In both cases, folks were pleased that both I and the team that works with me are available to the people of the church for conversation, prayer, and counsel.
I love this, of course. I want us to be this way. I long to preach as one who comes alongside the people of the church, not as one who stands over them. Every once in awhile, it seems, we get that dynamic right.
But here’s the rub: in both the conversations I mentioned above, the people were contrasting our availability with other congregations they knew.
Other larger, more famous, more influential, more everything congregations.
The kind of churches where you can barely see the preacher, much less shake his hand or talk to him.
So what is the relationship between pastoral availability and congregational success?
Well, one way to answer that question is to realize that church health does not depend on everyone knowing the pastor (as accessible as I am, we’re not at that place either). I do love the notion, spoken by a leader of a genuine megachurch: “It doesn’t matter if everyone knows me. It matters if they all know Jesus.” Well said.
And there’s something to the notion that when church life is less about the availability of the pastor, the people of the church are then more empowered to be the Body of Christ in ministry to each other. I assume that’s one way in which higher profile churches become so, well, higher profile.
Yet on the other hand, I keep coming back to the book that has so shaped our identity at Good Shepherd: Church Unique.
Not Church Copycat. Not Church Celebrity. Not Church Formula. Church Unique. Within every congregation, there exists a unique, once in a galaxy DNA, a kingdom concept, a reason for being. Ours happens to be inviting all people into a living relationship with Jesus Christ.
And apparently we’ll do it that way for as long as we can with a pastoral team who will be as available as possible.
Maybe we’ll even forge a new definition of success along the way.