ministry

I don’t belong here.

Public Speaking

Photo by Marcos Luiz Photograph on Unsplash

I don’t belong here.”

I allowed myself to tremble as I stood before all of them. Hundreds of leaders in my church body gathered in convention, and I was tasked to point them to Jesus. The worship that began the convention the day before had a sermon that guided us through Law and Gospel. We had been fed rich food. That morning, a confident man had guided us through the meaning of a particular word, feeding both intellect and faith as he revealed the mysteries of Scripture.

And then here was me.

And as I looked out at that vast sea of leaders, I spoke the truth again: “I don’t belong here.” I couldn’t even pace; the sound system in this rented space didn’t include wireless mics. “Maybe some of you are far more self-assured than I am, but I constantly feel like I don’t belong. I feel like a fake. Like someday someone is going to figure it out, and the district president will show up and pull the plug. ‘We figured you out, Jon. Get out. You don’t belong here.’”

There’s a slight chuckle through the crowd. They think I’m exaggerating.

Of course I’m not. (more…)

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Sometimes I See Stories

Ponder

Sometimes I wonder.

We don’t know how old Joshua was when he entered the Promised Land. His fellow spy, Caleb, was forty when they explored the land flowing with milk and honey before the forty years of wandering, so it’s realistic to say Joshua was about the same age. And if he was forty then – well, how long did slaves wait before they got married? It’s reasonable to guess Joshua was already married at that point. And since no one who was an adult at the beginning of the forty years of wandering made it into the Promised Land except Joshua and Caleb, well, that means that if Joshua was married, he was a widower when he entered the Promised Land.

It’s all guesses. Somewhat educated guesses, but guesses. The Bible does tell us Joshua was married at some point. He had children. We don’t know when that was, though. After the conquest? Before?

But sometimes I take a look at those snippets… and I see a story. (more…)

The Battle-Planning Has Ended

Planning

Every interaction with the church leadership required careful battle planning. How to explain this? What part of their spiritual immaturity was most likely to explode? How to deal with that ahead of time, if at all possible? Who do I need to talk with before it’s brought up in council?

Any time we had a meeting of the leadership of the church, I would stress out. It was a cause of ulcerous concern. I really would call it battle planning, and it would start weeks ahead of every meeting. And considering we usually met about monthly, that meant a lot of my time was filled up with just dealing with church leadership. So much mental and emotional space was crammed with all that.

I would feel the pressure building up weeks and weeks in advance. I’d pray that this person or that would simply not being at the meeting, so we could just get the thing done or addressed and move on. I hated it.

I tried to build bridges. More than once we had the church leadership over to the house for just a friendly meal… and though it wouldn’t turn into an argument, it did turn into a business meeting. The leadership couldn’t just talk about how their lives were going with each other; it had to be about the church every time we got together. Not about Jesus, mind you – about the congregation.

The stress grew and grew. I dreaded the meetings. There were parts of ministry I looked forward to, but it rarely had anything to do with anyone in leadership. As the pressure built, I hated that part of the ministry more and more.

And then we moved. (more…)

“Go get Jesus!”

IMG_20190507_205042.jpg

I don’t know.” She stares out over the river, her mind distant. “I mean, I try to do good. But my mind keeps on doing things. And I’ve done things.” She lapses into silence again. “I mean, I’ve done things that are bad. Really bad.” She looks down. “If it’s the Ten Commandments, if it’s really the Ten Commandments, I don’t know what I’d do.”

And I tell her.

I tell her it is the Ten Commandments. God says, “Be holy, as I the Lord your God am holy.” Jesus says, “Be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” He says, “Do this and you will live.”

I really don’t have any hope, either. Not if it’s based on the Ten Commandments. No way. “The soul who sins is the one who dies.”

But then I point her to Jesus. “So, Jesus was holy. He was perfect. He really deserved life! And do you know what happened to him instead?”

She nods, a little hesitant. “He died on the cross.” (more…)

Review: It’s Not Too Late

It’s Not Too Late: The Essential Part You Play in Shaping Your Teen’s Faith
by Dan Dupee

So, your kid’s a teenager now. I guess that means your job leading them to faith is done, since they don’t listen to you anyway. Might as well hand them over to a youth minister. And if your kid’s in college? Well, expect them to sow some wild oats, and don’t expect them to ever show up in church. It’s just that time of their life.

Except… don’t.

In It’s Not Too Late, Dan Dupee puts out seven myths of bringing emerging adults to faith and keeping them there. He presents the myths and shows why each is false, using statistics, personal anecdotes from his position as a chairman for a national campus ministry, and lots of Scripture. He then shows how parents can use their influence to help their children continue walking with Christ.

Short review: Buy this book. Read it. Even if you don’t have a teenager or your children are grown, this book will be useful to you. Dupee points out that when infants are baptized, the entire congregation is asked if they will support the parents. That means every teen that has been baptized is part of every member’s responsibility to encourage. (more…)

Medicated Pastor

Pills

Photo by Amanda Jones on Unsplash

My friends told me I needed to see a doctor. More than one friend. They said my depression was getting worse, and they could tell.

They were right.

I delayed going. I figured the next step would likely be meds. It can take a while to find the right med to help a person. That search is well worth it; I’ve seen the positive results. However, I needed time to be able to go through that search, and the buildup to Easter probably wasn’t the right time.

But Easter is done now. I’ve survived. And… and I want to the doctor.

Long story short: I’m now medicated. (more…)

Post Easter Recovery

Head above water

Photo by Li Yang on Unsplash

I have survived the dreaded Easter. Am I surviving recovery?

Mostly. I am so, so thankful I serve a smaller congregation where I can rearrange things and take a week mostly off. I canceled nearly all my meetings for this week, and had worked ahead so that there was very little office work. That doesn’t mean the week has been easy, though.

Sunday night was bad. My brain would not shut off. I kept on going over Easter worship that morning. “I should have spent more time with him. She’s going to think I’m a jerk, because I was. They left pretty quick – what did I mess up?” There was this paranoia setting in that everything was going to fall apart because I messed up again and –

I ended up taking out a book and reading most of it to try and shut my brain up. (Thankfully Dragon’s Blood by Jane Yolen held my attention pretty well!) And even after finishing that book… my brain wouldn’t stop. I eventually passed out, but it was a struggle to get there. (more…)

Surviving Easter

Depression 5

Photo by Jordan Whitfield on Unsplash

Twenty-four hours ago, I dreaded Easter morning worship. It was coming. It was well-planned. I had practiced it several times.

I wanted nothing to do with the upcoming worship service.

The people. Oh, the people. I had been without rest for so long, it seems, and now nearly any interaction I had with a person for longer than a few minutes would bring me down. It wore at me so much that depression was able to gnaw at my soul.

And Easter morning? Do you have any idea how many people I’d have to interact with?

I braced myself. (more…)

An Easter for Introverts

Mary at the Tomb

Easter begins with a trumpet fanfare.

That’s the way it is every year here. A family here has three generations of trumpet players, and they join together in a beautiful prelude to our worship. It is loud and boisterous and wonderful.

Thinking about it makes me nauseous.

Not because the family is unfaithful; they are faithful in worship and growing in Christ. Not because they’re not talented; all three are different kinds of professional musicians. Not because I don’t like the arrangement they’re playing; I mean it when I say it’s beautiful.

I’m nauseous because I’ve OD’ed on people in the last month, and this last week and a half before Easter, it’s only going to get worse. See, when I spend too much time with people, I deplete my energy. And the lower my energy, the easier it is for my depression to attack. And for the last month, I’ve not had time to recharge.

As I think ahead to Easter morning, to the big smiles and the trumpets and the singing and the people and the crowds and everything – it’s too much. It’s too loud. (more…)

Nobodies

Bored

Photo by Julien-Pier Belanger on Unsplash

Ever try reading the Biblical book of First Chronicles? It can really be a slog. There’s a lot of, “Oh, and this guy had this son, and he had this son, and that first guy had another son, who had these three kids.” Basically lots and lots of lists of names.

And that’s what I’m reading right now for my personal devotions.

Now, I try to get through my Bible roughly every year or two years, so this is hardly my first time through this book. I’ve read it before. And usually it’s just something I skim. I mean, really, why did God see fit to put in so many names of people that aren’t attached to anything we see in history? They apparently don’t have some pivotal role in the history of redemption. They weren’t used by God to preserve Jesus’s line or deliver any new promises or prophecies.

They’re just a bunch of names. A bunch of nobodies, and God wanted to make sure that we saw their names. You know, all the names in the credits at the end of a movie at least have imdb entries! These guys? I suppose a bunch of them probably have some sort of Christian fanfic written about them (sort of like all the Star Wars fanfic out there), but that’s not the same thing.

But as I’ve been reading through this time, I’ve noticed something: (more…)