Remembering the Mission
By Dr. Kurt Miericke (DMin '86, MDiv '73)
The other day my wife asked me to go into the backyard to get her a lemon. I said, "Sure, I would be happy to get it for you." When I went outside I looked around and noticed that it was a really nice afternoon. There were interesting cloud formations in the sky. I saw a large jet passing overhead, and I wondered about all the people in that plane. I wondered if they were on vacation and if they had brought enough money because the theme parks are expensive. I happened to look over at our pond and two ducks started coming my way looking for food. They have been around for while and I haven't seen any baby ducks. Perhaps they might be having some fertility issues. I looked down and noticed that my new plants needed water. I was pulling some weeds when I heard my name being called. "Kurt, did you forget about the lemon?" I had the sudden awareness that I had forgotten about my mission.
Over three decades I have served as a youth pastor, associate pastor, church planter, senior pastor, and denominational executive. I have observed firsthand most aspects of parish ministry. Many of our churches have taken their focus off the unchurched in their neighborhood and placed it on themselves. Church leaders are reluctant to lend out their facilities, and they allow clergy only token time to be engaged in their community. Church council meetings are dominated by taking care of the church plant and raising enough money to meet the budget. No wonder most of our churches are either plateaued or declining.
Serving as a parish pastor is more complex than ever before. With no clear job description, pastors serve basically to meet the expectations of the leadership. A pastor today has to be multi-gifted, a master in public relations, and an inspiring preacher. All through history God has called men and women into pastoral ministry. I believe it is the highest calling one can have. Pastors enter ministry with great ideals and lofty goals. Once they are in the midst of a parish ministry for a few months, their original goals can get lost in the "must dos, should dos, and 'if there is time' dos." There are sermons and Bible studies to prepare, countless meetings to attend, crises to be managed, personalities to please, visits to be made, and sacraments to be administered.
During his brief earthly ministry, Jesus seemed to be engaged in many activities. However, when explaining his mission he said, "For the Son of Man has come to seek and save that which is lost" (Luke 19:10). He commissioned us to continue this mission (Acts 1:8 and Matthew 28:19,20). Jesus created the church for this specific mission. We are called to fulfill that mission. Perhaps one of the main reasons churches and pastors struggle is that they are too busy just doing church, and forgetting the mission. While you are being carried away by the flow of church activity and its numerous challenges, stop for a minute and listen. God might be calling your name to say, "Did you forget about the lemon?"