Monday Morning Musings …

Yesterday was a day with a lot of chaos. As for my musings …

-Yesterday was filled with technical problems. Some of it can be attributed to it being the first Sunday since my Assistant Pastor moved on, he directed our technical stuff. Some people are returning to roles they haven’t done in a while or they are trying something new. We made it through, and it probably bothered those of us up front and in the sound booth a lot more than the congregation.

-The technical chaos was not limited to our Worship service. At our small group last night, which meets in a home, we could not get our online video segment to work. We still had good discussion.

-To add to the chaos, I was terrible in delivering my message yesterday. I was scattered in my thoughts and my words. Hoping that my prayers before the service for God to speak beyond my words were answered.

-Not everything was bad, but the chaos that took place was where my thinking went last night.

-On a more positive note, we had a couple of new people attend and one person who returned for the second time.

-We had a lot of children and youth in attendance yesterday. 3 years ago, we had 4 or 5 children and youth attending. Yesterday I believe we had 25.

-Another good thing from yesterday was that more people committed to helping with a significant children’s outreach that we will be doing in 3 weeks.

-I am very much looking forward to getting a day off to spend with my wife this week. It has been 2 or 3 weeks since that has been possible.

-My Cubs won their first series in the playoffs, so that made me happy. It doesn’t look good for the current series.

-A fun element in my message yesterday is that I used my bow for an illustration. Any time I can carry a bow around while I preach it is a fun thing.

-My mid-week study is going well. The issues we are digging into are so relevant and many people need healing in these areas. The first week only 3 came, the past couple of weeks we have had 5 and yesterday 2 additional people told me they plan to attend this week.

-The small group that meets on Monday evenings is called Inside Out. They are looking to get healthy spiritually and physically. Part of the focus is accountability. Part of the focus is learning about what God’s Word says and part of the focus is hearing from people in the health and fitness profession share. Good things are coming from that group.

-My fantasy football team lost for the first time this week. Let’s all pause for a moment of sadness.

-This morning I am experiencing a mix of joy and sadness as I reflect on having family scattered around the country and the world. I am missing times with all of us together. I am rejoicing as they are serving the Lord and that they are all doing well.

Here’s hoping you find joy as you serve this week.

 

Dennis

 

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10 Things I have Learned about being a Pastor …

Even after 30+ years in ministry I am still learning about being a pastor. If I ever stop learning it is time to stop pastoring. Here are a few things I have learned. I am not claiming to have mastered these, but I have learned. I am narrowing down the dozens of things I have learned to this list of 10. (In no particular order.)

  1. It is about People – Being a pastor is about the people and relationships with them. Sometimes we are tempted to think it starts with policy, but I have learned that people trumps policy every time.
  2. It is very rewarding – Being deeply involved in the lives of the people in your community and church is very rewarding. Seeing lives changed. Baptizing people and seeing the joy on their face as they come out of the water. Baby dedications are a favorite of mine. Watching people come to Christ and then mature in their faith as disciples of Christ. These are just a few of the many rewards.
  3. It is difficult to pastor well – As a pastor I deal with life and death issues regularly. I walk with people through crisis and loss. I deal with seeing people get upset and leave the church. Even harder is when they are upset with me as they leave. I deal with the weight of knowing that I am dealing with eternal issues each Sunday as I stand in front of my people to preach.
  4. My personal relationship with Christ must be priority number one – It is easy to get busy doing good things and being swayed by the urgent that I neglect my own relationship with Christ. If that happens my church suffers, my family suffers and obviously my spiritual health suffers.
  5. It is not really “my church” – The church belongs to God, it is his church. When I attempt to assume ownership, things get messed up in a hurry.
  6. My family is more important to me than the church I pastor – If I don’t get the family thing right my influence as pastor is diminished. It is not a matter of having a family with no problems, it is putting them ahead of the church and realizing that they are my most important ministry.
  7. Taking time off is critical to be a pastor of value – I am still learning this one and I struggle with it often. I didn’t do this well at all early in my ministry. I am getting better but it is still something I wrestle with often. The critical nature of what I do and the life and death, eternal issues give a sense that things must be done now. This is especially true of solo pastors with no other ministry staff. Without time off I become stale in my thinking and I can become weary and I may begin to resent the things I must do.
  8. The church is much bigger than me and will function long after I am gone – One reason a pastor may be hesitant to take time off is that they are fearful that people will realize they can survive without them. That is actually a good thing, but it can mess with the ego.
  9. Not to take myself too seriously, have fun while ministering – While I deal with life and death issues regularly, there are still many moments to enjoy life and to laugh at myself. I do a lot of things that are just plain funny. I get words mixed up at times. I forget some stuff. I also tend to see things differently at times and I laugh at some of those thoughts. I believe that people relax and listen better when they realize that you freely admit you are not perfect and that sometimes you are downright goofy. Not sure where that fits theologically, but I find it makes a difference for many people.
  10. Encouragement is a big deal – I want to encourage the people I pastor and I need encouragement as well. A word of encouragement can keep a person going when they may be considering giving up. Encouragement sparks more encouragement and that matters to people. We would all rather be around someone who encourages as opposed to someone who discourages. I want to be known as an encourager. I don’t have this one conquered, but I am always seeking to do this better.

This is just a sampling of things I have learned in my time as a pastor. The list is a lot longer than ten. I typed this quickly as I am sitting here thinking on a Thursday night. What do you think should be on this list?

 

Dennis

Monday Morning Musings …

Yesterday was an outstanding day with a lot of emotion. As for my musings …

-We said good-bye to my Associate Pastor and his family yesterday morning. We had a special breakfast in their honor and during our worship time we gave them a few gifts to remember us by and had a special time of prayer surrounding them. A few tears were shed by many of us.

-It was great to be back with our church family yesterday. We enjoyed our time away and being with some family and we enjoyed being back with these people who call me pastor.

-On Friday I was honored to share the message at a very special man’s funeral. He was a retired pastor. He served this church at one time and is the longest tenured pastor this church as ever had. He was a member and regular attender of this church in his retirement. He was a great encourager to me and many others. He will be greatly missed.

-Last evening our church was host site for a discipleship training that will last until Wednesday morning. Hal Perkins and his wife Debbi are leading these sessions. There will be 2 more evening sessions and 3 morning sessions beginning this morning. I am always for things that help with discipleship.

-Yesterday morning I resumed the sermon series “Dream”. The focus was on what we expect. Because what we expect greatly impacts what we do and what we do determines our results. We looked at David versus Goliath and how David’s expectations of what God would do were different than everyone else at that scene. We have 2 more Sundays of this series, or maybe 3.

-I have had a few nights recently when I could not turn my mind off and sleep. It culminated on Saturday night when I slept for an hour total. I am hoping that trend is over.

-Our mid-week ministries had another good week last week. The number of children attending has stayed up in a range above what we anticipated. Our teen number is growing. The adult studies are going very well, though with lower numbers than we hoped. However, the main reason our adult study numbers are down a bit is because we have a lot of adults serving with our children and teens. Our mid-week ministries have become a source encouragement for our whole church.

-Saturday was my wife and oldest granddaughter’s birthday. My wife says that our granddaughter’s birth was her greatest birthday present ever. That present came 13 years ago. We now have 4 grandchildren who are teenagers. Wow!

-My fantasy football team appears to have squeaked out another victory, since neither of us have anyone playing tonight.

-I am struggling getting a handle on my Christmas sermon series. I like to have a direction for it by now.

-My Cubs split their first two games of the playoffs, since those games were on the road, I am good with that outcome. But I am very nervous for the rest of the series.

Here’s hoping you are expecting God to do great things in your life this week.

 

Dennis

My not so Monday Morning Musings …

Obviously, this is not Monday morning. My wife and I were out of town. We were at our oldest daughter and son in law’s house out of state. We went that direction for a wedding that I was doing over the weekend. We took an extra couple of days of vacation and spent it with them and our two youngest grandkids. It was a very good time with all of them. As for my musings …

-We attended the church that our daughter, son in law and their girls attend. The pastor is someone that I have known since he was in Bible College and I was on staff at that college. It is a good church that continues to grow. Being a parishioner is always a different feeling. I love being able to worship in another church sometimes. It gives me new perspective on things we do or don’t do at home. It was an enjoyable experience.

-The wedding went well. It was an outdoor event and the weather was perfect, which is a real bonus for the last day of September. I have known the bride, and her family, for about 12 years. To see her so happy was a real joy. This couple is in love with each other and everyone who sees them knows it.

-At the reception we got to see, and talk with, some good friends. That was a wonderful bonus for the trip.

-While we were gone I have learned of 3 deaths. One is a retired minister in my congregation. I will be doing that funeral in a couple of days. What an honor it will be to celebrate this man’s life and legacy. As for our church, it will be a great loss. He attended every Sunday and was a great supporter and prayer warrior for me and many others. Another of the deaths was the grandmother of someone connected to our church and they asked if I could do the funeral, but it took place before I returned home. The third was someone who attended the wedding that I did on Saturday. A young man that is related to the bride. He was involved in an accident on the way home from the event. A lot of emotions on learning of each of these events.

-Next week I will begin a new round of the fatherhood class at the prison in our area. The first group went so well. I teach this with another friend who is also a pastor. He and I are really looking forward to getting started with a new group.

-This week is my Assistant Pastor’s last one with us. He and his wife and kids have been a real blessing to me and to our church. They will be greatly missed. I am encouraged by the number of people who are stepping forward to help do some of things he has been doing.

-My Cubs finished the task and won their division. Now the playoffs begin. This will not be easy.

-It was great to be away for a few days with my wife. We needed this time and are very appreciative for it.

-Our new small groups, children’s mid-week ministry and youth group have gotten off to great beginnings. I am looking forward to being back for Wednesday evening and the great energy that is in the building when all those groups are meeting.

-My fantasy football team won again this week. So far, I am loving this fantasy season. However, I am not loving the real football season for my Colts.

Here’s hoping you have many opportunities this week to encourage someone.

 

Dennis

Monday Morning Musings …

Thanks for the kind responses to my post on Thursday. Yesterday was a good day. There were a lot of positives, it wasn’t perfect, but it was a good one. As for my musings …

-We began a new small group for young adult parents of young children last night. It was a good beginning. We had 15 in attendance and had some good discussion as we set the stage for the study.

-We had 7 or 8 people come to the altar to repent following the message yesterday. That is always an encouragement to a pastor.

-We had a couple of visitors in worship yesterday and some who were back for the second the time.

-On Saturday I was part of a minister’s choir as we participated in the funeral service of a retired minister. He pastored for 37 years as a bi-vocational pastor. Then he served as an interim, and pulpit supply pastor for several years. I never met him, he no longer was able to get out to district functions by the time I arrived in this area. But I was honored to help pay tribute to one who went before me and was so faithful.

-I am still having trouble with these 90-degree temperatures at the end of September. We have had 4 or 5 days in a row in that range. I don’t think we had this many in August.

-Our new mid-week children’s ministry kicked off last week with a bang. It was a great night with very good attendance and a lot of energy. Our light meal, before the mid-week ministries, was a big success as well. I loved seeing so many people investing in our children.

-I will be seeing my two youngest grandkids in a few days. That makes me very happy.

-Attendance was down a little.

-The feeling in the room was very good throughout our time of worship yesterday.

-My Cubs are still in first place, but they are not making it look easy.

-I had some good conversations this week with fellow pastors and with some of the people in my church. God is doing good things around here.

-My fantasy football team pulled out the surprising win last week and it appears that I won again this week. None of them looked probable until the end. But I will still take them.

-Reading a good book by Louie Giglio entitled “The Comeback”.

-I need to cut this a bit short this week.

Here’s hoping you are free to pursue the dream God is giving you.

 

Dennis

Hurting, but Joyful, Smiling with Tears …

I have been wrestling for some time with this truth about myself. My heart hurts, but the reason my heart hurts also brings me joy. How can that be? Am I just fooling myself? It doesn’t seem to make sense, but it is true. I am sure that you don’t understand, at least not yet.

I have shared many times that my son, daughter (in-law) and their 5 children (my grandchildren) are serving as missionaries. They are serving in Africa. The country in which they were serving, Central Africa Republic (CAR), has been through tumultuous times in the past and is currently going through them again.

My kids, and the team on which they were serving, had to be evacuated on the Saturday before Easter. A day before the celebration of Christ’s resurrection that provides the Good News. It was called an emergency evacuation. They could only take a small bag with them as they were rushed away. They didn’t have time to say any proper goodbyes to neighbors and other friends or the community in which they were serving.

As a parent and grandparent, I am grateful that they were removed safely. But my heart hurts for them and the people they were reaching. Much of the town in which they lived is destroyed. Nearly everyone living in that town, a few thousand people, have fled. The reports are that the only people remaining are those who were physically unable to flee.

The people have scattered and not all of them know where members of their families are located, or if they are even alive. Some crossed the border into Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), some made it to other towns in CAR and others may have gone even further.

It is heartbreaking for my son, daughter in law and grandkids. The people who fled, and are now refugees through no fault of their own, were friends and neighbors. Some had come to faith in Christ. Many of them helped them to adapt and adjust to the town, the country and the culture. Those people are not just numbers in a news report, they have names and faces that my kids can still see in their prayers.

My joy is in knowing that God is still God and he is Lord. My heart hurts for my kids and for those people who loved my kids. My joy comes from knowing that my kids and grandkids know Jesus as their personal Savior and that they are physically safe. My heart hurts for the people who had to flee from their homes, their families, their friends, their work and their land because some others wanted to exert power over them.

My joy is knowing that no matter what my kids and grandkids are facing God is with them and that he loves them ferociously. My heart hurts knowing that I so often take for granted the ease with which I can minister and live for Jesus when so many live in daily danger.

Frequently, during the past 4+ years I have been asked by people “How can you let your kids and grandkids go so far away into dangerous situations?” My answer has been, and still is, that God is leading them. I either trust God or I don’t trust him. I am convinced that he is leading them, and that he was leading them when went to CAR. Therefore, I trust. That doesn’t mean I don’t hurt. That doesn’t mean I don’t ever have any fear. That doesn’t mean I don’t shed tears. That doesn’t mean that I don’t pray for their safety. But it does mean, that I also pray for their relationship with Christ. It means that I pray for their ministry. It means that I pray that I can what they need me to be as a supporter and prayer warrior on their behalf.

So today, with tears often escaping my eyes and landing dangerously near my keyboard, I pray and I trust. Today, I am joyful and have some pain as well.

Isn’t how it should be every day?

 

Dennis

Monday Morning Musings …

Yesterday had some great moments, some things that were very encouraging and just to balance things out it had some things that I wouldn’t describe as great or encouraging. Did your mind immediately go to negative possibilities? I didn’t say there were negative things, just that some things were not great nor encouraging. That means they could be just routine, or they could be negative. As for my musings …

-On Saturday, our church had a float in our community’s annual festival’s parade. It is a big deal around here with more than 100 entrants in the parade and thousands watching. The people who worked on the float did a great job. We had 15 or more children riding on the float or walking the parade route and 10 adults. We handed out frozen popsicle type products (I can’t remember what they are called). We had 1,400 of them and ran out before the end of the parade route. We also handed out some cards to families that had info about our upcoming children’s ministries on them. It was a warm sunny day in the 80’s with a little breeze. The kids were awesome through the waiting to start the parade and all the way to the end of the route.

-We celebrated that our Assistant Pastor and wife’s baby that was born 5 weeks early who was at church yesterday.

-Yesterday was the 2nd of 6 messages in our “Dream” series. This one was about daring to be courageous in taking the next step to pursue the dream God is giving. There were some illustrations from the movie “Christmas Story”. I was so excited about this series leading up to it, without realizing how much God was going to work on me through this whole series. Wow, I have a lot to work on in following God’s dream.

-My Dad was in the hospital for a couple of days again this week and a couple of days in skilled nursing before getting back to his apartment at the assisted living facility. He was very excited to be back in his apartment. It was encouraging to talk with him last evening. I know that each setback takes a little away and I cherish each conversation or visit.

-My son and daughter in law received their work permits from the country where they are serving in Africa. We have been praying fervently for this as their visas were due to expire at the end of the month.

-The lack of response to offering another disciple group on Sunday mornings was disappointing. I didn’t communicate well about the beginning date, but it was still disappointing. On a positive note, we have several people who are already in our disciple training. This was to a be new group.

-We had some new people in attendance yesterday.

-We have a new mid-week children’s ministry beginning this week. We will also be trying to offer a meal before our mid-week groups for a few weeks beginning this Wednesday.

-My wife began a weight loss accountability group last Monday with 13 in attendance!

-My fantasy football team was terrible last week and I still squeezed out a win. The only person I would have beaten in our league was the person I played. This week my team is playing much better and I will likely lose unless a miracle happens tonight.

-Our attendance was better yesterday.

-We are beginning a new small group next week for young adults with young children.

-Praying for a pastor friend who is preaching a funeral today and tomorrow.

-Praying for the recovery, and restoration, efforts in Texas, Florida and Mexico.

-My Cubs are still in first place, but the lead is slim. Good news, there are only 13 games left.

Here’s hoping you will accept the dare to be courageous in your faith and in following the dream this week.

 

Dennis

Monday Morning Musings …

This one is a struggle, just like many things were yesterday. As for my musings …

-Announced the resignation of my Assistant Pastor in worship service yesterday. He is taking a position with a larger church about 40 minutes away. He is going to be able to be full-time in ministry. He was part-time with us and had to work another job. He, and his family, are going to be missed. We wish them the best. Now we pray and trust that God has someone else in mind for us.

-I began a new sermon series yesterday entitled “Dream”.

-I found it a struggle to preach yesterday. It may have been the swirling emotions of announcing my Assistant’s resignation. It could have been that I had promoted this series and the beginning of some new fall groups and then the attendance was not good. It may have been that many people seemed distracted during the service. It may have been a lot of things. Whatever the reasons, the struggle was real.

-We are beginning some exciting new groups and ministries within the next two weeks. A new mid-week children’s ministry. We are going to try doing a mid-week meal for a few weeks. We have a parenting of young children group that will start in a couple of weeks. There is a weight loss and health accountability group that is starting tonight. A new discipleship group will start next Sunday. A 6-week Ladies Bible Study and a Bible study to bring healing to damaged emotions will start in another week. A lot is beginning, maybe too much. Some of this was planned, some of it is happening organically and all of it has great potential.

-Praying often for family and friends in the southeast that have, or are about to, deal with hurricane Irma. So far, the ones I have heard from are all safe. Some have damage to property, but are physically safe. In Houston and Florida, the recovery is going to be difficult and long.

-The American football fans in my family had a mixed bag of results over the weekend. At least 3 of us were happy with our college team, but none of us were happy with the results from the NFL. I specified “American football” because I have several family members who live where the subject of “football” means something different than a pigskin, 100 yards and goal posts.

-There is no doubt that the departure of my Assistant Pastor and family will be a setback for us. I am believing that if God moved him on to another place, then He has something in mind for us. In this moment, I am having trouble seeing it, but I am trusting Him.

-I was encouraged yesterday when a few people stated that they would be willing to step in and work in some of the areas that my Assistant Pastor has been leading.

-Praying for several people to become a part of the new discipleship group that will begin this Sunday.

-Praying that our church would be a place where people who have felt left out can, and will, come in and be welcomed, loved and able to embrace all that God has for them.

-My Cubs are still in first place, but they seem to be barely holding that position.

Here’s hoping that you can see some positive things in your path this week and that you can encourage someone else.

 

Dennis

Monday Morning Musings …

Yesterday was my first Sunday back to preaching at just one church. It felt strange at first, because it felt like I had a lot of extra time on my hands. As for my musings …

-I enjoyed being able to have breakfast at church and talk with several people before our Sunday School/Small groups. I especially loved that they served biscuits and gravy, one of my all-time favorites.

-My wife and I made a quick trip to visit with my Dad, stepmom and other family on Friday. It was good to spend time with them, especially my Dad. He had been back in the hospital recently. I was glad to see him back in his apartment. Then we all went to their house so that he could go through a lot of stuff in his office. He was worn out by the time we got him back to his apartment in the Assisted Living center. We got back home Saturday late afternoon. It was tiring but worth it.

-Things felt kind of flat in worship yesterday. Maybe it was the holiday weekend. Maybe it was attendance being down a little. Maybe it was just me.

-We got word this week of a couple of different people who were diagnosed with cancer. Our hearts are hurting for these friends.

-Our church had a pleasant surprise last week. My Assistant Pastor’s wife had a baby. The surprise wasn’t that she had a baby, the surprise was that he came 5 weeks early! Mom is doing great and the baby is doing well. He is still in the hospital while many things get checked out and to give his lungs, and other parts of him, a little more time to develop. We are all rejoicing and praying.

-One of the most encouraging parts of the day yesterday was seeing a lot of children in attendance. I was reflecting to 3 ½ years ago and rejoicing over the number of children we have attending now. Even more encouraging, is the fact that this was on a holiday weekend when our attendance was down.

-One of our elementary kids did some sign language during a song yesterday. I loved watching her worship and lead us in worship.

-My message was titled “Getting Back Up from Being Down”. It was looking at scripture to guide when we are discouraged, in despair or depressed. My prayer is that it helped some people in the moment and that it will help some people in the future. Another outcome that I am praying for is that we can be a place where it is okay to talk about our difficult times and help one another.

-Next Sunday we begin a new sermon series entitled “Dream”. I am very excited for this one. The hope is that we will embrace God-given dreams for each of us and our church. Also, that we will courageously act on those dreams.

-We are kicking off some new classes and small groups in the next couple of weeks, including a brand new option for children during the week. I have been praying for months that this would be a tipping point for our church and that we would experience an outpouring of people coming to faith in Christ, growing in Christ and impacting our community in even greater ways.

-Still praying for my kids in Africa to get government clearance and visas for the new country in which they are ministering.

-My Cubs are still in first place, and even though they won most of their games last week I am still not comfortable with their lead.

Here’s hoping that you find something to get excited about this week. I am praying that you will sense God’s prompting to dream and pursue those dreams for Him.

 

Dennis

Monday Morning Musings …

Yesterday was a very good day. There were many positive things from yesterday. There were some difficult moments, such as talking to 2 families who recently lost a daughter or daughter in law unexpectedly. As for my musings …

-A huge praise from yesterday is that at least 3 people made the decision to accept Jesus as their personal Savior! What a joy to see people accept the forgiveness of Christ. The message was entitled “Salvation 101”. I did my best to lay out the Gospel in a clear and meaningful way. People seemed to be very engaged throughout the message. I am praying that many more will make decisions as they reflect on the message or listen to the recording on our website.

-My heart was breaking as I spoke with a family at each of my churches who have lost a daughter, or daughter in law suddenly and expectedly within the last 2 weeks. I was wishing I had some magic words to bring them comfort. I assured them of my prayers and thoughts.

-Yesterday was my last day at my 9:00 church. I am now back to pastoring just 1 church. I am looking forward to having time during the breakfast and as people come and go from Sunday School/Small groups to visit with them. I have missed those casual times of touching base with people. I am also looking forward to being able to eat some of the awesome food that is served during the breakfasts at church.

-We had an awesome meeting on Wednesday with people who are serving in our children’s ministry, or who would like to begin serving. The attendance was much larger than we expected. The passion for kids and ministry was encouraging. Good things are in store for our children’s ministry.

-Last evening there was a youth gathering. That is a big deal because that is 2 times within the past month. We are growing a youth group. It has taken a long time to get this going again and I am so excited for the possibilities. They ran out of seating yesterday during Sunday School/Small groups in the youth class.

-This coming Sunday I will be preaching about how to get back up when you are down. We will be looking at what the Bible says about dealing with depression and discouragement.

-In 2 weeks, we will begin a 6-part message series entitled “Dream”. I am very excited for this series and have been working on it for a few weeks already. I believe it is going to trigger some great things in some people’s lives and in our ministry as a church.

-I don’t know what is going on with me, but I had 3 nights in the past week where I got less than 5 hours of sleep. The worst was Saturday night when I only got 2 ½ hours. Not good heading into a Sunday.

-My wife and I will be making a trip to see my Dad later this week. He was back in the hospital for a couple of nights recently. It will be great to see him, and my brother and sister-in-law will be there at the same time. It will be a brief visit, as we will only be gone about 36 hours. When you consider that the trip is about 6 hours long, that means we will not be there very long.

-My oldest grandson begins his second year of college this morning. Praying that he has another great year and that he can stay awake during his classes today. He just arrived from Africa last evening. International travel and a 10-hour time difference will likely take a toll on him.

-My Cubs are still in first place in their division. Still not comfortable with our lead or how inconsistent we are playing.

Here’s hoping that all your travels are safe this week.

 

Dennis