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The City Blog

Still Worth It
Mar 27, 2017
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I recently read a little article called 11 Pains of Being a Pastor.  It sort of hit me hard.  It hit me as in, ‘this is really true’.  I’m going to give you the entire list because I’ve lived each one of these. When I read them I felt the hurt and sadness again in somewhat vivid color as names and faces of people flashed through my mind.

 

It probably won’t hit you quite the same way it hit me unless you share the same job as a pastor that I do. I’m wondering if it will resonate with you because, it’s my guess, if you are a Christian and you really do believe in all this Jesus stuff about reaching His world with His love and all that, you’ve been hurt. You’ve been disappointed because you care. 

Here’s the list that Pastor Chuck Lawless penned in his article posted on ChurchLeader.com.

  1. Some marriages at which you officiate won’t make it. You pray that they will and work hard in premarital counseling to counter that possibility, but it happens anyway.
  2. Some nonbelievers with whom you share the gospel with won’t listen. The pain is awful when nonbelievers just keep rejecting the good news.
  3. Some of the seemingly godliest people you know will fall into sin. I’ve done this work a long time, and I’m still shocked at times. The enemy leaves no one off his radar.
  4. Some church members will get mad and leave. The first time it happened in my ministry, I was defeated for weeks. It still hurts when it happens.
  5. Some spiritual heroes will let you down. No one intends for it to happen, but even our long-term heroes are still human.
  6. Some staffing situations won’t work out. That’s when you’re reminded that because you’re a leader, your decisions affect marriages and families. Letting someone go, especially in our ministry world that preaches grace, is seldom easy.
  7. Somebody related to your church may take his or her own life. I’m not sure I have ever felt so inept as when all my ministry efforts didn’t stop this kind of tragedy.
  8. Some people won’t know how to relate to you. No matter how hard you try to prove you’re a regular person, some people will be uncomfortable around their spiritual leader.
  9. Some days will be really lonely. When you’re quietly bearing the burdens of others, the weight can be heavy and the hours long.
  10. Somebody may criticize your family. Even the people we most love aren’t immune from the attacks of church members—some who genuinely mean well, but some who are just plain mean.
  11. Some of your friends may betray you. It happened to Jesus, and it can happen to us, too.

 

I think numbers 4 and 10 evoke the deepest pain for me.

 

I’m thinking that you can relate to a bunch of these if you’ve cared enough to purposely engage people in this thing we call ministry.  When we pray for people, call people, reach towards people, encourage people, love people, share with people, give to people and then we pray some more and things don’t move in the direction we were hoping, it’s heart breaking.  When we were so sure that, ‘GOD WAS IN THIS’, and then He wasn’t…it’s disappointing. When we felt we heard His voice so clearly and did all we could to move towards His leadership but it just didn’t work out, we’re more than confused.  We’re hurt…even angry!

I really do want to be used by God. I know I screw it up all the time.  But I try. I really do try.  I pray hard. I try to be generous with my time and resources.  My family sacrifices so much, more than I do. I try to make myself available to as many people as possible.  I study like crazy and try to listen to God’s leadership so I can bring the best message that I possibly can week in and week out. I counsel. I strategize. I encourage.

 

I simply do the best that I can but they leave anyway. People divorce. People get angry or disappointed. People criticize. They don’t respond, serving needs go unmet and the list goes on.

I write all that not to get any ‘nice comments’ or to make anybody feel sorry for me.  Not at all.

 

I just wanted to say that with all these ‘pains’ in mind, I would still do it all over again. I’d leave my career in business, building homes to build the kingdom all over again. The joys of pastoring are so powerful that I’ll take the risk of these pains any day.

I am so grateful for a church that has let me ‘grow up’ as we’ve grown up. I have made so many leadership mistakes and the little church I serve has loved me through them. I am grateful for the countless gentle words of encouragement. I’m grateful for the partnership found in countless acts of sacrifice that has built our faith community.

Yes, there has been pain, deep pain at times. But the joy that God has given overshadows everything. Simple joy from seeing God at work in big and small ways.  Joy from knowing that God has allowed me to play a role, even a slight role in some of it.

And I’d like to remind you of the same thing.  That following God’s call into Kingdom Building often comes with hurt and disappointment. People will let you down. Your church will let you down. It’ll seem that God hasn’t come through for you or maybe you’ll wake up one day thinking you heard His call all wrong and you’re the wrong man or woman for the job.  You’ll think it’s easier if somebody else does the work of God.

Let me tell you friends, it’s worth it.  The joy of knowing that you are quietly answering the call of God overshadows the pain.  Trust Him. Keep praying. Keep reaching. Keep serving.  Keep building His Kingdom. 

Here’s how Paul, the great Kingdom Builder, once said it.

For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. 2nd Corinthians 4:17. 

Paul knew trouble. Boy did he know the pain of ministry. But he also knew an eternal glory that made it all worth it.

I’d like to think that Lynette and I have made a small difference in the lives of the thousands that call Metro their church home. I can truthfully say you have made a difference in our lives.  And I’m guessing that you too have made a difference in your world!

The City Blog

Dreams and Excuses
Feb 06, 2017
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Let’s be honest… you and I, we’ll probably never be the best at anything. Some people never try to be the best or even really good at something. Some people just don’t care.

But I care.

Some people seem to just be satisfied with average. Even less than average.

Some people don’t want to dream big or go far or achieve much.

But I do. I really do.

And sometimes I get a little envious of others' success. Ok, I get flat out jealous. I don’t mean to. I don’t want to. But I just have to admit, I do. I have to work on that and guard against it.

But I just want to connect with those who want to dream big and go far and achieve much. I think this drive is from God. God sets it in the heart of people to have ambition. It’s like He set a fire inside of some people and that fire won’t go out until that vision is achieved.

I think God does this in me. He gives me a vision of a preferred future and sometimes it’s like it consumes me. It’s like it possesses me. I go for it. I work hard.

I remember when we started our first buildout as a church. We were renting space at a high school for years. It was fun at the beginning, all the setting up and tearing down. All the super early mornings and really late nights prepping equipment so a hundred people could come and experience God in our church was exciting. I loved it. And it was worth it. But after a while I have to admit it became pure good ole’ fashioned work.

WHAT CAME NEXT WAS LOVE AT FIRST SIGHT.

We rented our first permanent space. It was a 35,000 square foot, old, run- down abandoned grocery store. I remember me and my dear friend, Mr. Ken Bussell, walking into that space. There were no walls, just dreams. And man did we dream.

I remember asking Ken if he had a napkin. We found a napkin and on It we started drawing lines that would eventually define the space that would become our first real auditorium and lobby, our first kids area and Journey Store. We even drew in a little cafe—all on the napkin.

Once that dream caught fire in us we knew we had to build it and believed God was telling us to. We prayed and told God we would try but we knew we needed His help. So we asked Him for help. We asked Him to do something that we knew we couldn’t.

Then God seem to tell me something. I said Ken, I think we can build this whole building out in 90 days. I don’t know if I was trying to convince myself or if I was trying to convince Ken. I thought people would come and sacrifice and believe God for great things. If we could get hundreds of people to volunteer like crazy we could do it in 90 days. We had no money. None. It took everything we had just to secure the lease. We took out personal loans for the build out. So we needed the volunteers. We trusted God for them.

Well, we moved the tools in on Halloween night. I remember that. Got to work the next day. Bummer is, we didn’t make the 90 day dream. It took us 111 days from the day we moved in to the day we had our first Experience in that building.

Did you read that right? 111 days to totally remodel 35,000 square feet with a bunch of volunteers. I remember that time. I was obsessed with the dream. I felt it was from God. (Looking back I have many regrets about the sacrifice my family made but that’s for another blog.) I remember being so driven that nothing else mattered.

So if you dream, what’s holding you back? If God is calling you to something, what are you waiting for? Recently we talked at MetroCITYchurch.tv about how church is the huddle. It’s where we group together and get the game plan going. But it is not the game! We are called to get out of the huddle and into the game.

What are you telling yourself that is keeping you away from God’s best for you?

I saw a list of excuses pastors give why they and their churches are kept from God’s best. It inspired me to come up with my own short list of what I hear people say over and over that keeps them from getting into the game:

“I just don’t have what it takes.”

“It’s somebody’s else’s job. It’s not my responsibility.”

“I’m not a leader.”

“It takes money.”

“I’m too old.”

“I’m too young.”

“I’m depressed.”

“I just don’t know what to do to get started.”

“I may not succeed.”

“I get jealous of others.”

“I don’t have an education.”

“I want everyone to like me.”

“I need to understand everything before we begin.”

“I’ve tried before, and I failed.”

“I don’t need a mentor.”

“Porn isn’t that bad.”

“That definitely won’t work here.”

“It’s my fault.”

“It’s not my fault.”

“I stopped caring a long time ago.”

“I can’t…”

A second century pastor once said, “Let us remove the ignorance and darkness that spreads like a mist over our sight and let us get a vision of the true God.”

Now read that again.

And again.

Until you see a big God you will never see a big dream in your life come true. Trust God. Believe God. Follow God. Obey God.

Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think. Glory to him in the church and in Christ Jesus through all generations forever and ever! Amen. (Ephesians 3:20-21 NLT)

You and me, we may never be the best at anything but isn’t it fun to think God’s dream for us is bigger than our dreams for us?

Thanks for Reading, Pastor Jeremy

The City Blog

A Way in the Wilderness
Jan 23, 2017
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It was one of those kinds of days at work today. Metro is moving to a new online database, Elvanto, and I HAVE to learn this for the teams I serve. But teaching myself how to do something is not in my wheelhouse. Databases aren't in my wheelhouse either. Did I mention I had a bunch of (self-inflicted) pressure to get it done and a lot of voices inside my head reminding me how bad I am at this stuff? Five hours later I left with little more than I started with, headed home and got into bed. It was 6 p.m.

I'm going to tell you a secret about me. When I feel defeated, I look at pictures of alpacas on the internet. Some may ask why, but I ask why not? Have you ever seen an alpaca? They are quirky and happy and funny and everything an online database is not. The pictures helped some but I decided to move to my second self-soothing technique, which is watching Tiny House tours. I love to imagine a little tiny house on a beautiful lake where the alpacas run free and databases don't exist. I'm incredibly self-evolved with my coping skills, I know.

Basically I was doing everything short of housework (I wasn't that desperate) to avoid my next task: writing this blog post. Once upon a time, I wanted to be a writer when I grew up. I was coeditor of my high school paper and a journalism major for a time in college. Most of my jobs have included writing and when I became a stay at home mom, I wrote a blog that was a highlight of my days during a sleepless, tough season of mothering.

But then...but then I abandoned the writing I loved so much. We left our church of sixteen years and the subsequent grief from the loss of relationships, coupled with the need to "put ourselves out there" every Sunday looking for a new church home just wearied me. I felt vulnerable and unable to take risks that made my writing anything.

And so I let a big part of myself wither.

Fast forward four years later and Pastor Jeremy mentioned the new church blog and how I might want to write on it. But although my heart leapt at the idea, I've been stuck hard in the mud of self-doubt. Uncertainty. Condemnation. The same voices I listened to when trying to learn the database and couldn’t, the same voice when I'm wanting to speak up at a meeting but am unsure, the same voice when I want to reach out to my husband after a fight.

Lara Casey says it like this: "We falsely believe we have to do it all, have it all, be an expert, be better than someone else, be the best, have it all together....and if we aren't, we hesitate. We don't move forward, we don't send it, say it, do it, surrender. We just sit in the lies."

Yes. That.

But friends, that's not the life I want to live and it's certainly not what I want to model for our three girls. I want to live a life of courage, of saying and doing and WRITING hard things that are true and good. I want to take risks in my writing because maybe I will connect with you and together we can feel less alone and say yes to all that God has in store for us.

So here it is. As Lara Casey says, "It's okay to grow slow and it's okay to be average". This year I'm going to push myself to write out of a place of security and love even if it comes out creaky. I'm turning away the lies and even the alpacas to lift my face to His. He says there is no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1), He says I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength (Philippians 4:13), He tells me I'm more than a conqueror through Him who loved us (Romans 8:37). And this, this especially: Behold, I am doing a new thing, now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert. (Isaiah 43:19). That is what our loving Father says about us and that is TRUTH.

Will you join me in this? Do one small thing this week that may look small to the world but is a leap of faith for you. Take a risk to listen to His voice and do that hard thing. For me, it's going to be "pressing send" at the end of this. What will it be for you? Tell me about it so I can pray for you and encourage you.

The City Blog

The Reason for the Season and Everything Else
Jan 10, 2017
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The Reason for the Season…and Everything Else.

“Why?” 

For some reason I have been feeling a little discontent and restless and confused about several things in my life lately, so I have been doing some soul-searching.  For me, this mostly means asking myself the question: “Why?”  Why am I doing this?  Why am I not doing that?  Why did that happen?  Why should I?  Why shouldn’t I?  I have found that the answer to the question “Why?” can tell me more about myself, other people and things that happen in my life than almost anything else.  As I reflect on some things I have said and done over the past couple of months, both good and bad, I am trying to honestly answer the question “Why?” 

Answering the question “Why?” will reveal who I really am and what is deep inside my heart.  Jesus once said: “Out of the abundance of the heart…the good person out of his good treasure brings forth good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure brings forth evil” (Matthew 12:35).  Only the answer to the question “Why?” from the depths of my heart can reveal whether something in my life is good or bad, right or wrong, meaningful or wasteful.

The “Why” of the heart is what really matters, but we must be careful because the “Why” is not always obvious to the eye.  Jesus once addressed a group of people who looked good on the outside, but he knew their hearts.  “This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me…” (Matthew 15:8-9).

So I am asking myself: What, or who, really has my heart?  What, or who, is my “Why,” because the “Why” makes all the difference.  Two people can come to church, but because of the “Why,” one is pleasing to God and the other is not.  Two people can feed the homeless, but because of the “Why,” one is sinning and the other is not.  Two people can do the same job, but because of the “Why,” one is good and one is evil.  If you think that is overstated, consider Romans 14:23: “Whatever does not proceed from faith is sin.”

If I want my “Why” to be pleasing to God in all that I say and do, then I must match my “Why” with His.  The Scriptures teach that God himself has a “Why” that defines his goodness…and also defines ours.  Jesus expressed it at the end of his longest prayer to His Father in the Bible: “I made known to them your name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them” (John 17:26).  In other words, God’s “Why” is that He loves Jesus, and He wants us to love Him too.

God created the heavens and the earth because He loves Jesus, and He wants us to love Him too.  God created men and women in His own image because He loves Jesus and wants us to love Him too.  God made a plan to forgive our sins because He loves Jesus and wants us to love Him too.  God sent Jesus to be our Savior and only hope because He loves Him and wants us to love Him too.  God raised Jesus from the dead because He loves Him and wants us to love Him too.  God will work all things together for good to make us like Jesus because He loves Him and wants us to love Him too.  God will send Jesus back one day to put an end to all sin, sickness, suffering and death because He loves Him and wants us to love Him too.  God will give us eternal life with Him in heaven forever because He loves Jesus and wants us to love Him too.  And God will express His wrath toward all who reject Jesus, because He loves Jesus above all else and wants us to love Him above else too – so much so that He will remove every obstacle and hindrance to the full enjoyment of both His and our love for Him forever.  God’s love for Jesus is His “Why” underneath all other reasons…for EVERYTHING!

Around Christmas, many people talk about the “Reason for the Season.” Well, Jesus made clear that the “Reason for the Season,” and for everything else, is that God is a Father who has a Son that He loves, and He wants us to love Him too.  This is good news indeed!

I want my “Why” to match God’s “Why.”  I have a suspicion that if I could learn to live with this focus, I would stop feeling so discontent and restless and confused.  I think it would help me react better, be more patient and forgiving with my family and friends, and find more joy and fulfillment in my relationships and work.  Will you join me on this journey into the One Great “Why”?  Why or why not?

“Whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him” ( Colossians 3:17).

Embracing Jesus as the Reason for the Season…and for everything else…

Pastor Greg

The City Blog

Moment Living
Dec 28, 2016
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It always strikes me with mixed emotions when I hear people say, ‘Just live for the moment.’ I agree.  We should live ‘IN THE MOMENT’.  I know I have trouble with that.  Being THERE when I’m there.  The stupid cell phone seems to call my name. Ha, as I just wrote those words the little ‘ding’ went off again and I’m going to stop right now and check who it was.

I’m back.  It wasn’t terribly important.

But it’s true.  You have to live IN THE MOMENT.  But living FOR THE MOMENT is different.

It seems to me that a lot of people seem to live from event to event or moment to moment.  They have a very short view of life and maybe even no view of eternity.  This strikes me as, well, short sighted.  (Pun intended.)  And not only short sighted but stupid. 

As Paul David Tripp writes in New Morning Mercies: A Daily Gospel Devotional, "There is no doubt about it—the Bible is a big-picture book that calls us to big-picture living. It stretches the elasticity of your mind as it calls you to think about things before the world began and thousands of years into eternity. 

It challenges you to think deeply about your life and your life after your life. For Christian people, the Bible simply does not permit you to live for the moment. It doesn’t give you room to shrink your thoughts, desires, words, and actions down to whatever spontaneous thought, emotion, or need grips you at any given time. In a moment, your thoughts can seem more important than they actually are."

So many live in the moment thinking the moment will last forever but it’s just a snapshot.  Forgetting first it’s snapped and then it’s shot.  In a moment, your emotions can seem more reliable than they really are. In a moment, your needs can seem more essential than they truly are. This is true.  Remember those I-PODS you really needed then you didn’t need because they came out with this thing called an I-PHONE. 

Trip says it this way: "We are meant to live lives that are connected to beginnings and to endings. And we are meant to live this way because all that we do is meant to have connection to the God of beginnings and endings, by whom and for whom we were created."

Stop living for the moment.  Remember that you were created for eternity.  Now is important but later is longer.  Be in the moment but live for later. Live for eternity.

This is hard.

Really hard. Because there are these moment that everything seems to hinge on.  Will you get that big job?  Will you get the girl?  Will the baby be healthy? Will the Lions actually make the playoffs?  And then there are moments that you wonder if you’ll even make it through.  Your world is teetering.  And it seems like nothing else will ever matter. 

But later does matter. And as Andy Stanley says, later is longer.

"It’s hard to live with eternity in view. Life does shrink to the moment again and again. There are moments when it seems that the most important thing in life is getting through this traffic, winning this argument, or satisfying this sexual desire. There are moments when our happiness and contentment shrink to getting those new shoes or to the steak that is just ten minutes away."

"It’s in moments like this that later doesn’t seem to matter and GOD IS LOST and eternity shrinks.  We lose our direction." We lose our momentum.  And we lose our memory.  Our memory of what really matters. Later does matter and later is longer.

Jesus had a remarkable way of reminding us of this.  He once said, ‘What does it profit you to gain the whole world but lose your soul?  (Mark 8:36).  WOW.  That’s a gut check.  He reminds of the sheer magnitude of eternal thinking when He says, “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven” (Matthew 6:19–20).

That’s hard.  Everything I seem to do is about laying up my treasure for the here and now.  I hate this about me.  Why do we put so much value in the now stuff?  I really don’t want to make now more important than later because later really is longer. 

How about you?

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