Sunday, October 30, 2011

Lesson from a long-term pastor

All my younger pastor friends take note: After nearly 21 years leading the same congregation I have become convinced that I have not seen it all. I guess I never shall.

Both in amazing blessings and in those "You've got to be kidding" moments, new stuff keeps rolling in.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

He's Not Superhuman: A story from the life of the "Prince of Preachers"

Since we're still in October, which someone has dubbed "Pastor Appreciation Month", I thought this blog on an incident in the life of Chas. Spurgeon, arguably the greatest preacher of the 19th (or maybe any) century.

I dare say that 99% of a pastor's church never knows or even thinks of the hurts he bears. Most of us have learned to swallow them and bear them deep within our souls. But as Spurgeon's story shows, that's not healthy. Eventually there needs to be healing.

There are some great points in this blog that as I read I said, "Amen!"
  • "Members leave easily when hurt. Why can’t we?"
  • "Jesus intends to teach us how to talk about such things to him and to entrust these pains to him. Moving too quickly gives temporal relief but leaves us still unskilled in this thing with which Jesus wants to empower us."
  • "Jesus interprets our life and calling, not our critics."
  • "Keeping us put, Jesus disciples us in fellowship with him. He teaches us how to sometimes live with uncorrected and incorrect reports about us so that we can stay with the gospel regardless. Our identity is hid in him."
  • "Our reputations as someone who is more than human need to crash."
  • "Those ready to learn humanity and dependence will not leave you."
Here's the link to the blog. Take time to read it carefully, whether you're a pastor or a member of a church. Your pastor may never tell you, but he can see himself in this story as though it was a mirror.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Oh, that again. It's Halloween...

As we creep upon the eve of All Hallowed (Saints) Day, the posts and tweets multiply on why Christians shouldn't participate.

But I'm not going to get into a debate about whether or not Trick or Treating is some kind of pagan ritual that celebrates a spirit of anti-Christ. When I was a kid it was strictly about one thing: loading up on candy. Period. I never heard of the Celts.

But I wonder what Jesus meant in Matthew 16:18 when He said the "gates of Hell" would not be able to "prevail" or "overpower" the church.

If Halloween is a tool in the hands of the powers of Hell, as many claim (and, yes, I'm aware of its pagan origins), is it something from which we retreat or is it something we charge as an army with the Gospel?

I mean, if Jesus was being truthful, what about Halloween do we fear? And aren't we called to invade the culture to proclaim the chains have been broken by the Cross?

Doesn't the Gospel have the power to not only overcome but convert evil to good? And if so, does that not apply to how we approach Halloween?

I'm reminded of Larry Norman's radical lyrics that challenged the church in my teenage years. "Why should the devil have all the good music?" Likewise, why surrender to the devil a fun celebration by hiding from it? Why not turn it into something that points people to Jesus?

So, do we crash the party, or do we run away? Are we truly "like a mighty army" as the old hymn says, on the offensive, or are we monastic and reclusive, hiding out in our bomb shelters until the 2nd Coming?

Just thinking out loud.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Thinking about your pastor this month?

Every so often I hear someone in the church or community make a comment that tells me that a common perception of pastors is that they aren't or can't be regular guys. One of my outside the church friends recently told me that one thing he liked about me was that even though I'm a preacher I'm a "regular guy". I took that as a compliment.

My guess is that perception of pastors being abnormal is because most in the church only see their pastors on Sundays being "pastorly". (Spell check tells that isn't a word, but I think you understand it.) You only see us when we're up front reading Scripture, praying and sermonizing. And in your minds, unless you see us elsewhere in "real life", if you don't stop and think about it, you might think that's all we do in life. On top of that, if your pastor always wears a suit or some kind of clerical garb at church, you might assume that's his wardrobe 24/7. And that's not regular.

My personal belief is that pastors are and should be seen as "regular" guys who happen to be called to lead and preach. We weren't born with Bibles in our hands. Our first words as little ones weren't "God bless you". We were teenagers at one time and had zits like everyone else.

I laugh when people see me in the supermarket or out and about and are almost shocked that I'm wearing a ball cap or that because I've been working in the yard I'm pretty dirty and sweaty. Some are even shocked to see me in a store at all. I guess they think I don't have to go shopping...that God sends an angel to my house every day with my "daily bread".

But the truth is I watch football on TV and I yell at the players if they don't perform to my expectations - just like the rest of you. If I eat Mexican food it tends to have a physical effect on me a few hours later - just like the rest of you. I have to pump the gas in my truck - just like the rest of you (except residents of NJ). I change the oil, cut my grass and put off repairs to my home too long - just like the rest of you. I stay up too late for my own good. I enjoy a cup of coffee in the morning, but for me it's not a matter of life and death.

I love to laugh, hear and tell jokes, tease and pull practical jokes on my friends. My wife often has to tell me to pick up my clothes. And if I could get by with it, I'd wear the same pair of jeans every day for the rest of my life. I cry watching movies about dogs. I dream of retiring and sitting around at a restaurant breakfast table with other old guys drinking coffee and telling stories. (Wait, I do that now.) My grandkids bring me great joy, but I'm glad they live at other houses with their parents.

I can get angry, but try not to. If you ask me, Forrest Gump is probably the best movie ever. Braveheart would probably be #2. I only have 24 hours in a day and 7 days in a week. And God works on me every single day. On the good days I respond the right way to Him.

The church is my calling and I'm passionate for her. I don't understand why others are not equally passionate. So, I get impatient when Christians take her for granted. I also get impatient with the cable company and the internet provider. I never get impatient with my wife. OK. Sometimes I'm not totally honest.

I hope this hasn't been earth-shattering news for you. If it has been...get over it. But let's be sure we neither judge one another because of our pre-conceived ideas. If you've put your pastor on some kind of superman pedestal, take him down from there. Not only does he not belong there, it's not where he wants to be.

Mostly he wants to be a friend who is respected and loved. Just like you.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Frustrations of a Teaching Pastor

And He personally gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, for the training of the saints in the work of ministry, to build up the body of Christ,

For those of us who serve Christ and the church as teaching pastors, those words are taken seriously.

We know that the teaching of the Bible leads to spiritual growth and changed lives to the hearers and responders. We know that God's Word is profitable and that it's ability to mold us is like a sharp, two-edged sword. We know that the church can only be the church when it feeds on "sound doctrine (teaching)".

So we prepare. Some of us have spent many years at no small financial expense learning the crafts of exegesis, hermeneutics, biblical languages and homiletics. We work to the point of exhaustion, digging, praying for the right words and struggling at the same time with our own spiritual needs.

So we hope that the church will benefit from our ministry. We know that God's Word never returns void to Him - it always produces results when it is heard and applied. But when we work for Christ to shepherd and feed His flock and they are not there to hear from God's Word it is frustrating.

Even more is when the lessons taught that have gone unheard due to absence or unheeded due to insolence or apathy could have made a difference in a life struggling for answers. The answers were given.

Why weren't you there to get them?

But then, I remember I'll be judged for my teaching. That's between me and Jesus.

I won't be judged for your hearing. That's between you and Jesus.

And lest you think I'm riding some high horse, I didn't ask for this gift.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Presidential Religion

Recently the pastor of a leading Baptist church proclaimed that Mitt Romney, being a Mormon, is a member of a cult.

First, is that true? And whether it is or isn't, should it matter when choosing a presidential candidate?

I was planning to write about this, but Chuck Colson articulated my own views so well, I'll just share his thoughts instead.

You can read them here.

Monday, October 10, 2011

The Prayer of Columbus

Here's some historical into about the motivation behind the man who "discovered" America.