Sometimes I Wish You Knew

I define myself with clear priorities. I am first and foremost a follower and disciple of Jesus Christ, a born again child of God. I’m also a husband to an awesome wife, and a Dad to a wonderful daughter. Then I’m a Pastor to a great church. Sometimes I’m also a web and graphic designer. I love all of these realms of life and appreciate the people I’ve come to know in each.

As a Pastor, and I’m sure other church leaders will identify with what I’m about to write, I can say that there is tremendous pressure that few people realize. I don’t talk about it much but felt the need to clear my heart this morning. I hope you’ll appreciate the transparency here.

A congregation of a couple hundred people wait for me to speak each week. Right now, I’m speaking five times per week: two Sunday morning services, an evening service, a Tuesday morning Men’s Bible study, and Wednesday nights. I try not to acknowledge it much, but there is the pressure to be thoroughly studied and prepared to deliver a message with excellence and passion every time up. This is how it should be.

Families count on me to provide counsel. I have couples whose marriages I can’t seem to fix, people in financial need I can’t always provide for, and people dealing with huge questions and struggles for which I can’t always come up with an answer. I love them all and on a week with an intense amount of needs (like this one), I feel emotionally drained and exhausted. This is how it should be. No complaints.

A staff and organization waits on me for vision, direction, and leadership. Multiple ministry leaders need my input about spending money, starting projects, placing volunteers, and taking care of business in general. Tension in relationships is brought to me. I’m the leader, and I gladly accept it all. I love it. It’s how it should be.

All of these folks are not only looking for teaching, wisdom, leadership, and counsel, but for me to live my life as a godly example, walking with Christ. I must keep my walk and my mind clean. I must be prayed up and Spirit-filled. My message on Sunday needs to be the incarnation of my life throughout the week. And yes, this is exactly how it should be. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

But sometimes I want you to know that I’m weak. Sometimes I want you to know I cry at the end of a counseling session when I couldn’t fix a problem. Sometimes I want you to know I get to Saturday night and think of all the people I didn’t get to, that needed serving. I want you to know that sometimes I go home and think I did a pitiful job of presenting the Word. I want you to know I don’t feel capable or adequate sometimes.

Sometimes I just want you to know I’m not always the super-confident and ultra-positive guy I am when my task is to inspire others. I want you to know that while I’m hoping to help everyone else with the issues of their life, I still long for another child God hasn’t chosen to bless us with yet… I’m patiently waiting on God, but it hurts sometimes.

Sometimes I really need somebody to know just how weak I am so that the pressure will be off. And I think thousands of other ministry leaders are probably dying on the inside to say the same thing.

But here’s what I want you to know, even more than how weak I am – it’s just how strong God is. Paul did battle with some infirmity, either physical or spiritual, and begged God to just take it away. God’s answer was “no” on at least three different occasions. What did Paul learn from God’s denial?

Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong. ~ 2 Corinthians 12:8-10 ESV

When I am weak, God shines. When I am weak, I’m finally available to bring glory to God instead of myself. When I am weak, others see themselves and what God can do in, around, and through a weakling like me. This is definitely how it should be. It’s my calling, and I gladly and humbly accept it.

God has chosen to take “earthen vessels” (okay, cracked pots) and the “base things” of the world to absolutely confound the mighty and to carry His perfect and powerful message. He’s not looking for superstars, but for weaklings… like me.

I’m not complaining. In fact, I haven’t really been through much compared to the apostles and martyrs of history, and especially in comparison with Jesus’ suffering, so I gladly accept this calling and responsibility. I gladly take the pressure for the kingdom’s sake. I just wanted you to know how I feel sometimes, and how much I praise and appreciate God’s strength and power to see me through.

I wonder, do you ever feel weak like me? I can tell you all about the One who makes the difference.

Update, October 14, 2015: 

I wrote this post six and a half years ago in the middle of one of the deepest valleys I’ve ever lived through. I was struggling with depression (though I didn’t realize it for a year or so), frustrated with leadership, walking with my wife through secondary infertility, and headed for burnout.

Today, my soul is healthy (thanks to repentance, counseling, a sweet wife and good friends), as is my marriage, we’ve added two wild and awesome boys to the mix, and I get to lead a wonderful, grace- and joy-filled church. But I talk regularly to pastors all over the place who struggle with this inner turmoil.

You’re not alone. Someone does know. I understand. But way better, Jesus understands, and offers himself to you as the ultimate refuge and best friend. Keep leaning into him, into your spouse and friends, and into the Word.

Click here to read an important follow-up post with some hope to offer!


To God’s People: In Times of Gloom… Shine!

No Snow, Just RainbowsEarly mid-morning yesterday, reports began trickling in from various sources that Walmart was laying off people from the home office (located here in Bentonville, Arkansas). By day’s end, I think the number was around 850, maybe more. Walmart, McDonald’s, and Dunkin’ Donuts were three of the only companies that I had read about in the last month or two that seemed to be doing well in the midst of the recession.

Something about the news reports, emails, and phone calls brought a sense of locality to the recession – it has hit the somewhat shielded northwest Arkansas economy now. Like an approaching thunderstorm, it’s here on top of us now. So the clouds have gathered. The thunder rumbles. Jobless people lie awake at night wondering where they will go next.

Poverty isn’t a new challenge to the church. In the New Testament, an interesting story unfolds about the church in Jerusalem’s suffering. People didn’t know where their next meal would come from. The churches across Macedonia (ancient Greece) were suffering from th economic downturn as well, but they responded in an amazing way… they gave. Without ever knowing or meeting their family-in-Christ across the Mediterranean, they dug deep into their pockets (and their hearts) and gave. Paul said it this way…

For to their power, I bear record, yea, and beyond their power (ability) they were willing of themselves; praying us with much entreaty (begging us) that we would receive the gift, and take upon us the fellowship of the ministering to the saints. ~ 2 Corithians 8:3-4 KJV (emphasis mine)

In dark times, God’s people have the opportunity to shine! How?

  • By realizing and valuing the connections we have with the eternal family of God, regardless of geographic, cultural, and racial distances.
  • By praying… after all, God has obligated Himself to do certain things only in response to prayer.
  • By giving… even until it hurts.

I’m proud to be a part of Bethel Baptist Church in Bentonville. I’ve watched us give away about 1,000 pair of shoes in the last year. We’ve helped families within our church family, and without. Our people have made themselves available to neighbors and friends in whatever way is most helpful. And we’re in the planning stages of a major food supply initiative in our community.

We chose the slogan “the church on the hill” for two reasons. One, we’re on a hill and that’s how people identify us… “Yeah, you guys are that church on the hill!” Yep, that’s us. But then there is the issue of our mission within our community. Jesus said “a city set on a hill cannot be hid.” He went on to challenge God’s people to “so let your light shine before men that they may see your good works and glorify your Father which is in heaven.” That’s the real reason I’m proud to be a part of the church on the hill.

So, God’s people, shine. Pray, give, love, go, and tell the life-changing story of Jesus. Interrupt the darkness with some real sunshine!

Creative Commons License photo credit: macfanmd