(Photo: National Community Church)
In observance of Pastor Appreciation Month, The Christian Post asked influential and innovative pastor Mark Batterson, 39, of National Community Church in Washington, D.C., to reflect on his pastoral ministry and Junky Car Club membership.
1. How are you feeling currently/lately as a pastor?
I can’t believe I get to do what I do. It’s not like I don’t have bad days. I do. But I love helping people reach their God-given potential and that is the essence of my role as Lead Pastor at National Community Church. NCC is my first stab at pastoral ministry-it’s all I know. And I’ve been doing it for 13 years!
2. How would you describe your job?
My role is to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable. Over the years I’ve grown more comfortable with making people uncomfortable because that is when growth can happen. You need a little conflict. You need a little tension. And that is part of my calling. A little tough love goes a long way!
In terms of my responsibilities, my primary responsibilities are 1) casting vision for our congregation 2) teaching the Word and 3) leadership of our staff. We have a wonderful team that takes a lot of pressure off of me and allows me to do what I do best.
3. In general, do you feel the public or even Christians view the role of a pastor differently these days compared to a decade or so ago?
I think a pastor used to be viewed as the one-stop ministry shop. The pastor served on every committee, volunteered at every event, and made all the hospital visits. I think that is changing and I think that is healthy. Both for the pastor and the congregation. In a sense, I think we’ve cultivated a codependency in our churches. We expect the pastor to pray for us, study for us, disciple our kids for us. That isn’t healthy. I want to empower people to take responsibility, use their gifts, and make a difference.
For the record, when I first started out in ministry, I was trying to be a pastor. Now I’m trying to be myself. And there is a big difference!
4. You purchase "Junky Car Club" cars. Why? (And I'm sorry to hear your recent one got stolen)
I’m a proud member of the Junky Car Club. It allows us to give more money to missions. Honestly, after a recent theft, I’m glad it was a junky car! By the way, who steals a 97 Honda with 225,000 miles on it?
5. You continue to opt for renting small venues and expanding through multi-site rather than purchasing a piece of property or big building. Why?
We love marketplace environments like movie theaters and coffeehouses. And doing church in those environments has become part of our DNA. And I think it’s patterned after the approach Jesus took. He didn’t just hang out at the synagogue. He hung out at wells. Wells were natural gathering places in ancient culture. Coffeehouses are postmodern wells. So we built a well where the church and community can hang out.
Meeting in rented facilities can be a little chaotic and unpredictable, but I think that is healthy for us. It keeps us dependent on God. And it keeps us flexible.
6. Your congregation has you, their pastor, to turn to when they need someone to talk to or seek spiritual guidance. Do you have anyone in particular you go to?
I’m blessed to have some wise mentors in my life. So grateful for Dr. Robert Rhoden and Dick Foth. Both of them are former pastors and both of them have guided me through lots of situations and seasons. I’m also an avid podcast listener so I’ve got half a dozen preachers that I listen to on my ipod when I’m working out at the gym.
7. Is being a pastor really a 24/7 job?
In the church planting phase it was, but I’ve learned to build boundaries into my schedule. For example, I give the church one night a week. Why? Because my kids need their dad. I need to help with homework or coach their teams or just be around the house. I’m pretty intentional about being highly invested in my kids’ lives. I also guard my day off and use all of my vacation days. I owe it to my family and I owe it to my church to do that.
8. What are you currently preaching on?
Right now we’re in a series titled Ritual. We’re talking about ancient rituals that we practice like communion and Sabbath and tithing. It’s so easy to learn how and forget why. And that is when a ritual becomes an empty ritual. So we’re trying to reverse-engineer the rituals we practice in a way that makes them more meaningful.
Our next series will revolve around my next book titled Primal: A Quest for the Lost Soul of Christianity.
9. Did you have another career in mind other than pastoring?
When I was a kid I wanted to play in the NFL. For a while I had some political aspirations. And I was a pre-law major in college. But I’m awfully glad I ended up in ministry.
10. Who are you rooting for in the NFL?
I’m a lifelong Vikings and Packers fan because I lived in both Minnesota and Wisconsin as a kid. This season? Really pulling for Brett Favre and the Purple People Eaters!