St. Peter's Blog 'Priorities, Priorities' from St. Peter’s Evangelical Lutheran Church – North Wales, PA's Blog

Priorities, Priorities

Thursday, Sep 25, 2014
Author: Pastor Andreas Wagner

Recently I had a conversation with a young woman from an Interfaith organization called POWER. The organization has been very active in the Philadelphia area, focuses on Social Justice issues and is trying to expand in Montgomery County. Pastor Bob Fogal (from St. Luke's) recommended the organization and so I sat down with this young lady whose title was community organizer.

I learned that she is originally from Los Angeles, of Jewish background, and became involved in justice issues when she noticed the disparities in her home city's school district in terms of resources and funding. I have to say she pushed me quite a bit with her questions about my leadership and vision for the church and the church's commitment to the larger issues of society And I sensed a bit of a moral expectation behind her questions: "As a prophetic leader of this congregation you really should..." But hey, I also push people from time to time (or at least I think I do) and I understand that we leaders of congregations need to be questioned and challenged as well, for our own good. It was a welcomed opportunity to reflect upon my priorities as a leader. And don't we all have priorities? We might as well reflect on them in order to make sure we have the right ones or the ones that are right for us!

I guess my main priority as a pastor is: to be a pastor. Strange as that may sound, but it's not to be taken for granted. There are so many needs out there that one could get involved in a new organization, a new good cause and a new charitable initiative every week. You can take just about any need in the world and pose the question: how can we as a church not do something about this? How can we stand by idly? See, there is always this tension... On the one hand we cannot save the world, clearly... On the other hand that doesn't mean we can't do something to make the world better!

So how do we prioritize? As a pastor I really want to know my people first and put their being and well-being before any other agenda or plan, period. As part of that I like to find out what their passions and gifts are and whether there might be roles for them in or outside the church that can help them to become difference makers in the community. To me that's part of becoming who you are meant to be, of being transformed into God's image. I am much more people oriented than agenda oriented. And I am very skeptical about doing things merely because "we should." Moral imperatives don't usually generate energy for sustainable ministries. But passions stirred by the Holy Spirit do. The setting of priorities has more to do with listening to the voice of God than determining on a rational level what we "should" do.

I have seen ministries emerge because the right people were there at the right time and they were fired up. I have seen ministries fail that were well intentioned but were timed wrong and led by people who lacked the needed skills or were just pushed into it. And then sometimes the craziest things succeed just because the spirit of God took delight in it. Go figure! Please take some time and listen to the voice of the spirit of God for your life. Who knows how that may shake your priorities!

Pastor Andreas Wagner   

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