Much of ministry culture is about the future. This emphasis on the future in many ways can lead us away from contentment in ministry. We have already discussed a few weeks ago the overflow of vision found in most ministry conversations, conferences, and books. Some of this is natural and necessary. We are a forward- looking people. We are working towards the future and living in the joy and power of the future kingdom. We must cast vision for our people to know where we are going and what we need to be doing to get there. I am all for these necessities of ministry. But, in many ways we have allowed the speed and immediacy of the culture work its way into the church and lead us away from contentment in where God has us. We focus on the future and push for that future to be now. We push our people to arrive and we try to hijack the process of sanctification personally and corporately. This can be harmful. Sometimes we can be so focused on where our church needs to be we miss the grace of God in where our church is currently.
We become so consumed with the future we miss the grace of the present. We vision, we plan, we dream and we miss the ordinary gift of grace in front of us. God is working now. He is working in wonderful ways in the people we minister to in this moment. Lives are being changed day in and day out. The work of sanctification is changing men and women. God is calling and pursuing hearts. The broken are turning to Jesus. This is happening now whether you know it or not. Sometimes we have to slow down and enjoy what God is doing. I think this is the key to contentment in ministry. Many in ministry are never content and therefore they never stay. One of the reasons I think we have this epidemic is because we have not learned how to celebrate what God is currently doing and instead become focused on what we think God should be doing or what we hope He will do in a future version of our church. We are not called to pastor a future version of our church we are called to pastor our current church. We must not get so caught up in the future we miss the present work of the Spirit in our people. Celebrate the grace of God at work in the life of your church. Be committed to the work of God now and to the work of God you hope to see in the future. Where you are now is where God has called you. God is working in the here and the now and in the church as she is currently. To pastor the church you feel God is leading you to vision and dream about you must plant yourself in the church you find yourself in now.
Some of the reason for so many moving around so much is their dream and vision for the church they pastor has not come quick enough and so they move on to another place they think may be this dream church. There is no patience in ministry anymore, or the wider culture for that matter. We must shake off the consumeristic tendencies of the wider culture and learn to grow where we are planted in ministry once again. I feel as if I have no place to speak of this quite yet. I have been at my current church for six years, but in this day in age that is a long time. I love the small church I pastor and the small community I pastor in. Many people can’t understand why we have remained here. Why don’t you move on to a bigger church and a bigger community seems to be the question we receive most. God’s timing is in all of this of course, but if I have a say in it I hope we are here for many more years. Churches are not stepping stones, they are filled with men and women made in the image of God, saved by the blood of Christ and being sanctified by the Holy Spirit whether there are 10, 100 or 1,000. God has us planted here, in this small church and we are trying to grow where He has us planted. Why? Because to be planted is to be known, to be known is to be loved, and to be loved is one of life’s greatest blessings. God’s grace has been so evident from the first day we were here. Our church is simple and our people are simple. We are not big, our music is traditional, but we love the Lord, one another, and our community. We are content because we can see God working in us and through us in numerable ways. Do we have a long way to go? You bet. Are we dreaming of the future and casting vision for where we think God is taking us? Absolutely. But, we don’t want to miss what God is doing now and to celebrate this grace now.
Contentment in ministry can be elusive. There is something about being a pastor that breeds restlessness. But, I believe, in my experience, being planted in one place, being known in that one place, and being loved well in that one place leads to contentment. Focusing not just on the future or a future version of your church, but on the grace of God working in the church you have now helps us be patient and humble which leads to contentment. Jesus is enough. He is enough whether your church is 10, 100, or 1,000. He is enough in the struggles of your church and He is enough even if your dreams and visions for your church don’t come to fruition. He is working even now in the church where you are. Find contentment in Him there. Be patient. Plant deep roots. Be known. Be loved.