If I Pastor Again …

If I Pastor Again …

After 33 years as a pastor of a local church, I went over to the dark side of college administration and became a university president. After 10 years on the dark side, I look back at my old work and wonder what I would do differently.

I think I know. Rather than trying to wrestle 10 volunteer hours from laity who had worked 50 hours that week, I’d invest in the quality of their 50 hours in the workplace. Rather than convincing them to energize the programs I was most invested in, I would energize the work God had given them to do in the world. Rather than measuring success as seating capacity on Sunday, I’d measure it as sending capacity on Monday.

Yes, I’d still ask them to invest in youth and children, serve in the nursery, feed the hungry, visit the sick, and do all the things a mature body of Jesus does. But I’d view the mission of the local church as the way we served the community through our work.

The gathered church occupies 5-10 hours a week at most. The scattered church lives shoulder-to-shoulder in the world 50-80 hours a week. As a gathered church, we are mostly among the found.

As a scattered church, we are mostly among the lost.

way.we.work.coverThis conviction drove me to write The Way We Work: How Faith Makes a Difference on the Job.  If I pastor again, these are the kinds of things I will say to people.


You can purchase a copy, find out more, or read a few sample pages of my new book, The Way We Work, here.


  1. Ellen Steward says

    I grapple with this all the time. The church tends to see Children’s Ministry as the source of “Christian alternative” activities. I have refused to offer EVENTS and have received criticism. However, the people resources are unavailable. People are working unbelievable hours all over the world!
    I attended a performance of Mulan at our local Junior Theatre. It was an exceptional performance! The assistant director, choreographer, several ushers, and many actors were from our church. I couldn’t help but think about the parents begging me to do a kids church musical. And I thought, “Why in the world would I do that?” That theatre was where we should be.
    I hear stories of professionals being the hands and feet of Jesus in their jobs every day. Why wouldn’t I want to invest in their circle of influence all week long! Can’t wait to read this book.

  2. Logical, reasonable, practical, truthful, efficient, effective, and biblically supportable. And you are a Nazarene pastor/leader???? How refreshing!

  3. Great insight. Helping the body of Christ to be the body of Christ to a lost and dying world.

  4. Great thoughts!

  5. Jeff Sparks says

    You stated, “But I’d view the mission of the local church as the way we served the community through our work.” As a retired Nazarene pastor I often worried about how prepared my people were to face Monday mornings. As important as the Sunday worship services and the ministries of the church were, I often questioned if we, as a church, had equipped our congregation to survive and to serve our Lord in the workplace.

    I felt that if I could better understand what the people who came to our church faced on Monday morning in their respective jobs, I could work to help better prepare them for that real world “shock”.

    I toyed with trying to do what former U.S. Senator and Florida Governor Bob Graham did. Mr. Graham scheduled “workdays” where he would work alongside of ordinary Floridians in a variety of one day jobs. Over the years of his public service he taught school, collected garbage, worked in an office, clerked in shops, etc.—you get the picture. Of course there was political capital to be gained by becoming “everyman” but, to his credit, Graham listened to ordinary people where they were and not in some stuffy conference or hearing room. He went to people. I failed to make this idea a reality in my own ministry and I have been sorry for that ever since.

    Perhaps other pastors would not share my view or find such an activity practical or palatable. But would it not be interesting that, if when we told our people that we understood what the work-a-day world was really like and that we could serve Christ and others on the job, we actually knew what we were talking about?

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