Pastoring the One When You’d Rather Pastor the Ninety-Nine

Personal attention is a minister’s inefficient imperative.

My wife, Susan, comes from a Christian family of nine kids. They had lots of family times together around a long table. (Her father considered installing a drain down the middle to catch all the spilled milk.) But one thing Susan rarely got was time alone with both of her parents at once. In fact, she remembers only one occasion, and she remembers every detail. As with my wife’s family, seeing that each person in our church family gets personal attention is difficult, but it’s part of a church being a home.

Eugene Peterson once said that next to the Bible, the church directory is the most important book in the pastor’s study. Near the beginning of Peterson’s book, Five Smooth Stones for Pastoral Work, he writes,

It is the unique property of pastoral work to combine two aspects of ministry: one, to represent the eternal word and will of God; and, two, to do it among the idiosyncrasies of the local and personal (the actual place where the pastor lives; the named people with whom he or she lives). If either aspect is slighted, good pastoral work fails to take place.

Names Matter

Sometimes churches forget that names matter. I remember talking to a staff member of a church of about 400. Their staff had gone through the church directory and realized that half the people listed were unknown personally to any of them. That’s not a healthy family.

At the end of Paul’s letter to the Roman church he mentions 33 names, each precious to Paul.

I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a deacon of the church in Cenchreae. … Greet Priscilla and Aquila, my co-workers in Christ Jesus. They risked their lives for me. Not only I but all the churches of the Gentiles are grateful to them. Greet also the church that meets …

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