Thou Shalt Not...

Joel and I meet monthly with other pastors and credentialed leaders from Central District Conference for conversation, support, and fellowship.  At the last gathering, the topic that was suggested for the group was to have everyone offer a few of their “10 Commandments for Ministry.”  What “thou shalts” or “thou shalt nots” help guide and ground the work that we do? 

Many helpful pieces of wisdom were offered around the circle, some were more lighthearted while others were attempts to tackle some of the harder issues of ministry.  We all agreed that most of the classics like “Thou shalt not murder” were good to remember for ministry, yet some felt strongly enough about the necessity of knowing the best ice cream places near the church to put that on their list. 

I won’t bore you with too many specifics of this pastoral navel gazing session, but I wanted to share one that I offered: “Thou shalt not lead in such a way that the congregation cannot survive without you.” 

Pastors fill many essential roles in the life of any congregation, but our greatest work is leading and empowering others to do ministry alongside us.  I think this is a pretty good commandment for a leader in any context, but it was probably on my mind as I thought about and prepared for my sabbatical.  I’ve worked hard to hand off as much of what I do to staff, commission members, and other volunteers, but I’m sure there are things I’ve forgotten or things that will come up while I am away. 

But I like to think that you all will not just survive without me, but will find your own ways to thrive. 

When I think about what a sabbatical means, I like to remember that it is not just for the pastor but also for the congregation.  This is a chance for me to be away from normal duties to renew my spirit, but it is also a chance for new voices and new gifts within CMC to step up and find their place.  So for those helping with VBS, or those sharing the preaching load, or those gathering with youth, or even those who just step in to help make sure visitors are greeted on Sunday morning, I hope none of you find yourself thinking “What would Mark do?”  Or, at least I hope you never feel limited by what or how I would normally do things.

So go (a little) wild!  Do things your way and trust that God is able to use your unique gifts.  As I spend time nurturing my own creativity and spirituality apart from the normal life of the congregation, I hope you all will be finding new ways to do the same here within.  And when I return in August, I will look forward to seeing and sharing how the Spirit has changed us both.