This isn’t my church. I know, I’m the Pastor; and when some people think of the Thompson Memorial Presbyterian Church, they associate me with you. That may be the case but I’m going to insist that this isn’t my church.
My dear friend John Galloway is now a retired Presbyterian minister. John preached here a few years ago. During this long and fruitful career, John pastored some of the largest and strongest churches in our denomination. Our Seminary Interns and I are reading a book John wrote out of his experiences of his ministry. I love the title: Ministry Love Company. In his book, John relates a time when he was sitting with a group of pastors comparing notes about their work. John spoke that morning and said something like this, “I don’t know how other ministers lead their congregation, but in my church we do thus and so.” A former seminary professor of John’s was present amid the pastors that day. Hearing John say, “my church” the professor said to his former student, “John, if you think it’s your church, the congregation is in trouble.” John wrote about this insightful comment, “What he meant was that no pastor ought to use the word ‘my’ to imply ‘I own it,’ or to say, ‘It is mine to do with as I please.’ Our speaker was using a quick verbal jab to remind me that this congregation is not my possession, and therefore I do not have control over it.”
I think there’s more meaning in that professor’s reminder to John Galloway. I happen to believe that while I am almost wanted by church members, I’m not always needed.
On this most recent Thursday morning, I was on my way to church to lead a Lenten Prayer Group. I got a call from Leslie. I was needed at home, so I turned my car back and headed to our house. I sent a text to Cynthia Tuleja to simply ask her to inform the group that I wouldn’t be able to join them. I assumed that those who showed up for prayer would head on to the rest of their days.
I pulled into our parking lot just after 9:00 A.M. and I noticed that there were a fair number of cars. The group met! They studied Scripture together and prayer together . . . without the Pastor! I greeted a handful of people who were lingering in our chapel. I said to them, “I guess you don’t need a Pastor to pray!” No, you don’t. I knew that I was welcome and wanted by that group but not needed.