Every Pastor is Moses these days if we are doing what God is calling us to do. And it’s exhausting especially if we forget that God is with us.
We are moving God’s stubborn, terrified, distracted, often ridiculous people from where they used to be to a new place that is unknown. Some of us are moving congregations of 10 people. Some are moving congregations of 50 people. Some are moving congregations of hundreds of people. A few of us are moving congregations of thousands of people.
Moses was moving a congregation of 600,000+ or many less or many more – depending on different sources. And there were animals.
There are 28,518 members of the Presbytery (middle governing body) I serve according to the 2020 stats. It’s an enormous challenge moving less than 30,000 human beings from a stuck faith to a vibrant faith without animals. I have new appreciation for Moses every day.
This kind of work will break your heart. No wonder so many pastors focus on keeping the flower committee happy because it’s easier than making disciples.
Let’s talk about that movement to a vibrant faith. I’ll be honest with you.
Too many of God’s people in our congregations . . .
- Love their cemeteries, their buildings, their pre-school, their former pastor more than they love Jesus.
- Believe it’s “their church” because they’ve been part of it for generations.
- Are terrified that everything they love about church will be taken away if they don’t cling to it.
- Are in deep denial that their glory days are never coming back.
- Expect to grow without a full-time pastor (or one working full-time who is being paid only part-time wages)
- Ignore changes in their neighborhoods.
- Want to grow but not if it means welcoming “those people.”
Why would anyone want to attempt this way of life? Because of Pentecost.
Let me tell you what I’ve seen the Spirit of God do:
I’ve seen a tired congregation come to the holy realization that they need to close so that something new is possible where they’ve worshipped for 100 years.
I’ve seen a congregation of less than 200 raise money to transform their former education wing into transitional housing and another congregation of less than 200 move forward on building affordable housing for young adults aging out of foster care.
I’ve seen downtown churches open their doors to neighbors who need to take a shower or do a load of laundry.
I’ve seen a rural church with unused/underused property offer it up so that a Disaster Relief Warehouse could be erected there to serve victims of fires, hurricanes, and tornadoes.
I’ve seen congregations call pastors who don’t look like them but who do look like the new neighbors in hopes of making those neighbors feel welcomed.
I’ve seen congregations welcome preschoolers who don’t speak their own language.
I’ve seen the wealthiest among us make sacrifices to serve “the least of these.” And I’ve seen the poorest among us make even greater sacrifices.
This is why I’m still in the Church. But moving God’s people is not for the fainthearted. They say they want to escape Egypt, but many of them really don’t. “At least in Egypt, we knew what to expect.” Something about the devil we know.
Moses wasn’t a saint. But he is my de facto model for ministry.
Have a lovely three-day weekend. Maybe you won’t “go to church.” But you can still be the Church.