Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Day 144: Bible Study RANT

Tonight was the last evening of our “typical” Wednesday night bible study. We have decided through the fall and winter seasons to have two choices regarding home groups. The first is called, “Pastor Bob’s Book Club” which will be every Tuesday night at my home. The other choice is at our worship leader’s home on Wednesday nights at 7:00 p.m.

The hope with these electives is that more people would come out and enjoy the great times of prayer, fellowship, and learning. You cannot beat hanging out with people in the middle of the week.

Now I am going to tee it up. My hope in making two different studies available is that those who say “I wish we had more bible studies” would actually attend one of these home groups. It never ceases to amaze me at the amount of people who think they will start their own group, try and promote it in a church only to find out it will miserably fail. Why go through all the trouble in re-inventing the wheel when a great church has some in place. Yes, I hear the complaints that it falls on a bad night or a bad time. Let me tee this one up as well. I have a business friend that is older than me and has a phrase, “you make time for what you really want to do.” To this I could not agree more. Call me old fashioned but what happened to the days where parents would let their kids be in extracurricular activities but if it got in the way of Sunday morning church or youth/kids group night….you were not going to be a part of it. This kind of thinking made me solid in who I am today. I am quite confident that my parents would have rather done something else instead of the midweek service. They worked two jobs and I am sure quite beat at the end of the day….but they made sure my brother and I were there.

Midweek studies will enhance a person’s life by making their roots in the scriptures deep and strong. It will take a person past the shallow messages so many hear and go deep into things they may have never thought about before. I cannot say enough good things about midweek studies so, I will just end here.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Day 143: A Day in the Life

I had an interesting conversation the other day with some people regarding the role of a pastor. Actually the conversation was based on the assumption of what people think a pastor does all week versus what a pastor really does all week. I know that many don't think the pastor just prepares a message for Sunday and that is it. The fact is many people still have that mindset though.

In this conversation with some people, they assumed they knew just about everything going on at church. As we were conversing, I was interrupted with someone at my door regarding an issue they are dealing with. After I talked to that person and scheduled a time to meet, I was asked "is that normal?" I responded..."What? For people that do and do not attend church to come to the office and poor out their troubles and want them fixed?" They responded, "yes." I simply said, "if it is not in person than it is in email, phone call, skype or facebook. Yes...in fact it happens more than you are aware of. Perhaps every day someone is sharing with me their troubles. Some expect me to fix it and some just want someone to talk to." You could tell that what they thought they knew about pastor and the church was only the tip of the ice-berg. Though a pastor does not have to go according to the rules of confessional...people will tell us some deep things and expect us to keep it quiet. I respect their wishes.

The life of a pastor can be VERY easy at times. In fact as, Reggie Dabb's once said, "I cannot believe I am getting paid to do this." Those days are great but there are also many days where you get into the trenches with people and help them through their struggle. Sure it isn't factory work or hard physical work but mentally it will drain a person. The funny thing about a smaller church is that you could be counseling one moment and the next running to the church in order to be Mr. fix it. Nothing irritates me more than a member (we call them partner) of the church pointing out what needs to be fixed and doesn't lift a finger to do it. Believe me...I had one tell me a light bulb was out and another that said "we need more toilet paper in the men's room." A pastor wears many hats which is why I value my Mondays. Yesterday I had 8 phone calls come to me personally or the office. You know what I did? I ignored everyone of them! It is my day to have a Sabbath and let people worry about their own troubles so that I can stay mentally sane and be ready to go for the rest of the week and weekend.

That is just a glimpse into the life of a pastor. It is a calling not for the weak at heart but rather one that truly not only has a family to run but also helps many others as well. I wouldn't trade it for the world but people need to go easier on their pastors and staff pastors. Unless you are one...you would be surprised at what freedoms and personal things a pastor gives up in order to be a pastor.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Day 142: Holy Spirit or Planning?

This Sunday really proved a point in my thinking and the reason why staff meetings are important. What happens allot of times in church is the pastor functions separate from the worship leader. We throw our unorganized ways under the title of "being led by the Spirit". I remember serving at a church where the worship leader would come in one hour before service...pick the songs and run a quick practice. Why? Probably because the pastor only planned a week out with the messages or maybe a day.

Each Thursday we have our staff meeting as many churches do. One of the important elements to our staff meeting is talking about the upcoming weekend service. We talk about the music line-up and the way the service will unfold. Now those reading this might be thinking "be sure to let the Holy Spirit have room." There is no need to worry, the Holy Spirit is all over our services. The other important thing we talk about are the messages I will be talking on a minimum of 3 weeks out. The reason for this is so the worship leader is able to pick songs that coincide with the message. This gives the whole service a nice flow with the same theme. What can happen in church is that the pastor will be talking about victory and the songs/hymns being picked has to do with death and our mansion in glory. There is no flow to that.

This past weekend quite a few people came up to me and mentioned, "that last song was perfect for the message...isn't it great how God works like that?" I am not discounting God in ANY way. What these people didn't know however is that I knew where the message was going about two weeks in advance. I communicated that to the worship leader and we came up with that closing song. The guest speaker talked about pressing forward and the great new work the church will be doing. We closed with "New Hallelujah". It really is the icing on the cake when you know where you are going and can match the music to it.

Communication is the key with staff at a church. Not just from the pastor to the staff but the staff to the pastor. Is it the Holy Spirit that guides our services? YES...but it is planning as well which is inspired by the Holy Spirit.

Day 141: Pastor/Janitor

This past weekend was one of ups and downs. It is a precarious thing being a pastor as you will find out. If you are a pastor already than chances are you can share many stories as well. I started off my weekend with a church cleaning day. Let me tell you now that if you plan on being a pastor and that is all...you are in the wrong field. You will be the pastor, janitor, plumber, etc. These are just the things a pastor has to do now and then in order to cut corners financially. After church service a couple weeks ago I noticed how horrible the church looked. The floor wasn't clean and probably has not been mopped for awhile. This is no fault of anyone's as we have a rotating schedule of volunteers to make sure the building stays clean. However, it was overlooked one week so I decided to do it. From top to bottom I vacuumed, swept, cleaned the bathrooms, and mopped. That day I came home and felt good about it all and told Tracy "it smells nice and clean in the church now!"

Well, that was short lived as I was told in few words that my cleaning job was shotty at best. You know...it is these kinds of things that really makes a pastor want to keep to himself. I was proud of the cleaning and that it smelt so nice but, it was a case in point that some people will always think they can do better.

This is the vicious cycle of a pastor. Absolutely there are great times and they are more times than not. However, being a pastor is one of the most thankless "jobs" around and so you have to celebrate your own victories. I jokingly tell Tracy (my wife) during pastor appreciation month, "you know? I think our pastor at Radiant Fellowship is pretty awesome! We should take him out to dinner and maybe Best Buy to get a gift." We jokingly go and do this.

Pastor, you will do things and hear things and have to deal with things that no one else knows about or needs to know about. Please understand that when someone takes the wind out of your sails after you are feeling good about something....stay encouraged! God sees what you are doing and yes, "your reward is in heaven" but, he will encourage you and bless you in ways that are pretty awesome here and now. Stay encouraged!!

This past weekend we had a guest speaker in at Radiant Fellowship. I know for a fact it was good for people to hear his message but it was great for me as well. This pastor spoke life into me...even during the message. I told Tracy that I could not remember the last time that life was spoken into me. I felt my batteries get recharged and got excited again. It wasn't a major message but one directed right at me none-the-less. I needed that after that weekend and God always comes through!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Day 140: Mediator?

I Timothy 2:5 (NIV) says, "For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus." According to bible dictionaries the word "mediator" means: This word is used in the New Testament to denote simply an internuncius, an ambassador, one who acts as a medium of communication between two contracting parties. In other dictionaries it is defined as: a negotiator who acts as a link between parties. Both definitions are pretty similar which leads me to a thought that I was challenged with this summer as I was a speaker at Cornerstone Festival 2010.

Most of the conversations I have had with people regarding a "mediator" usually ends up with people talking about a catholic priest being a mediator. People get this impression because they feel when they confess to a priest and they go before God that they are acting as a mediator. The question I brought up and was in agreement with while chatting with a few musicians. Are we missing the biggest mediator of all? Denominations.

When a person feels God has spoken to them about something, inevitably we run it through our denomination filter. If it lines up with what "they" believe...then in must be a God thing. If it does not line up with it...then it needs to go. This is not to say that some denominations offer GREAT flexibility. None the less when you are raised with a certain belief system and God speaks to you to do something outside of that system...we think "surely this cannot be of God." This can prevent churches and people from doing ministry because if God has spoken to them about something and it does not line up with what their denomination believes than nothing gets done.

So...mediator? Person or denomination or both?