Welcome back, or maybe welcome for the first time. I started to blog last time regarding 5 lessons I am learning as I am between my old job as the lead pastor of Community Church (on the coast in South Georgia) and a new role as the lead pastor of Church on the Hill in NW Georgia. I will begin this new role on June 27th, 2021. My previous position entailed 22 years serving at Community Church starting off as the first and lone staff person in 1999 to a staff 30 people in 2020. I gave a lot of my life and time to the Glynn County community and to helping this church grow and make an impact in our area.
I know God used us there, but I also know I was far from perfect. I made mistakes (plenty of them). Some were made because I had never done it before, some were made out of stubbornness and pride, and some were made out fear as well. I have no sense that I will do it perfectly going forward. I am comfortable with the fact that I will not be the perfect leader, but I am seeking to evaluate so as to learn from the past. So I shared in Pt. 1 of this post a few of the lessons I am continuing to learn along the way – (1) God’s voice is greater than our plans, (2) Nothing is more important than the Lord’s presence, and (3) I cannot avoid the hard and needed conversations. I am sure I will keep having to learn these lessons until I graduate to heaven. And I have a couple of more lessons to share today. So on to lesson 4 & 5.
(4) The Church in America must wake up to be the church, and not play church. I believe most church leaders in America have felt this to some extent in this current season. 2020 was not a great year of vision but rather of clarity. Our weaknesses and gaps as the church became more clear/visible and were exposed in this season of crisis. Truthfully, I saw many good things during COVID but also many areas that embarrassed me as a leader. Many “church folks” were not equipped to handle this season without the Sunday morning experience. They drifted, fell out of touch, stopped watching video- church, and did not thrive. The reality that I had helped create much more of a consumer culture in the church caused me to grieve. As hard as it was, a large part of the American church needed COVID to shut it down and rediscover what is really important, and how will it function going forward. I do not have all the answers, but just a renewed desire to do church differently. The body of Christ needs to be alive and activated. The people of God need to live into their gifts and callings. Churches really need to hear the voice of God, and sense His activity in their midst on a consistent basis. Believers cannot just consume sermons and programs, but they must come alive, get out of the pews, and give of themselves for the sake of the world. I know I need to focus more on developing people and not just delivering content; more on empowering the body and not just engaging them in a service, more on training and not just talking to them. The body of Christ is too weak, too shallow, and too fickle. I do not blame that on the people. These are leadership issues that begin with people like me. I am asking God for revelation and grace to be more effective in this season to help his church thrive and not just survive.
(5) I need to take rest and sabbath more serious. The Lord keeps saying SLOW down! These are concepts the Lord has been speaking to me about for a while now that I have somewhat incorporated into my life – but not effectively enough. I believe COVID exposed once again a flaw I have in my wiring and thinking. I have a hard shutting my brain down sometimes with all of my racing thoughts so I just keep on letting my mind be occupied with work and ministry. It is not necessarily fear and anxious thoughts – those are terrible – but often just constantly thinking about ideas and initiatives, or reading another article or book. Subconsciously, I think I believe I could figure it all out and solve all the problems if I just keep thinking and working on it. Instead, I start to go backwards. I become tired and worn out, confused with too many thoughts and ideas, and subtly dismissing God’s voice because I am too busy thinking my own thoughts. I feel the Lord calling me to slow down… I have a high capacity and I use that as an excuse. I think I can do it all, and I end up doing less. Jesus calls us to take on his yoke and burden for they are easy and light. Jesus started his ministry by spending 40 days alone. He often withdrew for prayer. Jesus said that man was not made for the sabbath, but the sabbath was made for man. Sabbath rest was a gift for humanity. It was meant for rest, peace and trust. It was an act of faith that God could handle the world without needing our help. It was a reminder that we are finite and He is Infinite. It was a time to unplug so we can be recharged. A time to slow down so we can be re-filled and refreshed. A time to remember we are human beings and not human “doings.” I am committed to letting go more in this next season. I am not God. I can’t ever get it all done – but I can trust Him to more than make up for it. I can keep going – but I can trust Him to renew and refresh me. My mind must slow down so I can let Him speak more clearly. So what do I do? Turn off the phone more, shut the lap top sooner, and have an established Sabbath where I do not do any work – just rest. Just BE! Just Worship. Just connect with my wife and friends. Just rest and trust God to take care of everything else in the world. I know He’s got it under control. Amen.