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3 Weird Things About Being A PastorI love being a pastor.

I’ve been in ministry 15 years now, and I’m ruined for doing anything else. I just can’t imagine spending my life any other way. I love getting to share the Good News of Jesus with as many people as possible. It’s my calling, my life work.

But I’ve got to tell you, there are some unique things that go along with being a pastor.

Here’s 3 Weird Things About Being A Pastor:

1)  Every Sunday is “Take Your Kids To Work Day”

Don’t get me wrong. I love my girls more than life itself. (We have 4 daughters.)

But just imagine, for a moment, that your whole family came to work with you once a week. Or twice, if you have mid-week events. There you are, at work. Your mind is running 100 mph as you factor in everything from A to Z…

  • …the lighting level
  • the coffee
  • the 15 people you need to talk to
  • the crisis that just popped up
  • the grieving friend who just arrived
  • the volunteers who called in sick
  • and OH! that 25 minute presentation you have to make in T minus 30 minutes…

…when all of a sudden, you’re immobilized by the 5 year-old who just ran through a crowd to throw their arms around your legs.

It is pure joy to see my kids while I’m “at work”. But it’s also challenging in a unique way.

The last thing I ever want is for my kids to resent me, church or God. I don’t want them to feel like they’re competing for my time and attention, but they often are. The nature of the role just won’t allow that tension to be removed.

I’m not saying it’s a bad thing. It’s just weird. My kids have to share me with a bunch of other people, and not just on Sundays.

On the up-side, there are, occasionally, times during the week when I can adjust my work schedule to be there for important stuff for them. Like everything, it’s a trade-off.

2) You’re Learning the Message AS You Preach It

Maybe there are pastors who are experts. They’ve got it all figured out. But I doubt it.

Preaching is a tricky thing. Yes, any pastor worth his salt studies his tail off in preparation, learning lots of stuff, most of which doesn’t make it to the sermon, but falls to the cutting room floor. But the learning part doesn’t mean anything unless it’s attached to life change. And if the pastor doesn’t live out what he’s preaching, well, we all know what that’s called.

Being a pastor is weird because your’e not teaching math. Math facts are math facts. They don’t change. There are 1,000 ways to teach history, but the dates and events have not changed, nor will they. But the content you’re bringing from the stage at church is living. It transforms you, as well as the hearer. So you’re always being impacted by it yourself AS you teach it.

So, how do you, a real, flawed person, maintain transparency with your congregation without freaking them out?

Finding that balance can be a little weird.

3)  What’s A Weekend?

My week builds to a crescendo. Sunday is “Game Day” 50 weeks a year. It’s not down-time. It’s go-time. The day we invite everyone to come and “be filled” is the most emotionally, spiritually and physically draining day of the week. Every pastor I know suffers from the “holy hangover” on Mondays as a result.

Friday is my day off (unless there’s a church event), which is weird because the kids are in school and my friends are at work.

Saturday I get some time off while the kids are off too, until I have to prep for Sunday and go to our Saturday night service.

Rest is a weird thing for pastors. So much of the time you’re “on” when everyone else is “off”. So you have to learn how to adjust your life to a different rhythm. I struggled with this for years, but have learned how to survive and thrive while working a job with a schedule that doesn’t mesh with everyone else’s.

Being a pastor is weird for a lot of reasons.

But it’s a great, wonderful weird that I wouldn’t trade for the world.

Being a pastor is a privilege, an honor. And I wouldn’t trade one moment of it. (Well, yes I would. But there are many more good moments than bad.)

What about you?

Are you from a ministry family? Are you a pastor? The spouse of a pastor? Or a Pastor’s Kid? What would you add to the list?

A Pastor’s Only Hope

December 4, 2012 — 9 Comments
A Pastor's Only Hope

A Pastor’s Only Hope

Pastors are human.

If you’ve known one for any length of time, you’ve realized this is all too true. I got another lesson in my own limitations this past weekend.

This weekend was fantastic because:

  • I got to baptize twin girls who made a deep commitment to Christ just months before they go off to college.
  • Worship and the message were off the charts. The hope and help of Jesus Christ flooded the church.
  • Generous donations funded “The Big Give”. We get to feed 30+ families for a month!
  • I met a woman who attended church for the first time in her life. (and liked it)
  • A woman I invited, who is new to the area, attended for the first time, and is planning on coming back.

These things fire me up! They are the “wins” that cause us to celebrate. But…

This weekend was tough because:

  • I learned that 4 couples I know and love are either divorcing or are under extreme duress.
  • Two of my friends who are hurting deeply won’t return my calls.
  • Others that I care about are missing from church, failing in faith, or running from God.

This stark contrast is what I see week in and week out. Being a pastor puts me at the crossroads of peoples’ lives. I get the privilege of sharing profound joy and deep sorrow with many.

The joys buoy me. They fill me with energy. I love nothing more than to share the fullness of Jesus Christ with families and see Him supply healing and wholeness. It’s fun. And it’s what I was called to do as a pastor.

But pastors are also called to “mourn with those who mourn” (Romans 12:15). Sometimes, since we live in a fallen and broken world, there is chaos and destruction. Pastors are called to meet people there too. That’s less fun. But it’s still a privilege.

This weekend I was reminded once more that I am finite.

I resonated with Paul’s words. When describing his trials as a man spreading the Gospel he said,

Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches. (2 Corinthians 11:28)

Every pastor understands that burden. Heck, every Christian who cares for others understands it. We want God’s best for the people He has put within our reach. But even though He has won the war, the enemy often steals a battle here and there. Witnessing others hurt makes a man weary.

Bottom line: I left church yesterday feeling 1,000 pounds heavier than when I walked in.

Throughout the day I had “accumulated” concerns and burdens for those I love and care about. It’s weeks like these that I understand why Jesus was called, “a man of suffering, and familiar with pain” (Isaiah 53:3)

It’s Him that I need.

This Jesus, this God, eternally existing in perfection, took on the form of man and entered this mucked up world we live in. He lived and walked among the broken. Love poured out of every pore of his body. When he looked upon the city that would soon crucify him, he didn’t shy away. Instead…

When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. (Matthew 9:36)

This Jesus is the only hope for all the people I am concerned about. He is the only one who can truly and completely help and heal their hearts and lives. He’s also the only hope for me.

Here’s my conclusion: I was never designed to carry all these burdens. I cannot. I am too weak to even bear my own.

Yes, I get to come alongside many who are hurting, and I will continue to. But the distinguishing factor that makes me effective as a minister of the Gospel is that I myself am not what they need. He is. I get to walk alongside my brothers and sisters in Christ. But my main goal must always be to point them to Him. To carry them, if need be, to the Savior who holds in His hands infinite mercy, grace and compassion for the ones He came to save.

And after leading the way to Him, after exhausting my own feeble resources, I must routinely heed Jesus’ words:

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.

I will. I must. This Jesus is my only hope.

Christ has broken our chains and set us free.

This picture, posted by a camper’s Mom, made my week. The message made it from camp to home.

Two weeks ago I posted, “Why I Do What I Do“, just before I left for “Launch”, New Life‘s annual teen camp. At that time I could not have predicted the extent to which it would be true. The deep work God did in both students and leaders reminds me, once again, why I do what I do.

Here are a few of the lessons I learned last week:

Teens are Hungry for God

Worship was absolutely off the charts. It wasn’t the music alone that made it great. It was teens responding to the call of an infinite God, and God responding back infinitely more than we could have imagined.

All week, whether we had a face-melting full band or a simple set with an acoustic guitar and a voice, I got to join in with teens who were ready to worship. As they did, lifting their voices to God, He responded in ways only He could. Having entered His presence, we were all ready to receive His Word. Spending the whole week in Colossians gave Him ample time to speak deep truths to each of us. The ways He changed lives last week are as varied and individual as the worshipers themselves. I can’t wait to see that continue throughout the school year.

I am Free in Christ

As the guy who got to do a bunch of the teaching at this event, you’d think I would have a handle on this one in advance. Well, as Christ followers we’re always leaning into the next growth curve God has for us. In this season of my life I find myself being led to new levels of confidence as my Father in Heaven assures me of what He has made real within me. In particular, He has been calling me to stand in all of the spiritual freedom Christ so expensively provided for me.

At the beginning of the week, we gave a single chain link to each student and leader, asking them to talk with God about what has been enslaving them spiritually. God used this opportunity to identify the many ways He wanted us to step into newfound freedom. Throughout the rest of the week, we presented opportunities for all to exchange their whole chain link for a broken one, signifying the freeing work Christ has done for us.

As I pressed a broken chain link into the hands of teens and leaders alike, I got a front row seat to the transformation that took place as they realized the reality of freedom in Christ. What we could never attain for ourselves has been bought and paid for on the cross, washing our sins away forever. Death and sin were then broken as Christ rose from the dead. Now we get to step into that same freedom as He is made alive in us. WOW!

Our Teens Are Pretty Amazing

Sure, we had a couple of kids who spazzed out occasionally, and had to be corralled a bit. Others needed to be encouraged (prodded and begged) to demonstrate basic proficiency in personal hygiene. And of course, a few middle school girls got in a tizzy about middle school boys, who were 100% clueless of the ramifications of sitting 1 seat closer to this girl or that one.

On the whole, however, it really is amazing, even supernaturally so, how well everyone got along. We had zero fistfights, zero kids sent home, and our last holdout actually did shower (thank God) on the last day. This gives me a renewed hope in the next generation, who I am confident will soon be leading their peers as they pursue Christ.

I’m Old.

At 36, I’m double the age of our oldest teens. This pales in comparison to our oldest leader last week, a 65 year-old man whose energy put us all to shame. However, I’m not as young as I once was, and this new (begrudged) reality will mean changes for the future.

While I still think of myself as young, I “hit a wall” this year physically. Although I was in better physical shape than last year, I found it physically impossible to keep up with the dual tasks of leading a cabin of 10 boys and teaching multiple chapel sessions. Half-way through the week, my body broke down. The mind said, “Go” but the body said, “No”. I became exhausted, and predictably, got sick. The head and chest cold didn’t kill me, but my behind was dragging the last half of the week, and I’m still recovering.

What does this mean? God is moving, and wants to continue to move among our teens. We’ve got to raise up a new wave of passionate volunteers who can step in and do the work only young people can. While I can relate to teens in one way, they’ll most likely see me as more of a “Dad” than anything else. While it takes all kinds to reach all teens, we need young men and women of God to step in and lead this next generation of teens.

I trust that God is going to continue to lead and teach us as we leave camp behind and step into another school year. I cannot wait to see who He calls to serve alongside of us, and how lives will be transformed in the weeks and months ahead.