I don’t really even know if I can write this blog. I have uncertainty as to whether I have allowance to do so.
Here goes nothing.
Somewhere around three years ago, my pastors, Josh Hedger and Dave Becker, asked me if I’d be willing to pursue Eldership at Freshwater Church. My initial reaction was shock. I’m not a pastor…I’m a high school English teacher.
Add to that the fact that I had recently worked through the realization that I’d only two years earlier left a church because of my own sinful, selfish attitudes that had allowed me to view my former church in the same way the general public views Burger King (HAVE IT YOUR WAY, RIGHT!?).
But I prayed it out. And I eventually knew God had a plan for me at Freshwater. I accepted.
Over the last three years, I’ve miraculously come to a deeper understanding of what the church is really supposed to be. I’ve seen the gospel of Jesus Christ change lives, saving marriages, giving hope to the hopeless, breaking cycles of generational sin. I’ve seen relationships restored, seen people give generously to the needy among them. I’ve experienced the Holy Spirit’s movement more evident in the last three years than I can recall at any point in my life, a prime example coming in that over the last two years, I’ve had the honor of seeing more people baptized at Freshwater than I may have seen in any other church I’ve been in, including the one I grew up in and attended for the first 18 years of my life.
And God has changed me, deeply changed me. I am not the same person I was three years ago. I can see within myself the seeds of the gospel, planted so long ago by faithful men and women throughout my life, growing as I see myself more passionate for the name of Jesus Christ and more conformed to his image.
Sounds blissful, right?
So why am I so lonely?
Why do I feel so isolated, so inadequate, so…scared? Why do I spend most of my time quite certain that I failed or perhaps misconstrued my calling?
I used to critique pastors like I was an ESPN analyst working Tim Tebow over on a Monday Morning. If I didn’t love their style, I panned them. If they weren’t leading with the bullish authority I felt was needed, I voiced my lack of confidence in them (though not to them in person, of course…better to share with others, right?). If they just “weren’t meeting my needs,” I was ready to pack up and leave, take my ball and go elsewhere, if the pattern continued.
Because ultimately, they were just a dude on the stage whose job it was to make sure I was good to go.
And then I became one of them. You know that saying about walking a mile in another man’s shoes? Yeah. I do.
I’m pouring into more people, discipling more folks than at any other point in my life. I’m preaching on a regular basis. I meet with people for prayer, I check up on people, I stretch myself thin because ultimately, I just want people to know Jesus. And I’m willing to do what it takes for that to happen, even if it’s inconvenient and, at times, exhausting.
Please don’t take that as an “I’m so awesome” statement. I’m profoundly not awesome. Jesus is, though, and part of the burden of pastoral leadership involves being willing to give yourself to His mission, and the mission involves real involvement in people’s lives, not just spouting wisdom from a platform.
Pastors shepherd, encourage, exhort, correct, protect, and care for people.
So who shepherds me? Who shepherds Dave Becker? Who shepherds Paul or Billy? Who shepherds (INSERT THE NAME OF ANY OF YOUR CHURCH PASTORAL STAFF HERE)?
In Romans 12, Paul says this crazy thing about Christians. He says we are “members of one another.” Again, I’m no Biblically-trained seminary grad. I teach kids to write and force them to read Hemingway. However, it doesn’t seem to take a lot of Bible wits to get what Paul is saying about the “body of Christ.” We belong to one another.
I have a friend who is the most gifted worship leader I’ve ever had the pleasure of knowing. A few months back, he was struggling with his next step, but he pretty clearly seemed to know he wasn’t staying in vocational ministry. As he talked to me about some families who’d left his church over a period of time, he said something that struck me. He said, “Most of the time, they just say ‘We had to make the best choice for our family,’ and I just have to say ‘okay,’ while sitting there and thinking ‘I thought we were family.'” He resigned not long after that and has since moved on to other ventures.
I wish I could say that his case wasn’t normative, but in my heart of hearts, I fear it isn’t.
Whose job was it to shepherd my friend’s heart? Whose job was it to outdo him in honor? Whose job was it to encourage and uplift him? Whose job was it to tell him, “Man, I love you and I’m in this with you to the bitter end”?
I think I have an answer to that question, but such an answer will undoubtedly grind against the consumer mentality that is pervasive in the American church.
Those days when I was armchair quarterbacking my pastors, pointing out flaws with incisive abandon…I’m ashamed of them now, and here’s why. I know that they weren’t spending their time critiquing me the way I critiqued them. They were more likely praying for me, weeping over me, serving the church so that I could be shown the love of God.
How many times did I call them just to check up on them? None.
How many times did I war in prayer on their behalf? None.
How many times did I tell them I believe in them? None.
How many times did I evaluate them in front of others? Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner.
I love Jesus and fully believe He alone is enough for me and for all of us. I love my church family and am committed to serve them until they don’t need me or decide they don’t want me. I believe in our mission because I believe it’s not really our mission, it’s Jesus’ mission. The last three years have been the most spiritually impactful years of my life, and I would not change them because they have brought me nearer to Christ.
But I’m a pastor, and if I’m honest?
And I don’t even know if this is the kind of thing I can blog.
Humbly in Christ,
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