ministry Posts

The Spiritual Wilderness

What do you do when you don’t feel like God is there?

To be honest with you, there are times where I don’t feel super fired up, spiritually. I love Jesus, I’ve embraced the gospel, but I’m just having a hard time.

I think it’s easy for many people to compartmentalize. If you’re having a bad day, you set it aside, go to school or work, do your job and deal with it when you get home.

One of the difficulties with being in ministry is you can’t really set aside your faith and then go to work, exchange time for money and then come back and work on your spiritual life, because it’s all so interwoven.

As a pastor, especially, if I’m feeling good or bad spiritually, if I’m having a good day or bad, if I’m doing well with my wife or not, I still have to teach tomorrow. And with my personality, I want answers. I want solutions. I want to fix it.

But maybe God wants me to just sit in it.

Regardless of whether you’re in ministry or not, some days are just tough. When you’re in a wilderness experience with God, when you aren’t feeling it or feeling Him, what would it look like for you to just allow yourself to be with God in the darkness? Just be with God in the wilderness. Just enjoy God there. Because theologically, God is with you. And theologically, even in those wilderness times, God is going to show you things about His character that you would never learn if life was awesome all the time.

What if we could learn to be with Him and abide in Him – in all circumstances?

Keeping Him in Our Sights

In Isaiah 6, Isaiah sees a vision of the Lord seated on His throne with the train of His robe filling the temple, and he has an interesting reaction. In the presence of holiness, Isaiah recognizes the lack of holiness in himself. He falls on his face in confession, in worship and in an acknowledgment of his own depravity as he says:

“Woe is me, for I am ruined!
Because I am a man of unclean lips,
And I live among a people of unclean lips;
For my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts.”

Then the Lord reaches out, purifies him, makes him righteous and asks, “Whom shall I send?” In brokenness, Isaiah responds, “Here am I. Send me!” And the Lord sends him out in ministry.

What struck me in this passage was Isaiah’s recognition of the Lord. I think it’s easy for us to get so caught up in what we do that we fail to see Him in His holiness on the throne and have a proper response to Him. We can go all day and not even think about the Lord. It can be really easy to do our jobs but lose sight of Him.

What would it look like if we kept Jesus before us? Could we keep His holiness and His righteousness before us so that as we’re doing what God has gifted us to do, it’s more of an expression of our gifting out of response to the Lord and not just doing our job?

Whatever you do, keep the Lord your focal point. As you go about your day, continually think about Him and turn to Him. If you get a minute, read and reread those few verses of Isaiah’s interaction with the Lord. Let’s put ourselves in perspective before Him as we do what we do today, serving the Lord in whatever we do in response to the bigness of Him, giving our time and energy and effort all for His glory.

Are You Called?

5 books that have changed my life

RUDE AWAKENINGS

Shortly after I came to faith in Christ, I was talking to a pastor and I said, “It must be awesome to do what you do.”

He said, “You have no idea what we do. In fact, if you can see yourself doing anything other than ministry, do it.”

He told me if you’re called to ministry, God will swallow you like Jonah and puke you on the shores of ministry.

I thought, a little dramatic, don’t you think?

He went on: You don’t try ministry. You’re called to ministry. Ministry is not a career; it’s an obligation. You don’t go into it for the money or the prestige, or the notoriety.  You go into because you have to, because you’re compelled, because there’s a fire in your soul that you cannot put out, and you are absolutely driven by God to do it.

Why is that important?

There will be multiple times throughout your career in ministry where you want to quit, and in those moments you have to lean back on your calling. I could quit. But I can’t quit – because I’m called.

There were many rude awakenings as I got into the reality of ministry that I would have never seen from the outside.

 

THE 5 MISCONCEPTIONS OF A PASTOR

Everyone is going to be my friend.

Ministry is a very lonely road. I spend a lot of time in preparation and study and delivering the word of God. And sometimes those words are well received and sometimes they’re not. As I speak truth into those around me, as I have hard conversations, it makes friendships very difficult. I’m watching my daughter’s track meet and who shows up: a guy on church discipline that I’ve had words with, a parent whose affair I exposed, and his wife who is now a single mom, and next to her another woman who is living inappropriately with her boyfriend.

It’s an 8 to 5 job.

I walk into a grocery store and “Hey, Pastor, can I ask you something?” I can’t go anywhere where someone doesn’t know me. And what an honor that our church would have that kind of influence in our city. But there’s a weight with that. I realize I’m never off – unless I’m hiding in my backyard working on my garden.

I’m going to make a difference.

I start swinging away expecting massive exponential life change. But then I realize, boy, we’re a mess. Life change is subjective, it’s cyclical or seasonal, and it’s one step forward two steps back. I assumed there was a formula to spiritual growth. If I just pray well, preach well, boom – life change. But often, spiritual growth is hard and it’s a slow process and it’s extremely messy, and that can be very discouraging.

Church is not a business.

I thought my staff team was going to be together for 40 years. But as an organization grows, your leadership has to grow and the way your organization is led has to grow. The responsibility of the role outgrows really good people and you have let people go.

And while philosophically, we are not a business – meaning our end goal is not for profit but for life change, and the way we go about doing things is different – but the reality is, from a practical standpoint, church is run very similar to a business. And that, I was not prepared for.

If I had to do it over again: I would get my undergrad in history, I would get my MBA, and then I would go to seminary.

I’m going to just hang out with people.

I’m going to be in the lives of people. I was discipling people face to face over time. I was sitting at Starbucks – listening, meeting, talking about life. But as a senior pastor, it becomes more platform-driven. I become more of an influencer, not a discipler. And I end up leading through other people, not through personal contact.

Now I’m 10 minutes late to everything all day. I never imagined this many meetings. I’ve never been in more meetings in all my life. And people who wanted to meet with me used to call me; now they call my assistant. How do you think they feel about that?