Sunday, September 9, 2012

Why Can't I find a Church that. . .

Since I'm out of ministry, I'm in search of a church home for me and my
family. Unlike the average church shopper, I know the tricks churches
use to get and keep people. I know evangelism and assimilation
strategies. I know what the Newsprings, Elevations, Willow Creeks,, Saddlebacks and so forth have done and said in the past
so I know if a church is really being creative or if they are
"borrowing" an idea. I will not be influenced by the bells and whistles.

In fact, I'm not impressed by these things. I know all of these things
are meant to manipulate, control and distract people from what is
actually going on. They muddy up the water to give signs of life but
without the power to do anything to sustain for long times of life.
These methods do a better job of producing legalistic pharisees that use
God for their own wants and dreams then true disciples.

But these seem to be the only churches I can find. So do I "settle" and
go? At least they confess the right things. They at least seem
passionate and committed. They talk about Jesus so what is the big deal?
Aren't all churches the same?

Would it be too much to ask to see a church talk about what God has done
for us than what we have to do for God?

Would it be too much to ask to see a church serve communion every week
in the place of stupid skits and movie clips that always fail to do the
job they are supposed to do?

Would it be too much to learn more about the Bible than a Pastor's life?

Would it be too much to see the Bible read in context?

Would it be too much to proclaim Jesus as the hero rather than any Bible

Would it be too much mourn our sin through song some of time and not
just make every week a pep rally?

Would it be too much transcendent truth and not wishy washy feelings?

Would it be too much to talk about the Gospel as the source of my
sanctification and not my will?

Would it be too much to stop trying to make the most repulsive message
in the world sound cool by stripping away all of the hard truth?

Would it be too much to mix in a hymn or at least songs that have more
depth of lyrics than I love Jesus?

Would it be too much to use one good Bible translation rather than 4
mediocre ones?

Would it be too much to focus on where God promised to work
(proclamation of his Word and Sacraments) rather than trying to "see
where God is at work and joining him there"?

Would it be too much a faith to help us live our ordinary everyday lives
rather than trying to help us live extraordinary dreams?

Would it be too much? What do I do? What will I live with? Lord, give
me wisdom.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

I am a Statistic

"50% of the ministers starting out will not last 5 years" Source:

After 3.5 years as a Senior Minister and a year as a youth minister, I am out of paid vocational ministry. It isn't because I lost my faith. It isn't because I made a decision to jeopardize my family/church. I still love the Gospel and His church. I still love studying the Bible and talking about the impact of my actions on the Church. I'm still a minister in a sense and still desire to be an overseer (1 Tim 3). At this time however, my vocation has to look a little different.

What happened? First, I became a Dad for starters. While being a pastor allowed me more home time, it wasn't quality time. I was constantly distracted. The same is true with me as a pastor; I was constantly distracted. I had to be bi-vocational so that took up time. I felt I was letting some things slip that I was called to as a pastor. The Church wasn't putting any pressure on me to it but I felt I needed to do these things to care for souls.

Second, I came to enjoy the college process. I've always enjoyed helping people get educated. Being a tutor, long term sub in a vocational school and other such roles reminded me how much I loved process. So if pastoring wasn't my calling, maybe this was it. After sending out some resumes on a whim, I was brought in for an interview to be an academic advivor. As the job was described, I felt like it was a fit. They offered me a job and thus, my new vocation. (See Gene Vieth's book God at Work to see more about this).

Lastly, I'm a city boy. I understand people in the city. But more importantly, the city has more of an intellectual bent. I'm a thinker and love intellectually stimulating conversation. The rural community does not have the same focus. While I was trying not to use big words and trying to "contextualize" my message , I would often slip and probably alienate the people I was trying to reach. I don't know of know of any other way.

So now I'm looking for a new church home. For a pastor, that will be extremely difficult.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Why am I afraid of reminders?

I often get mad at my wife when she shows me how to do something. Not that she is wrong mind you but that I am too "smart" to accept critique from her. Too "enlightened" to listen to her to remind me how to do something. All she could be doing is jogging my memory of something small. In my head however, she is talking down to me like I'm an idiot. She never intentionally does that of course but I hear it that way. After all, why do I need a reminder? I know it, don't I?

This morning as I was driving into Ivy Tech to tutor, I remembered a day late that I had promised to call someone about a getting a free piece of furniture. In the grand scheme of things, not a big deal. But that was coupled with the fact I think I forgot that one of my congregants told me of an upcoming surgery three weeks ago that I forgot to tell my wife and others. Again, I could chalk that up to being a sleep deprived, new Dad juggling a PT tutoring job and a FT minister position but that isn't really the point. I forgot then. I forgot now. Tomorrow, I will forget once again that I forgot in the first place and do it again. What an awful cycle.

It should is obvious that if I don't think I need reminders but yet I forget that I am thinking a little too highly about myself. It should also be obvious that if I am prone to do this with small stuff, what about bigger stuff, like the Gospel? It is no wonder that when I read 2 Peter 1 the other day how I couldn't shake it from my mind. It says starting in verse 3:

3 His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, 4 by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire. 5 For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, 6 and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, 7 and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. 8 For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 For whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins. 10 Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to confirm your calling and election, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall. 11 For in this way there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

12 Therefore I intend always to remind you of these qualities, though you know them and are established in the truth that you have. 13 I think it right, as long as I am in this body, to stir you up by way of reminder, 14 since I know that the putting off of my body will be soon, as our Lord Jesus Christ made clear to me. 15 And I will make every effort so that after my departure you may be able at any time to recall these things. (2 Peter 1:3-12 ESV - added emphasis mine)

My forgetting is rooted in a lack of love and a lack of self-control which stems from forgetting the blood of Jesus has earned my right standing before God. After all, my lack of humility is rooted in my boasting about being able remember, my knowledge and my believed omniscience. What I needed is a Peter to remind me of these qualities, like he was doing with this Church as he was facing death. If I believe those things, they will be true of me. If I believe those things, it should result in a deeper love and a more firm footing in my election and calling. Every time I forget, I greet myself with sorrow. Every time I am reminded, I greet myself with self-righteousness. The Gospel tells me that God hasn't forgotten us and that I, though having become a partaker of his nature, am not him. I am not saved by remembering; I am going to be saved by the person and work of Jesus Christ who has rescued me from this corruption from my sinful desire now and richly provide for me at Judgment. So why am I so afraid of people reminding me of small things if Peter is telling me that I need it for the big things?

Lord, help me to allow you to use people to correct/help me remember who I am and what I have in Christ Jesus.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Oh to be Neither Poor or Rich

I don't know why I forget about you oh blog. I have lessons I need to teach myself and you are a good way of teaching me. To remind myself of (with one being learning how to write better). But after reading something in the Book of Proverbs last night, I need to write something down to remember it.

7 “Two things I ask of you, O LORD;
   do not refuse me before I die:
8 Keep falsehood and lies far from me;
   give me neither poverty nor riches,
   but give me only my daily bread.
9 Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you
   and say, ‘Who is the LORD?’
Or I may become poor and steal,
   and so dishonor the name of my God. (Proverbs 30:7-9 NIV 1984)

The second half is eye-opening in light of our current political fight. The poor are blessed! The rich are blessed! This text is asking us to prayer for neither. Both poor and rich bring temptation that I may not be able to handle. May that be what I strive for.