A Walk to Remember…

Certain “walks” in life are impossible to forget – walking your child to school on the first day; a walk down an aisle for a wedding; a walk to a new job.

I had such a walk last night.  It was a walk through our church building during the hustle and bustle of our first Wednesday night for the fall.  I realized the significance of this night as I walked past the nursery and heard our Puggle’s leaders enthusiastically sharing a Bible verse with our little ones.  It dawned on me at that pause before the door that this was happening all throughout our building.   The thing people had prayed for even before we started the church were happening.  People from our sponsoring church had prayed for a year before our first service for God to start a new work in this part of town. We at Grace Fellowship had prayed for the Lord to do a work; and on this night prayers were being answered.

From that stop by the nursery I walked to the registration table where our leaders were still trying to catch up from all the new sign-ups (Praise the Lord!)  While standing there visiting with the leaders, I poked my head in the adult class where “The Story” was being taught.  Pastor Jake was teaching from Genesis about “the fall.”  There were brand new people in the class as well as many regular GF friends.

Next was a walk to the fellowship hall for AWANA game time.  Kids were running, laughing, pulling ropes, and tossing bean bags.  Who says ministry can’t be fun!  The leaders were doing a great job and my heart was further gladdened.

On the way up the stairs I stopped by the Financial Peace University class.  There were a dozen people crammed in my office watching the FPU videos and learning how to be better stewards of the money God has given them.  Harold Herr was leading them.

Next stop was the youth room.  It was full of 20+, highly energetic teenagers.  Shane and Monique were getting the year started off and going to introduce a study of “The Life of Christ.”  Oh…and there were some furious air hockey and ping pong games going on (I’m going to get in one of those soon)!

The walk also included a stop by the Cubbies, T&T, and Spark’s rooms where similar activities and learning were going on.  In each place leaders were leading; learners were learning; there was a mixture of fun, fellowship, and absorbing the Word of God.

Of course, the walk originally began in the kitchen where a crew of four or five led by Peggy Myers fixing food for the GF “Dollar Value Meal” – which tasted great.  The stroll to the eating area showed tables full of people getting ready for the night of ministry.

It is a rare privilege to be a part of something new God is doing to spread the message of His Son to a new area.  I am so thankful to know of and be a part of a group of people so committed to following Him and doing his will.

To Christ be the credit and glory!

 

tnt

 

Blog Moved to new Site

I’ve moved my blog to a new domain… http://www.shawnbarr.com.  Check it out for the new content.

Thanks for stopping by!

Shawn

It is a Prayer

A Lukewarm coffee sits beside my computer in the bagel shop.

Cars pass by the window, driven by people I only glimpse.

A smell of burnt toast wafts through the air.

A running man passes the shop window.

There’s a quick bang of a pan or two behind me in the kitchen.

A customer in nursing attire stirs creamer into her coffee at the counter. She has a black headband.

The coffee equipment is making an electrical, rattling noise.

An elderly couple graze over their food. They have careful hair; she with thick make up, and him with a shirt buttoned to his neck.

The workers are bantering at the end of their shift.

I have a message and a mandate of which to tell them.  Where do I begin?

It is a prayer.

Dueling Jesuses

pic for dueling jesuses2

“My God is a God of love; My God would not send anyone to hell!” –Oprah Winfrey

Okay Oprah lovers, forgive me in advance, but Oprah could not be more wrong with this opinion.

A few years ago I heard her make this comment after I had momentarily stopped on her show while channel surfing.  The topic of the show is irrelevant; but her comment is.

While I appreciate her sentiment of wanting a loving God (which He is) and her best desires for people (which God shares), the God she is talking about simply doesn’t exist.  While God is loving as she suggests; he is also perfectly just.

The God she holds to is a God fabricated in her own mind.  She may as well have taken a piece of wood and carved her ideal image of God and worshipped it, because this is what she has done in her  imagination.

We hear similar quotes and opinions about God, Jesus, and religion from the media and celebrities.

Specifically, everybody has an opinion of Jesus. Just do a quick Google search and you will find a plethora of ideas about Jesus. Everybody wants a Jesus who matches with their views and sentiments.  They want a “user-friendly Jesus.” There are hundreds of “dueling” Jesuses out there.

A question – does Jesus give us the liberty to define who he is and what he is like? I don’t think so.

Do we get to do this with other personalities?

Can we fabricate a fictional image of, say:

  • Abraham Lincoln?
  • Mother Teresa?
  • Ronald Reagan?
  • Barbara Walters?
  • Princess Kate Middleton?

No.

Well, I guess we do have the vampire-slaying Abraham Lincoln.  But you get the idea.  We can’t just make up what we think these very real people were or are like.

Although people might disagree about their legacy and their personalities, we have to take what they’ve said about themselves and what they’ve done to determine who they are and what they are like.  Then we can like them, hate them, or dismiss them; but we can’t make them into something they aren’t.

Jesus is no different. We do not have the liberty to “make Jesus in our own image.”  The absolutely only place we know about him is from the New Testament.  It is the only place that has any record about who he is, what is important to him, what his teachings are, what his personality is like, what his instructions are for his followers, etc.

To be honest about what Jesus is really like, we must look seriously at the source.  And once we get a picture about him from the source, a decision has to be made about whether we will believe it or not – or believe in him or not.  He can be accepted or he can be rejected.  He can also be marginalized.  The one thing that can’t be done, at least honestly, is to make him into something He is not – which is what Oprah has done.

If you want to find out who Jesus really is, jump into the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John).

And yes, Oprah, Jesus does love us and he is also the coming King and Judge.

Pastors – A Lesson on Enthusiasm from Jim Harbaugh

Image

Jim Harbaugh, upon being selected as the new head coach for Stanford in 2006 (now with the 49′ers), made this statement:

“I vow I will attack this endeavor with enthusiasm unknown to mankind.”

I love it!  At heart I love the enthusiasm of successful coaches, teams, and individual athletes.  Their determination and dedication are infectious.

It goes without saying, that what we do as pastors is infinitely more important than what any coach or athlete will accomplish.  With that in mind, are you and I “attacking” our responsibilities with “enthusiasm unknown to mankind?”

Don’t get me wrong – I’m not talking about ministering in our flesh or outside the direction of the Holy Spirit.  In fact, I’m suggesting exactly the opposite – to be so full of the Holy Spirit, of God-derived courage, and of motivation from an anointed calling that our enthusiasm is God instilled and just as infectious.

Pastors, I hear the same whispers you do.  Around every corner there is always a naysayer telling you to “calm down” or to “to take it slow.”  They say things like:

  • Don’t be too ambitious.
  • Don’t get ahead of God.
  • Don’t try to be the Holy Spirit to someone.
  • Don’t dream too large.
  • You can’t change the world.
  • We’re just a little neighborhood church.

I say, “Get thee behind me Satan!”  There is always going to be someone wanting to throw water on every spark of God-ordained enthusiasm in your church and life.  Rebuke them in the name of the Lord! God did not call you or me to be timid, passive, or to think small. We serve the King of Kings who has called us to serve in His Kingdom!

Consider these thoughts …

1)      You are a servant-leader in the one thing Jesus said he would build – the Church.

2)      DL Moody said, “The world has yet to see what God can do through one man fully consecrated to Him.” You can be that man!

3)      God promised, “My Word will not return void.”

4)      You have the words of life for the walking dead.

5)      You may not have earthly cheers; but you have a “cloud of witnesses.”

6)      You stamp eternity with your work.

7)      Your prayers enter the ears of One “who does not slumber nor sleep.”

8)      Size is relative, you’re work is “Mega” in the eyes of God.

9)      That little boy or girl, man or woman saved this week will be the cause of a celestial party.

10)   You are on the team of the eternal God of the universe.

For those who say, “how sappy and over-enthusiastic”.  I say, “I hope so.”

I pray that you and I will take Harbaugh’s example and:

“attack our Godly endeavor with an enthusiasm unknown to Heaven.”

Hmmm…I wonder if they know?

piperyancey2

John Piper and Philip Yancey. They must have a common great, great, great relative somewhere.

Dear Pastor, So you want to quit? 8 Reasons Why You Shouldn’t

Discouraged

I read a shocking statistic many years ago that 7 out of every 10 Bible college and seminary graduates will be out of the pastoral ministry within three years of graduating.  At the time, I thought it must be an overstatement.  But experience and observation have proved otherwise.  The pastorate has many casualties.

Chuck Swindoll tells the story of writing the names of all his fellow seminary graduates in the back of his Bible.  As they dropped out of ministry he crossed their names off.  In something like 20 years every name was crossed off but his and one other.

So pastor, if you haven’t quit – you’ve surely thought about it, are thinking about it, or have the resignation letter written and ready to turn in.  You’re just waiting for the right Monday morning to do it.

Let me be honest.  I’ve written those letters in the past.  I’ve marked those days on the calendar 3 months out where I’ll quit if things haven’t improved (not recently by the way…lest anyone from my current church is reading this.).  I am currently in a season where I see God’s hand of blessing.  I love what I’m doing.  But I know darker days will come.

Here are eight thoughts about why you should not quit and what keeps me going…

  • The Call – Remember back to the day that you “knew” God was calling you to the pastoral ministry.  The memory of mine is, as they say, “crystal.”  I don’t believe God called me or you to pastor for 3 years, or 5 years, or until I got tired of it, or until I got the job offer from XYZ Christian Company, or until the church bully got the best of me, or __________________ (fill in your own reason).  He called you and me to preach, lead, shepherd, pray, evangelize, and be used in building up the body of Jesus Christ.  Did he revoke that call? Did he redirect that call? Maybe so, but remember your call.
  • The Reward – Yes, I’ll admit it.  The blessings of pastoring keep me in it.  To see a life change, to see a person come to faith, to be a part of a great ministry event, to have someone tell you a message encouraged them.  Those are all great things! Reflect on the rewards.
  • This Too Shall Pass – Sigh.  I hear you.  No really, I do.  Being a pastor can be tough, beyond tough.  Those difficult personality clashes – those well intended but harsh emails you receive – the outright ungodliness shown by someone who doesn’t like a ministry change – the three families that leave because they “aren’t being fed.”  These are temporary.  Look to God, stay faithful in your devotions, get around some Barnabuses.  Remember tough times and difficult people are temporary.
  • The King’s Employ – This may sound trite, but you and I work for the King.  Not a boss, not a board, not a body.  We work for the King of the universe! Dwell on that. Meditate on it. If he employed you, he has the resources to get you through this difficult time.  Remember the King.
  • Eternal Fruit – What we do will last forever.  I realize that every job and career can be used by the Lord (I worked in the secular world for about 8 years after college).  But the “everyday” work you do has eternal impact.  That message you are preparing, that visit to a new comer, that meeting over coffee to disciple a new believer, that call on a complete stranger new to your area.  Those activities put a stamp on eternity.  God uses you and your work.
  • The Enemy – I don’t see demons and the Evil one lurking behind every bush; but we are in a spiritual battle.  There is nothing that Evil would rather have you do than quit, or ruin your testimony, or become disqualified from the ministry.  Don’t give him the satisfaction.
  • The File – I keep a file marked “encouragement”.  In it I put all the encouraging cards, emails, and notes I get from people.  I read back over them when days get dark.  This helps me remember that people really do appreciate me and that what I do makes a difference.  Start a file and put all those encouraging pieces of communication in there for future reference.
  • Persecution – Jesus endured it and forewarned us of it.  In fact, he promised it.  True persecution and opposition are normal in the Gospel work.  We are in a battle.  Paul’s words remind of this on so many occasions. So expect it, but don’t let it deter you – it probably means you’re actually doing something right.

So pastor – you want to quit; but don’t do it.   Find a friend, beg for prayer, be honest with your leadership, ask for help, get counseling, ask for a sabbatical, remember the things above.

What if you’ve already quit?  I understand.  Let me suggest that you take some time to heal and rest.  Ministry challenges can zap you emotionally and spiritually.  I have a friend who pastored for 20 years and took a year off to get rejuvenated. He’s now been back in the pastorate about three years.  So do what you need to take care of yourself and your family.  Then ask the question, “Has the call been revoked?”  Really answer that honestly.  Maybe it has; but don’t let fear, bitterness, or bad experiences answer the question for you.  That call is probably still on your life – get back in the Gospel saddle.  Start small, a Bible study at work or with a neighbor.  Then begin to pray for God’s leading for your next ministry.

What if you find yourself arguing with this article? You’re saying things like,

  • “But, maybe God redirected me to another career.”
  • “But, there’s this other non-pastoral ministry.”
  • “But, my circumstances have changed.”
  • “But, my family is falling apart.”

No doubt, there are times to resign.  There are times to take a break. And there are other valid ministries in which to serve. But don’t let “difficult” times, people, or pressures be the thing that makes you resign.  AND although there are other ministries in which to serve, you need to make sure they align with your calling. Don’t let a way out become a cop out. If God called you to pastor, you will not be satisfied doing anything else.

I truly love the ministry…most days.  My work is God-ordained, has eternal results, and is beyond rewarding.  But there are those days, and weeks, and even longer seasons of difficulty.  The things above help me keep perspective and I hope they will encourage you as well.

Thoughts?

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