Wednesday, September 26, 2018

A Pastor's Heart: How do we define the win?

Over the next few weeks, I will write a series of blog posts with the intent of inviting you into the heart and mind of a pastor. These posts will explore the very questions that constantly echo in a pastor’s head, at least in this pastor’s head. Together we will examine God’s call for the church, how success is defined, and what things ought to get the greatest amount of attention. Many of these questions are currently amplified in my mind as we are reassembling our staff and looking to the future.

Question One: How do we define the win?

If we want to be successful, we must know what success looks like. Is success rooted in the number of programs we have? Is success maintaining what our ministries have looked like in the past? Is success me getting the programs and events that I enjoy? Is success defined by the number of people in the pews? Is success defined by a growing budget? What is success?

In order to define success for the church, we must look to the Bible. In the scriptures, I see one overwhelming call that is supported again and again by follow up texts. That one call, “Go…and make disciples” (Matthew 28:19). No where in scripture are programs mentioned. No where in scripture are we told to maintain traditions. No where in scripture are we told to make sure everyone is having a good time. We are not even told in scripture to be the sort of a church everyone loves coming to. We are simply told to make disciples. Then, the rest of the New Testament speaks to the how and why of that command.

Here is the challenge. It is human nature to maintain what we are comfortable with. It is human nature to preserve those things we enjoy and find pleasing. However, we must make a choice. Are we more concerned with our comfort level or with obedience? If we are simply concerned with our own enjoyment, then let the debate begin as to what is most enjoyable. However, if obedience is our greatest concern, then we must begin to pray, have honest discussions, and put everything on the table. We must understand that this will likely mean some programs or events will go away and others will be born. The focus will then become what most expediently gets us to the goal of “making disciples.”

For a pastor, the challenge rest in this: I want the church to be happy. I want people to be fulfilled and experience enjoyment when they are here. However, I also deeply desire, and am compelled, to be obedient to the Lord’s call. Ninety-five percent of the time these two will not collide, but occasionally they do. The question then becomes, what is a pastor to do? I think the deep desire and prayer of every pastor is that his church will understand and join in the pursuit of the church being exactly what God has called it to be.

So, what can we do:

First of all, pray. Yes, it sounds simplistic, but it is a first step. Pray that God would make His will clear. Pray that God would maintain a spirit of peace and unity within the church. Pray that God would make a way forward.

Second, keep the main thing the main thing. The main thing is not a program or an event. The main thing is not keeping people happy or excited. The main thing is not being the attractional church in town. The main thing is to be obedient to the call of Christ to “make disciples.”

Third, be humble. Humility says, “I don’t have to have it my way.” Humility says, “I will put others first.” Humility says, “It is more important to be obedient than to be happy.” Humility says, “We will reach people for Christ, and disciple them, regardless of the cost.”

Finally, be optimistic. Here is a little fact we forget…WE WIN! I now this is so because I have read the end of The Book. The rest of this is just details. There is no need for a defeatist, pessimistic attitude. There is no reason for believers to get cross with each other. We simply need to partner together, seek God’s face, and enjoy the process. Yes, I said enjoy it. This really is supposed to be fun.

So, join me as we seek God. Join me as we pray, as we seek to be obedient, and as we look to make Northside all she can be for the Lord. Join me as we “Journey Together” to “finish the race.”

Honored to be your pastor,

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Don't Look Back

Probably most of us have committed John 14:35 to memory. I mean, we know that hiding scripture in our heart is of great value. So, why not start simply; “Jesus wept.” Well, this morning in my daily reading, I discovered another verse that can easily be committed to memory. Luke 17:32 simply reads, “Remember Lot’s wife.” This is not a call to memorialize someone, but a call to learn from another’s failures.

The story is recorded for us in Genesis 19. God had graciously told Lot that He was about to destroy Sodom. Lot was given the opportunity to take his family and escape from the coming destruction. However, there was one instruction that they were to follow. They were told, “Escape for our life. Do not look back or stop anywhere in the valley. Escape to the hills, lest you be swept away” (v. 17). As they escaped, Lot’s wife did the very thing she was told not to do. We are told in verse 26, “But Lot’s wife, behind him, looked back, and she became a pillar of salt.”

That seems like a pretty severe punishment for a simple glance. I mean, after all, the city behind her was being destroyed with fire that was raining down from heaven. Who wouldn’t have looked? The truth is, it was not the glance that got her in trouble. Her “look back,” was not to see what was happening. Her look back was a longing for what was. She had become accustom to, even enjoying, the sinful city that she lived in. Now that God has asked her to leave behind that sin, her affection for it was on full display.

So, when scripture says, “Remember Lot’s wife,” we know that it is not to memorialize her, but a strong warning not to look back at what God has called us away from. We are to look ahead to what God is doing. We are to press forward to our new life in Christ. We are to look forward to new adventures and new revelations of who God is in our lives. So, remember Lot’s wife. Don’t look back at what was, but look ahead to what God has for you.

Honored to be your pastor,

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

He Will Do It Again

It is always a fun exercise for me to look back at the times God has provided for me in my life. Over and over again, from early childhood, I have seen His hand of provision. I guess the first time I really remember seeing this was at the end of my eight-grade year. Our house, unfortunately, was repossessed. That is a sinking feeling for a young teen, not knowing where you will go. As it turned out, our God provided a home and it turned out to be one of the best things that ever happened to me. On another occasion, I remember asking my mom what we would be eating for supper and she said we would just have to see what God provided (we had nothing in the house). A few hours later, several ladies from the church showed up with a car full of groceries; God again.

Fast forward to my college years. We had no college fund and really no idea how the college game worked. God provided several scholarships that got me through community college. Then, I felt called to go to the University of Alaska in Fairbanks and serve as a student missionary. While we had zero funds to make this happen, God laid it on the heart of one of my aunts to pay for this endeavor. Off to Alaska I went, eventually returning home and graduating from University of Houston – Victoria.

Through my seminary years, not once did I have the tuition to for the semester in the bank. However, Kimberly’s job, somehow, seemed to give a bonus every time tuition was due. The only time I ever took off from seminary was a one-year period that I took off due to burnout. After that year, when I was ready to return, the money was there again.

I could tell you more stories about my adulthood, but you get the idea. This morning, as I was doing my devotional, I read a story in Matthew 16 about Jesus and the Disciples. Jesus was warning them about the “leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees” (v. 6). The Disciples completely misunderstood Jesus and thought that He was fussing at them for not bringing bread. Jesus responds in verses 8-11 by saying, “O you of little faith, why are you discussing among yourselves the fact that you have no bread? Do you not yet perceive? Do you not remember the five loaves for the five thousand, and how many baskets you gathered? Or the seven loaves for the four thousand, and how many baskets you gathered? How is it that you fail to understand that I did not speak about bread? Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.”

May I encourage you this day, remember what God has done in the past and know this: He will do it again. God has never forsaken us, nor will He. Look at His fingerprints in your life and take hope, God is faithful.

Honored to be your pastor,