The Pastor’s Office

Some of my favorite stories in the Gospels occurred in Jesus’ office. Remember when Nicodemus made an appointment to see Jesus in the church office and Jesus was able to explain what it means to be born again? That’s a powerful story. How about the time the Samaritan woman came to see Jesus in his office? Talk about an open door policy! Jesus’ office was truly open to anyone as long as they made an appointment during office hours. Or how about the time the lame man came to see Jesus in the church? It’s a good thing the church was ADA accessible in those days. I can only image how marvelous it was when Jesus spoke the words—right in his office—and the man was made whole!

Archeologists have discovered many sites and artifacts that point to places and people mentioned in the New Testament. One site they will never find is the location of Jesus’ office. Jesus didn’t set up shop at the temple and wait for people to come to him. He didn’t open an office in a particular synagogue and advertise for folks to come. Jesus was the Great Physician who made house calls—he didn’t expect the spiritually/physically ill to come to him, he went to them. He was the Good Shepherd who not only cares for his sheep, but he leaves the ninety-nine and goes to find the one that is lost.

The typical church is isolated from their community and from the culture that surrounds them. Nowhere else is this more apparent than how we have taught pastors to do ministry. Pastors have great people skills. They meet and greet people well, they love people, they love helping people, they love spending time with them, being with them, and ministering to them. Yet where do pastors spend most of their time – in the office. For three generations pastors have been taught how to work out of their office. And when pastors work from their office—as fishers of men—how big a net are we casting? When we work primarily out of our office, we see the same 10 to 20 people every week.

Pastors, you can’t teach a congregation to do something you aren’t doing. When it comes to reaching lost people and becoming a sending church that sends its members out into their community to be salt and light, you need to lead the way. The greatest stories of Jesus’ ministry occurred when he went to where the lost, the hurting, the broken were and he met them there. So how do you model the pattern of ministry we see throughout the ministry of Jesus and throughout the entire New Testament? The first step is to get out of your office. I’ve heard the saying, “nothing good happens in a pastor’s office”. That might be a bit of an exaggeration, but it’s not far from the truth.

Here are a few things to do to get out in the community:

First, get rid of your office. 

Close your office and give the space to a ministry that could use it. Or at the very least spend as little time at your church office as possible. Find a local coffee shop or restaurant that has Wi-Fi and use that as your office. For example, let’s say you pick a Starbucks. Intentionally get to know the managers and staff, and get to know the regulars who frequent the store. Let them know you are a pastor. Get to know their names and begin to learn their stories. 95% of us love people. We are wired to do this stuff. Enjoy it! Let the manager know that if they ever have an employee that is in crisis or needs someone to talk to, you are available to help.

If someone wants to meet with you, meet at Starbucks. But what if they want to talk about something personal? Won’t that be awkward? The truth is, people talk about EVERYTHING at Starbucks! I can’t tell you the amount of times, as a pastor, I’ve met people at Starbucks (or a restaurant) and they have bared their soul. Places like Starbucks are becoming the new public house or pub. They are the gathering places for the community. It’s where friends go to talk. They are the places people go to be with others. They go there to have light conversation. They go there to have deep conversations.

Second, for one year, have all your church board and ministry team meetings in the community.

A great way to reintroduce your people to the local mission field of your community is to get them meeting outside the walls of the church. For a year, have them meet in a restaurant or coffee shop (depending on the size of board/team). As part of the meeting agenda talk about the community in which they live. Talk about the people in the community you have come to know through your efforts in getting out of the office. Spend time praying as a team for the needs of your community and the needs of the people you meet in the restaurant. One great way to get your board/team smiling is to introduce your wait staff to the folks gathered around you. In front of your team tell the server that you are from such-and-such a church. Let them know that your team is purposely getting outside of the church and into the community. And as they serve your food, ask them, “As we pray for our food, is there anything you’d like us to pray for?” You’ll be amazed at how open most people will be to sharing a need in their lives.

You can teach evangelism from the pulpit every Sunday, but nothing can substitute the pastor modeling it in front of his/her people. Jesus taught his disciples how to love lost and broken people, but his most powerful and memorable teaching was caught not taught. It’s the stories of Jesus going out and having divine encounters with people that we remember best.

An added benefit to having board meetings in the community is that board members tend to behave themselves when they are in public! Can I get an amen?

Finally, hold regular prayer walks/drives in the community

Invite people to join you in prayer for the community through a prayer walk through a neighborhood near the church, or by driving to a neighborhood and praying. To establish your prayer team, don’t make a general invitation in the bulletin or from the pulpit. Instead, personally invite people you’d like to have as part of the team. Most people are fearful of praying in public and if they express those fears, assure them that you aren’t great at public prayer either and together you’ll get each other through it. Before you go out on a prayer walk, do your homework. Learn the demographics of your community (1) and share key demographic information with your team as you lead up to your prayer time. Keep up on the current news stories in your town and apply them to the need for God to do something through your church to reach your community for Christ. As you walk, you might want to pray about needs you learned through the newspaper or through your personal contacts in the community. As you walk, ask God to open your eyes to what He sees. As you see kids that are lost with no place to go, pray for them. Lift up the single moms who face innumerable challenges. Pray for those caught in addiction. Pray for the kids who have dropped out of school. Pray for the kids who grow up without a father. Your heart will begin to break. Tears will start to well up in your eyes as the veil is lifted and you begin to see what Jesus sees. Your broken heart will be contagious as the Holy Spirit honors your leadership and begins to break the hearts of your prayer team for lost people.

Jesus made a strategic decision to go out and have encounters with lost and broken people, to meet them where they lived and worked. It was the primary method in which he did ministry and it should be the primary way we do our ministry as well. Most of the great stories of your ministry will happen outside your office doing what God has already wired you to do. Go for it!

 

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