Here is the link for today’s service. Today I started a new series and talked about what the Bible says about “anger”. Give it a listen!
I am a young pastor, and I do not presume to think that I can offer up much worthwhile advice and encouragement to a new generation entering the ministry. I do think, however, that any amount of experience has its own level of anecdotal instruction that can be offered to anyone willing to listen.
This week, I have thought about what I have learned in my decade of formal ministry (volunteer and paid) and I think there are some things that are worth sharing. Some items being shared in this blog are a result of frustration that has helped to grow me as a minister. Other points are simply things I that have come to mind. Just know that none of them are meant to demean, discourage, or demonstrate anger. I just feel these things need to be said.
I love learning. Sometimes the learning involved pain, and other times it was a result of great joy.
Today, I want to share 5 Things I Have Learned As a Pastor.
People prioritize what matters
Sunday after Sunday pastors all over the world work their hardest to preach, teach, and display the Gospel in their lives. Their families often feel the brunt of the time and effort they put into sharing vision, meeting with those in need, and attending business meetings. Sometimes a pastor will give their all for a congregation who seem to look at the idea of worship as “something they will attend if they have nothing else to do”. Don’t get me wrong. Pastors are thankful that anyone shows up for worship, but we now live in a Christian culture that has prioritized other things over meeting together as was commanded of us in scripture.
Discouragement is only temporary
I’m going to let you in, behind the scenes, for a moment on what pastors talk about when they are together. Sometimes we talk about how things are progressing with the church. Other times we talk about how discouraged we are in a particular area of ministry. For some people in ministry, short seasons of discouragment end in resignation. It is easier to quit than to persevere. When discouragement comes, and it certainly will, it is always vital to lean into God and rely on His promises. The seasons of discouragement do not last forever. They can just be painful. When we tap into God’s resolve, then we find times of great spiritual wealth and ministerial progress.
There will be resistance
No matter what God has asked a person in ministry to do, resistance to that call is inevitable. Sometimes there is resistance because the author of lies is creating unnecessary conflict in the church. Other times (I am speaking to myself here) it is because personal pastoral agendas are forced and God’s will is not taken into account. Pastors are not exempt from being stubborn or having human thoughts, emotions, or actions. A consistent prayer life trains the mind and heart to more readily pick up Christ’s signals and gentle nudgings.
Lives matter to God
When looking at scripture, it is apparent that God has spent a lot of time showing humanity His love. Sure, there are times of discipline, but the way He guided the Israelites out of captivity, restored them multiple times after their transgressions. sent Himself to die, and gave us the Holy Spirit, no one can deny the energy that has gone into God’s affection for us. He calls pastors to be distributors of this love and grace. Christians in general have this call on their lives as well, and are compelled to share this message with the world. So, when someone comments that a pastor’s focus is “all about numbers”, they are actually somewhat correct. Every person matters to God, and He came to die for every single one. A pastor’s job is a response to this concept.
Often times, more energy is spent on lemurs than butterflies
Ok, so this one is a difficult topic to talk about. Now, I do not want to sound harsh or condescending, but this idea breaks my heart so I felt as if I needed to share. You may read this heading and be somewhat confused, but allow me to explain. I wrote another blog post a while ago that compared the personalities found in the church to animals that live in a zoo. Lemurs are animals that live in trees and eat berries and bugs. When there are no more berries or bugs in the tree they move on to another one that will suit their needs. Butterflies start as caterpillars, and camp out in trees or bushes. They are sheltered by the tree and allow themselves to be transformed. Often churches respond to God’s call to help those in need (in and out of the church), and sometimes it is the “lemurs” get the most attention. In the church, it is often the case that the ones that are the most helped are the first ones to leave. The church is a great place to seek transformation. No matter the result, though, we are called to serve.
Overall, I can honestly say that God has blessed me more than I deserve. His calling on my life to participate in the transformation of souls is something that invigorates me. Ideas keep me going, and His spirit not only makes up for my inadequacies, but moves me out of the way completely. He has also given me an amazing church family.
If you are a young pastor leading a church today, I implore you to lean on that calling. Don’t quit. It is a very difficult job, and it is not going to get any easier. You are not going to make millions and you may struggle to help grow the congregation you are in. Don’t be a “corporate ladder” type of pastor and just move to the next bigger church for the nice facility and salary package. There is a large family sitting in your pews waiting to see revival, and their souls need it. Be vulnerable, and build deep relationships. What if they leave? Well, then you will be deeply hurt, but don’t run away from being hurt. God’s call means more.
There is a story that’s more than lore
About believers who have come before
Those who sought Jesus over earthly more
And earnestly asked him to save
These folks acknowledged the pain he bore
And answered when He knocked on the door
They found meaning they always longed for
And loved the grace He gave
To them, serving was not a chore
When they prayed, they felt their hearts soar
Scripture changed their very core
Their eternal future was gilded and paved
Then one day our precious Lord
Ferried them to the beautiful shore
Asking them to trust Him just once more
And ride the uncertain wave
When they did, they found what they were created for
Streets of gold and everyone they adore
Waiting at the golden door
And the joy that God naturally gave
So what can we learn from this report?
Well, whether long or even short
Our earthly time is not for sport
And eternal life starts before the grave.
I wanted to encourage you to listen to the most recent podcast. In this recording, I wanted to briefly reflect on implications from Biblical Exile…in comparison to the division we see today in our political system. The voting booth should not be our sacrificial altar. Click on the player below. You can also subscribe to my podcast through iTunes!
Also, check out a post I made a couple years ago pertaining to voting. Perhaps this will shed some light on where our minds and hearts should be. Click here!
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.
Today, 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.
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There are 2 strange letters
on your word I see
Their placement on the front
Doesn’t make sense to me
I am pretty good at reading
But these 2 don’t fit
They don’t describe what I see
It’s the meaning I don’t get
The first letter I have seen
In books and other things
The second is also familiar
But confusion is what it brings
The word is badly changed
And it doesn’t reflect the truth
It doesn’t show how I see you
Whether aged or in your youth
These 2 strange letters
Throw everything off track
They mess up your description
And set the meaning back
Without these intruders
The definition wonderfully fits
They initially seem harmless
But shatter hearts to bits
The letters are “I” and “M”
But I remind you they don’t work
The accuser uses them untruthfully
To diminish the Master’s work
The word in question is “perfect”
And in its purest form
Is how I look at you daily
Through sunshine, snow, or storm
Don’t let the enemy convince you
That you are not good enough
And that God can’t possibly love you
With all of your broken stuff
While you may be human
And lacking in many things
You are perfect; you are loved
You are a child of the King
I have launched a NEW podcast today (Simple Chat podcast)! I would appreciate your support….
Listen, Share, SUBSCRIBE.
I will post an episode the first of every month. Today, I even gave you a bonus episode.
Click on the picture to go to the iTunes listings…Check it out on Soundcloud as well!
Ladies and gentlemen
Welcome to the main event
A fight of the century
The bout worth every cent
In this corner, Daddy
Big, strong and wise
In the opposite; daughter
With the biggest blue eyes
This fight will put chills down your spine
It’s bound to be a thrill
Let’s listen to this verbal match
Lean in quietly and be still
The smallest one starts it off
Let’s hear her first swing
With a phrase she starts the brawl
Then Daddy steps into the ring
“I love you so much” she begins
We can almost hear the crowd roar
Their eyes stare each other down
She gets the very first score
“I love you more than you will ever know”
Daddy says with a smug grin
Then little lady fires back
The intense struggle is about to begin
“No, I love you times a million”
She says thinking she was going to win
But Daddy was ready for her joust
He cracks his knuckles, takes a breath, and leans in
“You are out matched little one
You don’t have a prayer
Mom and I asked God for you
We loved you before you even breathed air”
Daughter tried to fire back
But Daddy didn’t let her go
There was more that needed to be said
He was not nearly out of ammo
“I love you more than wide is wide
I love you farther than the planet Mars
I love you all the way to God and back
Way past the twinkling stars
Don’t try to defeat me in this
Because you have already lost
I would do anything for you
No matter what the cost
Sometimes mom and I can get mad
And raise our voices to correct
But never forget how much we love you
You are mine, despite whether or not you object
And with that final blow
The 4 year old accepted defeat
Not a thing could be said
As she stated at her little feet
Then, suddenly she looked up
with joyful tears in her eyes
She kissed Daddy on the cheek
And he realized this was all a guise
All she really wanted
Was to hear her Daddy say
That He loved her without conditions
And then she ran off to play.
Do you ever wonder why people are born with disabilities? If I were to be honest, I have these thoughts and I know many people have similar questions. One may wonder, “If God is good, then why are people born this way?”
I have many theories on things like this, but I imagine 90% of the theories I maintain would be nothing more than religious platitudes that seek only to push the issues aside and “Jesus” them away. In these conversations, it can be unhealthy to give canned “Sunday School” answers that are often spouted by people with the greatest intentions.
I do not really know why people are born with various ailments, malformations, and general physical obstacles, but I do know that so many times, people in these circumstances can bring the most inspirational value to the people around them. For instance, we may ask why Down syndrome exists, but if you have a family member with this genetic makeup, you know that people in this situation often love more deeply and enjoy life on a different level than others. I use these folks as an example because one could argue that many of them often have different hurdles to overcome.
People who are born physically or mentally “different” than your “average” person often do a lot to inspire the world around them. Now, don’t hear me saying (somehow) that I believe that people are born with disabilities, conditions, or ailments for our amusement or selfish gain. No, in fact the story in the Gospel of John comes to mind regarding the man who was born blind. The disciples asked Jesus why this man was born blind (thinking it was because of the sin of him or his parents). Jesus, however gave them a shocking answer. “This man was born blind so that the glory of God would be seen in him”, was the odd response. In this example the man was released from his life obstacle, but this also shows us that anyone’s story can be used for His glory!
My Uncle Jay was very much like this man described in John. Jay was born with cerebral palsy and early on his ability to walk was taken away. Despite this, Jay led a very active life. He worked, engaged socially with the world around him, and even dated from time to time. On top of this, he was a volunteer minister for a long time at his local church. He lived independently until several years ago when he entered into a nursing home.
We, as a family, knew that his life expectancy was much shorter than your average person, but when he finally passed away this year, he was just shy of 57 years old; which is far older than the doctor’s predicted.
Jay never complained about his lack of mobility or grumbled about his situation. He exhibited joy even when we knew he was tired and weary.
Funny story that turned into a lesson: In Jay’s final moments, we stood around his bed battling with the decision to remove him from life support. We gathered as a family and said goodbye as we cried together and shared stories of our life with him. The hospital wanted to give us our necessary privacy, and respectfully drown out any background noise of beeping monitors and nurses socializing so they turned on the radio. The music started playing and we weren’t really paying much attention to the words, but my ears perked up as the radio began to play “another one bites the dust” at the same time my uncle struggled to take his last breath. I brought this to the attention of the rounding doctor and the music was turned off. We had a little laugh about that, and it reminded us that there was going to be joy just on the other side for Jay. We were happy and sad simultaneously.
My Dad decided to choose the music and turned on a Christian station via a radio app on his phone. The song that played was “Eye of the Storm” by Ryan Stevenson. This song became our anthem throughout this hard time in our lives. It was also played at his funeral.
Here are some of the lyrics:
In the eye of the storm
You remain in control
And in the middle of the war
You guard my soul
You alone are the anchor
When my sails are torn
Your love surrounds me
In the eye of the storm
In my next post, I will dive further in the concept of dying. I know this seems morbid, but it can be joyful as well… All I will tell you is, sometimes, we all just need a tour guide…