I received a piece of mail today addressed to "Reverend Steve Carr." I'd never call myself that but I still get a kick out of seeing it in print. I mean, who would ever consider me as being revered? My wife knows the truth. I was asked a couple of weeks ago about my title. All of our publications list me as being a teaching pastor. I chose the title myself, and I did it rather intentionally. I did so because it best expresses my position in our young church.
First, I am a pastor. Do a Greek word study [or perhaps a geek word study] and you see the terms elder, pastor, presbyter, overseer, and bishop are used interchangeably; they all refer to a shepherd. That's my role at Echo: I'm supposed to pastor our flock. Currently we only have two pastors, but we plan on developing a larger group of shepherds over the next few years.
Second, the part of the job I'm more passionate about, I am a teacher. I guess I get that passion from my parents who both love to teach. It is my role to instruct our church concerning the Word of God. I take this responsibility very seriously. I spend hours each week in study so I can share a message each Sunday. You might not think this is much work, but presenting fresh and relevant information every week forty-plus times a year ain't easy. I love the challenge; there's nothing else I'd rather do.
One thing I've discovered since we started Echo is that I'm teaching much longer than I used to. I used to feel constrained when I spoke in previous ministries, afraid I would go over on time. Now, since our services last as long as we feel like, I teach until I'm finished; when I'm finished, I stop. This means I speak anywhere from forty minutes [my average] to just shy of an hour like I did yesterday. I suppose now that this info is out there, some of you won't be visiting Echo anytime soon.
You may reason that's why we've not experienced huge growth: because I preach way to long. I've found this to be untrue. Actually, people keep coming back despite my long-windedness. I believe people are more apt to embrace this longer preaching because of two things: 1) I do prepare a lot and strive to keep it interesting and 2) I teach straight out of the Bible.
People today are extremely curious about the Bible but know very little about it. This recent Time Magazine article verifies this, claiming that more public schools are offering Bible classes so kids will be familiar with the book. As a church that values depth, we take advantage of this. Echo is committed to unpacking the mysteries of Scripture every week. We might go deeper than some people prefer, but we'll never be able to get everyone up-to-speed with basic Christian theology in just one week. So why bother trying? There's nothing wrong with making people think hard about their faith, even if it takes weeks, months, and even years to develop.
I teach the only way I know how. And I'm having fun doing it.