A Passionate Church

Years ago, when I was struggling with the idea of becoming a pastor, I took a lay leadership class in one of our states larger cities. The host minster explained that 30 years ago someone had started a ministry which strived for several years but soon outlived its purpose. It had become a traditional activity of the church yet no one wanted to lead it since it had no real merit. Thus each year he had to find someone to direct it though it had become a strain on the churches resource.

One year he persuaded a young lady who was already active in many areas of the church, to take over. She did so reluctantly, wanting to serve her church though she had no real passion for the outdated program. The Pastor asked what she really wanted to do to serve the Lord. With great passion, she expressed her deep concern for women who were battered but were unable to escape their abuser because they had no refuge. The pastor asked what she thought she could do. She had heard of a wealthy businessman in another Midwestern city who was willing to buy up property and convert them to apartments where abused women with their children could find sanctuary from their abusers.

The pastor made a decision at that moment to stop the unwanted ministry and place the young lady in charge of developing a new one dedicated to providing shelter for abused women. She contacted the businessman and began working with other churches to provide staff members for the shelters. Eventually a place was bought, remodeled and staffed so that women could escape their abusive home and find shelter for themselves and their children.

Of course I became a Pastor and the story stuck with me, but eventually got pushed back and almost forgotten. This last winter I have struggle with trying to create a vital and vibrant ministry in my churches? Sadly nothing which seems attainable within my community has revealed itself to me. So instead I have fallen back on simple doing the same thing again. Then I remembered the story of the young lady and her passion.

This story reminds me that minister, laity and churches spend a great deal of their resources maintaining their churches and not enough resources devolving new opportunities for spiritual growth. In other words we plug people into the same roles year after year.

In recent years both our churches have initiated several new ministries that express a real desire to reach out to our community. One church has ministered to the Life Quest community and last year initiated a Health Fair and 5K run program. The others churches’ youth group did a wonderful job of raising money to purchase livestock for families in third world countries. And they expressed real love by preparing and delivering Valentine meals for shut-ins and elderly. The Christian Men’s Groups is seeking new ways to minister to the community and we are in our fourth year with the Gospel Celebration.

This demonstrates a willingness and desire to share God’s love with others. I am blessed that I have a number of people who are willing to step into these positions. I suspect many churches have such selfless and dedicated members. What would happen if this good people could be free to pursue their real passion for service? Are our churches providing these opportunities and are we fully and lovingly supporting them?

A pastor needs to discover what their church member’s passions are. We should pose a simple question to our members; If you had unlimited resources to serve God, what would you do? More importantly how can a church and its minister create those opportunities? I can guess that all churches have people who have passion they would like to fully engage in. Instead we saddle them with other obligations which they accept because they are devoted to their church. As a pastor I need to ask: What is your passion? We ministers need to ask our congregants to share what God has placed on their heart. Is it Bible study, childcare, children’s education, cooking and meals preparation, elderly, gardening, hunger issues, people with special needs, visitation, camping?

Rather than maintain the church, let’s find out what members want to engage in. If 3 or 4 people want to visit the sick, elderly and shut-ins then they should be the visitation committee. If a handful of members are concerned about hunger then allow them to seek opportunities to feed others. Members who desire to help abused women and children should be empowered to do so. If someone is mentoring young people then the church should support them in a viable productive way. The key is allowing them to pursue their mission and fully supporting them. It may be that a church will become a single mission church, focused on hunger or healthcare or elderly care. It is better to be effective in a few things then mediocre at many.

Our churches should find out what our members have a passion for then find ways to help them engage in those ministries. There are existing program in our area that we can partner with such as the Food Pantry, Meals on Wheels or Hearts and Hands Against Hunger. We can partner with SASA or Teammates Mentoring programs. When a tornado or flood strikes a neighboring community some of us can grab out tools and trucks and go help. If you like animals we can work with Start over Rover. Can we use our kitchen to provide meals for shut-ins and elderly? Can we do yard cleanup for the same people?

Hopefully you are starting to see where I am going with this. I hope to begin to formulate an outreach program that locks into church member’s passion. With God’s help and people’s prayers a congregation can develop a missional church that members can be passionate about and that will draw people toward God’s redeeming Grace. It is incumbent for ministers and church leaders to discover what God has put on the heart of its members and how they can serve others through God’s church. Service is the heart of discipleship and it is what makes a church vibrant and alive.

Share God’s Grace

Pastor Dan