Little Church, Big Mission
We just completed our 4th year of ministry at Round Pond Church. Arguably, it has been the toughest on me – and probably the whole flock. I can look back at the first three years and see challenge after challenge, struggle after struggle, and attempt after attempt to implement and staff ministries in hopes to see new kingdom additions. To say change is tough is a laughable understatement. Change is nearly impossible…impossible that is unless God’s power is at work in the hearts of people.
In order to rightly explain how tough this year has been, first I will need to be clear for the sake of my readers (both of them). When it comes to compassion and meeting the needs of others, you can’t find a more noble people than the members at Round Pond Church. Still, it is my hope as a pastor that the Spirit of God grows them up in all maturity to resemble Christ completely (Ephesians 4:11-13). But that isn’t a linear process. Just like raising kids or working at a marriage there is no “simple” process that moves along the tracks from station A to station B. It’s 2 steps forwards, 3 steps back sometimes. Such is the nature of discipleship. Imagine Peter one minute proclaiming the bedrock and foundational truth, “You are the Christ, Son of the Living God” and the next, “I never knew the man (Jesus)!” This happens to us Christians a lot.
So my expectation isn’t that our church would be so enamored by my pastoral wisdom that they all, in unison, develop biblical thinking, godly attitudes, and right determinations to serve the church and community. After all, if I had to be honest, I’ve made plenty of mistakes and have misspoken on a number of occasions. What they see of me is most likely a lack of wisdom and a bumbling through necessary changes. I probably appear more like a pinball rather than a smooth arrow released from a skilled archer.
Isn’t it true that we want everyone to see us and interpret us in the best possible light rather than assume the worst? Pastors do. Congregations do too. We had Betty sing a song for us a couple of Sundays ago. Before she sang she addressed those in the congregation that have had a tough year – her song was meant for them. And they needed to hear it. I needed to hear it. Apart from empathy and humility, all we can do is to assume things and draw unwarranted conclusions about each other. Once a church body enters that dark tunnel it seldom turns back but is lost.
In four years at Round Pond Church I have preached the Word with integrity and a good conscience. I have prayed for the saints and the not-so-saints to know God in all His worth. I have helped bury mothers and fathers. I have married sons and daughters. I have spend time in homes of widows, the sick, and the disenchanted. I have dedicated children to the Lord. I have baptized new family members of the faith. I have held the secrets of congregation members. I have released frustrations and disappointments. I have been harshly criticized and I have been overly-credited. But the one thing that can’t be lost in this drama of serving a church is this: I have learned that I am not enough. You, Round Pond Church, have been a vessel in the hands of the Lord to teach me a lesson that needs a continual rehearsal of sorts: I am insufficient to shepherd a church of the Lord Jesus Christ.
That may not come across in a very flattering way. Again, I have affirmed the kindness of the church so as to not confuse anyone. After all, it is a good thing to come to the end of yourself. It is a good thing to lose “your way”. And by that I mean the personality, the money or land, the intelligence, the skills or anything short of Christ that you put your confidence in each day. It is a good thing to lose that and to keep losing it. Especially when it leads you back to God in the sweet communion of prayer.
It is right and not critical of Round Pond Church to say I pastor an impossible church. Besides, what is the church if not an impossible union of souls from diverse backgrounds, skin tones, interests, political persuasions, socio-economics, and a host of other diversities? It is impossible to form a church apart from Christ as the head. I pastor an impossible church. It’s a little church. It’s insignificant in most of the world’s mind. But it has a big mission. It’s pastor will fail people. It’s congregation will fail people. But Round Pond Church’s God will never fail anyone. He is good to the end! So I welcome year five because I am just a part of the little church that is a big mission.