Congregational pastors are called into lives of ministry that are filled with a variety of responsibilities and job descriptions. One of the more important images for such a life is that of a steward, indeed a professional steward. Pastors are called to be caretakers of God’s human community, stewards of the church family, seeking to manage the congregation in a way that the church is able to live most fully into its calling in this world.
But the integrity of such stewardly vocation is also dependent upon the personal life of the steward. Preaching about financial tithing holds only shallow meaning, at best, if the pastor does not tithe. Teaching about life as a sacramental gift from God rings hollow if the pastor’s own lifestyle is physically, emotionally, intellectually, spiritually or even relationally unhealthy. Leading God’s flock into transformational possibilities of selfless mission and witness begins with the pastor stepping out to live a personal life of selfless service, humble witness, and compassionate generosity.
While the ministries we are called to do not happen outside the active presence of God’s redemptive activity in this world, certainly, the transforming life and ministry of the church is also utterly dependent upon all church members remaining faithful to a personal and corporate life of stewardship; a radical relinquishing of our selves, completely, to the generous possibilities of God in this world. Especially so, it is important for those called as pastors of our denomination’s congregational communities — to offer humble and yet visibly personal examples with regard to how such a life can be lived.
In such a spirit as this, then, what follows is a small and incomplete inventory for pastors to consider with regard to how their call to be God’s stewards can be manifest in their own personal lives:
What activities do you regularly practice, in order to maintain the best possible health for God’s gift of your physical body?
What is your plan for maintaining a balanced life, spiritually and emotionally? Do you practice mindful, recurring activities to promote such balance? Do you dwell in scripture, daily, and not just to prepare the next sermon? Do you know the difference between keeping Sabbath and simply taking another day off?
How do you continue to develop the mind God has given you, and the wisdom to which God calls you? What are you reading? How are you making room for other ways of learning?
Do your relationships with others continually deepen through practices such as a listening heart, humility, self-control, generosity and compassion; or, are your relationships more defined by unhealthy habits and unmitigated reaction? Is your reference point for collegial relationships throughout the church more likely to be one of selfless-partnership or self-entitlement?
Do you have a call from God in your life to be about some additional ministry, beyond the local congregation? How is your response to such a call made manifest in your life, in order to honor this call and also offer inspirational witness to your congregation for their own lives of mission beyond simply the care for their own immediate faith community?
Do you offer an actual tithe of all your financial resources, to support God’s redemptive activity in this world as a foundational touchstone for determining the depth and genuineness of your Christian faith?
Renowned teacher, Dr. Parker Palmer, insists, “good teaching cannot be reduced to technique, good teaching comes from the identity and integrity of the teacher.”
So it is for the ministry of those called to be pastors; the quality of one’s vocational life cannot simply be reduced to how well we preach, teach Bible studies and lead board meetings. Rather, our endeavor to fulfill God’s call upon our lives will be measured, to a great degree, as the integrity of what we say publicly is measured by who we are in personal arenas.
The Rev. Warren Lynn,
Executive Minister for Christian Vocations
at Disciples Home Missions
A General Ministry of the
The Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)