My dad stopped by to spend a few hours with me yesterday and I realized very quickly how much and just why I love him. In my lost and wandering years I squandered the opportunities to know my father but God has been more than gracious in allowing a reclaiming of that surrendered territory. He wanted to buy me a birthday lunch so I opted to defy my diet and scarfed down some delightful Mexican food. While I imbibed upon handfuls of sliced, pickled jalapeños from a bowl, I listened as dad updated me on his life since he retired earlier this year. Then God (as he so often does when He meets with dad and me) shifted the course of the conversation to an avenue where I stood in need of hearing some important things. Though the bulk of the content of our discussion is not really good “blog material” I do want to say that the time with him was extremely helpful, substantially enriching and completely enjoyable.
I love my dad and I’m so grateful to have him around me.
After dad left and I had just a few minutes before another meeting, I found a couple of things he said sticking with me and becoming amplified in my heart and mind. We talked a lot about the ministry entrusted to me and some elements that need to come about in order for God to be more greatly magnified through the work here. One of the needs I was reawakened concerning as dad spoke was that my love for the sheep must always eclipse my love for feeding the sheep. In other words, it can never become my reality that the preparation of sermons, the crafting of written points, or the public delivery of God’s word would ever supersede my devotion to the sheep that are actually eating the feed. God’s call for pastors is that we are shepherds of sheep, not mere dispensers of the grain of God’s word. As a young man (who turned 41 years old at 4 AM today), I am prone to weaknesses that are characteristic of my age. Before anyone starts hating on young preachers, the older men in ministry have their own set of potential trouble-spots that they have to watch out for – we’ll leave those for another time. The younger men in ministry tend to be more driven than patient, more impulsive than thorough and more presumptuous than abiding. We have too strong of a reliance upon ideals and formulas about how ministry is supposed to be. Young men typically have far more answers than questions and therefore God often employs extended seasons in frustrating the formulaic thinking of young men in ministry. It takes a very long time (and quite a bit of pain) to remove the words “But it’s supposed to…” from young pastors’ vocabularies. God can certainly use the proactive, confident urgency of a young man but, if he ever loses his long range vision, all of his strength and zeal can serve to leave little lambs sucking down the dust he kicks up as he sprints from task to task. Some of the men who read this blog are pastors in their 30’s and 40’s and, brothers, I encourage you toward a long gut-check to see if the prickly shrub of impatience is causing discomfort in your heart. Those pesky sheep aren’t getting in the way of your agenda are they 😉 ?
Father’s Day is this Sunday and, if God so allows, I’ll be sharing another meal with my dad after the morning services at Meadow. Our conversation won’t be as focused as yesterday and I’m not expecting the topic to be ministry and spiritual gifting and people and the Lord’s orchard. My mom will be with us and so will Amy and the kids and we’ve learned not to hold them hostage to our ability to dominate the conversation with ceaseless tones of ministry mantra. I guess we will put aside the urgent issues of the hour and just be a father and his boy with their wives and kids. I’ll still be listening and I’ll still be learning because my father will still be loving and still be lending. My son will be at the table too and, though he is too young to grasp the significance of what is taking place, I hope that he will somehow understand that dads and sons can have it incredibly good…especially when they are also brothers.
Give to the ministry