Praying for a Tougher Kind of Pastor on the East Side!

This past week I was part of a prayer event on the west side of Cleveland. Aaron DeLoach, another pastor from my church, and I went because we are currently in a season of prayer at our church…21 days to be exact. While we were there, we had the opportunity to pray with pastors from all over the greater Cleveland area. You had people from the West Side, the East Side, and as far south as Medina and Akron.

During a time of praying in small groups, one of the pastors in my group prayed a prayer that has stuck with me for a week now. As a group, we had just finished a conversation about how difficult it is to do ministry on the East Side of Cleveland. As a matter of fact, Aaron and I heard the East Side referred to several times as “the church planter’s graveyard”. We heard story after story about churches that tried to branch out into the East Side only to have a church plant fail within the year. One thing we have come to learn is that the East Side is a “well churched” area. By that I mean, most people have gone to church from time to time. Unfortunately, it is an area where church involvement can be seen in the same light as any other “community organization”. It’s on the list, but not very high.

It was coming out of this conversation that this pastor prayed for “Tougher Pastors”. He prayed, “The East Side is a tough side… And so Lord, I pray for a generation of Tougher Pastors.”

I love that!

It is been my prayer every day since. I’ve been praying, “God make me a tougher kind of pastor.”

So here’s what a tougher kind of pastor looks like:

-We don’t shave our chest!

-We no longer wear skinny jeans!

-We only drink our coffee black!

OK, not really –  Here’s what I’m praying for when I’m praying for a generation of “Tougher Pastors”:

 

We’re in The Word

In the day and age that we live in, it seems as though we want to microwave everything. We spend more time checking out cool graphics and stage designs then we do digging into the Bible. A tougher kind of pastor puts his time in The Word. We don’t steal sermons. We don’t use other people’s research at face value. We dig into The Word. We let it speak to us. We pray for God’s message. And then we preach from what HE has communicated to us.

We don’t shortchange our study. We don’t shortchange the process of discovery that God intended when he gave us His Word.

Top 10 Lessons I have Learned in 2017

It seems like every blogger out there is posting their “2017 Summaries”. For some, this is their financials and others it’s a summary of their very best blog posts.

For me…

Since I have no financials and have only blogged 5 times this last year, I have decided to simply post the Top 10 Lessons I have Learned in 2017

 

LESSON ONE: “People come First”

This year has been filled with its ups and downs. I have seen many injustices and have heard many hurtful comments all of which have reminded me that people need to come first. Too many personal wars are waged simply to prove that one side is better than the other. We’ve seemed to have forgotten that when it is all said and done, we need to be able to live with one another.

I choose to not fight senseless battles simply to prove that I am right.

 

LESSON TWO: “People don’t care what you know until they know that you care”

This is an oldie but a goodie… and it is true. Much like the first lesson, if I intend to “win someone over to my side” I first have to show them that I truly care about them.

I choose to have people walk away from me knowing that I value them.

 

LESSON THREE: “You can’t work in the mud without getting a little dirty”

As a pastor I have the opportunity and privilege to sit with people during difficult circumstances. I also have the burden of walking with them through some of life’s messiest situations. I cannot allow my fear of what other people think of me to stop me from showing the love of Christ to hurting people.

I choose to step into the mud with those looking for help.

 

Who’s Your Village?

Photo Credit: hans pohl Flickr via Compfight cc

I’ve come to learn that it really does take a village to raise a child. In fact, my dad and mom always said that their “success” in parenting really had more to do with the people they surrounded us with than anything they did. Not sure if I completely agree (I think they made some right choices along the way). Either way, they were certainly onto something. When I look back on my childhood I can remember the missionaries, the pastors, the small group leaders, the coaches of high character and integrity that surrounded my upbringing. It’s not surprising that all of us “children” grew up to serve God in various ways in full-time vocational ministry.

The adults in out lives were more than just friends. They were more than just people to hangout with and friends to have near while we tried to “survive the troubles of life”. They were influences. They were partners in parenting and childrearing.

Our life was not easy. We had struggles like every other family. We had times when we had “enough” and there were times when we struggled financially. There were times of health and times of sickness. Throughout my childhood, my parents kept the main thing the main thing. They raised us kids with a purpose in life that was beyond ourselves. It was beyond the “typical”. They raised us with the belief that God was calling us to more. He was preparing and leading us to make a difference in this world… to offer hope to people who were far from Him.

Aime and I are right in the middle of raising our six kids. They range from a senior in High School to kindergarten. We’re trying hard to surround them with key influences… people with strong character and an outspoken call on their life to make a difference. Sometimes this means we have to make the tough choices to change these influences by changing where we spend our time. These choices can be tough in the moment, but we’re banking on it paying out in the long run.

So, just a challenge here –

Who do you choose to surround your children? What kinds of people have influence in their life? What things are they striving after?

These are important questions because chances are …

Your kids just might grow up to look like them as much as they will you.

 

Feeling lost as a parent? Looking for a way to discover the purpose for your family? Wanting to establish family values, set goals, or just need a tool to help you keep the main thing the main thing?

We’ve got it for you (Right Here)

Blessed are the Poor in Spirit

“You can’t know how Great God is until you first realize how helpless you are.”

Photo Credit: ms_eyewitness Flickr via Compfight cc

Jesus says this in the opening line of the Sermon on the Mount when he said, “Blessed are the poor in Spirit.”

One time, Jesus was walking with His disciples and a group of people come up to Jesus and want their children to be “blessed”. Now, I don’t know what you have heard about this passage is found in Matthew 19, I’ve always seen pictures of Jesus placing his hands on children’s for heads, possibly making across somewhere… saying a fast prayer and then considering the children blessed, but I really have a hard time with this picture. Maybe it’s because I actually HAVE children and know that that would in no way shape or form “bless them”.

When I think of Jesus, or anyone for that matter, “blessing kids” I always picture him picking up a child, tickling them, and then throwing them up in the air as high as he possibly could. This would be that height where your stomach actually turns and you feel like you’re about to throw up in your eyes grow three times the size is normal as you are praying with all that you have that this person would actually be able to catch you before you splatter on the ground below.

Naturally, Jesus would catch them at the last minute and then throw them back up in the air again. This makes sense to me, both because the children would be blessed as well as the fact that the disciples always seem to be disturbed that Jesus would spend his time doing such things. I mean, seriously, what’s the big deal about taking a few minutes to put your hands on a few kids heads and say fast prayer… But rolling on the ground and throwing them up in the air???  I can understand why the disciples would question whether or not they have the time for this. Here’s what the passage says:

Matthew 19:13-14

13 Then people brought little children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them and pray for them. But the disciples rebuked them.

14 Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”

I love this passage. What I love about the passage the most is really what it’s saying between the lines. You see, children have nothing to offer except themselves! They don’t have a lot to bring to the table in a relationship except for their love, their acceptance, and their spirit. They don’t come trying to “teach” things. They don’t come to help you get ahead in life and they rarely come critiquing you. They basically come with empty hands. They’re just glad that you want to spend time with them!

I’ve Been Thinking This Week About Being a Shepherd

I’m a pastor. I shepherd God’s flock. I lead them. I care for them. I keep them healthy by sometimes correcting and other times by steering them into “greener pastures.” If we all lived in the days of Moses and Aaron, I would represent the people before God and visa versa. I guess in today’s world it’s still a little like that.

 

I’m called to feed the sheep.

Feeding God’s sheep means that I have to possess the food in the first place. This means I need to spend the time devouring God’s Word. I need to allow it to be digested, making me strong and healthy. Then, and only then am I able to feed those in my care. Feeding the sheep also means that I need to be sure that they are getting a balanced meal. It means that it’s my job to be sure that they’re eating their brussels sprouts along with their sweet potatoes. There are certain things that God wants us to know that are easier to swallow than others. My job is to make sure that we eat everything on the plate.

 

I’m called to make sure the sheep are healthy.

As a pastor, I stand before God to how obedient the sheep are living. The reality is, it’s very possible to over feed the sheep. It’s really not healthy to allow the sheep to stay in the pen. They just get fat and lazy. It’s my job to do whatever I can to get the sheep moving. Get them out of the pen to burning off some of the food they’ve been gorging on before they get too lazy and begin to expect more than they need.

 

I’m called to care for the sheep.

Caring for them is different than just doing a job. It involves personal attachment to the sheep. It’s what drives the shepherd to go the extra mile for the one that has wondered off. It’s what drives the shepherd to give up time and sleep to care for the sick. It’s not out of duty of “obligation”… it’s out of love for God’s sheep. It’s choosing to see them for the beautiful creatures that God sees them to be.

 

Sometimes, I’m called to be willing to break a leg.

I have to be honest, I love this! I have never heard ANYONE preach on this one! Often times, when a sheep would constantly wonder off, the shepherd would have to take some drastic measures for the sheep’s on good. He breaks one of its legs. Yep! The shepherd would break one of the sheep’s legs and then pick the lamb up, dress its wounds and then carry the lamb close to himself until the leg healed. In the process of healing, the lamb would also build an attachment to the shepherd. This attachment would create a bond that couldn’t be broken. As a shepherd I have to be ready to make the hard decisions. Sometimes, it’s tough when you know it’s going to hurt in the short term, but I have to be ready to commit to the sheep for the long haul.

 

I’m not going to address all things that a shepherd shouldn’t do yet. I think I’ll save that for another conversation since it’s a whole conversation in itself. But for now, I just want to be sure that I’m a good shepherd of the sheep God’s given me.