Yesterday's April Fools trick was a success. It had people worried until the end...and at least one person a little past the end.
You know that show Punk'd on MTV? Aston Kutcher sets up this elaborate scheme to get some celebrity hot and bothered about something, and then he sneaks into the scene and said celebrity realizes that they've been had, sometimes to the point of wailing on Kutcher either verbally or physically? One has to wonder if, after a really good prank, the ruse is worth the person finding out.
Well, I dunno about that. But what I do know is that this entry's purpose is to separate the more factual from more fictitious.
I'm staying in ministry. Of that my dear readers can be certain. It's way too early for a guy like me to feel burned out. So all the stuff about praying in earnest and in secret and jeopardizing plans...that was all fictitious.
The stuff about no one being open to thinking? Mostly fictitious. I still have yet to detail what's been going on during my Lenten study, but it's really been inspiring people to raise questions about the Bible that they never considered before, and about the God depicted in some of these stories. It's even inspired at least one person to read it more...period. So while perhaps I was more worried about such things before and while perhaps it's a bigger problem elsewhere...people are thinking and reading and discussing and I've been enjoying it.
The stuff about mission projects...is a work in progress. The same people show up for everything. That's the drawback to a church our size. You have your 'core' group, but beyond that and people need a little prodding to get interested.
The stuff about sermonwriting...not every week is golden, I'll give you that. This series on the cross which, mercifully, ended this morning, was dreadful. Inspiration and imagination took a vacation, and there are only so many weeks and so many ways you can talk about death, even if the guy comes back in the end.
So I guess you could say that the concerns raised below are, for me anyway, certainly in my mind but amplified a few hundred times for the purposes of an April Fool's chuckle.
I'll venture that every pastor--save for the ones who are very comfortable, the ones who have holed themselves up behind a cult of personality, the ones who don't know all their people by name, the ones who have tens, twenties, hundreds of people willing and able to give every moment of their free time to their church--has thoughts that in some sense resemble what I've written below. Lack of resources, perceived lack of commitment, lack of energy beyond what the pastor him- or herself can provide, expectations with little or no backup, drives these thoughts.
Can it be helped? In some ways, yes.
In every instance? No.
So you run screaming for the hills or for a 'real' job, or you move to another church that you think will be any better, or you lock yourself in your office until they call for your resignation, or you bulldoze forward and hope someone will follow. And you pray. This is not an or. AND you pray. Pray for your people, pray for their families, pray for yourself, pray that this little or not so little place will embody the kingdom of God, if only for a moment. Then pray for another moment. Then pray for another. Keep praying. And go serve.
God be with you.