October is Pastor Appreciation Month. And pastors, I want you to know that I genuinely appreciate you. What brings me the most fulfillment in my career as a pastor is when I can help other pastors. So, pastors, I’ve got three FREE gifts for you at the bottom of this blog.
There is no career quite like being a pastor. It is both a very rewarding and challenging career. Knowing that you are making such a tangible difference in the Kingdom of God is a great blessing. It’s a blessing to be on the front lines. Seeing God move powerfully despite our weaknesses will never get old.
But it’s also difficult. Pastoring a group of Christians that are largely fickle in their faith and dealing with the reality and consequence of sin all around is no simple task. Barna’s latest study shows that 38% of pastors have considered quitting full-time ministry in the past year. 46% of those are under the age of 45. 51% of mainline denomination pastors have considered leaving in the last year. Additionally, their research shows that only 35% of America’s pastors rated themselves healthy in their overall well-being.
One of the saddest things I’ve found in ministry is when we fire at one another. It’s already a difficult enough job fighting off the evil supernatural powers and those who don’t believe in Jesus. But, when the harsh words, criticisms, and hurtful musings of those in the church come at pastors, it’s even more difficult.
Even worse is when pastors fire at one another.
I know firsthand from my own experience that way too many pastors have to spend way too much time defending how they lead the church that God called them to and entrusted them with. Some conversations about how to lead God’s church are helpful and fruitful, but not all are. Sadly, I’ve seen way too many pastors, including myself, that can waste time in pointless conversations that deter them from the true mission of Jesus.
In this blog, I want to share 3 things pastors should stop apologizing for. In doing so, I hope this frees up a little bit more time for you to do the work God has called you to do.
But before I give you the three, here’s the assumption I’m going to make about you:
- You love Jesus.
- You believe in the Bible.
- You pray.
- You are educated and trained to become a pastor.
- You are doing your best to bring heaven to earth.
- You care about the people you serve.
- You have been called to pastor a church.
- You have been gifted by the Holy Spirit.
- You deeply care about the collective church.
- You teach sound doctrine.
- You have sought God for the vision of your church.
- You trust that Jesus is in control and that the gates of Hell will not prevail against His church.
- You are living above reproach.
That’s a lot of assumptions, but if those things are true, stop wasting time apologizing for these things:
- The Size of Your Church
There is no one-size-fits-all regarding the size of a particular church. Therefore, I struggle when I read authors or hear pastors say that a church is supposed to look like this, be like this, or act like this. The goal of the church is to glorify God.
God has created both pastors and every person in our church uniquely. He’s also called each pastor and church to a particular community. The community in which a pastor serves often has a direct impact on the size that the church will become.
We glorify God when the Church becomes the fullest and greatest representation of Jesus that we can be in this world. We need churches of all sizes, shapes, and colors. Every size has advantages and disadvantages.
We need megachurches. We need large churches. We need medium churches. We need small churches. We need house churches. We need coffeehouse churches. We need micro-sites. We need new churches.
We. Need. Them. All.
More importantly, the world in which we serve needs them all.
Nowhere in the Bible will you see the size that the church should be. Shy away from discussions that seek to compare church size or tell you what size you should try to attain. Simply be the expression of Jesus God has called you to be in the community you serve. Focus more on being faithful to your unique calling and gifting to your unique context, and let everyone else waste their time discussing the proper size that a church should be.
- The Style of Your Church
For decades the church, especially along denominational lines, has argued about how to appropriately worship. We have called these arguments “worship wars.” Traditional vs. Contemporary? Maybe we combine them and create a Blended service?
Which style is right for you and your church? Is one better than the other?
One of the best things I did when I planted theCross in 2011 was I gave my core group a survey asking them about the future church we would start. I asked them to tell me what style of church they would prefer. But then I flipped the questions and asked them what style would be best to reach our target of young, unchurched families. Many times, the answers were different. Looking back, having them process this was very helpful in creating buy-in for creating a style of church that was likely outside of their comfort zone.
I’ll repeat it: God has uniquely made you and wired you. And God has put you in a unique context. Ask these two questions.
- How has God gifted me? What gifts are unique to our church?
- What is the style of church that would best serve the community we have been called to?
Processing these two questions will create many different answers as to what style of church is best.
We need traditional. We need liturgical. We need hymnals. We need organs. We need modern. We need contemporary. We need blended. We need guitars. We need drums. We need skinny jeans. We need robes.
We. Need. Them. All.
For the church to be the greatest and fullest expression of Jesus, there is no one-style-fits-all.
My plea is simple, no matter your church style: do it to the best of your ability.
- The Strategy of Your Church
Sadly, I foresee many arguments and debates over the coming years between pastors about the strategy of their churches. When coronavirus forced a global shutdown in our world, it gave us an excellent opportunity to look at the strategy we employed at our churches. For many of us, to be a church moving forward would require a new strategy. If I mentioned worship wars in the style of your church earlier, the more extensive debate right now is the strategy of an online church. Many pastors are still asking if online church really is church?
In the last several years, we’ve debated what to make of the church online. Is it really a church, or does it not count as church? We’ve seen some churches go all-in digitally while others completely ignore that the Internet is real.
I have some convictions about online church, namely these two:
- The old “normal” way wasn’t working nearly as well as many wanted to think it was.
- As you look at the trajectory of our world, I’m very convinced the answer for the church moving forward is “more online, not less.”
Smartphones, Amazon, and social media aren’t going away. Not having any online answer will make you more like Blockbuster in a Netflix world. I’d rather be putting more energy, time, staff, and budget into being on the innovative side of this than playing defense and hoping that things go back to the broken way that they were. If you are married to your methods, you could soon be divorced from having a church. The strategy of your church can and likely, should change over time.
Having said that, I still genuinely believe in the in-person gathering. I think it is vital to the health of the future church. I don’t have all the answers, and no one does, about the long-term effects of online church and how to appropriately steward it best. But to reject it, or even worse, to call out others seeking to glorify God by using this avenue, is not helpful.
We need churches that thrive in worship. We need churches that thrive in outreach. We need churches that thrive in preaching. We need churches that thrive in women’s ministry. We need churches that thrive in men’s ministry. We need churches that thrive in student ministry. We need churches that thrive in children’s ministry. We need online church. We need online worship. We need in-person church. We need in-person worship.
We. Need. Them. All.
Here’s something I’m convinced of: our nation, and likely our world, has never needed more church strategies employed than now. The mission field in our backyards has dramatically increased over the past couple of years. Unfortunately, many self-identifying “practicing Christians’ have run for the hills and are nowhere to be found.
Estimates are anywhere between 30-50%. I have personally seen the most affected generation are the families with young children. Not only does this mean that the amount of “unchurched” has never been as high as it is right now, but the future of the church (youth and children) is also in great jeopardy.
My one plea to you regarding strategy is to play offense, not defense. The churches that will “win” in the end are not the ones who are playing prevent defense, but rather, they are pulling the goalie and living with a sense of urgency. For more on this, check out this blog centered around the question: Pastor, Is Your Church Playing Offense or Defense.
I know enough pastors to know that, based on the above assumptions, it’s not our goal to “steal sheep” from another church. Yet, this is the narrative often said of those whose churches are growing. Pastors, if you are playing offense, reject that label and keep chasing the lost sheep and employing the unique strategy that God has given to your church.
The Answer: Continue to Be Faithful Stewards
In a recent blog post, I wrote about 4 uncelebrated traits of highly effective pastors. My final trait was the word “stewardship.” This is not a word that gets tossed around too much outside of the annual “stewardship series” at churches. But stewardship is much more than giving. It’s bigger than a yearly sermon series.
Pastors, all God asks of us is simply to steward what He puts in front of us.
I love the way Peter says in 1 Peter 4:10: “As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace.”
Being a pastor is about stewarding your unique skills and talents, the gifts and resources of those in your church, and also the needs of those in your community.
Because of these things, no church will look the same. Stop apologizing for the size, style, and strategy of your church. When God looks down on you, He says, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.”
Being a pastor is hard enough. I know, and you know, that we stumble, fall, and sin.
Rather than casting stones and doubts, let’s work towards healthy conversations with one another. Let’s have grace for one another. Let’s trust one another. Let’s pray for one another. And finally, let’s be grateful for the opportunity to be a part of something bigger and remember the promise of Jesus in Matthew 16:18b: I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.
Okay, time for some FREE gifts! I’ve got three for you today.
1) A FREE 40-day challenge of your choice. Check it out here.
3) A FREE ebook, “10 Ways to Grow Your Church for Little to No Money.” Enter code “pastorgift” at checkout to receive.
If I can be helpful to you, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.