November 2, 2002, 11:01 am
Filed under: uncategorized

More hard work ahead . . .

I’ve spent the past week in two distinct modes. One, is the work my butt off mode in preparation for the church’s Harvest Celebration. I blogged about this before, so I won’t cover old ground. It went well, but I’m still exhausted, after having gotten a couple of pretty solid nights of sleep.

The other mode has been absorbing the implications of a decision made by our church’s leadership group this past Sunday. In preparation for a churchwide spiritual renewal process, the pastor has been given the opportunity to take a four week sabbatical. Good for him. He’s been through absolute hell over the past few months. I really am glad for him. He’ll be taking off just before Thanksgiving (the USAmerican version) and returning just before Christmas.

While I’m happy for him, and especially happy for his wife, this time will increase my workload and responsibility enormously. This isn’t like a one or two week vacation where we can put off making decisions until the pastor gets back. It’s very important that we continue to move forward and make decisions as though he were still here. That means a lot of people will be looking to me and expecting me to be a bigger guiding influence than I am currently. Oh yeah, and I’ll be responsible for preaching two of the three Sundays the pastor will be away.

There are several reasons for me to be positive about this situation. First, it’s an opportunity for growth for me (and I’m not being sarcastic here). I’ll be tested at a whole new level and stretched in some good ways. Second, it’s an opportunity for the church leaders to grow up and take ownership of what God has gifted them with. For too long they’ve been allowed to be cautious and hide behind the pastor – now they’ll be expected to step up and be real leaders. Third, this will give the church the experience of a plurality of leaders. What a concept! I also have the chance I’ve been looking for to teach people that the church has very little to do with organizational structure, programs, buildings, and titles.

There are several reasons for me to be anxious about this situation too. First, the timing of the sabbatical is pretty weird – right in the middle of the holiday season. It’s already a very busy time, and it’ll be that much more hectic. The holidays really flip some people out, so that means more visits with people, more intensity. Second, I’m already way way way overloaded. I already feel like I’ve been treading water. Third, and more important than anything else, Michelle. It’s a busy time for her these days, too, and I’m grateful that one of the really important ways that she gets filled up in life is by spending time with me. Obviously, that’s going to be challenging.

Michelle and I were talking last night about something that Jason Evans wrote in his blog a month or two ago. He talked about how so many pastors totally bail out on their wives for the sake of “the ministry” and leave them broken and alone. He said something like, “I look at these pastors’ wives and I just want to say [to the pastor], ‘You bastard!'” I desperately want to avoid that designation. More than that, even within all the madness that the next couple of months are about to bring me, I want to be a really good husband. I want to build things into this woman that make her better. I want to communicate to her constantly that she holds more value to me than anything else in this life. I want to stay sensitive and responsive to her, and not compromise our relationship for the sake of organizational expectations. There are times when true ministry – being with hurting people, feeding the hungry, praying for people – calls for sacrifices in the area of relationship, but if I fail in my covenant relationship with my wife, I am choosing the path of ministry impotence – the path that will suck me into the machine of religious obligation. I refuse that path.

I choose the more dangerous way of faith and grace. Faith will show me that I am incapable of doing what only God can. Grace will show me that it’s o.k., even when I try hard, but still fail.


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