One of my favorite things about shepherding a small church is that I can know everyone. It’s so much easier to minister to, preach to, and serve people when you know them and know what’s going on in their lives. When you know your people, you have a context for the things they say, the questions they ask, and the needs they express. But, if it’s all about relationship, then it can’t stop at us knowing them, can it? We need to be known too.
I know there needs to be a degree of discretion, what we call appropriate disclosure. Because we are in a position of leadership, we need to know what we can share, how much we can share about certain things, and with whom we can share it. That’s part of knowing people too. But there are many things those under our care and leadership need to know about us, and Jesus demonstrated this self disclosure. “Come to me, you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me for I am gentle and humble in heart” (Matthew 11:28-29, emphasis mine). Jesus wants to be known.
Too often it seems that a pastor will close himself off, usually for varying reasons of self-preservation. This doesn’t mean that we are unfriendly, just inaccessible and therefore unknown. Chuck Lawless published a great article on things your congregation should know about you. To lend voice to his point, we need to share some things about our past, our present, and our vision for the future with our people. We can preach the word of God every Sunday, but we can foster a spirit of disobedience of we only talk the talk, but never allow the people to get in touch with our walk. The people we preach to week after week may get to know the word of God, but if they don’t get to know us and how the word of God affects our lives, then we cannot disciple them and may not be effective in our teaching either. They need real life examples of what it looks like to walk with God, and you, pastor, are the one anointed and appointed by God to be that example (1 Timothy 4:11-12).
We need to share our conversion story, the truth about our prayer and devotional life–even if it’s an area of weakness. We need to be honest about our struggles and our response to failure and conviction. I know that when it comes to sharing about the things we get right, the hesitation comes from not wanting to brag, but the nature of our calling requires us to set an example, and since people don’t follow us around all day, watching our every move, we need to testify to what God has and is doing in and through us. Our testimony is to the goodness of God, not of ourselves. If we keep that in mind, we wont find ourselves boasting. Share examples in your preaching, teaching, and your conversations of how you have followed God and how you have experienced him.
We need to let people know what our week looks like, from the ministry we engage in (those things they can’t see Sunday morning) to our day off (modeling rest and setting boundaries). If your church only sees you preach Sunday morning, then they may get the impression that Sunday attendance is the whole of the Christian life, regardless of any teaching to the contrary. Life shared is a far more powerful teaching tool that words spoken, especially if those words have no real-world context.
Our people also need to know our vision for the future. They need to know the things God has placed on our heart to do and where how we long to see the church grow. Sharing vision and hopes can inspire and affirm what God is stirring in their hearts too! Besides, people are much less likely to follow a leader when they have little to no idea where he is going.
Your people need to know the real you as much as you need to know them. In this way, they will grow, you will continue to grow, and guess what … the Kingdom will grow deep and healthy. Only then comes fruit that will last.