Got a few minutes? Let me share seven not so random thoughts with you.
Over the last 25 years, I’ve enjoyed the opportunity to guest preach in any size church without regard to race, culture, or denominational affiliation – as long as I have some choice in the topic presented. One thing I accomplish is temporarily lightening the load of the pastor during the week before (less sermon prep). A meal with the pastor and spouse or some of the staff if the pastor is away, is usually a part of the experience as well. I try to be as encouraging as possible in all my interactions. These experiences continue to challenge me, and I feel the need to share my perspective through these seven thoughts.
1) The majority of churches are not megachurch sized, and that’s okay. Approximately 80% will have 100 or less in attendance for their Sunday morning service. Over half of the visits I make are to congregations that have either leveled off or are in decline. It’s not always the fault of the pastor, though they must lead the solutions. And I don’t believe there is a set pattern to get every congregation back on track to growth. But some principles are applicable everywhere and the changes needed must be led by the key influencers of the congregation. With holy unrest, I have prayed more than once for The Lord to move me if I needed to leave for growth to begin again. It sounds counterintuitive, but it leads me to number two.
2) The overwhelming majority of pastors (and staff members) are bi-vocational and could use a break. Seriously, most are more tired than they realize. The life of a bi-vocational minister leaves little room for rest or unaccounted for time. Therefore, sermons will not usually be as smooth and polished as your favorite media preacher. There is usually little to no staff for task delegation, and there’s not enough time available in the week.
3) So, please stop comparing your pastor to every other minister. Your pastor is most likely doing the best he can. He is not your former pastor, and he does not preach like your favorite evangelist. Please let each of God’s servants have the freedom of realizing their potential within their particular skill set and gift mix. Appreciate them for Whom they belong to and for who they are. One of the best ways to appreciate your pastor is to help ensure some regular time off. A week or two off with pay and away from the church every quarter will do wonders for the servant of God.
4) Most churches do not have professional quality music, and that’s okay. They don’t have to. Leading God’s people in worship isn’t supposed to be a performance for spectators to observe. But on the same subject, everyone involved in your worship service needs to have a heart after God in pursuit of excellence. Regardless of how gifted they are, if they lack evidence of growing in Christ-like maturity and refuse accountability, they should not be participating in worship leadership.
5) Yes, money is a big deal. Jesus taught economic principles too often for me to tell you otherwise. While church leadership should not have to nag congregations about the issue, please understand that it is vital for you to do your part. And that’s all you have to do, your part. Regardless of the amount, your tithes and offerings are more about your heart to worship. And it keeps the lights on, takes care of the pastor, guest speakers, and provides for missions across the street and the sea. Seriously, money is a spiritual issue, and you’re going to have a hard time convincing God otherwise. It takes real money to do real ministry!
6) When I stop to consider pastors, one thing stands out. About 85% of ministry leaders are bi-vocational. Therefore, only about 15% are fully funded by the ministry without having to be employed outside of the ministry or be dependent upon retirement income. When it comes to committed servants of our Master, I don’t like the terms part-time or full-time. During my bi-vocational ministry years, I did my best to be a full-time servant and minister. My calling served as motivation to strive for excellence as a company employee and as an integrity-filled witness for the Gospel. Every ounce of training and expertise gained in secular employment made me a better minister. And likewise, my studies, experience, and ministry training made me a better employee. Sometimes, two are better than one. Ministers should contentedly consider it a privilege to serve bi-vocationally, until and unless He specifically transitions you into a fully funded ministry. Such positions aren’t plentiful.
7) It brings a little sorrow to my heart when a church does not make time for prayer in worship services. We expect the preacher to bring us a good sermon each week, and then you find an exit when it comes time to give a prayerful response. None of us are too busy or so holy that a few extra minutes in prayer aren’t beneficial. Prayer changes us, works miracles, moves mountains, and affects eternity – so lunch can wait. If others are in the altars and you are not, please stay focused on heavenly things and don’t begin those loud conversations. If you must leave before the official dismissal, please do so quietly. It is hypocritical for Christians who proclaim such belief in the power of God, saying we desire a revival, and then our actions say we are too hurried for prayer.
This list is only one preacher’s perspective. Your comments are welcome. I’d be glad to hear your perspective on my seven not so random thoughts.