Posted tagged ‘challenges’

The Challenge of Staying the Course

August 23, 2015

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                                       August 23, 2015


Ten years ago I was running the Pike’s Peak Ascent, a 13.2 mile race for insane people. My wife called to it as “The Death Race.” She wasn’t too far off! The only people more loco than Ascent-ers were the ones who ran the Pike’s Peak Marathon the next day, a 26.2 mile race to the top of the mountain and back down again.

Okay…there is one group even more loco! Those who run the Ascent on Saturday and then the Marathon on Sunday. Crazy and whacked!

The hardest parts of the Ascent race for me were Mile Two and Mile Nine. Mile Two because the adrenalin of the start had worn off and I was suddenly doing some “serious uphill running.” Mile Nine because I was beginning to be physically depleted but I knew I had four miles yet to go…uphill!

The urge to stop and recognize the reasonableness of my actions increased as the race went on. My goal was not to win. My goal was to finish! As the elevation got higher I considered revising my goal to simply surviving.

Sometimes it is hard to stay the course…not just in a race for insane people, but also some of the insane times of life we have to run through.

The church I pastor seems to be having an increasing number of building challenges. A roof leak into our nursery area, despite a new roof being put on two years ago, and now the frustration of trying to get the roofer to come and fix it! A drywall problem as a ripple effect of that. Other things that are wearing out, like carpet and light fixtures.

It seems that each week is filled with new challenges that give reason to step to the side, to surrender to the mountain!

Hebrews 12:2-3 has taken on new meaning for me, and a new thankfulness for Jesus. It reads “Let is fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”

That keeps me going!

Pastoring Kids and Adults At The Same Time

March 16, 2015

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                                           March 16, 2015


Our church seems to have a new challenge each week. One week it’s trying to put enough buckets in classrooms to catch the drips coming from the ceiling, which, by the way, is underneath the new roof installed less than two years ago. Two weeks ago it was a financial crisis after a heavy snow Sunday left the offering plate starving for attention.

We’ve had a leaky baptistry, dark dangerous parking lots, a copier on hospice care, burst pipes, a clogged sewer line, dysfunctional families, families dealing with cancer…healed and terminal, inconsistent volunteers, and “confidential meetings.”

Welcome to the church that isn’t small, but not quite medium-sized. We’re kind of like my pants size. I’m not quite 34, but almost swim in a size 36…and try to find size 35? When I do the style looks like something Austin Powers would wear in one of his movies!

One of of the main challenges I have as a pastor these days is pastoring kids…and adults at the same time. Our church includes families of different sizes and configurations, faith backgrounds and no faith backgrounds, single parent families, blended families, shared families, and multi-generational families. We have families that are in and out…and in…and out. I’m reminded of the Benedictine Sisters at a retreat center outside of the city. They are together each and every day, and, as a result, have a certain rhythm to their community life. Establishing rhythm in today’s church is about as easy as figuring out the federal tax forms.

So often as a pastor I identify with Moses trying to lead a bunch of people who keep remembering the golden years of Egyptian slavery.

The longer I pastor the more confident I am in the fact that I don’t know very much. I become more and more sure that I’m halfway between clueless and understanding with the needle ready to flip to either side on a moment’s notice.

I don’t know much, but it makes me consider what the standards are that I must base my pastoring on.

1) Everyone has value! I don’t have to agree with someone’s position or even their actions, but I must see each person as being one of God’s created. The Body of Christ is made up of numerous parts and personalities. A nose smells things differently than an eye…yes, I know an eye does not smell, but neither does a nose see. One should compliment the other, not be in competition or conflict with the other.

  2) Everyone is on a journey! Some of us just move faster than others. Some of us get distracted along the way by family situations, faith crises, the silence of God, the hyperness of life, and the differences in value systems. It’s like being on a road trip and coming upon traffic that is backed up. Suddenly our pace and our itinerary get altered and we get frustrated. I’ve been known to talk in unkind ways to the cars in front of me that are in the same situation as I am. The thing is we’re all going the same direction, just not at the speed I’m used to. Faith journeys are like that. We want to go at our own pace that is not controlled by others.

3) Happiness is not the goal of the church! Sharing the good news, teaching people about the Christian life, and coming alongside people in their walk with the Lord…those are the goals. We substitute happiness for the joy of the Lord. I admit that I get tired of dealing with issues that people have, and when that happens I have a tendency to yield to what will bring happiness in the short term at the expense of joy for the long journey.

4) Disciple, Coach, Mentor! Recognizing that people are at different places in their faith, as a pastor I must remember that some people are to be discipled. That means there needs to be more supervision and direction, more teaching and structure. Disciples are in the making regardless of age, but most of the children in church are in the disciple phase. The foundational beliefs are still being established in their lives. A good percentage of adults are in the coaching phase. That means they need to be instructed and guided as they are walking with the Lord. There is still uncertainty that needs to be addressed, confusion that needs direction. Finally, there are some adults in the faith community who need a mentor, someone that they can go to for clarification as to how to proceed, or someone to share their frustrations and victories with. A mentor is someone who walks alongside. To put it in a different venue, a disciple sits in the front seat and is told how to drive a car as the driver demonstrates; a coach sits in the front passenger seat and directs the person as he is driving the car…in an empty parking lot, and then a street with minimal traffic, and finally a highway with heavy traffic; and a mentor sits in the back seat and watches as the driver handles the driving. Pastoring is changing hats according to who it is I’m talking to.

A church with multiple generations, all dependent on one another…all occupying the same boat…is a challenge. It reminds me of the disciples that Jesus led. They were challenging! The Bible doesn’t say that Jesus pulled his hair out, but I wonder if that was an option he considered.

And yet, that group of men ended up changing the world!

Getting Through It

November 14, 2013

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                    November 14, 2013



      I’ve discovered that life is filled with “getting through it” moments! People talk about getting through it in a variety of ways. Getting through final exams week…getting through potty-training…getting through the coming month of work overload…the list is endless!

There is a danger for people to go through life “getting through it.” Life is rarely enjoyable and productive when it is saturated with just trying to get past things. Sometimes it is necessary, like when someone is going through a divorce and he is just trying to get to the next day.

As a pastor I’ve had those times where you feel like the weight of the world is on your shoulders. You don’t want to get out of bed in the morning. You start memorizing verses from the book of Ecclesiastes. There is no joy in Mudville…and you’re the pastor…the one who is suppose to always have a happy face on.

You just want to get through it!

My toughest time in 34+ years as a pastor were the summer months before my oldest daughter got married. The church was in turmoil, people were jumping ship like it was the American Baptist Titanic, the “joy” of a pastor had changed one letter to the “job” of a pastor. Each Sunday I was just trying to get through it.

And I did…with the help of some great friends who stood alongside me and kept me propped up.

So…life does have the “getting through it” moments, but life is meant to be more than that.

And so you ask someone how their week is going and they respond “Just tryoing to get through it.” Wednesday is viewed as a time of achievement point because a person is over the hump in regards to the work week. That doesn’t really apply to pastors. I’m not sure what “hump day” is!

Following Jesus was always meant to be about green pastures and quiet waters as much as it is to be about perseverance and turning the other cheek.

And, as I led off with, there will always be “getting though it” events in our lives. Ask a student what his favorite thing about fifth grade is and he may very well answer “Getting through it!” What comes after fifth grade? Summer vacation. Ask a high school student what their favorite thing about biology is and you will rarely get an answer like “Dissecting animals.” Most students, if given a multiple choice, will choose “Finishing” as their answer.

I see parents who have a hard time enjoying this moment in their kids’ lives because they think it will be better in the next phase.

The Apostle Paul wrote that “For me to live is Christ and to die is gain.” (Philippians 1:21)  He was living the moment, because he didn’t know what tomorrow would hold for him.

Let me encourage you…to walk a day at a time, live in the moment, be present in this time, and know that the Lord will never leave you or forsake you. Don’t be content to just get through it.