Shortly after graduating from seminary and starting at my first church in Napoleon, Ohio, I attended a seminar by the Christian leadership guru John Maxwell. The seminar was something like “Ten Things They Didn’t Teach You in Seminary.” After just a couple of years of being a pastor, I very much realized that John’s list could have been twenty or thirty or even many more things that we never taught us what to do in seminary. That list could go on and on.
Including how to run a church. Or how to hire staff. Or how to train up people to do ministry. Or how to read a church budget sheet. Or how to raise money for a million + building project (something I’ve only had to do once, thank the Lord!). And yes, even how to let staff go when things are not working.
Simply put: how to be a manager, while at the same time, remaining a pastor. They didn’t teach that in seminary back in the 1980’s. I hope seminaries are doing a better job of teaching that now, although I highly doubt it. And one of the reasons seminaries doesn’t do that well is actually good.
Because the church is not a business. Oh, there is lots of stuff that happens that is good to do in a business-like fashion. Accounting. Record keeping. Scheduling. Promoting (also known as advertising.) And yes, even sometimes selling. Selling ideas, not widgets. But still selling. Yes, a good background in business would certainly be a blessing to most pastors. As long as they don’t forget one very important thing.
The church is not a business. What is it then? A ministry, the ministry. Or as the Apostle Paul puts it:
11 And God gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ… (Ephesians 4:11-13, ESV)
For the past fourteen years, God has blessed Rushford Lutheran Church with a business manager named Jean. Much of Jean’s ministry was to do the business stuff of the church so that the pastor of the church could do the ministry stuff of the church better. And yes, notice how the two blur together. For in the middle of the word administration we find the word ministry, oddly enough. The ministry of administration. The ministry of the business side that is “the church.”
And today, we thank Jean for the past fourteen years, for her ministry. For she will be retiring at the end of this month. And we bless her, and we thank her. It has not been an easy fourteen years. (Think of all that has happened at RLC and Rushford itself since 2007!) Indeed, we thank her for working through the transition of a new pastor, and then for an extra year during this time of Covid crisis. We thank her for staying longer than she had really wanted to. If not as long as we had wished.
Ministry. Administration. Business. The business of the church. No, the church really isn’t a business, not like most anyway. And yet still there are things that must be done at church in a business kind of way. And I am certain that God will guide us and bless us into whomever he gives us to help us in that task in the future.
In the meantime, we continue: “…to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ…” (Ephesians 4:12). Because Christ, the real business manager of his body, his bride, the church, Jesus Christ never retires. And the business of ministry goes on.
In Christ’s Loving Service,
Time to Return to “The Family Altar”
Luther originally wrote the Small Catechism for “the head of the household.” That is, for parents to use at home with their family. Here are a few suggestions for establishing a family devotion time at home.
Lutheran Web Resources
Sponsored by Sola Publishing (Go to the “How To” link first).
Great short videos on the catechism/church life.
Search for “Family Devotions.” Devotional books to purchase.
See below for what we will be providing.
General Christian Web Resources
Search for devotionals.
Short videos to understand how to read the Bible.
One format for the “Family Altar” could be what your church is providing each week. We will be posting the Sunday sermon, along with the Sunday scriptures readings and a short worship format, each Monday by 10:00 a.m. (Hopefully without any technical glitches). While this will be helpful for many of our families, it may not be as helpful for our families with younger children. (There is a huge difference for a child sitting in a sanctuary surrounded by others and sitting at home watching a video). So feel free to adapt what we post on our website for what might work best for your family. Including using Bible story books, the Small Catechism, or some of the video links above in place of the “sermon.”
So how do we get going on this whole “Family Altar” thing? Pick a time and a place for this to become your routine. Sunday mornings at 11:00 would work, but so would Sunday nights or whatever time works best for you and your family. The principle here is to have a plan and stick to it. And a place. You may need a TV with web connection or laptop to utilize some of the links above. But all other distractions should be set aside during “Family Altar” time. Including cell phones, texting, email, all the rest. It’s going to feel a bit odd and uncomfortable at first, but I guarantee it will be worth it. Indeed, after a few sessions your older kids can probably start leading the family altar, with a little guidance. And keep it light and fun. It the devotion ends up going down a rabbit trail of “why does the Bible say this?” then so much the better!
Another option for either “Family Altar” or personal devotions is a simple Bible reading list coupled with a copy of the Small Catechism. Simply read a chapter of the Bible, followed by reading a short section of the catechism (for example, one of the petitions of the Lord’s Prayer), followed by Luther’s morning or evening prayer (also in the catechism).
If you need a Small Catechism, stop by the church office.