It begins in a peaceful sanctuary. Gotta be the start of a good day, right?
I’m in the sanctuary, practicing a devotion for a council meeting and then the sermon for the day. Both go well, but long. It’ll have to do. I finish with enough time to practice playing the hymn for our evening service and even print out the music for it.
It starts with Jesus. It’s all simple after this, right?
Council meeting. It begins with a devotion.
“Yesterday I went to an evangelism seminar, and the keynote speaker said something that was really cool. I want to share it with you.
“Men, especially, need a purpose. We need a project of some kind. Rebuilding a car. Building a deck. Writing a novel. We need a purpose, or we just fall to pieces. And Jesus gave us that purpose.
“Easter night. The tomb has been empty all day, but the disciples are still terrified. They’re hiding in their room. And then Jesus shows up, even though the doors are locked. And he showed them his hands. Look! They look like they’ve been staked to a cross! And then he gives them – and us – a mission: ‘Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.’” And I look at the men in the room. One of the councilmen is missing. Not surprising, unfortunately. “As the Father has sent me, I am sending you. Jesus’s mission is now our mission. What did the Father send Jesus to do?”
And one of the councilmen says it, word for word, exactly what I was looking for: “He came to save the world.”
“Exactly.” I smile. “Exactly! The Father sent Jesus to save the world. And now that’s our mission. Jesus sends us to save the world. It’s not a little thing. It’s not a hobby. This is major.”
And we go on to explore Jesus accomplished his mission: He left his comfortable home in heaven to come to those who needed saving, he served, he shared his Father’s Word, he was all about what his Father said and not about what he wanted, he suffered, he died. And we will follow that same method.
Oh, I am excited. This is such awesome stuff, and I’m thrilled to share it. Not because I’m awesome, but because Jesus is awesome.
My face at council.
Council meeting continues.
We’ve covered some good basic things. We need to set up guidelines for building usage so I can just say ‘yay’ or ‘nay’ to those who want to use the space. We’re going to support a VBS put on by some sister congregations, in large part because we simply can’t do our own.
A councilman voices an idea about how to use one of our rooms. Not a bad idea in itself, but there are practical matters to consider. It would require a fairly large outlay of money, and given the nature of the idea, a new monthly budget item that would be fairly major. Councilman’s willing to foot the bill for it.
I ask, “How does this connect people to Jesus?”
“We’ll figure it out later,” he says.
No. Does not work. Our mission is to share Jesus. Our mission is to save the world. You don’t have an idea to commit the church to something and say, “We’ll figure out the Jesus part out later.”
He is not pleased.
Sorry, dude. Not gonna change some things. Actually, no. Not sorry.
The last council member shows up an hour late.
We’re talking about evangelism. He asks about a certain visitor who had expressed interest in joining. He asks for her by name – by a name that I don’t recognize. I thought she had a different name. I tell about how she had been very interested in coming to a Bible study, and we’d just started a new membership class. She didn’t show up, but she had been excited. She wasn’t in worship last week.
“We shouldn’t make people take a class. It scares people away,” he scowls. “If you told me that, I’d go to another church that didn’t make me take a class.”
I take a breathe. “We love God’s Word enough to teach it to others.”
Despite my frustration with some, others eagerly await the Gospel.
Out of council.
Seriously. These are the men that lead our congregation? A man who wants us to get people in instead of teaching the Bible? A man who doesn’t care if we connect people with Jesus, as long as we get them in the building? Really?
Is this my people? Am I wasting my time here? Is this a waste of service?
Stow it. I need to focus.
Time to greet people at worship. Finally. Of course, fifteen minutes before worship, and not a lot of people are here yet. Most people come five minutes before worship.
The woman that the councilman asked about? That he thinks shouldn’t take a class? She’s here. I grab her. We talk. I double-check her name. Lo and behold, I had her name right.
(In other words – I cared enough about her to learn her name. The councilman didn’t care enough to get her name right. Looks like [surprise! ] he was only interested in getting another body in church.)
She asks me, “Can I be baptized? I was never baptized.”
We arrange to get together this week so we can talk about baptism, what it is, and prepare. Because yes. I will baptize you.
Love is not getting butts in the seats. Love is sharing Jesus.
It’s not me that’s awesome. It’s Jesus.
Worship starts a few minutes late because I don’t get away from the woman who wants to be baptized. Because, really, you don’t want to walk away from a moment like that.
Oh, to stand in the grace of God. To pronounce the simple truth that we are broken. That we are sinners. That we are evil. That we are dead.
And Jesus loves us.
That he died for us. That he took on our evil. He took on our sin. He took on our brokenness.
I told the congregation I was excited today. I think it came through. The council meeting is out of my head. I don’t care about it now. The concern will come back later, after most of the day is done. But for now, ti simply stand in the presence of God and share it… oh!
To give the body and blood in with and under the bread and wine, to give the people forgiveness they can taste and see… oh, there is nothing like it. To lead others to exclaim praise that yes, I am forgiven, that yes, I am God’s child!
I love our members, but they’re really not as photogenic as stock photography people.
Worship went a little long. That pastor, he just doesn’t shut up about Jesus, does he?
And I come downstairs to our fellowship area and discover… God’s people greeting visitors and loving each other. Oh, it is good. This is not the group that I saw even two months ago who ignored visitors.
I spend time talking to a few people. Asking if I can call this week, if I can visit. I long to be with my people. I stop by visitors. Arrange to meet. Talk.
Oh. It is so good.
There was no math in Bible study, thankfully.
We start Bible study almost a half hour late.
Silly pastor doesn’t shut up when he’s conversing with God’s people. It’s almost like he enjoys this.
And for Bible study, my Bride and I share what we learned at the evangelism seminar. And we’re excited. I’m not sure how much got through to others, but we’re excited.
You’ll never guess where I devoured cowmeat. Well, something kinda close to it, anyway. Kinda.
Driving a regular visitor home after Bible study. Grabbing fast food with my family for lunch. Because I have an appointment to get to.
I’m the worst pastor ever. I don’t like coffee. I just order lots of chai lattes.
I’m in a coffee shop with four other adults gathered around a table. They belong to a sister congregation, but have been visiting weekly for just over a month. They want to transfer membership. I want to get to know them better. The coffee shop is a good place to meet.
We talk for two and a half hours.
These four brothers and sisters share their lives with me. I get to know where they work. How they met each other. Their life stories. And I delight. One of them is in tears, sharing herself in ways she never has outside of her family.
And I love these brothers and sisters. I’m not saying that in a jock way, but in the way that happens when you know someone, when you learn some of their darkness, and share God’s grace with them. And they bond as I share God’s grace. We talk about what membership in this family means.
The time flies by. And in the end… three of them want to transfer membership.
Oh. One of them isn’t a member anywhere. She was baptized a couple years ago, but never went through instruction.
She’s going to come tomorrow to the membership class. She’s excited. She wants to know if there’s a women’s Bible study she can come to. We don’t have one now, but there’s a few women interested. We start brainstorming right there different ways to set something up and get it going.
God is so, so good.
No one named Glinda has ever done this to me.
Just in time to start prepping for the evening service!
“I have a dad?!”
Supper with the family. I get to spend some time with family.
I have kids! Who knew?
On the road again… just can’t wait to get on the road again…
I leave to pick up people for our evening service.
Five minutes before worship starts, I discover that for some reason the speakers have stopped working.
There is no joke here. Simple truth.
Evening worship. It’s… it’s so empty. For some reason, a lot of the regulars aren’t there tonight.
God’s Word is still preached.
God’s people are shown their sin. God’s people are shown their Savior. God’s people rejoice in forgiveness. And even with so few… it’s good.
Is it sleep time yet?
I’m home from dropping everyone off. Time to put things away. Time to write down what needs to be recorded.
I’m so tired.
Nearly fourteen hours straight of ministry time. Most of it people time. I am drained.
It is so good.
Parts of today were terrible. I hate that the worst parts of my day had to do with my council simply not getting that it’s about sharing Jesus. I hate that immaturity. I hate that my day began with that. And it hurts that they don’t value the one who gave his life for them.
God knew that would happen this morning. He knew that one councilmember wouldn’t care about connecting people to Jesus, and that another would rather get butts in the seats, even to the detriment of the people there. And he knew how much I would gnash my teeth.
And so he sent the others.
He sent the lamb who wants to be baptized.
He sent the family that wants to serve.
He sent the members who encouraged me.
This day has been long and so good, and it had nothing to do with me. It had everything to do with Jesus. He gets all the credit.
He comforts a sinner like me. Not just with forgiveness, but with love.
Lord, thank you for this long, long day. Forgive me my anger, and direct me with a fierce love of both you and those who don’t acknowledge you. Make it my passion more and more to reach out. And Lord… thank you. Thank you for the encouragement. Thank you for the blessing of sharing your good, good Word.
And Lord… if it’s your will… please make tomorrow shorter, but no less good!