Here’s something which has given me a lot of pause for thought in the last few days:
I was in the process of coming to terms with my congregation as they were: their less-than-developed emotional life, their lack of intellectual curiosity, their complacent acceptance of a world of consumption and diversion, their seemingly peripheral interest in God… By now I was prepared to enter a long process of growth in which they would discover for themselves the freshness of the Spirit giving vitality to the way they loved and worked and laughed and played… I was learning not to impose my expectations of what I hoped for them but rather let them reveal to me, as they were able, who they were. I was becoming a pastor who wasn’t in a hurry.
In case you can’t tell, this is Eugene Peterson in The Pastor.
I love those final two sentences and it is they which are causing me to reflect deeply. You see, I lead in a church context where the number of young believers and non-believers far outstrips our mature ones. And so the need which I perceive for more leaders and weight-bearers is often a very pressing one.
Especially because, almost every time we have played our part in bringing a believer to a certain level of maturity or developed a leadership gift in them, God seems to decide to ‘borrow’ them permanently for some other part of this kingdom of his! (I’m still learning to happy about that one. 😉 )
I realise that I am almost certainly a pastor in a hurry. I need people to step up (and fast!) so we can spread the load more evenly in order to protect the faithful stalwarts. I definitely have hopes for many of our people! And I don’t think that is a bad thing because there is something powerful in one believer calling greatness out of another in the name of Jesus.
And it’s that ‘but’ which has been bothering me since reading this. I think I need to slow down, to let these precious people reveal, as they are able, who they are. I have no idea quite how is that going to solve the perennial issues of not enough leaders, of not enough willing hands (indeed, of not enough of anything really!).
But Peterson has been reminding me of something: my calling as pastor is not to ‘run this church’ but to point this people to our God, to call our attention to him and to help us respond to his presence in our lives. And I am learning to pray that I might become a pastor who is content with the long process of growth orchestrated by God in our lives as a community; indeed, to become a pastor who is not in a hurry.