This past Sunday I experienced a moment that reinforced the why, how, and what that supports and sustains Transforming Pastoral Ministry efforts.
The moment came through Tom Rhodes. Tom is a personal friend and an active member of the Pillar family.
Tom has been a friend of mine for nearly twenty years.
Eight years ago, when we launched Pillar, I let Tom know what I was up to and invited him and his family to join us.
Tom and Sophie joined us shortly after we began worshipping as a congregation.
When they first showed up at Pillar, they looked a little like that worn-out disciple to whom I referred in my last post.
I don’t remember my exact conversation with Tom and Sophie during the days they first chose to attend Pillar.
I probably told them the same thing I say to just about everyone who shows up at Pillar:
“You are likely here to rest for a while. So, take some time and rest. Let your soul experience renewal; then we can look at how you might become more involved in the ministry.”
Sitting still for a while is tough for most people because we are hardwired and socialized to “Be-better, Try-harder, and Do-More.”
Jesus Said it First: “Come Away With Me”
The longer I reflect on the Pillars and Rhythms of Transforming Pastoral Ministry and Leadership, the more I realize that the actual mission of the church is soul-care and discipleship.
The mission of soul-care is what it means to cultivate.
So, before we ask people to “get out there and win the world for Christ” (and, actually, we never ask that), we encourage them to be still and rest for a while. In the stillness, they tend to become aware of internal discord. Then, we invite them to hold the internal chaos lightly, in the presence of our Father and be renewed by and loved on through Christ.
These last eight years or so we’ve learned something valuable:
“As our soul learns to rest in Him, then our heart begins to hear from Him and respond to Him.”
Moments (or seasons) of resting in Him and hearing from Him provide space where we discover a new sense of vision and purpose.
Purposes which bring His good to the world in ways our frenetic be-better, try-harder, do-more efforts never could.
A Ministry-Moment That Illustrates Our Missional Focus
This past Sunday I was encouraged to see how the missional emphasis on spiritual formation is shaping us as a congregation.
Tom now serves in a few areas of our ministry at Pillar. One of those areas is as one of the facilitators of our Missions Team. We have a great team. So much so, that I typically refer all requests for funding, support, prayer, etc., directly to them.
One area in which the Missions Team is encouraging the church to concert our efforts is in relationship to the local elementary school where we gather for worship week-in and week out.
This past Sunday, as Tom was announcing the multitude of ways the team is inviting us to partner with the school, he made a remarkable statement. It’s one that most of our folks quite likely missed.
He began by saying something like the following:
“The mission team has been pretty quiet for nearly nine months now. And, while that may seem unusual, for us, it’s been important. You see, Pillar is about being before doing. So, the team has been in a season of listening to each other and the Lord. Just trying to “be” before Him. At Pillar, we believe that our “doing” (efforts, activities, etc.) flows from our “being” and not the other way around.”
A Season of Contemplation Can Lead to a Lifetime of Mission
Tom then described how this season led the team to engage the school in more thoughtful and intentional ways. As they have, three or four critical areas of mission have poured forth. Areas in which they are now inviting us – as a congregation – to participate.
I thought to myself, “Thank you, Lord!”
This illustration is an example of how Soul-Care and Spiritual Formation, when the central mission of the church, leads us to His mission rather than furthering our agenda.
As Robert Mulholland beautifully said,
“There is a great difference between someone who is in the world for God and someone who is in God for the world.“
Of course, this slow way of the Kingdom is not for everyone. Many of our “doers” are quickly and easily frustrated by how we go about ministry. Thankfully, some have stayed with us and found a home in our midst.
Others, however, have not.
I’ve had to learn to be okay with that as a Pastor. I’ve learned that it’s not a reflection of their love for us nor should it impact our love for them.
Subtle moments like the one I experienced and enjoyed Sunday have become priceless to me. They are moments of great thanksgiving to the Lord.
They are moments when I am reminded of a truth that’s central to my life:
“A well-loved soul is a soul who loves well.”
In any ministry that emphasizes transformation, the Rhythm of Cultivating is how one goes about doing the ministry of Soul-care, and Spiritual Formation. As we practice this Rhythm of Cultivation, then culture-making becomes the outcome of a well-loved soul, rather than the focus of a worn-out disciple!
My dear friends, Tom and Sophie, came to us worn-down by the be-better, do-more, try-harder ministry machine. It’s my hope (calling, really) that while worshiping and serving in our midst, they are experiencing on-going renewal!
Tom’s words and his family’s presence with us reminded me that how we do what we do is vital in our own lives and for the sake of others!
Disrupting to Renew!