Why should you need encouragement? You only work one day a week. And look at that house you live in. You must be getting paid too much. Either that or you’ve been getting too acquainted with the tithes and offerings.
If you’ve spent more than a few months working in pastoral ministry, you’ve heard all of that before. You want to say something back about how the numbers on the budget sheet do not accurately reflect the numbers that make it into your bank account. You want to say something about how if everyone had to pay taxes like a pastor, there would be another revolution by tomorrow morning. You want to say something about your frustrations that no one ever knows about.
But you don’t.
You just smile and move on.
That’s probably best for your ministry. Just smile and move on. But it doesn’t do much for you personally. As much as you keep moving on, the discouragement seems to keep following.
But be encouraged anyway.
You are not defined by the people who fall asleep during your sermon. Sure, you could be a better preacher. And so could all of the rest of us. And LeBron James could be a better basketball player. But rational fans don’t define him by that one shot he missed in the Raptors game six years ago. They look at the overall body of work. For him, that includes a few championships and MVPs. For you, it means faithfully studying the word, living it out and sharing it with the people you were sent to lead.
For Ezra had set his heart to study the Law of the Lord, and to do it and to teach his statutes and rules in Israel. Ezra 7:10 (ESV)
Most of us want a home run every time we preach. But that doesn’t happen. Even your favorite preacher that you pay money to hear at conferences doesn’t do it. He just brings his best one to that conference. In baseball, the worst hitters are the ones who swing for the fences at every at bat. The ones who are most beneficial to their team will do whatever they can to get on base. Sometimes that means a home run. Sometimes it means that they reached on an error because the shortstop overthrew the first baseman and hit the lady in the third row in the shoulder. They don’t care. They’re on base.
Don’t let last Sunday’s at bat get you down. If you spent time in the word and preached it faithfully, you got on base. God will use it, even if it wasn’t pretty.
Jesus doesn’t mind if your church doesn’t make some website’s list of the 40 Most Relevant Churches In America. At the church that I pastor, we still shake hands with each other, we have kids come down front for a children’s sermon and we even start things off with a bunch of men praying over the service. I love all of those things but for most church growth experts, we might as well have a time of picking one anothers scabs and doing a dance to the goat god.
The relevant train is a hard one to catch. It moves fast and, no matter how good of a seat you get, it eventually becomes the wrong one. Maybe your church has a cool light show and an awesome band. Or maybe the music minister likes to sing his favorite southern gospel song to an accompaniment track. Whatever. No matter what, someone will think that it’s the greatest thing to ever happen in the history of the Church. Everyone, even the DJ doing the overnight shift at Rock 88, has a fan. And everyone has a critic.
Go ahead, listen to the experts. Change things around to make your church more hipster friendly. Just be ready for half of the congregation to hate whatever relevant thing it is you land on.
When I first moved to the town where I pastor I noticed that the local newspaper did a reader survey. It was one of those things that newspapers do to figure out who has the best hamburger in town and what mechanic does the best work replacing brake light fluid. One of the categories was Best Church. The one that I was pastoring didn’t make the cut. And we haven’t come close since I’ve been here. But something interesting happened to that church that won the Best Church category the first year I moved to town.
It closed down.
Being relevant isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.
Just remember, you are not defined by your ability to keep sleepy heads awake on Sunday mornings.
You are not defined by how closely your church building resembles an Apple store or how similar your worship service is to a U2 show.
Jesus loves you. Of course, you know that. But it’s still good to hear.
There are people in your church who love you too. It can be hard to see that through all of the discouragement but it’s there.
Remember that when you step up to the plate this Sunday morning.
You might hit a home run. Or you just might take one for the team and get hit by a pitch. And even if it turns out that said pitch was from one of your own teammates, take heart.
Your Master is more concerned with faithfulness.
He doesn’t need any all-stars but he sure likes to use people who just keep coming to bat.