Congratulations pastors and church leaders! You made it through Easter! This is no small accomplishment!
If you are like me you experience a wonderful joy from the weekend Easter experience, but then, only one day later, Monday, reality looms that the next Sunday is only 6 days away. In fact, in my experience, the Monday following Easter has been one of the most difficult emotional days of the year for pastors. After expending a lot of strategy and execution, using a lot of time, thought, and energy, it feels like a monumental task to do it all again 6 days later. And then 7 days after that. And then start planning for Christmas. Too soon?
As I reflect on being a pastor, the Easter weekend sums up ministry pretty well. It is both a very rewarding and a very difficult 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 own weaknesses will never get old to me.
But it’s also difficult. Pastoring a group of “Christians” that is largely fickle in their faith and having to deal with the reality and consequence of sin all around is no simple task.
One of the saddest things I’ve found in ministry though, 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. When the harsh words, criticisms, and hurtful musings of those who are 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 there are way too many pastors that have to spend way too much time defending the way in which 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 just 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:
That’s a lot of assumptions, but if those things are true, stop wasting time apologizing for these things:
There is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to the size of a particular church. 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 in a unique way. He’s also called each pastor and church to a certain community. The community in which a pastor serves often times 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 in which 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.
For decades the church, especially along denominational lines, has argued about how to appropriately do worship. We have called these arguments “worship wars.” Traditional vs. Contemporary? Or maybe we combine them both 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 were going to 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 say it again: God has uniquely made you and wired you. And God has put you in a unique context. Ask these two questions.
Processing through 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 not one-style-fits-all. No matter what style of church you have, my plea to you is simple: whatever style of church you employ do it to the best of your ability.
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 a good opportunity to look at the strategy in which 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 bigger debate going on right now is the strategy of online church. Many pastors are still asking if online church really is church?
I have some convictions about online church, namely these two:
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 all of that, I still genuinely believe in the in-person gathering. I believe 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 who are 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 thrives 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 strategies of church employed than right now. The mission field in our own backyards has dramatically increased in just 12 months. A lot of self-identifying “practicing Christians’ have run for the hills and are nowhere to be found. Estimates are anywhere between 30-50%. The generation that I have personally seen most affected 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 also the future of the church (youth and children) is in great jeopardy.
My one plea to you when it comes to 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.
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 an annual sermon series.
Pastors, all God asks of each of us is to simply steward what He puts in front of us.
I love the way that 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, we fall, and we 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.