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Mary Magdalene’s Three Tips for Pastors

Sharon, my Mary Magdalene for the morning, was my shuttle driver between airport and hotel. Thirty minutes, just the two of us.

She…a talker! Me…not so much.

It was quickly obvious that Sharon was a representative of the growing majority of people in most communities that have clicked the “not interested in church” button.

I decided to see if Sharon wanted to share some insights…

“So, Sharon can I interrupt you and ask you a couple of questions? My wife Gail and I are on our way to do some teaching with a bunch of pastors and their spouses the next few days. Tell me three things you think I should tell them!

Sharon had to think before she landed these three:

  1. Be human… Don’t be boring.
  2. Don’t preach down to people… Teach them.
  3. Don’t think you’re better than others.

I got the “boring” thing. I’ve been trying to not be boring for a long time!

As for #2 and #3… I don’t know if I fully understood her points.

Her way of saying: Don’t be judgmental. Actually care about people! Don’t try to do something to them that they don’t want done to them.

Her way of saying:  Show some love…I’m a person.

Her way of saying:  Don’t think you have all the right answers!  (In today’s culture, it’s popular to think there are only opinions and no one possesses “right answers.”)

It’s always important for me to remember that the Word of God still changes lives and still is the keeper of “right answers”… even when people don’t know it!

Pastors and church people find it difficult to find their “voice” in demonstrating and speaking good news when they feel their voice is not valued!

It’s difficult to give permission to yourself to just participate in the lives of folks around you and watch for signals that God is on His mission in their lives.

It’s difficult to make people friends and not projects…

More and more leaders are discovering that when they enter into New Places with humble spirits they begin to connect with New Faces that can bless everyone!

So, the Mary Magdalene “thing”?

“Sharon? Favorite person in the Bible?” Sharon had tipped her hand that an influential aunt had gathered the nieces and nephews to go to Sunday School as kids. It was a big influence in her life!

No pause for thought this time…

“Mary Magdalene!”


Because Mary Magdalene did not lead a pure life, and Jesus loved her and forgave her!

It was a moment of self revelation.

Sharon and I were both blessed in our 30 minute morning. What I wish? That I had a community of people (a missional community?) that I could have invited rough-edged Sharon to come to dinner with…she obviously wasn’t going to church any time soon!

Finally…my own 3 thoughts for today:

  1. Way to go, aunts and uncles and all the rest of you who are investing in nieces and nephews and neighbors and all the rest.
  2. Way to go, pastors, for shepherding the flocks of these aunts and uncles and Sunday Schools that bless so many!
  3. And, maybe it’s time to go and start to pioneer something new outside the church…a couple of hours a week…in some of the pockets and places where rough-edged Sharons are floating around.  

It’s long… it’s slow… it’s simple… and not easy… and it will change your life and grow your faith and gift you with joy!

Jock Ficken
Rev. Dr. Jock Ficken

5 Responses

  1. Blessed to read, and to have my MO affirmed, that befriending the Sharon’s of the world is an important part of being Christ’s church in the world; thank you, Jock!
    Ascension Peace, Ingo

  2. Ronald E Meyer says:

    Brother, thanks for the memory. I recalled my Tuesday and Thursday am visits to the “new” [only] “restaurant” in town where I was first privileged to serve, rural town of 1200, church of 800. I’d set up shop, coffee in hand and wait for God’s good people to come in, some for a “hello” [this time], others for more. We’d visit about, well, just about everything you could imagine. Mostly I’d listen and inquire seeking clarifications, sometimes feelings/ emotions.
    As I recall this am, I’m struck by how huge that experience is in my ministry memories.
    Later, in another place, I did something similar in my visitations with Pastors for whom I shared responsibility and care for ministry to/ with God’s people. Thanks for the memories.

    • Jock Ficken says:

      What a great testimony Ron. Interesting how we remember some of those conversations and clearly seeing the Spirit of God working through His word to impact people with the Gospel. Thanks for the good word and thanks for fruitful, fruitful ministry!

  3. Bob Benke says:

    Churches are and have always been filled with sinful, imperfect people who need Jesus and need one another for support, encouragement – shared love and God’s Word and Sacraments.
    Thank you for sharing these important insights!

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