Tuesday, May 21, 2013


Recently, I officially passed 40 and turned 41 years old. Although I never watched the show “30 Something” I remember seeing it advertised and thinking who would ever watch a show about people that are that old. I have always heard it said that, “age is just a number” but the only people who say that are old, so I have avoided that statement. After all, I have never heard a 20 year old say: “20! Wow, it’s just a number: I felt so much younger than that.” No, only when the reality of age hits us do we start saying that “41 is the new 21.”  Here is a news flash...it’s not the new anything! 

But, much of this is jest: age has never bothered me. I guess being a Pastor has helped that. I remember being a Sr. Pastor at 23 years old and wishing people would just see me as older.   Well, I am no longer called a "young Pastor"  so I got my wish.  But, with more age I pray has come more wisdom, a deeper understanding of doctrine and shifting of my views on some things. 

One of these lessons I want to mention, God has worked on only recently in my life. I have learned so much from godly men in my life that were older who simply invested in me in some way or another. The one thing that I was told consistently without any exception was that as a Pastor you just Can Not have close friends, especially in the church where you Pastor. From a practical standpoint this makes perfect sense: it is supposed to keep you from having to choose to be a Pastor or friend, it guards your family, it keeps you on task. For most of my ministry I have tried to live this way.  Naturally, I always had some people I was closer to than others, but I have always stayed on guard even with them. The constant difficulty I had was I knew in my heart that I would never give any other Christian this advice.  In fact, it was the opposite advice of what I gave at Church:  I would tell our members to pour their life into others, that church is "life on life". 

I was raised in a Pastors home and, while no home is perfect, our home sought to honor God. The difficulty was that my ecclesiology in my teaching and doctrine was not consistent with what I was doing, and that created a dilemma. I knew that if I invited people into my life it opened me and my family up to being hurt by someone.  I also knew as I looked at my life and how people tried to hurt my family, people that knew absolutely nothing about me and that I couldn’t pick out of a line up, that this vulnerability would cost. But in fact, I found that there were wicked people that didn’t know me, that would try to hurt people and wicked people that did know me, that tried to hurt people. One thing I did notice though, many of those that knew me and I had walked through things with them, they loved me at the best of times and worst of times. I was convinced that part of my calling was to live somewhat in isolation, and this was to be a mature self- sacrificing choice. But, as I doctrinally looked at this “choice” I couldn’t justify it biblically.  Do I really believe that every member of the body of Christ needs the body? Then from a biblical standpoint could I find a reason why I was excluded in this? Again, practically all the arguments ran through my head, from hurting church members feelings, to people thinking I was playing favorites to whatever else I was told by countless people through the years, but what constantly kept coming to mind was “if I would be willing to lay down my life for these people, if I must be willing to feed them, love them and answer to God for them, I not only have to know them, but they have to know me.” Sure not all of them will know me the same way, but they had to know me.

I would hear of the Puritan Pastors that were willing to invite men over to their house in order to model leading their family worship. I think of Christ who had deep open friendships with 12 guys and brought them in, knowing all of them would walk away in His darkest hour and one would have a hand in His murder! You don’t get more betrayed than Jesus and, knowing it was coming, He did it anyway. So, where did this leave me...us? Well, it led to me learning and leading my family in how to do this. I know to most this is probably something you had to learn in Pre-K and I did as well, but it is something I was willing to "sacrifice" for the call God put on my life. So, something I saw as a sacrifice was in fact, contrary to what God taught and what I would proclaim from the pulpit. In short, the catalyst for change was thinking through my own preaching, and reading books about the church and being a Pastor (Dangerous Calling by Tripp is outstanding in regard to this subject). I think the greatest help I have received is the way our sweet people that now call me Pastor have loved and trusted me, and a staff who is biblically rooted and are all on the same page. God used the preaching of His Word, the work of His servants and grace of the body I am apart of to begin teaching me a lesson that most of my congregation understands far better than I. We have friends that love us in spite of us (mainly in spite of me). We have friends that see us, warts and all, that are gracious and precious. In fact, the love that has been shown to my family has made me a better pastor: it has allowed me to love as more than a pastor, but also as a friend. It has allowed people to confront me as their brother and friend and not always as complaining to the "Pastor". It has allowed us to experience fun and joy which I thought for the sake of my "calling" I wasn't allowed to experienceIn truth, this prohibition was a form of self preservation and the fear of man. My family has people that we love like family, that we care for and long to serve - that is what the church should look like. Thanks for your patience with this 40 something preacher; I truly love you. My friendships may not always "look right" from your perspective but we are learning... at least God has given me friends but more importantly, He has given me a church family.

C. S. Lewis:

There is no safe investment.

To love at all is to be vulnerable.

Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly broken.

If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal.

Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness.

But in that casket—safe, dark, motionless, airless—it will change.

It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable.

The alternative to tragedy, or at least to the risk of tragedy, is damnation.
The only place outside of Heaven where you can be perfectly safe from all the dangers and perturbations of love is Hell.
—C. S. Lewis, The Four Loves (New York: Harcourt, Brace, Jovanovich, 1960), 169-170

No comments: