One of the massive shifts in church culture in recent memory is how church staff orient their time, particularly for church pastors and ministry program directors. The practice common to the 20th century church as an office based ministry, one where the staff could work in an office where church members would drop by and people interested in joining would visit the office to get to know the pastor before regularly attending worship. This is where pastors wrote sermons, did Bible study, dreamed of new ministries, and provided pastoral care. Pastors didn't need to leave their office to perform ministry (or, at least, certain kinds of ministry).
More recently, pastors need to leave their offices as much as possible. Very few members, and even fewer community members, just stop by the office anymore. Rather, people are living lives in the community around our churches, and people need to see our church's investment in the community in order to develop a trust and interest in the life of the congregation.
This is especially true for churches seeking to actively grow as new starts or redevelopments of established churches. The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America's Redevelopment Training practices suggest the following as five core pracitces, with percentages of time allotted: Networking with potential ministry partners who might desire to become a part of the community's life (70%), Visitor/New Member Assimilation (7%-8%), Pastoral Care (7%-8%), Leadership Development through Mentoring Leaders (7%-8%), and Vision Casting (7%-8%).
My how the tables have turned.
For myself, I know I need to spend more time in our community, getting to know the people who help make the New River Valley such a vibrant place to live. If I may confess, sometimes it is just easier to spend time in the office, to write sermons without distractions, to cast vision without the chaos of the world around us, to invite people in the church rather than carry the life of the church out into the community.
Of course, our lives are filled with ditractions. We live in the chaos of the world around us. And Jesus, our paradigm for leadership, was always going out to carry the life of God to the people God sought to redeem (which, of course, is everyone). If we desire to see God's Kingdom come more alive in our world, we need to live more like citizens of that kingdom. Our sermons ought to find shape through interaction with the community. Our vision ought to meet the chaos of the world head on. The church's ministry isn't meant ot stay in one place, but intsead meant to multiply, to grow like a mustard seed into a great life that blesses the environments in which we live.
So, pastors, get out of your offices (and here I speak to myself as well). Carry Jesus into your community and network with the people who God wants to experience reconcilation (whihc, of course, is everyone).
So, church members, encourage your pastors to step outside of their comfort zone, to work at restaurants and in city parks, to be voices of love that shine the gift of Jesus that each of our churches carries. With the commonality of cell phones, they're easily accessible and only a call away in emergencies.
Everyone encourage one another to help our churches become more actively involved outside the walls of our buildings. As we all know, the church is not a building. The church is not a steeple. The church is not a resting place. The church is...
the people whom Jesus calls to live out God's mission of redemption and reconciliation.
Which, of course, is everyone.
Simultaneously a sinner and a saint.