).  And now I look at my age and the tight call situation of our Synod and have accepted the fact that it is highly unlikely I will get another call before the time I retire.  There are many who are thankful about that and I am not resigned to it -- it would be fine for me and, I believe, a good thing.

Except...   Except that I am beginning to wonder about what is and is not happening at this parish.  I find, not unlike other parishes, that even though our membership is growing, our attendance on Sunday morning is not.  Even though we have tons of kids on the rolls, the number of children in Sunday school, catechism, and youth group is not going up.  Even though we draw from many different economic classes, our general fund income and our support of missions has not changed much in 5-6 years.  Even though we have celebrated a great history of 50 years with passionate speakers who helped us give thanks for this past and look to the future, we have not faced the future with the hope that we should as a congregation and a people in Christ.

Sometimes I wonder if it is me... Have I done what I need to in order to make the focus on THE ministry instead of on MY ministry?  It is often easy to give the impression or for people to assume that their job is to support the Pastor in HIS work instead of seeing THEIR work of worship, witness and service.  So, I am doing some thinking about this and what I can do to help instill the proper understanding of the work of the kingdom in this place.  It is not MY ministry that the folks who sit in the pew are to support but my ministry of Word and Sacraments to help them in their own baptismal vocation to the world as instruments of the Word  in witness and in service to Christ's through their acts of mercy and compassion to the people around them.

I want people to be passionate about support wholeheartedly the work of the Kingdom.  I don't want their passion to be directed toward me only or my ministry as their Pastor.  I want people to understand what I do as Pastor not as the end goal but as the very means to their own sacrificial self-offering as the baptized doing the work of the Kingdom -- carrying what gathers the assembly on Sunday morning into the places where they live and work during the week.  The congregation that I want to serve is not a support group to the Pastor.  Long ago I remember saying to someone that our goal was every member of Grace in worship and Bible study and Christian service every week.  It was not phrased all that well but the goal remains the same.

In a sense I am reassured by the three fold emphasis now being used in Synod: Witness, Mercy, Life Together...  This is what we need to hear not only on the national level but in the congregation.


Anonymous said...

I served as pastor in an LCMS parish
for 35 years. It started as a mission
and the Lord blessed the physical
growth through the building of a new
sanctuary, fellowship hall, class-
rooms, a preschool, music director,
director of Christian Education. We
went off District subsidy in 5 years.

Yet it was the Lord's blessing of
spiritual growth that inspired me.
In our suburban setting we confirmed more adults than youth
in the first 20 years. Our Sunday
Adult Bible Class grew between 80
to 100 a week. To see people
mature and grow in their Christian
faith was a testimony to the power
of the Holy Spirit.

Long pastorates do not really
become effective until after l0 yrs
The stability of one pastor over the long haul can be a blessing if
you have a passion for Christ as
you fulfill His ministry in your
parish. The people in your parish
know if you love the Lord and want
to serve Him. They will respond
in like manner.

Anonymous said...

Continue ministry in Word and Sacrament.

Do catechesis for children and adults.

Dump programs that do no truly support this.

The local church may decline in numbers, but you and your parishioners will know you are doing the will of God. He does what He wills despite the programs, committees, emphases, etc. All He requires is faithfulness.

Andy Wrasman said...

I enjoyed reading this post. God bless you as you work and serve in your calling.

I like the three-fold focus that you said is now being called out in the synod. Where is a good article to read about this current focus?

Peace in Christ.

Pastor Peters said...

Here is one place to find out more about martyria, diaconia, and koinonia..