In last week’s post, we evaluated what it means to “put people in their place” in our churches. In a nutshell: They are God’s people, not ours.
In Week Four of Putting the Good in Goodbye, we will dive into what we need to do when people arrive at our churches. Hopefully, you’ve had some time to really evaluate the questions we posed last week.
As vocational ministers, we know the rewards of Kingdom work. But it is difficult to adequately express the sacrifice, the effort, and the genuine cost that goes along with the rewards. As the kids say these days, if you know, you know.
Therefore, it’s easy to focus on the bumps and bruises along the way. We often become obsessed with the suffering associated with vocational ministry as we commiserate with our ministry friends. We get used to sharing our war stories and wounds. So, when the “goodbye” occurs, cynicism can be the result. A healthier way to say “Goodbye” starts with a healthier way of saying “Hello.”
There are three key characteristics that we should develop to learn this skill as people arrive to the church we pastor:
It’s undeniable that God has given you incredible gifts, abilities, and talents. It’s good to understand we are recipients of grace. However, once we start claiming all the credit for these gifts from God, it’s only a matter of time that we suffer the consequences of pride.
I remember when the Smith family (not their real names), arrived at our church. They were young parents of two cute well-behaved kids. Mr. and Mrs. Smith were sharp, successful professionals and had been leaders in their previous church out of state. They quickly became an integral part of our church.
As I observed them serve with excellence, a thought entered my head: “Wow! We must be doing something really right as pastors to attract people of that caliber!” Oof. Gut check. The Holy Spirit immediately convicted me.
Instant repentance occurred as I called to mind what the Apostle Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 3:6-7, “I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow. So, neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who makes things grow.”
The good in our ministries comes from the gracious hand of God. The gifts, talents, and abilities He’s given us allow us to play the part of “planter and waterer,” but ultimately, He causes the growth.
Jim Weigand quotes a humble pastor in a small town in Mexico who had experienced much ministerial success, “I am like the donkey Jesus rode into Jerusalem who has the honor of carrying Him through my village so by lifting Him up, others can see who He is.” May we all view our roles with such humility.
Maintaining a sense of thankfulness to God for allowing you the immense privilege of partnering with Him in Kingdom work helps us maintain balance when people arrive at the church we lead. Jesus picked you to play for His team despite what you may consider shortcomings and weaknesses.
In Putting the Good in Goodbye, Jim makes this profound statement:
“I do not make sense anywhere else except in God’s Kingdom. . . I’d invite you to join me in this belief. I believe we are all God’s favorite kids, and He has given gifts to all of us which make us all incredible. If you believe this, you have no other option but to use those gifts loudly for His glory with great gratitude in your heart.”
When people arrive at church and get connected, remembering that God gives us a small part in His huge story in their lives helps us to be thankful to serve both God and them. When we gratefully lift Jesus high enough, He stands out in the crowd and can be clearly seen by those who pass by.
In Luke chapter 15, Jesus tells three parables that give us a glimpse of God’s broken heart for those who are apart from Him. His deep care and concern for The Lost Sheep, The Lost Coin and The Prodigal Son reveal God’s special heart for being able to reach many and still hurt for the one lost.
As leaders, when people find Jesus, while we rejoice, we also need to develop a heart that breaks for those who don’t yet know the Lord. Sometimes we lose sight of that for various reasons. Maybe our own salvation story isn’t “dramatic” . . . we’ve been raised in the church and never strayed. Or it’s been years since we’ve really reflected on our own redemption stories.
Luke 15 resonates deeply with me as a former prodigal. My redemption story involves intricate supernatural intervention that leaves no doubt that Jesus left the 99 to find me. But sometimes, the day-to-day grind of life and ministry can cause me to lose sight of that remarkable story. So, I need to intentionally reflect and remember the brokenness that God rescued me from.
If your story isn’t like that, connect with people who have those types of stories—and listen. And feel. Let those feelings become a God-given pain for the lost. It’s a beautiful gift and will keep you on track in ministry.
When people arrive at the church we pastor, remaining humble, grateful, and broken reminds us we are but a link in the long chain of God’s work in their lives. In the upcoming days, take time to reflect on these questions:
- Consider your typical response to the arrival of people at your church. What parts of your response need adjusting?
- How can you consistently right-size the view of your role in the lives of those who decide to attend your church?
Rooting and praying for you,
John & Jaime