The Killing

lamb

The priest thrusted the knife into the lamb, and within seconds the animal was slain. After some the blood was collected for later, the fire was built to burn the remains. The first part of the atonement process was complete, and he was only beginning an intense spiritual journey on behalf of the people.

As he shuffled toward the water basin, he couldn’t help feeling very uncomfortable. All his life, he was told that contact with blood and death made one unclean. That was bad enough out in public, but it was sinful to enter the temple if you knew you were unclean. In s technical sense, he was sinning, but he knew that God required it, so it wasn’t sinful. Perhaps, then, he was representing sin.

He approached the water with calculated reverence but somewhat of an impatient anticipation. He ritually said a prayer and quoted the Torah then plunged his hands into the tepid water. The water became tinted, and he move on his way into the tent. He took a deep breath and prayed with each step.

He would never consider questioning God or His highest purposes, but admittedly he couldn’t help but wonder why blood had to be involved. If God wanted, He could require grain, coins, or some concrete action of devotion. Why death? Why such permanence? Perhaps, the High Priest thought, the answer is in the question. Permanence. When a created being is killed, there is no purpose left on earth for it. There is no turning back. Considering a second option such as something superficial we could simply take out of our personal inventory would not be as powerful, because we would not feel the weight of the action. Plus, the lamb symbolizes innocence. It is animate. It has breath. It has gender, and a role within its family. Taking away this creature disrupts life to an extent.

The High Priest entered the place and he was alone. Even though he just walked in, he could already smell the incense. He couldn’t think about that right now because that was near the end. His attention was grabbed by the flickering of the candle stand. His heart began to beat out of his chest. He felt a sense of fear that seems appropriate and even healthy considering the context.

As he slowly walked to his ultimate destination, the priest’s mind slightly wandered back to the mental picture of the slain lamb. He remembered the look in the animal’s eyes as it took its final breath. It was an odd combination of scared and peaceful.

He snapped out of his daydream and continued…

…to be continued.

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The Approach

altar-bronze

If you think about it, the High Priest and the Lamb are two sides of the same spiritual coin. Neither one could fulfill their life’s purpose without the other.

The High Priest, as he walked and guided the lamb down the center of the city, briefly closed his eyes and inhaled deeply. He concentrated on the dressing ritual he just finished and went through the mental task list to make sure there was nothing he missed. He was interrupted by the savory smell of mutton cooked in olive oil, and immediately he remembered the task at hand.

He looked down and made eye contact with the precious animal he was guiding, and he mentally noted the ironic beauty in the events of the day. This small creature had no idea what its job was for the day, yet it seemed perfectly content with the way things were going. There was a bliss in the ignorance. With each step, other sheep from various households would bleat almost as if to tell this lamb what was about to happen. In utter joy or perhaps stupidity, the animal would answer back as if not believing what they were saying. It was almost a shame that its end would come very soon. No matter though. It had to be done.

Taking each step, the priest became more and more aware of the weight both figuratively and literally. Figuratively in the sense that he knew that what he was doing was something that he could not afford to mess up. Literally in the sense of the physical discomfort he felt wearing the necessary garments. The vest alone weighed him down, but it was a vital piece of the overall ensemble.

The High Priest silently prayed as he walked to make sure his heart and attitude were right. For a little while he could concentrate on the blessings that he as praying, but as he came closer to the Temple, he could hear the near-deafening activity that was happening in the courtyard. As he entered the front gate, a domino effect of attention was directed at him, and one by one people took notice of the fact that he was entering. The sound started to diminish, and even the commerce halted.

After the introductions, quotes, songs and psalms, the priest went about his duty and bound the feet of the lamb to bring about full submission. He readied the bowl in which he would collect the blood and looked up to make sure the fire was burning.

He raised the ceremonial knife and said a final prayer. His hands shook as if it were his first time.

The crowd went completely silent.

…to be continued

The Dressing Room

temple

Staring off in a daydream, the bleat of a lamb from the outside of the room breaks his trance. It’s almost as if this innocent creature knows what is coming. As always, even though he is completely experienced in what he was about to do, he can’t honestly say he is used to doing it. Each time a sacrifice occurs, he is at the center, and there is a great responsibility on his shoulders. After all, he is the High Priest and his job is to become unclean and kill for the cleansing of an entire nation. When he finds his focus once again, he finds himself staring into the slightly distorted reflection of a highly polished bronze mirror. It is time to get dressed, and he begins the clothing ritual.

His hands tremble as he puts on each requisite piece of clothing. With each article, he not only feels the physical weight, but he also acknowledges the spiritual, emotional, and mental gravity of what he prepares to do. The ephod goes on comfortably, but when the specialty pieces are assembled on his body, the realizations flood into his mind. There is a sense of pride that occurs due to his office but is dampened with a healthy level of fear. He runs through a catalog of memories of recent events and tries to recall any sins that he may of knowingly or unknowingly committed before going any further. After a deep breath, he continues.

It is great to be dressed as the High Priest in public. People respect you, and there is a certain celebrity status associated with the position. That however does not negate the gruesome task at hand. He looked at his reflection a final time before he tied a rope around his ankle. Tying this rope forces him to think about the importance of what he is about to accomplish. The braided rope is also a visible sign that he is imperfect and doesn’t deserve to be in God’s presence. It symbolized a possibility that he dares not think of. He thinks of the stories in which his own people treated the holiness of God with a casual apathy, and thus were struck down. He could easily die in a matter of hours. This would invalidate the absolution of an entire people group. He needed to be right with God. As the mediator of the people, he closes his eyes and breathes a desperate prayer. The only comfort he has with the thought of dying is the fact that someone can pull him out of the Holy of Holies using this rope if it does occur. He tames his beard with a little olive oil, nods his head at the mirror, and walks out of the room. He avoids eye contact with the lamb that is roped to a post outside of the room, and then their journey begins to the Temple.

God is waiting…but there is much more to do before they meet.

…to be continued.

Temple Tour (Guest Post)

World Religious Movements class, fieldtrips to Reformed Jewish, Hindu, and Buddhist temples, to observe and hear first hand the practice of their faith.  Then, God added a little extra to the field trip – He’s so good, always.

Being a Christian who loves the Jewish people as the chosen of God (chosen as ambassadors and as the lineage for the gift of Christ), I was excited to hear what the Rabbi would share with us, and just before Passover too!  The tour was lovely, and there is some artwork that I would like to return and view, but I confess, it broke my heart.  Then, it called me to repentance.

Over and again, the cry of the Old Testament is ‘you have forgotten your first love, I Am the One who brought you out of bondage, and you have wandered away from Me.’  With gracious candor, we were told first hand that the goal and objective is social justice, and that in reviewing the Exodus, all should recognize the need to bring justice and freedom to others.  This is worthy, and beautiful, but it’s a bit off target.  God has become distant to them, and yet, have we not also pushed Him aside to chase lesser or more immediately demanding things?  I have, and for that I’m truly sorry.

This was the overriding theme for my memory of the visit, but there were positive points.  Two books were recommended, ‘American Grace’ (how religion unites & divides) and a chapter entitled ‘This Bread’ (reflections on Passover and Easter) from a 2 volume set named ‘My People’s Passover Haggadah’ (Vol 1Vol 2Review).  One matter that gets pointed out is that in Passover, the sacrifice comes before the meal – in Easter, the meal comes before Jesus’ sacrifice.  Even in this, He turned the prevailing ‘way of doing things’ on it’s head. 

The Passover Seder is designed to be a full-sensory experience, involving sound, sight, smell, taste, and touch in the expression and memory, to bring about the most complete participation and impact possible.   When considering the Exodus, each person is to view it as God personally reaching to rescue them, individually, from bondage.  In turn, they are to seek to rescue others from oppression and social injustice, in any forum or form they find it.  There is a widely published assertion that the central passage in the Bible (New Testament included) is Psalm 118:8 It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in man.”  The Rabbi pointed out, in relation to this view of the Passover and proper response, that the central passage in the Torah (we know it as the Old Testament) is Leviticus 19:18 “…thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself: I am the LORD.” (Actually, in just now looking it up, I find Leviticus 19 to be the likely source text for Jesus’ statements in Matthew 5 – will do more research on that.)

He mentioned that over the past few decades, there has been a broadening of the spectrum of Jewish observance and the definition of what it means to be Jewish.  Originally, the Jewish heritage was seen as being passed through the mothers (which brings up some interesting points for another post).  Now, one may be Jewish by matrilineal heritage or by conversion, and this may apply to ethnicity and/or faith.  Strict adherance to rules against intermarriage between Jews and those of other ethnicities and faiths has mostly gone by the wayside, and the children may be brought up as Jewish or not (or multi-observant), regardless of which parent has a Jewish heritage.  He also mentioned that although some still believe they are divinely called to the life of a Rabbi or full-time minister in Judaism or other faiths, He made his decision from an occupational standpoint.  This is a career in which he can study, teach, and apply himself to the betterment of his community, both the community of Jewish faith, and the diverse community that is found in his local chunk of America.  If you want to know how these ideas hit me, refer back to the paragraph on heartbreak and repentance.

Most crushing, for me, was his unguarded initial reaction to a question regarding the upcoming Passover Seder, as a burden and a pain.   True to my ongoing interpreter training, I reminded myself to keep a straight face and not burst into tears until later, in private.  I managed.  It wasn’t easy, it isn’t now.

Jesus, forgive us, when the opportunity to recall and celebrate your most precious gifts to us are seen as a bothersome inconvenience.  As though living among us, from diapers to crucifixion and all the issues of warped humanity in between, was ~convenient~.

In the trip to the Hindu temple, I did not carry the same yearning for something insightful, nor the same disappointment.  (I do wish we would have had a deaf person and an interpreter with us, as it was extremely difficult to hear our tour guide, occasionally impossible.)  I found myself praying for the people there who were diligently seeking enlightenment and release from the heavy weight of negative karma.  The idols, made of various materials, require great care, yet they can do nothing but sit silent and unhearing as those that regard them carefully follow the dictates of ritual, in hopes of a better life next time around.  Are we similar?  Do we carefully follow the dictates of ‘do & do not’ in hopes that the God we visit occasionally will grant us the better life after we leave this one?  How often do we forget that the weight has been lifted, and to Him we owe every moment?  How often do we forget to turn to the one who is alive, attentive, and active?

Speaking of active…  we went to our next destination and arrived significantly early, so our group walked around the corner and quietly, respectfully, entered a lovely Monastery.  8-10 monks were in the process of singing their praise and prayers – the unison of these male voices resonated in the sanctuary.  The wood, marble, and stained glass were exquisite.  After they filed out, one returned to be gracious – he set aside his vow of silence for a few moments to greet and welcome us, point out visitor information, and answer a couple of questions.  Then he politely requested that we make certain the door was latched as we exited.  It wasn’t supposed to be open at that time.  Hmm… oops… and yet, a much needed blessing.  Thank You, Lord, for some surprise “Jesus time” in the middle of an idol-filled day.

After this, we went down the street a bit and found what we thought to be a Greek Orthodox church – it turned out to be Polish Catholic, one of the oldest churches in the area, and one of the few to remain after a recent thinning.  (There had been about a dozen Catholic churches, each serving a different socio-linguistic group, as set up in the early years of America’s immigrant communities.)  Again, the architecture and artwork was fabulous, and the music of the huge pipe organ washed over my spirit.

The altar had some decorations that caught my attention – cameo carvings, and in my mind, an invitation to reflect and pray about our own involvement in Jesus’ crucifixion.  We were there, by proxy, yet in our daily lives we may revisit those same issues even now.  The carvings were –

  • a torch – when the mob went to the garden in the dark of night
  • a sword and rod – when both religion and government were against Him
  • a sword and ear – when Peter took matters into his own hands
  • a money bag and coins – when Judas traded Christ for material greed
  • a whip – complete with the barbs that tore His flesh to ribbons
  • a rope – the self imposed price of betrayal, as Judas hanged himself
  • a pitcher & basin – the attempt by Pilate to claim innocence
  • a rooster – a reminder that our pride cannot conquer peer pressure, yet our Lord already knows ahead of time that we are weak, and He went through it all anyway

There were sculptures highlighting various moments in the journey to the cross, then the tomb.  It hits me now, I didn’t see anything about the fact that the tomb is now vacant…hmm… we tend to forget that part sometimes.  Other sculptures were veiled in purple fabric.  Our gracious host pointed out that during this time, Holy Week, all is in mourning, but on resurrection morning, all veils will be lifted in celebration of Christ’s victory over death, the grave, and grief.  He invited us to look around and stay as long as we wished – then mentioned that our timing on entry was perfect – the doors were supposed to be locked.  Thank You, again, for a few more moments of focusing on You in the middle of this day.

Next stop, the Buddhist temple, and quite a sermon.  In the natural, let me say that I’m no longer built for extended floor-sitting – kudos to the much older ladies and gentlemen who do just that, for the sake of their faith.  The nun who greeted us was very sincere in her beliefs and that which she sought to convey, from the Buddhist perspective.   I, for one, heard some very convicting words from the Lord as she spoke…

  • Why do you study your faith?  Is it not to gain wisdom and learn to be in community with your God?
  • How intently do you study?  How can you expect to be of service to others if you haven’t put the time and effort into communing with your God and internalizing what He has revealed of Himself?
  • Why should the Buddha, or your God, help you in a moment of need or concern, if you don’t do anything to acknowledge and serve him any other time?
  • It is not enough to believe in God in passing, one must be in communion with Him, and through that communion be increasingly purified of the bad in ourselves, while learning from Him how to live pure lives and become pure.
  • None of us are born innocent – all carry the heavy weight of negative karma from past lives (we carry the corrupt nature that was passed down from the fall in Eden).  If you should live 100 years, doing good things, avoiding murder, adultery, drunkenness, theft, and lying…you will still find yourself, in some weak protectionist moment, telling a lie to save yourself some pain.  That moment, that small lie, is enough to mar the rest.
  • Lying, in their definition, includes gossip, slander, and rude joking. (now, re-read the previous point, and see what the Bible says in Romans 3, especially v23 – ALL have sinned and fall short of the Glory of God)
  • Why is it that the doors of Christian churches are often locked?  People may enter the temples at any time of any day to pray, but Christians go only a few times a week.  How is that enough?
  • You fill up on bad karma 6 days a week, not communing with your God, not letting Him purify you, then you have 1 day a week when you focus on Him and gather in the church to worship and pray.  How is that enough?
  • A nun’s day is full – preparation and service to the Buddhas and guardians of the dharma (the way to enlightenment), going out to serve others, a little food for herself, serving those who come to the temple, studies, and prayer/meditation.  How is there time for else?
  • One more message – knowing who we were, where we came from, and that we already had a belief system, she still unabashedly invited us to come back and learn what we needed to know so that we could move toward purity and enlightenment.  She still testified to her faith and invited us to join her.  Are we such faithful missionaries, do we care so much for the souls of others, really?

They’ve got us, honestly.  The Pagans, Hindus, Buddhists, Muslims, Reformed Jews, etc…  They out-steward us in caring for the natural resources God has provided.  They out-minister us in caring for the needs of others in their communities and around the world, whether those needs be physical or related to social justice.  They out-grace us in welcoming others who are dirty or poor or different, even those who have a different belief about the world and the ultimate matters.  They out-dedicate us in worship and reverence for their chosen deities.  They out-simple us in their rejection or communal sharing of material goods.  They out-discipline us in avoiding that which is understood to be sinful.  Honestly, is there room to wonder why they can’t hear us when we try to tell them we know the One True Way to rid ourselves of the pervasive weight of sin and grow in the relationship that will ultimately lead to eternal joy in the home and presence of the Creator?  And if you think I’m overboard or off-base, read the book of James.

Now, before you get excited or discouraged that I ‘saw the light in a Buddhist temple’, there were other things I took note of…  she mentioned 84,000 different ways to follow Buddha… that anyone can become a Buddha (eventually, with dedication, etc), reminiscent of the serpent’s offer:

Genesis 3: 4And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die: 5For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.

She went to great lengths to tell us over and again how the path is not so easy, not so glib, that many lives of dedication are required to purify us of bad karma (and how could we say that believing in Jesus in one lifetime is enough?), right before she spent another few paragraphs telling us that if we call on the name of one particular deity 7 times over 7 days, that deity will come for our souls when we die and take us to the pure land.  The fact that she diligently made two absolutely opposing points didn’t phase her.

~Written by Janeen Jarrell at sglass.net

A New Ministry Model

ministry modelWhether or not I have consciously realized it, I have been on a quest for over a decade to discover the perfect ministry model. In pastoral circles, we use the phrase “ministry model” to categorize a system of programs and ideas that lead the pastor on a trajectory of success in their respective calling.

In ministry, according to what most instructors, consultants, books and mentors tell us is that success in the role of a pastor has more to do with people accumulated under our scope of ministry than anything else. The bigger the church or program grows (in the shortest time possible), the more successful the ministry. In recent years, I have challenged leaders to redefine success as “a consistent and unwavering focus on God’s mission in the world.” So, in essence, I guess you could say that I am challenging our definition of success.

I know what you are thinking. I am a heretic when it comes to ministry preparation. I hear the justification all the time that the interaction of the Holy Spirit in the life of ministry automatically means exponential growth. “Biblically, anything that the Holy Spirit has [his] hand in grows quickly…” is a phrase or inference that is often conveyed. This, however, is actually not always true. When this justification is brought up, the mental image of the massive growth of the New Testament Pentecost event is visualized. The spiritual domino effect of this was mind boggling. In many people’s minds, when the Holy Spirit is unleashed and active, this is what happens. Things go crazy and, as scripture says “people are added to the group daily”. There is not much wrong with this thought process, but it doesn’t give a full look at a larger story. The fact is, when we truly look at scripture as a unified story, we realize that the Holy Spirit has initiated growth on many different levels and in many different ways. At times, we see the Holy Spirit’s transformative power in one on one interactions. Other times, we see power unleashed through the healing of a man or woman. In even more rare occasions, we see massive groups converted in bulk. Whatever the case may be, there is great evidence to suggest that God’s awesome power is not limited by our metrics, and He is creative. Keep in mind, Jesus’ ministry was not one based on rapid expansion but consistent commitment to His purpose on earth.

My heart has been heavy for a long time concerning ministry preparation. I feel like we, as a Christian culture, have adopted a “Henry Ford” model of education and training (assembly line). It seems as if pastors have stepped into a process in which they are given a “cookie cutter” system of practices and expectations to help them be successful in the task of attracting large crowds. In the same way, whether it is purposeful or not, we are being told that there are only certain personality mixes that are eligible for pastoral ministry. I will write about this concept in my next blog post.

I think we need to rethink the way we do ministry. Passing clergy through an assembly line of preparation is simply not Biblical. I also think we need to consider a new model of ministry. There are 3 things I think we need to emphasize in this new thrust (which is not new at all):

  1. Shepherd shaped development– Too often, we are calling a new minister to seek to be someone God has never called to them be. We think that, in the best case scenario, and if everything goes well, this pastor will become the local community celebrity and gain a massive following (as long as God “blesses” them). Instead, when a leader does not reach that expectation, they become frustrated and even question their ministerial call. What if we put more effort to teach new pastors to become a shepherd? The position of shepherd implies not only a mentality of guiding, but also sending. A shepherd will send the herd forward, and when they need it, come alongside and direct. When a pastor is shepherd, they dedicate themselves to a community, and they spend energy in making sure that each person is cared for, and loved. They develop trust and deeper concern. It is hard and messy. It is not easy. It will frustrate the leader. It is immensely worth the time.

  1. Pastor as Healer – Sometimes, as Christians, we get a wrong impression about the word “healing”. Perhaps we cringe or our mind drifts to televangelists who misunderstood the gifts of the Spirit. In this context, the word healer and soother could be interchangeable. The idea is that a leader can and should seek to be an influence that provides care, infuses peace, and speaks life into everyone they encounter. Also, the minister should develop a desire to see that other leaders are brought through rejuvenation.

  1. Minister as a trainer/ mentor – There is nothing more satisfying than to experience someone, that you have poured time and energy into, grow and take ownership of their own area of ministry. This person may have started out as skeptical about the Gospel, but now they are leading others to Jesus! This is energizing! Pastors across the board should be doing this. I know that many leaders would say that their role is to pour into a smaller group so that this small group can pour into the masses. This is absolutely true. This would be a great example of what this concept looks like in a larger ministry setting.

Let me be clear. I have nothing against the larger worship communities and I think that they can be incredible assets to the Kingdom of God. My problem is that we often expect every leader to look the same and we base success off of statistics and sometimes arbitrary metrics. I understand that many are only trying to harness these principles for efficiency…and many are doing this….but let’s not take these ideas and consider every other ministry arbitrary if they are not “falling in line”. Some leaders are gifted and called to lead smaller communities, and they should be encouraged, and equipped to develop passionate disciples in that context.

In my next blog post, I will speak about the personalities that make up a church and the internal wiring of a pastor. I think we are being told, as implied before, that only a certain type of person is a valid candidate for ministry. Spoiler alert: scripture counteracts this idea.

Love you all,

-Landon DeCrastos

Is Bivocational Ministry a Sin?

bivo ministryToday, I am going to give you a “behind the scenes” look at the life and thought process of a bivocational pastor. This category of minister is becoming more common, because we are seeing a fundamental change in the landscape of pastoral ministry. The economy is changing in a way so that many churches are not able to pay their pastor a full-time wage so they must seek employment outside of the church to support their family. It is nothing new, of course, because we know that missionaries have been doing this very thing for hundreds of years. Traditionally, we see this type of ministry done in a church with a smaller membership. The reason for this is obvious; a lack of funding. I am a bivocational pastor, and I know many of them. I don’t often hear complaints about living this lifestyle from the clergy themselves. It is necessary and most are happy to do it (albeit tired) if it means being able to give more to the church, and support their family.

Bivocational ministry can be a great blessing to the Kingdom of God. Through this method, pastors can directly interact with people in the workplace that they may not normally get to minister to. Clergy then can be immersed missionaries in all environments, and embed themselves in just about any context. These are positive aspects to this lifestyle.

Are there any negatives to living this way? Well…unfortunately there are downfalls. Pastors get tired, and as much as we can say that they need to be solely sustained by their calling, it does not negate the fact that our physical bodies and emotional capacities wear down over time. Members will sometimes become frustrated with their leader because the church may not be growing by a massive amount. Meanwhile, the minister is giving every ounce of energy they possess to two (or more) vocations and it can feel like running on a never-ending treadmill. While the pastor is at their day job, there may even be a person who needs them laying in a hospital bed, and their family is becoming frustrated because they have not yet had a visit. Often the answer is to demand more and more from the leader instead of stepping up to the plate.

Clergy that choose to live this life accept the fact that they must adapt to the needs of their position. Sometimes they drop the ball, or forget an important detail. There are times they want to say “no” because they just want one free night to themselves. At the same time, love and the desire for the broken to be healed compels them. It animates their dry bones. Changed lives ignite energy.

I have spoken with pastors who become very frustrated, because people have told them that they need to be more focused on the church and that they should quit their job and “trust God more” for finances. I would argue that this pastor should ask that wonderful parishioner to quit their job so they can volunteer at the church full-time, and see what they say. I digress. The fact is, there are many Christians who would never admit it, but by their actions, would consider bivocational ministry a sin. “Sin” of course being that which inconveniences them. What we forget is that every Christian is called to be a minister. Every believer is a missionary in their context.

Now, before I get angry emails and comments, I want to make it very clear, that I am very blessed to have a congregation that understands the costs and rewards of a pastor that is bivocational. I appreciate the fact that I can live this life with their support and encouragement.

Scripture tells us that even the Apostle Paul was a minister who worked a second job. He had an incredible passion for the Gospel. He did what God called Him to do. He looked forward and didn’t dwell in the past.

Is bivocational ministry a sin? Of course not. Let’s stop treating it that way.

Love you all.

-Landon DeCrastos

I don’t normally do this….

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Now back to regular programming 🙂

3 Things All Pastors Should Know

3 Things All Pastors Should KnowOne of the most important lessons I have learned as a pastor is that I must always maintain a teachable spirit. Ministry can be stressful and require a lot of physical, spiritual, emotional, and mental energy so making a vow to humbly learn all one can is vital. I am, by no means, an expert in the area of ministry, but I have realized that there are things I didn’t necessarily learn in seminary.  I do believe that my schooling was very valuable and I would recommend it to any pastor I speak with, but there are just so many things that must be learned on the “field” that can’t be taught.

Today, I want to speak about 3 Things All Pastors Should Know.

Sometimes your ideas are not the best ideas– Often when a pastor enters into their ministry calling, they have big and beautiful ideas about the programs, sermons, partnerships, and impact they will have in their church or organization. These types of thoughts get them excited about the endless possibilities. Then, reality sets in and when the minister makes their attempt to change the world, discouragement comes because the people they are leading are not responding in the way they imagined. Sometimes, this makes church leaders frustrated and want to give up. The fact is, this realization does have to be a bad thing. Often times, the best thing that could happen in pastoral ministry is for the anointed leader to come to terms with the fact that they are not the most creative person in the church. Perhaps there are others that, if listened to, and given authority, can set the church up to fulfill the call that God has given them. Now, don’t get me wrong, the pastor is the person who articulates the agenda for the group they are shepherding, but don’t forget that there are others who are blessed with great talent and creativity. They can be a powerful force for ministry too.

Don’t make your ministry a career – My heart breaks when I see pastors moving from church to church in a relatively short amount of time. In a way, I get it. Sometimes one church is not a great fit and we make mistakes discerning where God wants us. The problem comes, though, when a minister is always in search of that next larger church as if it is some sort of “promotion”. When we do this, we start to look at people as a consumer good or inanimate object. We also begin to look at each spiritual interaction as a means to an end for our benefit. Pastor…YOU MUST STOP THIS! The people who are in front of you are hurting and need someone to lead them into their own Promised Land. You could be their Moses (well, technically Joshua but you get my point). Don’t leave your ministry until God calls you to do so. And, no, God’s only way of “calling you” is not through the avenue of more influence, comfort, and a higher salary. Snap out of it.

It’s okay to admit you are wrong – It is often tempting, as a pastor, to believe that the people who we lead in ministry think of us as flawless human beings who can do no wrong. This is obviously false. There are times when the pastor is wrong, and if they are stubborn about admitting this quickly then their influence will be tarnished. People want leaders who are transparent and who understand their pain. If their shepherd won’t admit and embrace their humanity then they become irrelevant. We don’t have all the answers and we can’t fix every problem. We can, however love people through their own mess.

I wish I would have learned a lot of these things earlier in ministry. I think it would make me a better leader today. It’s okay, though, because God is still using me and I am anxious to continue to grow.

Love you all.

-Landon DeCrastos

Go to Sleep!

You know what question
Gets under my skin?

What part of left
Becomes right again?

Also how much sky touches the ground
Or how much upright is upside down?

How much red is found in blue?
How much desert is covered in dew?

What about laughing that turns into a frown
Or how secretly unhappy are whimsical clowns?

Does it really matter how much a hen weighs?
Or how many hours add up to days?

How loud and heavy is a plop?
How many flips are in a flop?

Why are people different than they seem?
Why don’t we ever see grape ice cream?

Who has the job of inspecting my flight?

Or

Who invented the original kite?

All of these things swirl in my head
And make me toss and turn in my bed

But…the answer to all of these
Will never change the earth

Nor will the constant worry
We have experienced from birth

So take a moment to calm your mind
And leave your concern far behind

You don’t really have to be the one
To know all the answers under the sun

Take a breath.
Go to sleep.
Your day is complete.

Even though slumber sounds like an impossible feat.

Goodnight.

-Landon DeCrastos