I grew up playing sports. In every sport, there was a way to know if you had “won.” If you outscore the opposing team in football, basketball, or baseball – you win. If you underscore your opponent in golf – you win. If you hit the tape first in a race – you win. This kind of simple and straightforward metric always resonated with me. Even to this day … if we are playing a game against one another – I want to know the rules, because I want to win.
In real life, it is a bit harder to know how to win. As a Pastor, I have yet to run through the “tape” in the conclusion of a message. There has not been a score given at the end of a counseling appointment. I have never ended a wedding ceremony with an “eagle putt” during the pronouncement. Wins and losses are a bit more nuanced in my current life.
Yet we all count stuff, don’t we? Pastors are no different. As I preach, do people look like they are “getting it,” did anyone say “amen,” what about that guy who fell asleep before I ever got to point two? As we gather, we wonder how many are here today? Is it more than last week? How does it compare to last year? I think subconsciously we all look to stuff like this trying to see if we are “winning” or “losing.” Couple this reality with a propensity for self-doubt, and I generally feel like I have more “L’s” than “W’s.” (I am not alone in this … I heard a stat recently that nearly a third of pastors in America seriously considered quitting at some point in the past year. Though I am not one of those, I understand some of the dynamics that are at play.)
Yet, as I am midway through my third decade in Pastoral ministry, I need to ask myself … am I looking at the right scoreboard?
I want you all to know something. I did not go into ministry so that people would “like” my instagram posts. I did not go into ministry to speak to a packed room of smiling faces and have my ego stroked. Truly … I went into ministry because I believed it is what God had for my life, and I wanted to be faithful to Him. That calling was to see lives changed with the good news of Jesus Christ … to be a blessing to others. Yet as life rolls on, and the church calendar moves from year to year, it is easy to lose sight of what I am truly called to do, and focus on the wrong scoreboard.
Even as I type this, I think these may be some of the most personal comments I have shared on my blog or Facebook. And (to some degree) that is appropriate given the passage of Scripture we are going to be looking at on Sunday at Wildwood Community Church in part 6 of our “New Way” sermon series. This week we are looking at Galatians 4:8-20, in what I think are the most personal comments Paul shares to his friends in Galatia. In these verses, we do not see Paul the theologian, we see Paul the pastor … Paul the person. He reaches out to the Galatians and reminds them (and him) what the “win” is for anyone in ministry.
Want to know what the win is? Paul defines it in Galatians 4:19 –
“… Christ formed in you …”
Paul’s opponents wanted the Galatians to love them (instead of Paul). The Judeaizers wanted the Galatians to attend their meetings and go to their festivals, so that their “numbers” would look good … but they really did not care about the Galatians themselves. Paul (on the other had) was in ministry because of what he hoped would happen IN SOMEONE ELSE’S LIFE, not HIS OWN LIFE.
The “win” of true Christian ministry is not how many show up on Sunday … but how many lives are transformed on Monday-Sunday. And Pastors are called to labor like a mother in childbirth until that happens among the people for whom God allows us to serve.
That is the mission of my life. That is the hope of our church: YOUR TRANSFORMATION INTO CHRISTLIKENESS. We are praying Sunday is catalytic to that end (and to the glory of God). We will gather at 9:00, 10:15, and 11:30 NOT as a form of dead religion and ceremonial formalism … not because we are slaves to a religious schedule … but because we are sons of God, being transformed into His image! The corporate assembly on Sunday is a springboard to Monday and beyond. Can’t wait to worship with you all and look at this amazing passage of Scripture together.
I am laboring over this text this week that Christ may be formed in you (and me) on Sunday and beyond. Hope to see you there … and bring friends!