Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Things I’ve Learned Since Becoming a Pastor

I was invited to speak at the pastor's conference for our association on Monday. Being new to pastoral ministry and understanding that the majority of the pastors in our association have years more experience than I do I felt it best just to share with them a few of the things that I've learned since becoming a pastor.

Here's a brief transcript of what I shared with them.

I’ve been a pastor for almost two years now and I feel like at this point that I can tell you more things not to when it comes to leading a growing church than things to do. God has really blessed both my family and my church since July of 2005 and he has taught me a lot about myself and ministry. I would like to share with you a few of the things that I have learned.

I’ve learned not to force God into service. It’s easy to jump into any ministry situation and structure it around our dreams. The problem is that sometimes our dreams and God’s desires don’t match. When this happens we must always yield to God.

Paul experienced this in Romans chapter 1 in his desire to get to Rome.

11I long to see you so that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to make you strong— 12that is, that you and I may be mutually encouraged by each other's faith. 13I do not want you to be unaware, brothers, that I planned many times to come to you (but have been prevented from doing so until now) in order that I might have a harvest among you, just as I have had among the other Gentiles.

In his book “Experiencing God” Henry Blackaby reminds us that we need to find where God is working and join Him in it rather than work against Him.

I’ve learned that I can overcome circumstances. Wilma Rudolph was born the 16th of 18 children in a poor black family in middle Tennessee. She weighed just over 4 pounds. At the age of 4 she contracted polio and lost the use of her left leg. The battle with polio left her weakened and she developed chronic pneumonia and scarlet fever. She managed to survive, but spent most of her childhood as a cripple. It was only through years of therapy, and determination that Wilma was able to regain the use of her left leg. She played high school basketball setting a single season record averaging over 30 points a game. In 1960, Wilma represented the United States in the Olympics. She won gold medals in all three of the events in which she competed. She tied the world record in the 100-meters, set a new Olympic record in the 200 and in the 400-meter relay she brought her team from behind to win the gold. At the very least, we can say that Wilma Rudolph rose above her circumstances.

There always going to be things that we must overcome and being in ministry doesn’t make it any different.

I serve at a church that has tripled in size over the last two years. We have sent out mission teams twice internationally and once domestically. We have started several new ministries including one for Spanish speaking people. Even with that, last week I had a church member call me just to inform me of all the things that I’m doing wrong as a pastor.

The great news is that I don’t have to overcome anything under my own strength or power but I can rely on the one who has already overcome the world.

"I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world." John 16:33

I’ve learned the desert can be a place of blessing. When I graduated high school I received as a gift a two week vacation up the West Coast with some family friends. I was really excited because up to that point in my life I had only been east and I had never seen the desert before. When we reached the desert of Arizona and Nevada I immediately noticed two things.

First, the desert is very dry (duh). As the wind would pick up it would send huge dust clouds racing across the landscape. Second, the desert is lonely. There weren’t quite as many places to stop for gas or to sightsee in the desert.

However the desert can be an amazing place of refreshment with the right provision. Moses spent time in the desert leading the Children of Israel to the Promised Land. David spent time in the desert during the rebellion of his son Absalom. Even Jesus had some time in the desert. When you read all three accounts you find that God provided for their needs. For Moses it was manna and quail. For David it was supplies through friends and unexpected sources. For Jesus it was immediate nourishment after forcing the Devil to flee.

When our spiritual walk dries up and gets lonely there are several books to read, places to go, or people to talk to but the true blessing of the desert is found in God’s provision.

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