Pastor, Who Do You Represent?

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    I was introduced to the young man after a worship service. He had recently moved to the city for work and was looking for a church home.

    I prayed for him. I also asked him to call my office to set up a time for us to talk. But I was not looking forward to the conversation. I dread “I’m looking for a church home” meetings.

    Meeting with members is a joy. I wish I could do it more often. I am not pastoral counseling expert. But I view pastoral counseling as the private ministry of the word, corresponding to what I do publicly and corporately in the pulpit.

    But meetings with people who are looking for a church home are different. Obviously, they are not members I am in covenant with or am called to shepherd. Yet my pastoral instincts do not diminish because I am talking to a non-member. But I struggle at times to remember who I represent during these meetings.

    There are times when prospective-member meetings become a glorified beauty contest. “I visited this church. I visited that church. And I visited the other church.” they say. “Tell me why I should join your church.” And I have to fight the temptation to dress up my church and tell the person why congregation is the prettiest girl on stage.

    For the record, my meeting with the young man was nothing like this. He was sincere, humble, and prayerful about finding the right church. He decided to join our congregation. And I am glad our conversation helped him find a church to call home. More specifically, I am glad he joined my congregation. 

     I love my church! It is a good soil to plant believers to plant their faith for spiritual growth and fruitfulness. There are many good churches in our city I can point church-seekers to. But I can only speak to the stewardship of the congregation I serve. So I inevitably biased toward my congregation. I do not think there is anything wrong with that.

    But I have to fight to remember who I represent. Ultimately, I do not work for my congregation. It is only pastoral assignment the Lord Jesus Christ has given me for this season. I serve this church to point people to Christ, not to my congregation. And I must be vigilant to maintain this subtle yet essential distinction.

     Transfer growth is an inevitable part of church life. But sheep stealing jeopardizes church health. The mission of the church is not accomplished by the circulation of the saints. It only creates a spirit of competition where we take down teammates in scrimmages before the season ever starts. We are commissioned to advance the gospel of the kingdom, not swell the rolls of our membership.

    Thank for every soul the Lord brings under our pastoral care. But we must be careful to remember we are ambassadors for Christ, not cheerleaders for our congregations.

     Brother pastor, who do you represent? 


    H.B. Charles Jr.

    Pastor-Teacher at the Shiloh Metropolitan Baptist Church of Jacksonville and Orange Park, Florida.