Inspired by this post written by Landon Whitsitt, I’ve been thinking about what I’ve learned after 9 months of being nobody’s pastor. For 27 years I was called Pastor Jan and it’s strange that nobody calls me that anymore.
And yet, my current work as a middle judicatory staffer (aka the IAEPM, aka “The Presbytery,” aka “Jan from Presbytery”) I feel very much like a pastor of pastors and seminarians. I still pray with people in my study. I still preach, albeit in a different church every weekend. I still go to Session meetings.
So what have I learned about church? Here are a couple of things, in no particular order:
1. Churches that love their (fill in the blank) more than they love Jesus are doomed. Some of them know they are doomed and don’t care. Some of them pretend like it’s okay to love their windows, organs, communion tables, strawberry festival more than God.
2. Churches need to learn how deal with conflict well. Conflict is good. It’s an opportunity for growth and improved communication, but most churches are allergic to it.
3. Pulpit candy still doesn’t work. Some churches – especially congregations who see themselves as being Important – because once they were – call pastors who look like they should be the pastors of Important Churches. They have good hair, impressive height, radio voices, and attractive spouses. But PNCs who consider only the outward appearances without delving into theology, personality, vision, and leadership skills are asking for a disaster.
4- Using up a dying church’s endowment is a sin. There are congregations who’ve been living off their endowments to balance their budgets for some time now. Some congregations can calculate exactly when they will close based on what’s left in the endowment. I know pastors who plan to stay on board until the endowment is gone and then they will retire. This is wrong.
5- Pastors who don’t equip their people are missing the point. There are pastors who are afraid to let their ruling elders rule. They are threatened by having their Deacons and/or Stephen Ministers do pastoral care. They refuse to give up “the power.” They need to read Ephesians 4:11-12.
I totally miss officiating at baptisms, serving communion up close and personal to people I love, officiating at weddings of parishioners, preaching to people I know, and picking the art for bulletin covers. But I love having the extraordinary privilege of serving the wider church. I have the greatest job in the world. But would somebody please call me Pastor Jan again?