For twenty-five years I did something that I enjoyed doing. I pastored a small church. It wasn’t all pressure free but it was fun.
I loved preaching. I loved watching people grow in their faith. I loved the community involvement. I loved working with leadership teams as we planned together for the future. I enjoyed it all. There were frustrations and difficulties but the rewards were second to none. I have a book in which people, when I left the church, wrote how I had impacted their lives. I wouldn’t trade that book for all the money in the U.S. mint.
I didn’t think that I would ever have the opportunity to pastor again but God in his infinite grace has given it to me. For the foreseeable future I will be serving as the part – time interim pastor of New Dundee Baptist Church. Paul Kowtecky, who had been there for nineteen years, recently resigned and the church has asked me to serve until a new pastor can be found.
I will still be serving as Director of Small Church Connections with all that that involves. I am in the beginning stages of a project that I believe will be helpful to all small churches across Canada. I will be sharing details in future blogs. Enough to say right now that the two jobs will keep me busy in the months ahead.
So what am I excited about? Many things, but I want to share three of them in the remainder of this blog entry.
Preaching on a consistent basis
When I was a pastor, I found that preaching every week was a pressure. The pastor prepares all week for that message on Sunday morning. She studies. She agonizes over the structure of the message. She worries that she might distort the focus of the biblical passage. She shares the finished product with her congregation and then five minutes after the service is over that sermon is history and she has to start all over again.
Almost every pastor with whom I have spoken has shared that there is a special pressure that comes from the demands of weekly preaching. Having said that I must admit that I love it. I love taking a section of God’s word and breaking it down into a format that people can understand. I love the actual preaching. There is nothing quite like looking at your audience and knowing that they are attentively listening to the Word of God that can transform their lives.
For the past few years I have been in a position in which I could preach the same sermon over and over again. There are advantages to that but I am looking forward to wrestling with a new passage every week. I have already set out a schedule for the first six months of sermons and every message will be a new message prepared for the very first time. That will be fun.
Loving the same group of people over time
I have no idea how long I will serve as interim pastor. I have told the church that as soon as they find a new pastor, I will step aside. On the other hand, I will try to be there for as long as they need me.
There are few things more enjoyable than to watch people grow in their faith over time. Whether I am at New Dundee for a few months or a few years, I look forward to working with the same group of people for as long as I am there.
There are many things that I can’t do in a small church that large churches are able to do. I won’t have the highly skilled worship teams that are part of every large church. I won’t have any staff other than my wife with which to work. I won’t have the financial resources that large churches have.
There is, however, one thing that I can do as well as any pastor in Canada. I can love the people whom God has entrusted to my care. I am looking forward to sharing in their lives: rejoicing with them in their times of blessings and sorrowing with them when they hurt. That is what being a pastor is all about.
Putting ideas into practice
For the past few years I have spent a lot of time reading about small churches, interviewing small-church leaders and developing strategies for helping small churches make an impact. I believe that church is not about numbers. It is not about programs. It is not about budgets. It is all about impact. Whatever the size of the church, the challenge is to make an impact on the people who attend and through them on the community that surrounds the church.
It is possible to experience numerical growth and never make this kind of impact. Impact comes when people are transformed by the Holy Spirit when he does his work in their lives. When that happens, those people who have been transformed will take their faith outside the walls of the church to the people in the community.
I am excited about putting what I have learned into practice. I am looking forward to the journey that I will be making with the folks at New Dundee Baptist Church as we explore together how all of this works.
To my fellow pastors
You truly are an amazing group of people. You work there in the trenches day after day serving the people whom God has entrusted to your care. You strive to bring God’s message to your people week after week so that the Holy Spirit can take it and impact lives. You serve people often at great personal sacrifice so that those people can feel God’s love in their lives.
I am honoured once again to be numbered among you. May God bless each of you as you serve him this week.