2017 was …

This past year was not just another notch on the handle of my life, it was a remarkable year for many reasons. Here are a few of those reasons …

-I preached 12 funerals, participated in a 13th and participated in the later spreading/burying the ashes of 2 people whose funeral I had preached. In all, I was involved 15 ceremonies honoring the life of 13 people this past year. That is both a highlight for the opportunity to honor and celebrate the life of some wonderful people and it was difficult in sharing the grief of those families.

-When the year began I was pastoring 2 churches and overseeing a 3rd. When the year finished I was pastoring 1 church and still overseeing another one. I chose to finish pastoring the second church at the end of August. I began that assignment with the idea of helping that church through some transition. My hope was that I would lead them into a new future. That did not happen. It became obvious that some in that church did not desire to move in the direction I am convinced they needed to go. Therefore, I made the difficult decision to leave that position. I am still at the church I have been with since January of 2014 and I am still overseeing another church who has their own Campus Pastor. I am loving my role with these two churches.

-2017 started poorly for me. New Year’s Day was on a Sunday, and I was brutally sick. So sick that I did not preach, or even go to church. It was the first Sunday morning I had ever missed because of illness in all my years of ministry. I didn’t even miss after I had back surgery. I had that surgery on a Monday and preached that Sunday with staples still in me. It wasn’t very wise of me, but I didn’t miss that Sunday. I was so sick this time that I couldn’t even get up and attempt to go.

-This past year had a lot of loss. Not all the losses were related to funerals. My Associate Pastor and family left for another assignment in October. We were not able to pay him full-time and he was working 40 hours a week at another job while on staff with me. He was offered a full-time position at a wonderful church (I must confess that I wasn’t thinking wonderful thoughts about that pastor or church when he left, but I understood.) It was a big loss and we are still scrambling to cover some of the areas he filled.

-Last summer was our denomination’s quadrennial meeting. Where visitors and delegates from all over the world gather in one place for inspiration, fellowship and business. It is always a great time of catching up with friends and making new acquaintances. Our time there was cut short due to a funeral. The time we did spend there was so positive.

-Our Vacation Bible School was a great success. Some children made personal decisions for Christ. The kids brought in around $1,700 for missions. Many children attended. Some families have continued to attend.

-Our children’s ministries have grown 2 to 3 times the size they were a couple of years ago.

-We were able to begin some regular youth ministry.

-I made several trips to visit my Dad. Unfortunately, many of them were prompted by his failing health. With all his health issues the decision was made for him to move into an Assisted Living location. The Lord blessed, and we were able to find a wonderful place, He is doing better now.

-My wife and I didn’t get all the vacation we had intended. However, we were able to get a week away in Florida the last week of May, thanks to the help of some friends. It was a wonderful time together. That sun and sand sounds good right about now.

-This year we have witnessed 30 people make decisions to accept Jesus as their personal Savior!

-We were blessed to get a better vehicle in the early part of 2017.

-My wife continues to serve in ministry as my partner and does more serving in our church than seems humanly possible. We also, celebrated our 42nd wedding anniversary in 2017.

-Not being able to be with our son, daughter-in-law and their children is always difficult. But knowing they are following God’s call as missionaries in Africa helps to ease that pain. God’s hand of protection was definitely on them as they had to be in an emergency evacuation just before Easter.

-Spending some time with our daughters, sons-in-law and grandkids was so much fun. We just weren’t able to do it often enough. I am truly blessed with an awesome family.

-On Easter Sunday we saw 7 people accept Christ and 192 people worship with us. In December we witnessed 3 people accept Christ and we had 210 people worship with us on one Sunday. Praying for more and more Sundays like these this coming year.

-I continued to serve as a Chaplain at our local hospital at least one day a week.

-I began to help teach a class at the prison located just outside our community. The class is on fatherhood and I am teaching it with a couple of other local pastors.

-I also was given the opportunity to help coach volleyball with the 7th and 8th grade teams at the local school. I am really enjoying getting back into coaching volleyball. I love the opportunity to impact, and influence, youth in whatever way possible.

-There are many other things I could share from the year, but you have probably stopped reading by now so I will close this out.

-2018 looks to be an exciting and challenging year. I can’t wait to see all that God has in store this year.

Here’s hoping that you are excited about the possibilities around you as this new year begins.

 

Dennis

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Some Favorite Quotes …

Here are some quotes that stood out to me in my reading recently.

-“God cancels our debt, writes us into His will, and calls it even!” (Mark Batterson in Draw the Circle)

-“…unless you speak the language of your intended audience, you won’t be heard by the people you want to reach.” (Dr. Frank Luntz in Words That Work)

-“The difficulty down the years, as a rule, was not that men taught wrong doctrine, but that they did not live up to the doctrine they taught.” (A. W. Tozer in The Crucified Life)

-“Is anything too hard for the Lord?” (Genesis 18:14 from The Bible)

-“We are holy up to the measure in which we are God-possessed.” (F.B. Meyer in The Best of F.B. Meyer)

-“It cannot come out of you if it is not in you; and it cannot be in you unless God the Holy Ghost places it there.” (Charles H. Spurgeon in 12 Sermons on the Holy Spirit)

-“There is not a broken life anywhere which God would not bless with his Spirit if a person will only come to the place of total surrender to him.” (Arlo F. Newell in Receive the Holy Spirit)

-“I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being.” (Ephesians 3:16 from The Bible)

-“It’s not enough to be correct or reasonable or even brilliant. The key to successful communication is to take the imaginative leap of stuffing yourself right into your listener’s shoes to know what they are thinking and feeling in the deepest recesses of their mind and heart. How that person perceives what you say is even more real, at least in a practical sense, than how you perceive yourself.” (Dr. Frank Luntz in Words That Work)

-“What if we converted every problem, every opportunity, into a prayer?” (Mark Batterson in The Circle Maker)

-“Let God be as original with other people as He is with you.” (Oswald Chambers in My Utmost for His Highest)

-“There are two ways of exerting one’s strength; one is pushing down, the other is pulling up.” (Booker T. Washington)

-“If you can’t feed a hundred people, then feed just one.” (Mother Teresa)

-“…if you do not believe something to the extent that you appropriate it to your life, do you really believe it?” (A. W. Tozer in The Crucified Life)

 

Dennis

Random thoughts …

Sometimes I seem to have too much going on in my head. Can you relate? Sometimes it is difficult to sort my thoughts into neat folders that I can store on the desktop in my mind. Does that ever happen with you? Sometimes I think it is helpful to unload some of the thoughts and see where they land. It is sort of a way to see what is left standing after shaking out my thoughts. The hope is that some of it will begin to stick together and become productive and some of it will be revealed as wasteful and I will discard it.

-Some days I forget that I have the experience that I have, that is code for I try to pretend that I am not as old as I really am. Other days I feel it strongly. Some days I am grateful for my experience and on days when I am being philosophical I wish I could go back and do some things from my less experienced days (younger) with the knowledge I have now. Has that thought ever occurred to you?

-Some days I remember that I used to have a lot of hair on my head. Somedays I forget that I don’t have it anymore, but then I walk past a mirror, or out in the sun, or see the look on other people’s face and I recognize I have more skin than hair covering my head these days. At one point my girls began to say that I was growing another face on the back of my head. Can you feel the love in their statement? 

-Some days I physically ache for people to recognize that they can have an exciting, growing, personal relationship with Jesus Christ. For them to realize that following Him impacts all areas of life not just stuff at church. For them to hunger for more of Jesus and His Word.

-Some days I think I could still dunk a basketball, then I get up out of my chair and realize I must been dreaming again. 

-Sometimes I have a love/dislike relationship with myself. It is not dangerous and I have always believed that it helps me do some honest evaluations of myself which motivates me to do better at some things, at least I hope that is what it does.

-Sometimes I wonder why they don’t make mouse-flavored cat food.

-Sometimes I get frustrated by my inability to communicate the love of Jesus better.

-Sometimes I am overwhelmed with gratitude for the family I have and wonder how it happened. I married way out of my league and fortunately my kids and grandkids have avoided many of the errors I made. Also I am very glad that my kids look like my wife and I am sure they are as well.

-Sometimes I have great ideas. I am still striving to act on those ideas more often and more quickly.

-Sometimes I long to be able to communicate in such a way that people would recognize how much more God would love to do in their lives, or the life our church. There is so much more that God would love to do through us to impact our community and world.

-Sometimes I have lousy ideas. Unfortunately I sometimes act on those ideas. I am glad that people are usually forgiving.

-Sometimes I come across some of my early sermons and I think, how did I not get voted out as Pastor? Fortunately most of the people I have pastored have been very forgiving. Or else they didn’t hear me very well. 

-Sometimes when someone says “Pastor I think you use too much humor or I am not sure you should say some of the stuff you say while you are preaching”, I want to respond with, “If you only knew how often I didn’t share things I thought of during the message you would thank me.”

-Sometimes …

Here’s hoping you don’t think less of me for sharing these random thoughts.

Dennis

A Pastor’s Thoughts on Saturday Night …

Saturday nights are interesting for a Pastor. You have been preparing for Sunday morning all week so Saturday night becomes Sunday Eve. It is the night before. It is the night before the culmination of a least a week’s worth of studying, praying, fretting, practicing, worrying, anticipating, wondering and questioning. It is the night before the big test and there is another test just a big coming in a week. It is the night before an evaluation of how much your congregation likes you, at least that is how many pastors think. Saturday night thoughts are not all logical or helpful but for a pastor, at some time or another, they are all true.

There are many questions and thoughts rattling around in a pastor’s mind on Saturday night. Those questions or thoughts create a unique Saturday night prayer list for pastors. Such as …

…I studied, did I study enough?

…People were scheduled to get the building ready for tomorrow, I pray that they all did their part.

…Our teachers and small group leaders have been preparing all week, I pray the people in their classes or groups show up tomorrow.

…I am burdened for ______________ I pray that they are in church tomorrow so that they can be encouraged by the message and the people.

…Our giving has been running behind the expenses recently, I pray the offering is good tomorrow.

…I am really burdened for tomorrow’s message, I pray that I am able to get the right words to come out of mouth as I preach. I pray that the words I have prepared are understood and reach people’s hearts and minds.

…I pray that everyone who is scheduled to minister tomorrow shows up.

…I pray that our technology works tomorrow.

…I pray that some of my people are praying for me tonight.

…We have a lot of things happening in the church, I pray that people pay attention to the announcements and the bulletin.

…Many people have been invited to attend tomorrow, I pray that some of them show up. I also pray that our people really welcome any visitors.

…So many people are hurting in many ways, I pray that our people embrace one another and show real compassion.

…There are several who regularly attend without their spouse, I pray that tomorrow some of those spouses show up.

…What have I forgotten? I pray that I haven’t forgotten anything.

…I pray that I am able to stay focused amidst all the chaos that can take place just before the worship service begins.

…I pray that I don’t fall down as I go up to preach.

…I pray that I don’t mispronounce anything tomorrow (again).

…I pray that I am able to rest well tonight.

Here’s hoping that those of you who are pastors can rest well this Saturday night and that all your prayers are answered tomorrow. Here’s hoping that those of you who are not pastors will spend a little time thinking of and praying for your pastor this Saturday night. If you do pray for your pastor be sure inform him/her on Sunday, you just might be an answer to their prayers.

Dennis

Oops! Did I really just do/say that? …

In my reading this week I came across a list of actual statements made on résumés. I am confident that these statements did not come out exactly as the individual intended for them to appear. See if you agree:

-“Proven ability to track down and correct erors.”

-“Referees available upon request.”

-“Experienced in all faucets of accounting.”

-“Worked party-time as an office assistant.”

(These are courtesy of Dan Miller in his book “48 Days to the Work Love”. He was quoting from an article in National Business Employment Weekly.)

True confession time, did you have to read any of the above statements twice to find the error?

Reading the list of misstatements got me to thinking about times when I have had something escape my mouth while preaching or teaching that caused me to try and take it back immediately. Or worse yet, causes my wife to try hide as everyone turns to see her reaction. Some of these have been mild and others were cringe worthy. There was even one that nearly ended a worship service during announcements. Can you relate to this at all? Please, someone let me know that I am not the only one.

I have also wondered sometimes why some people have said what they said out loud. While honesty is necessary in our lives so is wisdom. Wisdom at times helps us to not say something just because it came to mind. Wisdom at times helps us to speak truth, but as scripture instructs we are to speak it in love. So what is missing in those times when what escapes our mouth is something we wish we could retract?

I guess today is one of those “random thoughts” kind of days. Good thing I am not speaking to any group today or I might be seeking to retrieve some of my words.

Dennis