A Pastor’s Heavy Heart: 7 Things Your Pastor Carries

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I have a unique role.  I get to be a pastor to pastors.  One of the primary responsibilities in ministry is to care about and care for 42 different pastors.  This is a joy – usually.  Like any pastoral call, there are things that weigh on my heart. There are times when I want to step in but I’ve not been invited. There are times when I lay in bed and wonder how a particular pastor and his wife are doing. There are times when I see a wounded pastor and wish I could carry his pain away.   I feel what they feel deeply because I served as a local church pastor for 29 years before I stepped into this role.

During October, when many in the church are expressing appreciation for their pastors, I thought I might share some of the things that weigh heavy on your pastor.  Most of these burdens are unique to the pastoral role.  While you can’t take most of them away, you can understand and pray.  Your pastor will just be happy that you care enough to consider these things that are his to carry and what you might be able to do to lighten the load.

1. A pastor carries the weight of what his family feels about the church. The church isn’t just his job. It is his family’s church. He wants his kids and his wife to love their church. That can be tough during stressful seasons. I know of pastor’s wives who have sat on certain committees in the church and heard people on the team criticize the pastor’s leadership with her in the room.  The same has happened to pastor’s kids in the hallway of the church.  He wants his kids to some day choose to be involved in church and serve faithfully.

What you can do: If you’re frustrated, first think about who’s in the room. Love the pastor’s family whether or not you like the pastor.  Be tender with them.  Include them in your life if you can. Do what you can do to make them fall in love with the church!

2. A pastor carries the weight of his own failures. I don’t know a pastor who can’t quickly list his latest failures.  Unlike many jobs, a pastor’s job is tied to his spiritual life. If you blow it in your ministry, you know you’ve blown it with God.  You know how it feels when you know you’re not praying enough? Or, you’re struggling with giving?  Now make it your job and it adds another layer of responsibility.  Failure adds another layer of guilt.  It’s personal, and it’s professional.

What you can do: Communicate appreciation for what he’s doing well. Give patience and understanding when he doesn’t seem to get it quite right. In subtle ways let him know you understand his human frailty and you’re okay with it.

3. A pastor carries the weight of the church’s apparent success, or failure. Even when a pastor tries to measure ministry by Jesus’ standards of life transformation and discipleship, he knows that many in his church are measuring him by the budget and bottoms in the seats. Most ministries have seasons of ebb and flow.  There are a lot of reasons for these things. Even if the pastor doesn’t own it all, he still knows that many lay it on him.

What you can do: Remind him often that we are all in this together.  Find ways to celebrate the new life that is happening around your pastor and his ministry.

4. A pastor carries the weight of his own responsibility toward Christ. Have you ever walked away from a conversation with a neighbor and thought with regret, “I should have said…”, or “I shouldn’t have said…”  A pastor feels that nearly every day.  I know I have times I’ve thought about standing in front of Jesus while he goes through my sermons and measures what I said against the truth.  It isn’t a comforting thought.

What you can do: Pray for him to honor Christ and let him know when you think he is.

5. A pastor carries the weight of serving in a confusing time. The same way you see the world changing, the pastor sees the world changing.  For most, the ministry we were trained to do isn’t the same ministry which exists today. It is hard enough for all of us to understand the huge shifts.  Your pastor has to try to help you navigate them with hope and joy of Jesus. He wants to lead people to Jesus when fewer and fewer want to be led.

What you can do: Help him by joining in the mission of Christ in your own neighborhood, workplace and family.  Let him see you engaging your world and discover with your pastor, where God is moving and how we should join him.

6. A pastor carries the weight of caring for Jesus’ flock. Jesus has given your pastor a love for God’s people. He may be tired. He may be worn. But he still cares. It isn’t his job, it’s his vocation, his calling. And most do it 24/7 even when people would rather he not care. When one leaves because they are hurt and angry, it hurts. When people won’t make godly decisions, but are being choked by the world, it crushes his spirit. When people drift away, he still watches for their return, hoping it’s today.

What you can do:  Show up.  Ask how you can pray for him.  Commit yourself and encourage others in the church to seek the path of peace before heading out the door.

7. A pastor carries the weight of other pastor’s failures.  In our society, pastoral failure seems to be everywhere.  Your pastor carries that.  25 years ago, I sat in front of a bank manager, applying for a mortgage. I thought being a pastor would be an asset, because the bank would know that I was a person of integrity and a good risk. The bank manager said it was a liability because many pastors walk out on their loans and just leave town.  I was horrified when I realized I was carrying that reputation with me.  Today we know the clergy stories are even worse.

What you can do: Affirm your pastor’s love for Christ which is lived in integrity. Let him know when his lifestyle is a positive influence in your life.  And pray for him that he doesn’t become one of those statistics.

I am not asking you to shower him with “atta-boys.” But by your presence, prayer and involvement show you understand and appreciate his unique challenges. Most pastors I know gladly carry this weight and wouldn’t trade their calling for anything. But we should remember that the burdens our leaders carry are our burdens to carry together.  That is the nature of community.  And you are your pastor’s community!  You are his church family.

I would love to hear of your pastor who’s doing it well, or any other comments you may  have!

Note: I use the male pronoun because I come from a complementary tradition. If your pastor is female, I am sure she has many of the same struggles.

Do you believe God is good? But, what about when… ?

Its an interesting point to note that when Jesus was addressed as “Good Teacher,” he said, “Why do you call me good?  No one is good except God alone (Lk. 18:19).”  Jesus was reminding his hearers that “goodness” is an essential characteristic of God.

When things are tough, one of the great questions we have is, “how can a good God allow all this?”  It’s a fair question.  But it presupposes that what we think is good, is actually good.  We have a perspective that is admittedly limited.  Many of us think cheeseburgers are good.  But they are not, if you want to actually nourish your body with your food.  Our definition of good has a lot to do with our value system and our over-arching purpose.

If our value system is wrapped up in the here and now, then suffering and struggling is a horrible violation of how we want to experience life now.  But if we value the eternal, growth, maturity, transformation, etc., our ideas of what is good, will be drastically changed.  Because it is in the hard times that we are formed into something new, especially when we grow through it under the guidance of God’s Holy Spirit.

Author and theologian, Peter Kreeft, wrote in his book, “Making Sense Out of Suffering”, these words, “If we love God, we will understand that everything is grace, that Job’s sores were grace, that Job’s abandonment was grace, that even Jesus’ abandonment (‘My god, my God, why hast Thou forsaken me?’) was grace.  Even the delay of grace is grace.  Suffering is grace.  The cross is grace.  The grave is grace.  Even hell is made of God’s love and grace, experienced as pain by those who hate it.  There is nothing but God’s love. ‘Everything is grace.’”

When you read the word grace in the paragraph above, replace it with the words “a good gift.”  This can be a tough exercise because it confronts our idea of what is good.  But doing this teaches us that all things God gives to us are good gifts, given to accomplish His good purposes.  He can only give what is good because He is good.

Rather than judging the goodness of God by our circumstances, let’s define our circumstances by the goodness of God.  No matter what we are going through, God is good and He is bringing about His good work in our lives.  To believe this is the beginning of experiencing the goodness of God in every area and every experience of our lives.

 

Thank you for reading, for your comments, your shares and your likes.

5 Things I Experienced in 3045 Motorcycle Miles

Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota, SouthDakota, North Dakota, Montana, Wyoming, South Dakota, Iowa, Illinois…  6 days… 3045 miles!  One of life’s little adventures.  Why?

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I really enjoy long motorcycle rides.  And I don’t typically mind going by myself.  But why?  I could tell you about the sights I’ve seen and the fun of zig zagging a 900 lb. bike through mountain passes.  Or, I could tell you stories about the interesting characters I’ve met because a lot of people like to talk to motorcycle riders.  Here are some even better reasons.

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Physical Challenge – It is a challenge to keep your head in the game after 10 hours in the saddle.  It is physically draining.  The heat, or sometimes the cold is a challenge.  When I’ve ridden 500 + miles, I feel like I’ve done something.  My 56 year old body aches, but in a good way.  At the end of the day I sleep well.  Believe it or not, the next morning, I am usually ready to do do it again!

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Life in the Moment – I usually have a goal, or a general route planned.  But there are no guarantees.  Weather always plays a role.  You either wait, ride around it, or ride through it.  I’ve done all three.  I always have a destination, but most of the time can’t worry about it.  When riding a bike, you have to be where you are.  One has to watch the road and surroundings.  Every curve in the road demands your attention.  Every car, deer, shredded truck tire and “tar-snake” is a potential problem (tar-snakes are the squiggly patches of tar they use for filling cracks in the road.  They are very slippery especially in turns).  The point is the end-goal for the day doesn’t matter if you don’t pay attention to now!

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Time for Reflection – With all this going on, there is still a lot of time to think.  I think about God, the gospel, the church and Scripture.  I refine my theology.  I argue with people I’ve read on Twitter or Facebook that morning.  I think about my family, my love for them and their love for me.  I think about the world and what God is doing in it and for it.  I look at creation and I wonder about God.  Sometimes I pray – especially when I see familiar names that make me think about people in my life.  I’ve seen each of my sons’ names on street signs, or billboards.  Last week I prayed for the Christian leader Alan Hirsch because I saw Hirsch Road and he was the only Hirsch I could think of.  With this Coke bottle, it was my brother, Scott.

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Spiritual Presence – This one is hard to describe, but I’ll try.  I usually wake up at 5 am.  I call my wife to greet her for the day.  I get dressed, load the bike and  hit the road.  After a few hours, I stop for breakfast.  I ride more, usually skipping lunch.  At the end of the day, I find a place to stay, if I haven’t arranged something at one of my gas stops.  At the end of the day I find a place for dinner.  Then I get back to my room and call my wife and tell her goodnight.  I fall asleep – hard.  Through all of this, I am constantly aware of God’s presence with me.  Sometimes we talk.  Sometimes we just sit with each other.  But I know I am not alone.  And actually, my aloneness makes His presence more of a reality.  That may sound strange.  I don’t know if I’ve ever felt lonely while on one of my rides.  Oh, I’ve missed home and missed my Bride but that’s different than feeling lonely.

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Dependence – This may be one of the biggest challenges for me.  It may seem like going by myself on these trips is a statement of my independence.  It is just the opposite.  These trips force me to be dependent.  I am forced to look for help!  People have rescued me from dangerous weather.  Someone helped me pick up my bike when I dropped it in a parking lot.  I’ve received helpful road suggestions and corrections.  Strangers have pointed me to sights I just couldn’t miss.  One guy summoned a tow truck for me, while another just sat on the side of the road with me while I waited.  Others just give me a little chat while waiting for the restroom.  Most of all, I am dependent on the Lord for providing whatever I will need along the way.  I need His protection every time I straddle that thing.  And I know this.

I thank my wife for her encouragement in taking these journeys.  I hope I come home a little better person for taking the journey.

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We Are Alive Part 1

Be encouraged… God has placed a high value on you!

Here is the 1st half of a sermon I preached a long time ago!  Click on the picture below!

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If you’d like to hear more, please “like”, “share”, or leave a comment.  Thanks.

They (Those people of great faith) are all around you.

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This morning, I’m reflecting on a memorial service I had the joy of participating in yesterday.  It was for a dear sister in Christ who was just 56 years old.  She fought a valiant battle with cancer.  And the Lord saw fit to bring her home.  What I was encouraged by was all the stories of her life and her commitment to Christ.  At church, she was quiet.  She was often in the background.  Yet she served faithfully in her area of giftedness.  She didn’t get, nor would she have liked fanfare.  In fact, she saw herself as someone underserving of any credit.

What made me think this morning was a comment that was said yesterday by someone who didn’t now our friend well.  This person said, “I sat behind her all these years in church and I didn’t know any of this.”  I thought, “how sad.”  But it just reminds me that as we go to church this morning, we should all be aware that there are heroes of the faith all around us!  There are people who have sacrificed, shared, served and suffered in and through their faith.  These are brothers and sisters who are battle-tested and on some Sundays, just battle-worn.  They have been “fighting the good fight.”  They aren’t perfect and they know it.  They don’t feel like they have the faith-thing nailed, but they do trust in the power and love of their Savior.  What amazes me is they may even be the most uncomfortable ones at church.  Nevertheless these are the ones we need to know!  They will only make us stronger.

Hebrews 11 is known as the “Hall of Faith.”  It is a listing of our great heroes of faith.  People like Abel, Abraham, Rahab, Gideon, and David are recorded as inspirations. These are men and women who responded faithfully, but not perfectly, to the invitation of God to follow. God is not done with Hebrews 11.  He is still writing that story today.

You may be headed to church today.  Would you remember that God is adding to the story of faith in the lives of those unknown saints around you?  Be courageous today, meet them. Find opportunities to hear their stories. You don’t want to discover at their memorial service you missed a chance to know what real, imperfect, yet powerful faith is all about.

You, the church and these quiet heroes will only be encouraged by it.

4 Suggestions to Get More Life in Your Time

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Flying out of San Francisco at 9:30pm.

Ah yes.  You read that title correctly.  I don’t think any of us need more time!  We really want more life.  I’ve done the time management stuff and while it can be helpful.  I find there is still something missing, especially for some of us who are task-oriented.  I do believe in trying to plan and be efficient with our time, but that alone won’t mean we experience the really important stuff in life.  So, follow along, this is so much better!

There is another kind of time that we should be aware of each day.  And it is this “other” concept of time that really adds life to our time!

TIME, WHAT TIME?

Read these two verses:  Ephesians 5:15-16 “Look carefully then how you walk… as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil.”  And Colossians 4:5 “Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time.”

Paul wasn’t writing about time management here.  He was sharing about another kind of time.  In the Greek New Testament, there are two words for our english word “time.” The first word is chronos.  We get the word chronology from chronos.  Chronos time is measured on watches and calendars.  It is made up of seconds, minutes, hours, days, months and years.

In the verses above Paul used the other Greek word for time, kairos.  Kairos is sometimes translated as “opportunity.”  Kairos time is what happens when a door opens and a new space for experiencing life presents itself.  It shows up in-between the seconds and minutes of our day.  It often shows up in what we would call interruptions.  It usually isn’t planned for.  But, when stepped into, these times give life a new dimension of meaning and significance.

OUR TIMES

This last month, my wife Kris and I had a lot of kairos experiences.  We began the month with our 33rd Wedding Anniversary, that was planned, but our conversations over dinner were certainly kairos moments.  Then we headed out to California to see my stepdad, John.  He had entered hospice care and we wanted to make sure he knew how important he was to us.  It was a meaningful time for us.  We returned home to Chicagoland, to hear of the birth of our new grandson.  So we loaded the car and headed for South Dakota for 4 days.  There we met Jacob and spent some wonderful time with our granddaughter, Clara.  After returning home, we now had to plan a trip to California again. This time, we went to mourn with our family and celebrate John’s life.  We flew home last Saturday morning and loaded the car to drive to Iowa, where I preached at one of most joy-filled churches we know.  We returned home on Sunday night.  And on Monday, a dear friend and sister-in-Christ, entered eternity.  At the end of this week, we will have the privilege of celebrating all God had done through her life and trusting Him together for His comforting love.

HOW TO FIND LIFE IN TIME

In it all, Kris and I have found great joy and meaning.  How?  We found life in kairos time.  Here are four tips that might help you find more life in your time.

  1. Be willing to let God orchestrate life.  We will only see kairos time when we stop fighting to control our lives. Don’t be obsessed with making life happen, rather be aware of all that is already happening and step into it.
  2. Be with those around you.  We won’t experience kairos if focus on the thing we have to do next!  We can’t let our plans make us blind to the people around us and the opportunity to live life.  Kairos happens in the here and now with THESE people.
  3. Be confident that unplanned by you, doesn’t mean unplanned by God.  Kairos might not be on our calendars, but it is just as much a part of God’s ordained order as the sunrise that can be timed to the second each day.  Just because it comes as a surprise to us, doesn’t mean it’s a surprise to God. Remember that an interruption is merely an event you didn’t foresee.
  4. Be mindful of meaning.  Life isn’t a list of duties we need to accomplish.  People aren’t our projects, nor are they our pawns.  Our purpose in life is to give meaning and value to the people around us.  Meaning happens when we connect, or reconnect with people in a way that draws them toward a deeper love for God and helps them experience His life.

Do you really need more time?  When I look at my calendar, I don’t need more time.  What I really want is more life!  I want to experience the fullness of all God has intended.  I hope that is your desire too.  In the midst of the minutes you count, find the time where life resides.

THANK YOU

As always, thank you for reading and giving your likes, comments and shares.

Remember to check out my book, if you haven’t picked one up!  TRANSFORMED PAIN.  (The Kindle version is free right now – don’t forget to leave a review.)

Good Dads and Great Dads

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My 4 Reasons for Father’s Day Happiness!

Father’s Day can be complicated.  I am grateful to be the Father of 4 sons, who have become men.  I remember times when we were all younger and we loaded the van and went to A&W Rootbeer for Father’s Day.  We sat, windows open, 50’s music blaring and awaiting our bacon cheeseburgers and rootbeer being delivered by roller-skating car hops!  Those were simple and special days.

This Father’s Day, I had the privilege to be with our eldest son, who is now a Dad of 2!  The second arrived just in time to be a great Father’s day present himself.

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A Father’s Day Gift

This day is also filled with thoughts of the Dads in my life. This Father’s Day, I am so grateful for a faithful Dad-in-law (Darrel), who has trusted me with his daughter and always made room for me in his family.  I also am missing my Dad (Marvin).  These are the days I want to pick of the phone and hear his voice again.  I want to hear him ask how life is going? And I want to tell him it is good.  And today, I am missing for the first time, a Stepdad (John), who just entered eternity 8 days ago.

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Stepdad, John; Dad, Marvin; Dad-in-Law, Darrel

I wondered as I drove home today, what makes a good Dad? I can be sure, a good Dad doesn’t have it all together.  If that were the standard, I don’t know a Dad who would meet that criteria.  A good Dad gives the best of all he has for those he’s been given to love.  He serves; he strives; and ultimately he knows it’s not about him, but about those who are coming behind.

Can we, as Dad’s, go one further?  Can we go from being a good Dad, to a great Dad?  What makes a Dad great?  A great Dad points his kids to the only Perfect Dad, who can do all he can’t! We have a perfect Father in heaven.  Jesus said in the Lord’s prayer that our Perfect Dad is the one who makes the Kingdom of God real.  He is the one who gives daily bread.  He forgives our biggest and smallest bad choices. And He also protects us from making more bad choices (Matthew 6:6-9).  He is the Dad who will be there, even when our Dads can’t.

I thank God for great Dads who pointed me, and still do, to my Perfect Dad.  I pray, I can do as well as they have and someday be counted as great.