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Confessions of a Former Pastor
A nine-to-five job that requires commuting gives a former pastor a new perspective on the lives of those who sit in the pews on Sunday mornings.

After twenty years of pastoral leadership, I began working for the broader church in an international ministry capacity. Having experienced church life from a different perspective, my understanding of congregational well-being has been influenced. Now that I know what I know, perhaps a little confession is in order.

…not all church activity is in the best interest of God’s people nor the glory of God’s name.

When I was a pastor, I considered it critical to have people engaged during worship services. Sometimes I would visit other congregations and piously lament the lack of participation from the people in the pews. But now that I join many others in an hour-and-a-half commute to work, and stumble into a weekend wearied of thinking and processing, I have a new appreciation for the merits of sitting quietly in church and allowing the vocal praises of others to draw my heart into worship. It feels good to rest and listen and allow the words to soak into my weary spirit. I confess that I did not fully appreciate the needs of those who invited me to serve as their pastoral leader.

In like manner, when I was a pastor I considered it important to have people active in congregational life. But now that I finish a commute that often does not have me finish dinner until many meetings begin, my appetite for evening committee meetings has been lost. Now that weekends really are necessary for renewal, I have little energy to spend Saturday at a church function. Rest is critical to well-being.

Now I am one of those folks who go to church and look forward to being quietly renewed.

It could be said that a job or ministry that negatively impacts your ability to function as a ready church volunteer should be replaced with something that offers more flexibility. However for many people these options are not available. In fact, for most people, evenings and weekends are important recouping times.

As I reflected on my twenty years of pastoral ministry, I recognized that the drive for active church life had as much to do with my sense of accomplishment as it did with God’s mandate for the church. I now realize more fully, that serving the church is helping people discern healthy activity and guiding them to find appropriate ways to acknowledge God as Lord of their lives. This is not to suggest that church life is secondary to individual pursuit, not at all. But it can be said, that not all church activity is in the best interest of God’s people nor the glory of God’s name.

My confession is not one of over-activity as much as it is of misguided activity. I confess that I have not fully appreciated the spiritual worship of revitalization in the company of God’s people. Now I am one of those folks who go to church and look forward to being quietly renewed and restored by joining the worshipping community. The words soak into my weary being and I feel revived. I sit back and I breathe deeply, hoping that my pastor has a fuller understanding of the weekly context I have joined than I did when I served as a pastor.

Willard Metzger is the chair of Mennonite Church Canada Witness Council. [Editor's note: In 2010, after this article was originally published, he was appointed executive director of the Mennonite Church Canada.]

Originally published in Canadian Mennonite, July 27, 2009.

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