Today is Friday the 13th. Not that I care much. In fact I didn’t even realize it until the cashier said something about it. In honor of the day, however, I decided to post the lyrics to an unrecorded song titled “Superstitious” which I wrote two decades ago. Read the rest of this entry »
There are days when I feel like I absolutely must have a drink. These are the days when I know I must absolutely not have a drink.
We just finished brunch during which my six-year-old son ate some eggs and about a quarter of a pound of bacon. Ten minutes later he came and asked if he could have a snack.
Only in America does movie theater popcorn cost more per ounce than filet mignon.
Digest that for a moment.
What a turmoil of emotions. Relief and anxiety. Encouragement and frustrations. Hope and despair. Excitement and dread. Those words describe my experience of leading a struggling church through a merger. I have to admit it’s not the end I had in mind when accepted the call to pastor this small church a year and a half ago. It must also be said that I am convinced this was/is the will of God.
Initially, after my arrival here we grew. We grew numerically and spiritually. The church felt new life flow through its veins. But over summer we lost that momentum and by summer’s end I was thoroughly discouraged. Yet in my times of prayer and study I kept hearing God give me the same overall vision and instruct me to keep doing what I was doing. Facing the reality that this local congregation could only survive another year financially I heard God instruct that we should keep pressing on. Shortly thereafter we were approached by a young, growing church without a permanent home. And thus the merger process began.
It was a difficult road. The hard truth we had to face was that we simply did not have the energy and manpower to turn this ship around. What was needed as a re-birth. Going through a season such as this causes one to do some serious self examination. It prompted a new song titled “Deconstructing Me” as I felt God tear me down, and reassemble me. Over the last eight months really I have struggled with calling and caring. I questioned the role and purpose of Church and my place in it. Through this journey God did something interesting. He rekindled in me a passion for His Church. I am convinced that my investment in the Church and its mission is the most significant thing I can do in my life.
My six-year-old son was making out valentine cards for his upcoming classroom valentine party. The teacher helpfully sent home a list of every student in the class. My wife instructed our son to fill out one card for each student in the class.
“But what if I don’t like that person?” he asked.
“You still need to make them a card,” my wife explained.
“But what if they’re mean?” he persisted.
“You still need to give them a card. You need to make a card for every person on that list,” my wife maintained.
As we were putting all the cards together in a bag my wife noticed that he’d done exactly as she told him. There was a card for each child on the class list…including himself.
Church leadership is a pain in the backside. Whether one is full time, bi-vocational, volunteer, a lay leader, etc. matters not. It is a difficult calling. Years ago while church planting my mentor and I worked through the book of Nehemiah. For as much and as often as I have been frustrated in ministry I must admit that I’ve never faced as daunting a task as that prophet.
Now before this, Eliashib the priest, who was appointed over the chambers of the house of our God, and who was related to Tobiah, 5prepared for Tobiah a large chamber where they had previously put the grain offering, the frankincense, the vessels, and the tithes of grain, wine, and oil, which were given by commandment to the Levites, singers, and gatekeepers, and the contributions for the priests. 6While this was taking place, I was not in Jerusalem, for in the thirty-second year of Artaxerxes king of Babylon I went to the king. And after some time I asked leave of the king 7and came to Jerusalem, and I then discovered the evil that Eliashib had done for Tobiah, preparing for him a chamber in the courts of the house of God. 8And I was very angry, and I threw all the household furniture of Tobiah out of the chamber. 9Then I gave orders, and they cleansed the chambers, and I brought back there the vessels of the house of God, with the grain offering and the frankincense. 10I also found out that the portions of the Levites had not been given to them, so that the Levites and the singers, who did the work, had fled each to his field. 11So I confronted the officials and said, “Why is the house of God forsaken?” And I gathered them together and set them in their stations. 12Then all Judah brought the tithe of the grain, wine, and oil into the storehouses.
Nehemiah 13: 4-12 (ESV)
I read these words and am encouraged. Much like reading Job, no matter how bad things might get, I’ve never had it as bad as he did. No matter my struggles in ministry, my hurdles have never been quite as extreme or intense as Nehemiah’s. So I feel better reading about men who persevered against constant frustration and I hear a still small voice whispering to me, “keep pressing on.”
It would be nice to end the post on that high note, but I can’t. I feel the need to add that just because I feel comforted and hear the voice that doesn’t mean I don’t slump in my chair with fatigue and something just shy of despair on occasion (sometimes on frequent occasion). Nor does it mean I don’t raise my fist to the heavens and literally shout at God in my anger and frustration. But I will also admit that as I am engaged in these less than productive activities that I feel the draw to return to Scripture, to the Word of the Living God. I know there I will find my solace and the encouragement I need…and God in his grace let’s me have my pity party and patiently waits for me to return to my senses and draws me back to him.