Real Pastor Thoughts

This post will be from my perspective as one local church pastor.I LOVE being a pastor and I LOVE my church family. I also LOVE the worldwide Christian Church. As a pastor, like any position, there are aspects that are exciting and others concerning. So, I thought I’d briefly spit out some very brief thoughts and perspectives regarding wider church culture (which includes me.)

Church people inviting church people to their church is not evangelism.

Evangelism is sharing the good news of Jesus with other people. Particularly people who have not yet embraced Jesus. I suspect that most followers of Jesus have a sense that they are supposed to be bringing the good news to others. But, for a number of reasons (fear, not knowing non-Christians, not knowing how, etc…), followers of Jesus often focus on inviting other church people to their church gathering.

I was sitting at a coffee shop and overheard two women talking to one another about church. They both were a part of different church communities and one of them was inviting the other to come and check out her church. She talked about the experience, the size, the preaching, and programs. The other woman said she’d go along to check it out. The conversation felt like a sales pitch to purchase a product. There is a lot more I could go into, but I’ll save that for another time.

This experience is driven by the next thing I’ll throw out there.

Churches are families, not shopping malls.

A church is God’s family pursuing God’s purposes together. The church is not a building, program, or a specific leader. The church is God’s people, the Body of Jesus, the community of faith.

However, from my perspective, the church is often viewed as a shopping mall. So, the church becomes a vendor of religious goods and services. So we “church shop.” We are disciples of consumerism and we look at most things with that lens and expectation. The woman I overheard talking to her friend was sharing the goods and services offered by her church. She was giving a commercial. (I’m sure it is a wonderful church, but this was the vibe I got.)

That made me think of a commercial I heard on a local Christian radio station. A church was inviting people to their church to hear the relevant biblical teaching, exciting music, and wonderful programs. I thought it was cool to try to connect with people by radio. But, then I considered the predominant audience… Christians. So essentially the message (most likely unintentional) was, “join us because our church is better than your church.”

I take the blame for my part in promoting this view of the church. Most pastors I talk to are driven crazy by the consumer mentality that is in wider church culture. Yet, often the pastors and leaders are the one who have increasingly treated people like consumers and less like a community. If we treat people like consumers they will act that way and will always pursue the next thing to consume. Don’t believe me?  Imagine taking away that favorite program or taking a two month break from having a worship band.  Yikes!  I’ve contributed to the consumer culture and so my frustration is with myself.

Which leads to the next thing…

We are all supposed to play.

One of the contributing factors of creating a consumer culture in the church is the view that key “gifted” leaders are the ones to do the ministry and everyone else depends on them and supports their efforts. Yet, Scripture makes it crystal clear that every follower of Jesus is gifted and summoned to ministry wherever they find themselves.

I confess that I hate this and also desire this. As a pastor, I like feeling valuable and needed. I’m insecure and like to be liked. So, my ego experiences a little bump when someone depends on me and needs me. I feel special. But, this dependency that makes me feel special also is a tremendous unattainable burden that isn’t God’s best.

As a pastor, I understand that one of my key responsibilities is to join God in helping awaken people to the ministry He has for them and to help equip and encourage them in the process. However, I fear that most people don’t think God’s work in the world is for someone like them to participate in. I take my part of the blame for sending those signals so that I can feel good about myself (but resent people for).

Which leads me to this final thought…

God is bigger than our failures, disappointments, and distractions.

I shared some things I have wrestled with and feel like I’ve messed up. I’ve mentioned things that have me concerned and frustrated. Yet, there is hope. Jesus is King and His rule and reign is breaking into every nook and cranny of this world. God takes our mess ups and poor motives and can shape them into something beautiful. It is easy to rip on the church and many people do it. However, I am a part of that Body called the Church. God’s will and plans shall be accomplished. Will I continue to try to grow and align myself to Him or will I settle into complacency, comfort, or cynicism? (I could add more “c’s” but I won’t.)

Take courage, God is bigger.

Let’s move forward together.

 

 

Revive Us

I need revival.

It can be easy to let my self-interest, my comfort, my petty concerns, my pride, and my mess distract me from intentionally and whole-heartedly joining God’s work in my life and through my life.  I desire to keep on being filled with the Holy Spirit (Eph.5:18) instead of being filled with my worries and trivial pursuits. I need revival.

Years ago I came across this passage that is used a lot when talking about revival. It is an incredible invitation to renewed life with God.

2 Chronicles 7:14

“Then if My people who are called by My name will humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and restore their land.”

A few reflections and questions as I read through this verse:

  • MY people / MY name : Does renewed life begin when we first realize that our identity is found in God and not in ourselves or circumstances?  Do I fully embrace that my life is not merely my life, but God’s life?
  • Humble / Pray / Seek / Turn : Does renewed life begin when we recognize our own pride, self-dependency, and sin? Do I hate the sin and rebellion in my life or do I tolerate it? Do I take action and change my life’s direction or do I continue to go my own way? Do my humble confessions lead to changed living?
  • Hear / Forgive / Restore : God reveals His heart of grace, mercy, forgiveness, and restoration.  Am I amazed and changed by God’s grace, and love, or do I take it for-granted?  Have I experienced God’s renewed life personally?

I pray that I would experience revival and renewed life and that my community would experience this healing as well.

Reading this passage fills me with hope of renewed life and it inspires me to embrace God’s invitation to humbly pursue Him and His way. How about you?

Influence

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I’m working on the message for Sunday for our “influence” series. The series is about learning to lead/influence like Jesus. I was thoroughly burned out by leadership conferences, books, talks, and conversations in the 1990’s and early 2000’s. I appreciated the growth as a leader, but I am thankful that God led me to focus on becoming a better follower. I like how Paul, in the New Testament, sums up his leadership strategy: “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.” – 1 Corinthians 11:1.  Christian leadership is following Jesus and learning to lead people to follow Jesus.  Any.ways, my hope is that our series will have this tone to it. You can check out one of the talks and see the rest of the series HERE.

As I think about those who have influenced me to follow Jesus and grow as a person, I am filled with gratitude.

What if each of us looked outward and considered how we might be able to encourage and invest in even one other person?

 

Heart of Obedience

Have you ever heard someone say, “delayed obedience is disobedience”?  I think I found the story it is taken from…

I was reading the book of Deuteronomy today and came across a part of Israel’s story that I haven’t paid much attention to in the past.

Let me briefly set it up…

God powerfully freed the people of Israel from their slavery and oppression in Egypt. He provided for them, protected them, and personally guided them to the land He promised them. Before they entered the promised land, the people sent spies to check it out and see what they were up against (this turned out to be a bad move). The spies returned filled with fear (except for two faith-filled spies) and the people lost heart and started to complain and consider going back into their slavery in Egypt.

God had clearly given the people a command to obey and the encouragement to act.

We see this in Deuteronomy 1:21

“See, the Lord your God has given you the land. Go up and take possession of it as the Lord, the God of your ancestors, told you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.” 

But, instead of choosing obedience and trusting God, they chose disobedience and trusting the reports of some of the spies. They listened to the wrong voices.

So God explained that their consequence would be to live out their days in the wilderness and never enter the land He promised them. The next generation of Israel would enter the land and not the generation that disobeyed. Then God told them to get moving back into the wilderness.

This is where I typically end the story when I think about it and tell it.  But, there is an interesting bit in this story that can be missed.

The people of Israel were heartbroken and recognized their rebellion. But instead of following God’s new command to go back into the wilderness, they decide that they would now enter the land. God warned them to not go into the land to fight because He would not be with them. But, again they did not listen to God and they gathered people and weapons and marched forward. They met opposition and were soundly defeated and retreated.

In the past, I somehow missed the part in the story where the people try to take the land on their own and are defeated.

This story made me think about obedience and the heart behind it.

God told them to enter the land. They delayed the obedience and sent out spies to check it out and decided to not go in.

God explained their consequence. They recognized their sin.

God told them to enter the wilderness. They disobeyed and decided to now enter the land.

But, it was too late. They had revealed their heart, their lack of trust in God, and their pride. I find it fascinating that the people chose to disobey God’s clear guidance a second time immediately after recognizing their failure.

Did they think they could avoid the consequences of their disobedience by entering the land?

Did they think they could do it without God?

I’m reflecting today on how I respond to the the commands and guidance of God.

  • Am I quick to obey because God can be trusted and He is good? Or do I delay obedience out of fear, pride, or looking for alternatives?
  • Am I obeying to avoid consequences and prove something? Or do I joyfully obey to embrace God’s way of life and respond to His love?
  • Am I learning from my mistakes and failures?  Or do I continue to march headlong into disobedience time after time?

(The story is found in Numbers 14 & a retelling in Deuteronomy 1)

Return of the Blog

So I’m thinking about being more regular in writing online again. Back in 2003 I started blogging in the midst of a lot of exciting and challenging transitions. That year we had a son (Harrison), left a church position (All Shores / formerly Spring Lake Wesleyan), moved into Grand Haven, and launched a new church community (Watermark).

Blogging was relatively new to me and I was blown away at the idea that I could write stuff and chronicle my experiences and interact with others about what I was thinking and learning. I blogged regularly for about 3-4 years and then it became a trickle and then stopped. I moved on to Facebook and Twitter for howling at the moon. My old blog (of a younger version of me) is found at DEURTY.

Later I set this website up so I could share different things, but I haven’t made it a priority to take time to write about stuff.  But, recently I reread chunks of my past blog and I recognized the power of blogging/online journaling/writing.  I think that I need to pick up the blog idea again as a discipline to process ideas, share what I’m learning, and  encourage conversation. I’ve been waiting to figure out some really cool format or focus, but I think it is better to just see where this takes me…. or I’ll be sitting here a year from now in the same spot.  Sometimes you have to just start.

Anyways, I’m going to write stuff here. So, let’s try this again.  If no one reads this regularly… at least I know it will be helpful for me.

I apologize in advance for the grammar.

sd