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.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Easter Gladness to Funeral Sadness

It really is amazing how much difference a week makes. We spent this day last week celebrating having 165 people involved in our Easter weekend services. We spent today laying to rest one of our most beloved church members.

I don’t really know that people understand the highs and lows that come with being a minister nor the emotional strain it puts on a person.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Why Pray?

We had another amazing Sunday here at Mayfair. We had 110 in attendance for our worship service and had a family join the church with the husband coming forward to give his life to Christ.

Mayfair continues to move in the right direction under the guidance of Jesus Christ. We have some wise and Godly men and women in our church, in leadership positions, who seek God’s will in everything church related.

As we continue to grow it’s vital that our congregation collectively seeks God’s will for their lives and we as a church grow in our prayer lives. Because of that I am focusing on prayer this month with my sermons. I started the series this Sunday with a look at the reasons why we should pray.

Building a Community of Prayer
Ephesians 6:18
In a small Kentucky town there were 2 churches and 1 whiskey distillery which was owned by the town atheist.

Church members complained that the distillery gave the community a bad image so they unsuccessfully tried to shut it down.

One Saturday night they held a joint prayer meeting during which a terrible storm raged for hours. Lightning struck the distillery and it burned to the ground.

The next morning both pastors preached on the ‘POWER OF PRAYER’. The insurance company decided to not pay for the damages due to the ‘act of God’ clause in the policy so the distillery owner sued both churches for conspiring with God to destroy his building.

In court both churches denied any involvement in causing the fire.

A confused judge said, ‘I find one thing about this case very perplexing: The plaintiff (an atheist) is professing belief in the power of prayer and the defendants (church members) are denying that same power.

18And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints. Ephesians 6:18

Prayer is the true backbone of the church. The church only functions as it’s members pray. Growing churches have active praying members and dying churches don’t. Sure there are other differences between the two but the primary difference is the act of prayer amongst the congregation.

10And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, Colossians 1:10

Prayer is what allows a church to not only stand firmly but to also function properly. We live in a society where the church is attacked from every direction and sometimes backs down when it shouldn’t.

Abortion is a great example of what I’m talking about. No matter where you stand on the issue the fact remains that abortion stops life. Abortion plain and simple is murder and the church collectively didn’t stand when it should have to try to make a difference in this issue when the opportunity presented itself.

Instead of attempting to be more involved in the legislation of the laws regarding abortion the church backed down to the protesters when they said that the institution was infringing on the rights of the individuals. These are many of the same protestors who speak out against putting a convicted killer to death but are completely content to watch and allow an unborn child to die.

The church needs to pray for strength to stand in the midst of opposition and be a voice for Holiness and righteousness. I feel strongly that we have lost that voice and will not get it back until we find our way back into an active prayer life.

Prayer is also the key to success in ministry. When was the last time that you prayed for an opportunity to minister to someone? Churches grow because they are active in ministry and sometimes the words of Jesus haunt churches in regards to their ability to minister. “You have not because you ask not.”

3And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains. Colossians 4:3

Prayer is the key to accountability. On a personal level we often don’t view ourselves as being accountable to God because we aren’t connected to Him. A greater understanding of God leads to a greater since of accountability to Him.

When we view God as being righteous and holy then have a better understanding of what we should desire to be like as followers of Christ. Sin runs rampant in our lives because we aren’t actively seeking God’s direction.

12We pray this so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ. 2 Thessalonians 1:12
The only way Christ can be glorified in you is if you are actively communicating with Him and allowing Him to shape you through your prayer life.