Tuesday, February 24, 2009

a selfish request?

I always hesitate to burden people with more prayer requests, so although I know people pray for me (a lot), it sometimes feels selfish to ask people to pray for me. It seems a bit unfair that I get to have so many people pray for me when in my role as sr. pastor I know I probably get more prayers for me than just about anyone in our church. Well, as my heart and soul has recently been shown, I don't feel bad about it any more. Why? Because the pastor of a church needs more prayer!

Recently read C.H. Spurgeon's biography (famous 19th century British preacher - maybe the greatest of all time) and he constantly asked his people to pray for him. His ministry touched millions and I believe it is because he was prayed for. Paul, the apostle constantly asked people to pray for him. In his letters to the Ephesians, Colossians, Thessalonians, and Corinthians; he in some way says, "pray for us".

Why should you pray for your pastor? Let me list some reasons:
1. He above all knows how really weak he is in his own strength to do the task at hand. You may not see his weaknesses all the time, but he knows them and needs the strength of God to help him. The preacher knows just how human he is.
2. He alone knows the scope of the work. Leading a congregation is big. There is more than I can describe here, but just know that more than once I've leaned back in my chair and said to myself and God, "now what?"
3. He understands this calling as a trust. The pastor knows that this is not a job, but a calling and entrusting from God. I am not interested in messing up what God has entrusted to me. There is a pressure that goes with that.
4. Teachers are judged more strictly (James 3:1). I get to preach, but I know that whether the people who hear like it or not; God is the one judging my preaching.
5. The stakes are high. People's souls are on the line in the job of the preacher every day. Did you hear that? People's eternities are a part of my job description - every day.

Those are just a few reasons. So, I say because of those and more...pray for me; I need it.

Friday, February 20, 2009

lover's beach

We awoke early this morning and had some breakfast at a local joint on the beach called Tobascos with some pastor friends who were interested in renting two person kayaks and heading across the bay to a place called "lover's beach". It's about 1 1/2 miles off the main beach and took about 20 minutes of hard work to get there. there is a famous arch formation in the rocks there and a famous place where sea lions hang out on the rocks. We spent some time on the beach and then headed back. The ministry discussion today was about the history of our respective churches. I was very proud to talk of the 54 year history of Eastview and especially how much I've seen God work in it in the 14 years I've been here. It's really cool to see how God has worked in all of his churches to make things happen. His ONE CHURCH is really an awesome thing.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

supper with a veteran

It's always a great opportunity when you get to talk with someone who has been where you're goin in life. I've always admired and wanted to learn from pastor's who have been doin what I do a long time. Sometimes, I feel like I've been doing this preaching thing a long time and then I get to have supper with a guy and his wife like I did last night. Dave and Sheila Sawkins are a part of a huge group of people who have laid the foundation for what I build on.

Briefly, after 15 or so years preaching in New Mexico, he moved to what was then one of the biggest churches in America (Los Gatos Christian Church - they were running 6,000 in the 80's!) as an associate pastor. Not long after, he led a group from that church to plant another (with their blessing). Unfortunately, a moral failure of the preacher at Los Gatos sent the church into decline and after 17 years the church plant was thriving around 1,500 and the mother church was dying (600 in attendance). So about a year and a half ago, they combined congregations and are now Venture Christian Church. In those 17 years, Dave and Sheila have nurtured three struggling congregations back to health and ministered to thousands. Last night he spent three hours at supper sharing his leadership and preaching wisdom with a younger new fan of his (and I appreaciated it very much).

We've been reading through Spiritual Leadership by J. Oswald Sanders and the questions have been very intriguing and spurred on great conversation. Oh, and it's easy to to think clearly when you're looking at the beach:-) Sorry for my midwest friends who are having snow today...but it's true.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

how to ruin paradise

O.K. I hope the people of central illinois miss me like I miss them...not central illinois mind you...just the great people. Cabo is as advertised...sunny and nice, but Sara and I and some pastor friends tried to ruin it today. We (when I say we, not really me, I knew this wasn't going to end well and never, never, never, never, never - is that enough sign up for this stuff) were talked into some great gifts and discounts for a "no pressure 90 minute time share presentation". Yeah, right! The free breakfast was cool...who can mess up breakfast? But then the showing of properties...again very nice if you have some cash for a priority like this. Again, anyone who has a time share...that's cool (can I use it? just kidding) because for some vacationing is a priority like that, for me, not so much. So... I saw some cool stuff, politely listened to the guy do his spiel (two and half hours and the whole time I'm just saying to myself "tell me the price so I can say "No" and move on- I did see some whales through the window behind him though and that was cool) Anyway, I say no and he's kinda ticked. Oh well, I moved on - afternoon meetings on the beach..very nice. Been talking about church and leadership and pastoring for two days and that will continue tonight at supper. Sara and i are going out with JP and Molly Jones and Dave (and I don't know his wife's name) Sawkins from Venture Christian Church in California. Should be fun. I really didn't ruin paradise, but about another thirty minutes of that presentation and I would've. more to come from cabo.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

why I'm in cabo

this is another sunday night special - cause I'm in a chicago hotel and I'm flying to mexico in the morning. After preaching this morning (great time with all you Eastviewers) Sara and I set out for a hotel near Ohare. Every year we head to a warm place in February to hang out with other sr. pastors of mega-churches. We talk, laugh together, share resources, ideas, establish friendships and ignite older ones. I'm always inspired, but the most incredible part of it all is just being able to hang out with guys who do what you do. We mostly talk shop...in a way that only guys who do this job can. And it's refreshing. Yes, we'll eat (which is worship as I said in this morning's sermon) but it's the deep understanding of each other that will strengthen our ministries for the year to come. Keep tuned in...I'll try to updated throughout the week. Oh yeah, one more thing...I love palm trees.

Monday, February 9, 2009

seen and unseen

Yesterday I preached about stuff "you have seen with your own eyes". In other words, the things that God has done in the lives of believers that are undeniably Him and His work. Of course, Moses had a litany of miracles to recount for the Israelites from Egypt to the edge of the Promised Land; but as we illustrated yesterday...so do we. I was overwhelmed (in a cool kind of way) when I asked for people who had seen God visibly work in their lives to see literally hundreds respond in each service.

This means that my faith is made up of three distinct parts. There is a part of my faith that is unseen or at least seen through a glass dimly. There are parts of God that I will never get until i experience eternity and come into His presence. This is the, "we walk by faith and not by sight" part of Scripture's teaching. Then there's this part of my faith built on what I've actually seen God do in my life. Cynics would call it coincidence, but there have been too many "coincidences" in my life directly associated with prayer or God's church for me not to believe God's hand is in it. I can say without a doubt that I have seen God move (maybe not plagues and Red Sea crossing, but just as miraculous I assure you). So those real (saw it with my own eyes) experiences make up what I believe moving forward. This is the "we are witnesses" part of the Bible. Finally, my faith is built on the testimony of others who have gone before me and currently surround me who have their own stories of God in their lives. I have two options when someone tells me an "out there" God story: Deny their experience, or believe God does that stuff. Well, since God does that stuff in the Bible and he's done that stuff in my life; I must believe he does it in other's lives as well. This is the "surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses" part of the Bible.

For believers, we can say we have faith in God because: we trust what is unseen, we have experienced of stuff and seen with our eyes what only God could do, and we have the testimony of those who have also seen God stuff.

I said it best in my sermon yesterday: "I don't have to see God to believe, but I've seen enough to know that my believing is not just wishful thinking." If you have one of those stories feel free to leave it here.

Monday, February 2, 2009

pastors day conference

just got back from a day in chicago (tinley park) at Parkside Christian Church where my good friend, Tim Harlow was sponsoring a day for encouraging pastors. He has been at this church for 19 years and it has grown from a couple of hundred to nearly 5,000. He has a great heart for ministry and is just a great friend. He brought in a guy named Dave Stone who pastors at the Southeast Christian Church in Louisville KY. We go way back. First time we met he was speaking at a weekend at my first full-time church (this was 1987) in Lexington KY. Since then, our paths have crossed many times in ministry and we both find ourselves following Sr. Pastors who had been there for decades (his 40+ and mine 32+). I've always admired his humility and ability to speak and relate so well to others. Maybe that's why God assigned him a church of 19,000 people! I was nurtured by his teaching time today. His encouragement to continue to grow spiritually so that as pastors we don't become statistics of failure spiritually speaking. Here are some quotes I picked up:

I'm just a nobody trying to tell everybody about Somebody who can save anybody.

It is easier to say "no" when there is a deeper "yes" within you.

too often the people in our churches go from prodigals to older brothers (luke 15 reference).

Anyway, the speaking was only part of the day. My cousin and 27 year ministry veteran was there. He ministers at a church in Deer Creek and he is hands down one of my heroes. First teen I ever knew that visibly and vocally lived out his faith as he starred on his high school football team. He preached at my ordination. Years later it's awesome to talk preacher shop as peers. As you can imagine, the conversation at lunch gave us a chance to catch up on all kinds of family stuff and memories. my heart was refreshed.

Also got to ride up and back with JP Jones from Champaign, IL. Just a really good friend and I really treasure our time together bantering back and forth about ministry stuff and preaching, etc... He has a great heart and passion for ministry and is way beyond his years in wisdom.

Finally, I got to have supper with Dave, Tim, JP, Bill (tim's executive pastor) after the conference was over. It is rare for a bunch of pastors to be able to let their hair down and just laugh and talk openly. It is refreshing. My face hurts from laughing. What a completely blessed day. I have had a very refreshing time of ministry recently, but today was extra refreshing. I praise God that I get to have a calling and not a job. There's nothing else I'd rather be doing.