As I write this, it’s Sunday.
My mind’s busy with our worship gathering that’s happening soon.
- It’s a long weekend. How many of our people will be away?
- It’s rainy. Will we be able to raise the garage door to allow air circulation?
- A tree fell out back yesterday in the storm. How will that affect us?
Just another pre-service jumble of thoughts and stresses. The same will happen during and after the service. I’ll be so focused on the gaps that I may miss the blessings God has given me to enjoy as part of his church.
I may miss out on enjoying the church I get to pastor.
Missing the Moment
When I was the father of young kids, I spent a lot of time running through the list in my head of things that needed my attention. I found an old box of pictures the other day of my children when they were young. “What was I thinking?” I wondered. I think I was always thinking of the next thing. Now that I look at the pictures, I wish I had just enjoyed the moment with my kids.
One day I’ll wish the same about my moments as pastor.
Today I get to worship with God’s people. I’m going to be tempted to miss most of it because I notice what’s wrong, who’s missing, and what needs to be done. If I’m not careful, I’ll spend most of my time preoccupied rather than present with the people God’s placed right before me.
If I didn’t think about the future, I wouldn’t be doing my job. It’s my role to anticipate problems and prepare for what’s coming next.
But if I’m not present, then I’m missing the blessings God has put in front of me. I’ll miss out on what I need most today: to gather with God’s people and worship. I’ll be so focused on the future that I’ll miss what God has given me in the present.
Living as a Thankful Recipient
Perhaps that’s one reason why Dietrich Bonhoeffer criticized the style of leadership that focuses on what’s missing rather than what we already have.
We enter into that common life not as demanders but as thankful recipients. We thank God for what he has done for us. We thank God for giving us brethren who live by his call, by his forgiveness, and his promise. We do not complain of what God does not give us; we rather thank God for what he does give us daily. And is not what has been given us enough: brothers, who will go on living with us through sin and need under the blessing of his grace?
Don’t be so focused on the future, Bonhoeffer says, that you miss the blessing of what God has already given you in the present. What he’s given you right now is imperfect, and yet it’s enough. Don’t live as a demander. Live as a thankful recipient of the church God has given you.
I’m already good at the demanding part. My mind is a jumble of to-do items. I have a long list of plans for what has to happen next. My challenge is to complement this future focus with gratitude for the present moment and the church God has given me.
As pastors, let’s not wait until later to enjoy the churches we get to pastor right now.