The Second Best Thing In My LIFE

Thirteen years ago today I was running around a church as nervous as I had ever been in my life.  My family and friends had driven from all over the Southern United States to be with us.  I wish I could say that I remember all the people who were there, the truth is their names and faces were all blurred. I stood at the front, ready to speak my part but I couldn’t be settled down until I saw her. Then it happened. The music played and she floated down the isle to me (escorted and tethered to the earth by her father).  It was a great day in the history of great days and the best part is that even though it seemed like a dream… it was all true!

We stood in front of a crowd and took our vows.  The pastor pronounced us husband and wife and let me kiss my beautiful bride for the first time.  We ran out the front doors and then came back into the sanctuary for a few last-minute pictures.  At the reception I learned about just what all came with marriage.  Her grandmother engaged me in an awkward dance of avoidance as she zeroed in for a kiss on my lips. unfortunately she won and pinned money on my awkwardly as if to claim here prize.

We headed out the door, where we were pelted with birdseed and were well on our way to our honeymoon.

As beautiful as that day was and as wonderful as it is to retell the story, it was just a day.  You see the second best thing that ever happened to me wasn’t a wedding, but our marriage. And marriage is one of those things that you don’t just look back on, you live it.  Everyday growing, learning, loving, giving, forgiving, holding, sharing, caring, hearing and walking together. Some days better than others, but always together.  And that’s the point.  Always together, through thick and thin, an ever-loving, never giving up, kind of bond that holds husband and wife together.  Its one of the most awesome things I have ever experienced on this earth.

Today we are celebrating 13 great years of marriage and looking forward with anticipation to God’s plan for our life together.

What’s the best thing that ever happened to me you ask? It’s the day that I learned that God really loved me like that.

Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.
(Ephesians  5:25-27, ESV)

3 Things I Taught My Son By Cutting The Grass.

Being a dad is a big deal. Last week I taught my seven-year-old to cut the grass (push mower). I was hesitant to unleash him with a spinning mechanical blade, but his mom wasn’t there to stop me so I went for it and I’m glad I did (just kidding, she trusts me). In the process we had several unplanned father-son moments as his attention was hyper-focused on learning to mow the grass. Here are a few that I caught myself teaching him.

cutting the grass

  1. Your Actions and Lack of Actions Affect Others.

Our first task was to fix the self-propelled components of the mower. Though he is a strong kid, he is just seven. Having the self-propelled component working would help him be successful. So we got out the tools, pulled the cover off and started cleaning things up and looking at why it didn’t work. As we were doing this together, he was goofing around and touching stuff on the mower. I knew there was no real danger since starting a mower is an involved process but I asked him, “What would happen to my hands right now if you accidentally started the mower?” Of course he knew by where my hands were that he would “cut them off.” I then asked, “Is that something you want to do?” Of course he didn’t. So I suggested that when someone is working on a machine the best thing to do is stand back and watch, unless you are asked to help.  We then talked about how all of our actions affect others.

2. It is Easy to Mistake The Symptoms for the Problem.

Once we were fixing the mower we talked about how what we perceived as the problem (the self-propelled component wasn’t working) was actually a symptom of the real problem. Likely a part had broken, a belt had slipped, or we simply got to much stray grass had gotten under the cover. As it turned out there was a ton of grass and the belt had slipped off. It was an easy fix. In the process though we talked about how in everything from lawn mowers to relationships that when something is broken, we often see the effects before we can analyze the cause. It takes wisdom to look for what caused the problem and fix it instead of just looking at the problem and complaining.

3. Always be on Guard Against Mission Drift.

Mission drift is common in everything from cutting grass to life in general. If we are not careful we will be more concerned with where we are than where we are going and in doing so we will end up way off course! Without a vision for what needs to be accomplished it is easy to worry more about pushing the mower than where you are pushing the mower too. He learned this all too quickly as the first few rows were crooked, leaving pockets of uncut grass in some places, and mowing over the same territory twice in other places. I shared that We must always keep an eye on what God has called us to or we will miss the mark simply because we thought more of the moment than we did the outcome. I applied this especially to living under authority. I shared that even I as a parent and pastor fall under the authority of scripture.  It’s easy to respond to the feelings of the moment, but wise men go back to what God has said and follow that path.

I’m sure that a lot of the conversation went over his head. Yet, it has also become a background song to his life. He knows more about cutting grass and more about life than he did a week ago. I’m reminded that our children often learn more from us as they join us in activity than they do when we sit them down to have a specific conversation. I’m always looking for those teachable moments.

How A Widow Helped a Little Boy

When I was younger my dad told me that a particular widow always had ice cream sandwiches and coke at her house.  So once or twice a week I would stop by for a snack and a conversation. I wasn’t smart enough to figure out then that my dad had tricked me into regularly visiting Mrs. Robinson. As time drew on I went for the conversations more than for the sweets. God used my dad’s creativity and sweets to bless both Mrs. Robinson and me more than any gift he could have given either one of us.

widdow

As a little boy I never would have dared visit a widow from the church, but for ice cream sandwiches I’d knock on anyone’s door. I was a chatterbox back then, much like I am now, and would talk anyone’s ear off given the chance.  I also knew how to be polite and listen, especially when I was taking a bite out of a sweet treat. I was blessed to hear her talk about her life and how Jesus had walked with her through it all in the good and the bad.

I didn’t know it as a little boy, but I needed to hear how Jesus had helped her through the hard times. I needed to hear it and she needed to say it, because somehow in the saying, it reminded us both that Jesus was still there. What started out as ice cream sandwiches became worship. We didn’t sing songs. She didn’t break out any music. She just simply testified of what Jesus had done and maybe for the first time I saw someone who had a real relationship with God besides the people in my family.

Things changed, my family moved on, and we lost touch. But her life marked mine and I count her as my first true senior adult friend (other than my grandparents of course). I don’t think she or my dad set out to do anything profound other than introduce a little boy to a widow who could use some company, but it ended up being so much more than that.

As our society has transitioned, one of the things I miss the most is the cross generational conversations. We are fortunate to have several folks in the life of our family that we look up to and are blessed to count them as a friend. One of the things I hope my kids always experience is the blessing of Godly saints, telling true stories about how they have walked with God.

The Power of Prayer

When we pray for others we don’t often know the outcome this side of Heaven. There were some women who prayed for me several years ago and I thought I should share the outcome of their prayer.

Around 15 years ago my mom went to a Christian camp in Montana. While she was there she came across a group of women who were serving at the camp. In the midst of conversation my mother mentioned that she had a son in Mobile, AL. She had always known that God had a call on his life and she had a burden to see him go to seminary. These women mentioned that their church had a seminary extension center. They then took the time for a special moment of prayer with my mother, asking God to birth a desire and work out a plan for me to go to seminary.

I was around 23 years old at the time and had absolutely no plans or ambition of going to seminary. At the age of 25 I was gloriously saved and had submitted myself to a group of men from my church for oversight and prayer. They came together after a year and confirmed my call to ministry but felt it essential for me go to seminary. Through these men, perhaps one in particular, God provided for the full cost of my first few years of seminary. (I could not have afforded it otherwise).

I attended seminary through the extension of the very same church that these women were from and eventually graduated in 2012!

Recently I was talking with my mother and she shared the incredible story I just outlined for you. She has always known God had a call on my life and she could often see my path clearer than I could at any given moment. She wisely takes everything to God in prayer and when her prayers are answered she quietly points back to God and in doing so she has proven to me over and over again that God hears our prayers.  I know this because for years my room was next to my parent’s room and I have silently witnessed her pray for many people and seen many things come to pass.

I know without a doubt that much of my life is a product of the faithfulness of a praying mom. When it came to praying for me to go to seminary, she enlisted the help of a few women from a particular church, that had a seminary extension. I ended up not only attending seminary, but attending through the extension center at the church these women attended. These women prayed a small prayer with my mom, but heaven was listening and they played a small but crucial role in seeing me go to seminary.

I am humbled and blessed that God would listen to the prayers of these women, that he would move on the hearts of a few men, that he would organize and orchestrate things so clearly that I could see His hand. In a very real sense my ministry is a fruit of their faithfulness. One of many I am sure.

#ChooseTheBetter

All of us are in the process of becoming someone. You are not who you used to be and you are not who you will be. Each day your choices help determine the kind of person you become. All of us are becoming. The question is: what are we becoming or rather “who” are we becoming? Are we becoming a mean old drunk, a loving mother, a passionate follower of Christ?

These small choices are the sum of our lives. But not all of our choices lead us to places that we want to be.  For years I consistently made the choice that high fat, high calorie foods were worth the risk/reward and that I didn’t really have time to exercise. The result was that I became large in an unhealthy way.  I intended to be healthy, but I never actually made the decisions that it takes to be healthy along the way.

The sad thing is that most of us we aren’t intentional about what we become. I didn’t intend to get fat. I fully intended to get into great shape, tone down my 6 pack abs and be able to rip the sleeves of my shirt by just flexing… but I didn’t, I didn’t become that guy because intention wasn’t enough.  Perry Noble says it this way in his book “Overwhelmed” that whatever gets your attention controls your direction.[i] For years high fat food had my attention and exercise didn’t and it took my body in an unhealthy direction. I’m a product of choice. Now I’m making some healthier ones. I’m hitting the gym on a regular basis (and I found out that the gym hits back the next day) and working things like fruit and fish into my diet while trying to curb my enthusiasm for things like Ice cream and quarter-pounders.

Today we are going to look at the choices that two sisters made. They both had an encounter with Jesus. Jesus came over to their house and they had a choice about how they would spend their time with Him. One sister was filled with anxiety and was troubled, the other peaceful and content. It’s revealed by Jesus that one had chosen better. My prayer and aim in bringing this message to you is that we will find out for ourselves what the better option was in this passage and we find the key to help us choose the better in our own lives. So that it would be said of us as well that we, “Chose the better.”

Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching. But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.” But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:38-42 ESV)

So Jesus comes over to Martha’s house to hang out. Martha is freaking out and making sure everyone is comfortable. I can imagine that she’s a checklist kind of person and having Jesus might have just added about eighty million things to her checklist. So she’s going through them as fast as she can and she notices Mary sitting over there at the feet of Jesus… listening, hanging on every word and she gets upset about it and so she goes to Jesus.

But Jesus doesn’t validate Martha, instead he reminds her about what is essential. Serving is good, but there comes a time where sitting at the feet of Jesus is better. What is scary to me though is that our lives are full of choices between good and better things. The defining moments in who you become won’t always be choices between right and wrong they will be choices between what’s good and what’s best.

No one sets out for mediocre. No one sets out for tired and boring. No one sets out to ruin a marriage or lose contact with their kids. No one hopes to pile on enough debt to go bankrupt. No one hopes to have a panic attack. No one sets out to sink the ship. But somehow we get there. We get there through choices big and small.

It will be a choice about how you spend your Sundays. It will be the choices you make about how to spend your money. It will be the choices you make about how you spend your free time. It will be the choices you make between things that are not bad, but are actually good.

The two sisters here both make a choice about Jesus. One sister chooses to listen to Jesus, while the other sister chooses to serve Jesus. Neither choice is a bad choice. They both seem good. But we are told that once choice is better than the other or as some versions translate it, “Chosen the good portion.”

If you had to pick who was doing something wrong here you might pick Mary, especially if you looked through the eyes of Martha. Mary looks lazy while Martha is busy working. Who would condemn Martha for working hard and serving others?  She isn’t breaking a law. She’s not committing murder or adultery, she’s not neglecting her children, she is actually being very vigilant. She’s making sure that everything and everyone is taken care of. She is pouring herself out… She is serving.

Serving isn’t a dirty word. Jesus calls us to serve one another. Just before this account in Luke, we are told the story of the Good Samaritan. The whole point of the story was to answer the question, “Who is my neighbor?” The answer… anyone you see in front of you who has a need that you can meet.  You certainly can’t meet needs without serving. Indeed, a few weeks ago we had some major flooding around town and several folks lost everything. Many of you showed up to move furniture, rip out carpet, provide meals and the dozens of other things that needed to be done for our friends and neighbors in need. You took days off work to help and to serve.

Jesus modeled servant leadership in John 13 when he washed the disciples feet. He said a servant isn’t greater than his master and just as he served them, so they should serve one another.   Serving is a great thing, so service isn’t the root problem in this passage. The root problem in this passage is that Martha was “distracted” with much serving.

You see a good thing “serving” became a bad thing “distracting” when it became the main thing. Her focus shifted from Jesus to the job. I think this passage is located after the story of the Good Samaritan to help us realize that while it is good to serve others, even our service must be done in such a way that it makes much of Jesus.

Distraction causes you to despise the things of ultimate value in your life.

It’s not like what Martha was doing was bad, she was just distracted. The funny thing about distractions though is that they cause you to look at the things of real value as distractions.

I have to confess I’m not great at this. I’m the guy who looks at his phone and his kids come up to show me something and I’m like… “that’s great but let me look at this” (holds up cell phone). And all the sudden my kids, who are not a distraction, become the distraction instead of the point.

Martha has done this with Jesus. She is so distracted with serving that she interrupts the Master. She interjects herself into the situation and says, “Lord do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone?” (Luke 10:40).  She sees Jesus as a distraction to Mary from what Mary should have been doing! She’s so distracted (and worried) by all her serving that she doesn’t realize that she just called Jesus a distraction!

What has happened to us when Jesus becomes a distraction? We are One of my long time mentors and friends Bro. Ed Lacy is just now getting into facebook. It’s really an interesting thing to witness because He is always so encouraging and Christ focused in person. He’s been posting some great stuff on facebook now as well. He wrote this the other night on facebook.

You will be fiercely opposed and continually hindered in the supreme priority of your personal prayer life, by the sworn enemy of your soul. He will bring many important things to your mind, that you are responsible to accomplish on this particular day. The deceiver will tempt you to do any other thing, instead of the “main thing” of a daily, priority and consistent time in the true intimacy of intercession. They may be good things; needful things; even christian things! The “father of lies” will attempt to entice you to do any other thing, but the preeminent priority of interceding about all other things. How should you respond to his wicked strategies? You should submit yourself to God; place your heart and mind under His absolute authority; and resist the temptations of the enemy to be negligent or to be detoured from this essential issue of prayer![ii]

 

Write this down. If you don’t get anything else from today’s message make sure you hear this. Put it on your bathroom mirror. If you drive, place it on the dash of your car somewhere. (Make sure it doesn’t cover the gas gauge or speedometer!) Put it on your x-box, your alarm clock, the fridge, your wallet, wherever you need this reminder. Are you ready for it? Ok here it is… Choose The Better

What that means is this. Every time you see that phrase in your handwriting, be reminded that Jesus said of Mary that she chose the better because she chose to be focused on HIM and ask yourself… Am I Choosing the better (JESUS) or am I choosing something that will ultimately lead me down a path that I don’t want to go down?

Look at Martha. She saw Jesus as a house guest and was trying to be a very good hostess, but this produced a lot of anxiety for her. She was running to and fro trying to get things done. Worry about stuff that she had no control over. The result was that she was filled with anxiety. I bet when Jesus first came into her house she wasn’t filled with anxiety. She was probably thrilled. But slowly her focus shifted from Jesus to all the stuff that needed to be done and in doing so she filled her heart with anxiety.  She wasn’t aiming for it… but she ended up there!

I remember I went to go pick up my mom form the New Orleans Airport one time in college. On the way back I missed the interstate interchange and ended up headed into North Mississippi. My intention was not to take the long way home. But my direction took us there.

So all this talk about the better and I guess we should probably define “Better” in this passage.  I think it’s obvious that Mary was at the feet of Jesus. But what does that mean? Mary set everything aside to hear what the Lord had to say, where as Martha laid aside what the Lord was saying to do something for Him.

I think Jesus Said it best this way:

But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.  (Matthew 6:33 ESV)

 

 

Some of us have gotten off the path. We’ve gotten focused on ourselves instead of Jesus. We’ve thought about pleasing others instead of him. We talk about family.

We’ve lost our first love. We need to repent and come back.

When we missed our turn it didn’t matter what we had intended to do. You might intend to fully explore the tenants of Christianity or you might intend to have a close relationship with God. You might intend to go on a mission trip one day. You might intend to share Christ with your neighbors… but intentions alone don’t get you there. You have to actually head in the right direction.

Jesus tells Martha that Mary was headed in the right direction and what she has done (sitting at the feet of Jesus) that will never be taken away from her. Mary’s memory and Martha’s memory of this same event will be different. Mary will remember when Jesus came over and what HE SAID AND DID, Martha will remember when Jesus came over and what SHE SAID AND DID. Mary will remember the peace of being at the Master’s feet. Martha will remember the anxiety of trying to get it all done.

 

I need tape #ChooseTheBetter on my phone so when my kids come up and ask me about something I won’t be that dad.

 

I need to put it on my TV. So when we’re watching something and it get’s close to bed time we still carve out enough time to read from the Jesus story book bible.

 

I need to put it right by the portion size on the icecream lable. I need to put it on my gym shoes and on my bible. I need it in a million small places every day to remind me that Jesus is Lord and that these small decisions matter and they determine the kind of person I am and the kind of person I am becoming.

 

Where do you need to #chooseTheBetter ?

[i] Perry Noble, Overwhelmed. (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale, 2014), 5.

[ii] Ed Lacy, Facebook Status Update 10:10PM on May 5, 2014.

What Does a Pastor Do?

I came home after another long day and a friend was there. They were surprised that I was working so late since it wasn’t a “church” night. I simply shared that I work sixty hours a week most weeks and they were taken back. “I thought you worked only on Sundays and Wednesdays?” Sadly, it was a sincere question.

Most people are unaware of how demanding the pastorate can be on a family and some actually attempt to find more things for the pastor to do thinking,  “The pastor has time to take care of that, he only works on Sundays and Wednesdays.The joke is getting old, but it strikes at the heart of a question that is often out there, “What does a pastor do?” So here is a list of a few things that pastors do in general. This is not a prescription, in fact as I complied the list I found it to be an exposition in how a ministry can quickly turn into a job if the pastor isn’t careful to balance it with much needed time off and family. To be fair this is also my experience working in small to middle size churches.  I am sure there may be a few lazy pastors out there, but I don’t know many of them. Most I know work incredibly hard and still feel as if they haven’t gotten enough done.

WHat Does a Pastor Do_

Study- I guess a lot of folks just think we show up and speak, but in order to speak we have to be prepared with a message. Unlike preparing a regular speech though, we don’t start with a topic, we start with a passage or scriptural theme. It is important that we illustrate the truth of scripture. This process usually involves language study (The bible wasn’t written in English), prayer, reading the passage in the context of the book it is written in and discovering what others are saying in commentaries that help understand the passage.

The study isn’t done at that point though because a message has to be formulated. The pastor then must analyze his congregation and prepare the message in such a way that it bridges the gap between the original audience of the scripture and the contemporary audience. This is where he needs to look for key illustrations, stories, videos, all of which will illustrate the truth of the passage.

The study isn’t done at this point either, because a sermon is supposed to be persuasive not just informative. We are attempting to make you a better disciple. Disciples don’t just need information, they need compelling instruction. Here is where it gets a bit tricky though because it’s not like teaching a school grade where everyone is pretty much on the same level. Any given Sunday you are speaking to non-believers, infants in the faith, mature believers, and everything in between. So as apart of the message you need to illustrate what a clear response should be from each of those positions.

The study is not over at that point because now all you have is a bunch of notes, maybe a rough outline. To be truly proficient at your job it is best to write out a full manuscript. Writing everything out in a manuscript (or at least a full outline) helps eliminates rabbit trails, clarifies transitions, and generally sharpens the message.  Not all pastors write out full manuscripts for a multitude of reasons. I am only able to get one done when I get ahead on the preaching calendar. Most who prepare full manuscripts don’t preach from them. A manuscript is more about preparation than presentation.

Preach/teach – All that study has to lead somewhere and it’s usually the pulpit. Most pastors preach a few times on Sunday and sometimes once in the middle of the week. Some pastors preach up to three times a week. To put that in perspective… Have you ever had to give a make or break presentation at work? If you have, you know a similar feeling of what it is like to preach. Can you imagine making a new make or break presentation every week? Can you imagine making three a week? Now you are getting a picture of what it is like to preach. All that prep, all that urgency, all that emotion, wrapped up into a presentation every week.

Pray – When I say pray, I’m not referring to those public moments  of prayer in a service or gathering where it is customary to call on a pastor. I am referring to the private prayer closet of the pastor. The pastor is consistently lifting up his congregation in prayer. Too many skip this or go light here. They fail to realize that they have no true power in the pulpit apart from prayer in the closet. Prayer for a pastor is measured in hours each week not minutes. Think of it as meeting with the boss, you don’t skip those.

Meetings – Pastors attend meetings. It doesn’t matter if your church is large or small, there are meetings to attend. Because your pastor oversees a large part of what goes on at church he sits in on multiple meetings each month. And during some seasons, multiple meetings each week. (There was one season where I had meetings Monday through Friday night for a month straight and I’m just an associate pastor). Furthermore, he leads most of these meetings which means he is responsible for the agenda and usually has some sort of actionable items that he needs to bring to the group as a report.

Events – Pastors are expected to participate in church events such as Vacation Bible School, Easter Outreaches, etc. In the case of smaller churches the pastor often plays a crucial role in developing those events. In my case as an associate I’ve been the one responsible for planning these type of events and coordinating volunteers etc. Regardless of if the pastor plans or just attends and says a few words, his routine is altered and he has to find time to do all the other necessary work of ministry while still being present for these events. If he is not careful, he won’t get a break on those weeks.(I remember a season where I went for fifteen consecutive 12-18 hour days without a day off.) It’s important to remember that most pastors are paid a salary and don’t get paid overtime on days or weeks that push them beyond their normal routine.

Counsel – Pastors pray for and counsel lots of people. We deal with everything from pre-marriage counseling (prepping people for marriage) to spiritual counseling. Spiritual counseling usually takes place after a message or when God has stirred something in your heart. You reach out to your pastor and he responds. Sometimes this takes place over coffee and sometimes it’s more formal. I counsel lots of people every week usually in regards to a message or blog post. Ideally this takes place in person or over the phone, but with the younger generation there is a lot of texting involved. My phone blows up practically every Wednesday night and Saturday night to deal with questions, concerns, and biblical application. On one particular occasion I was out at a conference and my phone blew up with four different people asking me four different spiritual application questions.

Weddings – Pastor’s do weddings and we love to do them. Weddings require preparation (ask any bride). It’s important to consider that even though your pastor loves you, and wants to help you celebrate this big day that he probably attends a few more than you do each year because he is a pastor. I’m an avid college football fan and I enjoy the break of a Saturday afternoon watching football. But on more than one occasion I’ve caught part of the big game on the radio, or on my phone as we were leaving the wedding instead of TV.

Funerals – Pastor’s are there for funerals as well. It’s not just the service either. It’s spending time talking with the family, comforting folks, and maybe sticking around for a meal after. He probably should have something to say when he stands up to speak so he needs to prepare a message and that takes time as well. Sometimes he assists the family in helping make sure they know what to do.

Visits – Pastors visit a lot of folks from the home-bound to the hell-bound and everyone in between.  We visit folks in the Hospital. We visit folks at home who are unable to get out. We visit lots of folks who have questions about a message, or want more information about the church, pastor, etc. We visit with folks to pray about special needs. We visit to talk with adults and children who have prayed to receive Christ.

Sometimes we make these visits late at night. Especially as a student pastor I’ve gotten out of bed to be there for families who are suffering a crisis at the hospital when a loved one has been in a wreck, attempted suicide, and overdosed on drugs. These things typically don’t happen from 9-5 or on typical “work”days. I’ve had to cut my vacation short before and my phone is seldom turned off.

Bible Study – Many pastors also lead bible studies or small groups. As an associate I have a midweek preaching point where all of the study, etc. comes into play, but I also lead a Men’s Bible Study, a High School Guy’s Book Study, an Adult Co-ed Life Group, and a study session for High School students on a weekly basis. All of this takes time to prepare in addition to the time actually spent meeting  (that’s 7.5 hours of actual meeting time not counting the mid-week preaching point or preparation time).

Hospitality –  We try to open our house once a week to either friends from church or folks from the community. Since hospitality is a qualification for an overseer/ pastor (1 Tim. 3:2) it is one that we take seriously and strive to implement. It came down to the question, “would I rather my kids grow up in a home where folks were always invited in or in a home where we had an abundance of time to watch TV?” Generally I don’t count this as work, but merely as part of being a pastor.

Equipping Individuals for Ministry – This is perhaps one of the most tiring but rewarding aspects of being a pastor. One of my joys is placing people who God has gifted in strategic positions in order for them to exercise their spiritual gifts. In many instances it is easier for me to do the work of the ministry for them (though I may not be as gifted), but it is better for them and the body when they are discipled through the process. It’s like listening to my 6-year-old read. I know that I can read his book and get the story out in 5 minutes, but it is worth 30 minutes of hearing him read to me in order for him to become a more capable reader down the road.

When it comes to equipping people for ministry it usually involves a lot of time, attention, and coffee as you walk though a process of development with them. The beauty is that they become great disciple-makers because of your example and this is how the church is multiplied.

I’m well over my word limit now and there is still so much I do. As an associate at a smaller – medium size church I am also in charge of the website, our social media postings, Sunday morning follow ups, etc.

This list wasn’t meant to be comprehensive or to use as a guide for your pastor. Even among pastors there are different gifts. Some will excel more at counseling while others will find a way to shift this burden to someone who is more gifted. Some will visit those in the hospital more often because they have a special burden their while others will be wise to share this ministry with deacons and other leaders in the church.

Hopefully this post was helpful in sharing a little bit about what pastors do. It is a bit more consuming than 9-5 because it is more of a calling than a job. I am always amazed by men like my father who worked a 9-5 job and was also a pastor of a small church for most of my childhood.

 

 

Why I’m Not Bitter About the Church

I guess I should hate the church. I’ve seen hypocrites. My dad got fired from a church and I was treated badly by the church members. I was ostracized by part of my youth group growing up and I saw my family suffer financially because my dad was in a ministry job instead of something else. I’ve had unrealistic expectations placed on me my entire life by people from church. In the ministry I’ve had good friends stab me in the back. Hurting people have spread vicious rumors about me. I’ve had people slander me endlessly for making what I know to be the right decisions.  I’m used to getting second guessed at every turn and I realize by now nobody likes to be told they are a sinner. I guess I should hate the church… but I don’t

The determining factor is that through it all I saw something real. Growing up my family was far from perfect but I did see a sincere faith in my parents. I was challenged to memorize scripture. I still remember the day out on the swing when I was about four years old and my dad challenged me to memorize John 3:16. I remember walking by my parent’s bedroom and hearing them pray for my siblings and myself (they didn’t know I was listening). I remember the family prayer time where we discussed the bible. It never seemed like we were just going through the motions. There was always something real there.

Then there were the times that my parent’s faith just seemed to bleed out in everyday living. Like when my dad picked up a rough looking hitch-hiker with me in the car. Later I asked him if he was scared and he said something like you should never let something scary stop you from doing the right thing… God is in control. (Years later I would pick up a rough looking hitchhiker named David who would pray to receive Christ in my truck as a result of seeds planted by my parents).

Then the advice my parents gave always seemed to revolve around the scripture. During my passage into manhood my dad encouraged me to read the bible for myself and believe what it said rather than what he or any other man would say. This gave me freedom to form my own theology dependent from my father and have a ready defense for my faith that wasn’t based on a family tradition. Similarly when I went into the ministry my mother said that there are a lot of distractions out there and to keep it about the book. She freed me to love God by loving his word and the singular focus on his word in the ministry lead to my own conversion.

Through the years I’ve learned and continue to learn to forgive people. That church that fired my dad… I walked in one Sunday night a few years later and shared the hurt I suffered and forgave them. Then I laid hands on their pastor and prayed a prayer of blessing over him and the entire congregation. The financial suffering I learned was all a matter of perspective, we were richer in the things that mattered than I had realized. I pulled aside the folks spreading rumors and told them that I forgave them. And the folks who slandered me, I had a conversation seeking reconciliation. With every major hurt I have sought the uncomfortable conversation of reconciliation and by God’s grace, He has won every time. And I remember the words of my father, “don’t let something scary stop you from doing the right thing.”

Yes the church is full of hypocrites and some of them really do have unrealistic expectations of pastors and their families, but none of that negates the work of Jesus Christ in my life. You see He’s real no matter how church people behave. And if we’re telling the truth the best place for hypocrites and backstabbers and people with unrealistic expectations to be, is church. They need to be reminded of the gospel. I know I do and though I wouldn’t like to admit it, there have been times in my life when I’ve been the hypocrite, back stabber and imposed unrealistic expectations on others.

So I’m not bitter about the church, I’m hopeful. I’m hopeful that all of us will be presented complete in Christ one day. All these little things that have caused so much pain will be purified in the presence of Christ the king. We’ll carry only the scars to remember how the gospel came to us through nail pierced hands and feet. No more pain, only rejoicing.