Two primary components of the Regional Pastor mission stand out in my mind.
The first reminds me of an insurance company’s branding campaign some years back that explained its deflecting nature; it called itself, “the Quiet Company.” The first priority given our Regional Pastors as their ministry began in its formative stages five years ago was, essentially, to rather “quietly” be a pastor to our pastors. Our new constitution gave this direction: “He shall provide assistance in the shepherding/mentoring of pastors.”
I can’t overstate three realities regarding this first calling of our RP’s. 1) This is an incredibly needed ministry for the health and sustainability of our pastors, their families, and the churches they serve. 2) This is an ongoing, developing ministry—it takes a time investment for a shepherding relationship to be built given the variety of personalities among our parish and Regional Pastors. 3) If the investment and care of the RP in his “shepherd of shepherds” mission goes quite well, largely no one hears of it. Stories of healthy pastors do not grab attention as much as stories of pastors struggling.
In this primary calling of an RP, if he is doing his ministry well, it is very likely you won’t hear much about it. Perhaps I should say, “we may not hear enough about it,” as one of our aspirations is how we can tell the stories of RP ministry in ways that are neither proud nor compromising of confidentiality, but which give glory to God and raise the attentiveness of our whole Church body to the importance of caring for our pastors and their families.
This first component of RP ministry could easily be all-encompassing, but there is a second primary sphere of mission our RP’s are called to, and are actively engaged in developing. The renewed mission construct we adopted at our 2009 CLB convention both streamlined the facilitating mission of denominational leadership and summoned the initiative and ownership of mission at a more congregational and regional grassroots level. It also provided for Regional Pastors to be catalysts in encouraging congregational mission. This second sphere of Regional Pastor mission is to be a liaison support for congregational health and regional church planting by congregations and ministry clusters: “He will work with individual congregations and clusters of congregations to reach people in new communities and will provide coaching, resources and encouragement.”
I am greatly enthused to see this part of Regional Pastor mission in bloom. Our Regional Pastor ministry is growing in both vision and activity to provide available resources and engaged partners with pastors and congregational lay leaders for the advancement of congregational health and mission. Our Regional Pastors have a growing toolbox of resources to assist local congregations including a Church Health Survey. The “Lifting Our Eyes” initiative envisions five new CLB congregations planted in the next five years. I cannot recall in recent time hearing of so much stirring in our CLB movement toward church planting—our Regional Pastors report at least a dozen potential situations for daughter church, multi-site, and church plants within our Regions.
These are opportune times in our Church body! The Regional Pastor ministry is an essential part of the quiet health of our pastors, and of the active mission of our congregations. These servants of the Church need your prayers. I urge your active support of them, and invite you to better know your Regional Pastor.
Our Pacific Region will receive the gift of their new Regional Pastor, Rev. Phil Heiser, beginning August 1. At the same time, Rev. Stan Olsen is moving to the Central Region to share his extensive gifts and experience with our churches there. I am glad and grateful for these pastors and partners in mission, and greatly encouraged for our future mission together.
Rev. Paul Larson is President of the Church of the Lutheran Brethren.