I’m five and a half years into my first pastorate, and every day I feel more and more privileged and blessed to serve this church. I love being their pastor.
Many pastors might think that my church would be hard to love, but that is just because they would only be looking at the outside appearance. We are a small church (averaging in the 30s) in a small town (about 500 people) with a small school (80+ in the entire JH-HS). We don’t have much money. Our building is small. There is nothing to do here.
And yet… In spite of those surface level blemishes, I love my church. I adore it. My love doesn’t come from what they believe or what they have to offer. It comes from who they are and what they do. When I think about these things, I realize how lucky I am to pastor here.
I love my church because I have never felt alone in ministry.
I often hear of pastors who feel incredibly alone in the ministry. This has almost never been the case for me. I have been fortunate enough to share the burdens of ministry with many different people in my church. They allow me to ask a lot of them. They listen to my frustrations. They give their time and energy in many unique ways to make sure that ministry is done, discipleship occurs, and it never falls on the pastor to make it all happen.
I love my church because they are externally focused.
I’ve never had to try to convince my church that we need to look beyond ourselves. I’ve never had to convince them that we have a mission that goes beyond Sunday mornings. I’ve had nothing to do with creating our external focus. This is an attitude that was instilled by my predecessors.
We continue to have discussions about what Jesus would have us do next and where he would have us go next. Time and again we are drawn to look beyond ourselves. Many times these discussions lead to outreaches that once again require more of people who are already giving a lot. And yet, even though we are often tired, I’ve never heard anyone in my church say that it isn’t worth it.
I love my church because they care more about the Kingdom than about survival.
We do not exist to perpetuate our own existence. We exist to love and serve others. We exist to lay down our lives for the Gospel and for our community as Jesus laid down his life for us.
This leads us into some counterintuitive positions sometimes. We want to do things for the people in our community without expecting anything in return. We want to serve others whether or not we ever get to count them for our Sunday service attendance. We want to see other churches in our town succeed, even if we lose out. We want to see the Kingdom of God grow more than we want to see our own church grow. I love serving a church with this sort of vision.
I love my church because they are trusting God with me.
Sometimes it’s hard to be a small church. It’s hard when you know you don’t have the money and people and resources and time to do what needs to be done. It’s hard when you look around at bigger churches in bigger towns and see everything they have. It’s hard not to be jealous. It’s hard not to give up.
We have trusted God together through some pretty scary times. We’ve asked God to provide, and he has, over and over and over. Sometimes we have to remind each other of how God has provided so that we can have the hope and strength to keep going.
I love my church because they let me be me.
I’ve never thought of myself as a stereotypical pastor. Fortunately, my church has never insisted that I be a stereotypical pastor. My church has never demanded that I wear a tie, that I keep regular office hours, or that I not play tag with the kids after church.
There are certain things that all pastors have to do, but all pastors can be more effective as pastors when we get to be ourselves.
I love my church because they are growing with me.
One of the challenges of being a young man doing a job I’ve never done before is that sometimes I don’t know how to lead or where to lead. Sometimes my leadership has been hindered by my own immaturity. Sometimes my spiritual immaturity has been embarrassingly evident. It’s difficult to lead a church into an identity of prayer when I myself am still learning to be a person of prayer.
My church has been incredibly patient with me at times as I have played catch-up to where they are already at. They are understanding when I don’t meet their expectations and forgiving when I fail. They push me to be better. They challenge me to grow. They hold me accountable when I can improve. I’m very thankful for that.
I love my church because I am loved by my church.
I don’t do this job so people will love me, but it sure does make me feel good when they do! I’m extremely grateful to pastor a church that never makes me wonder if they love me or not.
In just the last two months, I’ve been blessed with some awesome gifts that I never expected: a new chainsaw, a knife that says ‘Go Kirk,’ a Lego model of Allen Field House (they get me). I’ve been fed and taken out for dinner. They send potluck leftovers home with me. They include me in their lives. I am loved, and I know I am loved.
I love my church because God has placed love for my church in my heart.
At the end of the day, my love for my church does not originate in me, nor is it produced by all the awesome things my church does. My love for my church comes from God.
When I was taking a class on pastoral care in college, I read a book called The Art of Pastoring: Ministry Without All the Answers by David Hansen. (I think I’m going to read it again soon.)
I don’t remember much of the content of the book, but I do remember that he talked often about something he calls ‘the pastor’s heart.’ The pastor’s heart is a supernatural love that God gives a pastor for their church. It is a love that supersedes all gifts and personalities and likes or dislikes. It doesn’t matter if you are an introvert or extrovert. God gives a pastor a heart of love for their church that enables them to do the ministry they are called to do for the time they are called to be there.
This is why I love my church. I love it because God loves it, and he has put that love in my heart. He says this pastorate is good, and I have come to believe him. I don’t always love every part of the job. I’d rather peg a teenager with a dodge ball at youth group than sit with a man whose father is dying. I think I’m allowed to admit that. But the pastor’s heart allows me to do both, and to do both from a place of love.
And so I love my church.
“Every time I think of you, I give thanks to my God. Whenever I pray, I make my requests for all of you with joy, for you have been my partners in spreading the Good News about Christ from the time you first heard it until now. And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.
So it is right that I should feel as I do about all of you, for you have a special place in my heart. You share with me the special favor of God, both in my imprisonment and in defending and confirming the truth of the Good News. God knows how much I love you and long for you with the tender compassion of Christ Jesus.
I pray that your love will overflow more and more, and that you will keep on growing in knowledge and understanding. For I want you to understand what really matters, so that you may live pure and blameless lives until the day of Christ’s return. May you always be filled with the fruit of your salvation—the righteous character produced in your life by Jesus Christ—for this will bring much glory and praise to God.” –Philippians 1:3-11