Posted tagged ‘congregation’

Failure To Lunch

March 2, 2015

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                                              March 2, 2015

                                                  

I’m trying to slow down! Yes, I talked about that last week…and here goes again! If I repeat myself often enough perhaps i’ll start hearing what I’m writing.

I had my moments last week where I remembered my words and fasted from going fast. I sat and pondered at times, did not speed on the ice-covered roads that covered our area, went to bed at decent hours, and even took in a movie with my wife (McFarland).

But there were the other times! I slowed down enough that a cold caught me.

Here’s my challenge this week. Sometimes fasting from going fast isn’t the answers to all the ills and problems. Another challenge for me this week is not just slowing down, it’s also to not pile the plate high with the week’s buffet of things that need to be done.

The excuse that I so often use is that they need to be done! If I don’t do them they won’t get done! As a pastor it’s easy to get whirlpooled into that trap. Every congregation has people within it who think the pastor has all the time in the world and are very free to assign him something else to do. And most pastors are not good at saying no. It’s the Baptist guilt element rising to the surface, that tells us that we can never do enough for Jesus. Baptist pastors have a hard time with those verses in the Bible where Jesus goes off by himself and takes some time to ponder. We can’t relate!

Last week I had one day that was loaded with this, that, and the other…little of which had any eternal value connected to it…and at about 3:00 I realized I had failed to lunch. Perhaps it was the three month old cookie that I consumed at 10:00 that made me forget, but regardless…lunch came and went and I ne’er noticed!

The tyranny of the urgent will always attempt to keep us from caring for our soul!

One good thing that happened last week was a gathering on Wednesday of a pastor’s group that I highly value. We intentionally take time to be still, reflect, pray, and share. It’s called a “Together in Ministry” group, or TIM group, and it causes me to value the sharing with the saints.

Now I come to another week of possibilities and problems, people in need and people in peril. How will I journey through this week? Reflectively? With eyes seeking glimpses of Him? How will I journey through this week with those who I love the most? With the third grandchild due to emerge into this world any day now will I be able to fast from going fast look enough to celebrate a new gift, a new grace?

I’ll let you know…in a while!

To The Newly Ordained

August 19, 2013

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                         August 19, 2013

     My son! I hope you don’t mind that I call you that, even though we aren’t blood relatives. But I feel, in many ways, you are my son. Lord knows I’m old enough to be your dad!

I thank God for your obedience to the call. It hasn’t been smooth sailing for you. I can remember there were a number of times in the past three years where you were discouraged, tired, ready to lay things aside for a while. Going to seminary full-time, being a father and a husband, being involved in various ministry initiatives at church…your plate runneth over!

And now your name is preceded with the title “Reverend.”

I know it doesn’t change who you are. Humbleness is a part of your DNA. If someone refers to you as “Reverend” you will probably look behind you to see who they are talking to. The titled doesn’t change you. You are who God has transformed you into. That happened a long time before you got an official title.

See the title as simply a confirmation of those who have journeyed alongside you these past years that you are called…you have a special calling that has been placed upon your life.

Sometimes the calling will weigh heavily upon you. As you stand at a pulpit you will see the faces of people who need a word of hope for their lives, a word of encouragement. And yet, there will be other times when you stand at a pulpit there needs to be a “hard word” said. You must always seek to led by the Spirit of God. the temptation to throttle a congregation will be strong some weeks, as well as the tempting to be soft. Seek to lead the people of God closer to a holy fellowship with God. Don’t get carried away by personal agenda and political referendums. Stay Word-focused!

My son, as you enter a hospital room, or meet with someone who is about to enter into surgery, or gather with a family of a deceased loved one, understand that you are a representative of Christ. In fact, you are more than that. To those who are grieving you are the presence of Jesus. Without making you think that you are a Savior, you are in those moments Jesus to them. They are looking to you for a “word from the Lord”, a prayer for healing, comfort in the most trying times.

I know in your eyes you are “small” (Your word!), but to the family of a person who is about to have open-heart surgery you are a rock. Rocks are seen as being planted, strong…something that can have tough things, like the hard questions of life, brought to and there on’t be a shying away.

Be steady! People are sometimes fickle. They get attracted to the latest and greatest, but when the road gets rough, when the weariness of life leaves them gasping,  they look for that pastor who is steady and a servant. Seek to move the people of God ahead. The faster you expect them to move the gentler you must be.

People will follow the leader, even with some grumbling, if they are sure that the leader loves them and desires the best for them.

My son, always be teachable, no matter your age! Seek wise mentors who are not only close at hand, but also far away. And, hear this…seek mentors who are teachable. If you accept the guidance from someone who no longer seeks the wisdom of others, two people are about to take a plunge.

Finally, your family comes before the people of God. There have been many great pastors who have lost their families. That, my friend, is not God’s design for this whole calling of being a pastor. You must be wise in your spirit. Sometimes the people of God can overwhelm you with demands and responsibilities at the expense of your role as a father and spouse. Keep a balance. Discern what is really crucial and what can wait. Your daughter’s school production is more important than a meeting of the Finance Committee. Protect your family time while letting the people of God know you care.

There are so many other things I could write to you, but some of them are best learned on your own. Always know that I’m praying for you, and will be there for you no matter if you’re on a peak or trudging through a valley.

You are called! Fight the good fight!

Willie the Baptismal Whale (part 2)

December 27, 2012

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                                  December 26, 2012

 

The pastor had to do a little pushing and pulling to get the inflatable properly positioned. It was a snug fit. Inflatable whales are a little wider than Baptist church baptisteries. Finally it was in place with the tail out the backside of the one entrance tank. Perhaps it was built that way to eliminate escapees who began to doubt at the last moment…or if the water heater wasn’t working!

The pastor went home…hopeful that Sunday morning he would not be deflated by having dry baptisms.

He arrived early on Sunday to inspect, pray, and pour. It was a long walk from the kitchen to the baptistery, but that’s where he had to go to fill bucket after bucket with hot water. Willie’s “belly” slowly started to fill up. The tail flopped back and forth like a fin out of control.

It took twenty trips with the five gallon pail to get Willie to the brim. The pastor’s upper back and arms were aching and he secretly was longing to be a Methodist. Sprinkling is a lot easier than total immersion.

That was another fear that kept creeping into his mind. Would Zach fit? He had visions of “partial immersion.” What if Zach’s muscular body couldn’t go all the way under all at once? Was it okay to baptize his upper body and then his lower body immediately after? Did that qualify? He thought back to his adjunct preaching professor in seminary who was a Presbyterian pastor. Baptist seminary students usually want to know that they have all the right answers…and that others don’t. Discussion with their professor about the validity of any baptism that involved less than five hundred gallons was a point of debate.

The wise mentor from a different tradition looked at his inquiring students and asked them a question in response to their question: “Is it the amount of water that is important or the condition of the heart?”

Silence like Pharisees before Jesus.

Zach’s heart condition had been washed clean. A sense of peace fell upon the pastor’s spirit. Sometimes his faith got lost in the fret about the details.

Thirty minutes before the worship gathering was to begin the pastor checked the water level. Willie was holding. The water was still to the top of his sides. He hoped that the temperature would hold just as well. Toes turning blue were not on his bucket list!

The sanctuary began to fill with people, familiar faces and unfamiliar. Baptisms brought the body of believers, as well as others who perhaps wanted to see if it would happen. Zach’s guests included a former high school teacher who prayed for Zach frequently, worrying about his life’s direction and consequences. There was also his boss who had taken Zach under his wing, and treated him like a son. In fact, there were a number of people sitting in different pews throughout the sanctuary that has a hand in guiding him to this point.

Little Bethany also had her guests, aunts and uncles, neighbors and playmates. Her stomach was starting to turn flips in anticipation. Truth be known, she was anxious about the water temperature. She had been telling herself all night “Don’t squeal! Don’t squeal!”She didn’t want an ice-cold whale to cause her to scream.

When the pastor touched down into the pool, however, the temperature was just a little cooler than bath water. He gave the thumbs up to Bethany and her mom and dad who were standing behind her. She stepped down, and accepted the help from the pastor as her right foot stepped over Willie’s inflated head.

Her mom and dad joined her. The increase in weight on the bottom of the pool caused the air to shift to the tail end, and Willie’s back flipper came to attention. Her dad led Bethany through the affirming words of her faith. The pastor stepped to the side and Bethany’s dad, a hair over six foot three himself, dipped his daughter low. She submerged and emerged with not even a gasp, let alone a squeal. All that the congregation could see was a little girl with a big grin that circled around the gap created by her two missing front teeth.

The congregation applauded. Aunts cried. Mom embraced her daughter.

Parents and child stepped back out of Willie and carefully went back up the steps. Zach was next. He came down the steps looking bigger than he actually was. He smiled at the pastor, who moved towards Willie’s tail to give him a little more room. He wasn’t sure how this was going to work, but he was going to make it work…even if it meant to a snug fit in between Willie’s sides for Zach.

The pastor looked out and caught sight of some of Zach’s family. Several were already tearing up. They knew his journey. They knew that there had been more doubters in his life than believers. Some of the doubters, oddly enough, still hoped for failure. The need to be right was greater than the hope to see transformation.

The pastor stood on Zach’s right side.

Zach, who would have thought that you would have a Jonah moment this morning?”

A chorus of “amens” sounded in different parts of the sanctuary. Zach’s facial expression widened with raised eyebrows and a smile that stretched his cheeks as wide as they could go. The pastor led the new believer in words of profession and identification with Jesus.

Let’s see if we can all of you under!”

I’m good with that!”

The words were said, and the young dad was dipped. The pastor swished him around a little bit in Willie’s belly just to make sure; and then he was up…drenched…chuckling…triumphant.

The pastor embraced him. The congregation applauded.

As if in approval, Willie’s tail waved for a moment.

 

 

Pastor For Dinner

November 1, 2012

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                                         November 1, 2012

 

“The mashed potatoes are ready”, came the voice from the kitchen.

“Is the table set?”

“I think we still need steak knives.”

“Dinner rolls are hot out of the oven.”

“Pitchers of iced tea and water are on the table.”

“Okay! Let’s gather everyone at the table and say grace.”

The six people of various ages converged on the dining room and took their assigned seats. It was their Sunday afternoon custom- dinner after church. It wasn’t called lunch because it took the place of two meals for the day and was served promptly at two o’clock…if church didn’t run long! “Long” was defined as anything exceeding one hour and ten minutes. The pastor was expected to do on-the-spot sermon revisions if the singing, announcements about everything that was happening that week, prayer requests and actual praying time, story time for the children, scripture reading, mission moment, and offering ran long. If Aunt Bessie needed to share about her sister Mildred’s gall bladder untrasound, and Deacon Herman was led by the Spirit to present the prayer request of people using excessive speed driving into the church parking lot, then sometimes the pastor’s message became more of a summary meditation thought.

Pot roasts were in the crock pots, and the Methodists needed to be beaten to the restaurants. Three points and a poem were often “Cliffs Noted” into one point and a quote. When it came down to expository preaching and pot roasts the perceptive pastor knew when to yield.

Dear Lord! We thank you for your many blessings, and this meal that we are about to partake of. May it be used to give us strength! Amen!”

Five other amens echoed through the room, and then the food started it’s rotation around the table.

“Beautiful solo this morning by Margaret!”

“Yes, it was! She has such an incredible voice.”

“I didn’t realize that Henry Smith was having prostate problems.”

“Nor I! And how about Lorraine having to put her dog down. So sad!”

“Did you see little Angela during the story time? She kept making faces at the pastor. I couldn’t help but laugh.”

“So precious!”

“My insides were making faces at the pastor during the message. What was his point anyway?”

“Don’t ask me! He lost me even before he finished reading the scripture.”

“I timed him today. Twenty-six minutes and thirty-four seconds.”

“He needs to cut it down to twenty.”

“Fifteen, if he would just speak faster!”

“I hate it when he brings in world hunger and poverty during his sermon. It makes me feel guilty having dinner.”

“And, Lord knows, we deserve a nice dinner after having to endure another Sunday lecture.”

“And when he uses one of those more contemporary versions of the Bible it just turns me off.”

“The King James is such beautiful language. It’s almost like listening to a Shakespeare play.”

“I don’t like bringing current events into the pulpit. Stick with what Jesus said and we’ll be fine, but you start talking about what’s going on in the world and you just lose people.”

“Would anyone care for another roll?”

“Please!”

“I tell you…Sunday dinner is the most peaceful time of the week for me.”

“Me too!”

“Amen!”

Pastor Appreciating Month

October 11, 2012

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                                 October 11, 2012

 

I’m not sure when it started, and who started it, and how it came to find a home in October, but whatever the unanswered questions are we are eleven days into Pastor Appreciation Month. On Sunday I’ll wear the tie that some of our church kids made for me last year. It’s a great tie with hand prints of each of the kids on it.

Other people over the years have sent me cards, Starbucks gift cards, restaurant gift cards, books, taken Carol and me out to dinner, and expressed their gratitude in a number of ways.

Not to be mushy, but there is the other side of the ministry. It’s the side where the pastor appreciates. It’s the side where the heart of the pastor is meshed with the congregation in a multitude of life-sharing ways, the side where the passions of the pastor are expressed and owned by the people of the Body.

The pastor appreciates a congregation where people feel comfortable enough with him to talk about their spiritual questions, as well as their faith journeys.

The pastor appreciates a congregation where people mention to him something he said in a recent sermon that hit home in an experience they had not long after that.

The pastor appreciates people who initiate hugs.

The pastor appreciates people who ask him if they can pray for him.

The pastor appreciates children who give him high fives and are disappointed if there is a Sunday when there isn’t a children’s story time during morning worship.

The pastor appreciates sitting in Starbucks with someone who just needs to talk.

The pastor appreciates a congregation where the style of music is not nearly as important as the worship of God.

The pastor appreciates a youth group that sabotages his office.

The pastor appreciates a congregation that likes his Far Side cartoons that he posts outside his office.

The pastor appreciates a congregation that is inviting…and continuing. That is, they invite someone to come to church with them, and then continue the conversation over lunch.

The pastor appreciates a congregation that comes alongside persons with mobility problems.

The pastor appreciates a congregation that recognizes that they are living the Gospel.

The pastor appreciates a congregation that wants to make a difference in the community.

The pastor appreciates a congregation that lives out grace, not just expects to receive grace.

The pastor appreciates a congregation that becomes uncomfortable with the implications of the Gospel.

The pastor appreciates a congregation that he is not motivated or manipulated by money, and yet desires to make sure he receives a fair wage.

The pastor appreciates a congregation that sees value in each person, regardless of gender, age, race, financial or marital status.

The pastor appreciates a congregation that honors his day off, and, once in a while, even forces him to take a break.

The pastor appreciates a congregation that looks for ways that they can help him become more effective as a pastor.

The pastor appreciates a congregation that affirms, but also corrects.

The pastor appreciates a congregation that moves according to the voice of God, not according to who yells the loudest.

The pastor appreciates a congregation that claps!

The pastor appreciates a congregation where coffee can be taken into the sanctuary.

The pastor appreciates a congregation that is appreciative!

And perhaps most of all, the pastor appreciates a congregation that is appreciative long after October has passed!