Wednesday, August 29, 2007

The Joy of Mini-Church: 5th and Final Part

I will conclude with some personal musings about mini-church. I use mini- in place of mega-. I am persuaded that mini- is where it's at pastorally.

A person who is interested in and skilled for (and "called" to) pastoral ministry carries an internal vision of local church life. The prevailing "business" model of church will appeal to those with the requisite leadership (read CEO) and management skills. Achievable goals, clear objectives, measurable standards and crisp job descriptions will be the vocabulary of the operation. None of this is bad nor is it necessarily biblical. It's the way things are in the good old U.S. of A. A Harvard or Yale MBA is more required than, let's say, a seminary ThM or MDiv to take charge of the megachurch. Bravado and challenge are the guts of mega-ministry. "We gotta take the hill even if we die trying!" shouts the commander- in-chief. Mega- means big. So, you need help. It's a "team" thing. Probably Philip, the disciple, was Jesus' "executive pastor" because Philip carried the calculator. "Lord, we don't have enough bank to feed this mob. Cha-ching!"

Maybe it's just me, but pastoral ministry ought to be, well, pastoral. My goal as a pastor is to help ordinary people living their ordinary lives to be attentive to God. If they take a hill or two in the process, fine. But to take several hills and then have them ask, "Well, dang, where was God in this whole enterprise?" seems futile to me. Jesus got more done in 3 short years with Twelve people than a lot of USAmerican pastors get done in 20 years with 5000 people. What's up with that?

You can't package and market "soul care." It can't be purpose-driven. There are no 7 sure steps to soul care. You can't fill in the blanks in a manual and learn soul care. Do pastors need to be attentive to God? Yes or no? Here's the reality : We're burning pastors out by the hundreds every week and they show up at our retreat/renewal centers ashamed and crying, "I lost God. I actually lost God somewhere in this mess called ministry. I kept the 'operations' afloat, but I was running on empty." Church = keeping the operations afloat (expletive deleted).

Human relationships are not digital or programmatic. Sound and sight and touch, laughter and tears and silence, story and memory and hope, pain and questions and freedom to deeply doubt and still be loved, hate, confusion and bitterness, forgiveness, peacemaking and embrace. Waiting for and helping Rodney and Betty to get from their car using their walkers to their chairs on Sunday morning. Listening to little Jessica tell why she's wearing a watch: "It tells me when I get to go potty" she beams with an absolutely gorgeous smile. High-fiving with energetic Sam and getting some coffee for aging Ray. Talking theology with Jeremy, talking drywalling with Harold, thanking Cheryl for her delicious meat loaf and helping Rich hang letters on the church sign. Grieving with a new widow and laughing with Tim and Sonja about the "thrills(?)" of raising daughters. And in the midst of life as it is, encouraging one another to stay attentive to God---to God's presence, love, promises and mystery.

Few are those who find it.

I am ending this brief series because all you need to do is google "small church" and helpful resources galore are available.



At 8/30/2007 11:59 AM, Blogger grace said...

Yesterday, I came by 3 times and wrote, "I wish you were my pastor," then I erased it because I don't really know what I wish (as my latest post clearly demonstrates).

I've come to realize I don't really need a pastor, meaning someone to be responsible for my spiritual life; but sometimes I still want a pastor, meaning someone who truly cares about where my heart is and how I'm doing.

The people you are involved with are fortunate to have your care.

At 8/30/2007 2:27 PM, Anonymous jeremy bouma said...

I echo grace: I am fortunate to have your care, John!

thanks for all you do,

At 8/31/2007 2:51 PM, Anonymous Susan said...

I know that there are people out there who go by the title "pastor" but who do not give a hoot why little Jessica wears a watch and probably don't even know who Jessica's parents are. But what you describe here is the "stuff" of pastoral ministry - This is a beautiful post.

At 9/02/2007 3:58 AM, Blogger John Frye said...

How kind of you! I wish you were in my little faith community. I know the whole idea of "pastor" is under deconstruction, but until the dust clears, I really believe in the calling to soul care.

At 9/02/2007 3:59 AM, Blogger John Frye said...

I am fortunate to have you as a friend and colleague as well as FCC is blessed to have you among us.

At 9/02/2007 4:02 AM, Blogger John Frye said...

Yes, indeedy--it is the particulars, the little specificities that make pastoral/soul care work fascinating. Little Jessica is among us as a reminder of what the kingdom of God is like!

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