My Friend Leon: 3 Ways You can Get Community in Your Life

Last Sunday, I was doing an introduction for a friend who was bringing the message at Kfirst. Jp Dorsey brought an outstanding word to our congregation that I have been chewing on ever since the weekend. If you were not able to join us, check it out here.

In my intro for Jp, there was a statement that I shared that far too many pastors believe. It was brought up all too often when in bible college and throughout my first position:

Ministry is a lonely place. 

Quite often, I revisit that statement to revise it to say, “Ministry can be a lonely place.” Even though there’s some aspect of truth to the original saying, it comes off to ministers as a “sentence” to be imprisoned by instead of a warning of the danger of isolation.

And when I think about these 21 years of ministry, I recognize, first, I am here because of Jesus. For, apart from Him, I can do nothing (John 15:5). And to him, “the King of the ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.” (1 Timothy 1:17).

But I also see that I am still here because of community. I believe I’m still in pastoral ministry, not because of a resolve I posses, but because of the men and women who refused to allow me to do this ministry thing alone.  I’m here because of those who stood by me in my pain, put up with my drama, showed patience with my frustrations, challenged me in my thinking, encouraged me in my worst days, offered a place to explore creativity, gave me wisdom through decisions, and offered me a place to find my smile and to laugh.

And Leon Beaudin has been one of those people.

I may be from the Metro Detroit area, but Midland became “home.” I was hired as the Youth Pastor of CCC in 2002, but inside, I was broken and hurting; confused and frustrated. Midland for most is simply a nice city to live. For me, it was a city of refuge. Why? I found a renewed passion for Jesus, my calling, and the mission of the Church. God brought people along side of me. And Leon was a huge part of that.

My friend is bringing an era of 30 years of ministry at CCC to a close. And my heart is not to just honor him but to challenge others to find community like what I found in Leon.

Share a cup.
I miss hearing those immortal words down the office hallway, “Hey Youth Boy, do you want some coffee?” Really, this is how it all began. He shared a cup of coffee. I can’t say I was a huge coffee drinker in that day, but I was willing to connect to the dude who sat at the organ. There is such depth to an uncomplicated action like an invitation like that. Coffee may not seem like much, but for someone who was starving for relational connections, it meant everything. A meeting at the coffeepot (even though it was Folgers) opened my heart to one of my most valued friends.

Give a couch.
I remembered the first time I walked in his office and just plopped on his couch as if it was a therapy session (which it probably was). His reply was hilarious. “You do realize you’re not the first youth pastor to lay on that couch trying to figure things out?”

But I caught something in that statement (other than the fact that us Youth Pastors have lots of issues to work through). Not only was he approachable, but he was available. I’ve know those who were approachable but never available. Then there are others who are available, but not approachable. My friend Leon was both. I don’t think he’ll ever fully grasp how much value he poured into me through those 7 years especially when the first contact came about Kalamazoo. I cannot imagine what that journey would have looked like without his wisdom and perspective.

Open up a table.
His invitation to eat, whether it was a restaurant or his home, was a place to find my smile. Leon understood the value of laughter and joy. The table was a place to share stories and memories. I remember when he picked up my…er…his bulldog Baxter. Leon invited my family over for dinner so that Baxter could get used to children.

My son Ethan and Baxter

The atmosphere did more than make us crave having our own pet, it breathed joy into our souls. I’m convinced that most of our pastors don’t necessarily need counsel as much as we need to laugh. And if we can recapture our joy, perhaps we can re-envision healthier ministry.

In Luke 19, Jesus approached a very socially lonely man.  Zacchaeus felt like an outsider to the people around him (for good reason). He really had nobody around him willing to give him the time of day. He knew of God. He also knew that his vocation made him to be very much an outsider to everyone. Jesus’ simple action of stopping, noticing, and offering time opened up Zacchaeus’ heart to be impacted by the Kingdom of God.

To every person reading this, I honor my friend, and in doing do, honor the One he represents. As scripture says, “Give honor to whom honor is due” (Romans 13:7). And it behoves me to not just tell you about the blessing he’s been to me but to challenge you in two ways:

  • Put your faith in Jesus and not people.
    • People are human and prone to mistakes. When we seek in people what we should be seeking in God, we place demands upon them they are not equipped to provide.
  • Be a friend. Be community for others.
    • It’s not done for the “thanks” you get but for the glory God receives. Your initiating connection and authentic friendship can bridge a gap over someone’s pain and into their heart.
  • Find a friend. Get community in your life. 
    • There is initiative on your part to reach back and/or ask people. Be in position to engage with others. Be willing to risk some relationship knowing that it may or may not work out. I’ve had those that we didn’t quite “connect.” That’s fine. Just don’t stop trying.

Leon, apart from all of the jokes and jabs we’ve thrown each other over the past 17 years, there lies a depth of love and appreciation for you in the Barringer’s hearts. You’re an amazing man of God and Jesus shines amazingly through you.

Love you bro. And there’s aways a cup of coffee waiting for you in Kalamazoo.

 

Thanks for letting me ramble…

 

Be in the Room: Billy Graham and the Necessity of Mentors

My heart is torn in a beautiful way.

It’s the only way I know how to describe the state of my soul when someone passes from a limited/partial understanding of Jesus into the absolute fullness of that Hope.

Within me, there is a part of me that mourns the loss of a giant. The other side of my absolutely rejoices that he now experiences the Joy he has so often proclaimed.  I’ve never personally met Reverend Billy Graham nor have I been to one of his crusades. I have watched from afar, admired the beauty of his heart, and been astounded at the power of his message.

It was a few years ago when I saw a fellow minister’s interview with Billy Graham when I sat back and thought to myself: I just want to be in the room with him.

Have you ever thought that of someone? I do all the time. It’s not because I have lists of questions to ask (in which I do). But I want to be in the room with people with years under their belt and experience dripping from their lives. For someone like Billy, I don’t want to really say much other than “thank you.” Other than that, I want just want to be in the room to be “quick to listen and slow to speak.” I just want to catch the heart of who he is.

Sit with Giants
It’s taken me a few years to get some boldness, but as I’ve matured (ish), I’ve realized how much I need to “be in the room” with “giants.” These are people who have both years and experiences I do not possess. Younger, older, in my denomination (fellowship) or outside of the Assemblies of God, it doesn’t matter. Everything God has given me belongs to Him (including my life and calling), so allow myself to be in position to be imparted into is nothing short of stewardship. I am responsible for growing what God has given me in order to be faithful with what He has entrusted me with.

Chase Giants
If I were to be “naked and unashamed,” I have a natural intimidation that comes from insecurities that I’ve battled with my entire life. Early in ministry, I’ve forfeited opportunities with “giants” out of fear or wanting somebody to pursue me.  So, for that moments to happen, I needed to stop waiting for them to chase me. I needed to chase them.

A couple of years ago, I was at a small conference where a pastor was speaking. This guy (IMO) is a giant in pastoral ministry. I’ve heard him speak before at conferences. I remember seeing him on the cover to TIME Magazine. And walking out of the room, I saw him standing checking his messages on his phone. I introduced myself and thanked him for what he imparted into the room of pastors. Then he said it, “Next time you come through my city, let me know and we’ll do coffee.” I felt like the Holy Spirit spoke to my heart as if it say, “When you say that to others, you mean it. Why don’t you think he means it to?”

The old Dave would’ve just said , “Cool. Thanks for offering.” Then I’d go back to my room kicking myself for letting my insecurities get the best of me. But you don’t grow from fear.  My response was, “I’m actually driving through there in a month. Can we do it then?”

Don’t Be Robbed of a “Giant” Opportunity 
That “coffee” meeting fed more into my spirit than most conferences have provided. The bro provided food, coffee, access to staff and his building. I have his cell number to text or call. He invested in me (and others with me) more than I ever expected. And all of that would have been forfeited had I been too prideful of “needing help” or too fearful of asking for help. Pride and fear are keeping our pastors living in a state of having an “image” but no “power.” Competition and comparison has robbed our church leaders of their joy and has sapped them of their passion. The individualistic glory seeking, empire building mindset has distorted what the Kingdom of God stands for. We are His body. And we need each other.

We need mentors and giants. We need spiritual fathers and mothers pouring into us. But stop waiting for a “Paul” to chase a “Timothy” (you). Stop allowing pride and fear disrupt a holy opportunity. A “Paul” might choose a “Timothy” but “Timothy’s” chase “Pauls.” Go after a “giant,” be in the room with them, and whatever is poured into you, “go and do likewise.”

Who do you need to “be in the room” with? Who do you need to set up an appointment with to talk? Get out of your pride and over your insecurity to sit, glean, learn, and grow.

Billy Graham. You are one of these giants I have glean from a far. Much of our world has been touched and transformed directly or indirectly by you. Only heaven will be able to calculate the amount of churches birthed, mission’s fields pioneered, vocations impacted, families restored by the message you offered to all and the hope you planted in hearts.

Thank you for your investment into us and placing the baton in our hands. We will not allow fear and pride to prevent us from being faithful with it.

Blessings on your family.

 

…thanks for letting me ramble…

 

“I’m collateral damage…” 4 Thoughts for Pastor’s Schedules

These three words stopped me in my tracks yesterday and broke my heart.

While on my way to a highly packed and anticipated schedule, the most unexpected moment happened. When I’m in certain a part of our state, I try to frequent a very unique store. Every item sold has a story and a mission. For example, I’ll buy a bracelets hand-made by women who’ve been rescued from human trafficking and the money goes to help the outreach. I love giving them my business and gifting someone so that I can share the story of this organization.

Yesterday, I found a mug with the word, “rest.” Purchasing it was going to provide a weeks worth of water for someone in Ethiopia. I have no problem paying a premium price with a premium mission. On top of that, it’s a message my wife and I love to live out and speak into others. We’ve been casualties of workaholism. We have seen others struggle and break under a lack of margin built into their lives. And we have a passion to see others get control of their schedules before their schedules claim them, their marriage, and their family.

At the checkout, the woman boxing it up was so kind. She complemented me on the choice of mug and reiterated the mission it was going to fund. I shared that I was a pastor and I was planning on gifting it because of the message of “rest.” A bit of my testimony came out about my propensity to not rest. She began to tear up and open her heart.

“I understand what busyness and a lack of rest does. I was a pastor’s wife for twenty years. Please help pastors to know how to rest. Why? I’m collateral damage.

It was as if time froze and my world cease to turn on its axis.

I would have taken a deep breath if I could locate any oxygen in the room. Words in that moment were hard to come by. It wasn’t awkwardness but a mutual understanding of the pain that busyness can lead to.  What I’ve learned early in my marriage claimed hers.  I couldn’t fight my tears at the checkout. Even now, I sit in a coffeehouse with tears streaming down my face.

In the words of James in holy scripture,

“…Surely, my brothers and sisters, this is not right!”

I understand the context of this scripture is the instability of having our words containing both curse and blessing. But I wonder if it still fits THIS context. How do we as pastors preach a blessed life but facilitate schedules that curse our marriage and family? I’m not against being busy. The work ethic my parents instilled in me pushes me to be productive. I am not about laziness as I see that as poor stewardship of my time and resources. But the refusal to build healthy margin (rest, relationships, and recreation) is placing a weight upon our spouses and children that is breaking your family speaking a message contrary to what we are preaching.

On top of that, what example are we giving to our congregations to follow? I’m tired of hearing about a pastors getting burned out. If that’s not damaging enough, the next pastor who follows has an expectation built of a pastor schedule looks like. And if he/she isn’t keeping up what was previously modeled, then upheaval happens.

I get seasons of busyness. But there’s a massive difference between a “season” and a “lifestyle.” There are “occasions” and there are ingrained “behaviors.”

The collateral damage is so much deeper that we’ve anticipated. But there is always hope.

Psalms 139 your schedule. 
Read through and pray the entire Psalm through. It’s of my favs. Verse 24 that will stand out as you pray the words, “Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life.”  Have your schedule in front of you and listen to the still small voice of the Holy Spirit. Schedule margin (rest, relationship, and recreation) into your schedule. You’ll be a better spouse, parent, and pastor if you do. 

Repent to (and with) your family. 
Vulnerability to your spouse and family helps you stay “human.” They not only want to hear that there’s going to be change but they want to be a part of it. Don’t think they’re expecting perfection; your family just wants to see change. It will take time, intentionality, and probably some failure at the attempts. It’s okay. You’re human. I’d rather deal with a pastor “failing” at trying instead of failing to try (you’re probably not “failing” at trying but I get what you’re feeling when things doing feel like their working).

Confront the “feelings of busyness” with healthy productivity. 
I find one of two things happening with busy pastors. First, there’s a propensity to not want to change how you lead as you pastor. We want others to change but don’t enjoy seeing it happen in our lives. Yesterday’s methods and styles may or may not fit today. But if you don’t evaluate effectiveness, then you don’t know if your being productive. Second, if you don’t evaluate “how” you’re spending your time, you can be wasting the “great” moments of your day doing “good” stuff. “Good” isn’t bad. But if there’s no evaluation, then you can fill your schedules doing “good” stuff and not necessarily the “great.”

Get some mentoring. 
There’s a reason I want to be in connection with other pastors from different size congregations and denominations. I want to learn. I want to grow. My introverted nature enjoys working out things on my own. But you and I were designed to work in community. Again, if we’re preaching it, why don’t we live that. Get yourself some good books. Sit with other pastors. Allow some accountability and personal growth goals.

I know there’s a question looming: Why haven’t I given you the name of the business I was at? Because it’s here in west Michigan and I’m more concerned for protecting the identity of this wonderful, yet hurting, individual I encountered. Message me if you want to know the name if you’re desire to give them your business. I’m just trying to be cautious.

I love you pastors. This systemic issue isn’t exclusive to our vocation. But if we can get a hold of this heart for health, work to practice it, perhaps it’ll give us a platform to perpetuate it in our congregations.

I love you all. Praying for you.

 

Thanks for letting me ramble…

 

Pastor to Pastor: 4 Ways to Develop Your Preaching Voice

My name is Dave, I am a natural introvert who absolutely loves to preach.

Sounds odd doesn’t it?

My craft and my demeanor don’t come natural; both have been (and still are) in a stage of development. Don’t get me wrong, I still have my reserved or withdrawn tendencies. But the nature of my vocation has drawn me out of the safety of my solitude to develop a side of me I never thought I could access.

Stepping into ministry, I had very little experience with preaching. My youth pastor granted me a couple of opportunities in youth group that stretched me beyond belief. In bible college, I preached a few times in homiletic class. Apparently I didn’t do so well as I had a couple of friends pull me aside and tell me that preaching wasn’t my “gift” and I would have “difficultly finding a position.”

In fact, after my very first Sunday morning sermon EVER, a lady approached me in the lobby right after and said, “Can you put in the church bulletin when the pastor is out of the pulpit so I can go somewhere else and actually get fed?” Awesome.

So, all in all, I was very “green” and in need of some shaping.

I remember in the first few months of ministry, my dad handed me a sermon series on cassette tapes from T.D. Jakes. I found myself listening to them while I’d set up for youth group. I cannot remember what the series was on, I only remember what it did in me. Regardless of what you think about Bishop Jakes, his style and presentation ignited my heart. I felt like the Holy Spirit spoke something to me that I’ll never forget:

My “preaching voice” was more than what I have been handed but a gift that needs be developed.

I’m working on a blog/message about pastoral evolution as, I believe, us pastors do not stop learning and growing. We should be able to look back and see patterns of growth and development. God has granted us positions and opportunities and with what God has given, we are called to be stewards. Stewards don’t bury the gift; they do something the gift. We do not sit on it, we manage and develop it. And, I believe, preaching is no exception.

You need develop your “preaching voice.” I’m not necessarily talking about having a certain tone or fluctuation (even though, that’s certainly part of it). I speak of growing and honing;  learning and shifting. I’m not the same preacher I was 20 years ago (thank the Lord). I’m also not the same preacher I was 10 years ago. God has used seasons and examples to help “evolve” the mentality, passion, and presentation of how I proclaim the good news of Jesus.

So today, I thought I’d share how God’s has (and is still) helping me grow my “preaching voice.” My hopes is that you’d allow the voice you have to grow and develop in the hands of the Holy Spirit.

Don’t be T.D.
News flash, I’m not T.D. Jakes. Though imitation (I hear) is the highest form of flattery, I’m not called to be someone else; I’m called to be David Barringer. There’s a difference between “gleaning” and “being.” My insecurities can get the best of me and think, “if that works for him, maybe it’ll work for me.” Don’t allow your insecurities to rob you of the joy of proclaiming hope in Jesus because you are not [insert favorite preacher]. Do not allow envy of how someone preaches diminish (1) what God has blessed you with and (2) what He wants to develop in you. But that brings me to…

Don’t ignore T.D.
As much as I need to be “me,” I can glean from others as to hone my “voice.” You cannot get the attitude that you can’t listen to others so you can be yourself. As preachers, I think one of the best ways to fine-tune your voice is to listen to a variety of preaching voices in a variety of preaching genres.

I listen to a variety of others who’ve helps show me ways to grow in a variety of ways that have honed my “preaching voice.”

For passion in preaching, I’ve gleaned from Steven Furtick.
For raw authenticity, I’ve gleaned from Perry Noble (but I can’t say the raw things he says…I’d get fired).
For connecting scripture to every-day life, Lysa TerKeurst.
For getting people to laugh, Jim Gaffigan (yes I know he’s not a “preacher”).
For developing words and phrases to help people remember the message, Andy Stanley is great.
For conversational preaching, Levi Lusko is tremendous.
For story telling, Judah Smith is a favorite.

I could make a longer list of preachers with the likes of Beth Moore, Rob Ketterling, Jud Wilhite, Chris Hodges, Craig Groeschel, Mark Batterson and so many more. I’ll learn from anyone. Exposure is important and in the age of podcasts and video casts, there is literally no excuse why we can expose ourselves to a variety of voices to challenge and grow our own. Which leads me to…

The conjoined twins: Presentation and Preparation
When I get hear a presentation, I think about preparation. Presenting the message and how it’s prepared work hand-in-hand. As your preaching voice develops, so will the way you prepare. Why does that change? When you position yourself to be stretched in the “what” it directly challenges the “how.” Some areas that will go through some “evolution” will be:

Locations you study and locations you write (may not be the same).
Times you study and times you write (I’m a morning person, afternoons are for meetings).
Places and times to seek the face of God for direction (I prefer walks in solitude).
How to collect information (tools, journals, files in the cloud, etc.)
Where you collect the information from (books, blogs, preachers, etc).
Forecasting future messages (learning to plan ahead).

If I’m not preparing well, I can’t present well. And as much as these things are all a part of my week, I’ve held them loosely in my hands as to allow the Holy Spirit to shift them and change them a bit as to grow me. Which, lastly, leads me to…

Be overly sensitive
I’m not talking about being overly sensitive emotionally, but to be extremely sensitive to the leading of the Holy Spirit.  My desire is not to chase “change” and, in the same breath, not to fight “change.” I want to be constantly open to that which the Spirit of God wants to do in and through me and nothing is off-limits to Him.  There was an old chorus I grew up on:

Change me Lord, into your image
Rearrange me Lord, cause me to grow
From glory to glory
Change me Lord I pray
Into your image more each day.

I cannot expect change in others I, myself, am not open to. And as I am open to the Holy Spirit, He helps guide the growth I need and the development of the message in my heart. I’ve watched Him use moments to fine-tune my life. I’ve seen the Holy Spirit open my eyes to life experiences to be used as sermon illustrations. The Holy Spirit is faithful and is always speaking. It’s just a matter of whether we will listen and obey.

There’s probably more to go into, but this is where I will stop. As I’ve said before, I’m not the same preacher I was 20 years ago or even 10 years ago and, I hope, to not be the same preacher after this next decade of ministry.

What are your influences? What has helped you grow your “preaching voice”?

Love you all. Praying over you as you to “proclaim the Message with intensity; keep on your watch. Challenge, warn, and urge your people. Don’t ever quit. Just keep it simple.

 

Thanks for letting me ramble…

BTW: My new book of my blogs came out. Click on the image to order yours!!

 

Pastoring in a Vacuum: 4 Ways to Invite Much Needed Connection

In my backpack, apart from my laptop, you’ll find 3 essentials. My iPad, my journal, and a book I’m reading (don’t judge me for not saying “bible” as it’s always accessible on my phone and/or tablet). The reasons for these three:

  • My iPad for my bible and my tunes
  • A book positions me to be stretched and deepened.
  • My journal position to process what I am learning and write down what God is speaking to me.

(Why I journal and why you should consider it.)

In my latest read, “Divine Direction” by Craig Groeschel, I’m working on some things to help mentor young adults. But chapter 6 has really hammered me hard on something that I find far too many pastors struggle with: Connection.

He says,

“…consider the three types of friends everyone needs to reach their God-given potential: (1) a friend to challenge you and bring out your best, (2) a friend to help you find strength in God and to grow in your faith, and (3) a friend to tell you the truth, especially when you don’t want to hear it.” (pg. 152)

This was a “selah” moment. Honestly, I found myself setting down my book and sending out intentional texts of encouragement to a few pastors that have been those 3 key relationships to me.

But please know…This was not how I started ministry.

Yes I had “friends.” But to allow or invite friends on all three of those levels is a whole other issue. I can say, in those first couple years, I only had a “version” of the #2 type of friends. They were the people I ran to in the challenging times. But that was it. It wasn’t that I didn’t possess any other type of friend. The reality was, I was guarded regarding others. My insecurities kept me from asking for too much help or, in some cases, allowing others to help. I found some semblance of satisfaction in “figuring it out myself” while longing for community and mentorship. Back then I called it “work ethic.” 20 years later, I call it for what it really was: pride.

Operating in a vacuum (isolation), unfortunately, is how a number of pastors operate in ministry. Don’t get me wrong, I can appreciate the situations that my fellow co-laborers experience. For some, geography is a challenge. You feel so far away from friendships and denominational connections that the locational disconnect translates into relational chasms. Maybe like me, you have, what I would call, a “genetic” challenge. I term myself as a “nurtured extrovert.” By nature, I’m shy and very quiet, and thus, became my excuse to not reach out. Now-a-days, my wife wonders why  I have to engage in conversation with random strangers in the mall.  For others, age is a huge relational issue. I can appreciate being the only minister in the room from one particular generation and you long for a peer to connect with.  Then there are “situational” challenges. I totally get wanting to find someone who is in a similar place in ministry who shares either a similar place of ministry or a specific season in the life of a church.  I know, personally, I love finding other pastors and churches who have walked similar paths and/or tracking along where I see and envision Kfirst.

But regardless of the challenge, we (ministers) have to power through and to intentionally engage in community. We were divinely designed to live in community. I get how busy you are. But there are times we are so busy doing “good” things that we, many times, can miss out on the “best” things. And, in my limited experiential opinion, operating in relationship as a minister is one of those “best” things we cannot ignore. As my mentor has said to me in so many occasions,

“The enemy works in isolation; God works in community.”

If we expect our congregations to work in community, we ought to practice it first. How dare we ask people to do something we refuse to live out. Relationships is what I have discovered is a phenomenal way to have both healthy ministry and longevity in ministry (positions and vocation). It’s time to lay down our pride. It is time to toss aside our insecurities with the local “competition” (other churches). You were not built for seclusion; you have been created to grow and live in community.

So how can we do this in 2017? How does this practically look? These are not “ground breaking” ideas but they will position you to get out of your vacuum.

  1. Practice the PBT model.
    • Find a Paul (find a mentor or two).
    • Find a Timothy (find someone to disciple).
    • Find a Barnabas (find peers to encourage and be encouraged).
  2. Join a network.
    • Kfirst is part of the River Valley Network. I love that I get to interact with churches from all over the nation and develop a camaraderie with pastors from a variety of size churches and generations.
    • I am involved in some online FB groups. Though they are not a “network” per se, they have become a network of ministers to have ongoing discussions and constant feedback. I love hearing from people who are very much not like me but possess a similar Kingdom heart.
    • I’m always on the hunt for other “networks” and “groups” for me and my staff to help us learn as well as possibly use us to pour into someone else. We can’t just be consumers; we need to be contributors.
  3. Leverage social media.
    • My disclaimer: social media doesn’t equate to deep relationships. BUT it can be an avenue to develop relational connections.
    • I have used all facets of social media to follow churches and ministers to create connections. Peering into the world of other churches helps elevate my vision and gets me out of my little box that I have put ministry in.
  4. Look outside of your denomination. 
    • I love the Assemblies of God. But the Kingdom of God is bigger than our denomination…er…fellowship (#AGJokes). My move to a smaller town in mid-Michigan in the summer of 2002 really opened my eyes and my heart to embrace other ministers who were not A/G but were engaging the Jesus’ Kingdom. I love engaging with pastors in my Kalamazoo area. I love knowing their heart. I also love to be able to recommend other churches when someone comes to Kfirst and doesn’t feel a “fit” in our church community.  And that can’t happen if you (1) are insecure and (2) don’t know the pastors in your city.

I know there are probably other ways, but I wanted to challenge you and keep it simple. Craig Groeschel hit me hard and has made me sit back and reevaluate my connections and I think you should to.

Do you have “community”? Maybe a better question: Will you allow “community” to help you grow and, in turn, will help them grow?

Love you all. Praying for you as you step into connections and allow God to work through community.

 

Thanks for letting me ramble…

BTW: If you’re looking for a marriage resource, check out my book by clicking on the image:

20 Years of Ministry, 20 Lessons I’ve Learned, and So Much More to Grasp

This week marks a monumental week for Anne and myself. 20 years ago, we began this ministry journey together. May 4, 1997 marks our first official day of ministry as pastors (insert Star Wars Day jokes and puns).

I remember pacing the hallway in the office area prior to the service that day. College graduation was just a few days prior and here I was, occupying the office of one of my mentors and stepping out on the platform as the interim youth pastor. The position was in my home church. The congregation knew me as Pastor Hal’s son and now I’m transitioning to “Pastor Dave.” The word “nervous” can’t describe the state I was in; “Terrified” is probably a better word. It wasn’t like I was starting a summer job. I was starting my life and career and, yes, I did throw up before the service.

At this point, Anne and I were about 4 weeks from being engaged and a year from being married. She was 19 and I was 21. When we look back, we laugh and say, “seriously, who thought it was a good idea to put us in charge?” Interestingly enough, we said something similar 2 1/2 years later when Cammi was born, “who in the world trusted us to leave the hospital with a baby?”

20 years have gone by. So I thought I’d share a lesson for each year we’ve traveled this amazingly terrifying and joyful journey

  1. Obedience > Position
    • The “call of God” is not about the position you attain but the obedience you follow. Everybody wants to be king but nobody wants to be a shepherd first.
  2. I need to be “me.” There’s two sides to this coin:
    • I can’t be someone else; I have to be who God made me.
    • I need to continually submit who I am to God for Him to shape me.
  3. Check your zipper before every speaking opportunity.
    • It’s about paying attention to the details in life. The last thing Anne says to me before EVERY ministry opportunity. BTW: The last time she wasn’t there for a speaking engagement, well, I didn’t check and, well…
  4. Rest and recreation are not overrated.
    • As someone who has experienced two major emotional crashes in 20 years, you cannot underestimate or downplay rest AND recreation.
  5. Don’t skip “tent time.” 
    • I liken this to Moses going to the Tabernacle to hear from God. Nothing can replace a lifestyle of prayer. I believe having “prayer times,” but if you regulate prayer to just moments instead of a lifestyle, you’ll miss out on amazing opportunities.
  6. Learning is not a “season” but a “lifestyle.”
    • Every lesson I learn is like following the “white rabbit”; there’s a deeper experience waiting for it if I am willing to open my eyes and follow.
  7. Ministry is shallow if my marriage and family isn’t the priority.
    • If I’m healthy at home, I can be healthy in my role. The congregation needs me to prioritize my marriage and family to position me for ministerial health.
  8. My children have permission to interrupt. 
    • For their entire lives, my two kids (17 and 14) have had to share their parents with hundreds of people.  Yet, Anne and I have made it our goal to make sure that they know that they are the most important people in our lives. What they have to say is important because THEY are important.
  9. Never say, “I’ve heard it all.” 
    • You’ll set yourself up for a rude awaking. I can write a book just on the most unexpected, off the wall, moments from weddings, funerals, services, etc.
  10. Covering your hurts and short-comings never helped anyone (including you). 
    • My struggles and failures have been some of the greatest bridges into people’s lives to convey the Gospel.
  11. Misery love company.
    • I’ve discovered that it is easy to find pastors to complain to but few to celebrate with. Start “belly aching” and you can draw enough people around you to make you feel justified in your fracture. I have to decide, daily, to fix my face like flint in gratitude and joy.
  12. Look at life and lighten up. 
    • My wife says that my daughter and I find the “funny” in life. I think that’s because we look for it. Selah (stop, pause, and think on that).
  13. Finding friends to celebrate with is worth more than gold.
    • Finding people who will celebrate WITH you without jealousy or pessimism, well, that’s not as easy to find. I have a few minister friends who I can call just to celebrate the goodness of God. That has been a life-line to me.
  14. Knock before entering hospital rooms. 
    • When you walk in on someone on a portable toilet, well, it’ll change the course of that hospital visit.
  15. Treat people in a manner you would want to be treated if you were on the other side of things.
    • I would rather be known for showing “too much” grace than not enough.
  16. Other people are not like me.
    • Different doesn’t mean wrong. It’s not easy to navigate differences, but if Jesus only worked with people like him, we’d all be sunk.
  17. Disappointment cannot be avoided, but I can prepare my heart for how I will navigate through them.
    • It’s not being pessimistic about what you are going to face, but it’s knowing that you can face everything with Christ.
  18. The change I need may not be the change I want.
    • Sometimes, well most of the time, when you want to see change in your congregation, God wants to start with you. And usually God wants to bring change that exists outside of your comfort zone.
  19. Paul, Timothy, Barnabas is a model to live by.
    • Have a Paul (mentor), find a Timothy (someone to disciple), and be a Barnabas (peer encourager).
  20. Don’t spend so much time building your empire that you miss out on the Kingdom.
    • Don’t be a diva where your church community revolves around your personality and preferences. Center it around Christ. Disciple people to hear from the Holy Spirit and equip them to do ministry. A successful tenure at a church centered around the Kingdom being build and not your brand.

A few decades down and with the help of the Holy Spirit and some good coffee, there will be 3 or 4 more to go.

Love you all. Praying for you.

Encourage Effort.
Celebrate Progress.
Feed Hope.

Thanks for letting me ramble for 20 years…

BTW, I wrote a book of my marriage blogs. If you’d like to buy a copy, click on the image.

“Peace out” 4 Thoughts on Leaving a Church Community

Of all of the topics pastors have asked me to write on, this one has come up a lot lately. Now let me say: I write this blog from a very full heart and a very good place.

This month, Anne and I celebrated completing 8 years at Kfirst. We are in a great season in our church community. I’m a pastor who LOVES my job. So, in essence, this blog is not the ranting of a wounded leader but the ramblings of a pastor who loves the Church (not just Kfirst). My heart is for the Kingdom of God. I serve Christ and desire for people to find and follow Him.

But I often find myself fielding calls from a pastors about those who have left the church community they lead. A vast majority of the time, it’s a humble voice on the other end. He/she isn’t spewing hate or rage. The pastor is simple looking for introspective answers to what may have caused the disconnect and/or what personal changes may need to take place. Honestly, I love that type of heart. As the scriptures say,

“God opposes the proud but favors the humble.” – James 4:6

As I say so often to them and to those who have left a church: Sometimes there isn’t a “fit” and I’m okay with that.

It’s not a generational thing nor it is always that a bad event occurred to drive someone away. Sometimes it happens when there is a change in the church community (leadership, vision, atmosphere/style, etc).  I’m okay with all of that. It happens. We’ve experienced that here at Kfirst. I was warned by countless pastors that my transition into leadership, over the course of a few years, would solidify people in the community as well as help people feel a release. I was forewarned that it’s a part of church life as the church, as well as myself, continues to grow and gel together.

Again, leaving doesn’t have to be a terrible event. There are a number of those whom have left that I remain friends with and have even hung out with. I interact on social media with quite a few people who see that there is more the “Church” than your “church.” If your version of the body of Christ only includes those you attend a weekly gathering with, you’ve got a shallow and incorrect understanding of the Church.

Don’t get me wrong, challenging things happen. From misunderstandings and offenses to personality conflicts and burnout.  And unfortunately, sinful decisions by either leadership or attendees (or both) can drive people to deciding to leave their present church. If you expected the Church to be perfect and to act perfect, you are always going to find someone or something to be disappointed in.  But every time you leave, you can take steps of healing or perpetuate the hurt. I’m not trying to justify any hurtful action. I just want to see the Church get healthier. And I think that we ALL can do better with church transitions.

A few months back, I dealt with this from the pastoral perspective as I challenged pastors on how to respond to those leaving the church in the blog, “How Do You Deal With People Leaving the Church?” So I thought I’d approach it from the other perspective: How to leave a church and find another.

Depart in a Christ-glorifying way. 
Leaving a church doesn’t have to be dramatic and malicious.  You don’t need a “mic drop” moment to make a splash on your way out. Don’t rally people together through texts, phone calls, or small group meetings. There’s no need to blast people, pastors, or churches on social media. Every time I see this happen, my heart breaks. A thread of hate on social media feeds our own self-righteousness and prevents anyone toward moving forward in healing.

If you see the need to leave where you are at, I can understand that, but make sure you leave in the most Christ-glorifying way. You may “feel” justified in some of the above actions, but no glory goes to God from purposely leaving emotional shrapnel stuck in the hearts of those you used to worship with. I love the words of Christ, in regards to those who may have hurt or mistreated you: Love, do good, bless, and pray for them.

Don’t look for or demand “exit interviews.” Stepping away is fine. Maybe if you have “membership” at a church then I think it’s very appropriate to give the pastor a “heads up” on the new direction you are taking. Over the past 8 years, I’ve appreciated simple connections where hugs and prayers were exchanged instead of opinions and preferences; blessing and goodness was given over frustration and offense.

You bring forward what you took away.
While writing this blog, my mind went to how Israel left Egypt. It says in Exodus 12:36, that they “stripped Egypt of their wealth.” 20 chapters later, when they were tired of waiting on their leader, they took what they left Egypt with and made gods to serve.  These slaves were set free with a wealth they had never lived with. And they needed to choose how to harness it.

What you left with from the last church, you WILL bring it with you (both good and bad). It’s not a mind-blowing concept but an extremely underestimated fact. In college, the church I attended starting going into a direction that didn’t sit well with me. My dread of going to church far outweighed my passion for church. I tried getting involved, but the more the church shifted, the more I discovered that it wasn’t a “fit.” When I settled at a new church, it shocked me what I carried with me.  I realized that, when I left, I brought more with me than I realized. And I could use that to grow, or I can respond like Israel, use what I took to form an idea to follow.

When you leave a church, you leave with the good and the bad. And your decision is simple: Will you grow forward with and properly utilize experiences you received or will you serve the hurt that you walked away with? Nobody else can make that decision but you.

Don’t develop atrophy.
Sitting may feel profitable, but it’s an easy place to get stuck. Even for those who are “burnt out” on volunteering, I recommend rest, but serving is some the best therapy for a burnt out soul.

Before you react, here me out. I’m not asking for a massive commitment to leading or launching a new program. I am speaking out of positioning yourself in a place where you rest can turn to a place of atrophy.

When I went through rotator cuff surgery, I didn’t go back into massive commitments to activities. I went to physical therapy. The trauma I incurred prevented me from doing ANYTHING I did before the injury. But in PT, I did small, subtle movements.  And because of my amazing PT and the appropriate amount of time, my shoulder was restored and stronger than ever.

If anyone has faced some hurt and/or burn out, step into a simple place of serving. For example, here at Kfirst we have “First Impressions” ministry. It’s as simple as greeting at a door once a month (or ever two months). Not a huge commitment but vital ministry. And that level of serving mixed with the appropriate amount of time, can restored and strengthen a wounded soul to be stronger than ever.

Root where you land.
Fruit doesn’t come from a plant that doesn’t take root (I’m sure I’ll get a note from a botanist on that one). When you find a church community, go all in and make connections. It may take a few tries and attempts, but take the responsibility to put your roots down.

Far too often we place our “rooting” on the pastor or the congregation. While I’m not relinquishing responsibilities from the leadership and the people, the “reaching” and “connecting” must go both ways. And while the “rooting” is happening, you’ll discover ministry and relational sweet spots. For me, my volunteering and involvement didn’t come without bumps or bruises. I remember wanting to get involved in a few ministries that I loved but were overcrowded with volunteers. But you bloom where you are planted. So I planted myself with some areas of need in that church and, through serving, I found greater connection. Don’t make leaders or people chase you. Go after them and begin developing roots in your new church community.

Leaving a church is more than deciding to attend a different gathering during the week. There is a transition of heart, background, and a positioning for future Kingdom growth. And my challenge to anyone reading this would be to consider the full gambit of what this type of change brings so that you, and those around you, can see the Church become a healthier entity.

If you’re a pastor reading this, I highly recommend “How Do You Deal With People Leaving the Church?” as there proper way for YOU to deal with this.

None of this is easy. But I believe that, together, we can create a stronger Church.

Love you all.

Encourage Effort.
Celebrate Progress.
Feed Hope.

 

Thanks for letting me ramble…