My Daddy Fights Monsters for a Living : A Pastor’s Job Description

IMG_2978A couple of days ago I asked Hudson, “What Does Daddy do for a job.” He thought about it for a while and said to me, “Sermons…and hmm….fight monsters.” It’s at moments like this that I love my son. He’s so amazing, surprising, and so absolutely right.

That’s correct – he is right – I write sermons and fight monsters for a living. I think that’s a pretty concise explanation of my job as a pastor. And here is why Hudson is right.

I asked him why he said that daddy fights monsters, and here was his answer. “Because you work for God daddy. And God fights all the monsters in my room, he keeps me safe, he gives me good sleep. You work with God, so you fight monsters too.”  Hudson thought that since I work for God, I must do the things that God does. Which of course in his mind is mostly keeping him safe, fighting away the monsters of the world, and being his friend. That is actually a pretty good description of what God is up to in this world. I’ve read a lot of worse ones actually.

The point is this, for Hudson, those who follow God should be doing the same things as God. And this is why he’s brilliant and grasped something most Christians seem to forget – that God’s mission is our mission. Hudson might be using the language of a three-year old but it is true nonetheless. Christians need to be following God in what he is doing in the world. To follow Jesus, means to live and love like Jesus in this world. If God is fighting monsters, Christians need to be fighting monsters. If God is about grace, Christians need to be about grace. If God is about justice we need to be about justice. If God is about blessing, hospitality and life, we need to be about hospitality, life, and blessing.

Hudson simply intuitively gets that if we are following someone, we need to live like them. So my question for you is simple: are you living like Jesus in this world? Are you partnering with what he is doing in this world? Are you actively giving life, grace, hope, and seeking justice and his Kingdom?

Because regardless of where you work, as Christians, our calling is the same, to live like Jesus in this world. That means doing the same things that Jesus did, that means following the Spirit in his activity, that means working for the plans of the Father.  Christians are called to live like Christ.

So this week live like Jesus, and get involved in what he is doing in the world. And don’t forget to “fight monsters” too 😉

Grace and peace

 

Confessions of a Pastor: Limitations

plaster, old damagedI have a confession. I’m an imperfect person. I have faults and flaws. I’m not sufficiently good, wise, or amazing to make things work everywhere. I know I have limitations, I know I have temptations, I know I make mistakes, and I have regrets. You might be like me too.

We live in a world though that sees confessions such as these as weakness. Imperfections and limitations are things to be covered up, avoided, or denied. But this is not the way in God’s Kingdom. In God’s Kingdom limitations are not to be avoided but actually embraced because they are where God works best. As Paul says, it is in our weakness, our limitations, our imperfections, that God is strong and does his best work.

Sometimes I come to a situation, a crisis, or even a Sunday with a feeling like I don’t know what to do. I don’t have the experience, the skill, or the knowledge to draw upon. I have no idea how to make things work. I reach the end of myself and see my limitations. These, though, are precisely the times when God seems to act most. When I say to him I have no idea what I am to do – so this one is up to you. When I say to him – God, this is bigger than me, so it needs you. When I embrace the fact that God I am small and broken – but accept the fact that even in my weakness God wants to use me. And he wants to use you even with your weaknesses and limitations.

This isn’t about excusing sin and failures of that sort. This is about realizing that we are not God, that we are not perfect, that we do not know everything, or know how to act in every situation. This isn’t to be lamented but embraced because when we embrace the fact we have limits we embrace the fact that God doesn’t.

It is only when we acknowledge our limitations that we also acknowledge our need and dependency on God. As I said I am not sufficiently amazing, wise, or skilled to succeed without God. I need God each and everyday in my life, work, and in his church if I am to be faithful. I cannot rely on myself, my limits remind me of my desperate need for God.

So for you – when you come up to your limits – what do you do? Do you embrace them as a moment for God to work? Do you embrace them as a reminder of our dependency on the Spirit that lives and moves in us? Or do you avoid it, deny it, or try to compensate for it?

My suggestion is this – the next time you come to the end of yourself, embrace that fact because it is often the beginning of the work of God.

Competition in the Kingdom ~ Pastor’s, Parking Spaces, and Privilege

I’d like to let you in to the secret world of “professional ministry”. Want to know the number one question that comes up between pastors? No it’s not, “How has God been faithful to you?” and it’s not even “Are things busy?”

The number one question that comes up in the beginning of most pastoral first meetings is this: “How big is your church?”

Now it doesn’t come up right away but often near the beginning of a first conversation when pastors meet. They ask where the church is located, what denomination, and then eventually try to feel out the size of the church. While it might be unintentional, what is often perceived is that if your church is large, you’re doing well. And if your church isn’t large that maybe you’re not as successful.

But here is the problem with that perspective, and why it matters for you even if you’re not a pastor.

First off, we need to remember that the church belongs to God, and not to a pastor anyway. What this means is that we don’t own what we are called to shepherd and serve. Secondly, size doesn’t mean you are being successful. Being successful means being faithful. And both of these two principles are true in any profession, role, or calling. We do not own what we have been given, and being successful has nothing to do with size, profit margin increase, new promotions, bigger houses, or better parking spaces. Being successful is about being faithful to what God has called you to do.

So if God has called you to be faithful in raising you kids, do it to the best of your ability. Who cares if your neighbours’ kids get better grades. Focus on being faithful. If God has called you to start a business, who cares if your MBA friend has launched one bigger and faster. Focus on being faithful to your calling. And if the pastor down the street has a bigger church, God bless it, because your calling isn’t to be large, it’s to be faithful.

In essence, in God’s Kingdom our callings don’t need to compete. Asking the question who will be the greatest in the kingdom – isn’t a kingdom question. Because in God’s Kingdom our different callings don’t compete with one another, they complement and complete God’s plan.

I learned this from my son. We were racing around the house, and this time I won. He started dancing all around and said “Daddy, Daddy, Daddy, you win…Daddy I win too! You first and I’m first. We’re all first”.  This is maybe something Christians, and pastors in particular, should learn. We don’t need to compete, in Christ we’re all first…

One Year Later ~ Reflections on My First Year Here…

On Sunday I preached on my favorite verse in the bible. It’s a very simple verse that says this, “I’m doing a great work, I can’t come down” (Neh. 6:3). I love this verse. I love the focus, and most of all, I love the passionate pursuit of something. Nehemiah refuses to be distracted by interesting opportunities, cool invitations, or anything else other than God’s calling on his life. He doesn’t let good things get in the way of God’s best for him. Instead, he refuses to give up on the great work he has been given.

The reason I love this verse is because it reminds me that a great work is going on here at Plattsville. This church is a wonderful place. There is something special here. I feel like it’s the best-kept secret in the township. And God has been doing great things here. People are connecting with God in new ways, they are finding hope, they are finding life, and most of all, they are finding Jesus. So I get the amazing pleasure of each day coming into work knowing that I’m a part of a great work and I don’t want to come down and do anything else. This is a huge blessing, to be part of something you know you don’t want to miss. And I never want to miss a Sunday here, a week here, or ministry here because God is doing great things.

Sunday was actually my yearlong anniversary here. And this is the most beautiful thing, and means more to me probably than most people realize. Because my life-long dream and calling has been to be a lead pastor. I have always hoped, dreamed, and prayed that I might get the honor and privilege to serve in this role somewhere. And what you may or may not realize is that you made my dreams come true. You gave me the chance to partner in a great work, in my calling, in my passion that I don’t ever want to give up.

So that’s why yesterday was so special for me. Because yesterday was the completion and start of a dream and calling that I’ve had for years. And while I know I will have many years of ministry ahead, you only get to do your first year once. In the future I’ll have other firsts but I won’t ever have this one again – my first year as a lead pastor. And that is why for me yesterday was so special because this church, this family, this people will always be my first church. You will always be the people and place that accepted me in a new role, that trusted me, and that believed in me. The people that let me stumble, succeed, and seek God together. The people that encouraged, supported, and believed that God was doing something in our midst together. And you might not remember this, but when I preached for the call here I said, God has more in store for you that is beyond anything you ever could have hoped for, dreamed of, or even imagined (Eph. 3:20). But what is truly beautiful is that is how my first year has been: it’s been better than I could have hoped for, it’s more than I dreamed of, and beyond anything I could have imagined. And that’s because of you.

So I’m thankful because you can only have your first year as a lead pastor once, and I can’t think of how it could have been a better one. No matter what the future holds, I know I will always look back on this year and feel nothing but deep gratitude, appreciation, and gratefulness to both you and God.

So today I have lots to be thankful for. I’m thankful for the best first year I could have hoped for. I’m thankful for a calling and a great work to join God in. And most of all, I’m thankful to you Plattsville church, because this is now our home. There is lots before us, lots of great work to still do, because we’re just getting started. But today, as I look back, I can’t forget that there is so much to be thankful for…and mostly it’s you…