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.]


Sometimes We Just Get Tired

I will be frank with you, there are some activities that don’t weary me. They might make me sore physically or challenge me mentally, but I can walk away refreshed and invigorated.

But there are also a lot of things that just wear me out. One of those things is relational ministry. Don’t get me wrong. I love the people of our congregation. There is no greater joy for me than to see God’s people engaged with His Word and His Work. It is just that being with people exhausts me.

I can spend a day in the mountains hiking up rugged terrain and come home refreshed and renewed. Put me in a counseling session or a personal conversation, and I am wiped out for at least a day. Pastoring at the relationship level is hard work for me. Just ask my wife.

Now, before people get all riled up about the pastor saying he doesn’t like people, let me again say that I love the relationships I have in our congregation and the people I have those relationships with. I endure the work of relational ministry because 1) Jesus called me to it, which means he equips me for it; and 2) Jesus did it too and it exhausted him as well.

Exhausted Jesus? Yep. Just check out how many times the Gospels record him slipping off somewhere alone. He does it all the time. Why? Because real relationships are exhausting.

When I sit with a single dad struggling to make sense of his current lot in life or work alongside a grandmother dealing with the pain of seeing her grandchildren in a bad home situation, I share the weight of those people’s journeys. Often I walk away from these kinds of conversations in a heart-rending mixture of frustration at my own inadequacy to meet these people’s needs and please to the Lord to understand why he allows this to happen.

It’s not just the good stuff that is tiring, either. Celebrating with a young couple united in marriage is exhilarating, but also reminds me of the passing of my own years (especially
if the couple is people I knew when they were children!). Seeing people transformed by God’s Spirit from irreligious to faithful is tremendous, but there’s still an exhausting relational journey there.

It would be so easy to cut myself off from the people God calls me to serve. There have been days when I have said in my heart that I would not pursue relationships anymore, that I would just pull out the stock answers and quotes that I learned in college and go about the task of ministry in the cliché that I so despised as a young pastor.

After all, at 35 years old, I have more than my fair share of stress, anxiety and aches. Since becoming a pastor in 2004, I have gained nearly 40 pounds and it isn’t because of potluck dinners. It is because sometimes I am too exhausted to exercise and too burdened to release the tension of all these lives God has chosen to intertwine with mine.

But I can’t turn my back on relational ministry anymore than I could stop breathing. Exhausting? Yes, but it is worth every exhausting minute. Worthy things generally are exhausting. In fact, if you’re not exhausted in ministry from time to time, you are probably on autopilot.

There are a lot of people who will throw a super-spiritual answer – well, just rely on the Lord and you won’t be weary. That’s a nice, pithy way to talk but I wonder if David’s Psalms or Paul’s Epistles represent the nature of human leadership? After all, aren’t these books full of statements of concern and relationship? Don’t you feel the weariness of the Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians or his broken heart for a congregation’s troubles in 1 Thessalonians? Don’t we hear disappointment in his letter to the Galatians? If anyone relied on the Lord, it was Paul; and yet, I find a kindred pastor’s heart in his writings.

(One verse that is often quoted as if it teaches that “ministry in the spirit” won’t tire you is Isaiah 40:31. For those who might quote it, I ask them to read also verses 29-30 which say, “He giveth power to the faint; and to them that have no might he increaseth strength. Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall…” In other words, you will get weary in the work. God bears you up and renews you but there is no need for renewal if you are not first tired. The verse is a promise to those already tired from working.)

Sometimes a pastor just gets tired, just like any other person.

After eight years of constant ministry involving church renewal, mergers and massive paradigm shifts with hardly a break…

After the past year of facing personal struggles with my wife’s various illnesses and the impact it has had on her and our daughter…

After a decade of my parents being separated with seemingly irreconcilable differences…

After struggling to control my own capricious nature through spiritual discipline and work…

After watching some of my dearest friends turn their backs on me for pursuing God’s vision for our congregation…

After sitting dumb, struggling for words in living rooms and bedsides as people I consider my friends went through tragedy, loss and pain…

After doing the long, hard work of learning to love and grow together with my wife over thirteen years of marriage, in which most of the problems were of my own making…

After many sleepless nights and long days…

After all that, and so much more, if I wasn’t tired, I would be worried.

That does not mean that I am giving up or that my passion for Christ’s body has fizzled. It just means I am tired. For some reason, people think you are not allowed to be tired in our world. You’re not supposed to admit that you need to rest.

It is a good thing that I am tired of listening to what they say as well.

This summer, my family and I are going to the Northwest to visit my grandfather and his wife. I am leaving my computers and gadgets behind, taking some paper books (unless I get a Kindle for my birthday) and my hiking boots. I plan to tramp around the forests and shores of Oregon and rest. I plan to let my family rest.

In the meantime, I think that once I am through Easter, I might take a weekend and spoil my wife and daughter (two of my favorite things to do). I might go for a couple of long walks without my phone and just listen to the world for awhile. I might just buy that hammock I have always wanted and start taking afternoon naps.

I might just do those kinds of things, because I love the church of Jesus Christ too much to ever give up serving her, because I am tired of being tired and stressed, because it is time for me to get refreshed and ready for the next stage of my role at Bedford Road (and make no mistake, I still have about 50 years worth of work left to do among you!)

Don’t be mistaken. I am not writing this to get pity or to make people feel guilty. I could choose not to be in relationships if I wanted to. That’s not my point at all. My point is that people get tired.

I get tired – nothing more.

Too often, we don’t want to admit our weariness and pretend that we are superhuman.

Happy Monday to you all! And if you’re tired, why not rest?

The Vision Killing Quick Order Menu


I actually wrote this list a few years ago, when a friend of mine was struggling with some issues in his congregation. It is meant as a satire, but it is poignant nonetheless. Too often, these kinds of human objections limit the power of the Holy Spirit to direct a congregation.

The Vision Killing Quick Order Menu

In order to avoid the long process of pursuing God’s vision and heart, the following list is provided to assist people in stalling his work in a more orderly and organized manner.

If you’ve eaten at a Chinese restaurant, you know that the waiters often do not speak English. Therefore, you simply order using the numbers – NO SUBSTITUTIONS. You can do the same thing in protesting a move in a church.

During a vision meeting, simply cite the objections by number, like ordering Chinese food.

1.We’ve never tried it before.
2.We tried it before and it didn’t work.
3.Trying it would be too much work.

4.It won’t bring in any tithing members, you know.
5.There are people who will stop tithing if we do it.

6.The older people would never accept it.
7.The newer people would never accept it.
8.‘They’ won’t like it; although they’ll never tell you to your face.

9.Our former pastor would never have done something like this.
10.Our former pastor did something like this, hence the ‘former’.

11.We couldn’t do it until we have a new building.
12.Our church is too small to try that.
13.Our church is too big to try that now.

14.I need more time to think and pray about how to get people to oppose it.
15.Let’s assign it to a committee so they can discuss it forever.

16.It is not in the budget so it must wait until it is.
17.We don’t have the money for it and would have to give more.
18.We have the money but want to use the money for our own agendas.

19.It’s too ______ (insert name of controversial group) for us.
20._____ (insert name of big time preacher) teaches against it.

21.People won’t commit to it because their doing other stuff.
22.People will commit to it and not to the other stuff we do.
23.Ok, but what do we do when it doesn’t work?

24.Jesus didn’t have to do that to minister.
25.It could ruin our carpet.
26.We could get sued.

27.That’s what we hire the pastor for.

What Is a Real Pastor?

This was on, and I thought it was worth considering.

I’ve been reading Alan Hirsch & Tim Catchim’s Permanent Revolution on my way over to London & then the Middle East. It’s really good. I still think Alan’s Forgotten Ways must be read – it has tons of stuff that can’t be missed. He redefines leadership and pastoring in the church around the 5-fold ministry. Been thinking about lots of that stuff. How it would redefinte church as a whole if we did it. I’m questioning a couple of things in the book – not ready to say yea or nay – just a matter of theory vs. practice – but man is it a good book.

One thing I have no question about, we want to reinvent church – more than anything in the West we must reinvent the pastorate. I thought the pastorate was one of the most boring things a person could ever do because I thought all you did was preach and visit hospitals and every once in a while baptized somebody. Why would anybody with drive, ambition, wanting to change the world want to do that?

That’s what most pastoring is. Pastors are guaged by how many people show up and listen to their sermons. Pastors are gauged by being the first to the hospital or at a crisis. Pastors are gauged by baptisms – who ever talks about being gauged by your disciples, your city, the world and how you are relasing the body of Christ to engage like crazy? I’m grateful God let me start NorthWood, because at a new church you have freedom to redefine what a pastor is. Here are some things I’ve learned and come to believe a pastors is and should be doing.

A pastor is the chief mobilizer of the Body of Christ to fulfill the Great Commission.
All the preaching, pastoral care, etc., must be driven towards the individual that they are not an end in themselves but they are equipped to spread the glory of God.

A pastor is the chief discipler. He has to help people find their gifts, abilities, talents, etc., and in doing that releases them on the city. A pastors success cannot be judged by how many amen’s but how many disciples – and those disciples are not learn grow and go – but hear and obey disciples.

A pastor is an architect building something for the glory of God with the people, talents, and resources they’ve been given. The question is not, What am I going to preach about to them, but How am I going to take this, arrange it, and then release it in such a way that impacts lives, the city and the world.

The pastor is the chief missionary. Instead of asking How is my church, their primary question is how is my city. The church is an instrument, not an end. The church is the body of Christ, the family that will be eternally with him, on this earth it is to be a love force to be reakonned with.

A pastor is a mentor. I love all the church planters I’ve had the joy of working with, pastors working with, and close friends that I’ve walked with. I’m with two guys right now I love being with. One of them told me, You’re my Leighton Ford! |Leighton discipled me and now I’m doing that with him. I LOVE working with young pastors and being there for them. I love encouraging them, challenging them, forcing them to dream bigger, and kicking their butt in love when they don’t lead in their home or work at the ministry God has given them.

The pastor is a connector. I love connecting people with one another. I had these two pastors with me, and another young man who may be the Prime Minister of England one day. It was fun them shaking hands and visiting. What I do, should not be abnormal. When we love our city, the world, and begin to serve it – doors open. A lot of people are waiting to be introduced to someone by someone. I learned a long time ago, better to stand in front of King because you served his people and he wants to meet you than someone introduced you – those are two radically different ways of pastoring.

What do you think a real pastor is?

The Church Celebrity

I have previously blogged on the danger of celebrity and the pitfalls that pastors and church leaders may fall into when the Christian media machine gets a hold of you. Lately (I think spurred on by Mark Driscoll’s most recent book and his rockstar persona), there have been a lot of posts about Christian celebrity. The topic seems to be at hand right now. Here are a couple I found worth reading:

Paul Stewart: The Celebrity Pastor

Mike Breen: Obituary for the American Church

To be honest, the American celebrity pastor has been around as long as I can remember. In my childhood, it was John R. Rice and Jack Hyles. In college, it was Bill Hybels and Rick Warren. Now it’s Mark Driscoll or Andy Stanley or Rob Bell or whoever it is that gets the big publishing contract this year.

Let me tell you who should be our celebrities. Men like my dad who has spent 35 years of his life in ministry – sometimes succeeding and sometimes failing but always committed to teaching the Scriptures. Men who devote their lives to the Scriptures and shepherding God’s flock, knowing it will never make them famous or popular. Most of all, men who refuse to compromise the Scriptures and their beliefs to court celebrity.

The megachurch movement is a momentary blip in history. Everyone who is obsessed with the idea of “big is better” and rockstar preachers has their priorities twisted. The job of the pastor is to teach the Scriptures, to be the servant of Jesus Christ – not the servant of the media. We are not called to tour the nation and build our own denominations.