I am currently away on vacation. Reading, pondering, praying… I will be 49 years old tomorrow. One more til the big 50! It’s here I find myself pondering my life, ministry and overall effectiveness. In some ways I wonder where has the time gone. Some days it seems like I graduated high school just yesterday. Other days, I’m feeling my age even as I simply get up from the couch 🙂
As I search for answers, of course I turn to 2 sources: 1) The Bible and 2) Google. I found Numbers 8:25 which basically say I need to retire from ministry at 50. Yes!!!!!! I probably need to do a better exegesis on that one 🙂 Now to source #2: All I really found was an article by Thom Rainer from 2013. Good article. He says there are 5 stages to pastoral ministry. I agree with him for the most part. Here are his 5 stages:
Honeymoon – Thom Rainer says this is year #1. My honeymoon period was actually longer. This was mainly due to above average growth and momentum within the community. So for me – the honeymoon lasted a bit over 2 years. (BTW – I’m a church planter. This is where I normally say Adios 🙂
Conflicts and Challenges – Mr Rainer has this at the 2-3 year mark. I can totally see how that would be accurate in many denominations, especially those that are congregational led. While you cant be in ministry more than a minute without disappointing someone or making someone upset / uncomfortable, this happened when we started attracting more believers than non-believers as 1st time guests. Believers love to compare your church with the one they came from…. please go back I would say to myself 🙂
As church planter, we tend to attract the goonie googoos 🙂 That’s my pet name for those who wont stay committed and faithful to one church over a long period of time in order to make a difference there. They are the folks looking for a shortcut into “ministry”. They can be a cancer to the body. I had one that was an anti-Jeff evangelist. His calling was to hang out at Walmart, looking for members of our church and in order to talk junk on me or spread gossip about other leaders. I told my wife if God allows me to depart from “ministry” I am going to call this dude and tell him what I think about him (I would like to call him dictator… kinda sounds like that but without tator – stop and think about it) and his ministry at Walmart 🙂 So far… no green light from the Lord on that…. but I wait.
Crossroads – This is years 3-4 according to the article. This is where the Shepard learns that sheep have teeth, are not afraid to use them… and at times have a taste for Shepard 🙂 Basically this where the congregation either kicks out the pastor or they navigate the waters of ministry and become stronger.
Fruit and Harvest – Years 6-10. So… I’m here wrapping up year 6 in a few short months. Waiting…. praying….. I am tired, worn out, betrayed, and even a bit discouraged yet full of hope, faith and love for those who gather every Sunday and serve Jesus in the best way they can. There is no doubt that the need is all around us. It’s more personal this time around. So I sit here and ponder: Can I move beyond the tired? Do I have another mile left in the tank? Can I regroup and refresh the team that ministers with me?
Most churches on the “fastest growing church” list have a senior pastor tenure averaging 14 years. I heard someone say – it took them 14 years to become an overnight success.
Starting year #7 – My prayer is that the Lord of the harvest would send co-laborers to help with the “harvest field”. I pray that “Timothys” would be brought up from within and “Timothys” would pop up according to God’s plan. I pray that every member would view themselves as a minister of Christ. I pray that we would all make a difference not just in the church but in our homes, our schools, our places of employment and everywhere we may go. I pray there would be much fruit.
Beyond – Ive never been at this place. This is what Tom Rainer writes: “During this relatively rare tenure beyond ten years, the pastor himself will go down one of two paths. He will be reinvigorated as a leader and ready to tackle new challenges and cast new visions. Or he will be resistant to the change around him, and then become complacent. I have seen both extremes, but I am still struggling to understand why pastors go down one path versus the other.“
At the bottom of his blog site there is a place for comments. A person by the name of Ben writes: ” As a lay person, I’ve thought a lot about what the body can do to influence pastoral tenure. It seems to me that things like regular words of encouragement, frequent prayer for the pastor, acts of service for the pastor and his family and actually following his spiritual leadership with a joyful heart goes a long way.”
Whether I stay in ministry 1 more month, 1 more year or 20 more years (OMG), when I finally do leave the pastorate (not ministry but the pastorate), I want to be like Ben. I want to be the biggest encourager to my pastor. I want to be like Aaron and Hur as described in Exodus chapter 17.
10 So Joshua did what Moses had commanded and fought the army of Amalek. Meanwhile, Moses, Aaron, and Hur climbed to the top of a nearby hill. 11 As long as Moses held up the staff in his hand, the Israelites had the advantage. But whenever he dropped his hand, the Amalekites gained the advantage. 12 Moses’ arms soon became so tired he could no longer hold them up. So Aaron and Hur found a stone for him to sit on. Then they stood on each side of Moses, holding up his hands. So his hands held steady until sunset. 13 As a result, Joshua overwhelmed the army of Amalek in battle.
So at this point I am rambling…Maybe this blog is more for me than to be read by others.
Here is what I do know: 1) There is no retirement in the body of Christ – it’s just a change of station or a change in roles 2) It’s all about Jesus. Whatever He wants me to do…I will do. Wherever He tells me to go… I will go. 3) When I don’t hear – it means to remain faithful to the last thing He said to do.