Pastor John puts away his tools for the day. His shift at the construction site ends in 10 minutes. Already, he has begun switching gears and thinking through the evening ahead. Tonight is the board meeting, but first he has to get home, shower and check in with his wife and kids.
Like many pastors, John has to divide his time and attention between a “day job” and his calling—to pastor a church.
Bi-vocational ministry has a unique set of challenges. If you asked John what his No. 1 problem is, he would say time—time to give every activity the attention it needs. Like many startups, his church is full of young Christians who need to be discipled.
The spirit of cowardice lives and thrives in churches these days. It has a corner in the office of many a pastor and makes whimpering sounds familiar to many of us:
“You don’t want to do that. It might rock the boat.”
“Deacon Crenshaw will be upset if you preach that. I wouldn’t.”
“Back off on that vision God gave you. You’re going to lose some members if you push that.”
“Pastor, you must not oppose the power group in your church. They ran off the last three preachers.”
“The biggest giver in the church is threatening to withhold his tithes if you persist in letting those people come to our church.”
Pastor, you set the tone and atmosphere in your congregation. If you want to know the warmth of your church, put the thermometer in your own mouth.
I’ve visited some churches where the pastor’s lack of love is the main reason the church isn’t growing. Some pastors, by their cold demeanor and lack of personal warmth, virtually guarantee that visitors won’t come back. And in some larger churches, I’ve gotten the impression that the pastor loves an audience but doesn’t like people.
Great preaching without love is just noise in God’s view. Every time I speak to at Saddleback, I repeat a simple reminder to myself. I never preach or teach without thinking this:
As often as the word holy is used by Christians, you’d think that we could all agree on a uniform understanding of its meaning. We read our “Holy” Bibles. We receive “Holy” Communion. We sing the hymn “Holy, Holy, Holy” and acknowledge the “Holy” Spirit, the third person of the Godhead. We understand the word generally to mean “divine” or “of God.”
But when Christians start to discuss holiness, they discover that the implications of the word vary widely. It seems that holiness can mean anything from a name for the pope to teetotalism and not wearing makeup.