This is one of the most frequent questions I get asked. Sometimes there is a little variation like, “How do you feel things are going?” or “Is the church doing well?” or “Are you growing?” Some slight twist on that seems to be what anyone who knows me (barely) wants to ask. Let me quickly say, sometimes it is out of pure love and interest for me and the body of Christ. However, there are other times when it feels like it is a fishing expedition for some tidbit of gossip that might be exciting enough to earn the questioner an interested audience at a future engagement.
I’ve answered this question many different ways over the years. The truth is that it should be answered differently during various seasons because the church is a living body which goes through struggles and sees great victories. However, aside from just the truth of answering the question, I have found that there are a couple different approaches that I can take – and honestly, I have done them all.
Politician Pastor – Often times, depending on how well I know the individual who is doing the asking, there is a significant temptation to offer a political spin as my reply. This reply would only consist of the great victories being experience and it would put a twist on any of the struggles. Here is an example of how the Politician Pastor might answer –
The church is doing great. We have been reaching the world through our mission efforts and we are seeing new families here in Katy all the time. Our people are so busy with the journey on which God has placed them and it has been such a great joy seeing them continue to grow.
Self-deprecating Pastor – There is a temptation for pastors to lean into the “vow of poverty” stereotype as a way to acquire attention from others. If he can get someone feeling sorry for him then he might be able to pull out some encouraging words of comfort that fuels the fire of his pride. Here is an example of how the Self-deprecating Pastor might reply –
We have been going through a tough season. The weight is just so heavy… I try my best to keep up with the needs of the people but there just isn’t enough hours in the day. We are seeing new families but it seems like every new family has five children and demands so much attention.
Authentic Pastor – This is harder than it sounds to accomplish. It seems to me that each pastor has a default setting that he tends towards. I believe that I tend toward the Political Pastor sometimes. I’m not trying to blame the institution here… but I feel like I have been trained to constantly benchmark the morale of the church. Through the books and classes that are often provided to many pastors they are taught a CEO style of leadership. Here is an example of how the Authentic Pastor might reply… and how I hope I can reply –
God’s grace is so evident through the victories and struggles in our church community right now. We are seeing people who are struggling but they are struggling within our community of faith and support. We are seeing new families come and taste of our Sunday morning gathering. Some of those families are diving in head-first while others continue their journey to find the church they have pictured. What excites me the most is that whether walking in victory or struggle, passing through or leading the charge, we are experiencing the transforming power of the gospel in a constant way.
Those of you who have not ever experienced the inside of ministry may find this all to be craziness. However, I would guess that those of who have been engaged in the work of furthering His church would find some harmony.