Sunday, July 25, 2010

Staying Under the Radar

For a long time I followed the advice that sounded quite good. "Stay under the radar". Apparently if you stay under the radar, you won't get asked to do those pesky tasks that no one else wants to do. You'll never be asked to chair the "committee for the statistical analysis of people who use social networking who may or may not be interested in church, social justice, or low-carb diets."

Sounded good to me. I really hate the "c" word. I prefer "task force" but even that is sounding too committee-like so I'm gonna have to come up with another name like "mission enforcement". Kind of gives committees new power that they all really want anyway.

In any case the under the radar philosophy was working quite well for me. I was the person in the back of the room at the meetings that you think was there but you're not really sure unless you look at the sign in sheet. I didn't get asked to do more than pray for someone's cousin's next-door neighbor's aunt who was having an endoscopy this week.

Then I got THE CALL. (yeah that one that preachers always talk about) I tried to apply this stay under the radar theory to my ministry. I was very hands on and really loved the people I worked with at the church but I tried to just lay low and hope for the best as far as my superiors were concerned. It worked too. I'm pretty sure that my DS didn't really know my name and that I knew only a handful of other pastors in my annual conference of the UMC.

Its easy to do with the following three step approach:

1) Wear the uniform. For pastors in the traditional church this is a dark blue, black or gray suit. In the contemporary church its jeans and a plaid camp shirt.
2) Always be the photographer. That way you'll never be in the pictures.
3) Never have a creative title. Pastor of Young Adult Ministries is more easily forgotten than Pastor of Ministries for Children and Children with Disabilities.

But as it always happens, when you really, really follow THE CALL, you end up ON the radar. If you are doing anything active at all, people start to notice. When you show God's love to others, there is a response. It maybe that they think you're a nut and avoid you in the future but you are now ON their radar. No matter what you wear, who you hang with, or what your position, you're making your mark with God's help.

Now I've followed God's call to Marietta and Cartersville, Georgia. I've got two appointments in two different districts with two new churches and we are both doing amazing things. I'm blinking BIG on the radar and I feel that I'm right where God want's me to be.

So go ahead and take the jump. Get onto the radar in a big way. Its the only way to make sure you take off and land safely and follow the path that God wants you too. Plus, you'll get to have my famous chocolate pie at the next committee meeting!

Until Everyone Hears,

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Inclement Weather

I was about to hand someone their "sign" the other day when I heard them say they didn't understand the term "inclement weather." To me its pretty straight forward: if my favorite TV program is interrupted to tell me about the weather, it is inclement.

Then they said something that made me go "hmmmm." They said, "Weather is weather. Sometimes it rains. Sometimes its sunny. Other times is crisp. Then again it could be warm. Nothing is really good or bad weather. Its just the weather."

At this point I could have argued that inclement weather is of the severe type that causes us to take shelter but I was so struck by her point that I let it go.

We always tend to rate things in life as "good" or "bad" when they really are just things. I know I sound a bit Pollyanna here but I think that we can really make things good and fun out of things that other people perceive as bad.

When I started out in the ministry, I got three regular negative responses:

1) The pay is low.
2) Church people are crazy.
3) Its hard on your family.

All of which are true (especially #2). However, these things have helped me budget wisely, put less emphasis on money, know that I'm crazy too, and put my family before my job but not before God. In return I've found these three regular positive responses:

1) This IS what I'm called to do.
2) I believe in grace for the sane and insane.
3) My family and church family has never been bigger or stronger.

So when the real or virtual weather out there seems bad, remember to stick close to your mission and calling, listen to your beliefs, and snuggle close to your family. Those will get you through most anything.

Until Everyone Hears,

Sunday, July 4, 2010

A Tale of Two Churches

"It was the best of times; it was the worst of times." The time of your life when you begin an exciting but possibly stressful adventure - the new job. In my case I've got double the excitement and double the stress. I'm the lucky one to be newly appointed to two churches as an Associate Pastor of Family Ministries. I split my time between them during the week and alternate Sundays.

Starting any new job has its ups and downs but these two have particular aspects that make them most unique:

The Worst of Times: (some of the challenges I'll face with this new appointment)

1) Are we there yet? Both churches are a good distance from my house. One is in Marietta and has the possibility for some major traffic jams. This week its taken me 45-60 minutes to get there. The other is in Cartersville and takes about 1 hour and 15 minutes.

2) Where am I? Keeping track of what church, what day, and who all the different names and faces are will force me to be mega-organized and to rely on my memory that may not be as sharp as it used to be after three kids.

3) What day off? Both of these churches are new churches (about two years old). Having worked at a new church before, I can tell you that it is a LOT of work. I'm sure both churches could fill up my working hours in a full time capacity but I'm only appointed part-time at each. I'm definitely going to have to delegate, equip others, and get used to saying "NO."

The Best of Times:
(the things I'm really gonna like)

1) Time to myself. I know the commute will get old sooner rather than later, but getting away from the kids and from work during the ride will be a welcome change. I plan to get a lot of praying done and to listen to my Bible on my iPod. It was during my commute to Buckhead, when I was a computer programmer, that I fleshed out my call to ministry so I'm hoping that this time alone will help me transform the world.

2) Variety. Sacred Tapestry and The Church at The Well are VERY different churches. Different from the church I grew up in and different from each other. I know that most people think that church is church so I won't go into details here but if you were to visit both you'd understand - we're not just thinking outside the box; we're shocked to find there was a box to start with and we're recycling it for better use.

3) Recalled to life. The main theme of Dickens' novel "A Tale of Two Cities" was resurrection. Many of his characters were given opportunities to have second chances and make their lives better. With each new church I go to, I look at it as an opportunity to take what I've learned and bring something new to the table. I get to flex my creative muscles and take things to a whole new level which intrigues me on a personal and professional level. By doing so, my goal is to enable people to experience a new life in Christ, to participate in His resurrection and transform the world. So honestly it matters not whether I'm part-time, full-time, or over-time, but whether I'm using the time God gives me to use the gifts He's given me. If I succeed in that, then I can say in the end "It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to, than I have ever known."

If you are ever in Cartersville or Marietta visit me at The Well or Sacred Tapestry, but please remind me of your name (and which church I'm at if possible).

Until Everyone Hears,

The Trickster

There is a character in most folklore known as the trickster. The Trickster at first seems to be a bad character. Who really wants to be tri...