On a recent morning I met a friend for coffee, and a former pastor of mine happened to walk in. He had taken a call to another church a year ago, a much smaller congregation, I heard. When he spotted us, he came over to chat.
He was glowing, from the inside out. He praised God and told us what he has been learning. He said that in the past he had measured his spirituality by how busy he was. Whenever there was a free minute he would fill it in with work or a committee meeting. He had been caught up in a “CEO model” of pastoring and now was discovering the blessing of returning to the fundamentals of prayer and house-to-house visitation—in other words, the things Puritan Richard Baxter (1615-1691) used to do, a practice that brought many into the kingdom, as described by Joel Beeke and Randall J. Pederson in Meet the Puritans:
“He went from home to home with an assistant, speaking with each family for one hour and providing each family with an edifying book or two. …”
Many years ago, the founding pastor of my church, Jack Miller, experienced his own reawakening of sorts in mid-ministry, and wrote in his book Outgrowing the Ingrown Church:
“I am convinced that many congregations and their leaders are so immobilized by unbelief that concepts for ministry that would be helpful in other circumstances are relatively valueless to them. … Church growth is sometimes built on the soft sand of sociological perceptions rather than faith taking hold of divine omnipotence. …”
Miller recalled driving down the street one day with another pastor who was pointing to an open space where a new church building was planned. The other pastor said, “We did a careful church growth study of our city and decided that according to church growth principles, this location has it all—new homes nearby, easy access to main roads, and visible exposure to the public. It’s going to make our small church into a large one.”
But Miller expressed some concerns to him: “Church growth that is not inspired by faith in Christ’s power to transform lives is dangerous. … We are often so enfeebled that we hardly know that we are out of touch with the King. … In our alienated busyness we have forgotten how to live near Him and daily devote ourselves to His service with intensity”
Before we parted, our pastor friend in the coffee shop shared a new favorite verse with us:
“One thing I have asked of the LORD, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD and to inquire in his temple” (Psalm 27:4).