First of all, let me start off with a thank you.
If you didn’t know it already, last night, my church family threw a party in my honor. Twenty years of sharing life together were remembered with food and gifts and some of the kindest and most gracious words anybody could ever express.
To all of you who braved the elements to spend the evening with Wanda and I last night, please know the night will never be forgotten. The statements of love and encouragement have made a permanent mark. I am humbled. Grateful. Inspired.
I got up this morning thinking about how the past twenty years unfolded. Ministers staying twenty years with the same church family is pretty rare. I get it. Actually, ministers simply staying in ministry these days is pretty rare. The statistics are pathetic.
After some restful soul-searching, here’s why I think I’m still here…
- I am no hero. On a practical level, you are. You are the ones who have faithfully placed money in the box, to make sure we’ve had a roof over our heads, food on the table, clothes to wear, cars to drive, and more comfort than we ever deserved. Every week for the past twenty years. Without that commitment, I don’t think I could have done this… the work I love, with the people I love.
- In my early twenties, I was mentored by a couple of older ministers, who taught me the value of staying. Church leadership is a very upwardly mobile occupation, just like corporate America. If you do well (grow bigger = do well) in a smaller church, a larger church will pluck you away, to join their expanding operation. It would be your reward for a job well done. I was taught to reject that as a motivation for leaving.
- It’s no secret my understanding of the role of the pastor stands at odds with the popular view of the pastor. The same is true for the nature of the church in society. I can’t help it. The picture of the pastor I see in the Bible looks more like Jesus, than a CEO. Because of that, I have never been able to bring myself to model my life or a pastor job description, by something that doesn’t exist in God’s word.
- The older I get, the less I feel pressure to perform or live up to pastor expectations that are found in most churches these days. I refuse to find my value or worth in how big or influential North Point becomes. This definitely allows me to appreciate NP for what it is, rather than what others think it should become.
- Somewhere, somehow, God has wired me to both accept and enjoy people as they are. This is not of my own doing. I can only see it as a gift from God. To be sure, I have had the responsibility to cultivate it and my upbringing, life experience, education and response to scripture have all played a part in molding my heart, but it is still a gift from God, for which I will ever be grateful.
- According to Ephesians 4:26 (In your anger do not sin. Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry.), I have always believed I have less than 24 hours to work through any anger I might have against a person. This is amazing for friendships.
I’m sure there are other reasons, but I’ll stop with this: I have never “heard” God telling me to go somewhere else. Because of that, I have never… not even once… considered leaving North Point.
- Not because I wanted more money (I have always had my needs met).
- Not because I could have more influence (I’ve got all I can handle here).
- Not because NP isn’t big enough (the value of a church family should never be judged by its size).
- Not because I thought I was failing (I have never felt like my work here was not worthwhile).
- Not because I was feeling burnt out (at times, I have been exhausted and confused, but never at the end of my rope).
- Not because of people who were hard to get along with (so few, it’s hard to even remember them).
I have a job description that requires I get things done, in order to justify my weekly paycheck. I understand and accept both sides of that coin. But North Point is my family. At the beginning and ending of every day, I am simply part of this family. No better than anybody else. No more important than anybody else. And because I believe that with my whole heart, I stay.
Hopefully for twenty more.