I've always heard that "no news is good news," and since I've been a pastor, I have come to have mixed feelings on the statement. No news could be good news- meaning that people are generally on board with the life and work of the church, clear about the mission and vision, and actively at work living out their faith in the context of said mission.
But no news can be bad news. Sometimes it means that people aren't thinking about the work and ministry of the church at all. It could mean that they are satisfied with status quo and then our vision casting is left somewhat unchallenged and void of the opportunity to be sharpened.
Either way, I'd rather have some news about what is in the hearts of the people I lead. Even when there is risk that the assessment is underwhelmingly appreciative. Like most of you, I prefer positive feedback. We try not to make it an idol in our efforts, but everyone loves to know they are on the right track and are appreciated.
So, if you haven't received this, let me take the opportunity to say what should've been slipped to you in a card along the way:
Thank you for the work you are doing. Thank you for the hours you have given. Thank you for the emotional energy you've invested. Thank you for the personal sacrifices you've made. Thank you for the prayers you've prayed. The support you've given. The training you've offered. The programs you've developed- and the people too. Thank you for modeling a life of surrender and obedience to the call of God. For some of you with great cost. Thank you for doing what you do with passion, consistency, and the fruit of the Spirit. I can't imagine the world at large or the local community in specific, without your leadership.
You've likely gotten that kind of note/news, and it is certainly good news. It will encourage your heart when you are weary or in doubt. But I've heard many more stories of hate mail, hard letters, and criticism. Every church, and every person has a "naysayer" in their life and ministry.
While I intend no harm, I want to take a moment to align with the "naysayers." The people who have written anonymous letters listing all the areas for the church to improve, and perhaps even offering inventory of all the areas you've fallen short. They don't typically package their letters like this, but I'd life to offer an interpretation of the text they've given you (both written and otherwise)...
Thank you for all the things you didn't do.
The phone calls you've yet to answer.
The hospital visits you didn't know you needed to make.
The bible study topic you've yet to get to.
The political opinions you didn't share.
The committee you didn't establish.
The sermons you didn't preach.
The money you didn't gather for that one, specific, need.
The new projects and ministries that you've yet to start.
For all the things you forgot, and all the things you didn't have the energy to respond to. Thank you.
For everything you didn't, couldn't, or wouldn't do, it's important that you know that it matters. Sure, some would like to make you feel shame and guilt for all that has gone wrong. Worse yet, you may feel like your work is never done, and therefore, you never take the time to celebrate all that God has done in and through you. So for just a moment, relish in the the thought that your shortcomings are worth celebrating. Not because the tasks don't need to be done, but because you are human and humble enough to give in to the reality that you just. can't. do. it. all.
When you don't, it means you are modeling a confidence and trust in God.
When you don't, you are leaving space for someone else to step up and serve.
When you don't, you are teaching that the church is a bodily unit that works together, not a bodyguard that carries the entire load.
When you don't, you set realistic boundaries for what the church should do, and can do. This helps minimize the ability for disillusionment.
When you don't, you communicate that you matter too; That your personal health, well being, spiritual and emotional energy are for you and your family first.
So to you, my friends and fellow leaders, may grace overwhelm you in all the places you feel you've fallen short. May you have eyes to see where God continues to fill the gaps, and ears to hear what His Spirit is saying to you- and FOR YOU.