One of those things that caught me by surprise is the fact that as a church grows, the job that I have changes. The word we use to describe my role here – “pastor” – hasn’t changed, but what is required of me is different now than it used to be. Pastoring a small church is different than pastoring a large church. One type of church might require a pastor to manage a staff of people, whereas another one might not. The pastor of one church might work directly on a lot of projects, and a church of another size might need a pastor to oversee and delegate quite a number of things to other people.
You may have noticed, Good News Church is growing. Last year, the average attendance was 494. Lately, it’s been around 600. Yay for growth! However, the thing I am learning (and, again, this was one of those things I did not understand 8 years ago) is that I have to adapt to each new situation.
There is a wonderfully practical and instructive passage in Exodus 18. Moses is the leader of Israel and at the beginning the chapter he is the only judge in their entire nation that everyone must come to in order to settle a dispute or understand God’s laws. In the middle of the chapter, Moses’ father-in-law comes to visit him and says that the amount of leadership that Moses has taken upon himself is crazy. Here are some excerpts from that conversation:
“What you’re doing is not good… you will certainly wear out both yourself and these people who are with you, because the task is too heavy for you… select from all the people able men… place them over the people as commanders of thousands, hundreds, fifties, and tens… they can bring you every important case but judge every minor case themselves… If you do this, and God so directs you, you will be able to endure, and also all these people will be able to go home satisfied.”
I am learning to treasure the wisdom of this passage more and more as our church gets larger. There are decisions that I used to make, and things that I used to do, that I have no business being involved in anymore.
One thing that Heidi Villella (my wife, who is also the director of Operations here at Good News) has been doing lately behind the scenes is structuring things so that I am more often operating in the areas of my giftedness (teaching, helping to shape the culture of the church at large) and less time doing other things.
For instance, sometimes people will contact me or the church phone number or the church email address because they want to chat with me as a friend. While that is encouraging, we are trying to be more clear about the idea that those conversations need to be happening primarily in community groups. I can’t maintain hundreds of friendships – and that’s not because I’m a bad pastor, but just because I’m a human. Similarly, most counseling situations are going to be handled by a combination of Pastor Isaac Johnson, the Good News Counseling Team, the Community Groups, and perhaps in some cases, recommendations to professional counselors will be made.
Here’s another example of things differing as a church grows. At Good News, I try to be accessible and available on Sunday mornings. I don’t hang out in a greenroom, take the stage to deliver my sermon, and then go back to the greenroom when I’m done. Perhaps in megachurches that is the only way a pastor can stay sane. But we aren’t a megachurch, and I like hanging out and talking with you guys on Sunday mornings. Having said that, I can see now that the percentage of people that I can talk on Sundays is less than it used to be.There are too many people in the room for me to be able to connect with everyone. This might be obvious to some people, but it’s less obvious to others. I think there have been people who have shown up on a Sunday morning and they were, perhaps, right on the border of being offended that I didn’t greet them or hug them. If you are one of those people, please know that I am not trying to snub you. It’s just that there aren’t enough minutes to get to everyone anymore. I can only be in one place at one time, and it would take about 400 or 500 minutes (that’s about seven hours!) to have a small chat with each adult who attends our church now.
None of this is bad news though, because the church is not made up of one part but many. (That’s literally in the Bible.) There are many people with various giftings that God has given them so that we can all serve each other well.
And like the passage from Exodus 18 suggests, there will be some major issues that will find their way to me, but the vast majority of the ministry of Good News Church can be done by people other than me. And that will be better for everyone. It’s like the old saying goes, “Better to milk a herd of 40 cattle each once per day, than to milk one cow forty times a day.” Ok, so that’s not an old saying. I made it up. But it’s very much in line with Exodus 18.