Tuesday, June 03, 2008

"The Win"

As you probably know, the church council has been meeting in small groups and studying Andy Stanley's excellent book, "7 Practices of an Effective Ministry". One of those practices is something called "clarifying the win."

"Clarifying the win" means to sit down, think it out, and then communicate what a goal looks like when it's acheived. For a baseball team it's pretty obvious: at the end of a game you have more runs on the scoreboard than the other team. That's a "win." But for a church it can get a little complicated. There's so many things that look on the surface to be a win. More people in the pews. Higher weekly offerings. People growing in Christ. Babies getting baptized. And the list goes on and on.

In our “7 Practices” small groups, one question I heard asked again and again was, “What’s the win? What’s the win for Our Saviour?”

I had an answer that swum around in the back of my head, but it was hard for me to articulate. I knew it had something to do with fulfilling our mission statement of bringing our neighbors into Christ’s chosen family. After all, if that’s our mission, then fulfilling that MUST be a win, right? But then the question was asked, “What does that look like? How do we know when we’ve actually done it?”

I’ve got the answer. Well, honestly, Dietrich Bonhoeffer has given me the answer. Final chapter of Life Together, final page . . . final paragraph:

“The day of the Lord’s Supper is an occasion of joy for the Christian community. Reconciled in their hearts with God and the brethren, the congregation receives the gift of the body and blood of Jesus Christ, and, recieinv that, it receives forgives, new life, and salvation. It is given new fellowship with God and men. The fellowship of the Lord’s Supper is the superlative fulfillment of Christian fellowship. As the members of the congregation are united in body and blood at the table of the Lord so will they be together in eternity. Here the community has reached its goal. Here joy in Christ and his community is complete. The life of Christians together under the Word has reached its perfection in the Sacrament.”

There’s the win. Forgiven and redeemed sinners gathering together as the community of Christ around His Sacrament. Neighbors no longer, but full members of the Body of Christ, each of us joined together by grace through His Supper.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

On being a pastor and wanting to see fruit

In all honesty, for quite some time I've believed that there was something wrong with me as a pastor. The reason is simple: I want to see the good fruit of the Holy Spirit's work come about in the congregation through the result of my ministry. Nothing wrong with that, but when I don't see it I wonder, "Why am I even bothering?" I get depressed and despondent and wonder if my work hasn't been in vain. Like I said, I thought there was something wrong with me. My tradition and background places such an emphasis on "success" being "proclaiming the pure Gospel". i.e., if a preacher just stays faithful to the Word then he's done his job and that's all he needs to keep going. Doesn't matter if the congregation grows in numbers. Doesn't matter if the congregation rejects the pure Word. The fruit the pastor should look for is the pure Gospel being proclaimed. Now this morning I'm reading through Thessalonians and the Lord has granted me a gift: The Apostle Paul had the same struggles. He wanted to SEE results. So much so, in fact, that he worried and obsessed over the state of the Thessalonian's faith. It kept him up at night, so to speak. Were the Thessalonians growing in their faith? Were they withstanding trials and persecution? For that matter . . . did they remember me and my ministry among them? It bothered him so much that he sent Timothy. And it wasn't until he got a good report back--that they did indeed think of him fondly, that their faith remained strong and growing--that he could say, "NOW we really live. Our efforts were NOT in vain." Good stuff, there. Reminds me that I'm just like all ministers: I started out on this path because I wanted to see lives changed by encountering Christ, and seeing actual fruit coming about through my ministry is a definite reward. It is a gift from God, something that allows me to get up the next day and minister once more in God's name. To get back in the pulpit again on Sunday and preach His Word. When that fruit is not there, it's natural--and perhaps even expected--that I'll despair. It's natural for me to either re-evaluate my approach or desire to move on to more fertile ground. I'm not weird or broken . . . I'm just a lot like Paul. Good news, indeed. Now, if you'll excuse me, I've got to shut down and try to fix my laptop power cord that the dog has just chewed in half. Can't live without my laptop!