It has been 7 years since I stepped out of working for congregations as a minister and started my own counseling business. I sat in church service this past Sunday, as I have since then, realizing that I was “just a member.” And I must tell you it was wonderful, enlightening and insightful.
Wonderful in the fact I could relax. I have just read when it comes to depression and anxiety, ministers rate right up with lawyers and doctors. I didn’t realize it was going to be so dangerous a profession when I answered the calling in 1976. I was just being faithful and ready to use my talents for God. The reality that the church had done well without me up to that point and was going to be okay without me had not yet been realized. The push to make things happen in the church had been met with resistance and frustration. Now, I can cheerlead, encourage and chill.
Enlightening because I realized that the very people that frustrated me in ministry, I now was; “Just a member”. I was driven when it came to ministry. Seeing the next wave and trying to move the congregation in that direction was both a blessing and a curse. Small groups, contemporary music, discipleship, and media trends were just some of what I found myself “selling” to the typical member in the pew. Now, as “just a member,” I can hear a sales pitch coming a mile away. I am saddened when I realize how much energy I expended in trying to turn battleships when I could have just enjoyed the ride with some great people.
Insightful as I now can appreciate how naïve and spiritually arrogant I was in my ministry. During worship service this Sunday, I sat among faithful members that included a 93, an 84 and a 75 year old. The auditorium was filled with gray hair and experience. Sitting now as one of the mature members of the congregation, gimmicks and trends are of no interest to me. Building character and virtue is. I think in my ministry, I probably focused more on movement and activity, hoping character and virtue would show up. One of the many insights I have had over the last 7 years.
So, being “just a member” is a nice place to be right now. Your congregation is filled with them. My prayer is that you enjoy, cherish, and learn from them.