As a church-planting pastor one of the most important questions I had to consider from the very beginning was what time horizon would animate the architectural design and mission of the church we were launching. While we had the timeless horizon of eternity as our ultimate aim, the timely horizon of an enduring institution that would serve multiple generations and outlast our lives was paramount. Whether we are building a company, an organization, or a life, having a longtime horizon in view is crucially important for any pastor. The pastoral calling embraces a longtime horizon, knowing God’s view of time is vastly different from ours. The apostle Peter, hopeful that Jesus would return in his lifetime, puts it this way: “But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day” (2 Pet. 3:8). Though we anticipate the day when God will close the curtain of time in human history, if our vocation calling is limited to something that can be accomplished merely in our lifetime, the scope of our thinking is woefully inadequate. On the other hand, we recognize the brevity of our temporal journey and the importance of stewarding time well. The psalmist not only points us to an endless eternal time horizon but also a short temporal horizon. “So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom” (Ps. 90:12). With the strong tug of eternity in our hearts, we seek to embody wise lives in the here and now.Tom Nelson, The Flourishing Pastor: Recovering the Lost Art of Shepherd Leadership
I think this is important for pastors, but I think it is important for congregants, too.
The church is God’s edifice, God’s building, comprised of the people who make up the “living stones” that together yield its construction. The church is a living, organic body, with Christ as the head. The church is a family. It is sustained by God. It is empowered by God. It can be healthy. It can be unhealthy. Which is why the church needs good shepherds, wise pastors, and faithful congregational leadership to help discern the way forward.
The church has a life. That life must be passed on. Maybe we don’t do a good job of that, formally, and instead assume that others will take up the torch once we lay it down. I’ve been around senior adults who wonder aloud what will happen to the church when they fade from the scene, and I’ve been around young adults who are not sure when, or how, to enter into leadership roles within the body.
Leadership transitions either just happen, or they don’t. Or, a pastor arrives on the scene who is able to invite a new generation into the mix, so that the values, principles, and wisdom of one generation is passed on to the next. Or, things fall apart as entropy takes hold, and a new set of leaders steps in to reclaim the past and to chart the next era.
But if you have an eternal time horizon in view today, as well as a realistic sense of your own mortality, the stakes, and your stewardship of your moment, become much clearer. That’s not only important for the pastor, but for the congregation as a whole, because the work is shared work, not only among the people who comprise the church, but with and alongside the church’s foundation, Jesus Christ.
It’d be like saying, “God, I live one short little life, but the work that you’ve been doing through history is your work. You know the past, you know our moment, and you know the future in ways that I cannot grasp. You know the ways in which you are working all things to the good for those who love you. Take what I have to offer, my service, my mind, my words, my financial offerings, my presence, my witness, the abilities you have given me, and make them into something that is part of your eternal work. Make my efforts count forever, not because they are good in and of themselves, but because they have been made possible by the gift of your grace, and can somehow be made part of your great work of redemption, and all to your glory. Don’t let me waste my life on frivolous things. Guide me to invest in something that will last forever–something that is of you, and yours, for all time.”