Your Blog Steward

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Omaha, Nebraska, United States
I am more and more convinced that most congregations die from a staggering lack of imagination. Let's change that. Drop me a line on email or leave a comment if you have thoughts on God, Jesus, congregations, the church or whatever.... I look forward to our conversations.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Hanging Out

Early on in my ministry career, I heard the advice (from Henri Nouwen, I believe) that "interruptions were my ministry." Consequently, I've never felt that a hugely packed calendar of events and meetings defined what God called me to do. I am called to conversations, and sometimes they can be scheduled, and sometimes they can't.

For example, I've never really minded "meetings" as long as I got to set the agenda. A meeting, for me, is conversation about something...meetings that only meet to set up more meetings or to prove that one person is a more accomplished Christian than another make we want to put a pencil in my eye. A scheduled meeting can be a good thing or a bad thing, an unscheduled one is usually a disaster.

Catching up with people in their lives, however, is just the opposite. When I was first in ministry, I would schedule visits to people's homes, and they were so bad as to be painful. Here's a secret: people lie to pastors; especially if they know we're coming over. Everything is always so much worse or so much better when you tell a pastor something. I would sit in people's homes and look at the sparkling clean floors, still wet from Pine-Sol, and kids wearing clothes they hadn't even seen since Easter, and yet, everything is fine, everything is OK, and the world spins rightly on its axis.

But catch that same family at a grocery store or in the parking lot at school, and you see pain at children frustrated with parents, parents unable to cope with other parents, people stressed over money they don't have, and everyone pissed off at the government. Where are the clean floors and freshly ironed clothes? In the scrapheap of failed dreams and forgotten goals.

So nowadays I just hang out and listen. Sometimes people know I am a pastor, and I always tell people I am if they ask what I do. I've got no secrets. Plus, to be honest, most people have never met a pastor before, and some are genuinely curious about how I make a living. I try not to schedule too many meetings unless there's something to talk about that needs some serious conversation. I try to be more of a help than a hindrance.

I have never really had to prove myself in order to justify my existence. I am pretty comfortable being who I am. I am not perfect by any stretch of the imagination, and I don't consider myself "complete" or "with it" in any sense. I really like to hang out, talk and tell stories, and be part of the world.

I remember my college roommate really questioning how I could be pastor back when I started seminary. I learned one thing from that conversation that I have never forgotten and every day remind myself: my ministry will be defined by God, not by people. The only person I am trying to impress with my ministry is God. If others like it, or learn from it, or get support from it, or a kind word or prayer from it--great! But I do it for God, and in that way I do it for me.

So anytime you want to hang out, just let me know. Maybe we can schedule something? :)

May your tables be full and your conversations be true.


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