I remember the first moment I ever heard Rob Bell preach. I was seventeen and just committed to studying pastoral ministry in college, and I was enchanted by his teaching. His church was skyrocketing. He just started these video teachings that were super hip. And deep within me was a desire growing to hear more about God. It was the blissful moment when you’re the first of your friends to discover a new band.
But I showed up to bible college only to find that I wasn’t the only one listening to Rob Bell. Everyone was oozing pathos during chapel. Practice sermons were punctuated with rhetorical questions just like Bell’s. Even tough guys were caught inflecting their voice to sound just like his raspy plea. Everywhere I went I met the poor man’s Rob Bell.
If Bell himself could have observed this, there’s no way he would have denied the existence of Hell, because that’s exactly what the culture of preaching had become… a preaching hell.
I’ve noticed since his departure from pastoral ministry, nobody is trying to reproduce Bell. Instead, this ghetto is filled today with thousands of copy-cat preachers who don’t have enough assurance in their own style and their own voice so they parrot top podcasting preachers.
So, to the Stanley-Driscoll-Judah-Chandler-Levi-Furticks out there… try preaching your message as if you were trying to copy you. You actually might connect well with yourself.
And that's what will connect well with everyone else.
If church members think the Senior Pastor only works on Sundays, they’re clueless as to what I do as a Campus Pastor. About half the time at my church we stream the sermon to our campuses, leaving me to do some announcing, praying, and general cheerleading. My congregation sometimes looks at me and asks, “You don’t preach? What did we hire you to do?” But the role of a campus pastor is much more than being a glorified host. And as thousands of churches each year are becoming multi-site, this new pastoral niche is rising in prominence. Anyone can read announcements. Not everyone can flex into the position of a campus pastor. Here are five reasons flexibility is an essential trait of a great campus pastor.
You are the grease in the machinery of the church.
Multi-site churches have exponentially more moving parts, and therefore exponentially more problems. The need for staff communication is ratcheted up, the ability for church members to feel connected to the entire pastoral staff is hampered. The possibility for colossal failure is high. Most of my job is making sure the gears of campus staff and central staff are playing nicely, as well as communication from our leaders to the congregation is effective. When I do my job well, misunderstandings are cleared up quickly, and misaligned teams and projects are put back in sync with the church’s overall objectives.
You are the voice of encouragement to your leaders.
One of the blessings of the role of a Campus Pastor is that it is relatively free from the burden of overall leadership in the church, and also free from the scrutiny of senior leaders. Because of this, I’m sure I could easily fall into the trap of throwing stones at my elder board or leadership team. But instead, I’ve made it my mission to love my Senior Pastor well by listening to him, learning from him, and highlighting the positives in ministry for him. A well timed note, an honest reflection, a forwarded message of appreciation from a congregation member, and an above and beyond appreciation when he comes to preach live at the campus… these all go a long way in making his job a joy instead of a pain.
You are the champion of the city.
One of the greatest blessings of the multi-site experiment is the ability for large churches to have local impact across a broad region. Since I’m focused on a smaller area, I’ve been able to develop personal relationships with school superintendents, principals, mayors and other city officials, as well as local business owners and pastors. Because of this, it’s easy for me to lead the gospel charge in our local community because my scope is smaller than most autonomous churches. We’re not trying to reach the world, we’re trying to reach our community.
You are still the shepherd.
No matter how the sermon is delivered on Sunday, people still need a pastor. Because I have about 26 weeks a year where I’m not preparing a sermon, I try to spend ample time over coffee with members, calling visitors, praying over new babies, sitting in my office with couples in counseling, and developing the leaders in the congregation to multiply the ministry. This is my time to learn the lives of my people, and help them know my life as well. I’m sure some in my congregation wished I preached more often, but I hope they know how grateful I am to have the freedom to spend so much time on these critical pastoral functions without the stress of study.
You are a leader under authority.
I’m convinced that the most obvious “under-shepherd” is the campus pastor. Because my role is to align our congregation with the church at large, I don’t feel the temptation to move the church in the direction of my own preferences. In fact, submission and deference are needed in large doses. Our budgets, programs and philosophies have to be highly aligned across the board. At the end of the day, to build a Christ-exulting church means I often need to give on some of my soapbox issues and remember that we’re all in this together for the glory of the Good Shepherd.
This was a convicting message for me to preach. Here's why.
The life that counts is one that invests themselves generously, pouring themselves into many opportunities that might take a long time to pay returns. They ignore the excuses of life, that what they're doing won't matter or they're not good enough at it. The life that counts banks on God's activity, knowing that even when he doesn't seem to be engaged, he is. This type of life rejoices and remembers life is good yet short, and still determines to dream God's dreams.
Which means the big things in life you dream about doing for God you ought to actually try.
Because you don't know if God will bless it or not. So go try.