There are some days when I have no clue what I am doing, at least in terms of what I am doing as a pastor. It is important to remember the context here. I have been involved in some form of ministry since 1973. Although I have done many different things during that time, I have primarily been a pastor, serving small rural congregations in western Nova Scotia, Canada. I have advanced education in ministry and have taught other pastors at schools in Canada, Kenya and Rwanda. I have done seminars and workshops and conferences geared towards pastors. And so when I saw that there are some days when I have no clue what I am doing as a pastor, it isn’t because I have no background.
Nor am I doing the false modesty thing–you know, pretending that I am less capable than I really am. I am actually being honest here–there are a lot of times when I really don’t know what I am doing in ministry. And that is a culturally difficult admission because I do ministry in a climate when pastors are supposed to be all knowing and all capable leaders who have a vision and a plan and who are going to build the next great mega church.
I have read all that stuff and have even attended a few of the conferences on vision and stuff like that. And for a short spell a few years ago, I was actually doing workshops on the vision process. Being me, I took a different approach to the vision process, suggesting that the vision for the church needed to arise from the church and that the pastor’s real task was helping the congregation see and articulate their own home-grown vision. So I know the expectation of other pastors–I should be a vision-casting, purpose-driven inspired and inspiring leader who knows where he is going and where the church needs to go.
But the truth is that most days, I have difficulty articulating a vision for anything, let alone the church. I feel many days that I really have no clue what I am doing. Of course, that isn’t entirely true. I know that I have to lead Bible Study, preach on Sunday, visit the sick, connect with the congregation, be open to emergencies and unexpected calls and all that. But at the same time, there are many days when I couldn’t tell you why I do these things and how they fit into some overall scheme of things.
In short, I really don’t have much of a vision for the churches I pastor. Some of the stuff being produced these days about vision and leadership would suggest that this is why I have spend my ministry career in small congregations–if I don’t have a vision and a plan to implement the vision, I won’t get anywhere.
Some of this not knowing comes about because I am still relatively new in the congregations I serve and I have discovered that developing a real and meaningful vision for a church takes time and effort on the part of the church and the pastor. After I am there for a few more years, the church and I will probably have a sense of what God’s vision for the church is. I have some hints and glimpses of that in the congregation I have been working with for a couple of years now.
But when I really think about it, I realize that the stuff I am doing as a pastor is often the goal and purpose of my calling anyway. I have never sensed God calling me to be a visionary. I am called and gifted to be a pastor and teacher–or, to use one variation of the list of gifts found in Ephesians 4.11, I am a pastor/teacher. I care for people in the name of God, doing things like preaching and teaching and visiting and caring and counselling and praying and answering the phone and returning calls and responding to emergencies. The things I do don’t always have some great visionary purpose-they just need to be done because that is what God has called me to do.
If in the process, God chooses to use the things I do to help me and the church develop some greater vision and purpose, I hope and pray that we are open to seeing that vision. But even now, the things I do are important and so when I say I don’t know what I am doing, maybe I am saying that I don’t know where things fit in some cosmic vision–but I do them because they are important and I have been called to do them and maybe that is enough, at least for now.
May the peace of God be with you.