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I' m nearing the two-year mark as pastor of a rural church. I came full of ideas and plans. But by now I've learned the wisdom of something I first heard Edith Bunker tell Archie: "Don't fix nothin' that don't need fixin'."
Three lessons brought me to this conclusion.
When people say, "Whatever you want to do is fine with us," they don't mean it.
My congregation is a progressive group of mature believers. They want me to have absolute freedom to do whatever I want-almost. While I've never heard those immortal words "We've never done that before," I have seen them written on a few faces. Somehow, psychologically, people don't like to tell their new pastor he cannot do something. So they tell the neophyte that "whatever you do is fine with us" and hope he won't make a radical change.
When I was a youth pastor, a business asked the youth group to take on the task of mailing Christmas books to every child in our community. It amounted to addressing several hundred envelopes-without compensation. A decision had to be made: Do we do it?
An elderly minister was helping me learn the ropes, so I sought his advice. He said, "Whatever you want to do is fine with me." So I elected to decline and gave several reasons why. Silence. Then he spoke again: "I really think you would be unwise to say no. Your young people need to learn to serve even when it's not in the limelight."
Bam! The lesson was nailed tight. Even when people say it's fine, they may not mean it. In the first year, people offer their new pastor great freedom, with the deep-seated hope it won't be used.
I had to force myself to heed the second lesson: Spend more time discovering where your people are than dreaming about where they ought to be.
Change comes hard. I like to keep the same car or lifestyle or circle of friends as long as I can. The person in the pew shares that conserving tendency. Therefore, I try to keep changes to a minimum and let people ...