A Weblog Dedicated to the Discussion of the Christian Faith and 21st Century Life

A Weblog Dedicated to the Discussion of the Christian Faith and 21st Century Life
I do not seek to understand that I may believe, but I believe in order to understand. For this also I believe, –that unless I believed, I should not understand.-- St. Anselm of Canterbury (1033-1109)

Friday, September 02, 2011

Renovate or Die: Fridays with Farr (and Kotan) #4

After a few weeks hiatus we return on this Friday with our fourth post on Renovate or Die: Ten Ways to Focus Your Church on Mission, a book by Bob Farr with Kay Kotan.

Hold High the Torch of Mission

Farr begins his discussion with the central place of mission by reminding us that "Good leadership is caring but it isn't held hostage to loud voices or the will of a few" (p. 19). Pastors are responsible for what is best for an entire congregation. It is not that the individual is unimportant, but the highest priority should be placed on the overall health of the congregation. Farr states that this is difficult for most church leaders "because most pastors and lay leaders are trained to keep everyone happy" (p. 19). Indeed, I would add that approximately 80% of all pastors enter the ministry not to lead a congregation in mission, but to be chaplains to the existing membership. While there certainly is a chaplaincy aspect to ministry, chaplaincy is more about maintaining the status quo instead of leading in new ways to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.

It is the task of the pastor to "hold up the torch for the mission of the church at all costs" (p. 19). The pastor must provide good leadership for the whole of the church, while making sure that individuals are cared for. This means that the care of individuals in the church does not rest solely on the shoulders of the pastor. It is the job of the congregation to care for the congregation. A system of lay visitation allows time for the pastor to do what is necessary to lead, while giving individuals the care that they need. Such a program also sends the message that it isn't only the pastor who cares; but the church. Indeed, when the parishioners are also ministers and not just the pastor (which is biblical) the level of individual care increases!

Farr also cautions us on the boundary issues that inevitably arise for a pastor who develops friendships in the church. "'Friend' and 'pastor' are not the same things." It must not be that pastors are friends who happen to be pastors, rather they are pastors who happen to be friends (p. 21). When we lose sight of the fact that there is a boundary between pastor and friend, it can create all kinds of problems for effective leadership and can cause even more hurt than is necessary in tough situations.

We must never forget that our first love is Jesus, and our second love is people because Jesus loved people. If we love people more than Jesus, pastors will find themselves unable to lead effectively because they will be tossed to and fro between the demands of a few. Pastors are not called to be popular. They are called to lead faithfully. That's not always easy, Farr writes, "If you are going to lead, you are going to bleed" (p. 21). There is always grief when a church is renovating, but "happy people and a happy church don't necessarily mean a happy mission field" (p.19).
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