How do I approach the church now?
This post is part of a series with my reflections on the path out of pastoring.
Yesterday I met with a local pastor and he asked me an interesting question.
“How has your time as pastor impacted the ways you function as a member of the church?”
This is something I had thought about before, but I hadn’t ever talked through my answers. I know former pastors who have left the church or struggle to be a part of her now. For me, this hasn’t been the case. But my time as a pastor has significantly influenced the way I act as a part of a new church. Here are some of the things that means for me.
I will be supportive and encouraging. I want our pastors to know they are loved. I want them to know I believe their decisions are thoughtful and intentional. I want to honor the time, energy, and emotional effort they are giving to the life of our church every day. I know they are doing their very best to be faithful pastors of Jesus’ church. Yes, they’re doing so as broken people who won’t always do the right thing, but I’m just as broken and I don’t know what’s right either. I don’t expect them to be perfect. I just love when they are humble and making an honest attempt to serve faithfully.
I’m aware I sometimes struggle with comparison. I put years into both the big picture and the daily life of the church. That much time and energy leads you to some deep convictions about the best ways to do things. So sometimes my thoughts stray to the way I would do things. Which leads me to the next point.
I will go directly to the pastor if I ever have concerns. While I understand why I have thoughts about how I would do things, the reality is that almost every one of those thoughts is just pride. Why do I know any better? As I said above, it’s actually much more likely that the people who know best are the ones spending their entire work week praying, listening, and thinking about how to lead the church. If I ever have a significant concern I will go directly to the pastor. I will not gossip or complain about what’s happening. And until the time there’s any significant concern I’ll keep striving toward maturity that takes every thought captive to Christ, not my preferences.
I don’t presume on the pastor’s time (and that’s not all good). I have asked to get together with a pastor once, and that was to share some of our story and why we wouldn’t be jumping right into the life of the church fully. On Sundays I don’t wait around to say hi to the pastors. If I walk by them and they’re not talking to someone else I’ll give them a quick hug and say hi, but then I move on. I’m still discerning why this is the case, because I appreciated people seeking me out when I was a pastor. So I still have some work to do on the why for this one.
I don’t share my thoughts or opinions unless I’m asked. This relates to the first couple things I wrote, but I just don’t think the pastors need my opinion on things. I had one pastor invite me to come and meet with the church interns and I really enjoyed that. I appreciated the invite, but I wouldn’t have sought it out. I’m still wrestling with the why on this one too. I enjoyed having conversations with people about the church, especially when they were humble about it, but I’ve fully resisted these kinds of conversations so far.
If you or someone you know has walked the path out of pastoring, I’d love to hear how you experience being a part of a church.
Other Posts in This Series