Growing A Church Is Bad For Your Soul

There are many things that we know are bad for us. Candy eats away at our teeth. Bacon clogs our heart (allegedly). Texting while driving takes lives. Smoking gives us cancer and/or lung disease. Isolation brings depression or at least deep loneliness. Anger breads bitterness which births cynicism, hard heartedness, and just plain old meanness. Some things in life should be avoided because no matter how they taste or feel they are just bad for us.

There are many spiritual practices and positions that are similarly bad for us. The avoidance of corporate worship, a rejection of accountability, the judging of others behavior and intentions, the willingness to live disobediently are all things that Christians know are bad for us and should be corrected immediately if we want to have healthy spiritual lives and relationships. Some things just don’t mix and anytime we have more of our own self, our own freedoms, our own flaws mixed with the work that God is trying to do in us we will find self inflicted wounds and perhaps fatal tendencies in our formation. The good things that God gives us often come into conflict with the bad feelings, choices, and habits that we are desperate to maintain our freedom over and that is bad for the Christian soul.

Pastors are no exception to this truth. In fact, we may even be in more danger as we are fatigued by the weight and worry of a church culture that is less and less interested in being a Christian community and much more fascinated in being a Christian club or take out service. We are all in need of salvation and not just from our sins, but from our sinfulness, our selfishness, our self reliance, and our searching for a God that we can make in our own image. Pastors that follow the pattern of cultural trends will discover sooner or later that they are neck deep in the soup that brings sickness to our souls.

It is no secret that the church is in trouble in America. Much of the responsibility could be credited to the misunderstanding and mistakes made by pastors in leading the church and forming disciples. Those two are not the same thing, but that should be aligned or at the very least headed in the same direction. Too often they are not. While there are many reasons that the church is the way it is, it seems that the American church has done a particularly good job of messing up what God began birthing as a beautiful creation. Instead of making disciples and building beautiful community we have been busy enlarging, expanding, and exponentially obsessing on getting bigger, more powerful, financially stable/secure, and way too often chasing relevance as if it was a core value for the New Testament church. Leadership training is more common in churches than spiritual formation. It is easier to convince someone to be a better leader than it is to suggest to them that they should go deeper into discipleship. So pastors pick the more popular and profitable route or message.

This. Must. Change.

Church growth is not only not good. It is bad. Please read that again so that it sinks in on every level. The effects of professional ministers offering professional goods and services in the pursuit of making the gospel popular at all costs has made the church weak, confused, and sick. The prognosis is not only negative, but it is terminal unless we are delivered from our empty philosophy and mistaken identity.

The key to moving away from a church growth mindset and practices is not a change in strategy, but spirit. It does not require a new method, but a new master. To achieve freedom from the weight of promising big things we need a vision from producing small circles of disciples and quality leaders. If pastors are to be saved from the ministry of the American ideal it will necessitate an act of God that is greater than the activity of being professional competent or charismatically capable.

Pastors be warned what I am suggesting is not easy and will not work like an overnight charm. You can not blink your eyes and be transformed from your old habits of multiplying, maximizing, merging, mastering, and making up success stories to alleviate denominational loss and augment the need to be personally glorified or respected. It will be a process. It will be a slow, painful, lonely process, but along the way you will be affirmed in your spirit and you might find pilgrims that are on the same journey you are on.

Many churches will not like what you are saying/doing. It goes agains the grain of there investment over the last 40 years. You may not be voted out, but they may vote to personally leave or they may stay and offer the most apathetic involvement you or they can imagine. Don’t give up and don’t lose heart. Keep at the task of forming disciples and creating a community of faith, hope, and love. Preach the gospel rather than pragmatic principles and let the Holy Spirit show them the “how to’s” of living the Christian life.

God expects you to walk in the righteous way rather than the relevant way. No matter what a book or a Bishop says to you as a pastor the primary leading of a pastor is in the way that Jesus is headed. Anywhere he goes or anything he says is relevant. The world then fits into his agenda. Jesus may have gone to the people and shared in the culture, but it is a mistake to say or think that he acclimated to the Roman way or even the way of popular Judaism. The only relevancy test that we have as pastors and as congregants is based in forsaking this world and following him.

Denominations aren’t likely to lead this change, but they might follow. They also might not. You may not get support from anyone in your tribe that would think what you preach or propose makes sense. Your work might produce the kind of results that gets conference leaders to visit you with questions and concerns. Don’t panic. If pastoral work is to be fruitful it will not be from the hormones of fool proof ideas for breaking the 200 barrier. It will be the product of a long obedience in the direction of God’s leading you to form disciples and call those disciples into ministry.

The vision that God gives to us is not a body that grows bigger and bigger. It is a vision of a church that grows deeper in discipleship and broader in mission. That is a vision that is good for the soul because it leads us to measure our ministry in lives formed in Christ rather than parking spots or programs launched.  A church may very well grow to become a large body of believers, but it is not a healthy church if disciples are not being formed and sent. Any obsession that a pastor has over their work should focus on a passion for being faithful to the gospel and spilled out in Christian service to others.

Growing a church is bad for your soul or at least it can be. Any good doctor of the church would remember often that maybe growing the church isn’t the job of the pastor. That’s the job of the Spirit. Perhaps the reason that growing a church can be bad for the soul is because that is not what God intended us to do. It just might be that the the sooner we get away from thinking we are called to grow a church and get to the work of telling our people not to dream of such things, the easier it will be for us to get to the work God has called us to. That kind of work is forever good for the soul.

 

You Get What You Pay For

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That isn’t a very original thing to say. Everybody has heard it at some point. I didn’t coin the phrase, but I sure believe it to be true. Now that I am looking at buying cars for teenage drivers, new instruments for teenage bandies, and college tuition for soon to be young adults pushed out of the nest, I am realizing that I have choices to make about where and how I spend this money.

Over and over again in life I have gotten what I paid for. At times I have bought something inexpensive hoping to get by or make due. Other times I have broken the bank and splurged for the top of the line and the best in the market. In every purchase or investment I have gotten exactly what I paid for. Sometimes I have been very, very happy with a purchase (new Taylor Made irons) and sometimes devastated by going cheap (upper deck tickets at Minute Maid on opening day 2008.)

The consumer in us has us immediately thinking products or experiences. Getting what we pay for makes us think of blue jeans, boots, cars, haircuts or television sets. It makes us think of vacations to Vegas or cheap hotels at the beach. It reminds us of good food we eat on our anniversary and average food with jacked up prices at the ball park (maybe not an example of getting what you pay for.) What we wear, what we eat, and where we go is directly related to what we have paid for that product or reality.

This saying though applies to many other areas of life if we under “pay for” something in terms other than monetary exchange. Sometimes our payment comes in the form of time or talent. Sometimes it comes in the level of engagement or enthusiasm we have for something or someone. Sometimes we pay by being present and being ready to participate. Our cost in those cases are not measure by a reduction of our bank account, but in the addition or heart, mind, and soul into a scenario.

Think about these “you get what you pay for” realities.

As parents we get what we pay for when we put extra time into the development of our kids character and not just their skill development or athletic progress. Our children understand the value of character better because we have given time and space to the topic with them rather than assuming others will care for that need.

As leaders we get what we pay for when we bring energy to our team and not just work flow charts or new objectives for success. Our team senses that we believe in what we are asking them to do because we are personally involved as we give ourselves all in to the assignment.

As pastors we get what we pay for when we avoid settling conflict in the church, keep doing the same old things all of the time because its easy, and/or refuse to consider how culture is shaping our people more than the gospel is. Our church senses a lack of care and concern for the health of the church and an overall indifference to how lives are being changed.

As friends we get what we pay for when we expect to be the center of attention with every friendship and have the final word on every topic tossed around in conversation. Our friends see us as self absorbed and therefore not trustworthy or approachable with their needs which keeps relationships on the surface and usually on very shakeable grounds.

As married couples we get what we pay for when we make time for each other, listen to what is on each others heart, pray over the big (and small) things in life, and consider our spouses feelings above our own. Our spouse will know they can rely us to be safe, supportive, and so concerned with the relationship that other details of life are always second place.

Of course when we pay very little as parents, as leaders, as pastors, as friends we end up getting exactly what we paid for it. Usually nothing, but rejection, disappointments, failure, discouragement, and/or loneliness. Conversely, by paying big for those things we find that our relationships are healthy, balanced, and usually exactly what we need (or even more.)

How can you get more (or get a better product) by paying more today? Now that is really a pay it forward idea worth pursuing. Don’t delay and don’t keep being cheap. Put your best- your everything – into it. You will be glad you did. You will likely end up getting exactly what you paid for and more.

 

Tell me to what you pay attention and I will tell you who you are.                                                 (Jose Ortega y Gasset)

I Have Some Bad News

pux-phil

Today is that day. You know the day that comes around once a year and gets us all in a ruckus. No not Christmas or Thanksgiving or Easter or 4th of July. Not even Saint Pat’s Day or Valentine’s Day or Pastor Appreciation Sunday. Today is Groundhog day and we will find out if more winter is on the way or if Spring is springing early this year. Cross your fingers and say a prayer.

Most of my life there was only one source to get this valuable information – Punxsutawney Phil. He lives of course in Punxsutawney, PA and for 130 years has given us cause to pay attention to his town on February 2nd. Every town should be famous for something and a rodent whose shadow controls the emotions of his citizens is as good as anything I guess. This morning I found out that in Marion, OH there is a hog named Buckeye Chuck. Unbelievable. What a rip off. I bet Phil is a mad little critter. His one day to be the center of attention for the whole world and his fame is tarnished by an imposter from North Central Ohio. Poor Phil.

I have some bad news. Imposters are not just in the ground hog species and they aren’t just in Ohio. Although there are plenty of those around here to be found. Imposters come in all shapes and sizes, all colors and creeds, all cities and settings. Don’t think your space is void of the possibility. Be warned, but don’t be alarmed.

Imposters are rampant in our day. Some try tell you they are the best leaders when they are really copy cats of someone else’s better ideas. Some will tell you that they are making things great again while they subversively take things in a particular direction that pleases and profits their constituency. Some will make you believe they are the powerful teachers on truthful topics when they are only telling you what you want to hear and fueling your fears/insecurities with familiar rhetoric. Some will make believe to like you, accept you, love you, all while searching for your immediate replacement to meet their needs or fulfill their agenda. Imposters come in the form of leaders, pastors, teachers, churches, Trump University, celebrities, friends, and of course ground hogs.

Imposters are wide spread and wildly popular. Don’t be fooled. Listen carefully and look into the life and character of those you listen too and follow. Think, pray, discern if their words or direction do good or bring harm to others. Reject new things that are only shiny, but possess no substance. Embrace old things that have shown themselves to be tried and tested. Question those who make promises to some while offering threats to others. Be willing to walk away from those whose leadership doesn’t pass the test of authenticity, good will, and generous living. Buy into people who buy into people, but rid yourselves of the stock of those who discount others based on race, religion, or the right side of things.

Be the real deal. Impeach the imposters in your life (at least in your heart.) Be authentic. Don’t believe everything you hear. Learn to look, listen, and launch in a direction that benefits you AND others. Champion words and ways that are substantially useful and not just stylistically comforting. Resist the temptation to hope for a quicker change of season so that you may live into the season that God has called you to.

The path of the righteous is like the morning sun, shining ever brighter till the full light of day. (Proverbs 4:18)

What Would He Say Today?

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Dr Martin Luther King, Jr, Coretta, and the kids.

So many of the people who have a profound effect on us lived well before we did. People who lived through great challenge and turmoil, but somehow made it through. People who faced tremendous opposition, but somehow kept their cool and control of their words. People who walked a path with little company while calling others to follow or join them. The names of those women and men are too many to list, but today I am thinking about one of them – Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

His words, his movement, his life has made a tremendous difference in the lives of Americans now for more than 50 years. While he did not see all that he dreamed of, much of his dream has been recognized with voting rights, improved working conditions, mainstream acceptance in leadership, and an improved equality of life for minorities across the country. This is not to say that has all been accomplished and finished. Nor is it to say that all of the progress has been easy or even willingly achieved. Much has been done, but much is left to be completed. Only God knows when all things will be put to right in our country. Dr. King and the leaders of his movement are details of the American story that we can not live without a high degree of thanksgiving for what their life’s work made possible. He (and they) made us better as a people. Thank you Martin. Thank you Medger Evers. Thank you Ralph Abernathy. Thank you John Lewis. Thank you Rosa Parks. Thank you Corretta Scott King. Thanks to so many others who led in the most difficult of days.

While my life started after his ended I am thankful that his spirited platform is being honored and revisited. Churches all over the country will be remembering Dr. King today with special services. Cities will be having parades in his memory and Universities will have seminars or symposiums. Many government offices and public schools will be closed in recognition of his leadership. All well intentioned efforts to connect a historical figure with a modern need and problem. I can’t help, but see the irony that in the same week that we honor someone for a peaceful movement and reconciliation we will inaugurate someone whose platform either ignored or denied any such vision. No doubt many will see one as a shyster and one as a hero. One will be thought of as a quick tempered, big mouth that divides and conquers while the other is seen as a deeply profound speaker of faith, hope, and love. Sadly that opinion will likely flip flop depending on the political agenda of the evaluator.

I am choosing to remember today what Dr King said to us all – not to some, not to those he liked or approved of, not to those who bought into his agenda. These words aren’t the gospel, but they are good words for how people interested in the gospel applies politics and personal choice to how they live their life, raise their kids, and run their business. They are words that could possibly help us in a week like this not lose hope because the words of the righteous are a fountain of life (Proverbs 10:11).

 
If you will protest courageously, and yet with dignity and Christian love, when the history books are written in future generations, the historians will have to pause and say, “There lived a great people—a black people—who injected new meaning and dignity into the veins of civilization.” 

*  From an address given in Montgomery, Ala., Dec. 31, 1955

“We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the hateful words and actions of the bad people but for the appalling silence of the good people.”

* From “Letter from Birmingham Jail,” April 16, 1963

“I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality. This is why right, temporarily defeated, is stronger than evil triumphant.”

* Nobel Peace Prize Acceptance Speech, Dec. 10, 1964

“Everything that we see is a shadow cast by that which we do not see.”

* The Measure of a Man, 1958

“Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.”

*From Strength to Love, 1963

What would he say today? He would say the same things. He would not vary or wane with his words or agenda. He would bet big on love and on God’s sovereignty. He would deny the power of people or words that divide and destroy. He would ask the privileged to not consider themselves, but to cast a look at those in need and those without. He would warn us against the lies of men who tell us that others are lying to us or misleading us while they move the pawns behind the scene. He would not bully others, but he would befriend the alien and the stranger. He would not urge the public to trust him, but He would call us all to trust in God who is at work in all things.

What Does it Mean When You Stop Following Someone?

social-media

Social media is a great thing. It is helps us keep up with the lives of friends and families that we are separated from by distance. It helps us connect to people that we sort of know, but may not have been formally introduced. It helps us monitor breaking news from around the world and from inside our network. It helps us feel like we are an active part of a global family of more than 6 billion brothers and sisters.

Social media also makes us aware of what people are thinking and what they believe about life, politics, sports, and even intimate relationships. For every 100 people we know that practice good social media manners we know one person that whines, moans and complains about the smallest of things. We know someone that is intent on shouting their agenda to people as loudly as possible. We know someone that has very little empathy for anybody or anything and likely aren’t interested in developing any. We know someone that boils our blood every time they post an arrogant statement, a tasteless picture, an insensitive quote, or even a inflaming emoji.

So we unfriend them or we unfollow them. Problem solved. Or is it?

When we unfollow or unfriend someone in silence we may not be doing them any favors. They likely don’t know that we no longer read their posts and assume that we are closely keeping taps on their every thought and word. People who are so clueless about what they say or post are usually equally clueless about what people think about them. It is a matter of lacking self awareness and it oozes throughout every detail of their life. They just don’t get it and likely don’t care to.

So what does it mean to stop following someone?

It may mean…

That the friendship is not deep enough to confront or counsel someone about how they are perceived. (Maybe we need to work to change that.)

That confrontation is not an option and so a careful separation is necessary. (Maybe this says something about how we value perspectives more than people. Think about that one for a minute.)

That being connected to many people is more important than being real with a few. (Maybe we shouldn’t be surprised that someone we have never been in the same room with has a different view on politics or faith than we do.)

That people are who they are and there is little hope in their ability to change or get it together. (Maybe believing that people can become self aware is our first hope and prayer before we do anything.)

That conversation is better kept at a safe distance than brought in for a close encounter. (Maybe we a phone call or cup of coffee would be good ways to discuss tension.)
As a leader who works with a very diverse population of people in my church/organization as well as with public stakeholders I am challenged daily about what to do. Who do I ignore? Who do I confront? Who do I write off? Who do I unfriend?

Every Christian should be careful to consider the matter as well. We are called to live together in brotherly/sisterly love, but love doesn’t mean that we ignore bad behavior nor does it mean that we quietly dismiss the person as an unsalvageable social media soul. We don’t just rebuke someone in the name of love with the first thing we think of and we can’t just unplug any remembrance of the person without thought to our role as a witness in their life. And for heaven’s sakes we aren’t the social media police having to argue, confront, debunk every bad thought or word we read online. Sometimes a deep, cleansing breath is what we need before doing anything. Unfollowing and unfriending after accepting friendship with someone can be viewed as a rejection and if they are a Christian or church connection that can be extremely difficult.

Here is my working strategy on managing social media contacts or connections:

I am careful about who I friend or link up to on social media so that I can be very careful about managing those relationships. My goal is not quantity, but quality with those in my network. I don’t have to like or love every post I see and my emoji isn’t required as an expression of my approval or lack there of. If the issue is one of personal perspective and they communicate it professionally or with some level of composure then it is okay to have a different perspective. If they insult me then forgiveness is first, but conversation comes close as the second response. If they destroy a whole culture, tribe, party, family, church or any other grouping in a public way then rebuke and removal must be considered. Being connected is not more important than being real.

Unfollowing and unfriending is sometimes the right thing to do, but it comes with consequences personally and socially. Choose those options deliberately and wisely. Manage the friendship well and tension will likely manage itself. Be careful with feelings – yours, theirs, others – and direct communication can be helpful and possibly transforming. Don’t be overly sensitive, but don’t fall asleep at the wheel and let your feed get blown up by a loose cannon friend or associate. Be genuine in your faith, your feelings, your feedback and people will likely have respect for where you are coming from.

Friendship is not something you learn in school. But if you haven’t learned the meaning of friendship, you really haven’t learned anything.
– Muhammad Ali

Holiness Lost and Found

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It seems to me that a lot of my good, good friends these days have lost sight of what is most important in loving and leading all of God’s people. And when I say ‘all of God’s people’ I mean ALL – red and yellow, black and white, Democrat and Republican, gay and straight, rich and poor, educated and simple, American citizens and global friends. ALL is not a reflection of one’s faith, but a condition of one’s creative origin in the heart of God for the relational purposes of God to live for the glory of God. All of these people groups matter to us because they all matter to God.

Who I am thinking about and speaking to is anyone who claims Jesus as Savior and Lord. My calling and pulpit is primarily one to the people of faith who are called to not only believe in a higher power in all things, but to live to a higher standard at all times. By ‘standard’ I might say purpose or way or ethic or cause, but I mean the same thing. Christians of all traditions, denominations, ethnicities, and political parties are first called to embrace the kingdom of God that has come and is coming. To embrace such a kingdom is to embrace the way of the king. His way is a way of love. His way is a way of hope. His way is a way of gentleness and meekness. His way is a way of reconciliation. His way is a way of holiness.

But we seem to have certainly lost this way of living together in America and especially in the American church.

Chuck Colson – that politician turned theologian – said that “Holiness is the everyday business of every Christian. It evidences itself in the decisions we make and the things we do, hour by hour, day by day.” I’m gonna add “friendship by friendship, stranger by stranger, thought by thought, word by word, feeling by feeling” to his train of practical holiness. He is right of course. Our job is not to win the day politically. Nor is it to hurl truth bombs to the party that has newly acquired, but temporary power. Holiness is our word, thought, and deed. Any other view of what God has called us to is incomplete and inconsiderate to the hope God has for his new creations.

Perhaps it isn’t so much a problem of believing, but a lack of seeing it in the body of Christ. We have lost a vision of God’s holiness because our spiritual idols and ideals aren’t interested in transformed living at all. The mind of Christ is not attractive to most people. A heart after God’s own heart is not appealing to the populous. Life lived in the power of the Holy Spirit is not nearly as cool as living in the prestige of the creative freedom and force of any generation. Journeying together as the body of Christ is no longer possible because individual choice and philosophy is greater than the good of unity and wholeness in Christ.

Little by little, day by day we are losing our ability as a church to see the way of holiness that is open and available to us as God’s holy people. Not because it is leaving us, but because we insist on pursuing a faith that is forged in the relevancy of our time rather than the righteousness of Christ. We have lost sight on what it means to live peculiarly and particularly.

 

This election and the outcry from the results has gouged the eyes of believers so viciously that we can’t even see the shame we are sharing with our groans and grimaces, our posting and preaching, or our smirks and smiles. We have lost full sight this year on where earthly politics fit into our kingdom way.

I’ll say it again. The way of our king is the way of holiness. But holiness is hard to see, hear, or taste in the after shocks of this election gone wrong. We can’t see a holy future because we have lost sight of what living holy in the present might look or feel like.
Life has happened to us and we have let it blind us and put blame in our hearts for what we have lost. We can no longer see or remember the way of holiness in our church and it shows in our recent attitudes and behavior.

We have lost sight of the way when we divide by party at the cost of being unified in Christ. We have lost sight of the way when we let our labeling of others harm the love we should have for them. We have lost sight of the way when we would rather grandstand in social media with our fears than pray in private because we are full of faith. We have lost sight of the way when we go underground and leave the discussion because we declare all other views stupid, unspiritual, and damning of our future. We have lost sight of the holiness of God when we let our fear and failures, emotions and exchanges, or our aches and pains lead us off of the way of holiness that this kingdom of God has called us to.

Fox News, CNN, the Today Show, the NY Times, the Washington Post, Facebook, nor Twitter will show us that way. None of them are fair and balanced nor are they full of grace or truth. They are a business that is out to make money and shape consumers. We either see them for who they are and lean on God’s Spirit to help us despite them OR we walk blindly into their web to be confused and stirred to anger. We will not find them walking in the kingdom way. They will never lead us on the way of holiness. But don’t blame them because they have a mission rooted in wealth and power. We know what we are getting because we know who they are.

But that is not who we are. We are God’s holy people. Make no mistake about it. Holiness is the way that God has called us to live as a person and as a people.

This way – God’s way of holy living, loving and leading – is a gift to us. Let us find it again together. If the people of God can walk together in the holy way that God has called us and prepared for us, then the ALL of creation might one day see its beauty too. The defense of our way of living or our abided rights is not going to lead us anywhere beyond where we are today. But a vision for and call to the holy way of God will bring our dead and decayed spirits and congregations alive in Christ and full of the purposed activity in every change that comes to our country and our world.

God’s vision for us is greater than any woman or man’s vision for our country. Don’t defend or die for the wrong thing. Don’t lose hope hoping that a President or a party will make us great again. They won’t because they can’t. Trust in God and pursue His way for your life, the church, and our country. On this there is not a diversity of views or positions. There is God’s way and then there is the way of the world.

Let’s find again a vision for the way God wants to lead us as a people…ALL people.

Strengthen the weak hands,
    and make firm the feeble knees.
Say to those who have an anxious heart,
    “Be strong; fear not!
Behold, your God
    will come with vengeance,
with the recompense of God.
    He will come and save you.”
Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened,
    and the ears of the deaf unstopped;
then shall the lame man leap like a deer,
    and the tongue of the mute sing for joy.
For waters break forth in the wilderness,
    and streams in the desert;
the burning sand shall become a pool,
    and the thirsty ground springs of water;
in the haunt of jackals, where they lie down,
    the grass shall become reeds and rushes.
And a highway shall be there,
    and it shall be called the Way of Holiness;
the unclean shall not pass over it.
    It shall belong to those who walk on the way;
    even if they are fools, they shall not go astray.
No lion shall be there,
    nor shall any ravenous beast come up on it;
they shall not be found there,
    but the redeemed shall walk there.
And the ransomed of the Lord shall return
    and come to Zion with singing;
everlasting joy shall be upon their heads;
    they shall obtain gladness and joy,
    and sorrow and sighing shall flee away. (Isaiah 35 – ESV)

In Honor of Good (and not so good) Pastors Everywhere

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John Wesley gave his Methodist preachers 12 rules for their ministry. That seems like a lot to me, but this was probably a concise listing for the man who made rules and routine a global movement. These rules are good for pastors, but they are also good and true for anyone gifted and called to serve others in the gospel.

Rule #1 is to be diligent. Idleness is the devil’s work shop. “Never be trifling employed.”   (I love when the word trifling is used effectively.)

Rule #2 is to be serious. “Holiness Unto The Lord. Avoid all jesting, foolishness and light talking.”  (I’m way too serious to comment on this one.)

Rule #3 is to converse sparingly with women. Rule #4 is take no step towards marriage without first consulting your brethren. (I think John may have momma issues).

Rule #9 is be ashamed of nothing, but sin. (Easier said than done.)

Rule #11 – “You have nothing to do but save souls..” ( Are you kidding me? Sometimes I don’t know what John was thinking.)

Most days it doesn’t seem like I’m saving souls or at least it doesn’t feel as like I am doing anything to save anybody. My job doesn’t look anything like my job description and the language used in my ordination covenant greatly differs from my actual daily duties.

Instead of saving souls…

I’m mopping up messes and mistakes from previous leadership.

I’m holding the hands of the converted “faithful” who never became disciples.

I’m recovering from the arrogance and self centeredness displayed by Christians on social media.

I’m giving Vitamin C to a congregation to help the culture recover from the flu of inward focus and outward neglect.

I’m busy planning a contemporary, casual, culturally relevant service that brings substance, satisfaction, and salvation to those who gather. Next week I will be planning a traditional, reverent, old time gospel sing to make sure we have balance in our church worship gatherings so that God is pleased by the happy songs we sing.  🙂

I’m hunkering down from the sky that is falling and rebuilding the wall that has been knocked down as we fear politics more than we fear falling away from our first love.

I’m trying to explain to some why we have to sing off of the wall now instead of from the book like God intended for us to.

I’m also trying to explain why the theology of our song selection is more important than its style or sensation to our ears.

I’m interpreting the “he said-she said” dialogue of what people in the church did or did not say about someone, something, or some galaxy far, far away.

I’m begging for people to give generously to the church – not so we can pay my salary, but so we can support missionaries whose blood is being spilled in the 10-40 window.

I’m caught up trying to explain that God is not a Republican or a Democrat so neither candidate represents God, the church, or faithful Christian witness.

I’m scheduled to attend a church growth conference this week, a pastor’s prayer retreat next week, and a preaching seminar when I get back.

What pastor has time (or energy) for saving or souls?

Of course Wesley’s statement is casting a vision for ministry and not forging our practical responsibilities. His words help us to see all of the things that we do in ministry – the menial and the mystical, the glory and the grief, the enriching and the exhausting – as full partners in God’s redemption of the world through the church. So as we serve the Lord through the church let us do so with the conviction that we are seeing souls saved. And when we are involved in tasks not suitable for seminary preparation we should frame such a task as a door to what God really is doing with an eternal soul that we can’t yet see. Pastors must be gifted with a vision by God, but God’s vision for us is less about buildings or programs and more about the soul of humanity, the strengthening of the family, and the the future of the church as the bride of Christ.

Rule #12 is “Act in all things – not according to your own will – but as a son of the gospel.” (Boom! Mic drop.)

May God help us to put away our profession, repent of our frustration, gather up our greatest effort so that we may work through the ministry of Christ our Lord in saving souls. There is no other worthy calling for us to answer.

Happy Pastor Appreciation Month. I am proud to serve with you. (Now get back to work.)