Relationship Warranty?

How long is the warranty on a pastor?  I have served the First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Edwardsville, Illinois since June 2001.  Since then we have replaced the roof twice (thank you insurance for covering the hail damage).  We’ve invested over half a million dollars in the facility and grounds.  Pictured is a project to replace single pane aluminum clad windows with more energy efficient units.  We’ve purchased additional property for future growth.  We’ve painted the lower level twice.  I am in my second office space.  Our fellowship hall has been dramatically remodeled, then remodeled again.  We’ve replaced the HVAC in the “new” sanctuary.  We are on our second system to project images in worship.  Today, we installed new stoves in the kitchen.  When I arrived as the new pastor, they were installing new stoves in the kitchen.

It is very rewarding to serve a congregation committed to keeping the facility alive.  From energy efficiency to growth capacity, investing in facility is important.  Especially the growth capacity of a facility.  I do not suggest we idolize our buildings.  I am affirming good stewardship of what was handed down to us and of what we hand down to the next generation.  May it serve those who follow as well as it served us who were graced with such sacred space.

The commitment to sacred space is an outward sign of our spiritual relationship.  This is not a competition nor a “keeping up with the neighbors” writing.  I suggest that doing what we can to be good stewards of facility is an outward sign of our spirituality.  On my pilgrimage on the Camino de Santiago in Spain, I prayed in many churches in small villages.  You could sense the spiritual depth of the community that worshipped there regularly.  Not so much by the gold or statues, rather by the way it was tended to.  Neat and clean, prepared and ready to receive the pilgrim, the wandering Christian.  I have cherished memories of simple churches where I felt the love of God and God’s people exuding from the pews and chancel and side chapels.

Can we pivot?  What is the warranty of the relationship of pastor and congregation?

As we pivot, I will confess to misusing the term “warranty.”  I am borrowing the concept of length of guaranteed production.  Then I am spinning that to push us away from “guaranteed” toward “investment”.  I am also using the pastor / congregation relationship as an example.  All our faith relationships are important.

I am blessed to serve a congregation that has invested in our relationship.  Oh no relationship is perfect (though I am biased toward the churches I’ve served) and that includes the clergy as well as the congregation.  My family and I have been blessed by the investment churches have made in our lives.  From sabbatical leave to vacation time to flexibility so I as a single parent could attend field trips and be the “bus stop dad”, congregation has invested in the relationship.

Oh yes, God will call and God will send as God does.  I am not borrowing a specific length of service from the warranty model.  However, having served this congregation for 18 years, it is amazing what transpires in a long term ministry that is not possible in a shorter term ministry.  The depth of relationship, the evolution ministry models, the celebrations and the mournings are profound.

So FCCE and I outlasted a pair of high quality stoves!  Imagine all the fellowship dinners cooked on those stoves.  Remember the people who shared those meals and the ministries we engaged together.  Remember Marge, in whose memory they were given and how her sons have carried on the faith.

Some of those who opened the oven doors last, never met Marge.  And that is how it should be.  If we are doing our job … loving the Lord our God with all we have and Sharing the Good News to all we can.  Thanks be to God for inviting us to participate in such a glorious way … investing in the sacred space … investing in the relationships sheltered by the space.

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