So say the writers of Bearing Fruit: Ministry With Real Results, about their sixth tip for sustaining fruitful leadership: Remember the Dream. It all sounds very Chariots of Fire-esque, but they may have a point.
Remember when you were first starting out and it seemed like the most amazing thing in the universe to be able to go to seminary? Remember when you believed so much that the voices of cynicism and discouragement stayed in the background, almost inaudible? Remember when all the things they said couldn’t or shouldn’t be done in the church instantly became life-giving challenges? Remember?
Yeah, me too. Vaguely.
Turns out that it might be remembering those things more often would do us pastors some good. We’ve got to remember the dreams we had for ministry so we can finish, and finish well.
The writers of Bearing Fruit have been (see the last five blog entries) comparing the life and work of the pastor to individuals who run marathons. (While I can see the comparison, I still am a little bitter that pastoring doesn’t seem to burn the calories marathon running apparently does.) Most marathon runners, they report, set out with one goal in mind: to finish well. I guess some marathon runners worry about their race times and beating other people, too, but the majority are there…to finish and finish well.
Finishing is not a bad goal for a marathon runner, I’m thinking, and it’s not a bad goal for a pastor either.
What would it look like to finish well? I can think of a couple of things, like avoiding involuntary psychiatric commitment and maintaining some shred of belief in God. (Geez, talk about a cynical voice. But really, I’m just being honest here.)
Yes, both of those things, but also, maybe finishing well could even look like nurturing an open heart, a clearly apparent deep and abiding joy, lives filled with forgiveness and grace and directed with the guidance of God’s Spirit, time and energy invested in the lives of people and the cause of God’s kingdom …you know, things like that.
That’s what we dreamt of when we started. Don’t you remember?
It’s time to step back for a minute and remember, because we want to finish and finish well, and ministry can be punishing work. If we don’t remember why we started, chances are we’ll never make it to the end.