The Brick Laying Pastor

MayfairPlymouthCrossCropOur church building was built with bricks, thousands of bricks. The tower in the accompanying photo is our church “steeple” and it’s made out of brick too. I’ve always thought bricklayers have to be patient people because whatever they’re building it’s done one brick at a time.

A church building is not the church – we pastors have all said that a gazzillion times. We tell our people that the church is not brick or mortar, or stone or wood, or any other building material. Through the ministry of reminding we say it, one more time, that the church is people in relationship with God and with each other, living out discipleship together. OK, we get this. But this true church, as over against the brick and mortar building we often make our gathering place, is also built one brick at a time, bricks not of clay, but of seemingly small and daily words and actions.

Looking back on thirty-eight years of ministry, I can’t recall 99.9% of what I’ve said or done as a pastor. People will remind me of a comment I made some thirty years ago of which I have no recollection. It often sounds as if, according to their telling of it, that I said it spontaneously, in a casual conversation, and that it was impacting! People will share how I showed up just at the right moment, at some crisis moment in their lives. I graciously accept their affirmation, deciding to keep it to myself that, for the life of me, I can’t remember the event. On the down side, I’ve found out about times I’ve hurt someone, disappointed someone, or didn’t come through for someone and I have no recollection of what to them was a painful experience.

We’ve made thousands of decisions as a church, most of which I can’t remember, and they’ve all contributed to getting us to where we find ourselves today, some with negative ramifications and hopefully many with positive results. I know there’s no one who can tell me what I preached on three weeks ago (even I can’t remember) but I’ve got to believe the effort contributed something to our spiritual pilgrimage. I also don’t remember what I ate for dinner five days ago, but I know that food has contributed life to my body. I’m thinking that feeding the body of Christ is like that, not usually memorable but nonetheless nourishing.

There have been memorable pivotal meetings and defining moments in my ministry, but most of it has been day to day ministry where I have done rather ordinary things from one hour to the next. Rarely, in being an instrument of the Lord to help build His church, have I had the instant gratification of putting up large pre-fab sections. Mostly, it’s happened one brick at a time.

Individual bricks are rather ordinary objects, but they can be used to build an architectural masterpiece. We dream of having a great ministry for God, and we should. But it comes down to what we’re called to do in the ministry today. We can do no better than to hear the Master Bricklayer say to us, “Here’s another brick,” and put ourselves to the task of laying it in place.

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