We asked our bloggers what 3 things they thoughts pastors wish their congregations knew. This is how they responded.
This month the Presbyterian Outlook asked us to blog on the topic “three things pastors wish their congregations knew.” While I cannot state, in the abstract, what pastors in general might say in response to this prompt, when it comes to you in particular, there is just one thing (in three parts) that I want you to know. And I want you to know it not just on the level of intellectual assent but in the much deeper sense of knowing because you have felt it so strongly that its reality is pressed into the substance of your very being. I want you to know this: you are loved.
It wasn’t that long ago – November of 2012 – that I attended the funeral of a teen from the high school nearest the church I was then serving. Over a thousand people were present that day. I remember our pastor talking about how loved this young man was, and how he probably didn’t even know that he was so very beloved. And then the pastor looked at all of us and said, “We are all so incredibly and deeply loved – and most of us don’t know that in our lifetimes.” And I think he was right. Life is too busy for those tender moments when we share our words and actions of love with one another, and those words and actions themselves make us far too vulnerable to be shared comfortably with anyone beyond our closest family. For some, the fact of being loved is simply too difficult to believe.
But congregation, you are loved.
God loves you. I know, I know, you’ve heard that since your first Sunday school class; this of all things is not news to you. And yet… I ask the question, “how do you know?” The obvious response, of course, is, “The Bible tells me so.” But beyond the stated fact of it – how do you know that it’s true? Too often, this question is met with the pained expression of someone who wants to believe that the depth and breadth of the divine love envelops them too, but who isn’t at all sure of it because they haven’t felt it. Of course, there is no quick fix for this – experiencing the love of God happens for different people in different ways on different timelines. But if my own experience and the experience of others is any indication, it takes time, attentiveness and a willingness to carve out space in your schedule to be intentionally with Christ. And Lent seems a fitting place to start this discipline – it seems fitting that these forty days should be filled with such life-giving reflection and prayer. This is what I wish for you – that you would make time apart with God a priority that you might know that God loves you.
And I want you to know that, because God loves you, God is not finished with you. For small congregations like ours, it’s tempting to look at the bigger churches and all that they have that we don’t and think – how on earth is the Spirit going to use us? We lose faith in our own abilities and in Christ’s ability to use the gifts that we have in powerful ways. But congregation – just as you are loved, you are also richly blessed and divinely called. Pay attention to the gifts in your midst: energy, enthusiasm, creativity, wisdom, intelligence, love. Pay attention to the gifts and to the ways that God’s Spirit is active and present. Pay attention and do not lose heart – God is not finished with you.
Finally, the last thing that I want you to know – really know – is that I love you. All of you. Deeply. This is not just the saccharine sweet empty sentiment of one whose job it is to walk wit you in your ministry, this is the confession of one who regards each and every one of you as family. You are my home. In all things, I strive for this love to be at the root of my actions among you. Sometimes I succeed; sometimes I don’t. Whatever the case, it does not change this fact: I love you.
You are loved.
Jennifer Barchi is serving as the solo pastor at Dickey Memorial Presbyterian Church in Baltimore, Maryland, where she lives with her dog Cyrus.