I began my first pastoral role at Hope Community in August of 2004. It began as a one year contract. If, after that period, either Hope or I desired to part ways, it was done. Within four months, both sides agreed that it was working out and it became indefinite.
I’ve played four different roles: (1) Pastor of Outreach and Assimilation (nice title, huh!), (2) Pastor of Making Disciples, (3) Director of Leadership Development Institute (current), and (4) Senior Associate Pastor (current). Each has brought significant joys and challenges. Through it all, I’ve tried to be a learner.
Here are nine things (there’s been more, I assure you!) I’ve learned:
1. God calls me (and you) to faithfulness. In leadership, it can be tempting to take responsibility for the successes and the failures. I’ve seen plenty of both. I must be reminded that I’m called to show up, get on the field of ministry, get my cleats dirty, don’t suck (one of my boss’s few directions), take my best shots, and then trust the results to God.
2. My holiness matters to the people I’m leading. A question running through people’s minds is, “Does this work?” Many have been let down by friends, parents, school, career, money, and more. I want to be a person who can state unequivocally, “Following God is worth it!” He is worth every loss, every sacrifice, everything. And he is more faithful than anything or anyone else.
3. The team is critical. By God’s grace, I have been surrounded by a fabulous team during my years at Hope. Some have gone. Others have come. Through it all, we have been led by an absolute pillar of the faith, Steve Treichler. He has done more with less, prioritized people over programs, loved his family well, developed more leaders, majored on the gospel and minored on everything else, and been a tremendous friend and influence to me. Thanks for leading us, Chief!
4. Directing people away from sin who then choose to pursue sin is the greatest pain in ministry. God experiences this often. There will be times in Christian leadership where you care more about a person’s faith than they do. This was true of every Christian that met me before age 18. They wanted me to love Jesus more than I cared to. When this happens, we must ensure this doesn’t leave us jaded. How?
5. We need to be people who are quick to forgive. Those who throw themselves into sin, despite your counsel, often return asking what’s happened to their lives. As much as you and I may be tempted to say, “I told you so,” that’s not our role. We forgive. We listen. We encourage. We bandage their wounds. We point them back to Jesus.
6. Disagreement need not lead to disparagement and division. I understand much better now why Jesus prayed for the Church’s unity. We are too quick to disparage those we disagree with. The Church needs examples where people don’t see eye-to-eye, pray for one another, and part ways amicably. Too often it dissolves into a wreck of epic proportions with church gawkers soaking it in.
7. In an age of disposable everything, I’ve been richly blessed by sticking. Each of us gets the bug to move on to something else, something newer. Despite being tempted at times to start a church or pursue a job outside of ministry, God has me here and I’m grateful. I don’t know what the future holds (and I’m not hinting at anything) but I’m thankful and content with what’s in front of me here and now.
8. The gospel is something which can be understood in a moment but will not be exhausted in a lifetime. We don’t graduate on to something else. We don’t outgrow our need for God’s grace through Christ. It is a special message and precious life that we have being united with Christ. Never tire of preaching it to yourself. It is our hope of glory.
9. It really, truly is all about God. Nine years in, I’m continually amazed at how much God loves us. He is relentless in his pursuit and reckless in his love. His grace is amazing and trustworthy. There is no one like him. God. Savior. Spirit. King. Lord.
I praise God for these nine years. I’ve had a blast. And I pray that others have been spurred on toward Christ.