Monday, December 28, 2009

Pastors and Congregations

A pair of recent articles published on EthicsDaily.com caught my eye. They were written by Bill Wilson, a former pastor and current president of The Center for Congregational Health in Winston-Salem, NC. The two articles are titled 7 Things Your Pastor Wishes You Knew, But is Afraid to Tell You and Seven Things Church Members Wish Their Pastors Knew But Are Afraid to Tell Them. The articles may be found at the links above.

Each of these articles are based on Dr. Wilson's reflections on comments made to him while serving as both a minister and a congregational consultant. His observations are interesting. I'll seperate this into two posts, commenting first on 7 Things Your Pastor Wishes You Knew, But is Afraid to Tell You.

Here is Dr. Wilson's List:

1.It's not their fault, but your minister didn't learn everything they needed in seminary to be a pastor. Like doctors leaving medical school, clergy need a time to do their "residency" and learn to practice in the field what they've learned in the classroom. Actually, that theological education never stops. So give your minister permission not to be perfect and always to be learning.

2. Every pastor must learn to "choose their guilt." There is always more to do than there is time to do it. Every minister must come to terms with an inherent guilt around what he or she did not do today. Too often that means their own family gets the leftovers. By the way, this is a dilemma for all of us regardless of our vocation.

3. Be kind if you have a criticism. Healthy clergy welcome constructive criticism. Everyone abhors petty nitpicking. Make sure you engage in the former and not the latter.

4. Have some realistic expectations for the pastor's family. How many ways can we say this? Please give your minister's family an extra measure of grace.

5. Err on the side of generosity. I'm not just talking about money, though I am talking about money. I also mean be generous with your attention, questions, interest, ability to remember family names, laughter, food, jokes, invitations to ball games and your life.

6. Your pastor loves you, but he or she may or may not like you. As in your family, there are days when your spouse, child or parent loves you, but is frustrated by you or wondering what they did to deserve you. That ambivalence is part of being human. Own it and expect it.

7. Your comfort is not your pastor's primary concern. Hope you know this. If not, read the Bible and remind yourself why your church exists in the first place. Trying to be priest (comforting the afflicted) and prophet (afflicting the comfortable) to the same people is confusing, messy and an invitation to misunderstandings.

These are some bold statements, but also interesting insight. I do know I will always be grateful to the churches where I first served as youth minister and later pastor. Each church was very gracious during my "residency" period. I'd be curious to here from church members out there - are the items he lists a surprise to most?

Thursday, December 17, 2009

New (and regular!) Posts Coming Soon...

Yep, I'm finally going to make the commitment. Beginning Monday, December 28, I will have a weekly posting each Monday morning. On December 28 I will offer a couple of different posts as I get a head start on my 2009 New Year's resolutions.

Also, downloadable sermon files are now available on our church's web-page. (Go here: www.southwestbaptistchurch.org/2852.html) We hope to make audio files available on a regular basis throughout 2010.

Grace and peace,
James

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Looking at the Now

This post first appeared in our church newsletter, The Southwest Spirit.

Last Saturday, July 11th, I celebrated the 10th anniversary of my ordination. It is hard for me to believe it has only been 10 years, mostly because of the way God has blessed me over that time. Ten years ago I was a single, youth minister, seminary student. In the years since I have been privileged to serve as an interim pastor, senior pastor, and for the lasts 3+ years associate pastor hereat Southwest. However, God’s greatest gift in this last decade has been Tara, and we celebrate 8 years of marriage next week. Time sure does fly.

The season in which our church finds herself will cause us to look both back to our past and forward to our future. However, as we look toward the future of our church and what God has for us, it is important that we do not let the present become what we ignore. Several in our church family have shared questions regarding plans for
preaching during this interim period. It has been my privilege to share with our church family from God’s Word these last two Sundays, and I look forward to continued opportunities. In addition, we will welcome guest speakers from time
to time.

This Sunday, we welcome back the Stockstill family. Randy, Robin, Kaitlyn, and Caid were active parts of our church family until their move to Vienna, MO, just a couple years ago. Randy will be sharing the message this coming Sunday morning, July 19. We also look forward to welcoming Dr. Alton Lacy, President of Missouri Baptist University, as our guest speaker on August 23. I am working with our deacon leadership to invite other guest speakers. While we face some uncertainty, this can be an exciting time for our church family. Please continue to pray for our church leaders, and I treasure your prayers for me as well.

Grace and peace,
James

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Reasons to Celebrate

This post first appeared in our church newsletter, The Southwest Spirit.

Life is full of reasons to celebrate. We celebrate at weddings, births, graduations, birthdays, anniversaries, and even retirements. In the best of circumstances, we celebrate at funerals. We can celebrate at funerals when we can rejoice over a life well-lived. We can celebrate at funerals because we remember all of the wonderful moments in a life. We can celebrate at a funeral when we know it is only a temporary good-bye.

In a way, this is the type of celebrating our church has been doing recently as Rudy and Doris prepared to retire. What a wonderful season of celebration it has been as we have remembered the wonderful memories of the past 30 years. Though Tara and I have only been here a little more than three years, we have our own memories we will treasure. And even though our church has certainly not been at a funeral for Rudy and Doris (and hopefully not for many, many years!), our celebration good-byes have been tinged with just a touch of sadness. However, we look forward to those special occasions when we will worship together again and perhaps even the day when the Pulidos will be a part of our church family once more. As we have celebrated with them and remembered their service, we also celebrate this next chapter in their lives and what God will do next.

Southwest Baptist has another reason to celebrate: God isn’t finished with us yet! Not by a long-shot. Our church has not experienced the transition which comes through a senior pastor change very often, but we are now in the midst of it. This can and should be an exciting time for us as we consider “the plans I have for you…plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope.” Jeremiah 29:11. Maybe that’s the best possible reason to celebrate!

Grace and peace,
James

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Remembering the Little Things...

This first appeared in our church newsletter, The Southwest Spirit.

Ministers, all of us, can be odd ducks. While admitting this, I do believe there is one way ministers have discovered something much of the rest of the world has missed. Some vocations express lofty goals, and many include notoriety. Sometimes an occupation even romanticizes its part in “changing the world.” Few ministers accept their calling with such a perspective. Sure, there is the occasional Billy Graham or Rick Warren, who attain international renown. However, most ministers serve faithfully for years, known well in local churches and communities but rarely beyond. This is probably how it should be.

Through all the years, lives are touched, hearts are changed, hurts are healed, and needs are met. For those outside the community of faith, these might seem like “little” things. However, those baptized, married, restored or comforted recognize how each “little” thing plays a part in changing the world – in moving God’s kingdom forward in this place.

Our retiring pastor has accomplished much for which he has received recognition. However, it might be those things for which little recognition has been given that are most important. Thank you, Rudy Pulido, for those “little” things you gave which we will forever remember, treasure, and keep in our hearts.

Grace and peace,
Pastor James