Outsider thoughts. . .

Today will be the annual district gathering of an organization I used to “belong” to. I chose to go on my own the day after resigning the church and resign my credentials knowing that I needed to walk away.

This is the day that people will gather and the comparison game will begin.  The district will provide a slick little booklet with every pastor’s picture and stats.  It was one of the most awkward and painful days for me every year.

Funny that I might say that because the church I lead was “at the top” yeIMG_1350.JPGar after year. Our numerical stats were great and never declining. Our ministry income steadily increased every year. My pain was for the men and women that never won in the numbers game.

As unfair and as unimportant as it is, denominations still continue to use the two stats of “nickes and noses” to assess the effectiveness of the local church and pastors. Many times in my thirty years of ministry the connections made with people, families and situations were not something that could be reported. Thankfully God kept track of such things.

Let me tell you one such story.  He was an old man that sat on his porch every day behind the first church I pastored. I waved at him often and sometimes had brief conversations. One day he stuck a shotgun in his mouth and pulled the trigger. I heard about it and made the trip to Louisville KY to see him.  He was in the Critical Care Unit and of course never spoke again. He lived for another year or so in a nursing facility. Somewhere during that next year and during one of my visits, he came to know Christ as His Savior. He never spoke but his face told the story of transformation. I preached his funeral and shared his testimony. It is still one of the highlights of my ministry years. Guess what? No part of that story could be reported and none of it applied to the numbers assessment. He never came to church and he never gave an offering. The church I lead averaged about 45 in attendance. Nobody celebrated that. Ever. Thankfully God judges by a different standard and He remembers things that matter.

To those of you sitting there today feeling like a loser please know that God knows what you have done over this last year. It’s not about attendance and offerings but about faithfulness and availability. You’ve been faithful to your calling. Be encouraged. Be strong. Don’t let this day defeat you or discourage you. I am praying for you today.

And to my former “colleagues” in ministry  . . . your silence has been deafening. I’m sorry I let you down but I am thankful for the grace of God that I never knew existed. You won’t get it so don’t try to understand. If you ever fall or fail just know that even if others walk away Jesus never does. He knows your name. He hears your call. He will take care of you in ways you can’t even imagine. At some point God’s grace surpasses the grief of failure and the missing of people you thought you knew and had a relationship with.

Filled with thankfulness today . . . for many reasons. Go enjoy your lunch which is often the highlight of the day at district assembly if you are honest.


7 thoughts on “Outsider thoughts. . .

  1. I’ve struggled with this feeling too. I’m not sure what to do about it. The past two years I’ve said “no” when asked to be platformed at Assemblies but feel an obligation to say “yes” when asked and ended up doing it anyway. One tension I feel is that I have seen benefits in other local churches from taking things we’re learning and applying them in their settings that have led to real life changing ministry in their local churches. It’s a tension I’m trying to manage for sure. I’m glad that on ORPAC we report stories of life-change from the past year and not just numbers at Assembly. This year it’s the story of Beckie (not her real name), who’s developmentally delayed brother (Henry…also not his real name) began attending church with his caregiver (Norma). He was loved and accepted and included in our Children’s Ministry through our Inclusion Ministry. His sister was moved by this and began attending too and felt loved and cared for by the church. She had lots of questions, but after about 3 months of attending she looked at Norma at the end of a service and said, “I’m ready to try the Jesus way.” She’s now meeting regularly with Norma learning what the Jesus way looks like. I’m glad that Pastor’s reports are taking up less time and sharing stories of significant ministry (compassionate ministries, life change stories, and lay ministry) is getting more and more time at these kinds of gatherings.

    Liked by 1 person

    • So well stated. Thank you. I wish that D.S.’s could see value in spending quality time with the 80% of smaller church pastors and really listen to their stories and hearts. It would be exhausting but it always seemed to me to be lacking in most places I have ever been.


  2. Sorry if I’ve let you down by not reaching out. I know how that particular organization acted when MY chips were down… not every segment of that organization acts that way… I’ll try to be a better friend.


    • Thank Eric. Certainly wasn’t thinking of you. I thought I had some pretty close friends but I guess my failures were too much to take in the end. I don’t hate them and I know I have to practice grace toward people because that’s how God set it all up. lol I have watched you on Facebook and love that you seem to be in a good place.


  3. Awesome. And as far as the “friends” who no longer associate with you….let them go. A true friend loves at all times. I pray they never fall from their pedestal. It’s a long ways down.
    I’d travel hours to sit under your ministry. I can’t wait to see you back in that place again, leading a church full of sinners just like me. My righteousness is but filthy rags.
    However “there’s nothing too dirty that He can’t make worthy! Washed me in mercy, I (and you) am (are) clean!”

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Amazing grace-how sweet the sound.
    So many thoughts and emotions I’ve struggled with over that particular organization over the years. You seem to be further down the road of grace and forgiveness than I am. Happy for you friend.


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