I’ve had the distinct honor of calling Gretchen Gowan Schwartz my wife since February 1994. It was a few years before then that I began to serve in a ministry leadership capacity. Through the 20 plus years I feel I’ve learned a lot about people. People are the ministry. It’s people that bring purpose to the five-fold ministry. In our pastoral ministry we have always had a love and loyalty to people. And over the years I can reflect that our dedication and loyalty have often come with a great price that led to very little fruit. My next two articles will focus on effectively understanding the role people have in our lives and the role we have in other people’s lives.
Hope is the greatest gift anyone can receive. We are living in a global community that is desperately seeking for something to believe in. More importantly there are those who desperately want someone to believe in them. One of my life verses is Ephesians 4:11-12:
“11And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, 12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ,”
The reasoning for this passage being a great life verse for me is that it defines my greatest passion. I love helping others see their God-given dreams and calling come to pass. My wife and I are passionate about doing life with others!
After 20 plus years of teaching, coaching, and ministry experience we have been so blessed to see people who have or still consider us their mentors and even at some level spiritual parents. It brings us so much joy to see people who have moved on with life and are fulfilling God’s purpose in life. Several are in ministry, and others are professionals that have a deep passion for God and the things of God.
Our journey has not been a fairy tale and it is certainly not completely full of success stories. There have been some very challenging seasons in this journey we have chosen to do with others. And some of those challenges have led to great disappointment. In the past few years I’ve discovered that there are two groups of people we are called to minister to. It has brought great clarity to our purpose in life, and I hope after sharing this with you it will bring some clarity to those God has called you to minister to.
These two categories of people are “People I Pastor” and “People I Lead”. There is a distinct difference between the two. I’m sure all of you that serve in a pastoral position will recognize these two groups of people in your journey.
People I Pastor
It was a few years ago that we were investing in a young man. We spent much time counseling with him and helping him set goals. However, at each turn there seemed to be a lack of follow through. We invested not only financially in this young man but also large amounts of time and emotion. Each failure of follow through from this young man took a huge emotional toll on my wife and I. In the end, after several years of being intimately involved in his journey, he walked away and very little change was brought into his life.
After much reflection we realized we wanted change for him more than he wanted it for himself. We were more committed and emotionally invested into the possibility of his success than he was. This level of commitment took away from our family time, time we could have been investing in others, in addition to financial resources.
Over the years we have come across others who fall into the same category. People who are not willing to change and honestly do not have a willingness to be teachable. When this happens change is really next to impossible. So, how do you minister to these types of people? We consider these people, “people we pastor”.
These are people that need ministry in times of need. They could be faithful to attend regular activities of the church, and they do seem to have a love for God. However, outside of attending they don’t seem to desire more. So, we pray with them as needed, visit them in the hospital and stand with them during difficult times. We will always love them unconditionally and do our best to be their pastor, but we don’t try to invest into their personal development. Then there are those we pastor and lead.
People I Lead
People we lead are certainly people that need us to be their pastor as well. We will certainly care for them just as the people that I mentioned above. However, these are people who have the “stuff”. What’s the “stuff” you might ask? The stuff is being motivated and teachable.
There are those that God will call to you that have a desire to move forward. They deeply desire personal and spiritual growth. They are people, who are driven to make a difference in life, and they not only want to be successful, they want to make a significant difference. These are the people that not only see you as their pastor; they want your leadership in their lives.
It’s these people I spend most of my time with. Over the years these types of people are not only people who might attend the church I pastor. This level of leadership has extended to other pastors, leaders and even business people. Investing into these relationships have brought the greatest level of fulfillment for us. As a result a large portion of my week is spent in personal contact with these people. Together we work, cry, fail and succeed together.
When you learn to categorize the level of influence you have on others, you are then more effective on how you invest your time and resources. You will also find your gifts and leadership will have a greater impact for the Kingdom of God. As you look at the life of Jesus you will see he only invested in a few. However, it was the few that allowed him to not only be their Shepherd but also their leader!
The moral of the story…. Love everyone and invest in the faithful few!