How my Pastor Ruined My Life (and why I am thankful for it)

I am in the midst of preparing a lecture for a college class I am leading in a few days and have been contemplating some things about my own journey as a Christ-follower. In recent days I spoke with a pastor who said something to me that was highly “inward-focused” about his church. I thought to myself, “How sad is that…and why do I not feel similarly consider we both work in the same town?” Then it hit me! I’m pretty different than most other Christians I know.

As I thought back to how this could have happened…I realized who was responsible! It was my pastor! He wrecked my life!!!

Now I grew up in a church environment in the bible-belt of South Carolina. I went to church with good intentions…and because it was expected. I was part of a couple churches growing up but none of them really drove the gospel deep into my soul. Sure…I served in the church, attended the meetings and even played a little church league sports…but I still “drove” my own growth in the kingdom.

After high school, I joined the Army…traveled around and pretty much put the church on the far back burner. I still “believed” but really had no passion for the gospel.

At the age of 26, having returned to my hometown, I began to attend a church where I was challenged in a new way. I had a pastor who was witty, humorous, and incredibly gifted as a teacher. He taught me to read and understand the bible for myself. Furthermore, he had so influenced others that a couple of men in the church took the initiative to invest in me. (I would never have called it that…but would say that they had no problem inviting me to bible study, calling me into an accountability relationship, and demonstrating a manliness that I was unfamiliar with in the church.)

While under this pastor’s teaching, I came to realize that while I was “saved” I had never stepped up to grow as a disciple. There was no real fruit in my life because the roots of my faith were pretty shallow.

So…how did he wreck my life?

He forced me to consider the implications of the gospel! He did not do this by holding a gun to my head or by locking me in a dark room until I yielded. He simply kept putting the gospel and its implication in front of me.

First…he inspired me to read the Scriptures. It was ok to disagree with him but if I was to disagree with the messages he preached, I had better dig deeply into the Word. I learned how to do that by his teaching. He was a “pastor-theologian.” His teaching was solid, memorable, and difficult to ignore.

Second…he modeled and expected evangelism. He was a soul winner…personally. He was always at visitation and always challenging folks to consider their relationship with God.

Third…he was a man of deep conviction. Agree or disagree with him…you never wondered if he was convinced of a course of action or facet of belief. He stood firm in his beliefs…even at great personal costs. He modeled this in a very humble way.

Fourth…he was not afraid to “poke a guy” to get him to step up. I recall wrestling with the notion that I needed to do more for the kingdom. Sitting in a “committee meeting” one night…he asked me if I would lead the group. I was blown away! There were much more seasoned people on the committee including a couple of deacons, but he pressed me in a challenging kind of way…the way we ask a guy if he’s scared to run through a snake infested swamp at night. He might be scared but he would never admit it to another guy!

Fifth…he bombarded us with the mission. Not a missions program but with the mission of the church…to carry the gospel to the nations. We talked about it, prayed for it, discussed it incessantly, had conferences exposing us to it and celebrated it. He seemed to act as if the mission was more important than debt-retirement, on campus attendance…anything. His strategy was so effective, that I remember my oldest son crying at the end of one of the first mission conferences we’d ever been to because the missionaries were going back to the “field” and he could not go.

Sixth…when I sensed a calling to ministry…he “put me in the game” immediately. He challenged me at the core to “man-up” and embrace the calling…but only if I could not do anything else. When I came to realize that I had to embrace vocational ministry or I would die…he scheduled me to preach…immediately.

Seventh…finally, he prayed with and for me. I would schedule time to visit with him but the time was always short (or it seemed so). He would answer my direct questions but when he sensed that I wanted to know something that was best communicated by the Holy Spirit…he just smiled and began to pray for me…out loud…and then sent me away.

So…how did he wreck my life? Well it is not my own anymore! I used to have some control…or at least thought I did. I used to plan my life around my comforts, my desires, and my passions. Now I can’t stop thinking about God’s desires and God’s passions. I used to think my purpose was to make money and build a fat retirement account. Now I know my purpose is to wreck the lives of others…in the same way mine was wrecked!

I can’t change who I am now. The genie won’t go back into the bottle. But even if I could, I don’t think I would want to. Is life a little more unpredictable and exciting? That’s an understatement. Did I lose some friends along the way as my priorities changed? Nope…they lost me but I gained some new buddies who co-labor with me in the Kingdom.

So, Pastor Michael Cloer…you wrecked my life and I thank God for it and for you! I pray I wreck dozens more myself!

10 Things Pastors Hate To Admit Publicly

chrisaiken:

Here is a thought provoking post on ministry life. I can identify with many of these…many more than I care to. It is a good read…

Originally posted on pastormatt.tv:

MB Posts When Ellen and I were first married ministry was not our 20-year plan, the Navy was. We had it all planned out; we were to spend the next 20 years with me being gone for 15. The Navy explained to my sweet new bride how grueling it would be, that I would be gone often and that even when I was around my mind would be elsewhere. Knowing that my particular career path in the Navy would be a marriage destroyer I pursued a discharge for the pursuit of higher education. With the promise of a difficult future behind us we embarked upon an easier dream where everyone would love us and things would be calm: pastoral service.

Twenty plus years later I can tell you it has been a ride we never could have anticipated. So much so that only now do I feel equipped enough to share a…

View original 1,944 more words

POTUS…or Missionary? A Contemplation for Parents

Yesterday, after speaking on the subject of generosity, I was reflecting on the message as I often do on Sunday afternoons. As I considered the day, I had this thought from the perspective of a parent. “Would I rather have my child become the President of the United States…or serve as a missionary to an Unreached Unengaged People Group (UUPG).”

Two qualifications: First, I have great respect for our political system and am a patriot through and through. I am the guy that if the President called me today and asked me to serve…I would most likely serve in whatever capacity requested simply because the leader of my nation asked me to. I imagine most good citizens would do the same. Second, the term UUPG is a specific one. I am not speaking of being an evangelist at home or even working in an unreached area of our nation or world. The term is technical and is reserved for those people groups that are unreached (less than 2% evangelical) and unengaged (no one is actively trying to reach them with the gospel).

Now I am certainly NOT stating that one lost person is more or less important than another. To the contrary. I really am not even speaking about missions…as much as I am asking parents…”How much do you value and honor KINGDOM WORK?” Would it be a higher honor for your child to be the POTUS or a missionary to a UUPG?”

For many parents, the thoughts of our children living in a foreign land, most likely with danger afoot is nearly unacceptable. That’s significant but not yet the point. The point is, do we value the King and the King’s work so much, that we would give all that we had and all that was most precious to fulfill the King’s wishes? Or…as I suspect is the case for many…would we rather our child do something that is more comfortable and maybe prestigious in the eyes of the world?

The truth is, we likely will not struggle with whether we desire for our children to enter politics or not. We may struggle though in encouraging them to embrace the “American Dream:” and pursue a great career. We may want them to live close. We may want them to drop the grandkids by three times per month. But would we see it as a high honor if they hated all of these things in order to fulfill the calling and mandate of the King?

The answer is not a philosophical one. It is objectively measured. Do we affirm missions work? Do we take time to pray for and honor missionaries? Do we labor with tears over the lost who have no access to the gospel? Do we strive to provide opportunities for our kids to experience missions up close and personal? If we’d take our kids to a college visit but not take them to a mission field to serve on a short-term trip…can we really say that we esteem missions highly or as highly as we do a college education?

I am not proposing that I have all of the answers but inviting you to contemplate with me. I’d love to hear your thoughts…

5-5-5, Acts 17, Proverbs 14

This is one of the most telling missionary passages in all of the Book of Acts in my opinion. In it, I find counsel and encouragement.

Paul finds himself in Athens, the heart of Greek idolatry. It is a city of great learning, culture, the arts, and idol worship. As Paul finds himself there, waiting on the remainder of his party, he looks about the city and “his spirit is provoked” within him as he observes the altars to idols (17:16).

His response, of course, was not to blog about it :) or to start a crusade for a return to the old ways when it was less idolatrous. He simply began reasoning and teaching the Scripture. Paul shows us in this that the exposition of the Word of God illumines the mind and gives life. Now Paul began reasoning and explaining everywhere. He did not talk about it until a hotel conference room came available. He spoke in the marketplace and in the Synagogue. He talked to those who would listen. He assumed that since the people did not come with him on mission, they were the mission field! He explained the Scriptures. He explained that which is revealed through nature. He connected the story with reference points in the audience’s culture. He pointed to the Cross and the RESURRECTION!

Some accepted his teaching. Others delayed opinions. Still others thought he was mad. The responses were not the point fo the record. The fact that Paul told everyone, everywhere about the Christ is the centerpiece of the missionary enterprise. He sought to let them all know how they could understand and respond to the longing in their hearts for spiritual truth. He explained that God was the One who revealed Himself and that it was foolish to think that “little man”: could ever fabricate “big God.”

I think at times, we lose the sensitivity required to tell the truth. SUre, we live in a culture that says we must be sensitive to the people around us…to diversity. Paul was as well…but his spirit was provoked because of the ignorance of the people and the offense toward God. He knew that their actions were offensive to God. They worshipped idols.

I wonder if we even recognize the idols in our culture. Do we see family as an idol when it becomes one? Do we recognize power as an idol when it takes center stage in our hearts? Do we know that diversity and political correctness is idolatrous when it becomes more important than equality and truth? Do we call the love of money what it is…the root of all kinds of evil?

Furthermore…are we provoked in our spirits? Does the honor of God compel us to act when we see that which offends and profanes His Name? Do we act appropriately when that happens? Do we reason or do we yell our talking points?

May God grant us courage to declare that the ignorance of yesterday is no longer good enough. That God has seen fit to call all men to account and that He provided Justification and Salvation for all who would trust in His proof through the Resurrection.

Proverbs 14:15 is the takeaway today. “The naive believes everything, but the sensible man considers his steps.”

5-5-5, Acts 15, Proverbs 12

As I read in my text this morning, I was drawn to a particular verse that I want to share. in Acts 15:14-15, “Simeon has related how God first concerned Himself about the taking from among the Gentiles a people for His name. With this the words of the Prophets agree, just as it is written…”

In the information age, you can find far more opinions than ever before on just about every subject. The best writer or the blog with the most traffic is often given the greatest credibility for the opinion. IOW…we tend to measure the credibility of an assertion based on things like the author or the network their newscast appears on or whether it feels “good” in our spirit to accept it. In this way…many things have not changed.

In the time of this writing, the believers who had come for the tradition of the Pharisees spoke their opinion, based on their bias. Others spoke their opinions based on their bias. Ultimately, God preserved for us the path to TRUE AND LAWFUL AUTHORITY. The testimony of Paul was measured against the Word of God. Because it aligned with the Word of God, it was accepted. It was accepted (and actually affirmed) over the popular opinion of the Jewish people. The church turned to the Word to validate what had been suggested in their midst.

What a different conversation we would have in the world today if we did the same. Now I know we don’t live in a Christian nation nor are we designed to be by political structure. (our political structure is intentionally designed by our framers to allow for political and social equality without respect to religious affiliation). However, what if we decided major decision based on how they measured up against the Word of God. If so…we’d not have any laws against alcohol production or consumption. We’d have far more social programs to help the most vulnerable in our culture. We’d not even discuss things like abortion because taking innocent life is always wrong. We’d not pass laws affirming the normalcy of homosexuality and we’d stop funding laziness and illegal activity. We would not be a libertarian society nor republican or democrat. We’d be far different in our culture. Yes…we’d have differing opinions on subjects suggested but the debate would be shortened since they could easily be measured against the Word of God.

What we can say is this…our text here did not apply to the Roman culture but to the life within the covenant community of Christianity. Therefore, we cannot even reasonably point out the issues with the culture. We can, however, look at ourselves and ask simply questions:

  • Does my life measure up to the commandments of God?
  • Does my church budget reflect God’s priorities?
  • Do I feel about my pastor and biblical authority as the Scripture demands?
  • Do I love my neighbor sacrificially?
  • Am I doing what God would have me to do in my worship and evangelism?

The truth is…if we simply deferred to the Word of God in practice as we claim to do in principle, the church would be far different in character, in influence, and in power.

Proverbs 12:5 is the takeaway today. “The thoughts of the righteous are just, but the counsels of the wicked are deceitful.”

Reflection on Proverbs 11:2

Often times, we hear the words “proud” or “humble” and certain images come to mind. We might picture proud as someone who flaunts his looks, her intellect, or her stature. We might imagine an athlete that earned a gold medal or a businessman that closed a deal. At the same time, we may consider “humble” and imagine an employee like a housekeeper, a janitor, or even a seamstress. These images are helpful only if they lead us to truth and deeper understanding.

I have known leaders that were rejected “flat out” because they walked with great confidence or spoke with authority. Their image conjured up in the minds of others that they might be prideful or lack necessary humility. At the same time, I have seen some leaders who would accept no counsel and believed that it was “their way or the highway” that carried themselves with a quiet disposition.

In reality, that is being judged here are people skills. A smarter person might look to see how he is perceived by an audience and seek to adjust his image to be seen as he desire.

My point…neither of these image categories speaks of biblical wisdom or biblical pride. Solomon wrote in 11:2, “When pride comes, then comes dishonor, but with the humble is wisdom.” In this verse he is speaking about a journey of becoming, not a status. (He is prideful, she is humble.) He is speaking of our prideful or humble approach or response to God’s counsel.

Another way of speaking of this might be to use the word “teachable.” A Teachable person realizes that while she has confidence, she can still learn and that the best approach to life is to follow after the Lord. THis person is teachable. She seeks truth and wisdom in the Word of God. She searches her heart. She prays for God’s illumination of her own motives which exist in the darkest recesses of her inner soul. She sensitively seeks to know and do the will of God. She is humble. She may be a CEO of a large corporation, a teaching professor at a major institution, or a political representative making policies that affect millions…but she is humble.

The contrast becomes clear when we recognize that the unteachable man, the man full of pride, believes that he has learned what he must know. He points to the past or the present as the template for action. He relies on his experience because he has already crossed that bridge and now doesn’t need to revisit. He assumes that he has no impure motives and that he has correct knowledge of God’s will. In his mind, since he identifies as a Christian, whatever he does must already be the will of God. This man is a FOOL and is eaten up with pride…even if he is a housekeeper or if he speaks in the meekest of voices.

It is time for Christians to recognize the difference, lest we fall prey to the snare of the enemy. Just because someone smiles a lot and says encouraging things does not make him a humble person. He might just be the smartest wolf dressed as a sheep you will ever meet…and the last one you meet.

5-5-5: Acts 11, Proverbs 6

A couple of things resonated with me today as I read in Acts and I thought I might just share. (Not new things…just fresh reminders.)

  • 11:2-3. Some “religious faithful” “took issue” with the fact that Peter ate with sinners. Now before we get too indignant…we have to remember that these religious faithful were BRETHREN…so they are with us, not against us. They just have baggage. They have never NOT (yep…double negative) been Jews. Jews don’t eat with Gentiles. That’s what they learned in Saturday school. Jewish girls don’t date Gentile boys. Jewish boys don’t date Gentile girls (Samson and Delilah). So now, Peter had a meal with them. What interested me was twofold: First, it wasn’t what God reportedly did that bugged them. They never got that far into the conversation. They bristled at the methodology. Second, I love that Peter didn’t filet them right there. Often times in the Twitter/FB age, the offended Christian who bristles about methodology runs to blog about how worship/evangelism/the Gospel/ our music program is compromised. Peter gives us a proper example. Explain how it happened and what God did. Then let others decide if they will join God or not. (It really isn’t about the methods or about you…but about what God is doing).
  • The gospel is essential to Salvation (11:14). I mentioned yesterday the “rub” that some of my brothers would have with God-seekers…declaring that they don’t exist. Well…they sought, and when they heard the gospel…BY WHICH…they were then saved…well, you get the picture…
  • 11:18. Yep, they couldn’t dispute what God had done and since God is preeminent, they agreed and accepted and rejoiced in the Lord’s work of granting repentance to the Gentiles.
  • 11:23. There is something about the grace of God that is visible…because Barnabas WITNESSED it. So…if it isn’t visible…has there been a life change by grace? (Where’s the fruit).
  • 11:24. What a description. I’m going to preach on this.
  • 11:29. Real heart change and relationship with God reveals itself in compassion toward others, particularly toward the brethren. Here…PROPORTIONATELY…as each had means…the church at Antioch gave sacrificially for the brethren in Judea. (And they let Pastor Barnabas hold the money…once again proving that the Kingdom must have more than Baptists…since no Baptist church would let a Pastor even see the money ;)  ).

Proverbs 6:5. “Deliver yourself like a gazelle from the hunter’s hand and like a bird from the hand of the fowler.” (In the context of debt and securing debt for another, the writer says…get FREE! Create some margin in your life because debt is a trap.)