2014 – Oysterville Historic Church – Near Long Beach, WA (not the church in the story)
I heard a pastor deliver a heartfelt message calling for his congregation to really commit to the church. He told the church that he had had opportunities to go elsewhere, including a return to his home area to a previous pastorate. However, he had turned it down because he was committed to this current church. Then, at the conclusion of the message all those in attendance were invited to join the pastor in his commitment by coming forward as a testimony to their allegiance.
Frankly, there was nothing wrong with any of this. However, having known many of those laypersons for over 20 years I couldn’t help but smile to myself. If anyone was qualified to call anyone to real commitment to the local church it was several of those laypersons. They have already proven themselves faithful. Several, for a lifetime. They stayed true to that church through a series of pastors who after a while had declared that the Lord was calling them elsewhere. They hung in there through some hard times when others moved on to a church down the street.
These were the people who had financially supported the church through the years. They gave of their time by teaching Sunday School, working in VBS, leading Bible Quiz programs, and showing up for church work days. They showed up for choir rehearsals and took a turn mowing the church lawn.
Meanwhile, pastors had come and gone. Some retiring and others just packing up to continue their ministry elsewhere. Listen, I know that that happens. I do believe that there comes a time when a person needs to move on in their ministry – often for reasons they, themselves, don’t understand. Circumstances change and both church and pastor can benefit from a healthy change. Also, in my own ministry, especially in my younger years, I ran out of gas way too early in more than one assignment. Happily, and to my credit (I think) my stays got longer as I matured in my ministry.
I also understand that some church people need to make a decision and quit playing church. Some folks have been around the church for years and are still hanging out in the shallows rather than fully committing to the Lord and his Church. They need to be challenged to go deeper in their spiritual lives.
Still, as I watched those who are prime examples of commitment and faithfulness respond to that sermon I couldn’t help but think things were the reverse of what they should have been. It was those people who should have been challenging the pastor to commitment. They should have been on the platform inviting him to come forward and accept their example.
Or, maybe said better, the good pastor should have told his congregation that the example of many in the congregation had inspired him and, as a result, he was committing to them to join them in their faithfulness. I really doubt that some of them could be more committed to their church than they already are, and have proven over the decades.
Many churches are full of dedicated people who love their church and continue to sacrifice time, talent, and treasure. We can only hope for pastors who will join them in that commitment.