Monday, August 27, 2012

A Pastoral Evaluation

If you've been following this blog for any decent length of time (or have read my brief bio) you know that I'm a pastor to the homeless and the mentally ill.  There are only a few of us out there, so those of us who take on this task are really making it up as we go.

What does a homeless pastor do?  First, I suppose, we need to determine what a "pastor" does.  A pastor is a community leader, but each pastor brings her or his own gifts to the position, making the role suited to what he or she can do.  One pastor is good at counselling, another is good at teaching, another is good at organizing, another is good at vision.  Some pastors are charismatic, some are prayers, some are visitors, some are students of the word.  Every pastor leads a community according to their gifts and the community begins to be shaped according to those gifts.

That is especially true if the pastor is also a church planter.  For the whole life of a congregation, it bears the indelible stamp of the church planter. And every pastor after a church planter is compared to the first, for good or for ill.  The congregation is, in a sense, the model which a church planter MUST create by his or her passion and abilities, and is thus limited by this as well. The congregation might morph beyond that, but there is a central core that a church planter gives and it never shifts from that.

I am both a pastor and a church planter.  I have remained in Anawim not because I don't think that anyone else could lead Anawim, but because it is a full-plus time job with no salary. That requires more passion and commitment than pretty much anyone has for an organization that they didn't build themselves.
So how am I doing as a pastor, given this background?  Of course, I can't evaluate myself objectively... but who can?  My congregation for the most part sees me with starry eyes.  An outside evaluator would have to follow me around and know the goals involved.   Even another pastor might see pastoral work as different than I could make it.

In the end, I would say that I do a fine job with helping people survive, but a less-than-fine job with helping them thrive.  With very few financial resources, I had led my congregation to give meals to many, to give people shelter, to create the building blocks for peaceful community, to clothe and shower so many.  We have lead a number to the Lord and given many a place to worship when they had no where else that would welcome them as they were.  I have taught hundreds, perhaps thousands, the basics of the gospel, seeking God through Jesus.

As far as a seed-thrower, I do well.  I spread the building blocks of survival wide so that many might partake.  My real limitation in this has been finances.  We could have done so much more if we had received donations of more than $25,000 a year.   Yeah, it's true.  That's all we get.  I keep hoping and praying every year that we might receive more finances, but that's it.  We've done a lot with a donation base that wouldn't rise my family of five out from under the poverty line. (My family's personal income has been between 10 and 15 thousand a year, most of that money being made by my wife working for minimum wage part time at a laundromat).

My personality is such that if someone is in desperate need, I try my best to help them.  Jesus said, "Give to those who ask you," and have done this to my utmost.  I try to evaluate need and then to give people the building blocks of meeting that need.  We don't solve all of anyone's problems.  All we do is try to give them the basics to improve their lot.

And improve is what people have done.  People have survived.  People are living, eating, getting the gospel, finding community, getting shelter when it's particularly cold... but almost no one is thriving.  It is to my shame that after people survive in my church, they thrive somewhere else.  In another community, in another church, in another context.  I understand the principle of planting and watering.  I know that our part is necessary.  That to thrive one must first survive.  But I wish I could give someone more than just building blocks at times.

But, frankly, I don't know what else to do than to cast seed.  To help people survive.  To give them basics.  I've worked really hard at trying to understand my people and to give principles of thriving.  But, at least looking at results, that's beyond my capability.

I really believe I've done well with what I've been given.  Again, I'm not objective about this, I can't evaluate myself fairly.  But for who I am, for what resources I have, I think I've accomplished a lot.  I guess, just like so many people, I want more.  I want more for my people.  I want them to do better than they have.