I am currently teaching a series of messages though the book of Ecclesiastes. I try to teach on a rotation basis each year dealing with a series from the Old Testament, the New Testaments, and the Life of Christ. Since I preach expository messages, one of the ways that I prepare is by reading commentaries, other messages, and going through my old sermon notes.
While studying Ecclesiastes 7, one Pastor mentioned that he had a document on his computer named “Don’t Cry for Me”. Anytime a significant moment or event happens in his life or soul, he adds a one sentence comment. As an example he writes – Don’t cry for me, I’ve been called Daddy. The last line is always the same, it reads Don’t cry for me, I’m home.
I stopped my sermon preparation and started my own “Don’t Cry for Me” document. After about an hour, I had 1 1/2 pages summarizing moments and experiences that God has allowed me to experience in my short 54 years in this world. I was amazed at the impact that hour had on my outlook and attitude. It allowed me to see the many experiences and opportunities God has given me. It gave me a renewed appreciation for a God that has been incredibly good to me. Yes, like every Pastor, I have faced my share of dark days, overwhelming circumstances, and difficult people. But, none of those things made my list. My list was filled with the little and big joys that God has brought into my life.
THOT: If you could leave a statement behind after God calls you home, what would your “Don’t Cry for Me” document say? I think we become so focused on the difficulties and issues that we fail to focus and appreciate the many joys that come with ministry.
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I realize it has been almost a year since my last post. In October my dear friend Doug, went home to be with the Lord. It was a difficult year of ER visits, hospital rooms, and Cancer center visits. His passing turned my world upside down. I am now learning to live in an upside down world. Things are now different and I am in the process of finding new ways to handle my personal life. Doug was a big part of my emotional health. He kept me “tethered” and grounded. I miss his input into my world, but life here continues.
Charles Spurgeon once said “By perseverance the snail reached the ark.” I think sometimes we forget how important it is to keep faithfully plugging away in the place that God has called us. Too many times we are always focusing on the “next big thing or program”. We all know those pastors that every time you ask them about their church, they explain the latest “program” they are promoting. You don’t hear many Pastors talk about the mundane but necessary aspects of ministry.
The Bible talks about the idea of “line upon line, and precept upon precept.” I think sometimes we as Pastors forget about the idea of simply plugging away and being faithful to the task we are called to do. Jeremiah is a great example of a servant who continued in spite of his lack of external success. Don’t get me wrong, I am not against success and growth. I just wonder sometimes if the tools that we use to measure success are not Biblically based. “It is required, that we be faithful”
THOT: Are you focused on faithfulness as a measure of successful ministry? Have you become “numbers” or “program” focused? God desires our faithfulness. Stay faithful this year!
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Don’t get me wrong, I genuinely love what I do. I have a great church, a wonderful group of people that I get to minister to every week. These people love us and are more like a family than congregation. When I make this statement I am talking about things that are happening in my personal life rather than ministry life.
Maybe some explanation will shed some light on my current status. About 25 years ago God brought a couple into our lives. These 2 people have become more than family. We meet each week, we vacation together and we have raised our kids together. For me it is a Jonathan/David kind of friendship. I realize that as a Pastor I am incredibly blessed to have a relationship like this. Our friends attend a different church and are involved in serving in that ministry. In fact, when they were looking for a new church home, I told them not to come to our church. I explained that I wanted to be their friend and not their “Pastor”.
And that brings me to my dilemma. My friend is a 4 time survivor of colon cancer. He was first diagnosed over 22 years ago and we have been with them through this whole journey. He had his colon removed 2 1/2 years ago and we thought the battle was over. Last month he was diagnosed for the 5th time. The situation is much more difficult this time, because it has reached other into the lymph nodes.
My wife and I are traveling this journey together with them, but we can only carry so much. As far as their spiritual care, I often find myself feeling the need to go into “pastor” mode as we talk. I don’t want to be a Pastor. I want to be a friend and that is what makes this tough. The beauty of our relationship is that I can be a friend. Don’t get me wrong, as friends we talk about spiritual things, but I do not want the responsibility of his spiritual care. I want their Pastor and I want their small group to come alongside of them. My friend and I have talked about this and are in agreement that we want our relationship to stay the same.
I don’t know if this is a common struggle, but it is definitely a struggle as we journey down this road. So I find myself in a conundrum, I love being a Pastor, but during times like this, I don’t want to be a Pastor.
THOT – As a Pastor, we are always “on call”. What practices have you developed to recharge your batteries from a job that is literally 24/7? Even Jesus pulled away from time to time to recharge, so how do you follow His example?
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