I had hoped to post every day of my mini-sabbatical/vacation. That didn’t happen.
One of the subjects I have tried to give some thought to- in the midst of dealing with some car repair issues, a death in the church family, and the tasks that needed to get done- is what is the role of a pastor. Over 30 years ago I began serving as pastor of First Baptist Church, Allyn WA (which unfortunately ceased to exist a couple of years ago). I spent my mornings in the office, afternoons visiting church families and prospects, and evenings trying to keep up with seminary class work. It was a rural church and I did spend lots of time in the car driving from church family to church family to visit. Then, after 6 years I moved to Salem to pastor Southern Hills Baptist Church (which recenlty changed their name to Skyline Baptist Church). It was a metropolitan area, and a church with a huge internal dysfunction that was several years old. I struggled there, but again found myself spending mornings in the study and afternoons trying to make visits (though drop in visits were difficult because in most families both spouses worked…). So, 20 years ago I moved to Winston (a town of around 6,000, and a ministry area with about 15,000 persons). Again, I spent mornings in the study and tried to make some visits a couple of afternoons each week to church families. Drop in visits were hard due to distance and work schedules- at that time many of the bread-winners were on shift work…so visiting was a challenge). About ten years ago I found myself deeply involved in the community. No longer were mornings protected. I spent many, many hours in meetings- with community leaders and city leaders working a a variety of projects.
Last year I was given a month’s sabbatical (January 2011). The first 8 or 9 months of 2011 went well. The fall and early winter (i.e. Christmas) season was a challenging time. Some issues in the church – nothing major, but when one is tired even a small problem seems large- and some personal challenges completely drained me. So, here I am with a few days left of a vacation given to me by my deacons.
I need to redefine what it means to pastor. My responsibilities go far beyond the walls of the building. As a matter of fact, I am the longest tenured pastor in Winston. As such I have become the go-to guy when some a community needs a ‘person from the faith community.’ I am no longer able to spend mornings focused on message preparation and study. I juggle meetings, preparation time, and other demands as best I can. However, none of that really answers the question: What is my role? What are my responsibilities?
So, still trying to discover what it means to be a pastor after a twenty year tenure…One thing I MUST do…spend more time in the WORD of God. Leading must be from the pulpit as well as from the multitude of meetings. Visioning must come from the pastor…not the leadership team. Hearing from God must start with me.
My challenge: How to arrange my schedule so that I can maximize my time in the Word, yet be in the places I need to be, and to represent my community, my church, and of course, the Lord as He gives opportunity!