Monday, February 28, 2011

what are sr. pastors like?

As you know I spent the last five days with a bunch (54 ish with wives) of Sr. Pastors of mega-churches. Some people ask me what that is like...well here are few observations about what Sr Pastors of mega-churches are like (some may surprise you):
1. Most of them are introverts. Believe it or not the people who lead thousands are often uncomfortable with large crowds. I am not one of these - as I'm sure you know.
2. Most are insecure. A lot of these guys don't know how they got where they are, and are afraid they might mess it up (paranoia is sometimes the feeling) or it might be taken away. Again, by shear ignorance, I'm not in this category either. I have NO confidence in my ability and Complete confidence in God having me here at Eastview and having someplace else when He's done with me being at Eastview.
3. Most are tired. Leading at this level is very draining on a emotional/spiritual level. At this thing, many just want to relax and laugh and not have to be "on".
4. Most have great challenges. Some I met this week are worried about staff. Some about their elders. Some have financial concerns. Some are facing retirement. Some don't feel like their preaching is what it should be. There is no absence of prayer requests when that time comes.
5. Most have great wives. One thing that marks this conference is the encouragement for the wives to hang out. These great leaders have great leaders that partner with them in ministry (this is my reality for sure).
6. Most of these guys have stronger leadership gifts than preaching gifts. I would consider myself the opposite of this. I've said before, "Some guys preach so that they can lead, I lead so that I can preach."
7. Most of these guys have a strong relationship with the Lord. That may seem like a weird thing to say, but it's not always apparent. I prayed and talked and pontificated (look it up:-) with at least 20 guys this week. And they are true Christ followers.
8. Most of these are disciplined guys. It may not surprise you, but these guys know how to get things done - goal oriented types.
9. Most of these guys are humble. All the guys I met have a clear appreciation for other pastors and don't put off an air of superiority because of their position or church size.
10. Most of these guys are in it for the long haul. Some of them are talking about retirement, but that's only to go to another kind of ministry. You do get too old to do this kind of ministry, but there are always other things to do. I hope to "retire" someday from Eastview (many years from now - Lord willing), but I'm going to preach until I die.

Monday, February 21, 2011

river walk

Today my walk with Jesus took place in San Antonio, TX. First time I've ever been to this town that I have heard about for many years. It is all it's cracked up to be...great American history, a very cool downtown, and great food and company. Sara and I are here because I spoke today at a Children's ministry conference for children's pastors of mega churches. You may think it's weird that I spoke for this event...and it is, but I think they asked me to for two reasons: 1) I was actually a children's pastor for six years (1987-1993) and taught youth ministry at Lincoln Christian College. 2) Our church used the word "ridiculous" in our new vision statement and "ridiculous" is the theme of their conference. So I was here to encourage some children's pastors who have a very dangerous and very important job. I said it here and I believe it..the greatest opportunity for life change our church has every week is in our children's ministry. I spoke in the afternoon. Which means I had the morning to reflect, study and live walk with God in a different place than Normal (you get the double entendre?)

Anyway, the only thing I've heard about San Antonio is the River Walk area. I was drawn to the river walk this morning for Starbucks and it is all it's cracked up to be. Basically it's a canal redirected off of the San Antonio river and it is lined with a cool walking/running trail (yeah I did my time there this morning), great restaurants and outdoor cafe's, and lots of cool shops and tons of people. It's a great place. Sara and I had lunch at one of the cafe's IN THE SUNSHINE and I was wearing shorts. Too nice. We also went into some hotel lobby called La Mansion because the lobby was built around St Mary's College established by some nuns in the early 1800's. Very cool...original building. Also hit San Fernando's Cathedral in the Main Plaza downtown...remains of Alamo heroes Davey Crockett and James Bowie are entombed there. I am not Catholic, but aside from some practices that are dangerously idolatrous, I love old catholic churches...this place is historic and lots of people of faith have prayed here. Very humbling.

Anyway, the session went well today. I felt like i connected and hopefully encouraged some pastors to keep going. I will say, it makes me highly value our Kidsview staff at Eastview even more than I already do. Our team is awesome. Wouldn't rather have anyone else!

In between everything today I was keeping touch with the emails and stuff with home. Everything seems tomorrow I get up early and head to a Sr. Pastor's mega church conference in California. It is one of my favorite times of the year. Through encouragement, prayer, talking, fellowship, friendship and laughter, my tank will be filled to do what i do.

Monday, February 14, 2011

to give or not to give?

I was wondering around the city streets of Indianapolis Thursday night with some friends and a young (I'd guess 27ish) homeless guy approached me. I knew the speech he was getting ready to make, but I wasn't expecting the level of desperation i met in his voice as he asked for some money to get something to eat. "I just haven't eaten for days and I'm really there any way you could help?" Following is the argument I had in my head...

Yes, I'll buy you something to eat. On the other hand, many former homeless persons would see this as enabling whatever is keeping him on the street (the real life guy from the Will Smith movie about a homeless guy and his son says he never gives money to homeless people but to homeless shelters because most homeless people aren't being honest about why their in the street)...then I thought of Jesus saying that if you give even a cup of cold water in my name...then I thought about all the homeless people I see every time I'm in Indy (like the ones who have signs that say, "Why lie, it's for beer!" I sometimes say to them..."there are other homeless people here with real needs and you want beer?")...then I think that maybe he's an angel (Hebrews...some have entertained angels unaware)...then I think wonder what he would do with this money if I give it to him (by now the usual burger joints were closed and he rejected my offer to take him into a restaurant - AHA - he's not really hungry)...then I thought, maybe he is lying and maybe it doesn't matter to Jesus if he's lying or not...then I talked to him and asked about his situation (still more desperation)...then I prayed, "Jesus what should I do?"...He said to give him some money (not literally mind you...I wish it was an audible voice, but he usual just nudges me by his Spirit living in me) I pulled out some money and gave my usual speech, "I want you to know why I'm giving you this money. It's because I love Jesus and I want you to feel his love in some way tonight. Please don't waste this on drugs or alcohol"..."I won't," he promised, and then added, "God bless you." Again, I wondered if he meant it or was just saying it, but he probably wondered the same thing. I don't know what happened to that guy or what he did with that money, but I felt peace about my giving and prayed a prayer for salvation in this man's life. Why did I give to this guy? I felt the Spirit was leading me to...but that doesn't always happen...sometimes I don't.

Next time (there will be many next times)...I'll probably have the same internal argument...and the outcome may be different.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Exploring, listening, praying

I think life is an adventure (not like the old army commercials)'s much more spiritual than that. Like Abraham leaving his country without a distinct or exact destination; I believe we are on a journey with God. We don't have many details, but we have his Spirit as our tour guide and His Son who paved the way. So we live. So we minister. So we move by faith.

This last weekend, I journeyed with the elders of our church to Phoenix Arizona. We were on an adventure to see what some other churches are doing, how God is working there and what He might be saying for "here in Normal". It lasted only 60 hours but it was quite an adventure. We visited one church that has an average weekend attendance of 17,000 and another that is pushing 9,000. And we prayed for God to answer this simple question: "Are you done with what you are doing at Eastview, or do you want us to do more?" And the follow up question: "Will you show us what you want us to see and let us hear what you want us to hear?"

And so we journeyed through five church campuses (three we didn't have an appointment and one I fearlessly led us into the auditorium which set off some sort of security alarm - and still no one came - at least in the the 30 seconds or so it took us to get into the car and leave :-). We watched how other Christians used music in their worship, how they preached, how they parked cars, how they led, and what kind of facilities they built for ministry. We also asked questions from their leaders...and we listened. And we prayed, and we listened and we explored.

God spoke to us in many ways and we are going to continue to pray. There are some things these other great churches do that we can never do (plant palm trees would be one of them!). There are some things they do that we do and so we are encouraged that we are heading in the right direction. There are some things that we saw and heard that expanded our vision..we saw a big God picture that perhaps we hadn't seen before. I love that!

I'm a dreamer. Not like a day dreamer, but a dreamer about what God can do with a fearless church of Christ followers like we are becoming at Eastview. I think that God can do what we dream as long as our dream is born in His vision for His church. and it begins with keep praying. God is big and we get to be a small part of his bigness, which brings great value to our lives.

Missed you guys yesterday at church. J.K. had a great sermon in my place, the special was awesome, the Monday night theme by the orchestra was great, and the I serve video was moving. Can't wait to worship with most of you next week. For the people from 12 nations throughout the world...I don't know why you read my blog each week, but I'm glad you do and someday I'll worship with you too - before the throne - can't wait for that either, but in the meantime - I'll be exploring, listening and praying on this journey with God.