Open Handed Ministry
(I posted this post over at my other blog that I don’t think will actually take off again because I am realizing I can’t put energy into two blogs, so I am reposting it here).
If you are a pastor, here’s a question: How do you refer the people in your church? Most pastors I know use interesting language when talking about the congregation they pastor in. They usually are called “my people?” Now, I understand that this might be semantics but I tend to think that semantics are pretty dang important.
Calling the congregation “my people” obviously speaks of possession. But, are they really your people or are they really God’s people? Sure, you say, of course they are God’s people. Right. What God-respecting pastor would ever think that the people in the congregation that he pastors are actually his and not God’s? But, far too often there is a disconnect between what we say and what happens in practice.
Over the years (all 7 of them) I’ve learned to hold the people at The Well with open hands. They are not in my possession. I have grow very aware that the Kingdom of God is much bigger than The Well. God has called many families, couples and singles to other parts of the country. It seems like we are constantly sending people out to serve God in different locations. I don’t consider this a loss for The Well but a gain for the Kingdom of God.
I think this thought also applies to people who are visiting our community and searching for a congregation that they can join in the mission there. I am not really into begging for these visitors to stay at The Well. Sometimes I hope they don’t! I think when we sit with those who are searching for a community (I’m not speaking of church shoppers here – speaking of people who are genuinely looking for a community to serve in) pastors start their sales pitch as to why these people should join their church.
But this can’t be what we do, we have to hold even these new people with an open hand. There is a very good chance that they don’t need to go to your church, even if you are hurting financially and you could use their tithe! It’s quite possible God is calling them somewhere else. So, as pastors I think we need to stop hoping they will be sold on our community but truly serve them well as they are in our midst.
I always tell “new people” that we aren’t desperate for new members but we are desperate to help them on their journey. If that means they become an active member of our community, great. But if that means we find them a church family that fits their gifting better than that’s what we need to do.
When it all comes down to it, what’s our goal? Grow our church? Or is it to serve the kingdom of God?
I hope its the second. Because when we do that, we’ll be serving God’s people well…