Pastoring, It’s a Process

Pastoring is a process. In fact, it’s many processes. When I came to the one and only church I served for nearly forty years of ministry it was a church that, historically, had not been Christ-centered, Biblically focused, socially conscious, or mission minded. Pastoring the church was like turning a large ship to a different direction.

It was a process, a long process. Disciplining people was a process. Working with church boards was a process. Helping the congregation to catch a vision was a process.

Yes, pastoring involves many processes, and we don’t like processes. We want results, now. Goals are wonderful and creating steps to achieve those goals is critical. Yet, all along the way we can be impatient with those steps, always anxious to moving on to the next step, to get to the “the next level” as we so often here, and then to reach the goal. What happened to enjoying the journey? If I had to list regrets of my ministry, and I think I’ve mentioned this before, one of my main regrets is that I’d been more intentional about enjoying the journey.

Let me share a personal parable from nature. Jesus used parables based on nature so I’m going to do the same here.

It’s a process, raising and releasing Monarch butterflies. We regularly turn our screened-in porch, called a lanai here in Florida, into a butterfly house to carry out this process. We place a potted milkweed plant purchased from a nursery in the lanai. If it’s been in the open any length of time it has been visited by a female butterfly who’s left a number of her eggs on the underside of the leaves.

Within days we spot tiny little caterpillars crawling about on the leaves, feeding continually. Their ravenous appetite allows them to grow at an incredible rate, and within a couple of weeks the caterpillars are the thickness of a crayon and leave the decimated plant to crawl up something vertical for their next stage.

When they find the perfect spot they begin to attach themselves to it by their back end. They then curl into a shape like the letter “J” and grow still. Then the skin behind their head splits, and they wriggle out of their caterpillar skin, the skin rolling up toward the tail end, exposing a chrysalis. The newly revealed chrysalis wiggles and wiggles some more until the rolled up skin of the previous caterpillar stage falls to the ground. Then they grow still, for over a week, while a hidden miraculous transformation is in process.

The green chrysalis slowly becomes semi-transparent, revealing distinct butterfly wings folded inside. Within days the chrysalis splits open at the bottom out of which the butterfly emerges, wings pleated and wet. The butterfly hangs there, at the end of the empty chrysalis, slowly pumping its wings with fluid, expanding them to full size for flight.

The butterfly slowly flaps its wings back and forth, strengthening them or perhaps testing them. Eventually it takes flight and flutters about the lanai at which point we gently catch it in, you guessed it, a butterfly net, and release it outside. It soars into the blue sunlit sky and freedom. Yes, it’s a process for a butterfly to go from a nearly invisible egg under a leaf to a colorful creature fluttering across the sky and swishing down to one flower blossom after another.

Most of what happens in our own lives is also a process, which we don’t always appreciate. Just as my wife and I have sometimes been impatient with the drawn out process of a butterfly emerging, so we can be impatient with the process of circumstances changing, events unfolding, relationships changing, or our own growth as God’s person. And, as a pastor, it’s easy to become impatient with many of the processes that are going on in our churches. Yet, this is how God works, not only with butterflies, but with us individually and with pastoring our churches..

Author Kelly M. Kapic writes, “God doesn’t fret about process, but seems to enjoy and value it. In fact, although God clearly can do whatever He wants and as quickly as He wants, He doesn’t tend to do things instantaneously… God doesn’t rush when He works.” (You’re Only Human, p 147)

Life’s a process in all kinds of ways. Pastoring is a process in all kinds of ways. Though we have a goal, an objective, or a result in view, God values the process and has His purposes in it for us. We should value that process too!

The words of Jesus to His disciples, indicating that His teaching among them involved a process, “I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear.” (John 16:12)


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