Get Out of Your Context

I have been very busy the last month or so, but it has been a "good busy."  One day I spent the morning with a church planter on the northwest side of Springfield.  He drove me around the community in which he feels led to plant a church, and shared with me his vision.  Last week I spent three days in the southern suburbs of Chicago, talking to other pastors about missions, and looking at potential sites for our church's mission trip this summer.  I also spent a couple hours last Friday (normally reserved as sermon day) serving pizza to students at our local community college, and visiting with them.

Why do I tell you this?  Sometimes I think it's very easy for us as pastors (and believers in general) to get so wrapped up in our church, that we forget the Kingdom of God is very big, and that He is at work in many places.  (At least I know I am often guilty of this.)  While our primary responsibility is to shepherd our flock, I am convinced that one of the best things we can do for the health of our ministry (and by extension, the health of our church) is regularly experience a different context.  It doesn't have to be far away.  We just need to bust out of the "church bubble" from time to time.  Here are some of the benefits of this, as I see them:

1)  Experiencing a different context gives us perspective.  It reminds us that the world doesn't revolve around our little town and our little church.  There's a great big world out there, and we're just one little part of it.  Maybe the latest "tiff" over the color of the carpet isn't a matter of life and death after-all.

2)  Experiencing a different context reminds us the Kingdom is diverse.  It's okay if we don't all look the same, dress the same, and sing the same songs.  A church in Seattle does not (and should not) look like a church in Springfield.  Our way is not the only way.

3)  Experiencing a different context exposes us to good ideas others are trying.  Often times when I visit other churches I learn new things that I take back to Selmore, that I never would have thought about otherwise.  Usually they're just little things, but little things can make a big impact.

4)  Experiencing a different context energizes us.  It may be difficult, initially, to make the time to take a short term mission trip, or serve a meal at the downtown homeless shelter, or partner with a pastor across town on a ministry project.  But the passion, vision, and personal renewal that results, make us more effective with the time we do have, and more productive in the end.

5)  Experiencing a different context makes us more fresh and dynamic in our preaching.  When Rachel and I were first married, we had a landlord that would come by early in the morning and ask, "Have you washed the stink off you yet?"  This was his way of asking, "Are you up and at 'em?  Have you washed your face?  Have you got some fresh air yet?"  There are some preachers that need to wash the stink off.  Would you rather hear a stale sermon from someone who has been sitting around collecting cobwebs in his office all week, or someone who has been out working in the field, experiencing the movement of God firsthand?

Pastors, get out of your context.  Even if it's nothing more than meeting with other pastors for fellowship and prayer once a month, don't be an island to yourself.  Get out and see where and how God is at work in the world.

Church members, encourage your pastor to do this.  It will make him a better pastor in the long run.