Sometimes when I get home from working concrete, I feel like I have a tangible connection with the life of Jesus or the ministry of the Apostle Paul; One having been a carpenter before His public ministry, and the other sustaining his ministry as a tentmaker. I look at new blisters or old callouses and head in the house to shower up, and after eating with my family I might meet with someone from church or begin on Sunday's sermon. Work, then ministry, and sometimes -- those two even overlap during the day...
Being a tenmaker now, I'm amazed at what I still continue to learn about ministry and church-life. For starters, I didn't think I had much more to learn about ministry, after all I've been doing this for 18 years now... So, now I want to kind of list out a comparisons of sorts. Here are a few things I've reconsidered, 1st things I thought were important throughout the years but now they don't seem so important. Then, I will draw out some things I neglected to see the importance in, but now see as being significant.
So, in no particular order, here's what's not so inconsequential but once was seen as really important to me:
At one time I thought keeping up with every single Facebook post or tweet on Twitter was important. don't ask me why, I have no idea. I would check Facebook & Twitter periodically throughout the day, as if I needed to see every update.
Always being right in church; doctrinal or practical. If I was in a conversation, like in a meeting, I pressed hard when I was right. Now, I don't see the need to prove anything. If I'm right, and I really know it, I can't see the need to keep on pushing. If I know a better method for reaching people, or a better I idea, I simply have to be patient and wait till the other people sees it for themselves. But, as the next point covers, sometimes there's no point in trying to convince people against their will.
Getting everybody on board. I used to think before a church could move forward, we had to wait till everyone got on the bus. Not anymore. If people can't see the light, after enough time, I don't think the whole group needs to be held hostage by the comfort-zone of the few. Time is too short, and people will find a place to serve where they are comfortable; with or without me.
Reading every new book. I used to be addicted to Amazon. Every good blog that posted a new book on theology, ministry, small groups, apologetics, ect, I bought it. Now, without an education allowance, nor the time to read, I don't have the same luxury. Still, I see now (this will segue into the next point) that reading and learning everything I can isn't the most essential element to being an effective minister.
Covering the esoteric, sublime, and trying to be profound. I find more and more these days that the debates that go on in Ivory Towers rarely appeal to the person in the pew (well we don't have pews at New Song, but you get the point). There are interesting topics to be sure, with a jargon all their own. Covering deeper points on epistemology and ontology are enchanting to me, but I think that people just want to know how to live their lives in a Christ-like way, and that's simple enough.
Never saying no. I once felt I had to always be 100% available to every need in the congregation. That either equates to having a Messiah syndrome, a big ego, or a need to be needed. Plus, that short-circuits the development of others. I'm not saying the church isn't a big priority to me, but the cemetery is full of people who thought the company couldn't go on without them. God will provide, and that doesn't require having me on the go 18 hours a day.
The name over the door... It's been many years since I concluded that the name over the door of the church wasn't essential, but now I see another nuance to this. Not only do I think other tribes have access to God, I see the benefit of laboring with people outside our traditional lines or circles.
Duration... I used to think if I didn't preach for about a 1/2 an hour, something was wrong. Now, I don't care if I go 15 minutes, or an hour. I see no connection to the time of the sermon to effectiveness. Some topics need more time, others should be quick. The sermon topic and the audience should determine the timing, not my feelings.
Keeping up with the evening news. My family used to accuse me of being addicted to the news. I was a news addict according to them. I harvested a lot of good illustrations, and felt I was staying relevant, by being in front of the TV-news for 2-3 hours a night. Now, I can't even remember when I watched the news last. Now, so much of what I do see when I catch a few minutes of the news is crap.
Okay, here's a shorter list, but here's the flip-side. Here are a few things that are now important to me, but before I let slide too much:
Writing. I've wanted to write for years, but ironically with all of the discretionary time full-time ministry provided, I didn't take/make the time to write. I love to blog, and I've also been in a few writing projects I'm pumped about. Now, I try to write every few days. I don't have quota, but I'd say I'm writing two or three nights a week now.
Family vacation time. Strangely enough, I used to have 4 weeks of paid vacation time, along with 11 paid holidays but I didn't appreciate it. Pretty sweet deal, all that paid time off, but only once that I can remember did I take all of the weeks allotted to me. I now see time off just chilling with my family is so valuable....
Developing our volunteers. I don't have a clue what I was thinking before! I guess I just figured people would do what needed to be done, and they'd somehow figure it out along the way. After starting up New Song, I see the need for volunteers more clearly. And, I see that ministry isn't all about education, it's about application too. Without money for staffing, and without a huge base to draw from, we need to disciple more people than ever!
Meals together. No, I'm not talking about simple potluck meals. For many years our family has eaten nearly every evening meal together. We don't sit in front of the TV, we don't scatter through the house; we eat together, purposefully. That hasn't changed for us. What I see more clearly now is the need for our church to fellowship together. Before, I never would've had the courage to insist we skip a Bible study to simply eat a meal and chill together as a Church. Now, I have no qualms about emailing everybody that on a particular Sunday night there's no Bible study, we're just going to eat together and enjoy our time of fellowship.
Fuller gender-participation. For years I've felt our congregations should be more gender inclusive. Now, it's a non-negotiable as far as I'm concerned. I'm not talking about forcing the women to serve, I'm talking about not repressing them. I've served with congregations where the women couldn't even read the announcements, and I went along with that to "keep the peace." I can't see how that suppression is logical. At New Song women offer public prayers, preside at the Lord's Table, read Scripture, and we would be comfortable with women leading singing too. I knew intellectually "women's roles" were larger and fuller service was acceptable, but I didn't act on my beliefs. Now, I can't ever see not doing what I know is right.
I'm learning a lot about ministry, church, and myself by being a tentmaker. I'm starting to think I might not have learned these things, personally, any other way...