My first job in ministry was the janitor of the church I attended. Every week I set up chairs, mopped floors, vacuumed and took out trash. My pastor used to tell me, “Your job caring for the church is a holy calling.” I never really saw it that way, especially after I cleaned the same toilets week after week. But I did enjoy the job. Several years later, I had finished college and the same church hired me as the Children’s pastor. For the next 10 years, I served in ministry but others did the cleaning. But because I know what it takes to clean the church, I always have been willing to pick up a broom if necessary.
When I became the lead pastor at my Average Church, I found myself right back in the role of taking care of the physical needs of the church. In an average church, you can’t hire a janitor to clean, paint walls, organize closets, mow and spray for weeds. I have been an Average Pastor of an Average Church for almost seven years and I still paint, clean, mow and organize this church that God called me to serve. I always thought it would be nice to grow our church to a place where I could afford to pay someone to clean, mow, paint and such. But, eventually you have to realize that keeping the church clean, freshly painted, maintained and organized is part of the duties of the Average Pastor. Of course, its always best to get church members involved, which I do. I have had many people help clean, mow and help when something needs painted or repaired. But we don’t always have those people when we need them.
If you see pastoring a leadership position where you are the CEO and you have employees who should be doing the day to day, it is easy to get discouraged when there is no one to clean or mow this week. I have often felt that although I am willing to do these tasks, I shouldn’t HAVE to do these tasks. It doesn’t help that I look a the church across the street who has a mowing service do their mowing while I am out there as the Pastor on our mower. It feels like I shouldn’t have to do that.
One day as I was painting a room (and I have personally painted nearly every room in our church), I was having one of those “I shouldn’t have to do this” moments. But as I was making this room beautiful, I thought back to the levites of the Old Testament. Here is what God said about the Levites;
“The work of the Levites was to assist the priests, the descendants of Aaron, as they served at the house of the LORD. They also took care of the courtyards and side rooms, helped perform the ceremonies of purification, and served in many other ways in the house of God.” (1 Chronicles 23:28)
The Levites whole calling was to serve the needs of the church. They were not allowed to own land or have jobs. The Temple was their home and they cared for it. They cleaned, ministered, and took care of the physical needs of the temple. Pastors are the Levites of this day. The care of the temple (church) is inherent in our calling. So why shouldn’t we clean, paint, mow and spray weeds? That is part of our calling. For generations priests and monks saw themselves as caretakers of God’s house and many still do today. The beauty of God’s house is in the levite-pastor’s care. Sometimes we can have others who help us with that, but it never becomes ‘not our responsibility.’ A CEO can believe that they shouldn’t have to do these tasks, but a pastor who is a true levite can’t.
Could it be that God gets glory from your ministry not only in the pulpit, but in the room you paint or the carpet you vacuum? Could it be that being a pastor is more like my first job, the janitor, than being a CEO or president of a corporation? If you see these jobs as beneath you as the pastor, you may have bought into a corporate model of what it means to be a pastor. What my pastor said is still true, “Your job caring for the church is a holy calling.”
I encourage my fellow Average Pastors not to resent your role in caring for your church. It is a holy calling. Every toilet you clean, every table you set up and every menial task you do is a work unto the Lord. You are in a long line of people called to care for God’s house. Caring for God’s house is very pastoral. That IS what a pastor does. That is what we do.
Pervious Post: Pastor as a Parish Priest