Today marks my 8th year living and working in Springfield. My first Sunday was August 1, 2004 but I consider starting the day I arrived which was July 31st. Let’s break it down (Using www.timeanddate.com):
- 2,923 days or,
- 252,547,200 seconds or,
- 4,209,120 minutes or,
- 70,152 hours or,
- 417 weeks (rounded down)
All that to say that it has been a long time at one church. I love the reactions I get from people when I tell them I have been working for the same church for 8 years and that it has been my only ministry gig. Part of the reason is that there is a high turnover rate for those in ministry but also people just tend to move from church to church. I have a few youth minister friends who have been in ministry less than I have yet have worked in 3 or 4 churches. That exhausts me. There is something to be said about longevity in ministry in one context that allows a minister to be effective more than someone else.
Maybe I will post next week about some lessons a young youth minister can learn from my 8 years but I wanted to take this time to get a little personal and share a little what’s on my heart. I wanted to share some lessons from working at Main Street that are simply true of my experience. I hope these will bless a lot of people but I hope these really bless those at Main Street. Disclaimer…try not to read into this.
Ministry is tough…
I wish they would have told me this at Freed but most of those guys are not in full-time local church ministry and it is tough. There is not a day that goes by where I feel completely and utterly inadequate and incapable of doing the job assigned to me. From teenagers coming up to me telling me they have been abused to parents who would rather me raise their child I must admit that this job is difficult. Couple all of this with the hidden (I might add unrealistic) expectations people place on you and your family it is almost too much for folks to bear.
Teenagers are great catalysts… but they are still just teenagers…
I love working with teenagers because they want to do something new and exciting and if they buy-in to something they will jump two feet in. Yet, they are so frustrating because of their innate inconsistency in how they deal with God and life. They are mad, they are sad, they are happy, they don’t care, they are passionate and they are apathetic, they are bored and they are busy. And that’s only on a trip to Gatlinburg! I have to remind myself that after it is all said and done they are still teenagers and growth does not happen overnight.
There are two things that will destroy this church and every other church…
Fear and complacency. Is it just me or does the church of Christ tend to be 10-15 years behind when it comes to creativity? I am not talking about technology I am talking about new ways of thinking and being. I have watched the way our church and other churches do things and when something new and exciting comes up there are always two questions that follow…
- What will so-and-so think? FEAR
- What is wrong with the way we have always done it? COMPLACENCY
It might be just the way God wired me but at what point do you say, “I am tired of being afraid and being complacent?” At what point do we just have the brass to say, “This is a God-thing and it since it is not a Scriptural issue then it really does not matter”?
Main Street is full of people who work really hard for the Lord
We have some serious workers. We only have a membership of about 300 but I would say that a majority of those people are involved in the church work. We work in the pantry, clothing room, visiting shut-ins, volunteering at a soup kitchen, women’s studies, men’s programs, bible studies, mission trips, service projects. When judgment comes I believe the Lord will be impressed with all the work Main Street is doing for the kingdom.
Potential energy is just that…
Have you ever heard about an athlete who never made it and someone who is telling their story says, “They had so much potential…”? We have so much potential in the church and in our community but potential energy is just that…potential. Oscar Wilde is famous for saying, “Youth is wasted on the young” and I believe in that quote. Those who are given an amazing gift are stewards of that gift yet so often we do not maximize our gifts to give God the glory.
It is very dangerous to go into eternity with possibilities which one has oneself prevented from becoming realities. A possibility is a hint from God. One must follow it. (Sören Kierkegaard)
Too often our gift is wasted. Jesus said, “Everyone to whom much was given, of him much will be required, and from him to whom they entrusted much, they will demand the more.” (Luke 12:48).
Ministry is not a concealer of my sin rather it is a magnifier of it…
They say that if you have a small issue of sin while dating someone that when you marry them your problems will not be concealed but magnified. If ever ministry has done anything to me it has revealed to me this one fact: I am broken and in need of God’s forgiveness through the atoning blood of Jesus just like everybody else. I would also add to this that works-based righteousness will fail a person every single time. We can do nothing to obtain favor with God for we are saved by faith alone through grace alone because of Christ alone. Period. Until I live in that grace and accept that my life is not about impressing God then everything I do for God is about me and not him.
A church, and any other organization, lives and dies by its leadership…
Helen Keller said, “The most pathetic person in the world is someone who has sight, but has no vision.” For every great organization that is built to last I have noticed these things: humility, competence, vision, teamwork, persistence, failing forward (Maxwell term), creativity and teachability. Notice I did not say personality, dictatorship, charisma and other things one might expect. I have noticed that the church is either going to live by its leadership or die by it because sheep do one of two things: 1) Leave and find something else to follow or, 2) Follow their shepherd wherever the shepherd takes them (good OR bad).
“When your people see that you are not only competent to lead but also have a track record of successes, they will have confidence in following you, even when they don’t understand all the details” (John Maxwell).
Well that’s it. Below are some pictures for your enjoyment. I am blessed to have worked with some of the best people in the kingdom. We have laughed, cried, loved and lived. Thank you Main Street for believing in an incompetent rookie from college and turning him into… well… a semi-incompetent veteran. May God bless you and keep you.