Church Confusion

There are plenty of things that make the job of a pastor difficult*. These are well documented. But one of the difficulties is confusion.

* I love my job.

Pastors are called to build their church. Not the dozen churches in his town. Not the hundred churches in the surrounding towns. Not the thousands of churches within driving distance from his church. Just his church.

But pastors are also called to build the Church. The universal Church made up of all believers, all places, all time. So, he is called to build up the dozen churches in his town and the hundred churches in the surrounding towns… and the thousands of churches within driving distance. Not just his church.

Just his church. And not just his church.

Confusing, eh?

But that’s not all. You see, the way that he builds the universal Church is by faithfully building his own church. And at the same time, the way that he faithfully builds his own church is by remembering that he is building the universal Church. Even as I write it, I’m getting confused.

All that is to say, a balance must be struck when you’re serving in the church, whether you’re a pastor or volunteer.

The tendency for pastors is to get caught up in building their local church. They place too much of their value in the size or success of their churches. The get depressed when people leave their church. Or they get angry and bad mouth them. The temptation  is to believe that they are competing with the other churches in the area. We need to be reminded that we are all serving the same God and building the universal Church.

So, how can you ask someone who is in charge of the success of a local church to not be overly focused on its success but at the same time be focused enough to not neglect it? Where is that perfect balance between serving both the church and the Church?

Ultimately, we have to do what we can do and trust in God to do what he’s gonna do. I once asked Tim Keller about power in preaching. He said, “you have to ask God for the power.” And then he said, “And then you have to be content with the apportioned amount.” So true! There are some things that I can do as a pastor and some things that I can’t. All I can do is what I can and I have to trust that God is gonna do what he’s gonna do.

The way that I see it is that all I can do is bring my 5 loaves and 2 fish. God is the one who feeds the 5000. Some of you might have 10 loaves. Some 2 loaves. Some of you will feed 10,000. Some maybe 500. We do what we can do. Let God do what he’s gonna do.

Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke the loaves. Then he gave them to his disciples to set before the people. He also divided the two fish among them all. ~ Mark 6:41

And all of that takes faith. Which, I guess, is why we’re doing what we’re doing in the first place.

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You may read his blog at or follow him on twitter (@richjlee).

6 thoughts on “Church Confusion”

  1. Wow… The first part was confusing to read….

    So what does the "balance" look like? And what do you do with those who come to church from a different church that treated them badly? How do you lift up the universal church in that instance without condemning the church that they came from?

    1. Without even hinting at coitsructnng a law, I would like to express agreement with Ian’s conviction that the ideal, God’s best for us, but no means a law, is that Body members meeting together live in as close proximity as possible for the reasons Ian indicated. My wife Judy and I have been in fellowship with some precious brethren in Christ Jesus for eleven years, meeting in the simple/house manner. These sisters and brothers are inexpressibly dear to us, yet our homes stretch over an area about thirty miles diameter; therefore, the cost and time required for travel sharply limit frequency and extent of life interaction, and therefore limit love expressed in deed and truth, limit mutual discernment, encouragement, admonishment, correction, training in righteousness, and joint outward ministry involvement. If they could look more deeply into my daily life, I’m confident our Lord would use them to a greater extent, as iron sharpens iron, to confess sins and repent, to stimulate me to love and good deeds, and to stimulate my growth in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, all to the glory of God and my own peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.

  2. To me Its not "real" confusing , For Me i am to help my community church with what i can , being a listener or a shoulder to lean on or even a clean up person after our Sunday meal . It all reminds me to love each other as god loved the church. and God loves all churches . well lets be honest God Is Love . I believe we all have a responsibility to our Faith in God, and our Church. and the Universal church. Condemning always reminds me of Mary Magdalen , He who is without sin.. well you know the rest .

  3. I think you must learn to love the mystery of the Gospel. Not just tolerate it but fully embrace it. Realize that there is spiritual truth and beauty in the tension. I learned this in seminary while studying the theology of the trinity–three in one…How can that be?

  4. I'm not a pastor, but yes, I agree that pastors don't have an easy job. But I also think pastors hold more responsibilities and burdens than they should. Pastors are called to be the shepherd for their sheep (church). Yet, so many pastors also take on other responsibilities such as, admin, teaching (different from preaching), evangelizing, etc. They may have those gifts to do these other things, but they should not be held responsible to carry the burdens for everything. What are your thoughts on the five-fold ministry (apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, & teachers) as stated in Ephesians 4:11? The chapter is entitled as "Unity in the Body of Christ." And the verse states that people are called to these five positions to build up the body of Christ. My point: It shouldn't be all on the pastor to build up the universal Church. They can carry that heart and support it, but it shouldn't be their main focus. Their focus should be on their church.

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