10 Things I've Learned as I Prepare to Pastor

 

I would like to dedicate this article to Rev. Dr. William Buchanan. He challenged me to not only be my best true self but allowed me to do life together with him to see his journey to true self.  Miss you Pastor!

Last week one of the quickest shared articles was "20 things they don't tell you as a new Pastor." One of the most faithless, rude, and ridiculous articles I have ever seen or read. It sickens me when someone shares the Christian faith from their wounds, not their scars. There is a huge difference. 

You may know it or not, but God has graciously allowed me to assume the Pastorate at the Historic Congdon Street Baptist Church in Providence, Rhode Island.  I am beyond excited for this opportunity to live into the call with some of the most amazing and faithful parishioners I have ever met.  As a new and transitioning pastor I have seen countless articles, had countless conversations, and endured countless criticism from people about pastoring a church.  I believe that one does not search for a book when God has called you to write the book.  Therefore, journey with me as I share with you some things that I, also, have not been told about Pastoring a church, but learned along the way. (Let's see if good news gets as many shares.)

1 - Faith is the only reason you assume the Pastorate
Faith is not something solely used in the terrible seasons of life but in all seasons of life.  The Pastorate is not like every other job.  Your faith in an unseen God is the only thing that will keep you once you lead others.  It is the only thing that guides your decision to even begin.  This is the challenge that Paul concluded with to Timothy, to hold on to the faith so many have rejected (1 Tim 1:19).  Do not wait until you Pastor a church to engage in your faith life.  Pray that God stretches your faith prior to even beginning to ask God to share with you where you need to Pastor.

2 - You know it's where you're needed when you have to wrestle with your yes
One of the glorious things about the Gospel is that God allows us to wrestle.  Not because we lack faith, but because it is allows you to pull your “yes” to the level of Gods “go.”  When I was praying and fasting over accepting the committee's nomination, it was a wrestling session.  In that wrestling, I accepted it.  This wrestling yielded true sole reliance on the Lord for everything.  God is not after taking my strength from me, God is after my heart.  A heart that loves God enough to wrestle with where he is sending you.  (Hint: You always win)

3 - Mentors are a ridiculous blessing. They will find you because they see themselves in you
No, do not text every Pastor you know trying to get coffee.  Pray over the people that God wants to surround you with.  For example, I have a close group of two Pastors that I share my life with, and them vice versa.  This also came after prayer, not “who has the biggest church,” or, “who will let me preach.” God led mentors will talk with and do life together with you, they share their joys and concerns that they have learned from.  In the end, God ends up revealing your future to you through their experiences.  Consider the lives of Elisha, Joshua, Peter, and Timothy.  The truth of their ministry was because of the tutelage, challenging, ripping, and shredding from a mentor who was God sent.  Who is that “group” for you? Find them, hold on to them, pray for them, intercede for them, celebrate them.  Just as you are heeding a call from God, they are also heeding a call from God to mentor you. 

4 - Your family is your number one ministry. 
If you can’t lead at home, you can’t lead elsewhere.  That goes for every aspect of leadership and life. Balance is up to you, not the church.  You decide when you send emails when your phone is off when you schedule meetings.  Church members only control your life if you never set the boundaries and set that your family is number one.  As Christ first loved the church…His wife, you love your family. Never allow them to question it.  That is all on you. If it's compromised, that's your fault.  

5 - Finances are only a problem if you let them become a problem
Similar to your family, you swipe the credit card or write the check…no one is forcing you to do it.  God has challenged you to tithe, not be the churches budget.  There are times where you will have to go above and set the standard, but that's not every week.  Also, when you are successful, financial stability comes for both the church and your family.  God has given you, and your church everything you need to be a faithful servant…that faithfulness that is blessed and rewarded.  Remember God wants us to worship one God, don’t let money replace Him…for as he did with the rich young ruler he will ask you to get rid of it.    

6 -Yes, people will judge you
Eyes are scrutinizing every move you make.  This raises two questions. First, what are you so afraid that they will see? Address that! Secondly, how can you lead the conversation? People can only talk about what they know.  Live a life that people can’t even begin to say you were a part of that “circle.”  Here's what excites me, God loves you so much that he is allowing people to look at you with a close eye. What will you do with that attention? 

7 -Friendships will dwindle, but your relationship with Christ will increase
True intimacy with God is what God wants.  And he will do anything to get you there.  Pastoring a church is a call for complete intimacy with God.  His heart connected to your heart.  His voice connected to your ears.  His words coming out onto your people.  Losing friends isn’t a terrible thing, it is a joyful pain.  God is removing the barriers to getting you closer so that your people can hear him, so you preach clear sermons much clearer, and you enhance your family life.

8 -Parishioners do judge your performance. 
Every job gets judged, no one exempt from that. Do you want a job that doesn't get evaluated by people who want to see Christ shown in the world? Well, let me back up.  Are you ensuring your preaching and teaching is challenging them to want to see Christ shown in the world or is it about your bank account, suit closet, and preface to your name? You get a chance to aid someone in molding and forming their gifts, and consequentially that person to challenges your overall faithfullness with their gift! Work together as the partnership between Pastor and People and allow that judgment to be constructive.  

9 -You are not the smartest in the room, and that's okay! 
If you are the sharpest knife in the drawer, your life is quite dull.  God will place amazing people around you because...he's the amazing one.  This isn’t about your ego, it is about his entrance into the world.  I am so grateful as I continue to fortify relationships with Congdon Street that I don’t know everything, but that God has surrounded me with people who can engage in critical conversations.  That's what makes it a partnership between Pastor and People.  Trust, pray, and lean on the truth that God will surround you with people who cover your weaknesses, not pick at them. 

10-Religious education is invaluable. Secular education is invaluable.
You need to know how to do more than just preach. You need to know how to do more than just think. What corporation wants a CEO that only knows how to do half of their job? You are the religious voice, and you are also the voice of leadership.  Pastoring is a heavy burden, but it's such a joy!

I get it. Some of you read this, laughed at me a few times saying “he doesn’t know” because of the one member you remembered that gave you all the holy Hades in the world.  I get it, I grew up a Pastors Kid. I’ve been in the meetings.  But, I have spent more time around Pastors who have been overly intentional and taken the Hades they receive as the place where myrtle trees find their place to grow.  I refuse to believe that the Lord will place his people in suffering over and over and over with the only good news as an occasional glimpse of the sun.  Christ speaks boldly. Remember this is his wife and you are listening to what the Husband is allowing you to do before he comes back to grab his wife. There are boundaries, there are rules, and there is a better leader!  This is one of the most rewarding and insightful opportunities in the world.  

As I transition, here are a few things I've become aware of  personally that I caution you to be aware of as a new, or current Leader of people!

-Don’t live for Facebook likes and retweets, you'll die!
I remember when I was watching my Facebook status likes one day after I put up a status that took me a solid 20 minutes to craft.  And as the likes and shares rose I was monitoring who was liking and loving my status.  I spent more time watching who liked it and worrying about who didn’t like it, that I deleted the status.  My entire day was determined by the click of a button.  As I transition, my life, preaching, teaching, sermons cannot be determined by a button! Christ lived by the example of being a radical, likes didn’t phase him.  So much so, it leads him to a cross.  If likes and retweets guide your doing of ministry, you will quickly stop doing.  

-Don’t distance yourself from your spouse
One week I was so consumed with meetings and phone calls I missed out on something big that happened in My Wife’s life.  Like, completely missed it.  It hit me when public ministry ends, she will still be there. Never forsake your family life for ministry.  Do you have intentional time to spend with your spouse/children? Do you know-right now off hand-their favorite color? Favorite outfit? Favorite place to eat? Is your sex life consistent? Your church will be nothing if your home is nothing. 

-Thinking you don't need help
At first, I always acted as if I had all the answers. So I entered into meetings and conversations with all the answers, realizing that never grows anyone around you…especially yourself.  I’ve learned to listen.  The smartest leaders listen more than they speak, for when they speak they speak with authority and equity.  If you are the sharpest knife in the drawer…your life is dull.  Remember that. 

-Time management and equality
As it goes with your family, it goes for your ministry.  Give equal time to those items which are most essential, everything else honestly doesn’t matter.  What will you be unable to get sleep over if you don’t complete it? Do that.  Everything else goes to bed. Honestly, you don’t care that much about it. (I highly suggest reading Essentialism by Greg McKeown)

-Find something non-church related that you enjoy doing

Most people use the Church as the place where they find a safe place to be apart from the world.  For us, we have to find our safe place elsewhere.  Sunday is a workday! I love cooking and basketball.  I not only took them up, but I invested time, money, and energy to getting better at them.  Those are my safe places.  What do you do for fun? What makes you feel fulfilled outside of ministry? Do it! You’ll see Jesus in it!

In the end, remember He that begins a work, will complete it. Whether or not it's with you is the question. 

Praying for you!

-Justin