When a busy schedule is a cause of rejoicing

There is always something of a ramping up of things in September in church. We come out of our summer break – which was a weird one this year for so many reasons – and head into the new term with things beginning again. And, what with our enforced break for everything but restrictions having been lifted, I don’t know about you, but it’s quite the shock to suddenly be faced with all this stuff again.

We conducted an audit of our different ministries during the lock down. It seemed like a good time to do it whilst nothing was actually running. But even having been through the process of thinking through what was working, where we wanted to put our time and energy, there still seems so much. Our weekly notices have noticeably grown; space on the PowerPoint slide has definitely shrunk right down again.

Beyond all that, despite thinking we would stop a few things and pour a bit more resource to do some other things better and increase their capacity, it still feels like we’ve got as much going on as before. Partly, that is down to the fact that we have received new people into the church and they are now coming with their ideas for ministry. And, as I said here, we want to free people up to do the things that excite them rather than force them into stuff that we have decided might be good just because. So, when people come to us with ideas, we generally want to say ‘yes’ and free them up to do the things they are passionate about. We have done a bit of that recently.

As daunting as our notice sheet looks to a busy pastor or church member, it is worth remembering that this model means I don’t have to be at everything. We have worked very hard to get the church away from a one-man-band model of ministry and toward an every-member-ministry. The pastor doesn’t, and shouldn’t, run everything. Minimally, that totally reduces the church’s capacity to do anything to the capacity of a single person. Allowing, and even encouraging, others to run things apart from the minister means capacity is necessarily increased. It also helps to avoid burnout as everything revolves around one man. Similarly, it helps grow leaders who, under the one-man-band model, never see any opportunities to lead anything, they are mere bit parts supporting the main man. It isn’t healthy for anyone.

Nor do our members (rightly) only reckon things to have value if the pastor is there. I never really understood those who thought that. Certainly since becoming a pastor, I am only too aware of my tendency to not do things very well so I’m not sure that adds much value. In some places things have considerably less value when the pastor is skulking around like he’s watching everything with a critical eye – it isn’t overly helpful. It also puts pastors on a pedestal none of us warrant. We are men like everyone else and bring no added holiness or special anointing to things. We have access to the same Holy Spirit, in the same measure, as every other believer. We may be gifted in some ways others aren’t, but they are surely gifted in ways we aren’t too. There is no sense in suggesting things only count if the pastor is there or they will somehow be better just because he turns up.

But it is encouraging to see something of a full schedule of evangelistic and discipleship activities going on – people hearing the gospel and being built up in the faith – without that horrible feeling of knowing they will only happen because I am running them. And that is testament to the work the Lord has been doing. He has brought people to us, and raised up others who were already here, who have taken ownership of the work, picked up the ball and run with it. Some simply building a work around stuff they were doing already, others building a work from an idea that they have had, or from ideas that they know will engage friends they have. But it is a joy to see believers, who love the Lord Jesus, taking the initiative to do what they can in his service.

In the end, that is what the Great Commission is about, is it not? Not professionals and not cold, unremitting duty (though, we should probably get away from duty being viewed badly, it isn’t). But God’s people, living their Christian lives and doing what they are able with the gifts, resources and circumstances he has put them in to make him known, build up other believers and seek to glorify him.