Dan, one of the elders at the local church, sat at a Starbucks coffee shop enjoying his afternoon cappuccino. Chuck, a relative newcomer to the church, entered the Starbucks, saw Dan sitting there, and decided to initiate a spur-of-the-moment conversation.
Eager for the chance to serve in some capacity, as a newcomer to the church, Chuck was excited at seeing one of the elders of his new church. He’d been hoping to talk to somebody in leadership of the church about various ministry opportunities he’d like to get involved in. Who better to talk to than one of the elders? Surely this presented an absolutely golden opportunity.
After getting his cup of coffee, Chuck walked over to where Dan was sitting. “Excuse me, but can I talk to you for a few minutes?” Dan, a bit startled, looked up at Chuck with a puzzled look on his face. “I’m sorry, but do I know you?”
“Um…yeah. Name’s Chuck, remember? Me and my wife have been coming to the church for a couple of weeks now. In fact, I was chatting with you for a few minutes just this last Sunday.”
Dan thought for a moment, then said, “Oh, yeah, now I think I remember you. You and your wife just moved up here not long ago, right?” Chuck nodded. Dan pointed to the empty chair across from the table, and, moving his coffee cup out of the way, said, “Hey listen, Chuck, I’ve got a few minutes to spare. If you’re not sitting anywhere, grab a seat.” Grateful for the invitation, Chuck set down his coffee and took the proffered chair.
After a few minutes of small talk, Chuck finally decided that it was now or never. “Hey Dan, can I ask you some questions about the church? I know you’re one of the elders there, so it seems to make sense to talk to you about it.” “Sure, fire away,” Dan replied. “You know, this is something I take seriously as one of the leaders. As an elder, I always like to think I’m keeping in touch with the little people—like you—who keep our church humming along smoothly. I’m always available to talk.”
Grateful for the opportunity, Chuck began to lay out his case. “Well, as you know, we’ve been coming to the church for a couple of weeks now. I know that you just hired Pastor John a while ago—what, less than a year now? Anyway, I’ve been thinking about getting involved in some kinds of ministry. You know, maybe I could help the guy out around the church, or something.”
Dan sat back in his chair, steepled his fingers, and with a thoughtful look on his face replied, “Hmmm. Interesting thought. Certainly, a novel one. But I like it—it sounds like a great idea. I don’t feel any kind of ‘check in my spirit’ about it at all. So, tell me: what kinds of stuff were you thinking about getting involved in?”
“I’m a bookkeeper by trade,” said Chuck. “That would seem like the most obvious place to start, to my way of thinking. Do you think that maybe Pastor John could use some help with keeping the books? I’ve got some really good software that I use…”
“Let me stop you right there, Chuck. Sorry, but on that score the answer would have to be a resounding ‘No.’ You see, I know for a fact that Pastor John enjoys nothing more than taking care of balancing all the books, and paying the church bills and so on. Got him a used computer too, no less, to help him out, and of course, we took it out of his pay check. He’s got that whole finance area under complete control. It’s part of what it means to be a good shepherd over the flock of God, don’t you see?
Of course, we do have a built-in system of accountability, just so we all know that everything is nice and above-board. Just because he’s our pastor doesn’t mean that he can’t make a mistake, after all! Even the leader of a church needs to have his feet held to the fire, as it were, now and again, Chuck. Besides–and this is nothing against you personally–you’re simply too new around here to be trusted with such sensitive information as the church’s finances. Maybe after five or six years of faithful attendance, and we might consider putting you on the accountability team…but I might be speaking out of turn. We’ll just see how it goes, shall we?
So you can clearly see, Pastor John doesn’t need any help at all, I can definitely report. But hey—thanks for asking. Glad we got that all cleared up. Was that all you wanted to talk about? Because I’ve got to get going in a bit here; I’ve got a meeting scheduled with Pastor John down at the church in a few minutes. Gotta hold the man accountable, you know, Chuck; part of my duties as an elder. I’m checking his time card this week–as I do every week–to see how many hours he’s put in. According to his job description, he’s supposed to average about 50-60 hours a week. The man’s doing the Lord’s work, Chuck!”
Chuck sipped his coffee and thought for a minute. “OK, I understand—sounds like he’s got the church finances pretty well handled, then. I’ll try not to hold you up too long. Well, if he doesn’t need any help with the books, then how about this—I’m pretty handy with a hammer. I used to work in construction back when I was going to college. Maybe I could do some of the repairs around the building. I could mow the lawn, paint the building, or even help clean the building every week? My schedule is pretty open right now.”
Dan waved his hand dismissively. “I appreciate the offer, Chuck, but we’ve got all that covered. It’s all part of the job description we worked out when he was hired. You see, Pastor John mows the lawn on Sunday afternoons, after the service, and he and his wife work together and clean the church building every Saturday night. In fact, we even bought him a new lawnmower and a new vacuum cleaner when he came on board. Of course, we did take ‘em out of his pay check, but we want to provide every possible tool the man needs to do his job. And as far as painting goes, Chuck, I’m afraid that’s already been taken care of. We held a big fundraiser last summer to buy the paint, and all the supplies, for the exterior of the building.
Pastor John and his wife did a great job, too, and it only took them a couple of weeks to get it done. That was something we made sure and put into the job description when he was hired. Since all the rest of us have jobs during the weekdays, he’s the only one who had free time during the week, so that worked out well for everybody. Don’t you think the building looks great?”
“Yeah…come to think of it, I guess so. But speaking of equipment, what about tools?” asked Chuck. “OK, so he’s got a lawnmower and a vacuum cleaner, but I’ve got a lot of tools he could borrow. Maybe he…”
Dan once again interrupted Chuck. “Nope. One of the things we made sure to spell out on his job description, was for him to bring his own tools for use on any building-related maintenance. If there’s anything he doesn’t own, we even have an expense account for him to go buy whatever he needs. Well, I say ‘expense account,’ but any tool purchases do ultimately come out of his monthly salary. We just front him the money so he doesn’t end up having to pay out of pocket if he needs something in a hurry. We certainly don’t want to deprive him of any opportunities to serve, now do we, Chuck? Of course not. It’s what he gets paid to do, after all!
Oh, yeah—speaking of service, that’s another great benefit that’s come out of this whole thing, too. One bonus is now that he’s got some great tools, he’s available to help out around member’s houses if they need any building work done. It’s worked out better than any of us could have imagined, Chuck. Also, working on member’s houses has provided him with great opportunities to build relationships with the people in his flock! You can’t put a price tag on that, can you, Chuck? Overall, then, I’d have to say that Pastor John’s OK for tools right now.”
Chuck took another sip of his coffee. “Alright, it sounds like that’s all taken care of. But what about teaching? I did a couple years of Bible College. I could teach a Sunday school class, or maybe lead a home Bible study group. I used to lead one back at our home church, you know.”
Dan once again leaned back in his chair and reflected. “Now that’s an interesting thought. Let me think about that for just a second. Come to think of it, right now I’d have to say that there’s really no need for teachers around the church. You see, Pastor John and his wife teach the children and adult Sunday School classes before the service, and then during the week he leads the three home groups we’ve already got—let’s see, that’d be Monday, Tuesday, and Friday nights—so you can see, we don’t need any teachers right now. We’ve got it covered pretty well, I think.”
Excitedly, Chuck snapped his fingers and leaned forward. “I’ve got it. How about the youth group? I’m pretty good with teens—maybe I could help out there or something. You know, help Pastor John organize an outing, or a youth retreat somewhere?”
“Well, again the answer would have to be a ‘No,’” Dan replied. “You see, it’s like this, Chuck. Pastor John and his wife lead the teens group on Thursday nights, and they organize all the outings and stuff; you know, drive the van, do the cooking for the kids, teach the kids from the Bible, and all that, so I don’t really think they need your help. They’re pretty much good to go.”
Chuck took another sip from his coffee. “Hey—maybe I could work on the church van. I’m a pretty decent mechanic. What happens if it breaks down? What about oil changes and stuff? I’d be happy to help out with things like routine maintenance.”
Dan once again waved his hand dismissively. “Listen—and I truly mean this—thanks for the offer, Chuck, but there again, it’s all taken care of. Last year, when we bought the van (used, of course), we cleared a nice little spot out back of the building for Pastor John to work on it whenever it breaks down. It’s a few years old—couldn’t afford a new van—so it does have the tendency to leave a guy stranded alongside the road every now and then.
But you know, just to help him out, we even bought him a set of mechanics tools the other day! A whole bunch of wrenches, screwdrivers, sockets and everything. ‘Course we took it out of his pay check, but at least now he doesn’t have to keep on borrowing tools from people in the church anymore.
You know, I do believe that van has never run so good. It sure is handy to have a reliable vehicle now, too, so Pastor John can take some of the senior citizens around to their doctors’ appointments and shopping runs during the week. That was all part of the job description, you know; we wanted to make sure that Pastor John would be available for anybody in the church, 24/7. Made sure that he knows he’s on call, evenings and weekends too, which is what a good shepherd is, by the way. If you need to, you can even call him on his day off–he truly doesn’t mind.
You see, it’s all in the Bible, Chuck–the description of a servant leader. It’s like this–we’re pretty generous. We even let him use the church van sometimes to run those errands, and take people where they need to go; that is, of course, if nobody else is using it. That van is also real handy if anybody is moving house, too–Pastor John is always available to help out, and he always ends up driving the van. He’s a real servant, Chuck, with a heart of gold.
I’d have to say that overall, it’s worked out real nice for him, too—saves the wear and tear on his own car, you know. Of course, he has to cover his fuel costs, but that’s only reasonable, don’t you think, Chuck? Of course it is. A pastor should be willing to give, and set the example for his flock.”
“OK, well then how about this–any chance I could play some music?” asked Chuck. “I’d be happy to lend a hand. I mean, I’m no virtuoso, but I do think I play a pretty mean guitar. I used to lead worship now and then at my former church. I know a lot of the more popular worship songs, anyway, so it wouldn’t be a tough sell. Maybe I could step in occasionally and…”
“Sorry, Chuck,” Dan interrupted. “Listen, I’m sure you’re a good guitar player and all, but you see, Pastor John and his wife handle all the worship. See, we got us a two-for-one deal there! She plays piano, and he leads the singing. She’s got a pretty decent voice, too, which is nice. And the best part is, we only have to pay him! Of course, for her, it’s all about the ministry. We specified on his job description that his wife would lead several ‘unpaid’ ministries as part of her duties here. Got to set a good example to the other wives, you know!”
“Yeah, about that,” asked Chuck. “My wife used to lead the women’s ministry back at our home church. She wanted to know if there’s any way perhaps she could get involved doing some teaching, or anything?”
“Well,” Dan said reflectively, “that’s just great. Listen, I’m sure your wife is a fantastic woman and all, but as I said, Pastor John’s wife is an absolute gem. She takes care of the women’s ministry all by herself, and does an amazing job. For example, she organized the women’s retreat last year, did all the teaching from the Bible, and even did all the cooking, too. The gals are still talking about what a great job she did, even though some of her food wasn’t the greatest, if I’m telling the truth. At least, that’s what my wife said, anyway. But honestly, I don’t know how she finds the time to do all those things, and teach the Sunday School every week, and take care of their four children, too. But somehow she does—she’s a real ‘Proverbs 31’ type of woman, if you ask me, Chuck.”
Chuck thought for a minute. “OK, I hear you, Dan. Sounds like they’ve got the worship thing under control. It also sounds like Pastor John’s wife doesn’t need any help, either. But how about visitation? I don’t mind going out to hospitals, or nursing homes, to visit some of the older people in the church. There’s a lot of people who maybe can’t make it to church service anymore. I’ve got some free time during the week; maybe I could do something like that.”
Dan took another sip of his coffee and reflected for a moment. “Well, Chuck, here’s how it is. You see, there again, Pastor John takes care of all the visitation duties. Part of his job description, you know. We even let him take the church van sometimes, that is, if he doesn’t put too many miles on the old girl. If he does, then he’ll have to start taking his own car, we’re thinking. Besides, those poor shut-ins couldn’t handle it if anybody other than the pastor of the church came to visit. A pastor has got to shepherd his flock, Chuck! It says so right there in the Bible!”
“I understand that,” Chuck replied. “But what about evangelism? Is that something only the pastor can do? Honestly, I truly don’t mind going door to door, you know, sort of cold-calling. I could hand out tracts or something…”
“Hmm. Well, you see, Chuck, if you did that, you’d be taking away from some of Pastor John’s weekly duties—remember, this is a large part of how he earns his pay check every month! We made it clear, on his job description, that he was hired to grow our church. Plus, if (and when) the church gets bigger–which we confidently and prayerfully expect that it will–more people will start tithing. It’ll be great, because that’ll mean there’s a possible incentive for Pastor John to get a pay hike! We’d have to discuss that, of course, with the Leadership Team, but we’d be happy to spread the wealth around–if the numbers are consistent, say over the course of a couple of years or so. OK, so we don’t pay him a lot of money right now–but we believe that God will provide every need. It says so in the Bible.
Think of it this way. Pastor John is our spiritual leader, Chuck—it says in the Bible that’s what a pastor is! And as that spiritual leader, it’s his responsibility to go out, in the neighborhood, door-to-door every Saturday afternoon. His goal—which we clearly spelled out on his job description—is to knock on at least 50 doors every Saturday, and invite them along to church. And what better person than Pastor John to build those relationships with our neighbors? After all, he’ll be the one they’ll hear preaching a wonderful sermon the very next day! It’s a win-win scenario, Chuck! Of course, let’s not overlook your responsibilities, though. Remember that it’s the duty of every Christian to bring their non-saved friends, neighbors and co-workers to church every Sunday, so make sure and work on that, Chuck. Rest assured, you can leave the job up to Pastor John once they get through the doors of the church. He’s the expert, after all–he’ll seal the deal–but you’ve gotta get ’em into the building, Chuck.”
Chuck snapped his fingers, inspired. “OK, I get it. Sounds like he’s pretty good at going door-to-door, and evangelism too. But speaking of sermons, how about preaching every so often? At my last church, they let me preach a couple times a year when the pastor went on holiday. Got a pretty decent response, too. Maybe I could bring a word here and there…”
Dan slammed down his coffee cup, even spilling some across the table. With righteous indignation, he sternly replied: “Now listen here, Chuck. Sure, I’ve enjoyed this little talk we’ve had, but now it’s getting out of hand. This conversation has been a total waste of time, and now it looks like I’m gonna be late for my accountability meeting with Pastor John. You just don’t get it, do you? Well, let me make it as clear as I can to you—as if I haven’t been doing enough of that already. One of the main reasons we hired Pastor John in the first place was so that he, and he alone, would preach the Word every Sunday and Wednesday night. Scripture teaches us that preaching is one of the major duties that a pastor has, after all.
Don’t you get it? He’s our pastor, Chuck, a positive example of what a leader should look like, with a true servant’s heart of gold. Maybe they didn’t do a very good job of teaching you this at your last church, but let me spell it out for you, Chuck: preaching is what pastors do. I mean, how else are we supposed to know what the Bible says, and how we should apply it to our lives?”
Pulling out a pocket New Testament and setting it on the table, Dan tapped it with his finger, and stated emphatically: “Again, this nothing new, it’s all right here in the Bible. What are you trying to do, Chuck, take away the man’s livelihood? Is that what’s going on here? Just because you’ve got a couple of years of Bible college under your belt, are you trying to take over the man’s important work? You’d like that, wouldn’t you–‘Pastor’ Chuck, is it now?”
Somewhat taken aback, Chuck replied, “No, of course not. That’s the last thing I’m trying to do. I was just trying to help, that’s all. I’m not trying to take over his job!” Dan nodded, apparently satisfied. “Well, I appreciate that response, Chuck,” he said, “I really do. It shows me that you’ve got some real potential for spiritual maturity in there somewhere. Maybe you should see if Pastor John can disciple you on that. I’m sure he’d be happy to take you under his wing, and show you the way forward. You have to understand, Chuck, this church is Pastor John’s calling. You’d be robbing him of the pleasure of serving, if you tried to help out the ways you’ve been describing.”
With a slightly sarcastic tone, Chuck had one last thing to say to Dan. “Well, since I’m apparently just one of the ‘little people’ around here, maybe this is all I can do at this church: I’ll just attend each Sunday, sit in the pew, put my tithe in the plate, listen to Pastor John’s sermon, then go home at the end of the service and watch the game. Then I’ll come back and do the same thing the next week!”
Dan, completely missing the sarcasm, drained the last of his coffee and stood up to leave. Shaking Chuck’s hand heartily, he said, “You know, Chuck, I do believe Pastor John would be really happy to hear you say that. In fact, I’m going to mention it to him now, at our accountability meeting. God bless you, Chuck! Do you know, this whole time we’ve been chatting here, that’s probably the first thing you’ve said that made any sense! I’ll see you next Sunday in church.”
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