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.