December 28, 2007 / David Fitch

Confessions of a Missional Pastor (Wannabe?) – Looking Back on Some Frustrations With Time

Being a Missional pastor ain’t easy. There are inevitable compromises. No matter how hard you try, you end up spending less time on the things you really are passionate about (i.e. mission) and more time on things you value less (i.e. organization). You wonder some days if you really are pastoring missionally or whether indeed you’ve succumbed to surviving the church machine? On this 4th day of Christmas, before the Western Calendar New Year begins, here’s a look back on the last ten years of missional pastoring, wishing for more time on some things, and less on others.
Over the past several years of church planting I wish I had done the following:

1. Spend less time writing sermons, more time listening and speaking truth relationally lovingly into people’s lives. My goal, when I am preaching, is to never spend more than twelve hours a week writing sermons. Preaching the Word is important. It takes skill and practice. Yet the sermon is for speaking truth over people’s lives, not for entertainment. Sometimes the “entertainment” piece takes too much extra work. The sermon proclaims the true reality as it is under the Lordship of Christ and calls people into Him. It is my opinion the reason why sermon prep takes so much time is that often pastors place too much self-importance into it. How many hours a week do you spend on sermon prep?

2. Spend less time reading-writing on leadership and more time walking with/mentoring young leaders, speaking into their lives, having them with you when you minister, in the hospital, in the coffee house… in the homes, in the neighborhoods. I am finding less and less time to do this but am aiming to make for more. How much time do you spend mentoring leadership? It is absolutely essential to missional community.

3. Spend less time planning the worship gathering – more time in silence before God on a quiet hill overlooking the missionfield of NW Suburbs (this place is Walter Payton Hill – Arlington Hts.) Sunday morning gathering is liturgy. It has its moving parts. It is people coming together organically to be centered in God thru Jesus Christ thereby being re-centered for Mission Dei. My theory is, that even if everyone who was participating in the service somehow came up sick 5 minutes before service, everything should be able to go smoothly. This makes possible more time for mission. How much time/energy does your church spend on the worship gathering?

4. Spend more time with the children, less time programming “entertainment with pizza.” This last comment is about youth/children’s programs as commonly conceived. We actually don’t center children’s formation on entertainment. We center it around relationships. The former is a proven failed and flawed strategy for discipling our youth into a walk with Jesus. I have found when I spend time with children they teach me more (in one way) than I end up teaching them.

5. Spend less time in meetings, more time in the neighborhood. This is a constant struggle for me. To me, the organization of the church should be located in the congregation, carried on in the gifts. We need gather only for a few meetings a year for accountability financially. I recognize several folk disagree with me. How do you go abouit managing necessary meetings?

6. Spend less time in meetings figuring out details to make things work better, and more time in meetings where we ask “what is God doing?” where is He working? How can we encourage, edify, build up, flourish this ministry? Our Wednesday night meeting (every other week) with leaders vacillates on this. We have to intentionally steer away from handling details in this meeting.

7. Spend less time trying to please Christians, more time trying to minister to the hurting, lost and poor outside of Christ. This one is hard. But all in all, I think I could have done better on this one over the years. Please tell me I am not the only one who has struggled with this?

8 Spend less time answering bizarre twisted questions about outlier doctrines, and more time sharing the vision of what church, community, mission and transformational life can be together as we join together to participate in this great life God has given us. Nonetheless doctrine is essential. How do you discern where to draw the line?

9 Spend less time worrying about numbers and less time filling out forms (OK. To be honest, we don’t really do much of this anymore). Spend more time with people, just hanging out in life together.

10. Spend less time frantically trying to catch up with all the words I have to write and deliver any given week as a pastor, writer and professor, and spend more time praying, taking long walks, thinking praying, letting the Spirit speak in silence, the situation at hand, the Scripture I just read and studied. Nothing feeds my creativity and strengthens my Spirit like prayer … on a long walk. What spiritual formation practices keep you from drying up inside with God?