What energizes you?
One of the things I like about ministry is that a pastor gets to do a variety of different things. In one day you can spend time alone studying and praying for your next Sunday’s sermon; then visit the hospital to celebrate the birth of a new baby with a family in your church; after lunch stop by the local nursing home to chat for a few minutes with a dear senior adult member; in the afternoon counsel a young couple who are planning their wedding; and, finish the day at a committee meeting where you deal with the realities of the economy and budgets.
But in the mix of all the things that pastors do, there are some things that energize me more than others. I enjoy most of the work a pastor does, but I’m energized by some of it more than others.
I believe those aspects of ministry that energize you are God’s great gift to you. Those energizing areas are different for different pastors. Some love to spend lots of time pouring over Greek texts, and exegeting scripture passages. Others believe their ministry in face-to-face settings is vital. Still others find fulfillment in hanging at the local coffee shop making friends with total strangers.
Whatever your passion, God gives you those special, energizing moments. God doesn’t give them to you so you can spend all your time doing just one thing. After all, pastors are generalists, not specialists. But God gives you the energizing moments to keep you going through the times that drain you.
In Psalm 23, God leads the sheep to the green pastures and still waters before the valley of the shadow of death. The times of energy and refreshment are to get us through the times of difficulty and despair.
Ministry has to be balanced. We do some things because we have to. Whether you’re a pastor or a postal worker, some things are have-tos. But we do a few things because we want to. For our lives to have meaning and purpose, we need those energizing moments. Those are God’s gifts to you. Enjoy them when they come.
I wrote about the impending crises in the three E’s — energy, environment, and economy — several weeks ago. This weekend we saw all three converge, vying for media coverage with each other. Hurricane Ike hit Texas and the Gulf Coast; gas prices spiked with gas rationed in some areas; and, the financial markets are taking a hit today. Lessons we are learning include:
- The price of oil per barrel is not the only thing driving gas prices higher.
- The broader financial crisis is not over, and more bad news is coming.
- The environment — including natural disasters — impacts us in a number of ways.
- All of the 3-E’s provide opportunities for outreach and ministry.
Christine Sine has a great post
on our response as Christians to these events. In part Christine says —
I really have been wondering about this as I have followed the path of Hurricanes Gustave and Ike and then watched the stock markets crash all over the world this morning. Yet of the numerous Christian blogs I have followed over the weekend only one has had a post with a prayer and a thought for those whose lives have been devastated by these tragedies. I feel that most of my blogging friends are living in a glass shell where the world and all that happens in it does not really exist.
The 3-E’s are issues that affect our churches, our communities, and our world. We need to think about how the changing future alters our current plans. Let me know what your church is thinking in light of the 3-E’s.
(A couple of days ago I wrote about several converging crises — energy, economy, and environment. Since then the price of gas has gone down! Proof that I was wrong. Not! As a nation we are so shell-shocked by the energy crisis that we think a 10-cent reduction in the price of gas is a big break, forgetting that less than a year ago we were paying under $3 a gallon. Anyway, back to our original program.)
I see churches adapting to these three interrelated crises — energy, economy, and environment — in several ways:
- Redefinition of “church.” Church will no longer be the place we go, church will be the people we share faith with. Churches will still meet together for worship at a central time and location, but that will become secondary to the ministry performed during the week. Church buildings will become the resource hub in community ministry, like the old Celtic Christian abbeys. Church impact will replace church attendance as the new metric.
- Restructuring of church operations. Due to the high cost of fuel and a struggling economy, churches will become smaller, more agile, and less expensive to operate than in the past. Churches will need to provide direct relief to individuals and families with meal programs, shelters, clothing, job training, and more. In the not-distant-future, we will live in a world where government is increasingly unable to fund and provide those services. Church buildings will become increasingly more expensive to maintain, and churches with unused weekday space will consider partnerships with businesses, other ministries, and helping agencies. Or churches will sell their conventional buildings and reestablish in storefronts that operate as retail businesses 6 days a week, and gathering places on Sunday (or Thursday or whenever). Churches will focus outwardly on their “parish” more than inwardly on their members. Church staff will become more community-focused rather than church-program focused, and become team leaders in new missional ventures.
- Repackaging of “sermons” and Christian education. With fewer people “attending” church, fewer will also attend Christian education classes. Churches will deliver Christian education content via mobile devices. Short video clips accessible from iPhones (and other smart devices) will be the primary content carriers for church and culture. Church “members” (if that quaint term actually survives) will still gather, but more for monthly celebrations, fellowship, and sharing than weekly meetings, worship, or learning. Of course, there may be several monthly celebrations geared to different lifestyles (tribes), schedules, and preferences. Again, the abbey concept of the church as hub with many smaller groups revolving around the resource center.
- Refocus from institution to inspiration. Okay, so I went for the easy alliteration there. Restated, less emphasis on the “church” and more on how the church enables its adherents to live their faith. Declining church attendance is not a crisis of faith, it’s a crisis of delivery. We can bemoan the fact that fewer people come to church, but ballgames are not suffering from declining attendance. People go to what they want to go to. Church ministry has to focus on engaging people in meaningful ways that enable their spiritual journeys. In a world in crisis, people are looking for something to believe in as institution after institution crumbles. If banks, businesses, and whole countries fail, where can we put our trust? Church should have the answer 24/7, delivered like everything else is delivered now — when people want it, at their convenience, and in a way that resonates with them.
None of the things I have suggested here are new. But, the thing that makes them more viable now is the convergence of all three crises at one time. But, let’s hope for the best and assume that gas goes back to no more than $2 per gallon, the planet cools off, energy is abundant, and the economy flourishes. All the possibilities I suggest above are still viable strategies that may be more in keeping with New Testament values than our 20th century consumerist approach. What do you think?