October is Pastor Appreciation Month. But one month out of twelve is not enough to show appreciation to pastors. And here’s why.
According to a Forbes article published in 2014, being a pastor or other religious leader is one of the most stressful jobs. Expectations that are placed on clergy are higher than on other professionals. As a result, clergy tend to feel isolated and depressed.
I’m the proud dad of two girls. Watching them grow from infancy to toddlerhood is a joy. Everyone says these are the best years. It is fascinating to watch them learn new things. When things “click” and they get it, they always have the proudest looks on their faces. The thing they were trying to do for so long, they finally did it!
This is especially seen when toddlers begin to learn how to walk. As I watched my 14-month old basically run around the house today, I pondered what lessons the church could learn from toddlers. Here are three.
1. You will Fall.
As toddlers begin to learn to stand, and then to walk, they often stumble and lose their footing. As churches revitalize, there is always a risk that something is not going to work. It is always possible that you will fall. But, you will not walk if you do not take that first step. And the first step often requires us to step outside of our comfort zones.
2. Get Back Up
Falling will happen. As toddlers are learning how to walk, the first fall does not hold them back. They get back up again and go. As churches revitalize we must be willing to get back up again. Failure is not final. With each stumble, fall, or faceplant we learn something new. And it is from those learnings that we evaulate what worked or what did not work. From there, we can stand up, and try again.
3. Rely on the Parent
Babies and toddlers always keep an eye out for their parents. They never go too far without the parent nearby. And, little ones know that if they need help, a parent will come running. Most often, the parents know to come because the toddler has cried out. As churches revitalize they need to keep an eye on the Parent. When we lose sight of what God is doing in our midst, we rely too much on ourselves. We need to rely on God. And we need to cry out to God to breakthrough and do a new thing.
“Then he ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven, and blessed and broke the loaves, and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds.” (Matthew 14:19, NRSV)
It is interesting that Jesus blesses and breaks the bread, but does not give it away himself. Instead, he gives the food to his disciples, and instructs them to give it away.
Jesus asks the same of us. We have been given the huge task of communicating Jesus to others. But Jesus does not demand that we all become academic theologians or world-class preachers. After all, little is much in the hands of Christ.
“Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost. Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy? Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good, and your soul will delight in the richest of fare.” (Isaiah 55:1-2, NIV)
Food is essential to the nourishment of our bodies.
One of the things that is often overlooked is how much it costs to eat healthy. In areas known as “food deserts,” places where there are no grocery stores or farmer’s markets, there is certain to be a McDonald’s or Hardee’s. In places where food is needed, it is usually found cheap and unhealthy.
In the meantime, others run the risk of living beyond abundance. Instead of sharing resources, they take more than their share. Instead of giving, they waste. Instead of being faithful stewards, they are greedy and unjust.
“And all ate and were filled; and they took up what was left over of the broken pieces, twelve baskets full.” (Matthew 14:20, NRSV)
The church potluck was a vital part of my faith formation. The body of Christ gathering together in fellowship, making connections across the tables. All the while wondering, “Will there be enough food?”
There were no RSVPs or sign ups. Everyone who came brought a dish. It may have been a new receipe they were trying out, or it was a well-known receipe. At our house it was always my mom’s potatoe salad. If she didn’t make it, people wondered where it was.
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