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Frustrated Pastors

 

Tom pastors a “growing” church.  Things look pretty good.  His church has a wide variety of programs for children, youth, and adults.  The Sunday School organization does a good job presenting God’s Word to all ages.  There are specialized programs for members dealing with specific issues in their lives.  Several members even go through evangelism training each year.  Tom is encouraged…and frustrated.

Recently after a long telephone conversation with Tom I hung up the phone thinking how difficult it is today to keep the wheels rolling and all the plates spinning in a comprehensively programmed church.  Our culture is at the point where we demand a cafeteria approach to church.  There must be “something for everyone.”  But in the process of providing something for everyone we seem to have forgotten someone; the unbeliever; the man who will not walk through the doors of the church building no matter what it provides him.  He just won’t do it. 

Tom is frustrated that while his church seems to be “growing,” it is failing to reach unbelievers in significant numbers.  In the phone conversation with Tom I asked him, “Can you tell me about your relationships with unbelievers?”  After awkward moments of silence, Tom confessed he could not think of a single unbeliever with whom he was building a relationship.  I ask every pastor I speak with that same question: “Can you tell me about your relationships with unbelievers?”  Nearly every time the answer is the same: A pastor has few, if any, real relationships with unbelievers.

Why?  Should we not consider the absence of those relationships as the most negative indictment that we could possibly imagine?  Most of us excuse it by reminding ourselves that it is the pastor’s responsibility to equip the rest of us to relate to the lost.  An elderly pastor I know once said to me, “Don’t preach what you don’t model in your own life!”  How can we, as pastors, continue to excuse ourselves from not relating in a personal way to unbelievers?  How can we continue to do the work of the ministry and not build personal relationships with people who do not know Christ? 

 

A New Paradigm for Ministry

 

A new ministry paradigm has to be adopted in the church today.  We must move from seeing our work as relating primarily to church members, administering the programs of the church, and preparing three sermons or Bible studies each week, to getting out into the workplace and building relationships with unbelievers.

By now, if you are a pastor, you are screaming, “I don’t have time to do what I do now, much less find the time to get out into the workplace to build relationships with people I don’t know!”

Joe McKinney, a former pastor now working and ministering effectively in the workplace said, “The pastor who feels he doesn’t have enough time needs to meet with a bold, wise businessman and ask him to look at his schedule.  They should list all of the pastor’s activities and then decide together to strike through the activities that don’t need to be done at all and circle the activities that can be delegated to another staff member or layman.  I am convinced that if we aren’t going into the workplace and building relationships with business people because of a lack of time then we are doing things that God doesn’t intend for us to do.”

 

Evangelism with Results

 

Evangelism must be proactive.  In our culture today, evangelism is building relationships with unbelievers.  It is loving, caring, and serving.  It is investing time.  It is patience while waiting on the Holy Spirit to woo an unbeliever, through a relationship with a believer, to a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.  It is proactive.  And it happens in the workplace.

The department manager in the manufacturing plant where I work every Tuesday afternoon as a corporate chaplain said, “Jon, I have a new employee whose mother died a couple of days ago.  Is that the kind of thing you need to know about?” 

Obviously it was, and I called Vincent as I drove out of the parking lot late that afternoon.  “Vincent, I’m Jon Cook, the company chaplain where you work.  I understand your mother passed away a couple of days ago.  What can I do to help?”  The only sound on the other end of the phone was sobbing and I wondered what Vincent needed most.  Finally, he said, “Mr. Cook, could you stand up for my mama at her funeral?”   In my part of the world that was a request for me to officiate the funeral service.  I told Vincent I would be happy to do so and then he said, “Well, what do you charge?”  I replied, “Vincent, the owner of the company you work for values you enough to invest in a company chaplain.  Helping with your mother’s funeral is part of what I do.  There’s no charge.  You are important to the company!”

            Two days later I was speaking at the grave of Vincent’s mother.  After visiting with family and friends the day before it was obvious the family had no church background and dealing with spiritual issues were not a regular part of their lives.  I shared a simple message of hope and the plan of salvation.  After the service Vincent hugged me as he wept and thanked me for “being so good to my family.” 

            Two weeks later, after giving Vincent a couple of simple things to read about having a relationship with Jesus, I stood in the middle of the manufacturing plant and led him in the sinner’s prayer! 

 

Go Out Pastor!

 

            Matthew 28: 19 says, “…go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.”   English translations of the original Greek text of this verse begin with “Go,” which is the translation of an aorist participle conveying the sense of “having gone.”  The main verb of the verse is “make disciples,” or literally “disciple” all the nations.  Hence, what the command assumes is that Christians will go out for the express purpose of making the nations disciples of Jesus Christ.*

            Biblical evangelism today means reaching out to people, that is going out to build relationships that produce new disciples for Christ.  Many pastors have fallen into the error of thinking that if unbelievers want to be saved, they need to come to church on Sunday morning.  The greatest single reason the church is declining is that it has ceased to go out to the lost. For some reason, evangelism has become something to do in the church—within the walls of the church building.  Effective evangelism will take place when Christians realize that the starting point of the Great Commission is where they move from the comfort zones of ecclesiastical structures and into the lives of unbelievers around them.*

            Serving as a workplace chaplain gives a pastor a tremendous opportunity to “go out” and build relationships with lost men and women and make a difference in their lives, their workplace, and the lives of their family and friends.  There are business owners in every church who would love to have a chaplain’s presence in their business every week.

            Christ@Work president Kent Humphreys says, “I wish every pastor would

spend one day a week as a chaplain in the workplace!”  Here is why:

  • It would put the pastor in touch with unbelievers on a regular basis
  • It would help the pastor understand the issues his members face in their

workplace, and

  • It would help the pastor understand how to deal with those workplace

issues his members face on a weekly basis.

 

Your Plan for the Workplace

 

Adopt a plan to “go out” into the workplace of the business owners of your church. 

  • Establish a point of personal understanding where you realize the vast potential of ministry in the workplaces of your church family
  • Decide that a commitment to ministry in the workplace has to be a part of your ongoing weekly pastoral duties
  •  Pray.  Ask God to  identify business owners in your church who would welcome the presence of a chaplain in their workplace
  • Meet with those business owners and discuss how you will go about building relationships with their employees on a weekly basis
  • Plan, along with your church leadership, the commitment of time and effort each week to your chaplaincy opportunities
  • Make sure your church family understands that your weekly chaplaincy opportunity will  become a regular part of pastoral duties and has the endorsement of church leadership
  • Pray before you enter the workplace.  Ask the Holy Spirit to direct every conversation and encounter with employees. 
  • Be faithful and courageous as you enter the workplace that God has provided for you.  Know that you are preceded by the Holy Spirit and everything is prepared.
  • Don’t be a pastor!  Be a friend and use your first name.  Park your “pastor personality” at the door.  Refrain from using your church language and colloquialisms. 

 

Resources That Will Help

 

There are several books and other resources that will help you prepare to enter the workplace as a corporate chaplain and build relationships:

Humphreys, Kent.  Lasting Investments, A Pastor’s Guide for Equipping  Workplace Leaders to Leave a Spiritual Legacy.  Colorado Springs: NAVPRESS, 2004.

Cress, Mark.  C-Change, How to Transform Any Business Through Corporate Chaplaincy.  Wake Forest:  Lanphier Press, 2005.

Beckett, John.  The Marketplace and the Church.  Viewpoints Audio Journal.  Olmsted Falls:  Worldview International, 2004.

Silvoso, Ed.  Anointed For Business.  Ventura, CA.  Regal Books, 2002.

Marshall, Rich. God@Work.  Shippensburg, PA.  Destiny Image Publishing, 2000.

Green, Mark.  Thank God It’s Monday: Ministry in The Workplace. 

Buckinghamshire, UK.  Scripture Union, 2003.

Hillman, Os.  The 9 to 5 Window.  Ventura, CA.  Regal Books, 2005.

Hillman, Os.  Faith@Work.  Fairfield, CT.  Aslan Publishing, 2004.

 

*Montoya, Alex D.  “Outreaching” (Chapter 18), Rediscovering Pastoral Ministry, MacArthur,  John Jr., and Master’s Seminary Faculty, Dallas:  Word, Inc., 1995.

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