Worthwhile: March 1, 2019

Already March. Were you ready for that?! Things keep coming at us fast. Hopefully, you will get a chance to take a break and breathe in the rest of Christ this weekend.

A couple of items worth thinking through this week. Not a lot in the way of articles but some perspective from my roles as pastor and father.


First up is a tweet from Dan White Jr. A pastor and author with a forthcoming book on love. Dan tweeted a reflection from counseling that struck a chord on the Twittersphere, certainly with pastors.

Ghosting is essentially disappearing from someone’s life. You avoid them, you don’t communicate, not texts, calls or interaction on social media or more importantly, non-digital life.

I have been a pastor for nearly ten years and my experience is much the same. It is a strange vocation and since it is people-oriented role, meeting, becoming friends, and eventually losing people is normative. But it doesn’t make it any easier.

The hard bits are when it happens seemingly without cause. I get it if I was harsh or drove someone away, but even when you labor to care for someone and they vanish it can leave you broken.

I have even had people who have made a verbal commitment to commit and stand alongside me in ministry disappear over the years. My personality make-up doesn’t get as affected by it as some others but it is noticeable.

So maybe the take away is that we generally should try to avoid ghosting people, be open to deep relationships and allow our pastors to be among them.

And it goes both ways, sometimes pastors “ghost” people. As I was reminded by a young man who once served at my previous church. We shall call him “Marques.” Of course, he wasn’t ghosted since I stay in contact with him and even bought him burritos once when he visited San Diego! While moving away can feel like ghosting, hopefully, you have farewell parties to make the separation anything but a surprise!


Next up, and more importantly, is anxiety. And specifically anxiety in our kids. We have dealt with this in our home and are always on the search for solutions and ways of avoiding it. I am looking forward to some forthcoming work by Jessica Thompson to apply the gospel to kids and anxiety. It is everywhere and as a PTA member, I talk to parents about it all the time.

This article from John Thornton in January on Vox was super helpful to me. And the big takeaway is that kids carry their parents’ economic stress. From the burden of planning their futures so young and living with parents struggling to pay off debt and thrive in this economy can be too much.

I know first hand this is real, when my oldest daughter was in second grade she submitted a report at school that one of the things she feared was “taxes.” Clearly, she got that from me complaining about money and fearing taxes myself (which I am reminded I need to work on!)

Hear what Thornton has to say. Love your kids. Free them from some of these burdens. And live.

At the Base of the Mountain

I am thankful for a group of resilient and faithful friends that stay ever connected in the digital world and speak honest and caring words to a couple of pastors and missionaries in training. Four of us, from coast to coast and the frozen middle. We challenge, refine and attempt occasionally to encourage one another. We often talk about our heroes and our failings and how it is sad that so much of life and posturing plays out in social media. One of us is poetic in nature and anonymous in desire. He prefers no platform and just quiet places far from famous to share Jesus with those you would least expect. We shall call him Matt Pilgrim. After a stirring week of conversation, he penned this piece that is honest and challenging to our modus operandi in the church.

 

“At the base of the mountain: confusion.

Sacred truths seem to slide toward delusion.

Unwilling to trust the Good Creator,

Weak faith cries out to see something greater.

Hoping in vain I might better my odds,

Here at the mountain I make pastors gods.

 

And knowing the grip sin has on us all

I demand perfect, ignoring the Fall.

I ask of you what I’d never agree

Is fair, right, or just for “little old me.”

I raise up that bar so high for a few

Because way up there I can worship you.

Entrusting to you what no man could bare

I cast upon you each worry and care

 

“Oh please save me, Pastor” becomes my cry,

Give me comfort even if you must lie:

Tell me my politics will set me free

Tell me how comfort can still by gutsy

Tell me “for family all else neglect!”

Tell me nice half-truths that Christ would reject

Tell me fetuses, guns, and flags are all

Tell me which Senator that I should call.

Tell me about race and immigration

But make sure you don’t offend anyone.

Tell me the virtues of war or of peace,

Tell me my blessings ought never to cease.

Tell me my wealth is my share of the pie,

Tell me this camel will fit through that eye

Tell me you’re sinful but not too much, please

Tell me the things that will put me at ease

 

Pastor, idol, my religious plaything

I’ve wound you up, I expect you to sing.

So speak up and shut up, you know the drill

Make sure every word aligns with my will.

Don’t forget, Pastor, you’re here to serve me,

To feed my soul while I sit here carefree.

 

Counsel, comfort, challenge, and all on cue.

Father, brother, mother, and savior too.

Cash your check, Reverend, and just play along

Bang the same old drums and you can’t go wrong.

Disrupt my system? No worse could you do.

Cross this old saint and I’ll crucify you.

Your pulpit, back to your pedestal flee,

Yes, faith this small needs a god it can see.

 

At the base of the mountain the mobs rule,

Impatience reveals that I am a fool.

Lacking great faith I’m quite simply old chaff,

I mold you into my own golden calf.

Keep lifting up Jesus it’s all so nice,

I’ll keep filing it under “good advice”


What a great weight I ask you to carry

Leaning on shovel, ready to bury

Your memory and your reputation

The moment I’ve finished having my fun.

Maybe that’s where Christ has something to teach

To Pastors, especially, because each

Can know the deep wounds of loving a flock

That one day adores and the next day mock.”

 

The Value of Time Spent

This week I am in Reno with a couple of Grace Church elders attending the Acts 29 West Multiply Conference. The first day was good and encouraging and I expect the second day will be much of the same.

Often in attending meetings there is a conviction that we must gift the time spent a value to gauge if it was worthwhile. Without a doubt there are times wasted that are to be avoided but on the other side we may not find an immediate application or result of things gained. This can be a big deal for attending a Christian conference.

I have served in environments that were so ingrown that attending a conference was practically prohibited and if you went to one the leadership had to be convinced it was worthwhile and you would make the church bigger and shinier upon return. There was little value placed on enrichment.

But for a pastor in my circumstance, being enriched and encouraged by gospel preaching and equipping is a significant value. Relational connection with others laboring for the same types of churches and kingdom expansion is worthwhile. And the church I serve benefits from having elders challenged by new ideas whether there is immediate implementation or not.

Don’t let the strangeness of culture be your bar for setting value on time spent. In Christ our time spent looks vastly different and pays abundant dividends.

 

The Well Meaning Pastor is the Problem

Not long ago I had a conversation with some young men feeling called to vocational ministry and as we talked of what it means to be a faithful pastor, we mentioned a man we each had interacted with and I found myself saying, “he means well.”

But meaning well might be the problem.

Jim Hamilton has a new post on 9Marks about those “well-meaning” men that are treating Christianity as nothing more than a new form of therapy.

“The pastors who pose the greatest threat to the church today will confess belief in the right things. They will confess the authority and inerrancy of the Bible, that Jesus saves, and that he is the only way of salvation…”

“They are a threat because, in spite of their confession, their words and actions treat Christianity as nothing more than the best form of therapy. They treat it as self-help. They treat it as the path to better marriages, better parent-child relationships, better attitudes and performance at work, and on and on.”

Hamilton goes on to clearly state what Christianity is about primarily.

Christianity is about telling this true story in the words of the Bible so that, by the power of the Holy Spirit, people come to see God, the world, and themselves correctly.

Christianity is about the triune God and the two natures of Christ.

Christianity is about the Holy Spirit supernaturally causing people to be born again so that they love this story and find in it their hope and joy.

Christianity is about trusting the Word of God with all our hearts and not leaning on our own understanding—or on our own ideas about what works or what is relevant.

Christianity is about longing for the return of Christ, who, when he comes, will set up his kingdom, which means that this is not our home.

I found this very helpful in thinking through how we lead churches. And Hamilton gives great advice for churches looking for a pastor.

None of the books in my study are pop-physiology and I have no plan to go that route. I pray that more men in the pastorate would eventually agree.