No one ever called me lazy. No one actually ever called me overweight, despite the occassional suggestion that I visit Cosi for a salad instead of the usual lunchtime fare a Young Chow's Chinese restaurant. Only once or twice did the subject of local gyms come up, though no one suggested I join.
But everywhere, everyone challenged me to run and to run hard! It wasn't an explicit conversation or instruction or panicked yell like "Fire!" or something. It was simply the way everyone gave themselves to as much of the important stuff as they could. Everyone ran hard. And they ran hard for gospel labors.
Many folks probably consider pastoral ministry a "pie job." When I left my former job to join the staff at CHBC, my directors asked me to consider working at both the church and the organization. One of them asked, "Since you only work on Sundays, what will you do the rest of the week?" Just the other day, my sister asked if I would work another job once I move to Grand Cayman. She was shocked when I told her no, as if to say "surely you won't just be laying around the house all day."
I think that's not too far from a lot of people's conception of pastoral ministry. Talk for 30 minutes or so on a Sunday, use an hour or two to prepare that short talk, and take the rest of the week off, from time to time visiting some member in the hospital or at their home to get a free meal. And sadly, while that view is inaccurate, it's not all together misinformed. People like my sister and my co-workers have seen far too many pastors and preachers who are lazy, who don't prepare, who are unfaithful at watching over souls, who are inclined towards a good saunter rather than running hard.
Anyone who has ever been on a CHBC weekender, or spent any time in any setting around Mark Dever, knows that you won't be lolligagging toward eternity with him! The man is a model of running hard for the gospel. The staff runs hard, too. Sometimes to keep up with Mark, but most of the time in a hungry pursuit of the Savior. Everywhere you look, people are running hard. Some in sprints, some in marathons. But they're running to do the work of an evangelist, to preach, to pray, and to engage co-workers and neighbors.
And I've learned that I can run harder for the gospel than I ever thought. It's not a matter of overwork, or neglecting other priorities for the ministry. But, it is a matter of focusing on things that make an eternal difference and doing those things with zeal. Of making sure you're not burying your talents in the earth. It's a matter of being productive in gospel labors and not neglecting to discipline your mind and body to serve the kingdom instead of itself. It's a matter of setting and keeping a schedule that matches your priorities, not slavishly but with the joyous anticipation of hearing the Savior say, "Well done my good and faithful servant." It's a matter of recognizing that the fields are plenteous and white and prayerfully desiring to see more laborers reap--indeed desiring to be a laborer.
I learned at CHBC that the Lord has given me far more opportunities and resources than I thought I had. And, he's given me the ability to use those for His glory in more ways than I'd imagined. And surprisingly (though it shouldn't be), those opportunities and resources and abilities are multiplied when I run hard by being faithful in the small things. I've learned that ministerial effectiveness is soooo daily. It's the small things you do faithfully every day that amounts faithfully running hard after Jesus. 9 Marks of a Healthy Church started out as a letter written in response to a friend who wanted to know how to think through a particular church situation. Similarly, The Deliberate Church grew out of repeatedly answering questions frequently raised by pastors and church leaders in the most everyday circumstances.
I've also learned that running hard in gospel ministry is not the same as running hard to maintain a gabillion church programs. It means equipping the saints for the work of the ministry rather than equipping them with theater seats so that they can be spectators to the pastoral gladiator games where the staff are expected to joust, shoot, ride and wrestle lions to everyone's satisfaction. The congregation was made all the more fruitful by the staff's wise decision not to professionalize everything but to equip the members. So, an outreach to internationals thrives because staff stayed out of the way except to encourage several volunteers who organize that effort. Rather than professionalize counseling, a cadre of members are being exposed to the fine work at CCEF and trained to be the "frontlines" of slightly more difficult care situations. There are the several members who carry on an active ministry in juvenile detention facilites, reach out to children with incarcerated parents through an Angel Tree ministry, and serve in crisis pregnancy centers or with teen mothers who visit the church once a week for Bible study and parent training.
Without a plethora of church-sponsored programs, which are the enemy of evangelism, members are actually free to build relationships with their neighbors with the hopes of gospel fruit. To serve one another and serve their communities. And all of this ministry activity and more, organized by the body and not the pastors, frees the pastors to run that much harder in the things we're called to do: preach, teach, pray. And the multiplied fruit of it all makes you want to run harder still for the Lord.
I'm thankful for this lesson. I've learned that fatigue is not the enemy of good ministry but fatness. The kind of fatness that comes from grazing on the "conveniences and comforts" affored by an unfaithful, lazy approach to ministry. I pray that all the Lord's men would exhaust themselves in the ministry for His glory. Run hard!
4 Suggestions for Post-Election Listening - The Gospel Coalition kindly posted my article, “4 Suggestions for Post-Election Listening.”
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