The reason our churches have buildings, classrooms, Bibles, coffee makers, printing machines, hymnals, screens, parking lots, playgrounds, flip charts, and all other property is because they are all tools for ministry. We do not worship them. We use them to carry out our ministry, to make disciples and to love God and neighbor.
And not only does a pastor have tools for ministry from libraries to to computers to a seminary degree, but we pastors are tools for ministry. We want to be sharp and effective.
Think of all the different professions that need tools: cooks, potters, electricians, gardeners, seamstresses, construction workers, teachers, and students. We pastors metaphorically do the work of ordinary tools.
- The pastor as aerator bringing fresh air to dry, unhealthy landscapes.
- The pastor as flashlight bringing light to dark spaces.
- The pastor as spatula stirring things up as needed.
- The pastor as hammer offering leverage when a wall needs to be torn down.
- The pastor as needle patching up what is torn.
- The pastor as broom cleaning up the debris.
You get the idea.
As I work with so many good pastoral leaders, it’s clear that after many years on the job, we get tired and dull. Some of us haven’t taken a life-changing continuing education class or retreat (i.e. something to help us “get sharper”) in years. Some have never had a sabbatical. I hate to admit this, but some of us haven’t read a new book in a while.
Now more than ever, our spiritual communities need the right tools to do ministry and that includes a strong, well-trained, energetic equipper of the saints – an effective pastor. If you know a pastor who no longer has the capacity to be effective, there are things we can do to encourage her/him. Support them in prayer, financial care, and offerings of coaching, counseling, and recovery time. God deserves our very best.