In the Shadow of Giants, I Stand

The view from the percussionist during the last rehearsal

The view from the percussionist during the last rehearsal

It was the last time.

For the last time, he lifted his baton and looked over the orchestra. Bows lifted at the ready over so many violins and violas. Brass players inhaled. The percussionists readied to strike cymbals and drums. For the last time he gave the downbeat. For the last time he brought forth music from the mob. For the last time he tamed the high schoolers he had taught for so many years and caused them to create a singular sound. For this final performance so many joined – former students flooded the stage with their instruments. Before the downbeat, the call had to go out: more chairs! There’s not enough room for everyone! Colleagues from the professional symphony he played in. Friends and fellow teachers.

And me.

For the last time, I played under my father’s baton. For the last time, I held mallets to strike the drums. For the last time, I followed the rhythm he set. (more…)

And then he told me to leave.

And that’s when my member told me that he thought I should leave this congregation.

Wait. That’s not where we start this. Let me back up.

A member of my congregation runs most of our evangelism events. We’ve just wrapped up two fairly large efforts, and we were debriefing. I asked what went well, and among other things he mentioned, “There were plenty of prospects there, and our members made sure to talk with all of them. My son,” who is not a member, “said that he really enjoyed talking to the people of the church, and that’s really important.”

I agreed. “Yeah. That’s one of the purposes of the church – not just to connect to Jesus, but to be encouraged by other people here on earth. If you’re only connected to the pastor, that’s a bad thing. After all, someday I’m leaving. I don’t know when – it might be six months, it might be sixty years, but eventually I’m leaving!”

And he nodded. “Yeah, pastor. You’re too good a preacher to be at this small church. You need to be someplace bigger.” (more…)

Stupid Other Preacher

“Thank you for holding good prepared services and not just reading off of a paper”

That was the text waiting for me after I wrapped up Bible study this morning. It came from a teen who was visiting family several hours from here. She had visited a local church.

And what a compliment she paid! I’m very thankful for it. It shows that what I strive for gets accomplished, at least some weeks: A service that centers on a theme, as shown in the Bible lessons for that day. I make a point of announcing (in a one-sentence introduction) how each lesson and hymn fits that theme. She understands how a service is meant to communicate a particular truth from God’s Word each week in a very pointed way.

It also gladdens my heart that she appreciates the work I put into my sermons. In my years of ministry, I’ve only used notes for a sermon once – and that once happened to be the day after one of my children was born. I’ll give myself a pass for that day. Otherwise, the sermon is memorized. I have my Bible and use that to read the passages (usually paperclipped) – which means I’m usually making eye contact with the congregation the entire sermon. I’ve been told by other pastors I have talent for preaching God’s Word; I love communicating what Jesus has done for us.

You can see what she thought of that other church. (more…)

I am the enemy.

She has turned me into the enemy.

I am the bad guy now. I am the one threatening her family. I am the one striking out at her, accusing her of terrible things. I am the one who has ruined her life, driven her children to want to hurt themselves, and am holding a sword over her head if she fights back.

At least, this is what I’m told.

I can’t go into specifics – honestly, one of the reasons I dwell on my reactions on this blog is to preserve anonymity of others. But, basically, I tried to help, it blew up in my face, and now I’m the bad guy.

I have been the bad guy before. I do not mind standing up for the Gospel. I do not mind being blasted for holding to God’s Word.

OK, that’s a lie. But at least then I know it’s a battle worth having. I wish I didn’t have to be the bad guy there (and I’m bracing myself for another skirmish this week), but at least I know what side is right. Siding with God is a no-brainer, right?

Right? (more…)

Pride: Lesson Not Learned

We like education — yes we do! We like education! How ’bout you?

So, a week ago we started a new Bible Information Class. You may recall that I struggled with this before. I invited a good number of the same people along with new prospects. Lots of invites, though this time around I’d like to think I had more realistic expectations. I prayed. I prayed a lot that God would grab these people and bring them. I want to show people Jesus. I want to be used to grow those who already have faith. This is a good way to do that. So, I invited lots of people.

Who came?

Six people came. One of them is not a member.

So, I feel a bit like a failure. I’m thrilled that the one non-member came. That’s sweet. I’m excited to be teaching her. However, I feel a bit like a failure.

(It’s not about me it’s not about me it’s not about me it’s not about me I’ll get this right eventually)

But… of the other five who came, three are church council members. And this… this is a win. We have been talking in council for months that if the church council doesn’t take the lead in growing in Christ, why would anyone be interested in learning more about Jesus? We’ve been talking for a long time about the council demonstrating their growth so others can be encouraged by it. I saw little evidence that God’s Word was working in their hearts to make them want to grow in Christ.

And now three in BIC, to demonstrate their desire to grow in Christ?

This is sweet! This is a win! We can do this! God may not be growing our church numerically at the moment… but it sure looks like he’s growing us in maturity!

Call Day!

This image is actually from a year ago at my call day. Sorry; I couldn’t find anything newer.

Last Thursday I trekked to the seminary to attend Call Day. On this day, graduates from the seminary present themselves for assignment to a congregation or other ministry (for instance, teaching). Others also present themselves: for instance, me. I had a one-year call, remember?

Thankfully, there were no surprises about my call: It was in fact made permanent. Yay! Some of my friends got sent to various places around the country or the world.

After the worship service where the calls are announced, the ministerial candidates go to meet with their new district presidents and get some information about the ministry they are to serve. My congregation happens to be in the South-East Wisconsin District. Though I didn’t need to stop in, I decided to poke my head into the meeting.

The District President made a nice welcome speech and introduced the soon-to-be pastors to pertinent people within the district (himself, his wife, a few other prominent pastors that are involved in big doings). After that, the meeting broke up as he moved from candidate to candidate to talk about some specifics.

I noticed a timid form in the corner. I went over to introduce myself and found out that he was the new vicar (or intern) for the congregation where I had vicared! Now, I may have been misreading this man. It was a busy, warm day and there were a lot of things going on. I gave him assurance: The bishop (supervising pastor) was an excellent man. He had talent in being able to read talent and put it to good use. The congregation was welcoming. The city was ripe for evangelism in so many ways! This man is going to have an awesome time at his vicar year.

And then… my bishop was there! We’ve not talked a lot since that year. We weren’t exactly close, though he taught me so much that I still use on a daily basis. (Remind me to mention our evangelism plan for this summer…) He put his arm around me…

…and told me he was proud of me.


I’ve never been good about accepting compliments. And, really, I haven’t done a whole lot here. I’m a tool. When someone puts together an awesome rocking chair, you usually don’t say, “Man, you have a spectacular tool set.” No, you compliment the man! Well, God has used me as a tool to do awesome stuff. And I can admit that. There are amazing doings here. And all of it’s God’s doings. He just used me to accomplish his purpose!

But to have that acknowledgement from a man I greatly respect and in many ways pattern myself after…


I’ve been blessed in incredible ways. I’ve been used in ways that blow my mind. But to have someone of that caliber say that he’s proud of me?

It’s a shadow — a teeny one, I grant you — a shadow of the last day. When God looks down and says, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” To be acknowledged that what I’ve been used to do is good? That someone like that is proud of me?


It’s Not Me.

I haven't done this yet, but it is a constant fear.

Last week, a couple of people called me out. I was taking something personally that I shouldn’t take personally. And it’s true: Especially when I’m meeting someone for the first time, when they reject my invitation to come to church, it’s not me they’re rejecting. They’re rejecting Christ. (Assuming that their reason for rejecting isn’t that they have found and regularly worship at a different church home.)

Why should I be offended? Even if they hurl invective at me (which has happened rarely, thankfully), it’s not as if I’m the one who they’re hurting.

Jesus spoke pretty plainly in the Gospel lesson this past Sunday: “All men will hate you on account of me.” (Sermon to be posted soon!) Why should I expect any different? When Christ speaks through me, people will hate me. Not merely dislike or avoid; this is hate. And they will be hating me —

— but they’ll be doing it because of Christ. And, really, let’s look at Jesus’ life. He never did anything wrong. He reached out in love. He wanted to save a dying race. And what was the response? They murdered the Lord of Life.

Why should I expect any different? (more…)