Someone once said that the practice of ministry is like death by a thousand paper cuts.
It was belly laugh material, that quote. It was belly laugh material because it hit a spark of true deep within.
The world is a changing. In the midst of the changes going on around us, the role and function of local church pastors is changing as well. It is a challenging time to be a church leader, because the needs of the job today often disappoint those who have a vision of what the ideal church pastor of the past was called upon to do.
First and foremost, pastors have to be gifted organizers. In a culture where most couples are both working outside the home and the claims upon time and energies is seemingly relentless, churches have to figure out how to mobilize volunteers in ways that bless. We are run by the members of the church. Increasingly church members are stretched overly so keeping an organization alive that relies upon the passion and gifts of volunteers is no small trick.
Secondly, the financial realities are relentless. Running a building, supervising and funding staff and program are clamorous challenges. In an age when the gospel of scarcity is being pounded into our beings, lifting a vision of the good of giving to an organization designed to give itself away is full-time must.
Thirdly, remembering why we exist takes spiritual discipline. The interpersonal jabbing and squabbling that happens in Bodies is sometimes demoralizing. Perhaps the greatest place of heart ache for me is the demeaning and denigrating of what is without helping to create what could be. It’s a lot easier to sit on the sidelines lobbing in criticism than joining in to build a vision that transforms.
After church on Sunday I was exhausted. It wasn’t the preaching and conversing and worshipping that got me. It was the paper cuts. One at a time, comments thrown my direction are easy to slough off. But collectively? Collectively the effect was an oozing pastor desperate for Sabbath.
We are doing transformational work at our church. Transformation asks us to move into a different way of being and on most days that movement hums in the very air we breathe.
On other days I become aware that my own spiritual practices are not optional. Moving into a new day and being church in a new day requires naming of paper cuts, conversations about how to facilitate healthy communication, and a goodly and endless sense of being grounded in grace.
We get to do this thing called church. It is gift. It is messy.
It doesn’t have to be fatal.