I’ve been writing on this blog for over 5 years.
Its time for a new direction since I’ve made some of my own changes.
I won’t be posting on this blog anymore but plan to start-up a new one –
when I figure out what I’ll let you know!
To all of you that have read my scribbles over the years –
Thanks for reading & stay tuned – I can’t keep quiet for long!
“A church that doesn’t provoke any crises, a gospel that doesn’t unsettle, a word of God that doesn’t get under anyone’s skin, a word of God that doesn’t touch the real sin of the society in which it is being proclaimed, what gospel is that? Very nice, pious considerations that don’t bother anyone, that’s the way many would like preaching to be. Those preachers who avoid every thorny matter so as not to be harassed, so as not to have conflicts and difficulties do not light up the world they live in. They don’t have Peter’s courage, who told that crowd where the bloodstained hands still were that had killed Christ: ‘You killed him!’ Even though the charge could cost him his life as well, he made it. The gospel is courageous; its the good news of him who came to take away the world’s sins.”
Archbishop Oscar Romero – 1978
The terms ‘chance’, ‘accident’, ‘contingency’, as they are employed by the world in connection with the
events of human life, should be entirely expunged from the Christian’s vocabulary.
They belong solely to the dictionary of the atheist, and should never pass the lips of the believer.
Beware of that practical atheism which excludes God from His own world; which excludes Him
from your individual history. He is not only present in His created universe, but He is as much in personal events of life, shaping, guiding, overruling each and all.
Beloved, God is in history.
God in every man’s history.
God is in your history.
I have not posted as much in 2013 as in years past but thank you for reading! The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for my blog. Here’s an excerpt:
A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 2,300 times in 2013. If it were a cable car, it would take about 38 trips to carry that many people.
For the last 2 years I have been a “bi-vocational” pastor – I work at least 40 hours a week as a substance abuse counselor and pastor a church “part-time.” I have found it rewarding and challenging but it has required me to think about the assumptions, myths and distortions about what constitutes pastoring and ministry.
I began working part time initially because our family needed more income that our small church could not provide. Our family home schools and my wife and I have felt that since that is our priority we have tried to have only one of us employed outside the home. I also needed a different challenge. I have always chaffed at traditional limitations, thinking & expectations in regard to pastoring, the church and ministry when they are limited to Sunday morning building oriented activities or inward focused, pleasing member demands. I’ve seen too much of what God is able to do to limit his power or reduce the Gospel to that.
I was able to dust off some counseling skills and found that I enjoyed my new job and was getting good feedback from my employer, eventually leading to full time employment & certification. I understand a lot better how it feels after working all day and then to try to find the energy for a board meeting. I also have learned a lot about people from all walks of life who have wreaked havoc with their lives from addiction but who would never think about walking into a church building and talk with “the Pastor.” I have listened to the stories of women & women who have been assaulted as well as men and women who have done the assaulting and served time for it; who have stolen medications and money from their family for a fix, who have neglected or abandoned children for another high. I work with parole & probation officers, child protective services and court officials. You could say I ran into life in the raw and not the Sunday morning “put on a happy face to go to church” variety.
I have also seen God work in people’s lives – Holy Spirit directed words of comfort, wisdom and encouragement, the forming of real community as burdens and tears and “breakthroughs” are shared, and the birth of hope – the realization that there is another way to live and a future that is more than a repeat of the past.
However, I as a result of my new official ecclesiastical status, I have run across a number of myths, assumptions and distortions. The first is that a bi- vocational pastor is not a “real” pastor or successful – real and successful defined as compensated fully or employed full time by a congregation. I wanted to go to a retreat years ago and applied for financial assistance but was told by the ministry in charge that I was not eligible for the aid since I worked another job. I guess the Apostle Paul wouldn’t have qualified either since he made tents to support himself!
I have also run into “church shoppers”who look down their nose at a congregation with a bi-vocational pastor. The underlying assumption may be that a real or successful congregation is one that can afford the salary and benefits required for a full time employee who will then take care of member’s needs. However, most pastors, if full time, survive if married, by their spouse working. Despite the claim of “family friendly,” (and unless your Steven Furtick) many congregations provide a low level income that requires extra income to survive and qualifies for food stamps.
Another distortion that usually tags along with the assumption that successful = full time is that the pastor is the only real minister since they are “the professional.” Besides the mistaken belief that a degree alone makes one a capable and godly leader, this undercuts developing the spiritual gifts and ministry of other members of the local body. It prevents the development of quality spiritual leaders whether deacons or elders. It also usually leads to leadership boards that do not lead and do not serve but manage and control. It often joins with the distortion that “real” ministry occurs only on the church property or during Sunday morning or office hours or other stated times of gathering on church real estate. The truth is that real ministry occurs where ever Spirit filled, Christ loving believers go. A truly functioning body requires that all its members exercise their God ordained function – a wonderful opportunity to develop a multi-gifted eldership that can expand and diversify the work and service of a congregation.
There are real benefits for the bi-vocational pastor and the congregation they work with. These include understanding the pressures and demands of people and families instead of becoming myopic about what defines ministry and mission; freedom from control and manipulation when the big givers try to use their financial clout to stop change or control true leadership; freeing up money spent on high cost benefits such as health insurance & the opportunity to influence the community to a higher level by being “salt” in everyday life.
There are also challenges – the most obvious is time. I have less time to study and write. I have to manage my minutes. I have less time to waste. As has been pointed out by numerous spiritual giants of yesteryear, pastoral ministry can provide a temptation for sloth. It is all too easy to confuse and justify “busyness” and a full calendar with genuine spiritual progress. I have to delegate and share the load of caring for people instead of trying to indulge my own need to be needed. I have to challenge my own assumption that “its all up to me” or that ministry doesn’t happen unless I show up. In other words the challenges of being bi-vocational are tough on my own sinful self but good for my sanctification & I pray ultimately good for the mission of the church.
Will I continue serving this way? Only God knows. Some believe”bi-vocational” ministry will become the norm for the future in our post-Christendom age. Its not for everyone. I see fruit in what I am doing. I don’t see think its realistic that society or the church will return to how it used to be 40 or 50 years ago. The missional status of the church is clearer than ever. What is needed is an apostolic spirit to match – and that requires thinking beyond how how pastoral or congregational ministry and success has been defined – by employee status.
I am thankful for many things. This Thanksgiving I am particularly thankful that over the years I have encountered many men & women who were able to “speak to my condition.” There have been many. Some names I recall, others I don’t but here are a few…(first names only so as to protect the identity of the innocent)
Your words were important but more so your presence. God worked through you to give me encouragement, life and hope especially when I felt I had little to offer or little faith. I try to pass the blessing on.
“Pleasant words are like a honeycomb, sweet to the taste and healing for the body.” Proverbs 16:24
Chippewa County Sheriff Deputies assisted Sault Tribal Police with a Friday complaint after a man with a samurai sword threatened patrons at a local house of gaming. The matter was apparently triggered by the man’s belief that Nazis were at that location. Authorities eventually overpowered & arrested the 66 year old man without incident.
Life in da Soo…
A new anti-weapons lobby group called “Only Governments Should Have Weapons” issued a statement concerning the car attack on the Capitol on Thursday – “once again we are faced with the attempt to use a weapon of mass destruction against innocent people. We call on all leaders and law enforcement officials to work to enact licensing of these dangerous weapons before more people are killed. Furthermore, we want to see owners of these lethal weapons licensed as well including background checks along with the obligation of having liability insurance. These innocent looking vehicles are actually a steel & gasoline disaster waiting to happen and a threat to civil peace when hurtling along at 60 plus mph by deranged drivers. It is the height of irresponsibility that the manufacturers of these dangerous weapons continue to profit at the public’s expense. How long must these incidents happen and the toll in loss of life go on before action is taken?”
When the spokeswoman was informed that these measures had already been taken the organization had no comment except to repeat the statement with a louder volume and more shrill voice.
He spreads out the northern skies over empty space; he suspends the earth over nothing.
He wraps up the waters in his clouds, yet the clouds do not burst under their weight.
He covers the face of the full moon, spreading his clouds over it.
He marks out the horizon on the face of the waters for a boundary between light and darkness.
The pillars of the heavens quake, aghast at his rebuke.
By his power he churned up the sea; by his wisdom he cut Rahab to pieces.
By his breath the skies became fair; his hand pierced the gliding serpent.
And these are but the outer fringe of his works; how faint the whisper we hear of him!
Who then can understand the thunder of his power?
A tree in our front yard came down the other night during a storm. We heard a crash and then the power went out. We looked out the windows and all we could see were tree branches. We knew our two vans were underneath but could not see anything except the back of them and the downed power line. One van (vintage 1995) took the brunt of the tree’s weight which crunched the windshield, driver side door & frame. Since it’s so old its probable time for the junk yard. The other van had some crunches in the roof and luggage rack, a broken windshield and smashed side mirror. There was no damage to the house except a hole in a screen from a branch and a loose piece of siding when the power line was pulled down. For the size of the tree it could have been much worse! It seems the tree had very little root system and the soil underneath was very saturated with water which may have loosened what little was holding it down.
I usually do not react well to things breaking, busting or being damaged but this time was different and I’m not sure why. The damage on the van is fixable and the yard seems more open without the tree I never liked and was home for the birds that liked to spoil a good car wash with a direct hit. Today, many in the church openly mock or deny the truth of God’ sovereingty and omniscience. However, I have a sense of the hand of God protecting us through it all because a few inches in a different direction would have meant more serious damage. If not a sparrow falls without the Father’s knowledge then I’m fairly certain it’s also true for trees as well. For that I am thankful.