Friday, July 15, 2005

An Hour a week job

The classic accusation is that pastors only work one hour a week. Ask my wife if that’s true. Most pastors work their fingers to the bone trying to do “the Lord’s work” as if we clergy have cornered the market on that particular job.

Also, every pastor wonders the same thing: Am I actually DOING anything here? And if I am how would I know?

I like to see results. Stats, baby. How much money we rake in this week? How ‘bout attendance? Is it up this week? No? Gotta work harder to get them in the door. More visits. More phone calls. Bigger, better programs. Higher community profile.

Yeah, I play that game. I’m not proud of it. But how else have we been taught to quantify success?

But maybe the deeper question is: Am I doing anything that couldn’t be done by a cadre of well-trained, well-intentioned, hard-working disciples of Jesus? Do I play this game to justify my own existence?

So what do I do all week?

I preach. But the lay-preachers here do a great job when I’m away.

I prepare and lead worship. But the deacons also do this.

I attend meetings. Lots and lots of meetings.

I visit the sick, shut-in, lonely, anyone. So do our Stephen Ministers and other members.

I represent the congregation in the community; but I usually bring a few folks with me.

I teach confirmation; but we have many teachers who are probably better at it and more qualified than I.

I find leaders and put them in leadership positions. So does our council.

So, I ask again, am I am doing anything here that anyone else couldn’t do just as well if not better than I?

But as I thumb through the church directory and scan the peoples’ faces, I think about their lives, the unexpected tragedies, their unintended graces, the shape their life together has taken as they converge each week hungry for the bread of life to be shared among people they love.

Maybe it’s my job to provide that place. I am the host at Jesus’ banquet. I make sure all are served and well-fed.

Maybe it’s my job to provide a resting place for the weary, a sanctuary from life’s pressures and sorrows.

Maybe it’s my job to pray, because people don’t have time to pray and it makes them feel better that SOMEONE is talking to God on theirs’ and the world’s behalf. Like the monastery over looking the village, people might be glad that I’m hunkered down in my prayer closet, pleading on behalf of a broken and battered world, that God might actually get INVOLVED in human affairs.

A well placed lightening bolt would be nice. Or an end to war and hunger, poverty and disease? Whad’ya say, God?

Maybe it’s my job to remind people who God is and what God wants for us.

Pastor means “shepherd.” I am a shepherd. It’s my job to love the sheep. All of them. I’m supposed to love them when they listen and I’m supposed to love them when they bite. When one runs away, I’m supposed to drop everything and run after it. The rest can find safety in the flock.

The bible says that I’m supposed to “model the godly life.” At first I thought this meant that I had to be more moral than others. But now I wonder if it means I’m supposed to show forgiveness when people forget what forgiveness looks like. Maybe it means I’m supposed to show them what suffering, self-giving love looks like when peoples’ hearts grow calloused. Maybe it means I’m supposed to show them how God wants people to live as people of God.

Maybe it means I’m just supposed to stand at the front of the church and point at the cross.

That’s quite the job description, don’t you think?

But again, anyone can do that. We have a lot of people who can do it just as well and for a lot less money. It doesn’t take a master’s degree to do this job. Just a strong arm and a lot of patience.

However, these people have asked ME to do this. And for that, I am grateful.


Saheli said...

Wow, it's very impressive and humbling to read someone so humbly and honestly examine their life's work.

For all of your job descriptions when you self-deprecatingly point out how members of your congregation also do these things, it seems like the common denominator is that you're the only one who has to do them. The others are volunteers. They may come and go. If something happens in their family or with their work, they may withdraw their commitment. But it's your job. Kids needing to get confirmed, sick people needing soup, troubled couples needing help know they can count on you to be there even if no one else is. And that in itself probably counts for a lot.

nick said...

Great post. As a seminary student I applaud your reflection of your ministry, and feel that it is something that we need to do, as all Christians probably should, on a regular basis.

There are always people out there that may be better qualified than us, but we have committed ourselves to the service of the Lord and take both the challenges and the blessings that are part of it as part of, not only our job, but our vocation.