by Mikel Berger
I want billions of more people to hear about Jesus.
I don’t want to be their pastor.
Let me explain what I mean by these two statements. The first is easier to explain because it’s what you expect one of your pastors to say. I want more people to hear about Jesus because of what Jesus has done for me and because that’s what God wants me to do. Telling people who are from my culture about Jesus is typically called evangelism. In our particular context, that includes vulnerable children in our community. It’s coworkers, neighbors, and family members. As we travel along the path of life, we tell people about Jesus as we show them the love of Jesus while working our jobs and being their friends.
Telling people about Jesus that are from a different culture from mine is typically called missions. Some people have effectively no access to the name of Jesus or know his name but do not know the truth about him. It’s still telling people about Jesus, but there are particular challenges because of the differences between cultures, especially if there is no established church among those specific people (an unreached people group).
It’s familiar and ordinary. It’s also rare and extraordinary. We get to do both.
So if I want all these people to hear about Jesus, and as a church, we spend a large amount of our collective time and money on these efforts, why don’t I want to be their pastor? Aren’t I supposed to want Kossuth to grow?
I’m very thankful to be a pastor. I’m very grateful to be one of six elders (another word we use for pastors) of Kossuth Street Baptist Church. I believe I have, and the members of our body have, affirmed a calling from God to serve in this office at this time. But I don’t think God’s called me to be a pastor of a billion people. I don’t think I’m called to be a pastor at any time of many more than currently call Kossuth home (somewhere between 300-400 of you).
So how do we reconcile this? The answer is discipleship.
The path works like this. Missions turn into evangelism. People from another culture tell people about Jesus. Then those people tell other people within their own culture about Jesus. But for that to happen, the people that heard about Jesus need to grow to become more like Jesus. That’s discipleship.
I have been evangelized, and I’m still in the discipleship process. The other five elders pastor me. Many of you disciple me in ways you might not even realize. There are formal ways this discipleship happens and informal ways. I meet with Bill for coffee. I attend a discipleship leaders training session led by Abraham. I meet one on one with one of you under the pretense of me helping you with a situation, and I end up learning how to be more like Jesus through pain and suffering than I ever could teach you. You send me encouraging emails.
I’m excited, church. Some new people have joined us. But some other people have moved on. Sometimes I think I’d love to serve with all of you for 40 more years, or however long a life God gives me. But that likely isn’t God’s plan. If we all sat together at Kossuth every Sunday for the next 40 years, we’d likely stop growing. So to make room for some of these new people that God is bringing us, we need to send some of you out: some of you out near and some of you out far. We need to send some of you a few cities or states away as God uses new jobs or family situations to disperse you. We need to send some of you far away to the most unreachable places, possibly as sent and financially supported missionaries, but many of you, I believe, will and should go with the support of our body as tentmakers. You’ll take a job not because it can pay you the most or because the company name will look the best on your LinkedIn profile. You’ll find the job that gives you the most opportunities for gospel impact.
Because when it comes down to it, we’re just trying to tell people about Jesus. And that’s a job for all of us, not just your pastors.