My mentor, Jim, poured far more into me than he realized. It has been over 24 years since we first met and his investment in me is still bearing fruit. Over the next few days I want to share several pieces of wisdom that really helped me and I believe would be beneficial for anyone involved in ministry.
Evangelicalism in the 1990’s was embracing a business model, speaking corporate language, and touting the pastor as CEO. From my vantage point, Jim resisted that mentality and gave me a better perspective for ministry and a more healthy way of viewing my time at a church. Even though he was a gifted administrator and leader, I don’t remember him living out of that story. Instead he used imagery pulled deep from scripture to describe our role. We were watchmen and watchwomen on the wall.
I remember hearing several variations of this statement in my five years on staff with him.
- “This is our watch. We aren’t responsible for what happened before we got here or what happens after we leave. We are simply to serve faithfully during our watch.”
Jim made it clear that this was not our church. Nor was it our predecessor’s or successor’s…no matter how much it felt like it at times. It was Christ’s church and He would build it.
Jim did not use “watch” in a passive form by any means. Being on watch in this sense is a big responsibility. But understanding I was ‘on watch’ released me from the burden that many in ministry carry to their graves, the heavy lonely idea: “It’s up to me.”
It sounds admirable at first…but I assure you it is a plot line that will lead a pastor down a paradoxical path of guilt and pride. When, “It’s up to me,” becomes our mantra we can enter into an adulterous relationship with the congregation, a twisted relationship with time, and a perverted understanding of our calling.
People, even good people, will take everything you want to give them. They will make unreasonable requests at times. If you think “It’s up to you,” you will say yes too often and then learn the art of rationalization to make sense of it all. Being needed can be very addicting. It will reinforce and fuel your hunger for self importance. You will become a slave to the urgent. Your life will not be peaceful, strategic, or intentional. You will be hurried and shallow. You will be inconsistent… miserable at times and thrilled at others. And you will measure the wrong things.
Pastor, staff member, full-time, part-time, volunteer, woman, man, married, single, rookie or veteran please hear this: IT IS NOT UP TO YOU. Christ has promised. The Holy Spirit is at work. The priesthood of all believers has been commissioned. And you are on watch. You are not responsible for what happened before you arrived or after you leave. You are simply to serve faithfully during your watch.
A mentor can keep you grounded and help you with perspective.
Who is that in your life?