I suppose its true in any other profession, but it seems that pastors are good at professional one-up-manship. Pastors like to tell tales about the stuff they have going at their parish; building programs, stewardship, average worship attendance, etc. etc. etc. It is easy (for me anyway) to come away thinking that I need to get moving and make my congregation more like theirs.
It is way too easy to get sucked in.
I was recently reading on a friend's blog a posting by Matt Harrison (find it here) and discovered a quote that I found both inspiring and at the same time helpful.
Our vocation is not to save the ninety-nine, but to seek the one. One at a time. One here and one there. One child cared for. One person nursed to health. One life saved. One hurting soul comforted with the name of Jesus. One man loved. Our vocation is not to change Haiti, or to change the whole world, or to change the economic realities with which Haitians wrestle. Our vocation is to act and make a life-changing difference one at a time. And acting one at a time, we find that over some hours, over a few days, and over a couple of weeks, the flock of those helped in the name of Jesus has grown to be surprisingly large.
Pastor Harrison is talking about the parable of the Lost Sheep from John 15 and applying it to the needs of the people in Haiti following their devastating earth quake. He points out that Jesus went after the one. One at a time. One by one. This has been for me a profound insight.
There is always that pressure to be the church that has the budget surplus, that has the great attendance, that has the busting-at-the-seems programs. (I suppose I might confess it is easy to covet...) So churches always try to become this by implementing policies and adopting programs. "If they haven't attended in 3 years, drop them from the roles." "Let's write a series of form letters." "Let's hire a consultant to tell us how we can fix ourselves." These things don't work, or if they do work they have worked the wrong thing. Faithful pastoring doesn't mean you have budget surpluses and rear ends in the pews. It means that you preach God's Word; law and gospel. Week in and week out. And, when necessary, one at a time.
Instead of cleaning up the roles, instead of lopping off the dead wood, I have resolved to seek one. Reach out to one with God's Word. Rightly divide it. Mercifully apply it. And who knows, maybe after a time the flock will have grown quite large.
Monday, March 15, 2010
On Seeking Lost Sheep One at a Time
Thanks, Pastor Schlueter. We all need to hear this, not just pastors, but all congregations and members who are envious of what's happening at their neighboring churches. The following was posted at Straight Schlueter.