Patience When Ministry Seems Slow : Ronnie Martin
As pastors and ministry leaders, how do we respond when our ministry is moving more slowly than we anticipated? In this week’s conversation on FrontStage BackStage, host Jason Daye is joined by Ronnie Martin. Ronnie is the founder and lead pastor of Substance Church in Ashland, Ohio. He also serves as the Director of Leader Renewal for the Harbor Network and has written a number of books, including his latest, Pastoring Small Towns. Together, Ronnie and Jason look at how we can be at peace with the pace that our ministry is developing in our local churches. Ronnie also shares the beauty that we experience when we refuse to overextend ourselves, and, instead, slow down and journey alongside our people.
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- Audio links to this week’s episode – easily share with the ministry leaders in your church
- Additional resource links from this week’s conversation – so you and your team can easily find what is mentioned or referenced
- Ministry Leaders Growth Guide – key insights and concepts from this week’s conversation as well as engaging questions for you and your team to consider and process
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Additional Resource Links
www.ronniemartin.org – Here is Ronnie’s website, where you can find his music, books, podcast, and many more valuable resources.
Pastoring Small Towns: Help and Hope for Those Ministering in Smaller Places – Small-town life is quite different from life in a big city. There is not as much traffic. People recognize each other at the grocery store. Local sporting events carry a different cultural weight, and it may not be out of the ordinary to wait behind a tractor or get used to the smell of a nearby factory. These communities are unique, and pastoring here is an extraordinary task.
Ronnie Martin and Donnie Griggs are well-aware of this reality. In their book, their hope is to equip pastors and ministry leaders to take on the different nuances that come with pastoring smaller communities. They point out the cultural realities of these places and give pastors the tools to effectively engage their people with the Gospel.
www.substance-church.org – Ronnie is the founding planter and pastor of Substance Church, which launched in 2013.
Feeling overwhelmed, burned out, or just want to talk? Complimentary Coaching Session for Pastors http://PastorServe.org/freesession
Ministry Leaders Growth Guide
Key Insights and Concepts
- Smaller towns come with unique characteristics, like tight-knit communities, and challenges, like traditions, that impact how one approaches ministry in the local church.
- Pastors and ministry leaders tend to have a sense of urgency regarding building the local church and reaching people with the gospel, which can create a faster-pace to ministry.
- Jesus’ short time doing ministry on Earth was rarely hurried.
- Small towns can be wary of those who want to do things too quickly because their natural pace tends to be more leisurely.
- It’s important for pastors and ministry leaders to reflect on their motives behind a hurried pace, and make sure they are in alignment with God’s timing.
- Churches and church leaders often focus on more corporate metrics when measuring success but those are often not the way ministry effectiveness is measured in Scripture.
- It is acceptable for pastors and ministry leaders to have large visions and to build beautiful things, but the focus must always remain on the foundation of the Church – the gospel and the people.
- When leading a church, leaders can inadvertently become so focused on accomplishing good things that the people serving and attending become a means to an end.
- Slowing down can begin by assessing how to better disciple and mature those in the care of the church and asking the Lord how He wants to work in the community.
- Those in ministry can flourish and thrive in the midst of challenges if they focus on working at a sustainable pace and trust the Lord is at work.
- It is important for those in the church community to understand how the leadership is seeking to serve with a grace pace, and embrace the idea of healthy rhythms, both for the church and each individual.
Questions for Reflection
- Am I ministering in a small town? If so, what are some unique opportunities and challenges I’ve encountered while serving here? How have they shaped my perspective and approach?
- Regardless of the size of town I serve in, what can I learn from small town ministry?
- How do I personally define and experience success in my role as a pastor or ministry leader? Are there any outside influences that have affected my definition of success?
- Reflecting on Jesus’ ministry, what lessons can I learn about patience, intentionality, and being present with those around me? How can I apply those lessons to my own ministry?
- How do I navigate the tension between having big visions and plans for the church and maintaining a focus on the essential elements of the gospel and serving the people?
- In what ways am I currently prioritizing the growth and well-being of the people I serve? Are there any areas where I may be inadvertently neglecting their spiritual or emotional needs?
- How can I cultivate a healthy balance between the practical aspects of developing a church and the relational aspects of connecting with the community?
- What does it mean to me to slow down in the context of ministry? How can I create intentional spaces and practices that allow for reflection, rest, and spiritual rejuvenation?
- What steps can I take to ensure that my personal pace aligns with God’s timing and purpose? How can I resist the pressures of comparison or the desire for quick results?
- How do I integrate self-care practices into my ministry journey? Are there any specific habits or boundaries that I need to establish in order to maintain my well-being?
- How can I foster a culture of trust and understanding within the church community, where both the leadership and the congregation are aware of and respectful of each other’s personal pace and needs?
- How can I continually seek God’s guidance and discernment in the midst of the various demands and expectations of ministry? How can I surrender my control and expectations and trust Him more fully?
As pastors and ministry leaders, how do we respond when our ministry is moving more slowly than we anticipated?
In this episode, I’m joined by Ronnie Martin. Ronnie is the founder and lead pastor of Substance Church in Ashland, Ohio. He also serves as the Director of Leader Renewal for the Harbor Network and has written a number of books including his latest, Pastoring Small Towns. Together, Ronnie and I look at how we can be at peace with the pace that our ministry is developing in our local churches. Ronnie also shares the beauty that we experience when we refuse to overextend ourselves, and, instead, slow down and journey alongside our people. Are you ready? Let’s go.
Hello, friends, and welcome to another insightful episode of FrontStage BackStage. I’m your host, Jason Daye. And it’s my privilege, my honor, each and every week to have the opportunity to sit down with a trusted ministry leader and really explore a topic all in an effort to help you and pastors and ministry leaders just like you embrace a healthy rhythm for both life and ministry. We are proud to be a part of the Pastor Serve Network. And not only do we create a show for you every single week, but our team also creates a toolkit that complements this conversation that we’re about to jump into. And in that toolkit, you’ll find a ton of different resources, including a Ministry Leader’s Growth Guide. And this is specifically designed for you to work through with some reflection questions, and also to work through with the ministry leaders in your local church. Many churches use this in their weekly staff meetings, they listen or watch the episode, then they dive into these questions together. And this is a great resource. And you can find that entire toolkit at PastorServe.org/network. So be sure to check that out. And then our team at Pastor Serve, we love pastors day in and day out, we walk alongside of pastors, encouraging, coaching, and just being a support for you. And if you would like to learn more about a complimentary coaching session with one of our trusted coaches, you can find information on that that PastorServe.org/freesession. So be sure to check that out, as well. Now, if you’re joining us on YouTube, take a moment to give us a thumbs up. And in the comments below if you would drop your name and the name of your church, we’d certainly appreciate that. Our team loves to get to know our audience better. And we will be praying for you and for your ministry. So go ahead and drop that in the comments below. And whether you are watching us on YouTube or listening on your favorite podcast platform, please take a moment to follow or to subscribe so that you do not miss out on any of these great conversations. And as I said, I’m excited about today’s conversation. At this time, I would like to welcome Ronnie Martin to the show. Ronnie, welcome!
Hey, thanks for having me.
Yeah, Ronnie, super excited for this topic that we’re going to really dive into together here. Because we’re exploring a topic that really, I think, is something that every single pastor regardless of where they’re pastoring, what the context might be, likely wrestle with this at some point. And that, Ronnie, is really being at peace, in a way, with the pace at which ministry in our local church is growing or is developing. And although all of us probably wrestle with this to some degree, Ronnie, you approach this from your context, as a pastor in a small town. And I’d love just to begin, if you can help us kind of frame this conversation. What do you mean, how do you define a small town?
Yeah, that’s one of the million-dollar questions. Because I think it can be defined in some different ways. And I think, you know, depending on how you want to frame it, how you want to look at it, right? There are lots of variations of small towns. So a small town could be something where you’ve got 200 people, you’ve got one gas station, and you’ve got a very small community that’s existed in a place for many, many years. That’s not grown very much, that’s adjacent to a larger town or a village or a bigger city. And then you have mid-size towns, which is probably where I’m at where you got anywhere from 20 to 30,000 people, it’s still, it’s sort of a community that exists unto itself, right? So it’s self-contained. It’s self-sustaining, maybe it’s an hour away from a larger city. And then you have all kinds of variations of that, like in between those two kinds of demographics that I laid out. My town is like I said about 25,000 people, it’s a university town, it’s about an hour away from Columbus or Cleveland, so I’m in mid-Ohio. Donnie, my co-author lives in a coastal town, which, if you’re there in the summer, there’s a lot of people that are visiting the town. But during the year, there’s probably only about 10,000 people, and it’s right on the coast. And so it has all of the unique features that a coastal town would have. But at the end of the day, it’s still small. There’s not a lot of people there, which, again, brings out sort of a particular kind of culture that you won’t find if you’re in a suburban environment or an urban environment. So the smallness, wherever you land within that, is kind of what brings out I would say, some of the uniqueness of the culture, some of the challenges of the culture as well.
Yeah, that’s great, Ronnie. And that kind of, you know, gives us a framework to think through, and probably a lot of pastors who are watching right now or listening are like, hey, my church kind of falls in there somewhere. Because a lot of the churches across the country here in the US specifically, are in what would be kind of defined as a small town. And in a small town, Ronnie, there are some unique characteristics that just kind of come along with the idea of being a small town. Oftentimes, when I think of a small town, I think it has that sense of community within the town that you may not experience in a more urban environment or of even a suburb. Because in suburbs, oftentimes, people are running around different places, whereas a small town kind of has that tighter community type feel. Is that something that you find in small towns?
Yeah, I think that’s something that you can probably draw out as being a commonality with most small towns, it would probably be a combination of community, family, and tradition. And so those are typically things that I think you can use to define a more small town scenario. And those are the things that also create some of the guiding principles that you see in small towns. You know, because you have a tradition there that’s been in place for many years, you have generations of families that have been in place for many years. And that has created a type of community then that kind of dictates what it is that then becomes the culture of that town. Yeah, for sure.
Yeah, that’s super helpful, Ronnie. Now, as we’re looking specifically at this idea of being patient in our ministry, which as I said, I think probably every pastor, every ministry leader, regardless of the context, we all have this sort of sense of urgency, right, Ronnie? Like, I mean, this is a big thing. We’re talking about Jesus, that there are eternal consequences to this. And so in our minds, oftentimes, we’re like, Hey, let’s go out there and get it, as we’re preparing to launch into ministry. You know, we have these great visions of saving the world in some sense, right? And so that’s just kind of built into us. And yet, when we actually get out there, and we’re actually serving, we realize that everything doesn’t just magically happen because of some great idea or ministry idea we have and we want to put together. So Ronnie, talk to us a little bit about this idea, you write about slowness and slowness in ministry, and how there are advantages to that, as well as some challenges. So talk to us a little bit about this idea of this pace.
Yeah, you know, it’s funny, because there was a uniqueness to the ministry of Jesus, in that he was rarely, he was never hurried. You know, we don’t really read a lot about him being very hurried. And yet, he was only here for three years doing his ministry in the way that we read about it in the Gospels. And so our tendency, I think, in our flesh is to, Zach Eswine, a pastor that wrote a book called The Imperfect Pastor wrote, we have the tendency to want to do things famously fast. Instead of doing the slow, I’m butchering this quote, but doing the slow kind of maturing work over a long period of time, where we can actually see the most fruit, right? And so I think we have an impulse, which is, I want to be able to measure what I’m doing and to be able to measure what I’m doing. I want to do it in such a pace and in such a way that people will be able to look at me and say, Hey, he’s really a mover and a shaker. He’s really getting things done. He’s building something big, and he’s doing it in a way that’s tangible. He’s doing it in a way that I can see it. But a lot of mistakes are made, as we know, when we try to do anything faster than really the internal pace that God has given to us to do anything in life, right? And so, in a small town, especially, I think it could have disastrous results. Because again, the nature of a small town, in general, not all the time, but I’ve found that there’s a suspicion to things that go too fast, too. So here I am, a Southern California transplant. If you know anything about Southern California culture, it’s just not slow, it’s fast. And I’ve grown up in that. And there’s no weather, right? So it’s perpetually 70 to 90 degrees, the weather doesn’t stop you or slow you down from doing anything because it never rains. And what is snow, right? And so I’m coming out of this culture where everybody’s just moving and going and going and going. And I come into this culture now in mid-Ohio, where there’s these things called seasons. And they really do a lot to define and sort of dictate the rhythms of how people live. And so my tendency coming in was to say, hey, I want to do this, and I want to build this, and I want to go quick. And I was quickly faced with just this idea that says, hey, that is not the way, that is not the rhythm, that has been cultivated in this town. You know, rhythms are dictated by seasons, you have to respect that. It’s also a great opportunity to allow your rhythms to be set more in the way that we see Christ doing his rhythms in the Gospels. And so for a small town setting, its people can be suspicious of people coming in and going way too fast, which is a huge advantage. Because as a pastor, it forces me to slow down. And I also realize then, that the expectation of people toward me, especially if I’m their pastor, is not to go fast, it’s to look at life as not a way that we can accomplish everything as quickly as possible. But as a way to step back and see what God is doing and to kind of step in and be a part of that. And knowing that, hey, what are we in a rush for? And why are we doing this? You ask those questions. Why are we hurrying? And what is it about patience that feels so terrible to me? And so again, I’m talking all over the place, but a lot of these things surface when you kind of consider these questions of quickness and fastness and wanting to get stuff done. And we need to ask ourselves the question, why is that? Why are we so prone towards that?
Yeah, I love that. And it’s a lot to wrestle with and process through, because, again, we tend to have this idea, and let’s just name it, the church culture tends to make us feel like we need to be growing, growing, growing. What we’re measuring, you know, numbers, budget, buildings, whatever it is, like that all has to really, really be developing and growing, in order for us to be effective. Like that’s kind of the measurement, like, Okay, are you doing a good job as a pastor, then there should be more people in your church this year than there were last year, and the next year there should be even a greater percentage. But there’s this whole mindset that I think church culture has been created here in the US. So Ronnie, how do you manage that tension between those expectations? And I love what you said, Ronnie, it’s not necessarily the expectations of even the people that God has entrusted you to shepherd in your church, they may not have those expectations. But oftentimes we feel those expectations from outside even. So how do you manage that kind of tension with that?
Yeah, that’s a great question. I think we’re very driven by metrics as a culture, and we’re very driven by, show me the effect of the work. And I think if we look at our limitations, and we embrace limitations, if we see the way in which the Lord operated on Earth and his ministry, we will begin to beautifully redefine what we consider to be greatness, what we consider to be a metric that’s a worthy metric for us, not just a worldly metric, or a more corporate metric. But we will begin to see that the Lord has something for us as leaders or ministry leaders, or pastors, or whatever it is that we’re doing. But he has something for us that is ultimately going to be about our flourishing, even our self-care, even to the kind of ways that we need to pause and see, hey, this pace that I’m running, what’s motivating that? What’s motivating this compulsion that I have to build and to grow like what you just mentioned? And if we really take Scripture seriously, and we really step back, and we allow ourselves to look at what we’re doing honestly, to maybe repent of some of these things that we’re doing out of a motivation to do something big, and something famous and something noticeable. I think the Spirit will work in us in such a way where he reframes what we see as being valuable, and important, which is the sanctification of our people and ourselves, which is never going to be a quick thing. It’s just not quick, it wasn’t designed to be quick, and God doesn’t move quick as we see. You know, sometimes he does works that appear to be quick. And what I like to do when we see that is go, Oh, hold on, can we back up? Or can we hear the story of the person of whom we think this has been quick? Because if you go back far enough, what you’re going to see is this whole process that got them to this place where we finally see something that’s visible, but we don’t see all the invisible work that happened up to that point. So I think it’s the things that are unseen, scripture tells us over and over again, those are the things worth pursuing. But they’re just not the things that anybody sees right now, today, or quickly. And we just struggle with that. I struggle with that. Because I want you, Jason, I want you to be able to look at my ministry and what I’m doing and I want you to see results. And I want you to be able to say, That Ronnie Martin guy, man, he must know what he’s doing because look at those results. That’s just the wrong metric. It’s the wrong motivation. But we get trapped in that.
Yeah, yeah. I appreciate that. And, Ronnie, as you’re talking about those metrics. And maybe you can just share from your own personal journey. How have those metrics shifted? You know, specifically, like the things that earlier in your ministry, you’re like, these are the things that I’m really focusing on. How has that shifted to the things that you’re you’re really focusing on now? What does that look like in your local church ministry?
Yeah, I think some of this is disposition, you know? And so I happen to be somebody, I love to start new things. And so it’s fun for me as being like the leader who has the vision, who says, hey, what if we did this? Or what if we built this? Nothing wrong with that, right? But I think that I probably swapped that out for being more pastoral in a way that just kind of got down into the dirt with people. And so what I quickly found, after even a few years of being the guy that maybe could start things and inspire people and build things. It’s like, well, at some point, if you get on that Ferris wheel and it just keeps spinning and spinning, we look around and it’s like, Well, okay, you’ve built a bunch of pretty things, or you’ve created a bunch of things that look good to the people that are coming in. But foundationally, is there still a dirt floor in the church? It’s like, have you actually built a foundation? Or have you just built a really attractive shell? And I think not very far into it, I realized, no, I’m somebody who, I like attractive shells. And I need to definitely refocus on what kind of foundation it is that we’re like, what does the gospel look like to somebody when they step into our church? Is that the foundation that they’re seeing? It can be the foundation that we are saying we have, but are they actually stepping on that gospel foundation? Or is it still a dirt floor there? And the Lord convicted me of that, I think after the first couple of years, and so the conversations just started changing between myself and our team, and all of that. And I still have those tendencies, because I like pretty things and I like to build things. God’s given me something for that, again, it’s not bad, but I think it has to be done, going back to your original point, it has to be done at a pace so that we are building on a foundation that is receiving the majority of our emphasis, right? And so I think maybe that’s one way things have shifted a little bit.
Yeah, no, that’s really helpful, Ronnie, because it’s kind of like that foundation, that infrastructure. You know, if you’re running out there, and you’re creating the new ideas and new things, you’re engaging people in new ways, and yes, that feels fresh. And like you said, I mean, that’s exciting. Even for the people there, like, Oh, these are some exciting things. But if you don’t have that infrastructure, then things can just kind of crumble in upon itself. If you have that strong foundation, that infrastructure, and that, as you’ve said, it takes time. Because it’s not just theories, or ideas or programs or whatever, it’s people. And that’s one of the things that really stood out to me in the book, Ronnie, is you made a comment about this idea of patience and slowness as an advantage, which I love, because oftentimes we think of something slow, it’s a disadvantage or there’s something wrong with it. But you talked about it as an advantage because it helps us stop looking at people just as projects. Right? Can you talk to us a little bit about that sentiment and that heart shift even that takes place as we slow the pace of our ministry, and begin looking at people in a healthier, probably more Christ-like way, right?
Yeah, I’m glad you brought that up. And it’s really convicting for me. Because I would tell you, like a lot of pastors would, look, I don’t feel like I’m using people. You know, I care about the people God is put in our church and put in my sphere of influence. But at the same time, I think, inadvertently, if you’re not careful, people can just be a means to an end, right? Because if you’re just building a structure so that you have, if you’re more worried about the structure of just hey, what’s the building looking like that we’re coming into? What does the programming look like that you’re coming into? What does the Sunday service look like that you’re coming into? The problem with church ministry is you hit a point, especially after church planting, where those things are able to come into full view. And now you have the staff and the deacons and the volunteer staff to sort of concentrate on working on those things. And I think if you’re not careful, it can come at the cost of the people that are coming into those things. So what you’re doing is you’re trying to maintain this, like you just said, you’re trying to maintain a structure, when at the end of the day, the structure of the church is the people that make up the church, that God is sanctifying, God is growing through the work of the Spirit. And I just think even without knowing it, just the sin that exists inside of us and the ambitions that exist inside of us, or at least for me, you can flip that narrative, pretty soon people are a means to an end, and you don’t even realize you’re doing it. And you have something that needs to be repented of, you know?
Yeah, that’s good. And so as we slow down, God can open our eyes up more to the person in front of us, as opposed to this grand plan that we hope to build within our town, right? Like it’s on the personal level. Talk to us a little bit about the way that your church specifically in a small town, as you’ve mentioned, how are you kind of intentionally slowing down? And what are some of the things that you’re doing to engage at a grittier level? You talked about kind of getting in the dirt a little bit with people. Because you said, sanctification, that’s not something that happens overnight. I mean and we understand that, even though oftentimes we operate differently. But what are some things that you guys are encountering, Ronnie, that you’re seeing this kind of gritty getting our hands dirty a little bit, working with people in your community?
Yeah, well, that’s a really good question. I think, man, one of the biggest things that happened, that happened to everybody with the pandemic. So the pandemic did slow a lot of people, it slowed everybody down. And I think it was interesting that the way we responded, especially in the beginning to that slowdown was, what can we do behind the scenes to speed everything up because the worst thing in the world is that we’re being slowed down. And I always just visualized, you know, in the background that the Lord, even a year before the pandemic, just kind of, up at the throne of grace, saying, you know what I think I’m gonna do, I think I’m gonna do a pandemic, to slow the church down a little bit, and it’s gonna be crazy because they’re gonna fight it. And they’re gonna, even when I shut everything down, they’re gonna want to try to go as fast as they can. And so the pandemic, I think, was just, it was one of those things that by default, it slowed us down. And I think what it did was it allowed me and I think, especially some of the responses that we had, we lost church members, like everybody did for all kinds of different reasons, like everybody did. And I think it caused me to step back and just say, Okay, I’m sensing that we are not growing as deeply in some things as I had hoped up to this time. It was a very humbling moment. And so what happened as a result of that was saying, hey, what are we doing in terms of how we’re discipling our people? And we’re a very simple model church. So our whole motto was, hey, we have Sunday gatherings, we have midweek community groups, we want to keep it very simple like that. And we expanded that because we wanted to offer more opportunities for people to connect with community, as well as grow in their biblical knowledge and to grow spiritually. So we’ve just created more opportunities for people to get deeper into the word, more opportunities for them to connect with different communities within the church, that they didn’t have the availability to do before that. So it’s all very simple stuff. But I think that it’s part of that process, saying, hey, let’s start at ground zero, and let’s start a maturing process that maybe was lacking before because we were blinded by our own sense of pace. And so I think God opened our eyes and humbled us deeply. And we’re trying some new things right now, you know, but it’s been really difficult. It’s been very difficult. But I think it’s been encouraging because I think when you have a team, kind of come together, look around at the church culture, and be honest about what’s going on, not defensive. And just says Lord, what are you doing? What do you want us to do? And let’s try some things. And some slow things, and see how you work through that. It also is something that I think has given us some peace that maybe we lacked before.
Yeah, it’s awesome. It’s interesting to hear stories of local churches and how kind of that slow down gave us opportunity to look around and say, Okay, what really are we doing, because you’re just doing it. We all know this, we’re just turning and we’re trying, we’re being faithful, you know, it’s not taking shots at day one. But whenever you have something come in that forces a slowdown kind of gives you an opportunity to recalibrate and really rethink some things and make some adjustments. Now, Ronnie, not only do you pastor in a small town, but you also help serve and encourage other pastors who are serving in small towns. And, of course, you’ve done this through the book that you and Donnie wrote, Pastoring Small Towns, which is a great resource. And you have a whole chapter, by the way, for those of you watching along on this idea of slowing down, patience, and your pace of ministry. But what are some of the things that you’re doing, Ronnie, as you’ve kind of looked out across the landscape? Have you experienced things in your town there in mid-Ohio, that you are helping to encourage other pastors? What are some of those resources and that network and those types of things that you have available there?
Yeah, so I’m part of a network called Harbor Network where it’s the Church Planning Network. And my role there is to do what you said, it’s what we call a leader renewal. So it’s caring for pastors, my wife is part of that team. She cares for pastors’ wives. And I think the big thing is when it comes, especially to what you’re talking about, which is slowness and pacing, it’s allowing, it’s encouraging and reminding pastors, regardless of the context they’re in. So we have quite a few small town church pastors in our network, we have urban, suburban. It’s a huge variety of different kinds of pastors in different contexts. But I think that the same thing applies, which is, The Lord wants you to know your limitations. He wants you to slow down. He didn’t create you to be God. Right? What He’s doing is He’s making you more God-like. He’s making you more Christ-like. But there is a pace that comes with that, right? And there is a way for us to move and to work and to pastor that we will experience flourishing. And it’s a way that we go about our, you know, our ministries with just a deep, deep-hearted trust for the work that the Lord is doing and reminding us that it is a work of the Lord. You know, the Lord gives us work to do, it’s good work. But you know, at no time should we think that we’re responsible for people’s growth. We’re responsible for people’s salvation. You know, we don’t believe that. That’s not our theology. That’s not what the Bible teaches. And so I think a big thing for us is just to remember that we first are servants and it’s a good and godly thing for us to step back, take a look in the mirror and really see if we’re running at a sustainable pace. And that the Lord wants us to run, He’s created us to run at a sustainable pace, and that we shouldn’t let people, we shouldn’t let ourselves run in this false guilt narrative that says, no, no, no, my job here is to convince everything. Nobody knows what a pastor does, but one day a week. So my job is to convince them that I’m the hardest worker that ever existed. It’s like, well, that’s just a false premise. And that’s not a good premise to live out our pastoral lives in. But you just would be surprised how many pastors are running a pace to satisfy the perceptions of their people. Again, people that probably don’t have that perception of them. But they’re convinced they do. Because again, we use more of a corporate-minded mentality when it comes to the work of the pastor. And we just have to remember that that is just not what God has called us to do. He certainly hasn’t called us to be slothful and lazy. But he certainly hasn’t called us to overwork, either. You know, he wants us to live an abundant life. And we need to constantly not just put that on the shelf, and have it be something that’s great to preach about or great to encourage our people in. But we need to seriously be considering how it is that we’re living that out on a daily basis and just be very conscientious of that and consistent with how we put that into practice.
Yeah, I love that. Just kind of real quickly, as we’re winding down, and the reason I say real quickly, sorry, but I’m just thinking like, this could be another hour-long conversation. But something you said just triggered this in my mind. What are some of those things in our lives as pastors and ministry leaders, that might help us to pull back from that false sense of expectation and help us in a healthy way? What are some practices, some different things that you’ve incorporated in your own life that when you and your wife are working with pastors and their spouses, those types of things, that really kind of help us slow down in a healthy way, and get some good rhythm in our lives?
Yeah, I think a really simple one is just practicing a weekly Sabbath day or days. And I think part of that as well is allowing your people to understand what that looks like. So be very honest with your people. So a Sabbath day, or Sabbath days, this is what it looks like to me, my phone is off, or it’s in the drawer, my laptop stays closed, it’s not a time for work, it’s not a time for productive work, like in that sense. And this is why this is good for us. This is why this is a healthy thing for me and for my family. So I think a pastor that is taking their Sabbath seriously and they have taught through it, they brought their congregation, their leadership team, their elders, their deacons, whatever their structure is. When they brought their team into that and everybody has a very good sort of like working understanding of what that looks like, not just for the pastor, but for anybody that’s within the church staffing context, which is that we have times where we put that rest and renewals is just part of our daily rhythm. It’s part of how we live out our weeks. And to have everybody on board with that, and to champion that and to pray for that, and to see the biblical precedent for that, I just think it’s so important, right? And it allows you then to develop a culture of rest and renewal in your church to where nobody’s saying things like, well, we know you only work one day a week, it must be nice to have a day off. It must be nice to take a day off on Thursday and Friday because the rest of us have to work. It’s like nobody’s saying those things. Because again, you’re saying hey, this role that we have is a unique role. It’s a mentally taxing role. And here are some of the ways, biblically, that we address that so that we can continue to pastor you guys in the years to come without following all the Barna stats and burning out within five years and then never getting back into ministry and battling and struggling with all kinds of things just because we didn’t take some simple very trusting steps to warn against that. And to make sure you guys know, none of these things should be a mystery. Your people should know exactly why you’re taking a sabbatical every five or seven years. Why you take a Sabbath day once a week. I mean, that should all none of that should be a mystery. So, I would be very open and honest about these things within your church context, and let people grow into that, too. Help them understand, why it is that you put such a high priority on these things and let them grow in that with you.
Yeah, so good, Ronnie. That’s excellent stuff, brother. Man, I appreciate you making the time to hang out with us. Appreciate Pastor Small Towns, the book that you and Donnie worked on, and the insight and wisdom that people can find there. If people want to connect with you, Ronnie, connect with some of the ministry organizations, your church, those types of things? What’s the best way they can do that?
Yeah, so you go to RonnieMartin.org, that’s my personal website, and you can find contact info there. You can go to substance-church.org, that has all my email info on there. Catch me on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. I mean, there’s a million ways to get a hold of me. So I’d love to hear from you. I’d love to chat, love to dialogue about anything that you might be facing in your context, whatever it is, and yeah, it’d be a joy to hear from you.
Awesome, Ronnie, I appreciate that. For those of you watching or listening along, we will have links to not only Ronnie and Donnie’s book Pastoring Small Towns, but also to Ronnie’s website and to those different things that he mentioned. You can find all that in the toolkit for this episode at PastorServe.org/network, to make sure that you can reach out to him and dig more deeply into this incredible conversation we just had. Brother, thank you so much for making time again to hang out with us here on FrontStage BackStage. Thank you for all that you’re doing. What you’re putting out there, you know, just your heart, not only for your local church which is so evident, but your heart for brothers and sisters serving on the front lines and the encouragement that you’re providing to so many other pastors. So we certainly appreciate the great work you’re doing.
Thanks, Jason, appreciate you so much. Thank you.
All right, God bless you, brother.
Now, before you go, I want to remind you of an incredible free resource that our team puts together every single week to help you and your team dig more deeply and maximize the conversation that we just had. This is the weekly toolkit that we provide. And we understand that it’s one thing to listen or watch an episode, but it’s something entirely different to actually take what you’ve heard, what you’ve watched, what you’ve seen, and apply it to your life and to your ministry. You see, FrontStage BackStage is more than just a podcast or YouTube show about ministry leadership, we are a complete resource to help train you and your entire ministry team as you seek to grow and develop in life in ministry. Every single week, we provide a weekly toolkit which has all types of tools in it to help you do just that. Now you can find this at PastorServe.org/network. That’s PastorServe.org/network. And there you will find all of our shows, all of our episodes and all of our weekly toolkits. Now inside the toolkit are several tools including video links and audio links for you to share with your team. There are resource links to different resources and tools that were mentioned in the conversation, and several other tools, but the greatest thing is the ministry leaders growth guide. Our team pulls key insights and concepts from every conversation with our amazing guests. And then we also create engaging questions for you and your team to consider and process, providing space for you to reflect on how that episode’s topic relates to your unique context, at your local church, in your ministry and in your life. Now you can use these questions in your regular staff meetings to guide your conversation as you invest in the growth of your ministry leaders. You can find the weekly toolkit at PastorServe.org/network We encourage you to check out that free resource. Until next time, I’m Jason Daye encouraging you to love well, live well, and lead well. God bless.
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