One of the great temptations of ministry is measuring yourself, your ministry, or your church against what others – friends, colleagues, neighboring churches, or the megachurch halfway across the country – are doing. More times than not, we are measuring against those doing better than us, even though there are probably more examples in the opposite direction. Nothing we do as church members or ministers is as good or successful as what “they” are doing over there. I have seen too many good and faithful pastors despair because a friend’s ministry took off or their excellent preaching led them to a next call that was a little better than where they started. As a pastor or in this Mid Council role, I have sat with elders and church members and heard tales of the success of “every other church in town.” The compulsion to compare ourselves, our ministry, and our church to what others are doing is profound. It also betrays a fundamental trust in what God is doing in our lives and our lives together. We are equally as called. Are we responding?
A better path might be comparing yourself and your ministry to itself yesterday or a year ago. Are you growing in faithfulness? Are you expanding mission opportunities? Are you doing more with less (which seems to be a common situation in our churches)? How have you bettered yourself?
I would encourage us to take advantage of the opportunities we have, as well. 1) There are unmet ministry needs in every community. Are we fully and faithfully ministering to that community or the community that used to be here? 2) There are more than enough grant and scholarship dollars to try new things or expand on burgeoning successes. Are we applying for grants, utilizing grant writers in our congregations, or partnering with other churches on projects to spread expenses? 3) We do not lack for local and national committees and organizations that want to support churches, consult with churches, vision with churches, discusses finances, revitalize congregations, or a hundred other program names. Are we choosing the harder path of transformation over the well-trod rode of staying the same? What we do lack is congregations that want to take advantage of those opportunities.
Last summer, I shared the story of a church that sent back the $1,000 Mission Grant that the Coordinating Council sent out. They could not think of a way to use the money and did not want it to be wasted. This story was convicting for many people. Hearing that story caused more than one church to rededicate themselves to deciding how they would use the grant and impact their communities. And yet, in bigger and smaller ways, we do not take advantage of a myriad of other opportunities that we have and the resources that are available to us.
How are you changing and transforming? Who have you asked to help you?
Blessings, Rev. Tim Blodgett