I have the privilege of working with all kinds of churches. There are lots of differences that exist from church to church. But as unique as churches are, there are also a number of similarities that exist and surface from time to time.
Some of the stuff that keeps coming up gets me thinking about my time as a pastor and the things that I now wish I had been better at. In no particular order:
1) I wish I had celebrated more. I wish I had helped my church pause and celebrate what God was doing in our midst. I wish we had celebrated steps of obedience, not just “ends”. I wish I had found ways to celebrate reaching mileposts, not just goals and that we had recognized the “little” stuff, not just the “big” stuff. This would have helped us honor God (which we can’t do too much of). I also think it would have helped us value people and what they were doing with, through and for God. And it definitely would have underlined what was important for us a church because we focus on and celebrate what is important – so we need to be intentional about celebrating.
2) I wish I had told more stories. Wait. Let’s make that I wish I had asked more people to tell stories. Stories about what God was up to in their lives. Stories about life change. Stories about big bold things. And stories about little moments of faithfulness. Again, this would have honored and celebrated what God was doing. And stories inspire us. And having folks share their story instead of just the pastor telling stories helps us all realize that we have a story to share and encourages us to hopefully share it.
3) I wish I hadn’t always looked for the shortest, easiest way to do things. And I wish I hadn’t settled on those ways sometimes. Let me explain. I wasted a lot of time looking for three easy steps for church growth or ten week discipleship courses. But the truth is nothing worthwhile can be done quickly, becoming more like Jesus takes a lifetime not a month. Meaningful relationships can’t be done on the run. Disciple making is the long haul, not the short fix. Looking for the shortcut took time that should have been put to better use.
Now, this list isn’t just for pastors to consider. We could all stand to see how we are doing at this, as churches and small groups and families and so on. We all need to look for ways to appropriately celebrate what God is up to in us and around us. We need to tell more stories. And we need to hear the stories others have to tell. And we need to be committed to doing what God calls us to do, not settling for the quickest way to get the job done.
I hope we can all keep working on this together.
Director of Church Health, the Free Methodist Church in Canada