Today our Bishop, David Graves, “fixed” the appointments which are the pastoral assignments of each pastor in our Annual Conference. I love that we use the word “fix” to describe what Bishops do in sending clergy to the four corners of our Conference. Of course, this use of the word refers to fastening them, in place, but the more common definition of that word makes me want to ask, “Is there really that much brokenness in our churches that the Bishop has to fix so much every year?” Perhaps. Many pastors will go to new places this year and if they’re not careful a great misunderstanding might occur in the minds of those pastors. You see, when some pastors go to new churches they mistakenly believe that they are being sent to a church that needs to be fixed, rather than being sent to a people who need to be loved.
This is a great and understandable temptation because the Lord knows our churches need to be fixed in all kinds of ways. Some of them literally need to be fixed: leaking roofs, bad AC compressors, offensive carpeting in the Sanctuary not to mention the decades old color schemes that are begging to be changed. Some of the churches in our Conference have been ravaged by storms and many need significant physical “fixing.” But many churches have more serious problems to be fixed: a lack of concern for the community around them, a lack of vision for who God called them to be, and in too many churches the idols of consumerism or racism or college football are all too real. When so much fixing is needed, it’s hard not to want to roll up your sleeves, put on your work gloves and hard hats, and get fixing right away.
But God (with the Bishop’s help) is not sending you to a church to be fixed, but a people to be loved. We easily forget the words of that strange hymn “I Am the Church” that says “the church is not a steeple, the church is a people.” They are beautifully, wonderfully made people who are children of God. Of course, they need fixing! They’re just like Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Peter, James, and John, Ananias and Sapphira. They are both beautiful and broken. They are in need of fixing, but not by you. God just needs you to give them a Pastor’s love, and he’ll do the fixing.
Of course, the love of a pastor isn’t all fried chicken, casseroles, and going fishing. Certainly, pastors should eat, fish, play golf, and have a grand time with the people of their churches. But, don’t forget they need a pastor, not a buddy. The love of a pastor speaks the truth, challenges, knows, soothes, casts courageous vision, pushes boundaries, but does it all in the context of a deep love for the people.
The church you’re going to is broken. Love the people, and let God do the fixing.