Over the last 24 hours, I had the privilege of meeting with the City to City Bay Area Faculty to discuss/evaluate the current church-planter incubator we are facilitating and to dream about and plan for the next group of participants. I am humbled to be a part of a group of such wise, Kingdom-minded leaders.
As we were discussing values/strategies, Nancy Ortberg shared the following exchange that her husband John and Dallas Willard had at a conference in February of 2013.
John Ortberg: I don’t know how we can leave this without getting to a much more painful reality. Most of us here are a part of churches. I work at a church. I love the church, yet there are times when I think about the church and the smallness and pettiness and mean-spiritedness and competitiveness and superficiality. Really, it starts with me, but it is so mind-numbingly painful. And there’s such a gap between it and the picture Jesus talked about. Why is it that way? Why is it so hard? What do we do with that?
Dallas Willard: Well. I’ve thought and prayed and worried a lot about this myself. Once you back up and look at it, it’s obvious that the separation between the churches in our communities is one of the hardest things to get past to begin to appreciate what Christ is doing in the world. I have tried to approach this by saying to ministers that…
…the most important part of your ministry is that to other ministers. Come to know them and begin to get over the idea of separation and competition.
When Nancy shared this thought in our meeting today, I was absolutely arrested by the thought.
Over the last year in particular, because of the opportunities I have had to serve the “Big C” Church through my affiliations with the SEND Network, Acts 29, and City to City Bay Area, ministering to ministers (especially to those in the city that my church is in—Oakland) has increasingly become a greater passion and priority. I absolutely love encouraging church planters and pastors in whatever way I can.
But, this increasing passion has concerned me at times because I feel like because there is so much work to be done in my local church, I really shouldn’t be investing in other ministers as often as I do.
In many ways, this blog also is an extension of my desire to minister to other ministers. And most times, when I sit down to write, I am conflicted over whether or not this is a proper investment of my time.
I praise God for the wisdom of Dallas Willard shared above. In many ways not only does it give me a freedom to continue doing what I’m doing, but it gives me an affirmation that my instinct to serve other pastors with my time, effort, and energy is a godly one. And…it challenges me very strongly to lean into the instinct (even though it feels like I may not have the time) even more!
In closing, I want to list just a few of the “benefits” I’ve experienced as a result of prioritizing ministering to other ministers:
It eliminates the deception that God only works mightily through my “style,” philosophy of ministry, theological affiliation, or “tribe.”
It broadens my understanding of the myriad of ways God is expanding His kingdom beyond what I can see him doing through my local congregation. (Because He’s doing SO MUCH MORE!)
It encourages my heart to know that my struggles, hardships, and obstacles in ministry aren’t unique to me.
It raises my awareness of less/more effective ways of doing ministry.
It helps my congregation develop the much-needed humility to recognize that what God is doing through our church is only a tiny sliver of what He is doing in the world at large.
It expands my fruit-bearing beyond my own “orchard.” (Undeservedly and miraculously so.)
In short, ministering to other ministers makes me less self-absorbed and more God-aware.
I praise God for this gift because a prideful guy life myself sure needs it!
NOW IT’S YOUR TURN.
If you are a minister who has ministered to other ministers, what benefits have you seen from doing so? I’d love to learn from you. Please drop a comment below!