Going through the Motions

I am about as exhausted and spiritually tired as I can remember being. I spent my week doing all kinds of pastory things– a funeral for a stranger, calls to a congregant who lost her grandson, administrative mumbo-jumbo, schmoozing at a church dinner, planning an ecumenical baccalaureate and VBS– everything except preparing worship and crafting a sermon. And they all loved my sermon. Well, pretty much.

Next week, by the by, doesn’t look much better. a meeting every day, and two on Wednesday, one of which is a retreat where I am supposed to sit on a panel and discuss the United Methodist Church’s beliefs about communion (um, anyone can have it).

There’s a couple things this [the first bit about being tired out] points out to me. First, my mother in law and I have been talking a lot about church size and type and what the expectations are on the pastor. She is currently at what would be considered a program-sized church, where she inspires and initiates and (when things go well) the congregation picks it up and runs with it. Since this is a change from her previous experience, there’s an adjustment phase, but on the whole it sounds like a blast to me. I’m at the pastor-based church. Bigtime. This means that I can inspire and initiate until I’m blue in the face (and I usually do), but things stagnate the second I turn around. It also means that my congregants, by and large, don’t give a rat’s patootie how good my sermon is technically or theologically, or whether I spent twenty minutes or forty hours putting together the worship service/sermon. What they care about is whether or not I’ve connected with them this week, whether or not they feel like I have personally interacted with them as if each one of them were the most important person in my life. And as there are 65 of them, that is often exhausting.

Another thing that this points out to me is that I am once again seeing that not all aspects of ministry build me up and fulfill me equally. I’d say I was a good pastor this week–I didn’t get everything done as well as I would have liked, and I feel like I should have visited more with the person who lost her grandson, and called the chronically ill woman, but on the whole I did a lot of important things. But most of it wasn’t the stuff I love. It wasn’t very creative or innovative or big-picture, and so I feel drained instead of satisfied. I love crafting worship. And lately, I’ve spent far less time and energy on it. People in my pastor-based church think I’m the better for it, it seems, but I feel worse.

I can tell that I’m spiritually drained not only by how irritable and anxious I am, but by how seriously tempted I was to darken the door of a church I discovered by accident in Troy this week. I was sorely disappointed to discover that the theology– or at least the language– was pretty conservative, based on perusing their website (no, I won’t post it here; I can’t advertise for the competition!). They had some good ideas and a great location, and it seems an earnest desire to engage not only in relevant and vital outreach but in theological discussion (although what form that takes with right-of-center evangelicals I don’t know). Reading their story of church planting and vision, I started to cry.

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