BY MATT JOHNSON
How are things at your church? Are people getting saved in droves, are there mass baptisms every Sunday, is giving at an all-time high, and are your members model citizens and pillars of the community?
If so, praise God. Keep working hard. Ride the wave and enjoy it.
On the other hand, maybe things are not going so swimmingly in the congregation. Welcome to the mess, Pastor of Disaster. Fret not. You are in good company. Things go sideways in churches, simply because the church is filled with flawed people. It may be tempting to get frustrated by people’s problems because it takes away from your ideas of forward progress. But remember, the people are the church, not numbers in seats. If God blesses you with numerical growth and more leaders, you’ll be able to focus on areas your more gifted in. For now step into other people’s chaos even if it doesn’t exactly fit your skill set.
As you come to terms with how messy life is in the church, take a breath and ask yourself this clarifying question: what’s more common among human beings, success and mountain top experiences, or struggle, hardship and pain?
The answer is obvious. Last I checked, mortality rates are holding steady at 100% and entropy is still a scientific fact. I know that sounds way more like Eeyore than Tony Robbins, but we’re way better off understanding that our calling is to proclaim the objective hope and miracle of death and resurrection than it is about coaxing people to take their spiritual vitamins so they can live better lives.
We’ve all heard the unbeliever’s cynical claim that the church is a crutch for the weak. You know better. The church isn’t a crutch, it’s a hospital. Jesus came for the sick, not those that are well. Consequently, that means you’ll have your fair share of personal disasters in the church.
We’d all prefer churches full of well-dressed, upstream cultural game changers that give faithfully, mow their lawns and give back to the community. The reality is, people are going to be darkening your door with trouble of all sorts. And many of them are the above-mentioned model citizens you hope will fill the pews: parents of a newborn baby whose life is hanging by a thread, people with potentially fatal addictions, impossibly complicated marriages and the occasional semi homeless schizophrenic looking for a church home. And that was just last week.
Daydreaming about ministry growth does not usually involve thoughts about how blessed it is to stand in the gap with someone whose life is falling apart around them. But these are the people God gave you, and even if you’re not a gifted counselor, just remember that a kind word and putting a hand on somebody’s shoulder to pray for them goes a long way.
Praise God should he bless your church with a sanctuary full of well-adjusted people. In the meantime, in the midst of real time, real life muck and mire, be reminded that he has overcome the world, he has disarmed the rulers and authorities of the world, and he has commissioned you to remind the people that though their sins are like scarlet, they will be white as snow, Christ came to die for the ungodly, and all things somehow will work together for good.
Matt is a husband, father to two little girls, and is an armchair student of theology. He is a freelance writer and editor with a penchant for redemptive snark. Until recently, Matt spent 7 years as an associate volunteer pastor in counseling and recovery ministry. Many moons ago Matt forwent a proper education and traveled the country playing drums in 90 Pound Wuss, Roadside Monument and other bands you've never heard of. He likes long walks on the beach, puppies, and has questionable taste in music.