Many years ago I was Pastoring in West Virginia when one Sunday afternoon I got a call from a friend of mine who was Pastoring a church about twenty miles from us. He started the conversation by saying, “I need your opinion, my deacons came to me after the service this morning and said they needed me to come to a special called meeting tonight.” Then he asked me a hard question, “Do you think I’m in trouble?” My response was to ask him some questions, specifically, “Have you done anything different or controversial?” He then proceeded to tell me that on that particular morning he had decided to institute some changes in the church so that it would be more relevant and effective in reaching people.
Before we move forward let me give you some important information about his church and community. The church was located in a rural part of West Virginia and was made up mostly of senior adults. Yet for some reason my Pastor friend had decided that it would be relevant to preach in a pair of shorts and a Hawaiian shirt. Needless to say, it did not go over very well. He had made a common mistake — He was trying to Pastor someone else’s church— maybe Rick Warren’s, maybe Don Ho’s but certainly not a rural church in West Virginia. That brings me to an important point.
As Pastors we must Pastor the church we have while trying to move it to become the church it needs to be. Read that again, because it is more profound than it might first appear. We have a duty and a responsibility to cast a God-given vision for what the church needs to become. Like it or not we live in a ever changing culture and we must constantly find effective ways of presenting the eternal truth of the gospel. While our message is always the same, our methods will always be changing. But on the balancing side of that we must keep in mind that we have to Pastor the church we have. Not someone else’s. Not the church that we wish we had. Not the church we hope to become. The church that we have right in front of us. That means that we need to be patient and careful in how we institute change.
My friends mistake was twofold. First, he thought that what was working in Southern California or somewhere else would work in rural West Virginia. Second, he did not take the time to really learn his community. This is mistake that my generation of Pastors has been particularly prone to falling into. We read or hear what someone else is doing and thing that we can get the same results by replicating what they are doing. Nothing could be further from the truth. We must be missionaries in our communities learning how to effectively present the gospel to the people who we minister to. Remember, you have to Pastor the church you have while trying to move it to become the church it needs to be.