Hands Free

As a homeowner, I find myself taking on a lot of projects. There’s always something to do. We’ve replaced the windows with double-pane, put on an addition, finished our garage, remodeled two bathrooms, replaced carpet with laminate wood flooring… The list goes on and on, and it seems to get longer rather than shorter. If you ever find yourself a guest in my home, please don’t look too closely at these various projects. Admire them from afar. You see, I have this habit of getting a project to a functional place and then moving on to the next urgent need. Some of the windows haven’t been caulked inside. There is a threshold or two missing, a spot that is primed but still needs paint. The thing is, it seems to work as it is, and since the squeaky wheel gets the oil, and they aren’t squeaking, other more urgent projects get my attention.

This trend is bad enough at home when we’re dealing with inanimate objects such as windows and floors, but it can be destructive when it occurs in a church setting and we’re talking about people. As the pastor of a small church there are a few important things we need to take care of and about a billion and three urgent things that beg our attention. We need, need, need to discern between the two or we will wind up burning people out, or neglecting our call to shepherd them and malnourishing our church. Leading a church is not a hands free exercise. There is no autopilot in a pastorate.

This is a conviction that has hot me like a ton of bricks lately. Even in ministry I tend to run around and put out fires. If something seems to be working–well enough–it doesn’t get the attention… or those people don’t get the attention they really need. For example, we recently appointed three men to serve our congregation as deacons. These are good men with a heart to honor God and serve his people. It would be a sin to appoint these men and then assume I’ve done my job. I need to meet with them, work out a plan on how to implement their service, and check in with them. I need to coach and encourage them and offer some direction–not micro-manage, but oversee. I need to lead them. I need to pastor them. The same goes with other leaders in the church:  small group leaders, teachers, ministry team leaders. People need direction and encouragement. They need to know they haven’t been abandon or forgotten.

I know how challenging it can be to fit more things into our schedule, but there are other things we do that can be set aside and given a lesser priority. I know sometimes I just don’t manage my time very well and my lack of focus steals time and energy I could use to better lead the church. If your honest with yourself, it’s likely just as true for you. Our culture has placed a lot of expectations on the office of pastor that simply aren’t biblical, or necessary. Our culture is being trained–even forced–to let someone else take care of them rather than carrying their own load (see Galatians 6:5). We are not here to cater to the people of God, we are here to “equip the saints for works of service” (Ephesians 4:12). This must be understood in such a way that we lay down some expectations that have been placed on us by others so that we can take up the purpose for which God has called us.

Take some time, even right now, to clear away the clutter and focus on the call and appointment of God. What is important, and what is only urgent? What service will cause your ministry to flourish and thrive, and what is it that is only stealing the life, joy, and power from it?  “Anyone who knows the good he ought to do, and does not do it, to him it is sin” (James 4:17). Let us not walk in sin for the sake of duty or obligation, but walk in righteousness and power, in the Spirit of God, as we follow Jesus who is building his church.

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