#505 - THE ONE THING PASTORS ABSOLUTELY NEED TO REMEMBER ON SUNDAY AFTER CHURCH

I am writing this on a Saturday evening in preparation for what I know I'll need to remind myself of on Sunday after church... 

Pastor, the number isn't everything.  

The number of people who attended the service.
The number of people who were first-time guests.
The number of people who were second-time guests.
The number of people who went forward to receive prayer.
The number of people who volunteered to serve on a team.
The number of people who "responded well" to your message.

The number isn't everything.

The number of people who didn't show up.
The number of people who were critical of you. 
The number of people who left without talking to you.

The number isn't everything.

The number of tweets from your message.
The number of likes on your church's Instagram feed.
The number of pictures on Instagram from your service.
The number of shares/views from your service on Facebook Live.

The number isn't everything.

What God is doing in His Church cannot be quantified by a number. 
How God is drawing in His elect cannot be tracked on a spreadsheet.
When God will increase His blessings cannot be predicted by an average.

So stop it. 

JESUS IS EVERYTHING.
JESUS IS ENOUGH.
JESUS IS SUFFICIENT.

His love for you is everything.
His approval of you is everything.
His life, lived for you is everything.
His death, died for you is everything.
His resurrection, claiming victory for you is everything.

And the crazy thing is, all of the above is true regardless of what happened in your service today!

And if, on this Sunday, afternoon, following yet another Sunday worship service, He is not your Everything...

You need to take a moment to "smoke" what you're "selling."

#504 - 3 COMPELLING REASONS WHY PASTORS NEED A HOBBY

I have been in pastoral ministry for seven years and over these last seven years I have seen many pastors disqualify themselves from ministry, quit the ministry, and continue in ministry void of any real passion or vision. Though there are many reasons for the "burning out" of pastors, I would argue that one may be, a lack of a hobby. With that in mind, here are 3 compelling reasons why pastors need a hobby: 

#1 - PASTORS NEED ESCAPE FROM THE WEIGHT OF RESPONSIBILITY THEY CARRY

It's heavy. The responsibility for the spiritual well-being of the congregation.  The responsibility to attain financial sustainability for the organization. The responsibility of leading a staff/pastoral team. The responsibility to consistently preach clear, compelling, and convicting messages from the Word of God. The responsibility to discover, develop, and deploy leaders. When each responsibility is taken seriously, "success" in each of these areas can weigh very heavy on a pastor's heart.  

A good hobby, on the other hand, is not heavy. A good hobby is not emotionally draining. A good hobby does not require leadership. Instead, a good hobby provides a momentary release, escape, and outlet for a pastor to experience joy and happiness in an arena that doesn't have eternal consequences! A hobby is not heavy, and, for a pastor, this is healthy

#2 - PASTORS NEED EXPERIENCE WITH BEING PASSIONATE ABOUT SOMETHING OTHER THAN CHRIST

As startling or offensive of a statement as that may be, the reality is, 97% of the people a pastor ministers to are passionate about something other than Jesus Christ and their relationship with Him. People are passionate about work, family, wealth, etc., and if a pastor doesn't have a real-time understanding of being passionate about things other than/in addition to Christ, He will be unable to connect with a majority of the people he comes into contact with. He will be ill-equipped to understand why/how a person could have deep affections for something other than faith. He will be unprepared to speak into, from a first-hand experience, how passions can leave you unfulfilled and wanting more.  

A hobby can give a pastor a taste of why people would invest so much time, effort, and energy into a thing. A hobby can give a pastor a feel for why someone would want to spend their Sunday mornings doing something other than go to church. A hobby can also be a reminder to a pastor, in a very real way (because a hobby can only be so fulfilling), of the sufficiency of Christ! Experience with a hobby, gives pastors empathy for people who are passionate about a hobby and this is healthy.   

#3 - PASTORS NEED EXPOSURE TO NON-CHURCH CULTURES AND NON-CHRISTIAN GROUPS OF PEOPLE

Church can be a bubble. The programs. The people. The priorities. If a pastor is not careful, the church can actually isolate him from the very world he went into ministry to reach! If a pastor leads Christians on his staff, interacts with Christians on Sundays, meets with Christians during the week, and goes to church conferences with other Christians, how will he even be aware of a culture other than his own?!

Whether it is running, traveling, hiking, cooking, etc., every hobby has a culture - a way things are done, a lingo, and a community who interacts with each other around their passion. Exposure to the culture within a hobby as well as to the non-Christians within the culture can give a pastor an awareness of the world that is absolutely necessary to reaching people outside of the church. Not only does exposure to non-church cultures equip a pastor to more effectively "speak the language" of the world, it also can give a pastor ideas of elements of culture that a pastor can "bring into" the church! Consistent exposure to a hobby's culture, pops the bubble of Christianity's culture, and, for a pastor, this is healthy! 

Though there are many "dangers" to a hobby, for pastors who are neck deep into their pastoral duties and overwhelmed by their responsibilities, I'm convinced a good hobby can be a gift from God. A good hobby, properly engaged with, can keep a pastor joyfully and effectively serving in ministry for more years had he not had one.   

How do I know this to be true? Because I have one, and it has been one of the best decisions I have made in my seven years of pastoral ministry. So what is my hobby exactly?

I am a collector of Air Jordans. And most recently, I have focused my efforts on collecting the models and colorways that Michael Jordan wore while playing in the NBA.

To view my "passion project" follow me on Instagram (@AirJCollector) or click here to see a part of my collection!

MAY 2017

5 MEMORABLE MOMENTS (APRIL 2017) 

  1. Celebrated "Last Sevice at Lisser."
  2. Sold car to paydown debt. 
  3. Enjoyed time with siblings in LA. 
  4. Experienced an incredible first "Easter at Elmhurst." 
  5. Started @airjcollector on Instagram and attended my first Sneakercon with cousin and brother. 

4 GOALS (MAY 2017) 

  1. Complete home office set up. 
  2. Begin using Storyline Productivity Schedule for work.
  3. Preach four messages with extreme clarity and deep conviction.
  4. Mow lawn and pull weeds in backyard. 

3 HABITS  

  1. Do devotional with Rebekah 20 times. 
  2. Go to the gym and play basketball/do plyometrics 20 times.
  3. Write 15 blog posts.

2 SACRIFICES

  1. No soda.
  2. No YouTube.

1 COMMITMENT

  1. Do devotional with Rebekah 20 times. 

#503 - MORE THAN FORGIVENESS OF SIN

Good Friday. Today is the day we remember. Today is the day I remember. 

Today is the day that I remember Christ's very real, very humiliating, very excruciating death on the cross...for me. It was through this single act of self-sacrifice that my sins against a Holy God were atoned for and paid for in full. Through faith in Jesus Christ and the events that occurred on this day and the subsequent events that followed, I can be forgiven of my many offenses against the God of Heaven and Earth and be brought into right relationship with Him. Incredible! I am so thankful!

And though the significance of this day is found in much of what I've just stated, this day also provides meaning that extends beyond substitutionary atonement. On this day, not only did Christ pay the price for our sins, He modeled the pattern for our lives. 

Much more was nailed to the cross than body of Christ and the penalty for our sin. 

Christ's will was nailed to the cross.
Christ's pride was nailed to the cross. 
Christ's desire was nailed to the cross.

Christ's influence was nailed to the cross.
Christ's authority was nailed to the cross.
Christ's significance was nailed to the cross.

Obedience to God is death to self. And never again will this be so clearly displayed than on the cross of Jesus Christ.

"Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross." Philippians 2:5-8

Paul writes, "Have this mind yourselves..."  

In other words, this act of sacrifice and humility isn't only what we should believe in, but this act of sacrifice and humility is also how we should behave like

The life of a follower of Christ is one in which we, like Christ, are to pick up our "crosses" daily and crucify our will, our pride, our desire, our influence, our authority, and our significance in obedience to God. Our purposes exchanged for His.

Because this was the way of Christ. This is the way of Christ's followers. 

And as difficult and as unfulfilling as "dying to self" may seem and, often times, is, let us never forget...

Everything that Christ willingly and sacrificially put to death, God miraculously and victoriously raised it to life. Everything Christ had seemingly lost, humanity ultimately gained. 

Death to self. Life for others. This is our assignment.

"I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat is planted in the soil and dies, it remains alone. But its death will produce many new kernels—a plentiful harvest of new lives. Those who love their life in this world will lose it. Those who care nothing for their life in this world will keep it for eternity." John 12:24-25

  

#502 - 7 YEARS. 7 COMPLETIONS.

This month (March 2017) marks 7 years since I responded to God's call on my life to vocational ministry. The time has flown by so fast, and I could have never known that walking forward for that invitation would have led to the following events that would take place in the ensuing years:

  • March 2010 - Said "Yes!" to God's call into vocational ministry.
  • August 2010 - Hired as the Interim High School Ministry Director at Crossroads Church in Fremont.
  • January 2011 - Promoted to be the Full-Time High School Ministry Director at Crossroads Church in Fremont.
  • October 2012 - Ordained as a Pastor.
  • March 2013 - Transitioned from my role as the High School Pastor at Crossroads Church to the Lead Church Planter/Pastor of theMOVEMENT Church in Oakland.
  • September 2013 - Launched theMOVEMENT Church in Oakland at Mills College. 
  • March 2017 - Prepared theMOVEMENT Church for its first major relocation to Elmhurst Community Prep in East Oakland to take place on Sunday, April 9, 2017. 

Being that in the Scriptures the number "7", many times, represents "completion" and something being" finished," I wanted to take some time to reflect on the things that I am absolutely convinced of after 7 years of serving God in this capacity. If I was ever asked the question, "What has God completed in your life up into this point?", this is how I would answer:

1. MY CALLING IS SURE.

Though there have been many joys over the last 7 years, there also has been much pain and heartache. For me to even desire to continue to be involved in pastoral ministry after some of the rough experiences that my wife and I have had to go through, I must be called to this work! No one in their right mind would subject themselves to the spiritual and emotional weight and responsibility of this type of work if they had the choice to do something different!

2. MY WIFE IS A GIFT.

I could not have lasted seven years in pastoral ministry without the love, support, encouragement, and friendship of my wife through it all. She has celebrated with me during my wins, consoled me during my insecurities, and mourned with me during my losses. My wife is an absolute gift, and if I am ever put in a position where I have to choose between her or the ministry, I will choose her

3. THE GOSPEL IS POWERFUL.

I have no job if there is no Gospel. The good news that Jesus Christ saves sinners is the news that initially saved and continually sanctifies me, and it is the only news that has the power to save and sanctify others. Time and time again I have seen the gospel penetrate the hardest of hearts and set free the most despondent of souls. There is no doubt in my mind that the gospel is the power unto salvation for everyone who believes!

4. GOD'S SOVEREIGNTY IS PERFECT.

Sovereignty to give blessing. Sovereignty to take blessing away. Sovereignty to provide resources. Sovereignty to withhold them. Sovereignty to grow the congregation. Sovereignty to decrease it. Sovereignty to bring workers. Sovereignty to remove them. Though I may not always like God's sovereign decisions, I have learned to trust them. In my life and in my ministry, God's sovereignty is my security because it is His will and His will alone that is worthy of my complete trust. 

5. VOLUNTEERS ARE PRICELESS.

There is no church if there are no volunteers. But more specifically to my role as a pastor, I have no sanity if there are no volunteers! Volunteers not only do the work of the ministry day in and day out, but they free me up to focus on the areas of pastoral ministry that I am uniquely called to: preaching and prayer. Though volunteers may work for free, their contribution is priceless. I am convinced that if appreciating and honoring volunteers is not my priority, frustration will be my reality!  

6. PARTNERS ARE INDISPENSABLE.

From day one, every aspect of my pastoral ministry has been supported by Church partners from all across the country. From the churches I had attended, to my sending church, Crossroads, to the Church partners who have invested in us directly, to the Church partners who have invested in us indirectly through the Southern Baptist Cooperative Program, without Church partners pastoral ministry would be an impossibility. There is such beauty in the unity of the Body of Christ, and I have, without a doubt, been a beneficiary of such unity.

7. THE PAYOFF IS WORTH THE PRICE.

The unchurched falling in love with Jesus and the local Church. The dechurched returning. The overchurched finding their joy in Christ and the local Church again. The city being served. Disciples making disciples. Marriages being restored. Relationships being renewed. Community being formed. Leaders being discovered, developed, and deployed. The payoff of lives changed is worth the price of a life invested.   

Though there is much that is "unfinished" in me and my ministry, it is my hope and prayer that what God has completed in me up until now would remain with me until my life of pastoral ministry is complete and I hear the long awaited words of my Heavenly Father, "Well done my good and faithful servant."