Hope for the very worst pastor ever.

(This is Part 2 of a 2 part series. You can read Part 1 here.)

In Part 1 of this series, I talked a little bit about the difficulties of the calling of being a pastor when you're not a people person. Specifically, about how it requires you to push into weakness, learn things that will be uncomfortable and foreign, all the while expecting the Holy Spirit to show up. But specifically, I need to lean into that for the good of the congregation and for the good of my own spiritual growth. I don't get a pass on this.

In today's post, I want to hit 3 broad things:

  1. A few practical things I've engaged with to help me learn some basics for pastoral-ness (not a real word)
  2. Team-Based leadership through APEST
  3. Leveraging strength for the good of weakness

 

EVERNOTE MEETS FLASH CARDS

Promise you won't make fun of me, because you're about to see how nerdy I can actually be. I spent about 3 months with an Evernote file and slowly filled it up. The file was called "Being in Introvert in an Extrovert's world: and then I put notes, comments and questions in different categories:

  • Bold and Smart Small Talk
  • Ways to see if people are open to Jesus
  • Transitions to going deeper spiritually
  • Transitions to giving challenge/pushback
  • Tell me your story

There should should probably be a lot more categories, but that's where I landed. Again...I know this sounds ridiculous. I'm aware. But I went even further...I made about 60 flashcards and memorized them. (Yes, i still have that Evernote file and all of the flashcards). 

That actually proved really helpful for me. I'm really bad at small talk and really struggle meeting new people and going deeper when I don't know someone well. To be clear: I'm not saying I'm now good at this 'pastoral' thing and this ridiculous note card system was some kind of solve-all! I'm saying I probably moved from a D- to a C and then I'm trusting that the Holy Spirit is really, really at work. 

Seriously though...I wish there was some kind of 'Be an extrovert and be Kind' 5-Hour energy drink I could chug down every morning. I'd buy stock in that.

 

INVESTMENT HOURS

This is something I started a few years that made things dramatically easier for me to do pastoral care well. It's a pretty simple idea: I set aside 5, one-hour time slots a week that are spread out among different days and phases of the day. It's the same time slots every week. When people need to process something, when they need pastoral guidance or pastoral counseling, when they need someone to listen, or cry with them or just to pray with them and they want it to be a pastor, there's a really easy avenue for them to get that. It's not that I can't or won't do other times or engage in other ways, but having time set aside for that has been really helpful for me (and I'd like to think spiritually meaningful and helpful for the people who do it).

 

TEAM-BASED LEADERSHIP

You see this all over scripture, but I'm not doing this alone. For instance, in Ephesians 4:11-2, we see the 5-Fold Ministry roles God gives to the Church (Apostle, Prophet, Evangelist, Shepherd/Pastor and Teacher). I definitely lean towards that Apostolic one the most, followed with a mild dose of teacher. The Shepherd/Pastor one is where I score the lowest. By a country mile.

However, we have an incredible group of elders who don't just make decisions, but do the actual work of ministry as leaders of a local congregation. We also realize that we have different roles and gifts sitting at that elder table. So for the ones that do have that pastoral gifting, there's a recognition that we have have to have them living fully into their role. It doesn't matter that they aren't paid. We need them. They are Pastors and we need them shepherding.

Secondly, in my annual review this past year, we spent some time discussion how we should collectively lead our church, understanding that this is not a natural strength of mine. Two of the elders have a more pastoral gifting, and so they've spent some time talking, thinking and praying about what it looks like for us to have that Pastor Voice present in our church, even if the two people who predominantly lead the church don't have that voice.

So this past Wednesday night during our elder dinner, we discussed the different ways we can create a culture where that Pastoral Voice is shaping the church and the practices of the Pastor/Shepherd are present, even in the midst of those deficiencies. 

Again, it's not my church. I'm not the only leader. We are lead by an incredible group of elders, pastors, Missional Community leaders and deacons and we all bear the responsibility of having the fullness of Jesus' 5 ministries present and at work. The key is that we are all living into the spiritual responsibility God has given us in this season of Kingdom ministry.

(For more thoughts on this, Alan Hirsch has just released a new book called 5Q that talks about this extensively. I highly recommend it.)

 

LEVERAGING STRENGTH

In Part 1 I talked about how I have the conviction that people need to be cared for and shepherded, and that:

“It doesn’t mean I don’t like people. It doesn’t mean I don’t have people I’m close to or love. On some level, it’s the simple fact that I’m introverted and I do better thinking through how pieces fit together, systems, structure, practice, implementation and multiplication more than almost anything else.”

This is where I'd like to think that the gifts the Lord has given me can be utilized for the body. If you spend any time around me, you're going to hear about discipleship. It's a given. One of the people I have the pleasure to work with, Erin, basically rolls her eyes now every time I talk about discipleship because I talk about it so much and I get so amped up about. But I have such strong conviction around being disciples who make disciples. 

A large part of that conviction is born straight out of the Great Commission in Matthew 28 and Mark 16. I don't think Jesus has another plan. There's no Plan B for the absence of discipleship in our churches. If we can't disciple well, the church is really, really going to struggle to do the things we are called to do. But I also think I have that deep-seeded personal conviction because I know that in any place I serve, that will have to be at work to make up for my deficiencies as a pastor. 

But in many ways, that's the gift!

I'm under zero illusions that my pastoral skills are God's gift to the church I'm serving at. I'm never going to believe that my pastoral-ness and my personality will be the thing that can carry this church. The gift is because of this and because of the skills God did give me for simple reproducible systems, thinking through multiplication and how culture is shaped and formed is this: There's a chance we can genuinely live into the Great Commission and see a movement of discipleship happen. And in this organic relational system where everyone is discipled and everyone is living into their destiny of making disciples, there is a sense of care that goes far, far beyond what one person who is pastoral can do. 

 
 

However, like everyone else, my gifts lay a trap. Everyone has things they are good at and when we do get to play to our strengths, we might start to believe the hype. We might start to think it's about me and that I'm the one delivering the goods. When I lean into weakness, I rely on the Holy Spirit to show up. When I lean into strength, who needs the Holy Spirit, right? 

The challenge is this: Take the powerlessness of living in weakness and apply it to areas of strength. "I might be good at this, but without the Holy Spirit, if it's of the Kingdom, it still won't work."

My good friend Todd Milby always talks about how we need to put ourselves into situations where "if the Holy Spirit doesn't show up, I'm doomed." That's a struggle when I'm leaning into areas of strength, isn't? I have this tendency of saying, "No it's alright, Lord. Take the day off. I've got this one."

In some regards, my weakness in being a people person is a gift, because each day it teaches me to rely on the Holy Spirit. I am genuinely and truly doomed if he doesn't show up! The gift is that if I can learn to have the humility of Christ and the Character of Christ (which i'm still very much learning like everyone else), maybe...just maybe...that power found in weakness can be leveraged into areas of strength.