I keep seeing this article being shared on Facebook and Twitter. It’s a very sobering read. And the Thom Rainer article referenced in the piece is even more sobering. The past 6 months have been really difficult for everyone. As a pastor, these have been really hard times. Election years are already full of frustration, but throw COVID-19 in the mix and it all starts to feel like too much.
Jim Gaffigan has a bit about having 5 kids. The transition from 4 kids to 5 kids is like “you’re treading water and then someone says, ‘Here take this baby.'”
That’s kind of what 2020 feels like. And I know this isn’t just a pastor problem. Small business owners, teachers, studends, government leaders, parents, every body. We are all doing the best we can with what we can and it seems like more and more things just keep getting thrown to us.
But what keeps us going?
I know it’s super sappy. But that’s all I have and all I have to offer
I know that Jesus loves me. And he loves people. Even the people who are rejecting him, the people who don’t believe in him. The people who are actively trying to destroy faith in others. Jesus loves all these people. And we don’t deserve it. But Jesus loves us anyway.
As a pastor I know that I’m not going to be able to fix everyone’s problems. I know that I am going to disappoint people, and other people are going to disappoint me. Church is a lot like a family that way. But one of the things that has been important for me to remember is that even when I disappoint Jesus, he still loves me. I want to be like Jesus in this regard. Can I love people even when I’m sad about their decisions? When I’m frustrated by a recent interaction? When I’m just tired of dealing with the same stuff?
Jesus said, “all men will know you are my disciples if you love one another.” (John 13:35)
Even when people leave, move, are angry or antagonistic. I am praying that love will still be what I am known for.
When I was in Jr. High I felt the Holy Spirit drawing me to devote my life to ministry. I have been very blessed to be a full-time pastor. I love being able to open the Bible with people and help people see that it is a living and active book. It speaks to our world today. When I went to Bible college I knew that whatever I was going to do for a career I was going to spend the rest of my life reading the Bible. That’s why I got a degree in Biblical Literature. That was my motivation to get my MA in Theology in Culture, because I wanted to have a broader understanding of the Bible, the countours of Christian Theology, and how to speak to the cultural dynamics in our world. When I entered the Doctor of Ministry Program at George Fox, this was the same motivation. I wanted to be better informed on the signs of the times, and how to lead our church community into the future.
I have told our church on several occasions that I love the privilege of teaching the Bible. To paraphrase a sentiment that I have seen attributed to several different football players, “They pay me to go to meetings, work through financial struggles, walk with people through painful seasons, etc. But I preach for free.”
If leaders only look at their organization’s metrics as the indicator of whether to stay or leave, then that is too much heart break, over things that we often can’t control. Following the Call of God on our lives is what keeps us going. Everyone at every church is temporary. I know that, but until Jesus gives new marching orders, I’m going to do the best I can, where he has placed me.
And out of calling comes
Who are you? How are you wired? How do your actions/behaviors/attitudes affect those around you? I found tremendous clarity when someone encouraged me to do an Enneagram assessment. This is just one tool to help build self-awareness, and build better understanding of others. It has been encouraging to recognize my patterns when facing stress and conflict as well as when things are going well. I want to be healthy spiritually, emotionally, and physically. The only way to start is by being honest about my reality. I know that I’m far from perfect. And I’ve also accepted that perfection is not the goal. My friend Anh posted this on Facebook recently: “God is not glorified in our perfection. God is glorified in our process.”
Right now, we are all in a new process. We are all figuring out how to move forward in this world. COVID is apocalyptic because it is revealing to us who we are and what really matters. Don’t waste this process of revelation that we are experiencing. Lay your own heart on the table and let the Lord Jesus show you what you may have been holding on to that you need to let go of. Let him build the things that truly matter. Surrender your heart and life to him.
and when you feel like you can’t do it, that’s when you need
Receive the gift of grace from Jesus. He died for you. Forgive yourself. Forgive others. So much of my prayer life over the past 6 months has been, “Jesus, I need you!” “Jesus, Help!” “Jesus, please heal these wounds in my heart.” “Jesus, please help _______ find peace in you.”
It’s easy to lash out in anger. What I have found is that when I am lashing out in anger, it’s usually because I’m angry at myself first. Maybe I’m angry that I can’t control the situation. I’m angry that I wasn’t enough for someone else. This kind of anger is rarely constructive. When I’m recognizing this anger in my life. That’s when I need to receive the grace of Jesus.
Love, Calling, Self-Awareness, and Grace. These have been the things that have helped me to hang-in there. The challenges of the world don’t just disappear. But I can look at them through these filters. And I know that I can keep going.
P.S. If you read all the way through this thank you for taking the time. I have been listening to these songs a lot lately. They have been helpful. They are both from U2, and I know they are not for everyone. But I like them and I they fit with the vibe of this post.