Pastoral Suicide

Preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, WITH COMPLETE PATIENCE and teaching. -2 Timothy 4:2

Pastoral work requires that we are incredibly patient. The problem is that I am not patient. I want to see results yesterday. I want to see big things happen. Is this all bad? No. But it can cause me to stop following in the ways of Jesus and instead to try to make things happen in a short period of time that quite honestly may take weeks, months, years or decades!

The following quote is found in Zach Eswine’s book, “The Imperfect Pastor”. Zach is quoting Eugene Peterson.

“I think the besetting sin of pastors, maybe especially evangelical pastors, is impatience. We have a goal. We have a mission. We’re going to save the world. We’re going to evangelize everybody, and we’re going to do all this good stuff and fill our churches. This is wonderful. All the goals are right. But this is slow, slow work, this soul work….and we get impatient and start taking shortcuts.”

Pastoral impatience is suicide. It kills our spirit. It makes us speed up when God wants us to slow down and just spend time with him. Impatience will lead me to believe that my ministry needs to look like….you can fill in the blank. Impatience leads me to believe that I am more powerful than God and that I have the power to make the kingdom of God flourish in my city.

Here is my reminder to myself. Jesus spent 3 years with 12 guys who continually struggled and never seemed to get their lives all together. Jesus was relational. Jesus was personal. Jesus spent long amounts of time with people. It is the kind of time that leadership gurus would say was wasted time. Jesus was busy but he was never impatient. I have to continually remind myself to follow in the slow, steady, quiet ways of Jesus.

I am going to be here in Watertown for a LONG period of time. I am going to commit to love the amazing people of New Life (and this city) the same way that Jesus Christ loves me. Patiently. Tenderly. With tons of grace. Not merely trying to make great things happen but spending our lives together as a church family.

Pic taken from familyfarmsgroupsdotcom


Something we all need to hear

I am on the record for saying that one of my favorite books about pastoring is “The Imperfect Pastor” by Zach Eswine. In chapter four he is describing a conversation he had with a mentor of his back in college. The mentor knows that Zach is longing for approval and for others to notice him. This way of thinking and feeling is usually camouflaged with the mantra of doing great things for God’s kingdom. This conversational exchange left me teary-eyed because it is exactly what I needed to hear. Maybe you will feel the same way.

I was a long-haired college kid. Bob was a campus minister with the Navigators Christian ministry. He regularly invited me to come with him for prayer in forgotten places. I look back now and marvel that Bob saw this as no waste of time. I’m grateful. Often, after a couple prayerful hours, we would sit together to talk. One time, Bob looked at me.

“Zachary,” he said. “You are already discovered.”

“What?” I asked.

“Whatever happens in your future, with all you dream and hope for, I want you to know that getting discovered has already happened to you. Jesus already knows you, hears your prayers, and delights to know you.”

Significance in the Ordinary from Crossway on Vimeo.

“The Danger Of Not Finding God In The Ordinary.” Insights from Sensing Jesus by Zach Eswine

I have probably typed out the sentence “radical is embodying the gospel in everyday, mundane life” a thousand times on my obscure little blog.  The reason I try to emphasize the importance of embodying the gospel in everyday life is because I believe we have the tendency to get bored with our average ho-hum existence and begin to wonder what is wrong with us. What if instead of always dreaming about a more dramatic, radical life we joined God in what he is doing in our quiet neighborhood, church, school and workplace? To spin it another way, what if the discontentment we are currently experiencing is a ruse to keep us from living out our faith right where God has strategically placed us?

Sensing JesusI first heard about “Sensing Jesus: Life and Ministry as a Human Being” by Zach Eswine from Lore Ferguson on twitter. The book is incredibly well written and I love it because it encourages us to see routine, everyday life as sacred and to seize the gospel opportunities all around us. Here is a lengthy excerpt from the book that I pray encourages you to embrace your life, right where you are at, as an opportunity to love God, love your neighbor and join in God’s ongoing redemptive work in the less glamorous arena of everyday life.

Exulting in Monotony

A placeless ambition can likewise rob us of the kind of happiness that God intends. J.W. Alexander noted this in his Thoughts on Preaching.

A pastor without care for locality becomes what Alexander called a “ceremonious visitor” of the people he serves. His body is present but his mind is always looking elsewhere for meaning and success. But “the minister of the gospel,” is meant to find the “source of happiness in his parochial work and social communion” that God gave to him. Alexander continues: “The genuine bond is as strong and tender as any on earth, and as productive of happiness. Think of this when you are tempted to discontent. What is it that really constitutes the happiness of a residence? Is it a fine house, furniture, equipage…large salary, wealthy pew holders? Nay, it is LOVE. It is the affection and mutual attachment. It is the daily flow of emotion, and commingling of interest in common sorrows and common joys; in the sick-room, and the house of bereavement, at the death-bed and the grave, at baptisms and communions…The declaration of what one believes, and the praise of what one loves, always give delight: and what but this is the minister’s work?”

Happiness with the people and place we are in confounds many of us. But what if this is what Paul meant when he said that he loved people, that they were his joy and his crown (Phil. 4:1; Thess. 2:19)?

With this thought, a sinking feeling infuriates the pounding within my chest. To dignify the ordinary with glory will require a radical shift in my habitual approach to life. In Chesterton’s words, like other pastors, I will have to relearn how to exult in monotony.

“A child kicks his legs rhythmically through excess, not absence of life. Because children have abounding vitality, because they are in spirit fierce and free, therefore they want things repeated and unchanged. They always say, “Do it again”, and the grown-up person does it again until he is nearly dead. For grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony. But perhaps God is strong enough to exult in monotony. It is possible that God says every morning, “Do it again” to the sun; and every evening, “Do it again” to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never gotten tired of making them.”

And now it dawns on me. Restless discontent is a kind of fatigue. When a finite creature covets omnipresence he loses sight of sight itself. Imagination becomes placeless. Detail loses relevance. Routine becomes boring; arrogance and impatience bid a person to never look twice or long before moving onto somewhere or to something else. To exult in monotony is to deepen roots. To deepen roots is to look twice and long at the smiles that happen at the A&P. Such awareness of life extends the shade we can give. And I remember Jesus of Nazareth-born in Bethlehem, a refugee in Egypt, growing up in his particular place. The holy One of God with a local breath. My bloomless battle to give shade without roots, it seems, must be fought at this point. No longer can I imagine great work apart from local places. A global work is a local thing. A local work has global implications. This means I must inhabit wherever I am, differently. P. 66,67