Time to turn the page and look toward the future. Tomorrow is rushing, swift as a flood. It’s time to get ready. A few thoughts on what maybe you should do.
Clarify your message. Christianity is a message. But what’s the message? Dallas Willard has said, “At the root of the many problems that trouble the church visible today there is one simple source: the message that is preached.” Maybe here it is “the message that is believed.” The message believed? That Jesus is here to save your soul for heaven. Fine, but Christianity is bigger than that. Jesus is here to save your soul, your body, the sky, the waters, the trees. Everything. He’s here to transform this world into the Kingdom of God. Christianity’s message is the world is under new management. The old powers have been dethroned. Jesus is Lord. Why does this matter? For one this is a far bigger truth than the misunderstood message. For another, the smaller idea that Jesus is only about saving your soul for heaven is dull and meaningless to the people who need to be reached for Jesus, especially to young people. Young people want a mission to give their lives to and Jesus gives them that. But focusing only on getting their soul saved for heaven doesn’t. Believe the whole Bible’s message that Christ has taken over the entire cosmos and is turning it into Eden. Engage young people. Make the world around you more like heaven today than it was yesterday. Engage in real efforts to do that. Clarify your message and your mission.
Clarify your role. If we think of church as a business (we shouldn’t) it’s easy for a congregation to see themselves as customers. Paying customers who should get what they want. It’s up to the pastor and the staff to provide that. Hear this. You are not a customer. You’re not paying for or buying anything here. You’re giving. You are serving as a minister of Jesus. And the pastor and staff? They have a God-given task here. Someone has said that the pastor’s task is to comfort the afflicted and to afflict the comfortable. I’m sorry to tell you that if you think that you are to be given a 1970s-style church in a 21st-century world you need to be afflicted. No pastor will cater to a consumer-based nostalgia for the way things used to be and give you that. Accept that as reality and move on.
Remember that pastors are human beings. They don’t know everything. They make mistakes. Sometimes they get it right. Sometimes they don’t. But in whatever, be kind. Be understanding. Remember he will have no family here. He and his wife will have absolutely zero friends here. You have many. They have none. Everything in their world will be here with you. Work, friends, church. Disrupt one area of their lives and you disrupt everything in their lives. Treat them like a friend. Love them. Let go of the joy of criticism and complaint over little things. Most things are little things. Try to understand them. Be kind. Practice Jesus’s one simple rule. Do to others what you want them to do to you for this is the law and the prophets. Treat them, talk to them, talk about them the way you want people to do to you.
Thank you for your kindness to Barb and me. God be with you. Amen.