I feel like a slow learner. My experience over the last month in Grand Bahama has led me to believe that I haven’t had the proportions right in my ministry.
I was in Grand Bahama on holidays, but I was also taking Sunday services at the Presbyterian Kirk and handling pastoral emergencies. Needless to say, I had plenty of ‘free time’ on my hands. My primary agenda items were to swim, read, workout at the gym, and relax by all means possible.
What I found is that I engaged more people outside of the church in conversations about Christianity in that month than I likely did in the six months prior. I wasn’t aiming to ‘covert’ in these conversations, I was simply sharing about my affection for Jesus Christ and for serving Him in ministry. The conversations were a natural overflow from what I value most in life.
My first encounter happened in the swimming pool of all places. My daughter Anya was diving after toy Smurfs and I was cooling off in the shallow end. Along came an older gentleman with his grandchildren and we immediately became engaged in meaningful conversation. I departed with a sincere invitation for the man and his wife to attend the Kirk on Sunday, and he responded, ‘I’ll do my best.’ Two days later he sought me out and asked if I could give them a ride. I obliged of course, and am pleased to report that the couple found their experience in Sunday worship to be a source of tremendous encouragement.
Throughout my time in Grand Bahama I regularly visited a gym (I was taking in a massive amount of calories and needed a counter punch!). I also enlisted the help of a trainer two days a week. My trainer was quite excited about helping a pastor get into shape, and insisted on calling me ‘Pastor Bryn’ even though I insisted that just ‘Bryn’ would be adequate. Throughout our time together we would exchange friendly barbs. When I would fail at an exercise, he would say, ‘If you were perfect, you wouldn’t need me.’ As we began to talk about more serious things in life, he sheepishly referred to himself as ‘a sinner’, as if to put some distance between him and those I normally deal with. Without hesitation, I borrowed from his logic, ‘If there weren’t any sinners around I would be out of a job.’
Let’s just say his laughter was heard throughout the gym. It wasn’t long after that when I offered to be his ‘Spritual Trainer’ and invited him out to Sunday service. He came, and he loved it! He brought his camera so he could be photographed with me after the service. The ladies, seeing how massively muscular my trainer was, sent him home with all of the untouched cake and cookies (great hospitality moment).
On my last Friday evening in Grand Bahama, my friends (I have a friend from high school who lives in Grand Bahama) and I were sitting out on the patio of a great restaurant (Agave) enjoying a beautiful evening. Along came a couple that my friend knew well and we began chatting about things of no great consequence. Eventually it became known ‘what I did’, and feeling good about my previous conversations, I invited this couple out for my last Sunday at the Kirk. Yes, they came too!
I should note that I had a few other great conversations that didn’t translate into the person coming out on Sunday morning (and that’s ok!). But I am hugely encouraged that three invitations were accepted. And the reason I began this post talking about proportions is because I am more than ever convinced that I need to spend more time in the community; more time among those who may not yet know Christ or who may not currently have a church home.
As a pastor of a church I recognize that I can’t spend all of my time in the community. There are people here who need encouragement, guidance, and compassionate shepherding. I’m not about to shut down my office hours, or my calls to parishioners in the hospital. But I am going to make some adjustments. I am going to be more intentional about connecting with those outside the church. I’m going to try and get the proportions right.
I could go on, but I just joined the local gym and it is time for me to go workout 🙂