Monday, August 27, 2012

7 Years as Pastor

This past Sunday marked yet another milestone for me...7 years as the pastor of a great church here in Waupaca, WI. It is hard to believe that it went that quick and yet so slow...does that make sense? I have actually been on staff at this church since February of 2004 but with the less than flattering start, I have decided to write-off my time as the youth pastor. It really is a shame that such a great little church had to “re-start” only a year and a half after it launched.

I look back at one of the roughest times in my life when in August of 2005 I was asked if I would like to pastor this church that had 8 people and a mortgage. It truly was my desire to quit the ministry all together at that time. With some thought and prayer...I did get excited about being the pastor of this church that would have to be re-started. Like any new/naive pastor would, I hoped that it would have exploded with growth. Little did I know many years later the physical growth would have been slow and steady but the spiritual growth is exploding.

A pastor really could not ask for a better church of people that “get it”. I look forward to many many more happy years pastoring this church with the awesome staff and volunteers it has. This is the year that I can say, I have been in Waupaca as long as I was on staff in Milwaukee. It really does something when you know you hit a milestone. Here is to many more happy years as God continues to direct and guide this great family. I am not sure I would have made it this long without the support of my wife, Tracy. 

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

My Dark Times

Allow me to be completely transparent for a moment...

“Sometimes I don’t want to be on this journey anymore...I don’t want to be a hurt person, I don’t want to keep rehashing my old wounds.” This was part of my prayer this morning after I got my first box of my new books in the mail today. One ought to be excited about such a delivery and perhaps I was deep down...however, I had a different idea where I would be today when I was 22 and just starting out in vocational ministry. Many staff pastors get to look back at their “career” and still remain friends with those they worked with. I do not have that luxury. All the men I was on staff with really were great people early on and now none of them are in vocational ministry today. Fact is they all have had moral failings. It’s funny but those wicked storms quickly calloused me and yet softened me. They made me calloused towards the political games church members/boards/staff can play. Yet I find myself completely softened toward those who need grace extended to them. I now live in the trenches with those who have been hurt by the church regardless of their lifestyle, etc. Today I was told that perhaps it is time to move on. I understand this to a point but am not sure I will ever leave this place. I want to, but I don’t. As one older pastor who was a guest on Focus on the Family told me “You have seen and endured more things by the time you were 30 than most pastors will see in their entire career.” I DID NOT WANT THIS!
I felt (and still do at times) robbed of what could have been. Because of a few peoples decisions and the way politics played out, I started down a different course. There was a day when I was new in ministry and it was my hope to someday be on staff either as a youth pastor or lead pastor of a traditional church that was larger and believe it or not...straight lined Assembly of God. I WANTED THE TRADITIONAL!!! This was not the path God had for me back then, however, God has a way redeeming all situations. In the words of my friend, Arden Adamson who was the district superintendent for the Assemblies of God for the Wisconsin/Northern Michigan District “I am not sure why you had to go through what you did...but I am glad you survived to help this church and others now.” This was told to me when things unraveled quickly at the church I moved to in Waupaca.
Why me? This was my prayer today. I was reminded of a scene in Thornton Wilder's play "The Angel that Troubled the Waters" which to me really captures the essence of my life and perhaps yours?

The scene is a doctor comes to the pool everyday wanting to be healed of his melancholy and his gloom and his sadness. Finally the angel appears. The doctor, he's a medical doctor, goes to step into the water. The angel blocks his entrance and says, "No, step back, the healing is not for you." The doctor pleads, "But I've got to get into the water. I can't live this way." The angel says, "No, this moment is not for you." And he says, "But how can I live this way?"

The angel says to him, "Doctor, without your wounds where would your power be? It is your melancholy that makes your low voice tremble into the hearts of men and women. The very angels themselves cannot persuade the wretched and blundering children of this earth as can one human being broken on the wheels of living. In love's service, only wounded soldiers can serve."

And to me the theme of that story is the theme to my life. All grace, all light, all truth, all power are communicated though the vulnerability, the brokenness, the utter honesty of men and women who have been shipwrecked, heartbroken, broken in the wheels of life. In love's service, only wounded soldiers can serve. And to me, the power of my life lays in the power of my brokenness, the power in my unblinking honesty, my sincerity.

So...what was is now gone. I realize some view me as “that pastor” but I am not sure one can go through so much and not be a bit out there (THE BOY AIN'T RIGHT!). I am thankful for the ministry I do have today. It is an honor and a joy to meet with people that have gone through difficulties in the church machine and now need someone who understands. I am fully okay with where the Lord is leading me and Radiant Fellowship. My personal desires, dreams, aspirations are gone. I have learned that I must go where God is leading me. It really is rewarding and I am doing things I never would have dreamed. My slump today was nothing new and I am quite positive it will return even though I have the nickname "Saint Sunshine."