I feel a little guilty
Having been a pastor myself, I know how difficult a job that is. It is even more difficult in a divisive election year. Then add a heavy layer of pandemic on top of all that. It’s rough. So, I’ve been feeling a little guilty this week since some of my last blog post was aimed at pastors who, when speaking to peers, are critical of lay-led Bible studies.
That does not include all pastors, thank God. One not included in that crowd happens to be my own pastor, Tyler Tankersley. On most Sundays of this pandemic, Tyler has been sitting in on virtual classes that meet on Sunday mornings via Zoom. I asked him to respond to my article, expressing why he supports lay-led Bible studies. Here is what he said:
My pastor responds
My Grandpa Bill has always said, “The secret to happiness in life is not thinking yourself as more important than you are and not thinking of yourself as less important than you are.” When I was in the midst of the search process that led me to my current pastorate, I was once asked the question, “How much of your week do you tend to spend on sermon prep?” It’s a fair question that is often asked of pastors and most of us will probably allocate at least a quarter or more of our time to crafting and writing our sermons. However, as seriously as I take the set-apart and holy duty of proclamation, I am wise enough to know that for most people in the congregation that sermon has a shelf-life of maybe a day or two. Most of them will have forgotten 90% of what I said by the time they finish their lunch.
For most of the people in my congregation, much of their spiritual formation is not going to necessarily come from me. It is going to come from their Sunday School classes or their small groups. I have a deep and abiding love for those groups. Many of our classes are groups that have met for years; they have raised their children alongside one another, they have grieved losses with one another, and they have become friends who feel like family. And as small groups have become more and more important for people, I know that many of the members of my church have encountered the Holy Spirit just as clearly on a sofa in a living room as they have in the pew of a sanctuary.
What truly illumines the power of scripture is shared, intentional community.
Sermons are important and theological education matters. However, what truly illumines the power of scripture is shared, intentional community. And while I believe that serving in the role of a pastor is a sacred blessing in the lives of my congregation, I also know that the Bible truly comes alive in the midst of small groups and Sunday School classes. After all, what best captures the spirit of the early churches: An educated pastor using a sound system to deliver a prepared monologue on spiritual truths or a small group of believers discerning how best to live out the Word of God in the midst of their life together?