Earlier this year, through a whole pile of experiences, it seemed to me that the Lord was speaking to me about re-imagining the whole way that I think about my time. (I’m sure I’ll blog about that at some point in the future.)
Part of the result of that re-imagination was that I took last week as a week of personal study, solitude, reflection, and prayer.
It was a great week. I sensed the Spirit nudging me towards clarity on several issues… issues that I think most people in ministry would do well to be similarly clear on, so I’m sharing them here:
1) It is absolutely crucial that I continually prioritize investment in my “self”. The entire concept of love as (to quote a Catholic author) “a sincere and total gift of the self” is impossible without a meaningful “self” to give away. Most people in ministry are running on empty. They are on a hamster wheel of “deficit spending” and “recession” personally. They are borrowing from the future to maintain unhealthy and undisciplined lives in the present. Personally, I’m opting out of that whole thing.
2) It is absolutely crucial that I continually work to distinguish that “self” from the community that that “self” serves. “Andrew” as a total concept is not reducible to the phrase “pastor at Bloom”, and the more the lines get fuzzy between those two things, the more unhealthy both of them will be.
“Bloom” is not a laboratory for my curiosity, nor is it a platform for my self-aggrandizement. It is a community of Christ-followers who are seeking to live as a counter-culture of the Kingdom, bringing blessing and light to Denver. I serve THAT, as “part” of who I am; just like every person that calls Bloom “home”.
3) Following from that, it is absolutely crucial that I continually stay clear on WHY I am at this church. The REASON I am at Bloom, I am happy to say, is not some hackneyed sense of obligation. It is no “ball and chain”. I am there – every moment I am there – because at a core level I am CHOOSING to be there. I love this community and believe deeply in what it represents and what it is about. Passion and desire fuel my service.
4) Lastly, it is absolutely crucial that I am clear on the “shape” of pastoral ministry, and organize my time and energy accordingly. I am embracing what I am calling the “Peterson Triangle” (after Eugene Peterson, where I found these thoughts first in this book) of prayer, study/reflection, and direction.
The first “work” of my life and ministry is to stay attentive to God in prayer.
The second “work” of my life and ministry is to stay attentive to how God is at work through Israel and th Church via what has been revealed in the sacred text.
Out of that flows the third “work”, which is giving direction. This will happen on both personal/private and corporate/public levels, but it will NOT happen with any degree of faithfulness or effectiveness unless I am devoted to a life of attentiveness to God. How else will I be able to “understand the times and know what [Bloom] should do”?
At a fundamental level, my desire is to have a more or less “classical” ministry in which my job is conceived of primarily, to use Peterson’s language, as “keeping the community attentive to God.”
To do that, I’ll need to be attentive first.
Give yourselves over to God pastors; your congregations will thank you.
How do you flesh this out in your ministry?