Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Because We've Given them Time

When we first began PCC, and for years afterwards, I thought it was important to fill the calendar and offer multiple church events, meetings, classes, and groups throughout the week; particularly evening events.  Most of our congregation now prefers family time and personal time more than anything else.  After all, people are very, very busy.  They work 40-plus hours a week, both spouses usually work, and the kids are scattered all over the place.  The last thing some people need (or want) is more events to attend and demands on their time.

The biggest compliment I’ve been given recently came from a relative newcomer to PCC.  He asked, “How is it that everyone seems to be so enthusiastic about the Lord and excited about this church when you offer only one service on Sunday, don’t have Sunday School classes or an organized small groups ministry, or even a Sunday night service?”

“Because we’ve given them the time” I replied.

Give Yourself Permission to Say No

When I entered the ministry it was like a dream come true.  I couldn’t have been happier.  I was thrilled to be doing God’s work, helping people, and serving in the church.

Naturally I wanted to be the best servant I could possibly be…. which meant doing as much as possible and never saying No.  I’ve always been a hard worker and didn’t want to be seen as a slacker, so I worked harder and harder.

However, over time I succumbed to the grocery list of expectations that people had of me – and that I had of myself – and always said yes.  If I was called upon, I would respond no matter the time of day or night, no matter the need.  Having a day off became non existent.  If someone left a mess at church, I would clean it up.  I found myself peddling my inner bicycle faster and faster just to stay even with the demands of a growing congregation.

And the costs were high.

When I was at home I tortured myself thinking, “I ought to be out visiting right now.  What kind of pastor am I?”  When I was out making calls, I would think, “I should be home with my family right now.  What kind of husband and father am I?”  Guilt became my constant companion.  I was exhausted.  Drop-in guests were annoyances.  I worried how I would get through next weeks obligations.  My home had no sanctity – work was always there.  I lost sleep.  I was running on empty.  I was spread too thin.  Mostly I wanted to run away.

This is madness.  It’s a fast track to the burnout program the local mental health hospital!

The common thread in these scenarios is the fact that I would not say NO.

Do you have trouble saying No?

There is simply not enough time in the day for you to do all the things you want to do, much less all the things that other people want you do to.  If you are in a constant battle with your schedule and have been wondering what to cut, maybe it’s the things you should have said No to.

Doing too much, especially stuff that other people expect of you will have a draining effect upon (1) Your devotional life, (2) Your personal life, and, (3) Your family life.

Is it really worth it? NO, IT’S NOT!

Have you been saying yes to things that you don’t really need to be doing?  It’s human nature to want to help people… to be needed… and to do as much as possible, but taking on too much keeps you from other more important things.

Saying No is hard and sometimes it hurts a little to say No to people.  But you have to determine what you really need to say YES to.  That’s how you become intentional with your time.

Sometimes we have to say No to good things so that we can say Yes to what's best.

I have a large capacity for people, but I also have my limits. I need time to read, pray, be alone, reflect, and keep myself healthy. I am always doing a self-evaluation about how I am spending my time and money, what my health and eating habits are, and what spiritual disciplines I need to adopt. I then consider where I need to make adjustments in my life. Most of the time this requires that I say No to some things. Usually I have to say no to myself as much as I have to say no to others. This is the very thing that keeps me sane and healthy. It also keeps me from being yanked around by the tyranny of the urgent.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Small-Time Leadership

I have attended some of the best conferences in the country today.  I have heard some of the most inspiring talks about leadership from great leaders.  From Leadership Summit to Saddleback to Willow Creek to Catalyst to Promise Keepers to Passion to Injoy, etc, I’ve been exposed to a lot.  But after all these leadership conferences, you know what happens?

I go home.

Back to my family.  Back to work.  Back to my local church.  And I take out the trash from the kitchen.

Real life.  Real world.

It turns out that leadership isn’t really that big of a deal – at least not in the way it is marketed by the religious machine.  Leadership is forged in everyday moments, not on stages at conferences.

My opportunity to lead comes most often in my home, not in a board meeting or staff meeting.  It’s far more likely that I will be sharing godly wisdom or parental advice with my two sons rather than speaking on a stage flanked by two large LED screens.

But that’s okay.  No, it’s a good thing.  I’d rather be a leader among a few people I can truly influence.  After all, this is what Jesus did - He invested the majority of His time in a group of twelve hand-picked men rather than pin His hopes on the fickle masses. 

For me, that begins with my family.  Beyond that, just a handful of others. 


Sunday, May 19, 2013

Sunday Mind Dump....

Today's service was exceptional.  The children's chorus sang, which is a always bit hit.

Philip Polk led the worship team.  He and the team did a good job.  It was very inspiring.

Renee Jones shared a testimony between songs.  It touched a lot of people... and God got the glory.

Mike & Christa Collins were on guitar and bass.  A job well done.

Gene Tharp brought the message today, from James 3:13-18.  The topic was about having the wisdom of God.  Very insightful.

Eleven poeple signed up for water baptism today.  Wow!

We will probably have the baptism service sooner than I announced.

It was refreshing to have a couple of spontaneous testimones today too.

From the things said, you could tell that people really love their church family and God.

It was good to see Wade & Ashlie Colon in service today too.  Great couple.

Next Sunday Greg Gill is brining the morning message.

Philip Polk will be leading worship again next Sunday.

This week me and Reane are out of town for a fishing trip. 

Blog activity will be slow this week... becaues I am going to be in-a-van-down-by-the-river.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Random Insights...

I didn’t choose to become a believer because I loved Jesus, but because I didn’t want to die lost and be cast into outer darkness.  A lot of us get off to self-centered starts.  We have to outgrow that.

In Matthew 19:27 Peter is worried about what will happen to himself.  His allegiance to Jesus at this point is based upon... what's in it for me?

Jesus didn’t hate the Romans.  He didn’t align with the religious leaders.  This frustrated Judas, so he took matters into his own hands and it cost him dearly.  God's will cannot be thwarted nor His Hand forced by anyone's expectations of Him.

Jesus was the Messiah – that’s a Jewish word.  “Christ” is the Greek version of that word – not Jesus’ last name.

C.S. Lewis said that the cross did not become part of Christian art (jewelry, pictures, songs, decorating churches, etc) until everyone who had seen one actually used had died.

We have romanticised something that was an instrument of death; an executioners killing device.

Large amounts of people have covered themselves with a decent, but thin veneer of Christianity.

There can be no following without forsaking.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Pastors Who Stay...

Another local pastor is leaving his church.  No, make that two.  No, actually it’s three local pastors that are ‘moving on.’  In the last six weeks at least three local pastors have announced their resignation.

The average stay for a pastor is 24-36 months.  The average stay for a youth pastor is 12-18 months.

Can you see a pattern here?

Most of the time it is detrimental.  Here’s why:

1. First, it is harmful to the individual churches involved. Church members suffer during the interim period. They often have strife over the selection process in acquiring a new leader. The immature in the faith often become discouraged and drop out, sometimes joining the congregation down the street, but often quitting church altogether.

2. People fail to establish deep relationships with their pastors. As a result the pastor and his family are viewed as outsiders, visiting for a time to fill the need of the congregation. If the people like the minister and his family, they guard against becoming too attached because they know that he will in all likelihood in a few short years break their hearts and leave. If they dislike him, there is no need for them to become overly upset, for no doubt he will be replaced before too long.

3. The minister's roots into the community are severed, making him ineffective in reaching unchurched people. If he doesn’t stay in one community long enough to actually become part of the community, it is very difficult for him to build trust with irreligious people.

4. It's harmful to the minister's family. Many ministerial wives never feel that they can settle down and nest. Many children of relocating ministers suffer, being regularly uprooted and replanted. Moving, after all, is quite traumatic. Ministers themselves face the repeated frustrations of starting all over again, never finding out what it is like to pastor a people whom they really know.

Speaking for myself, I want to last in the ministry as long as God will allow me.  As long as possible.  I don’t want to be packing up and moving from church-to-church every couple of years either.  I’ve been at PCC for fifteen years, and, God willing, will be here fifteen more.

Let’s talk about pastoral longevity.  Shall we?

Church HEALTH is almost always associated with pastoral LONGEVITY. Of course no pastor is perfect, and no church is perfect, but pastoral longevity provides stability to a church. A pastor may not be setting the woods on fire, but if he is willing to devote his entire life to a certain flock, he's a rare breed indeed; and most of the time that church will be a healthy church. The church is a family and all families need stability. Less turnover translates into deeper, long-term relationships.

With the average stay of a pastor at 24-36 months, it’s no surprise that kingdom work is thwarted.  This is an extremely short amount of time when trying to provide care to the flock of God and developing disciples because not very much can be accomplished in such a short time. Departing after a brief tenure leaves spiritual orphans in the wake.

When a pastor stays long term, your lives are being shared together. Over a lifetime he will be with you in fair weather, stand with you in crisis, dedicate your babies, baptize your children, marry those very same children when they have grown, and bury your aged loved ones. He’ll be there to teach and preach God’s Word every week pointing you and your family towards Christ. And should life become difficult for him and his family one day, you will be there for him in his hour of need. After a lifetime of his influence on you and your influence on him, you will have built a lifetime of memories together. In short, you know him and he knows you.

FOR EXAMPLE:  In the last three weeks I have dedicated the babies of two families, conducted a wedding on Pensacola Beach, spent time at the hospital waiting room late into the night, prayed for the family of an accident victim, and coached two men who served as fill-in speakers for me.  Last Sunday morning after the message, nine people came forward to speak to me about issues in their life.  One family had experienced a death.  Another couple spoke to me about their desire to be baptized.  Another man asked my counsel about taming the tongue.  Then there was a young Christian couple (early 20s) at the back of the line who waited the longest; they asked if I would perform their wedding ceremony in June of 2014 and were delighted when I said yes.  In the space of 20-30 minutes I was engaged in multiple conversations with sheep in this flock about matters that were important to them.  Last night I was at the funeral home visiting a family.  This morning a commercial airline pilot (who attends PCC) stopped by my office to ask advice about his upcoming marriage.  Today at 2:00 p.m. I am conducting a funeral at Barancas.

None of these things would be possible if not for being a long-term pastor.    

Oh, yea.  That young couple who wants me to perform their wedding in June 2014?  They are assuming I will still be here that far into the future…. and they based that assumption on the fact that I’ve been here all their life since they were little kids.

Just look around in our own community. The strongest, healthiest churches are most often those whose pastor has been there a long time. There is less conflict, the congregations are typically larger, are full of growing disciples, and the church maintains a good reputation in the community. In contrast, think about the churches that are known for fights, turmoil, and have scattered sheep all over the place – there is usually a high turnover rate of the both the pastor and sheep. It's not too hard to connect the dots.

Imagine a dentist or physician who set up a practice in a certain town. Then about every two or three years he uprooted and moved across town to establish another practice. What would the end result be after twenty years or so? The landscape would be dotted with failed or struggling practices and none would have a loyal customer base. The same is true for pastoral ministry - after a lifetime of hopscotch service the landscape becomes dotted with struggling unhealthy churches and spiritual orphans. This is not very commendable for a lifetime of work.

I have made a lifetime commitment to PCC. I usually communicate this in our membership class and mention it from time-to-time in the Sunday services. In return, many of the sheep in that flock have reciprocated the same to me. It appears that a goodly number of us will be together for a very long time.

I am incredibly grateful for the LONG TERM MEMBERS of PCC who have nourished me and my family in love.  We have been sustained with spiritual blessings, practical assistance, solid friendships, and brotherly love.  Those expressions have contributed to my longevity. 

As I look to the years ahead, I know much more fruit will be born in our lives together, our children, and grandchildren.

I think this is how God would have it.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Garden Update

Garlic almost ready to harvest

Red & Yellow Onion beginning to bulb up.  Very excited.

Three row of Tomatoes

 Potatoes Hilled Up
(I will hill them one more time before harvesting