Coming of a tiresome Christmas season and into our annual vision series (#MYCHURCH), I cannot say I was completely prepared for what I would encounter. Within the previous month, the Lord put a few “Pauls” (older, wiser, experienced pastors) in my pathway that transformed January’s series into something special. It created an excitement in me for that first Sunday.
And that’s when two things began to happen.
One of them was internally. I’ve had a determination to celebrate. It has become a drive within my spirit. And the more I celebrate what God is doing in me, my staff, and the church I pastor, the more I see hope rising. The celebration doesn’t change the circumstances, but it changes my perception of what is going on.
The second thing was something happening externally: Encouragement. I won’t build up a story of how I never get encouragement because that’s not true. But this month has been something like I’ve never seen. The encouragement has been coming from the most likely sources. And, perhaps more importantly, it’s has stuck to my soul with the adhesive of gorilla glue. The flesh part of me wants to NOT type about this, but forget that crap…the church I serve has rocked my world and I think God has been shining amazingly through them. There are those that have been quick to the critical, and God has used them in an extraordinary way to annihilate any discouragement. Cards, notes, Facebook messages, hugs…it’s been in such ridiculous moments that I am literally flabbergasted that I get to pastor these people (seriously…I weep as a type this).
Don’t get me wrong. I’m an imperfect vessel that pastors a sanctuary full of imperfection. None of us at Kfrist have reached completion of character and life. But something is stirring beyond the ordinary. And I think I’ve discovered why?
Encouragement and celebration were meant to be inseparable. One builds off the other. My determination to celebrate has prepared me to receive encouragement. The encouragement I received has shown me what to celebrate. One feeds the other. They’re mean to be together. You may think these are not that big of a deal, but encouragement and celebration don’t seem essential until you don’t have them.
I think the lack of encouragement and celebration is an epidemic. And it’s no wonder why so many pastors deal with loneliness and depression. Too many pastors leave ministry down and discouraged. And I wonder, if he/she knew how to celebrate…if he/she had someone to celebrate with…if someone knew how to encourage their pastor…
…would anything be different? Would he/she still be involved in ministry?
Pastors, I’m going to challenge you with the scripture I’ve brough our church back to for the past 3 weeks. In Genesis 22:1, God calls to Abraham he simply replies,
“Here I am.”
In other words: Start with me.
Let the tone of celebration start with you. Let the atmosphere of encouragement begin with you. And here’s just a few things I do:
- Refuse to start a meeting without celebration points. I’m adamant that we don’t start a meeting till we find something to celebrate. Start with salvation and work from there.
- Get your couples (married or premarital) to celebrate items about each other before counseling. If they can’t, think about either canceling the rest of the meeting or spend the whole meeting learning how to look for the best in each other.
- I use my Facebook feed to give me names of people to pray over and send an encouraging word to. I’ll select someone, pray over them, and ask the Holy Spirit to give me a word for them. Let the gifts flow through you. Yes, even on social media.
- Go old school. I’m challenging my staff to make 10 points of written encouragement (in the mail) every week during our 40 days of prayer (starts on Ash Wednesday).
- Express celebration in your services.
- Challenge your leadership. I challenged our staff that, for every criticism, there should be 3 points of encouragement. It makes all of us think before speaking.
When you decide to be a celebrator (don’t think that’s a word), it’s amazing how well the encouragement sticks better. It’s not that negative things haven’t cropped up. But they don’t seem to adhere like they used to. Celebration and encouragement have fed off of each other and given me new life in 2016. And quite honestly, I think there’s new life at Kfirst.
Looking back, I’ve always had a thing for fire (don’t all of us guys?). But regardless of how hot it burns, the absence of oxygen will snuff out the flame. I notice this a few weeks back when I had this brainiac idea that I could set my cup of coffee on my glass candle in my office and keep it nice and warm. Turns out that the cup sealed the top, cut off the oxygen, and extinguished the flame
A week later, I found myself in a conference in northern Michigan. And it was in this hotel room, ministers had just finished worshiping and sat down to hear a refreshing word from, who I consider, an outstanding man of God. Rod Loy has been the lead pastor at NLR First Assembly for 15 years (as of 2016). In his second talk about momentum, these words came out and brought be back to my little office moment with my coffee and candle…”You get what you celebrate.” It wasn’t, “you get what your congregation celebrates.” It needs to start with me (you).
Pastor, in the words of scripture, “lift up your eyes” and find things to celebrate. Before you preach, celebrate. Before you start your workday, celebrate. Before you have meetings, celebrate. Set a new tone at the church. And let it start with you saying, “here am I…start with me.” And the more you celebrate, the more you’re soul will get sticky which means the more you’ll catch the things that are encouraging about the ministry God has called you to be in.
Pastors shouldn’t ask their congregations to do something they are not willing to do themselves (at least that’s always been my rule). Let them hear you celebrate. Find way to encourage them. Step out with these two essential elements and watch hope rise. It may not change a circumstance, but your perception of what God is doing and what is speaking will be so much clearer. It’s stopping the moment to recognize how awesome God is. Celebration is a choice.
If you have no one to celebrate with, you contact me. We’ll sit over coffee, Google Hangout, or whatever and we’ll celebrate together. Let it start with you. Let the culture of your church begin to change because the pastor refuses to be a bottom feeder on criticism and negativity. Lift up your eyes. Lift up your voice. Celebrate the goodness of God and facilitate His work in someone by encouraging them.
“Rejoice in the Lord always, and again, I say rejoice.” Philippians 4:4
You want a sticky soul, rejoice….aways.
Thanks for letting me ramble…