Friday, November 20, 2009

Why Ministers Matter and Don't

In one of my last blog posts, I talked about the Sunday before Josh Graves and David Rubio were installed as the teaching and preaching ministers at Otter Creek. It was one of those days that stuck so strongly with me, even almost 3 months later. And while I still remember Lee’s sermon as one of the best ones that I’ve heard, what has stuck with me is the sight of John Rucker, Howard Justiss, and Charlie Brandon standing up in front of the congregation. And it was on that day that I realized the level to which our paid ministers both matter a great deal and don’t matter as much as we sometimes think.

Here’s what I mean.

Otter Creek was without a paid pulpit minister for around a year, give or take. During that time, we heard from some incredible speakers. Otter Creek is a church blessed with people who can communicate the Gospel passionately and fervently, and we heard from a lot of them. And while there was a strong push and pursuit of new minister(s), one thing that didn’t happen was the work of the Kingdom of God at Otter Creek stopping. We still ministered to children, we still cared for the homeless and the prisoners, we continued worshiping God, and doing God’s work. Having one or two paid individuals in that role didn’t stop us from doing that.

And seeing those three lions of the congregation made me have another important realization. As much as I’ve grown to love and respect Josh over the last three months and David in the years he’s been at Otter Creek, the great likelihood is that they won’t be at Otter Creek their whole lives. In today’s more transitory preaching environments, most churches are fortunate to have one minister for more that 10-15 years. What does tend to last, and what has lasted at a congregation like Otter Creek are the people. The people who get down into the dirtiness of ministry and hard work, who laugh and cry and will be there no matter who is speaking from the pulpit, because they realize that Otter Creek is more than her preacher or worship minister. Are those people important? Yes, as I’ll say in a moment. But they are not so important that if they leave, Otter Creek falls apart. John Rucker, Charlie Brandon, Howard Justiss, and so many others have been through more preaching and teaching ministers than I can remember, but those transitions haven’t stopped them from continuing the long journey of discipleship. Nor should it.

But that’s also not to say that the people who preach and teach to us aren’t important. They are and should be, because what we should hear from them is that constant push to pursue Christ and the imitation of Christ in our lives. We should hear that we are not nearly as strong individually as we are together, empowered by the Holy Spirit. And we should hear that God didn’t offer us salvation to sit on our behinds and not do anything, but that we have work to do. We have a Kingdom to enact. But those people who preach and teach us, can’t do it for us.

Nor should we expect them to. We all partner together. Josh and David are no more or less gifted in serving God and working in the Kingdom than I am. But we can partner together. Minister don’t matter as much as we sometimes might think, but they matter, as do all of us, as we grow together in discipleship to Christ.

8 comments:

livelaughlove95 said...

In light of something I witnessed today, this post is quite timely and I offer a very hearty, "AMEN!"

(sorry to be cryptic, it would be imprudent to say anymore publicly)

Malia

Doug Young said...

Phil,

This is a wonderfully, thought provoking piece.

zeloslogos said...

I witnessed the same thing in our church many years back. Without a pastor we looked inward and found speakers and services we did not know existed, I think churches need to always be developing themselves from their own fellowship; speakers and teachers. In fact I feel that the 'pastors' main focus should be in doing exactly this, developing and growing people for the ministry, rather than being a talking head, or event planner/marriage counselor/marketing strategist/hospice worker. Most modern pastors are, or expected to be all of these. Hire a person/s for this position but leave the teaching of the Word to the 'pastor'. I feel this is why the Church today is so void of knowledge and the power to save and restore.
Acts 6:2 So the twelve summoned the congregation of the disciples and said, "It is not desirable for us to neglect the word of God in order to serve tables.3 "Therefore, brethren, select from among you seven men of good reputation, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we may put in charge of this task.4 "But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word."5 The statement found approval with the whole congregation; and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit, and Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas and Nicolas, a proselyte from Antioch.6 And these they brought before the apostles; and after praying, they laid their hands on them.7 The word of God kept on spreading; and the number of the disciples continued to increase greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests were becoming obedient to the faith.

zeloslogos said...

I witnessed the same thing in our church many years back. Without a pastor we looked inward and found speakers and services we did not know existed, I think churches need to always be developing themselves from their own fellowship; speakers and teachers. In fact I feel that the 'pastors' main focus should be in doing exactly this, developing and growing people for the ministry, rather than being a talking head, or event planner/marriage counselor/marketing strategist/hospice worker. Most modern pastors are, or expected to be all of these. Hire a person/s for this position but leave the teaching of the Word to the 'pastor'. I feel this is why the Church today is so void of knowledge and the power to save and restore.
Acts 6:2 So the twelve summoned the congregation of the disciples and said, "It is not desirable for us to neglect the word of God in order to serve tables.3 "Therefore, brethren, select from among you seven men of good reputation, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we may put in charge of this task.4 "But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word."5 The statement found approval with the whole congregation; and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit, and Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas and Nicolas, a proselyte from Antioch.6 And these they brought before the apostles; and after praying, they laid their hands on them.7 The word of God kept on spreading; and the number of the disciples continued to increase greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests were becoming obedient to the faith.

Anonymous said...

I think you're right, Phil, except my observation from my personal experience over the 12 years I've been at O.C. would be not that ministry continues here regardless of whether or not we have a paid preacher, but that it continues NOT to happen, as usual. The glaring exception being outreach fueled by Doug Sanders. Internally, we are nothing short of an embarassment to the notion of church. This begins and ends with our elders, who intend well and talk a big game, but are woefully and shamefully short on follow through. Marriages litterally crumbling right in front of their eyes, and not even a phone call from a single elder. Members caught up in inapproprite relationships being forced to worship "off campus". Bizarre. Shameful

Frank Bellizzi said...

Anonymous,

I have to say to you that you really should take up these valid concerns of yours with the elders and other leaders of the congregation. As difficult and painful as it might be to do that, it's only right. And, if it is done in the Spirit of Christ, it has the potential to bring growth to you and those you question and confront.

To make an anonymous comment about these matters can provide a bit of temporary comfort. But it will not change the things that you say you care about.

Anonymous said...

Frank, I'm not anonymous as someone who just lobs grenades for kicks. It's because I care about the very people I'm criticising, and I have no interest in hurting them, as they have done nothing to hurt me. I have identified myself to Phil and he knows who the comment came from. Honestly, part of the reason I left the comment is because I'm shocked Phil doesn't recognize this himself, because I'm right.

Also, I have gone to 2 of the elders and 1 staff member with my concerns. So whether I comment anonymously or take it up with the leadership essentially makes no difference--nothing changes either way. I feel no comfort either way.

Hepzibah The Watchman said...

I agree. The Church is the corporate body of believers - wherever they many be - the office, a construction site, a school, etc. The minister is God's Holy Spirit and the Preacher is God's Word in the Bible. Our cohesion is not built on the creation - but on the Creator.

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