Every now and then I get a message from the mystery at the heart of the universe. I recognize these messages in part because they do not come out of my conscious awareness – they’re thoughts I’ve never thought, ideas I’ve never had. A few of them have been songs – I’m no musician, but the songs come with words and tunes. Often they’re images to paint or things to photograph. Sometimes they’re poems. A couple of times they’ve been messages to pass on to people I know.
Yesterday morning, I woke up with a message for a pastor I know who is working hard to find her way in a new church. But it’s a message almost any pastor might need to hear at some point or other in his or her ministry.
It makes me wonder. How did churches become such high-pressure places? When did we start expecting our pastors to be administrators rather than spiritual leaders? How did we manage to put all our responsibility for our church communities on the shoulders of our pastors? How is it that we have stopped expecting our pastors to have a rich spiritual life? Why do we expect our pastors to put their own spiritual lives on hold while they take care of our needs? When did we learn to look to our pastors for decisions rather than inspiration?
Here’s the message I was told to pass on:
To: The Beloved of God
From: The Holy Spirit
Subject: Job Description
Dear one, you’ve been struggling and suffering, and I’m worried about you. We need to revisit your understanding of the work you’ve been given to do. Here are some things I want you to think about.
The goal of the church is not perfection. The goal of the church is God.
The church is not unhealthy. It has some problems. There’s a difference.
It is not your job to fix the church. It’s mine to transform it.
You have been given many gifts. The gifts most appreciated (and most needed) by the church are the gifts of love and inspiration as shown in your preaching, your pastoral care, and the relationships you build.
Your job is not to solve every problem, but rather to inspire the church. The church will, in time, solve the problems that seem so overwhelming.
Widen your focus. Look beyond the things in the church that you so ardently want to fix. Enjoy the love and beauty all around you in your family, your church community, your world. Nurture your passion for service and justice. Share that love and beauty and passion, and you will inspire your church.
Always remember how much you are loved.
Always remember I am with you.