Ministry is better with when we take time to “get away”.
One of the areas that I struggled with the most in my first 10 years of my ministry was taking time for “getting away”. I was a good pastor, but a terrible husband and an average dad. It was hard for me to go on vacation, there was so much still to do! Even when on vacation, I would call home to see how church had been on Sabbath, and people called me regularly during all hours. I had no days off. That is called “Living with no MARGIN”. It’s dangerous. It’s sinful. It’s counterproductive to ministry. At the Ministerium, pastors were able to get away. Cell phones didn’t work in many of the rooms (that’s a good thing!) It was very rewarding for the planning committee to see pastors and their families walking together in the boardwalk, just enjoying each other. Tuesday afternoon was family afternoon. No required meetings. Nowhere that you had to be at. Most pastors will tell you, that this in an area they struggle with. Getting away is not easy. But it’s necessary.
Ministry is better when we’re challenged.
The speakers not only inspired us, but also challenged us. One of the most powerful messages was given by Pr. Alejandro Bullon. His title was catchy: Pastors can also be saved. He related a story about a young boy that wanted to work in a chocolate factory. The first day of work, his boss told him he had one assignment. To eat chocolate all day. Every ten minutes the boss would come to check on the boy to make sure he was eating chocolate. After one day, even while working in the chocolate factory, the boy never touched the chocolate again. Pr. Bullon told us that the “greatest temptation for pastors that work for God, is to neglect personal communion with the God they work for”. We don’t want to end up like the people that built the ark, and then drowned in the flood. We were challenged, stretched, and encouraged at the same time.
Ministry is better when we value diversity.
Among the 1,600 pastors and families, we had a wide diversity. African American. Anglo. Hispanic. Korean. Russian. Africa. West Indies. Europe. It looked a lot like heaven. It’s interesting to note that when Jesus selected his disciples, he did not chose 12 carpenters from Nazareth. A close look at the personality of the disciples reveals anything else but uniformity. They were different, and that was a good thing. Different backgrounds. Different social status. Different politics. Different jobs. Blue collar and white collar. A Hebrew revolutionary and a roman sympathizer. One that had a questioning mind , one that spoke too soon, and one that hardly spoke. Some that were more interested in position than preaching, and one was constantly taking a piece of the pie for himself. What message was Jesus trying to send us through the picking of the disciples? A simple one. If Jesus was able to transform and use them, he can do the same with me. Evangelism was their common denominator.
Ministry is better when we are connected to family.
One question was asked many times and in different ways about the pastor’s family is this: Are we too busy trying to preach impressive sermons about Him, bring healing to many homes for Him, even working to cast out the evil in society in His name, yet our family life lacking? These three things have been helpful to me in my own journey:
1. Choose the important over the urgent.
2. Choose the best over the good.
3. Choose the permanent over the temporary
We had programs for the ministerial spouses and children. Ministry is a family affair. So we sought to minister to the whole family.
Ministry is better when we are connected to each other.
God created us for community. God usually gives the vision to the leader first, but not exclusively. A right vision, shared with the right people, at the right time, for the right reason, will accomplish more, in less time. Pastors were encouraged to find three people:
Mentors. These are wise people you can listen to. They have experience and can help you find ways to deal with your present situation.
Friends. These are caring people you can lean on. They might not have all the answers, but knowing that they are there for you makes a difference.
Students. These people who can learn from you. Every experience you have had is a lesson that can be shared to encourage, inspire, or warn others.
Ministry is better when we are connected to God.
As a kid, I loved flying kites. Living in Puerto Rico, a tropical paradise, we were almost never short on wind. Once in a while, however, there was a windless day. On those days, if you still wanted to fly a kite you could, only it was much harder. First you needed to go to a big field. Then, get a running start. Follow that with run, run, and then run some more. Needless to say, kite flying soon became a bothersome chore, instead of a pleasant endeavor. Same thing happens in church. When you are running around, doing things in your own strengths, eventually you will wonder where did all the “pleasure” of serving the Lord go. Kites fly with almost no effort when there is wind present. Is there wind in your church? In order to fly a kite we need wind. In order to pastor a church we need to stay connected. To God. To family. To each other.