Almost every time I hear a new song or read an article or even watch a commercial on TV, I run it through my “pastor filter”. This means I listen to the song with my “can we use this at church?” ears. I see a billboard, come across a concept in marketing or experience great/rotten customer service in a local restaurant – all with the same vision: is there something I can learn here that we can apply in ministry? I have a hard time disengaging my “pastor filter”. Even when I read scripture, most of the time I am wondering how God wants to apply the principles in an upcoming message.
While God probably doesn’t mind me walking through life consumed with ways to make the ministry more effective, there are times when my “pastor filter” hinders me. Sometimes He doesn’t want me to use what I am experiencing for the benefit of others. Sometimes, He simply wants me to know something for me. There is message preparation that I have to do which includes (duh) Bible reading. But there are other times He just wants to speak to me through His Word. I have to know the difference and make time for both. I heard a new song a few weeks ago that I really liked and immediately started plotting where we could plug it in in a future worship experience. But the thought came to me, this one is for you to just enjoy. By the way, the song is Starry Night (live version) by Chris August. Great song!
If I am not careful to monitor when my pastor filter is working, I can get into trouble. My relationship with God and my experience in the world can become completely about my work for Him. I have to be sure that first my relationship with Him is about us – Him and me. Not everything He says to me is for the benefit of those with whom I work. There are some passages of the Bible that speak to me – for me. There are some friendships that are not ministry related – He wants me to have friends because they are good for me, and me for them. And I should be able to laugh at a commercial without trying to find a sermon illustration.
If you are a leader of any kind, learn how to turn your filter off. Or better yet, when it is supposed to be on and when it is supposed to be off. Both are important.