Preach, of course. At least, that is how I would have answered almost 8 years ago when I first came to my current church. The problem was there was so much more to do than just preach and no one to do it. I came to an 80 year old church about to close its doors. What remained was an old, run down, but beautiful building and about 30 faithful, elderly members who could no longer care for its growing needs. Probably the portion of the church building that had been let go for the longest time were the restrooms. I think we would all agree that the restrooms are a bad place to “let things go.”
This is a good time to mention that I have a phobia about cleaning bathrooms, so much so that I worked out an agreement with my wife once we were married to serve her in whatever way she needed as long as she never asked me to clean the bathroom. She graciously agreed. What I realized was that although not everyone has a “phobia” about bathrooms, most everyone is turned off by smelly, dirty ones. I knew that was the greatest regular need to get our church building to a place to welcome visitors.
As the new pastor and no one else young enough or physically able to serve in this way, that task fell to me. I was not happy about it. My associate pastor’s wife (both who came to the church with us), out of mercy, agreed to rotate weeks and share the burden with me (she is still dear to my heart because of that). For the next 3 years this would be one of my pastoral weekly duties and I sinned often in my heart as I did it. The Lord in His grace taught me some of the most valuable lessons about humility, faithful pastoral ministry, and what it truly means to serve Christ and His church while cleaning toilets. Here are two of the more important lessons:
All tasks are ultimately the pastor’s responsibility. Whether we like it or not, the buck stops with us. We may not like it. It may not seem fair. But that is just the way it is. The sooner we as pastors accept this reality, the more equipped we will be to do what we need to do so that we don’t carry the burden to accomplish every single task in the church ourselves. For me, that was training up leaders to serve in these everyday roles (deacons – 1 Timothy 3:8-15) and to raise up other biblically qualified men to carry the burdens of the church with me (pastors – 1 Timothy 3:1-7)).
If you are not willing to clean toilets, you should not be preaching. Jesus teaches to be great in the kingdom of God we must first be a servant (Mark 10:43). God pierced my heart one day as I was cleaning the bathrooms in our church (with a bad attitude) and helped me realize if I was not willing to serve Christ in this way, I was not worthy to have the most public, visible, and high profile role in the church in preaching God’s Word. I also learned how much more our people were eager for me to serve them in preaching when they knew I had served them by scrubbing the toilets the day before.
I no longer clean toilets as a pastoral weekly duty. I have a dear, faithful servant in our church who now takes on that task and many others like it to allow me to address other pastoral needs. But after doing so for 3 years, I am grateful I did and what I learned. I now manage my heart in such a way that I would be willing at any time to do it again if there was a need to do so. The lessons about pastoral ministry I learned from being on my hands and knees scrubbing toilets in the church restrooms although unexpected, have been immeasurable in value.
Most importantly, in God’s kind and all-wise providence…I no longer have a phobia about cleaning toilets.