Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Striving for Excellence vs. Settling for Average

"The antidote to an average church is to look at the hearts of the leaders." - Cally Parkinson
I've heard it said that the higher the level of the leader the greater responsibility that leader has for their own mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual health.  Leaders become more responsible because they generally only reproduce the person they are.  

If a leader is only half heartedly investing in their own soul care they can only expect to produce average results in the areas they lead.  This is true of my leadership as a wife, a parent, and a pastor.
In ministry, I'm stepping into a new role with greater responsibility and I need to take these responsibilities seriously for myself and to those I am leading.  I feel like I have been able to fuel my soul and passion for Christ fairly well up to this point.  

I have genuinely seen God transform my character to become more like Christ over the past two years specifically.  I'm not the same person I was two years ago.  I used to think "you deserve better".  Today I'm generally grateful.  I used to be jealous.  Today I'm generally happy for others accomplishments and blessings.   I used to not see others needs because I was too busy to stop and really care.  Today I notice quite a bit more, although I'm still working this one out, especially at home.  God is continuing to do a transforming work in my heart, mind, and character as I spend time with Him.  

Yet there's always room for improvement, right?  Especially if I desire excellence in the areas I get to lead.  I need to bring it up to a whole new level. I don't want just an average marriage, an average family, an average ministry.  There's too much at stake for me to settle for average.  

I agree that I absolutely cannot expect excellent results if I'm exhibiting an average spiritual life as a leader.  I've got to take some next steps towards excellence in spirit. 
Just yesterday I cut off all games on my phone and am shutting down my facebook in the next few weeks here.  These things are robbing family, friends, and God of my ability to be truly present.  If I continue like this, average is all I can expect.  That's not what I want.  So, I'm done.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

When God Says...Shut Up

Shut Up was one of those "no-no" words in my house growing up.  Say it and you would be sure to get the look of death that said "oh no you didn't".  That look was all it took to never desire to say those words ever again.

But there've been a few times that God has had the audacity to speak those very words to me...probably because I left him no choice.

You see there are times when we know God is specifically calling us to start something or to stop something.  And we have all of our excuses to try to block out His voice.

"Start a new ministry" - I can't because I don't have the education, and I can't go back to school, and I can't afford it, and I can't sacrifice my family time, I can't because life is just too busy right now

"Stop being mad at a family member" - I can't because they hurt me too much, I can't because they aren't sorry, I can't because they don't even know what they did, I can't confront them because it will blow up in my face"

"Start inviting your neighbor to church" - I can't because they'll think I'm weird, I can't because we have nothing in common, I can't because we don't even talk"

It's been my experience that if I make excuses long enough, and hear God long enough he will eventually say "just shut up and do it".  Maybe God doesn't talk to you quite so boldly but that's just the kind of relationship that God and I have.  We say it like it is.  That get's me into trouble with others so I've generally learned to hold my tongue, but not with God.  I love that about Him.

One of the most recent "shut up" times with God was when I began reading the book "Leading from the Second Chair".  I came across this quote that rocked my leadership world.  "Building credibility and influence requires putting the prestige of your position aside and picking up the towel of service.  You must commit to serving your entire organization well, each and every day.  Then, and only then, will your peers, subordinates, and senior leader truly allow you to lead from the second chair."  

At the time I knew God was calling me to serve the church in a new way.  And I had all my excuses as to why I could not.  I can't because I'm an introvert.  I can't because no one will actually know what I do.  I can't because I like the spotlight too much.  I can't because it sounds like a lot of work.  I read the quote from the book over and over and over and asked God to give me the ability to say yes and to be excited about it.

I also came across this passage from Phillipians 2 during this time:

You should think in the same way Christ Jesus does.
     6 In his very nature he was God.
    But he did not think that being equal with God was something he should hold on to.
     7 Instead, he made himself nothing.
    He took on the very nature of a servant.
    He was made in human form.
     8 He appeared as a man.
    He came down to the lowest level.
    He obeyed God completely, even though it led to his death.
        In fact, he died on a cross.
In this moment God was saying, look at Jesus.  Do what He did, pick up the towel of service and shut up and serve.  So far, each time I've been willing to shut up with my excuses God has led me to become more like Jesus in humility, more free in who I was created to be, and more likeable because I'm just a better person as a result.  Now if only I could translate that into my home life as well as I do in ministry.  Teaser - that's the blog for next week I guess.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Just Serve

Yesterday it was officially announced that I will be serving as Campus Pastor at BridgeWay Community Church.  I'm really excited for this opportunity to serve the church.  Serve my lead pastor. And serve the community.  

To some this may seem like a sudden kind of thing.  But, for me it's actually been quite a journey.  Every step in this journey I've had one resoundingly clear calling from God.  It's been to "just serve"

I first felt called to ministry the summer before my Sr. year in college.  I was volunteering at a youth camp and after one of the services, everyone had left the building.  As I was walking out I felt God asking me to pray.  I didn't have anything specific to pray for.  So, I just sat down and I could sense God telling me "this is what I want for you".  Not very specific.  Right?  Just - "this".  For me "this" has always been to "just serve".

When I heard of a youth pastor position opening at Eureka Church of the Nazarene I felt compelled to apply.  I am so grateful that they offered me the position.  While there I learned how to serve and to lead.  My fourth year in ministry I attended a workshop where I was introduced to the concept of church planting.  

God again impressed upon me this call to "just serve".  I knew I was to help the church become the best it can be.  After a year of consideration (and probably more arguing with God than I'd like to admit) my husband Chris and I finally took God seriously.  We got connected to BridgeWay Community Church a year old church plant and began to "just serve".

The last 7 years have been full of all kinds of "just serve" moments as I've been able to serve and lead as Pastor of Family Life.  About two years ago Chris and I decided it was time to go through church planter assessment.  The only way to describe this experience is - intense.  The big reason we went through this assessment was we needed to have the question answered, "Are we supposed to plant a church or not?"  

Through that assessment I was able to discover that God has equipped me NOT to plant a church but to "just serve" - shocking right?  Since that is what God's been calling me to do all along. - DUH!

Basically I've found, owning my gifting and calling has allowed my leadership to flourish.  It has humbled me to become more like Christ and serve better.  It has pushed me to strive to learn and get better at everything I do.  It has fueled my passion for church health. And has given me more joy and energy in ministry than ever before.  

All along, I've never felt called to specifically be a youth pastor, a children's pastor, or pastor of family life.  Through this whole entire journey I've been called to "just serve" in whatever capacity I'm given.  

I'm excited about this transition and all of the challenges that come with it.  Most of all I'm excited to live out my calling in a new way and hope to ALWAYS "just serve" well with whatever opportunity I'm allowed in the church, as a wife, as a parent, as a friend.  Because that's what I'm truly called to do.