Wednesday, May 11, 2016

17 Years Ago Today

17 years ago today, my little family arrived in Indianapolis with a dream in our heart for BFWC and our community.  Today, that dream is being realized even more than we could have ever hoped!  To think that God would call two "Buckeyes" into "Hoosier" country and plant us in the center of His will is overwhelming and humbling.

I honestly spend more time looking ahead than I do behind.  I am truly thankful for tenure and longevity because it speaks of commitment, tenacity and the grit to not quit when you experience the variables of ministry.  

God has been SO GOOD to us and like Apostle Paul, we're incredibly thankful that God has enabled us and counted us faithful by putting us into the ministry. (1 Timothy 1:12)

Ministry is a JOY not a JOB.  However, sometimes it will feel like a job before it's a joy.  In the past 17 years, of pastoral ministry, we've been blessed to meet some of the finest people in the world. We've grown personally, emotionally and spiritually.  I've come to realize that regardless of how much formal training you receive in ministry, there is nothing that can take the place of hands on experience.

If you're a new pastor or have just stepped up to serve in ministry in any capacity - allow me to humbly share a few things I've learned along the way.
  1. Learn how to relax in your own skin.  God called you to be who you are and not someone else.  Resist the urge to compare yourself to other pastors or leaders. Resist the urge to try to minister like someone else. Be yourself!  Whether you preach, teach or "treach"...just be you! God called YOU to be YOU...not what other people or even "ministry personality/culture" called you to be! Don't try to make things happen...let them happen.

  2. It takes time to feel like you're actually "pastoring" the church.  People may call you pastor, out of respect for your office, but there will come a definite moment when you'll feel like you're actually pastoring the church.  Don't rush will happen naturally.  Some people will only trust you after a really long time of proving yourself, and another group will never trust you no matter what you do. Just remain focused on VISION. People are drawn to VISION and those who are determined to cause DIVISION will lose their influence.

  3. You'll only have as much spiritual authority as you're willing to submit yourself to.
    Submission brings freedom and promotion.  Independence is a train wreck waiting to happen.  You cannot ask your people to submit to your leadership if you are unwilling to submit to those over you.  A good soldier can take orders from any commander.  Even if you submit to people who aren't "doing right" themselves, God will honor your commitment to His Word and protect you from snares.

  4. Wolves aren't the only ones who bite.  Sheep bite too.  Although their bite don't kill...the gnawing can make life miserable sometimes.  Don't let your emotions get the best of you.  Walk out in front of your flock...pushing from behind will frustrate you and exhaust your energy.  Expect to be bitten. Stay focused on your VISION and do not exhaust your efforts trying to put out fires and giving ear to murmuring.

  5. The life of a minister/leader can be lonely at times.  If you are called to lead people, you cannot be their best friend too.  God will give you strength during the lonely times and send you relational encouragement.  Cherish the friends God gives you and nourish those relationships. It may take years for you to achieve relational covenant that can be trusted...but it will come to you and be more precious than you could imagine.

  6. Don't make hasty decisions on Monday mornings.  Sometimes your brain will feel like oatmeal after a weekend of ministry.  You'll be tempted to double guess your message, leadership and capability.  The good news is...Monday will pass!  We've all thought about quitting...and that's OK.  Years ago, Tommy Barnett said, "You can think about quitting as long as you know you won't!"  That stuck with me and has helped me many times in the past 17 years.

  7. Keep on preaching the truth regardless of how many people get upset at you.  You're called to proclaim the Word - not necessarily to defend or debate it.  Preach with passion and leave the results to God.  Early on in my ministry, I thought it was my fault when people would continue in poor patterns of behavior. But God eventually showed me that people must want to change if they are going to be able to change at all. My job was to give them God's truth. Their job was to commit to obeying God's truth.

  8. Take a vacation.  You're not superman.  You'll be no good to your family or church if you're beat down.  Schedule a day during the week when you can unwind, get out of the office and avoid dealing with church issues if at all possible.  Sitting on the couch and watching a movie with your family can do you a world of good!  If you don't set your schedule...other people will.

  9. Make wise hiring choices. When looking for potential staff members, loyalty & integrity are the some of the most important characteristics.  You will also want to consider people who have a great work ethic and who ask "why not?" instead of "why?" I've learned that I would much rather hire someone who has character over charisma anytime!  Some people just want an opportunity to advance themselves. When they're finished with you...they'll leave as fast as they came without regard to anyone but themselves. Release them quickly and remain open to God on who to pour into next. God will bless you with true covenant relationships that will outlive you...which is exactly what leadership should be.

  10. Celebrate the victories. After you've completed a big assignment CELEBRATE.  Giving everyone an ice cream cone is a fun way to say "thank you!"  Send thank you cards or appreciation to your key leaders and try to take a breather before the next big event.  Talk about your VICTORIES more than your DEFEATS.

I'm thankful for the "tribe" of people in our life that have loved us with an authentic love! God knows we all need that kind of love in our lives, and that kind of love is beautifully experienced through His body...THE CHURCH.