Pastor’s Appreciation Month

October has become Pastor’s Appreciation Month.  I read in the Illinois Baptist Newspaper that this is actually quite a recent development.  I can’t remember all of the details, but I think a church in the 80’s or 90’s began the movement by showing special appreciation to their own pastor in the month of October.  The idea spread to other churches and eventually Focus on the Family encouraged churches to observe October as Pastor Appreciation Month on its radio station in 1994.

Maybe it’s just because I’m still in my “honeymoon” (I’ve been at Grace Baptist a little over a year now), but I feel very appreciated. The first Sunday of October, the church showered me with thank you cards (one of of them even had money in it!). The third Sunday they will present me with a gift tree, which last year held a few handfuls of cash, a few gift cards, and some candy that I like. The fifth Sunday we’re going to have an ice cream social (because they found out I LOVE ice cream). And from what it sounds like, they do these kinds of things every year!

Additionally, throughout the year there is always a small stack of papers on the table in the foyer that people can pick up which outlines how the church can pray for me and my family throughout the year. I’m constantly told how much of a blessing I am and how much they love me.

I really don’t think I deserve all this. I’m just so grateful for a loving church family who accepts me despite my imperfections, and is willing to listen to and follow the whims of some young crazy city boy as I seek to follow the direction of God.

How often should you go to church?

Just read a post about church attendance on SBC Voices called “Church Attendance: What Makes a Good Church Member?

I think this is a very good question.  I’ve been a pastor now for a little over a year.  When I first came to the church, I tried to be clear that church attendance mattered, but it wasn’t everything.  I often said things like, “I’m not the kind of pastor who would insist you be here every time the doors are open.”  But you won’t hear me saying that anymore.  It’s not that I don’t still hold to that line of thinking, but rather I’ve noticed that those whom I’ve said it to are more likely to be less committed to being there for any reason, whether it be a vacation or a mild headache.

But where do we draw the line?  Do we write it in the church covenant and practice church discipline over it?  I don’t think so (although churches in history have done exactly this).  But if not, then can we really distinguish between regular and good church members based on attendance?  Obviously there’s a difference between the person who attends twice a year and twice a month, but what about the difference between the person who attends twice a month as compared to the person who only attends once a month?  Can you really call one of them a better church member than the other?

I don’t have an answer to all this.  But I do have a thought.  Rather than focusing on how often, maybe we should focus on how much.  How much is the person involved in the ministry of the church?  How much is the person growing in their faith?  How much is the person being an active participant in worship, using their gifts for the edification of the body?  In addition to church attendance, these are all indicators not of being a good church member, but of having a heart changed by God.  Isn’t that what we should care about?

I’m not saying we shouldn’t care about church attendance, but that we often care too much about it, and that it should be seen as one of many heart indicators.

One Year Later

One year ago today, I became the pastor of Grace Baptist Church.  I wish I had some wise and profound reflections on all the things I’ve learned and all the ways I’ve grown in the last year, but I don’t.  It’s not that I haven’t learned and grown, because I have.  Immensely.  And only due to the awesome grace of God.

I’d like to say that to even begin such a list would not do justice to the innumerable ways God has been working on me in the last year.  This would be true, but the whole truth is that I don’t have a definitive list of ways I’ve grown because I haven’t arrived in any area.  I’m still learning and growing.  And by the grace of God, I will continue to learn and grow for the rest of my life.

God, I pray that You would use me.  May I be faithful, and show all people how awesome You are.  Amen.

“Christian” Conferences

I read about a Christian conference this morning that got my attention.  It was right up my alley.  It was on spreading the gospel more effectively using technology, something I’m very much into.  It wasn’t too far of a drive from home, so that would cut my own costs significantly.  The conference would be held on a Thursday and Friday only, so I wouldn’t have to miss any church services.  And they had a slick website to promote the event.  Everything about it looked awesome.

Until, that is, I started looking into the speakers.  At first, I was quite impressed.  “Wow,” I thought, “what a list of accomplishments!  I could learn a lot from these people!”  My next thought was, “Hmm…I didn’t know that person was a Christian.”  Did a couple Google searches.  “Oh, they’re not Christians.”  Some of them were, but not all of them.

I think I can learn a lot from unbelievers.  And I think it would be extremely beneficial to attend a conference led by unbelievers who know how to spread ideas effectively.  But what got to me was that this was being promoted as a Christian conference in which we would learn how to share the gospel more effectively.  I would expect to hear from people who have done that.

I’m not just ranting about this conference, though.  I’m talking about the idea that churches think they need to hire professionals (often unbelievers) in order to accomplish the work of the church.  Churches today hire people to play in their orchestras and to act in their theatrical productions.  But can unbelievers lead in worship?  Can unbelievers teach believers how to evangelize?

Churches (and conference leaders) that hire unbelievers are probably doing so because they want their services to be carried out with excellency.  This is commendable.  We should do all things to the glory of God.  But if unbelievers are leading these services, they are not being done to the glory of God.  We too easily confuse the external with the internal.  Unbelievers are not worshiping God at all, but we are to worship God in spirit and truth.

What I Learned from Two Weeks of Twitter

Monday concluded my Tweet Weeks project, in which I sought to determine how Twitter could be most useful to me in my ministry context.  Here are a few things I learned about the project, myself, and twitter as a ministry tool. It was more difficult than I thought it would be. Tweeting consistently over a period of two weeks got more and more difficult as the time progressed. I’m proud to say, however, that I started off strong, and finished strong (after slagging a bit in the middle). The first week was easier for me than the second, for the first reason given below.

  • I realized I don’t think as many deep thoughts as I thought I would. Contrary to popular thought, pastors do not spew off wisdom effortlessly. I myself thought that I would have more significant reflections than I did. But I found it much easier to tweet what I was actually doing rather than some helpful bit of wisdom.
  • I learned that there’s no need to stick to one way of tweeting. Both approaches to using twitter (what I’m doing vs. what I’m thinking) can be useful in ministering to my church and community.  I can see how both could be used to teach, encourage, convict, and uplift.  That being said…
  • Tweeting for the sake of tweeting does not do any good at all. Some of my tweets over the past couple of weeks were simply not beneficial to anyone. For example, on May 1st I wrote, “Going to read a bit and go to sleep.” Who cares? What difference does this make? On the other hand, on May 10th I gave a quote from the book that I’m reading, and I think this was a much more beneficial way to use twitter (“My friends, pray to God for joy. Be joyful like children, like the birds.” – Elder Zosima, in “The Brothers Karamazov”).
  • Quality of tweets is much more important than frequency of tweets. It’s much better to share one significant thought per day than fourteen insignificance ones. In fact, people will tune you out (or unfollow you) if you consistently share things that do nothing for them. Every tweet should accomplish some purpose other than simply bringing attention to myself.
  • Twitter is most useful when remembering that it’s for mass, yet personal communication. Every tweet sent goes out to all of your followers, but don’t confuse this with other mass communication mediums. When each of your followers reads your tweet, they are not reading it as a message to the masses (unless the tweet is written as such), but rather as a message to them personally. That’s why they feel compelled to share the message. That’s why they want to respond to it. So I should always seek to keep my tweets as personal and pointed as possible.

What do you think? How do you use twitter? Do you have a strategy in your use of it, or do you just tweet whatever and whenever you feel like it?