There is No “I” in Pastor…

I have a problem.  It’s my ego…

I never really noticed the problem as a youth pastor.  I never considered myself to be much of a ladder climber.  I was content to be a youth pastor.  I never took attendance on Wednesday nights.  I just loved doing ministry.

Then I turned to the dark side.  That’s what we youth pastors would say to all our friends who became senior pastors.  We accused them of turning to the dark side.  I thought it was a joke, but in some ways maybe it wasn’t.

When I became a Sr. Pastor, all of a sudden I seemed to be constantly evaluated by the size of my congregation.  I had to turn in my numbers every month.  All of the sudden, I had to be concerned about the offerings.  We had to make sure the bills were paid.  Our denomination has an assembly every year where we report.  There is a book that contains the stats of all of the churches in it, including attendance and finances.  It seems like we are always being measured by a business model that measures success by numbers and revenue.  Honestly, it messed with me a little.

I began to realize that my ego was heavily tied to my ministry.  I was turning to the dark side, literally.  And I don’t think I am alone.

I’ll never forget when one of our members asked me the question, “How come God never seems to call pastors to smaller churches?”  I really didn’t have an answer for him.  It seems that many of us pastor types have bought into a business model that says we are more successful if we are pastoring a large congregation.

This week, we lost an amazing member of our church.  She battled cancer for 5 years valiantly and inspired my entire congregation along the way.  I was actually in Puerto Rico when I got the news.  We had to wait a day before we could fly home.  I didn’t want to be in Puerto Rico anymore.  I wanted to be home, mourning with the family and my church family.

I am beginning to realize that there is something special about being in ministry for the long haul.  It means something to celebrate with people when their kids graduate from high school, and to mourn with them when they lose a loved one.  There is something important about being there to marry people, dedicate their children, and bury their grandparent.  There’s something about walking the journey together, taking communion together, placing ashes on their foreheads on Ash Wednesday, baptizing them, and sending some of them out as ministers of the gospel.

The picture below is a picture of some kids from my church at Tyler’s 3rd birthday party.

IMG_0803 Next summer, most of these kids will go to NYC in Louisville with our church.  Someday, I will watch them get married, and perhaps perform some of those ceremonies.  There is something very healthy about long-term pastorates.

I’ve decided that I am sticking with these people.  The church may grow, it may not.  I will preach the Word.  I will administer the sacraments.  I will laugh with these people.  I will cry with them.  But more than anything, we will go through it together.

You see, the ministry isn’t really about me.  It is about being willing to sweat and bleed for a group of people the way Christ was willing to sweat and bleed for me.  I believe our church will grow, but I will not allow a number on a page to define me.  I will be defined by the way I care for those I have been entrusted to serve!

Anything else isn’t ministry, it’s self-serving…

Just a thought,

n8

A Case of the Mondays…

I know that most people hate Mondays.  It is the day when the bliss of the weekend that was collides into the rat-race of the week that will be.  It proves for a difficult transition for most of us.

As a pastor, Mondays are different.  There have been times that I have had Mondays off.  You might think that being off on Monday would be easier.  Sometimes it is, and sometimes it is not.

You see Monday can be an awesome day for those of us in the ministry, or it can be an awful day.  (There are jokes pastors make about driving by the church on a Monday morning and throwing a brick through the window of the church with a resignation letter attached to it… No lie!)

I think the reason our Mondays seem to be bi-polar is because you never know what a Sunday will bring.  One week, it will feel like God is moving, the seats are filled, the music goes off without a hitch, and the sermon really resonates with people.  The next week, the projector goes out,  the pastor gets approached with an “issue” just before walking on stage, and the pastor isn’t sure if anyone is even awake during the service.

On the weeks when nothing goes right, Sunday night and Monday can be some of the darkest days in ministry.  Over the years I have spoken to other pastors and it seems to be a shared phenomenon, as the joke about throwing the brick the window seems to validate.

Yesterday I had a case of the Mondays…

I have found that for me, there are only a couple ways to deal with them.  First, I always remember the day I had a real sense that God was calling me to preach.  That is the bedrock that keeps me doing what I do in the “Mondays” of my life.

The second, and I think this one applies to all of us, I try to turn my focus away from WHO I AM, and back to WHO GOD IS…  It is amazing to me that when I focus on God and WHO HE IS, I begin to realize that he is more than enough.  If I am held in God’s hand, I am secure.  I have all that I need.  The result of this realization is peace.

So on this Tuesday I pick up my text for next week and find these words from Matthew 6:

25 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27 Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life[e]?

28 “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? 31 So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

Every day has enough trouble, especially Mondays, but when we learn to seek the Kingdom and rest in God’s goodness, we find God to even be enough for the “Mondays” we all walk through.

Just a thought,

Nate