I have read lots of articles recently about men and women leaving ministry roles in 2020. Pastoring in 2020 is hard, but pastoring in 2019 was also hard. When I think about it, I could say the same for pastoring over the last 10 years. The journey and process of pastoring have been shifting fast for more than 10 years, and now in the middle of a global pandemic, we are being forced to confront who we have become as pastoral leaders in 2020. What we chased after, celebrated, and trained to become does not quite measure up to the challenges we are facing and will face in the next 10. We better find a new rhythm to pastoring if we hope to honor the call God has placed on our lives.
The past few years have been a hard reset for how I pastor. I left an incredible church to move to a new city and plant a church with my family. We laid out new expectations and dreams for what we hoped church could be, and to our shock, people did not swarm to our dream. The growth was slow, and my wife and I were forced to keep rethinking what pastoring could be. We had to lay down our past versions of pastoring and set our minds and hearts to a new pace. Little did we know that as we merged with another local church and grounded our lives in a neighborhood that a pandemic was around the corner that would once again shake us to the core. We had no idea that the foundation we laid would actually endure the storm and be a story more people would want to join. We are still a church under 200…we are still small…but in the midst of a pandemic, we are strong and nimble and generous and focused as a church. I’m actually enjoying pastoring in 2020, but I think it’s because I was forced to rethink pastoring the past 3 years.
I think the future belongs to churches and pastors that can adapt and have a clear Biblical vision rooted in more than drawing a crowd. Last year I read The Pastor: A Memoir, the pastoral memoir of Eugene Peterson. It gave me a view of pastoring that was different from my experience but critically important to the future of pastoring in 2020 and beyond. Eugene reveals a rhythm of pastoring that centers on faith, discipleship, family, integrity, humility, and rest. Before the pandemic, I started working on crafting a new vision of pastoring that could take me from the current age of 44 to 65 in my context or any future context, and then 2020 put all these ideas to the test.
Here is my list of what I am discovering will be demanded in the coming years for pastors to stay in the game and lead healthy churches…
- Jesus is everything. // Jesus over denomination, preference, worship style, theological stands, mission statement, budget, dreams, political positions, direction. We must allow Jesus to be the main thing over everything.
- Adapt // We have to be able to shift and change methods as we approach unknown future challenges.
- Pray more than you talk about prayer. // Really, pray. I have been so convicted over this in this church planting and revitalization journey. Prayer is the driving force of all Kingdom work. Pray.
- Pastor online & in-person. // Do both with excellence. This is not optional for the coming progress of the church.
- Set a sustainable pace. // You either control your calendar, or it will control and destroy your soul. Learn to say no and learn to use your calendar to make sure you give prime time to what is most important.
- Invest in people. // See the people in your context. They matter. Invest in them and release them to invest in others.
- Get small. // Growth matters, but it must be connected with getting people into meaningful community and in various ways. There is no one way to make disciples and build community, get creative.
- Be generous. // Make sure your church is giving radically to the work of God in your city and around the world. Lead the way in generosity.
- Fight for your local context. // Love your city well. Serve your city. Stand in the gap for your community.
- Stay grounded in the Scriptures. // The Bible must be central to how we worship and teach. It must saturate everything we do. Stop trying to be cute from the stage and be clear with the Scriptures.
- Empower servants and develop leaders. // Raise up servant leaders to do real ministry in your church. Help those people thrive as they serve.
- Share the stage. // Be a spotlight leader and help your staff, elders, and volunteers get the credit for the hard work they do to advance the mission of the church. It’s not about you…it’s about Jesus!