Professional clergy are in constant danger of being so consumed by their congregational duties that ministry in their local neighborhood is minimized or neglected altogether. The demands of the institution press upon the pastor with a vengeance. This often leaves the pastor, as well as the congregation, un-engaged and isolated from their wider community. This drift towards an inward focus must be deliberately resisted.
In the 1940’s Dietrich Bonhoeffer noted “The church is only the church when it exists for others.” So among other things he suggests, “clergy must live solely on the free-will offerings of their congregations, or possibly engage in some secular calling” (Letters and Papers from Prison). This proposal is radical, still every pastor should consider the spirit of Bonhoeffer’s words and choose to engage the neighborhood. The possibilities are many: serve as a police or fire chaplain, join a service club, meet regularly with other ministers, get involved in community efforts, serve the poor.