I want to preface this last post by admitting by most standards I am a young guy. I turn 36 in July. I have been serving in churches since I was 18 in some capacity- so that’s only 18 years in “ministry” and pales in comparison to many faithful guys and ladies. My thoughts today are based largely on my own experiences and some things I have learned from guys who have been at this longer than I have. There the disclaimer is done. Let’s get down to business. What are the benefits of being somewhere for the long haul.
1. Trust. Simply put, trust takes a long time to earn, especially with church people in America. Every time I turn around I think I hear about some minister molesting, stealing, cheating or lying. It’s no wonder most church members take a long time to trust a minister on their staff. I’m not saying it’s right, or that you do not deserve trust. i’m just saying that’s reality.
How do you build trust? Be present. Get involved in the lives of the people you serve alongside. Invite them into your home. Go out to lunch with them, not just on Sunday. Male pastors, meet the men in your church. When you have a common interest with them, share it.
I have always wanted to learn to kayak. Recently, a guy who is a member of my church took a job working at a boathouse here in OKC. He offered me a free lesson and a guided trip down the river. I went. I learned a little about kayaking but a whole lot about this guy’s vision for our church and his personal ministry. Worth it, all the way.
When you begin to gain the trust of your people, because you have been there for awhile, you will gain the freedom to make the changes that will help the church to reach people and remain relevant and effective in the community. Some of my friends call it “political clout” or “stroke.” Basically, the people you are leading will see that you have a vested interest in the church and community and they will follow you even when it means sacrificing something they love or doing something they hate.
Unfortunately, many long term pastors, because of boredom (see last week’s post) or fear, never put this freedom into action. Don’t be that guy! When you have been in a church for awhile, you will know how to lead the people because you have been around them and have loved them. They will trust your leadership and they will trust that you are listening to God as He speaks. In fact, you will often discover that many of the people you are leading have wanted to go to the place you are leading them, but they have been waiting on a leader that was worthy of being followed.
Friend of mine was given this opportunity a few years ago. His long term presence and faithful leadership, opened the door for the beginning of a new and young adult targeted service in the traditional church he served. He had faithfully served and when he broached the subject of launching this new endeavor, his pastor wholeheartedly supported the idea. The new gathering is now two services and is seeing men and women come to Christ weekly. There is no rivalry of jealousy, because this guy has a long term ministry and the trust of both staff and congregation.
3. Unconditional Love.
When you serve somewhere for a long time, you will fall in love with your people. You will love them despite their faults and you will love them enough to lovingly confront them about their sin and to help them put the pieces of their broken lives back together.
That’s why Paul was able to write so sternly and yet lovingly to the churches of Corinth. (see 2 Corinthians 13:7-10 for a good example) When we serve for the Long Haul, we get a chance to experience this love for people, and we understand better how God’s love works in us- how His love can endure past our failings, our pride, our pettiness, and even our greatness.
I hope and pray that you will be in this for the long haul. That you will be a pastor, staff member, etc who will plant your life somewhere and not leave just because you are bored, or need an extra $50 on your paycheck, or are tired of fighting. I pray for men and women who will come alongside the local church to shepherd her and love her and clothe her in righteousness according to the Word, so that when our Lord returns He finds a church that is still fighting the good fight with faithful leaders who have made the sacrifice to stay when it would have been so much easier to go.