Abnormal: The New Normal

The holidays are over, so it’s time for our schedules to return to normal, right?  Well, I’ve yet to determine what a normal schedule is as a pastor, so I’m not sure how I’m supposed to return to something that I haven’t yet established.

I have weekly routines and goals, but rarely does a week go by that I follow my plan perfectly.  There is simply a lot of variation and flexibility in my role.  This is both a blessing and a curse.  It’s a blessing because I often have meetings and special events that I need to schedule around, so a flexible schedule is very beneficial in that way.  But it can be a curse because in order to get things done, I need to be self disciplined.  And I’ve met very few people who are truly self disciplined.

I’m learning, though, to embrace an abnormal schedule.  Some days I head to my office early in the morning, and some days I don’t go in until after lunch.  Some weeks I have my sermon ready to go on Monday, and some weeks I don’t put the finishing touches on it until Saturday.  Some days I spend all of my office hours on long-range planning and goal setting, and others I spend my time exclusively on sermon preparation.  And I’m learning to be okay with all that.

Sometimes I envy the person with a set schedule.  They know when they’ll be at work and when they’ll be at home.  There is a fine line dividing their work life and their home life.  I don’t have that.  It all kind of blends together.  But God is teaching me how to be a self starter, and I’m grateful that He’s patient with me during this process.

An Unexpected Phone Call

While driving home from the church office this afternoon, I got a phone call just as I saw a car blocking the road ahead.  I answered the phone while taking a detour, and found out from the church member that called why I was being rerouted.  Apparently, a man had a gun and was talking about killing himself.  This was taking place in a restaurant in town.  I prayed with the church member over the phone for the man’s well being, and asked her to keep the situation in prayer as well.

I arrived home and told my wife the situation.  She suggested that I drive back to that area and let them know I was the pastor of Grace Baptist, and offer them any assistance that I could.  She let me know she would pray for me as I hopped back in the car, drove to the street that the restaurant was on, and spoke with a fireman who was redirecting traffic.

“Hi, I’m the pastor of Grace Baptist Church.  Is there anything that I can help with?”

“Just a second.”

The fireman pushed the button on his walkie talkie and after saying some technical walkie talkie stuff, a voice on the other end said, “Go ahead.”

“I’ve got the pastor of Grace Baptist Church here, is there something he can do to help?”

“Not at this time, just get his cell phone number and tell him to stay on hand…On second thought, send him to City Hall.  We can use him there.”

The fireman looks at me and says, “Go to City Hall, they’ll be waiting for you there.”

I hopped back in my car and drove around the block.  The most direct route was blocked by police cars and officers.  I called my wife and let her know how she could pray for me.  I got to City Hall, walked in, and told the first person I saw who I was.  He directed me to a room and left.  There were two women sitting in the room.  I told them who I was and asked if I could do anything to help.  One of them spoke.

“He’s my husband.”

I sat down near her and asked if she would like me to pray with her.  She nodded and reached for my hand.  I held her hand and bowed my head to pray.  I said a brief prayer for the man, asking God to help him through this.  I prayed that he and all of the officers involved would be safe.

After we said “Amen,” I continued to hold the woman’s hand and attempted to comfort her.  After just a moment, she received a phone call and left the room.  I turned my attention to the other woman in the room.  She stated that she was the wife’s cousin.  She did not seem to want to talk or for me to pray with her.  I let her know that I would continue to pray for all of them, and I left the room.  As I walked by the man’s wife, who was still on the phone, I touched her arm and mouthed, “God bless you.”

As I drove home, I wondered if I should drive back and give them a business card, or give a business card to the fireman that I spoke with earlier, but I didn’t.  I pray that I provided some helpful ministry to the man’s family, but the reality is that I probably will never know if what I did will make any difference.  Much of the minister’s job has this same ambiguity.  All I can do is go and do as I feel led, and trust that God is using me along the way.

Being a Young Pastor

A pastor I’ve come to respect recently told me that my greatest asset as a pastor right now is my age. The statement struck me. I hadn’t really thought of my age as an asset before. With age comes experience. With age comes knowledge and wisdom. With age comes a degree of respect from others in the church because they know that you’ve counseled people through problems, you’ve preached faithfully for many years, and you’ve served the church through years of ministry.

But I understand why my pastor friend might have said that. At least I think I do. Young pastors typically have a zeal about them that’s contagious. Young pastors typically have charismatic personalities and a passion in ministry. People seem to love to listen to young pastors preach because they bring a youthfulness, excitement, and singularity of focus to the church that Christians long for.

But when I think about those advantages of being a young pastor, I see myself in them very little. I don’t have a charismatic personality. I’m not an awesome preacher. And while I have a passion to reach people for Christ, I certainly don’t have the kind of demeanor that people flock to listen to.

If you ask me, my greatest asset as a pastor is the same as every other pastor, despite their age. The gospel is my greatest asset. The gospel is what changes lives. Romans 1:16 starts out, “I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes.” I think some pastors have become ashamed of the gospel, and they try to attract people to the church through various events, programs, and young pastors – everything but the gospel itself. There’s nothing wrong with those things, and they can be used in mighty ways to point people to Christ. But if we truly realized how powerful the gospel is, it would be our greatest tool in bringing people to join the church: through introducing them to Christ so that they would experience the grace of God.