A few weeks ago, my church pastor swore-in as a military chaplain. It’s only part-time with a branch of the Reserves, but this will have quite an effect on the church and his local ministry. He rarely misses a service. Ever. But now he’s faced with the fact that he’ll miss 1 Sunday each quarter and 6 consecutive Sundays twice during the first 2 years. In the 13 years of his ministry, he’s never faced something like this.
I can only imagine what is going through his head.
Who’s going to teach? Who’s going to preach? Who’s going to create lessons? Who’s going to make sure all the day-to-day tasks are done? What’s going to happen when I’m not there?
Maybe you’re a pastor who’s considering becoming a chaplain. Maybe you’re a congregation member of the pastor who’s becoming a chaplain. If that’s the case, let me just say…
I’m glad he’s leaving.
Before you think that I hate my pastor, let me explain…
More People Will Have to Get Active in Church Activities
They say that 10% of a church congregation does 90% of the work to run the church. The 10% aren’t all employees (although they’re included); they are mostly volunteers. Looking at my church, I can see that this is true. It’s a shame that so many people who profess faith in Christ do nothing with it. I affectionately call these people, “pew potatoes.”
Now, I don’t think that everyone has the same gifts. So not everyone is capable of teaching a Sunday School full of 4-year-olds. But certainly everyone is capable of contributing some sort of action.
My church currently has a regular attendance of approximately 70 people. Out of those 70, only 1 person has the capability of running the soundboard. Only 2 people are willing to sing on stage week after week. Only 4 people are willing to read Scripture in front of the congregation.
My pastor currently teaches the adult Sunday School, leads the service, preaches, and teaches our adult Wednesday evening class. That’s the bulk of our programs in our small church. I understand that it’s his job to do what he does, but to do it week after week with no help at all is going to make him burn out.
Having my pastor be gone for duty in the military is (hopefully) going to force some more members of the church to help carry the weight. A healthy church can’t be full of pew potatoes.
My Pastor Will Have to Pass on Some Responsibility
Along with people being forced to pick up some weight, my pastor is going to be forced to release some weight. He does a lot, and sometimes I thinks that is how he prefers it. Maybe he’s passed off some responsibility in the past and people haven’t been reliable. Or maybe he likes to have a sense of control (after all, it’s his paycheck that gets lost if people leave the church). I don’t know. Regardless, he’s going to be forced to relinquish some of his authority and control.
I think this will be excellent because he’ll be forced to trust in the Lord in a way that he’s never done before. During his service, he’s going to have to leave twice for 6 weeks at a time.
Who’s going to run the service? Is anyone even going to show up during that time? Will the bulletins look okay?
For 6 long weeks, everything is going to be out of his control.
He’s going to have to trust in the Lord in a way that he’s never done in his tenure as a pastor. He’ll be forced to rely on God which will deepen his relationship with God. A church ought to celebrate every time their pastor has an opportunity to deepen their relationship with God.
It Will Change My Pastor’s Local Ministry (For the Better)
Sometimes I think pastors get in a rut. They get a type of tunnel vision with their ministry which limits their effectiveness.
For 13 years, my pastor has been at our church, preaching, teaching, and leading Bible study. (Yes, he does other things. But the point is that he does the same things week after week). Has his ministry changed during that time? I’m sure it has (I haven’t been there that long). But how much has it changed?
From what I see, he’s cut a groove for himself. He’s built up his comfort zone, and he stays in it; Preach and teach. Preach and teach. Preach and teach. He’s great at preaching and teaching, but how are his impromptu evangelism and missionary abilities?
We’re about to find out!
His chaplaincy is going to force him to be a missionary. It’s going to put him in situations of uncertainty and discomfort that he wouldn’t be able to experience otherwise. And I think he’ll be better off for it.
He’ll be able to see ministry in a different light and get a broader perspective as a pastor. And I think his local ministry will be fuller and deeper as a result.
I Have No Complaints
As I think about my pastor becoming a military chaplain, and how that’s going to affect our local congregation, I can’t think of anything bad that could result from it. Any complaint that I could think of is a result of selfishness and laziness. And any objection I have (or you might have) can be answered if you are truly willing to serve the Lord no matter where He might lead you.
Who’s going to preach? Who’s going to lead the service? Who’s going to do this or that?
As Christians, we all have an obligation to follow Christ where he needs us. In the words of Isaiah, we step up and say, “Here I am, send me.” (Isaiah 6:8)
Potential problems aren’t because of a lack of people, or even a lack of capability. It’s a lack of willingness.
If your pastor became a chaplain, would you be willing to step up?
The Lord doesn’t want pew potatoes.