Don’t Give In, part 3

Don’t Give In, part 3

There’s no money in real ministry

Sure, you might have the assurance that you are striving to understand the ancient text of the Scriptures and present it to folks so the Spirit of God can use it to transform their lives – but is that skill that will pay the bill?

I mean, do you really want to go through life with just enough to meet your needs? Don’t you want to see the green?

Why should you waste your time on all that stuff that will require you to conform to the Scriptures when you could be making money by giving people what they want? You could have staff people to do all the work for you.

Doesn’t that sound better than all that work studying and being honest will require?

In the end, what is important is you. You work hard. You deserve to get paid. Star athletes get paid. CEO’s get paid. You’re the pastor. You’re like a Heisman winner and a baron of business all wrapped into one. Get the payday you deserve, you superstar of a minister, you!

[This post, and all in this series, are satirical hyperbole. That means I am making a point by exaggerating the opposite point.]

Don’t Give In , part 2

Don’t Give In , part 2

Might as well give people what they want.

Sure.

Most people are bored in most churches.

But if they are going to a traditional, predictable church then at least they know they can depend on the pastor to show up at their house routinely and any time they want to just talk and talk, they can always set up an appointment and he has to listen with a concerned face.

And if they don’t want that kind of church, they can always go find a rock show with a little message at the end that passes for a worship service in some of the newer churches. They can move through life anonymously without any genuine spiritual growth but still tell people that they got a lot out of the worship service.

Who wants someone to challenge them at every turn? And think of all the time you will have on my hands if you don’t have to do all that studying the Scriptures and working in ancient languages?

In fact, you can get plenty of ready-made sermons online. After all, if it is good enough to be preached by some pastor somewhere else, it should be effective in my congregation as well, right?

So, find out what people want from you and just give it to them. It will make everyone a whole lot happier. And in the end, isn’t that what ministry is all about?

[This post, and all in this series, are satirical hyperbole. That means I am making a point by exaggerating the opposite point.]

Don’t Give In, part 1

Don’t Give In, part 1

For years, I have tried to challenge the status quo and call people to do the difficult work of truly living according to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. But I have decided there is really no point to it. I have faced too many challenges and resistance, so I have decided to just put my pastoring gig into autopilot. Why?

Well, it works on airplanes, doesn’t it? 

I mean once the pilot gets the plane in the air, he slaps on autopilot and just hangs out with his copilot, right? I have heard that on most flights over about four or five hours, the pilot is generally sleeping anyway. On an average day, air traffic controllers handle over 28,000 flights every day. How many of them crash? That’s right – NONE. Since 2001, there have been five crashes involving commercial planes. FIVE. See, autopilot works great.

Why shouldn’t it work with pastoring? Leading a church isn’t nearly as complicated as flying a commercial plane, right? And the average commercial airliner has more people on it than will hear the average sermon.

So if an autopilot can handle an airliner, why can’t we put the church in autopilot as well?

[This post, and all in this series, are satirical hyperbole. That means I am making a point by exaggerating the opposite point.]

Our Trip to Israel in January

Biblical Imagination Trip to Israel

The video will open a new page on Vimeo

We were privileged to spend a couple of weeks in Israel with the Biblical Imagination team. Our church family and a number of friends we have met over the years helped us get there – a blessing to our entire family. After we got back, we tried to show people the pictures but we had hundreds ourselves and then hundreds from our new friends. In the end, any slideshow presentation did not do the trip justice.

Jeff Jones, our videographer, just sent us the video journal of our trip. You can watch it and see us among our “congregation on the move” during the trip. The video is set to music and narration from Michael Card as well as some of the instruction from our tour guide, David Miller.

My Advice to Future Pastors

My Advice to Future Pastors

I am in my tenth year as a solo pastor. In that time, I have led our congregation through a lot of changes. Our first Sunday together, I candidated for a down and out congregation that had just moved into a newly renovated space. They had already offered the pastorate to someone else, who had decided God wanted him on the mission field instead. I was their second choice. That was August, 2004. In November of that year, the congregation called me to be their pastor.

Five years later, with our lease expiring and our funds dwindling, God led us to another congregation and I was privileged to help lead the two congregations in a merger that resulted in Bedford Road Baptist Church. That process took over 18 months from beginning to end.

Now, after nearly ten years, I finally feel like I have something to give to the next generation of pastors – in the form of a single piece of advice.

If you can live without doing this job, do something else.

I say this in all seriousness and without the slightest reservation.

If you can do something else, do it. The pastorate is not something you do because you think it will be neat or a challenge. It is something you do because there is a fire burning deep inside your gut and God won’t let you do anything else.

Look, I am a pastor’s kid. I know just how much being married to a pastor or having a pastor as a dad sucks.

As a pastor, you will put your family through more garbage than you would ever wish on anyone else. You will have bouts of depression and frustration. You will have days of complete exhaustion. Sometimes, you will cry for no reason other than the disparity between the way you thought your life would go and the way it has.

Make no mistake about it.

You have to be called into this gig.

If you can do anything else, do it. If you can be anywhere else, be there. If there is someone else, then let them do it.

Being a pastor is the hardest thing I have ever done. It is tiring. It is frustrating. It is painful. It is trying. It is brutal. It is emotional.

And I can’t imagine myself doing anything else because God dragged me kicking and screaming into this gig – so I know it is His work, not mine.

Casual pastor-wannabe? Get out while you can, before this thing consumes you. It isn’t for those who aren’t called, because it isn’t about you.

Praying in God’s Theater

What roles do the Scriptures play in your prayer life?

This is a question that I am not sure many Christians, especially those of the evangelical traditions, consider very carefully. We read our Bibles. We pray. But do these things intersect?

Most prayer that I encountered as a pastor’s kid was what I call laundry list prayer. We would get a nice long list of people’s booboos and then present the list to God, usually accompanied with a lot of “Oh God” and “Please, Lord”. Sometimes there was event fervent mumbling and occasionally tears. These times of prayer would go on for quite awhile.

Since I am not much of an emotional person and I cannot keep my eyes closed for more than about five minutes without falling asleep, my mind would wander and my imagination would kick in. Before we got caught, a friend of mine and I used to play a game of keeping track of the sanctified stutters – those things people say when they are trying to think of the next thing to say.

During my adult experience of the Christian faith, I have gravitated toward a more careful form of prayer than I was used to hearing from people. It was not that the folks I grew up around were insincere or that they were somehow unspiritual. But at the same time, there was something that I felt like I should be doing that I wasn’t.

For the past decade or so, my pattern of prayer has shifted more and more to a conformity with Scriptural prayers and Scripture as prayer. In our congregation, we often do corporate Scripture reading as prayer – with the pronouns changed to reflect a personal cry to the Lord. In my personal discipline of prayer, I prefer to recite the Scriptures as petitions to the Lord.

So, the opportunity to review Joel L. Watts new book Praying in God’s Theater was too good to pass up. The book is written as a series of prayers and meditations drawn from the Book of Revelation. And if there is one book of the Scriptures that is neglected in the worship of the western church, Revelation is it.

I will be reading the book in the coming weeks, and I will post the review once I am done.

The Church of the Resurrection – Links

We have filled the last three weeks looking at the Church of the Resurrection (also known as the Church of the Holy Sepulcher). Hopefully, the story of this revered but often neglected site gives us a little bit of perspective on the difficulties faced by the Church in all its various manifestations.

  1. Constantine and the Ancient Building (330-614)
  2. The Persian Wars and the Rise of Islam (614-692)
  3. Sidebar on the Dome of the Rock (685-692)
  4. The Mad Caliph Destroys the Church (1019-1042)
  5. The Crusader Church (1042-1187)
  6. Turkish Control and the Status Quo (1187-1856)
  7. The Earthquakes and Conflicts (1853-1965)
  8. Barluzzi, Italy, World War II (1933-1947)
  9. Restoration at Last (1965-1997)

We haven’t exhausted this subject, and I might return to it at a later date.