Last week provided an interesting case study in the rhythms of life in ministry.
Monday-Wednesday: I spent the first half of the week at a conference for pastors of the largest United Methodist churches in the country. We stayed in luxury. We re-connected with old friends and made new ones. We talked about ministry in the local churches. We didn’t do any of that ministry, mind you, we merely talked about it. And as I soaked up the wisdom of pastoral leaders who have had greater numerical effectiveness than I have, it seemed that there are two elements to being a good pastor in the 21st Century: 1) come up with really good ideas for sermons series; and 2) start satellite campuses for your church.
The conference was so enjoyable that it was tempting to make it last longer. But remember . . . we simply talked about ministry without actually engaging in it.
Wednesday night – Sunday: Reality hit as soon as we arrived home from Charlotte. Voice mails and answering machine messages all letting us know there had been an unexpected death of a young man connected to the church. Immediately, I had to change from “conference” mode to “grief” mode. Then the young man’s father died two days later — not an unexpected death, but a terrible blow on top of a terrible blow. Then there were several difficult counseling sessions, an appointment with a family to deal with some custody issues, and grief visits to another family who had suffered a loss. And I couldn’t forget the dear Good Shepherd people in the hospital. On top of all that, we hosted Olympic High School’s Overtime program on Friday night. So: counseling, refereeing, funeral preparing, praying, resting. No time to talk about ministry; high time to engage in it.
Seldom have I had a week with such extremes. It is tempting — even seductive — to stay in conference mode permanently. It is a calling — a high one at that — to return to local pastor mode and stay there.