Changes Take Time
If you are or have been in ministry, particularly the pastorate, you are probably very familiar with the following advice that is regularly offered to those new pastors going into an established work: “Don’t make changes too quickly.”
However, if you are unfamiliar with the above wisdom, experienced ministers are often asked by the younger ones what they should do when they start working in their first church. In response, as I remember being told me years ago, they say something like:
“Wait at least a year before you make any changes. Just spend the first year or two loving your congregation, getting to know them, and letting them come to love and trust you. Then, when they trust you, you can start making small changes and the people will go along.” – Dr. Al Goss, Pastor Emeritus, Mile Straight Baptist Church, Soddy Daisy, TN [paraphrased]
However, the above advice should be qualified. You see, Dr. Goss has been at Mile Straight Baptist for 57 years! Unfortunately, long tenures like this are practically unheard of these days. With the average pastorate lasting only 2-4 years, maybe this is one reason new pastors are so quick to get discouraged and congregations are so quick to get angry with any change.
Genuine, healthy change must be organic and occur naturally as things grow. That can’t happen overnight; it takes a little time.
I Broke the Rule
But speaking of time, I’ve been at Bethlehem Baptist Church for less than TWO MONTHS and I’ve already changed something!
What happened to following the advice of my elders? What happened to following my OWN advice?
Actually, it wasn’t a huge change, but unless I’m mistaken, I was the first pastor in 230 years to get a CLOCK put up in the sanctuary! (One of our deacons heard my plea from the pulpit a couple of weeks ago and surprised me with it last Sunday morning.)
Now, as far as I know, no one here in this congregation had a problem with the small addition above the sound board, computer monitor, and digital recording system. However, thanks to social media, I did hear from one person who thought the addition of the clock was akin to blasphemy.
“That’s the wrong thing to do putting the Lord on a time clock…”
It might already seem a little petty to even be having this discussion, but I think being able to see a clock is not only a good thing, but an important addition. Believe me, God will not be put on a “time clock.”
But since this small change did elicit a negative response, I’ll give you 3 good reasons for keeping it.
Time Is Valuable
Whether we like it or not, we live in a fast-paced world. It’s so face-paced, I doubt many readers of this article have made it to this point; they’ve already been distracted.
The key word, however, is RESPECT. Unless you know something I don’t know, each of us has a limited amount of time, and our time is valuable. Even though I love to talk, I must not love it too much. My job, my calling, is to deliver a message, not carry on a lengthy, one-sided discourse.
Sometimes we preachers forget that people often sacrifice other things to come hear us speak. They trust that what we are telling them is from God, will be useful, and the benefit far outweighs the cost of them being there. If I’m not aware of the time, I might end up wasting theirs.
Time Is Ticking
Having a clock is a reminder that time is ticking, that every man, woman, and child has an appointment with eternity (Hebrews 9:27).
Because of this, time is nothing to be wasted, for every moment that is flittered away in the pulpit with unimportant, inconsequential nonsense is one less moment available to impact souls on their way to either heaven or hell.
Time Is NOT On Our Side
In John chapter 4 Jesus asks us to look upon the fields, for they are “white unto harvest.” That only means something when you understand that harvest season is short, after that the crop can be lost.
Statistics vary, but the last one I read stated that every second 2 people in the world die. That means in one 40-minute sermon 4,800 people will go out into eternity, the majority of which are probably unsaved. The laborers need to be trained and equipped, but they are needed in the field as soon as possible.
Time is not on our side, dear friends. Wasted time behind the pulpit is wasted time in the field, and the laborers are already few.
A fellow pastor and friend in Zimbabwe shared his thoughts on Facebook, and I think they sum it up nicely:
“Having a [clock] in church is a sermon on its own. Time doesn’t stop for anyone, neither does it rewind for anyone. Leave it for Christ…” – Moses Dhaka
God is not limited by time, but we are. And since it is given to us in such limited quantity, we who ask of others their time to listen to what we have to say should be better stewards of it.
This change came right on time.