Tag: service

Where do you serve?

I had the privilege of speaking at the Convocation on the Rural Church, sponsored by Duke Divinity School this month.  The conference setting was the beautiful Kingston Plantation Resort at Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, and the weather was great for a few days at the beach.

The group attending the Convocation on the Rural Church were United Methodist pastors because much of the funding came from the Duke endowment.  We had a wonderful 3-days with the group of about 100 pastors and spouses.

The first night of the conference we all gathered for a kick-off banquet.  Debbie and I found our seats at a table with 6 other men and women.  As we got to know each other, we noticed that the question of location came up several times.

But instead of asking, “Where is your church located?”  or “What church do you pastor?”  The question was almost always asked this way —

Where do you serve?

Debbie noticed it first, and then I started to pay attention to how these rural United Methodist pastors identified themselves.  The idea of service, not status, prevailed throughout the conference.  Of course, maybe I’m making a mountain out of the proverbial mole hill.  But I was touched, if I may get a little maudlin here, by the phrase used throughout the event, as one pastor identified him or herself to another.

“Where do you serve?” seems a much more genteel and appropriate question than “What church do you pastor?” The emphasis is on ministry as service, not status, and I liked that.  I’m going to try to remember to ask that question the next time I meet a pastor and need to know where he or she ministers.  “Where do you serve?” is a great way to identify what we do as pastors and leaders.

Counting the “unto-me’s”

One of the things Baptists do when we take our own pulse is to count.  We count attendance, giving, groups, and most of all, we count baptisms.  Lately, like the last 7 or 8 years, baptisms in Southern Baptist life have been down.  So, there’s a lot of second-guessing about why we are larger than ever as a denomination, but baptize fewer and fewer each year.  Of course, explanations for the decline in baptisms cluster around lack of commitment, lack of bible preaching, and lack of other stuff.  But, I think that’s the wrong approach.

Here’s what I think — maybe we’re counting the wrong things. Maybe we should be counting the people we help each week.  Or the people who don’t attend church, but count those of us who do as their friends.  Or the families of the kids who come to our after-school programs, or take music lessons at our church, or shoot basketball in our parking lot.  Maybe we should count real life moments when we are most fully-Christlike in our dealings with others.

Okay, I know.  You can’t count stuff like that because it’s too general, not specific enough, not concrete enough.  Some folks said something like that to Jesus one day, and his response was, “In as much as you have done it unto one of the least of these, my brethren, you have done it unto me.”  Maybe we should have a new category to count — the “unto me’s.”   That might change our whole perspective on this business we call church.  What do you think?