Pastor Duane's weekly reflection..
This last Sunday about 25 of the kids in our church sang “What Child Is This” on stage in celebration of the Advent season. It was incredibly cute and sweet. While they were singing I began to reflect on the families and parents each kid belonged to and in that moment I felt like I caught a quick snapshot of what God is doing in us as a church.
The group of kids on stage represented the friends and families who have chosen to do life together in and through the church. We are a people God is forming together through our resolve to love Him and love one another. Our kids are get caught up into this wonderful reality experiencing something truly unique, being part of a story formed community of God.
Each person in our church is different but through our participation in God’s Word, the sacraments and our relationships with one another God takes our individual personalities and gifts and weaves them together into a beautiful tapestry that looks like love and grace. We have a unique identity together, we are The Resolved.
Eugene opens this first chapter by defining pastor as one who works with “God and souls” which he says are “immense mysteries that no one has ever seen at any time.” The pastor’s realm is the unseen and yet his work is carried out in place and time.
The seen and the unseen are the two pendulum’s I find myself swinging in-between as a pastor. At times it’s easy to get lost in the clouds of study, enjoying the glories of what Scripture unfolds in it’s pages. It’s easy to get caught up in excitement of what could be and might be in imagining the future of our church.
I suppose if a pastor never talked to anyone he could just stay up in those clouds. But a pastor who is involved in the lives of his people quickly realizes that life is not lived in the clouds. Real life involves struggling with this present world, struggles of loneliness, fear of the future, regret and sadness, broken relationships, weariness and confusion.
The more I think about it I think God probably means it to be this way where the pastor takes a weekly trip to heaven and then returns to encourage God’s people that He is with them in their struggles and will carry them and bring them into life everlasting. My job is to help people make the connection in their lives from the things they currently see to the unseen glories God has promised for them.
When we get over focused on the seen I think we as pastors either become self-help gurus or savvy entrepreneurs, neither of which meant to have much to do with calling of a pastor. Eugene says, “When I looked around me and observed churches in competition with one another for their share in the religious market, hiring pastors to provide religious good and services for a culture of God consumers, I wanted nothing to do with it.”
That strikes a chord with me. From the start of our church we intentionally never did any advertising. I have friends that think starting a church is easy, they have it down to science of how much money it costs for advertising and vendors it takes to get 400 people to show up for your first worship service. I didn’t want that. I wanted people to be drawn to our church because of the message they were hearing and the sense that God was among us.
I fear I’m becoming a bit of a old miser because things like social media really annoy me. I understand the argument, that social media is like the phone book, public sign and front door of today’s culture, so if your’e not involved in it no one knows you exist. Sometimes I think, “Is this really what it takes to pastor a church in today’s society?” I always acquiesce from total abstinence and instead look at it as a necessary evil and pray that somehow the goodness of the gospel message and God’s work among us is able to be transmitted through the digital images and words sent out to the people of our city.
In this first chapter Eugene talks about where and how his life of a pastor was formed. He says it was on sacred ground and says sacred ground was whenever he spent regular time to sit in solitary and “embrace the quiet, listening, listening, and listening to the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.” He says he had to carve out “space and time to give prayerful, meditative, discerning attention to the ways in which my life is being written into the comprehensive story.”
Part of starting this new weekly journal is an exercise for me in attempting to do that. I can easily get lost in the hustle and bustle of church administration, pastoral counseling, sermon preparation and helping other pastors and church planters. So I’ve been intentionally carving out Monday as a personal soul day for spiritual rejuvenation and reflection on God’s goodness in the life of our church and my role in it as pastor.
I can understand how it may be difficult for those who labor in the various work fields of our day to see how taking a whole day for time with God, soul reflection and prayer for God’s people could possibly be a good use of time. But I think this is part of the peculiarity of a pastor’s work. Make no mistake it’s not easy spending a whole day to do that, it’s work, the pastoral work of both keeping watch over one’s soul and watching over the souls God has entrusted to him.
May God help me to alway be the kind of pastor who waits on Him and regularly wrestles for God’s grace in people’s lives, believing that through that wonderful gift God will grow His church.