“As long as we reach one person…”

Any church leader who has been in charge of any kind of programming that is consistently showing a lack of success has said it. “As long as we reach one person, everything was worth it.”

Everything? Really?

To be sure, there are times when that is the case. We read the parable of the Good Shepherd going to find the one lost sheep and we feel justified doing what we’ve got to do to make sure that one person knows they are loved by God. But let’s be honest: That’s not usually what we’re talking about.

What we’re usually talking about is someone trying to justify performance in the face of what they consider unreasonable expectations. Jan Edmiston taught me that these can be classified as “how much, how often, and how many.”

Rightfully so, we find these kinds of measurements to be somewhat antithetical to the purposes God has for the Church. If the job of church leaders is to maximize attendance or contributions, certain kinds of choices will be made; choices that, more often than not, make a person feel comfortable and more likely to show up and give.

Yet, rather than try to “change the scorecard” we say that scorecards don’t matter.

But they do matter. They matter quite a bit. The only way that the Good Shepherd knew that the one sheep was lost was because the shepherd counted.

The “Moneyball” phenomenon showed us that there are objective things that coaches can pay attention to that will ensure better and better results for their teams. What are those for the church?

Because – Can we just say? – with the state of the world and it’s need for Christ’s Grace and Peace, reaching just one person isn’t good enough.

Dear God, please stop calling pastors

Dear God,

I know we talked earlier, but I have something important that I’d like to ask you so I thought I’d send you a letter. I usually do better thinking through thoughts when I write them out. Don’t think that you need to give me an answer right away, but I’d sure love an answer sooner rather than later.

So, here’s the deal: I’d like to ask you to stop calling “pastors” to the ministry.

As I understand it (from that awesome book of yours) the word “pastor” is drawn from the word “shepherd.” The purpose of the shepherd is to protect and provide for the sheep, to feed them well, and keep them healthy. To be sure, sometimes this means that the shepherd needs to make the sheep do things they’d rather not do, and sometimes it means applying some preventative medicine, etc. But, mostly, being a shepherd means that the sheep are well cared for. You know – that whole “still waters” and “green pastures” thing?

So, the reason I ask is because I think we’ve got enough of these people, and I was wondering if you had noticed. In my own denomination we have somewhere around twice as many “shepherds” as we have “flocks” available. Normally, I wouldn’t worry about that because I know that many of those pastors aren’t “out of work,” they’re just keeping their options open.

But what bothers me is the number of new pastors that seem to be flooding the market every year, and the fact that a lot of congregations don’t want a first time pastor. Seriously?

Again, have you noticed this?

Look, Almighty Creator of Heaven and Earth, I am fine with you calling the shots. I’m down with you being the one in charge of calling people to service in the church (you can bet I don’t want the job), but I’m wondering if you’ve fallen asleep lately. I mean, I trust that you have a plan and everything, but this is getting ridiculous. Let me tell you what I think you should do about this.

1) Stop calling pastors. I think we have enough for right now. Let’s let the ones we have get into circulation. I’m sure a lot of that will even itself out. Some of the older pastors are going to retire evenutally. It’ll be a bit tense for a few years, but I think we can manage. However…

2) Please start calling EVANGELISTS instead. Seriously. A lot of these newer folks seeking to be pastors are thinking about your church in crazy new ways and it would be a waste of their energy to ask them to go maintain a system that is gonna wrap up in a few years.

Maybe you’re already aware of all this. Look, I know where I was when you laid the foundations of the world. Okay? I get it. I’m not suggesting you’re not good at what you do, but this is getting out of hand. Maybe you actually did call some of these pastors as evangelists and they got the signals wrong. Maybe the Church in general misinterpreted. Whatev. I’m fine with it all. But could you give an indication of what you’re up to.

Okay. I think that’s enough. Thanks for listening. Thanks for considering.

Wanna do brunch after worship on Sunday? I know this great kosher deli.