Isn’t it amazing how much stuff happens when you are gone? Whether it is while on vacation or doing ministry outside your local church, inevitably the unforeseen happens when the one full-time pastor is gone and you cannot do anything about. While I was in Zambia, I missed a very important funeral and a sudden open heart surgery of one of our elderly members. Because of this, my time in Zambia reminded me of the importance of my “motto” for pastoral ministry:
“Expendable, But Appreciated”
Expendable: I realized that I must pastor this church in such a way that allows this church both to flourish while I’m here and continue to do so once I’m gone (Lord willing, I hope a long time from now). This requires me to delegate responsibilities, share the pulpit, share my authority (plurality of pastors/elders), raise up and train leaders, train my people to disciple, serve, and minister to one another, and personally take breaks with my family that require my people to step up while I’m gone, to mention a few. For different reasons, too many pastors want their ministries built around them, yet in doing so we are hurting the next generation in the local church from moving forward after we are gone.
…But Appreciated: Some of you may be thinking, “If I work myself out of a job…then I won’t have one! Since my full salary package, benefits, and insurance absorb close to a third of our annual budget as a smaller church, it is also a good idea to give reasons for the church to still keep me around. Unfortunately, some pastors (especially at smaller churches) accomplish this by building the ministry around them to where the church feels helpless if something happened to the pastor. I prefer my “job security” to be in the form of appreciation for me and my efforts to care faithfully for their souls. It is the church’s desire to keep me as their pastor year after year out of appreciation for my ministry of the word, friendship, and spiritual care for their souls that creates the dynamic of a local church who will not miss a beat if I, in the providence of God, am hit by a truck tomorrow.
Almost 10 years later, the balance of this motto has shown to bear much fruit. Yesterday was my first Sunday back after being in Zambia for 2 weeks. I observed 2 important things upon my return: 1) The church not only was cared for very well in my absence, but it was amazing the amount of visitors who had come while I was gone and had come back. The church never missed a beat in my absence. 2) I felt missed. I saw it in the eyes of so many as they spoke their kind words that they genuinely missed me while I was gone and was glad I was back. For both these reasons, yesterday was a huge encouragement to my soul.
I began applying “this motto” at the very beginning of my pastorate at Auburndale, but it is never too late to begin this work where you are. Empower biblically qualified people to do the work with you. Share the responsiblity, authority, and equipping of your people and the ministry you do. I am confident that you will not only see God work in more fruitful healthy ways, but you will be more “appreciated” by your people for it.