Tuesday, March 19, 2013

What a Ride!

Barb and I were with some Pastor friends this afternoon and we began talking about odds and ends of things and the conversation came around to important encounters with God. This blog started out being called “Thoughts of a Reluctant Leader” so you can see I had some problems with being a leader. I got a little kick back and changed it to what it is now, “Thoughts From a Regular Guy.” I have kind of journaled here my struggle as I pondered leadership and all that it seems to mean to many. Boy many times I do relate to David when they tried to put Saul’s armor on him...uncomfortable and not very helpful...it just does not fit! So unlike the clothing we see out there where it says, “One size fits all” leadership is not like that at all. One size does not fit all...not even close. 

So as we talked today we went over some of the events in the last few years that have had an impact on me so powerfully. I have had a few and being almost 62 years old I am afraid I may be repeating myself here but that is OK...it’s my blog anyway. I began to recount the encounter at a retreat called “Come Away With Me.” Awesome retreat held near Ashland, Ohio....highly recommend. Towards the end of the retreat during my one on one time with my spiritual advisor, I met Jesus, or really, Jesus met me in a powerful way. I have always struggled with feelings of inadequacy and more...like I did not have a voice. That whatever I had to say really did not matter...and I had better never question someone more important than me...which was pretty much everyone. I talked about how if I entered a room of leaders I felt like a fake and was afraid they would ask me to leave if they found out who I really was. I told my one friend, who had been a college professor at a Bible college, I would never dared to think I was his peer. Never. He had degrees...I had...25 years at Ford. He would never or has he ever made me feel less than...I did that. But it was how I lived. Then this encounter with Jesus...He gave me my voice back...tells me I do matter...and I do have value. 

One person at the table eyes began to water...she not only could relate but she could feel the pain I had felt for all those years and wondered how I could live this out publicly...in front of my church...how painful it had to have been. You know it really was not that painful...the healing part especially. It was life giving...I got back what had been taken from me when I was about 13...my voice. And I live it out in front of my church family because some of them need to know there is always hope...always time for healing. Never too late. Not too late for her either. But this is the cool thing...I got to see right in the room my voice...my story mattered...to her and her story. Man, God is so good. I lived thinking I had nothing to offer...and now God is breathing on things I never thought He would...He can...if we let Him. 

I talked about another encounter...another retreat...oh yeah...gotta love those retreats! This was for pastors only...Vineyard pastors...my tribe...my family. I think that is why this one had such an impact on me...it was my own spiritual family speaking into me. During the retreat each couple got to tell their stories...one hour per couple to tell all they wanted to. Barb and I were in a pretty good place thanks to all the stuff God has been doing and done in the other retreat. Our goal as a couple is to finish this race...and finish it well. So many we have seen crash and burn when they should be having the biggest affect. 
So after you tell your story the other couples and the leaders of the retreat would speak words of affirmation to you...not prophetic things...what they saw about you that was good...that was God. It went on for quite a while....really nice people I think. Finally as it kind of was winding down one of the leaders asked me directly, “Bill did you hear what was said about you and to you?” I said sure...but you know they were nice people and they had to say nice things didn’t they? He then asked me again and then said, “Bill this IS what we see in you.” It connected...and I think it connected because it was my family speaking to me...my tribe...the people I love to journey with. It really means something when your family calls things out in you...it sticks. It has stuck...I see God doing so many cool things...even the meeting today was out of this overflow of God working in me...and me feeling like I have real value and things to share. Amazing!          

Some of you can’t relate to what I am talking about...you are in a very different place and that is so cool. Others will know exactly what I am talking about...you feel the eyes looking you over...the questions on their faces. Now I hope you will experience God calling you out and restoring your voice...your calling. I hope if you hear or read nothing else but this...God is a healing, restoring God...and He loves you and believes in you.  I hope your family or tribe will help you find your place...that they will call out the calling of God in your lives...they will affirm you and support you. 

Before I began writing I was thinking of the healing Jesus did where the person had to turn and walk in another direction before the healing happened. I remember the lepers where Jesus simply said, “Go and show yourselves to the Priest.” And they went...and they were healed...one came back to praise God for his healing. I hope you will read this and understand that is what I am doing here...not bragging about the strides I have taken...but really I am overcome by how He has moved and healed...and I have to tell someone!  My healing journey has been just that...a journey. Like the lepers I have had to head towards the temple to tell others about my healing...as I am being healed. 

I admire and am so thankful for leaders who really do have it all together...but I would not trade my journey for theirs. John Wimber used to say that he would never follow or trust a leader that did not walk with a limp. Thank you John for making room for a guy like me...a regular guy...with a limp...and a healing. 

Friday, March 8, 2013

You Go Ahead...

I love to play golf with my son...and also My grandson now...he is just learning. Corey, my son, and I play at about the same level...bad. We might have a good day and we do not need mulligans to feel better about ourselves but other days...a few do overs help mightily. Most of you who are parents out there will get this next thing I am about to write. I really get more joy when I see Corey hit a great shot that when I hit one. (not that I do very often:) He can hit the ball further and I love to see him whack it a good one. I enjoy him sinking a long putt or pulling off a good chip...whatever he does it always more fun to watch him succeed. I still do not like to lose to him but I am getting better there. You really long to see your kids...grandkids do well.

As I continue to grow older, and I have not figured out how to stop that other than checking out and I am having too much fun to do that, I get the same sense as I see men and women God has placed around us do awesome things. In our 19 years of leading our church we have had men and women come through and go on that God has used and is using to do amazing things with them. One young man God gave the vision to bring the C back to the YMCA and God is using him nationally and internationally to encourage this very thing. Some other couples felt led to help start a local House of Prayer in Toledo...and they are doing that. Numerous couples and singles have adopted children...local and international. Another young man came to us from Nigeria and served us for quite a while in our college ministry. He has since moved on and is building a great ministry among students and travels nationally with some big name musical groups speaking and raising money for well in Africa. Incredibly gifted...out of our midst. We love every bit of it! They, and many more I cannot put here, are so much more gifted...doing such great things...making such a big splash in this world. So proud of them...so blessed by them.

As I look back I am not sure what part we would have played in all of this...maybe not much...but maybe quite a bit. I think the best thing we did was give them a place and space to go for it...do dream big...to take risks....I can remember the time Sammy was making a sermon point...can’t remember for sure what it was but it was good...and then to prove his point he ripped some pages out of the Bible. Oh yes he did! Got some feed back on that one...but I would rather lose a few Bibles than to stifle passion. Don’t think he will do it again...but your never know. 

I am always concerned when I see leaders who have to be the one leading and looking successful.  Using other peoples gifts and talents to promote themselves...to be always holding someone back because they are not quite ready yet. How do we get ready? Back in the day a church I was part of decided to have an elders in training program. To gather some leaders and train them to be elders...sounds good so far doesn’t it? But there was never a graduation date...no one ever finished...always in training...know release date. So when they closed the church doors I guess I was still in training...still am I suppose. It was nice to be noticed but it was a shame I could never graduate...or at least get kicked out. Leader was insecure...had a great idea...but not sure enough in himself to release others to lead. 

For some being “the Pastor” is something to be grasped and protected...a title for reverence. They are the personality that drives the church and anyone else can be seen as a threat if they have some level of gifting too. I drive down the street and see the billboards with their names and faces out there for all to see and to be drawn to. I find it kind of strange myself. I have never been ables to grasp the idea that this is my ministry...I am pretty sure it is Jesus ministry and I get to walk along with Him. I am sure I am a bit backwards in many ways but it makes me feel safer about who I am. I never carry business cards with me...first of all in my wallet they would be all crunched up and dirty...and I don’t think they are necessary...for me. 

I think my point in writing is that I am in a season where I am really enjoying watching others be fruitful that I have had some contact with. My friends In Zimbabwe are doing so well...I love to hear what God is doing with them...new small groups starting up...new life happening...baptisms. Training...equipping...evangelism...all cool things. Now I am not writing saying this is because of me, I am saying I was there. I have new friends and they are doing so well...leading like they were meant to lead. 

Working with a couple of friends out west of me in a small community. Man they have been through a lot of stuff and they are still going on...change is happening...and we are just hanging out. I told them I do not have programs and schemes to pick up the pieces again but I can be a friend. I can listen...I can pray. Maybe sometimes you don’t lead by being out front but you lead by coming alongside...help carry some of the load...carry some stuff.  Just a thought. Won’t sell many books to be sure...but might help a few continue the journey and isn’t that more important than book sales? 

In Mexico we hung out with the guy who gets everything done for the ministry there...hard worker...tireless. Seems like when we first met all he did was work and build and it is important for what they are doing there.  In the past few years I have watched as God has begun changing him though...to a pastor of a small colonia church...his wife is really running everything pretty much right now...but he is coming along. You can hear it when he talks...about God and about this church he is overseeing. How he wants them to be a people filled with His presence...how He wants to build a place of hope...how he longs to equip his people to succeed. I told him it is going to get harder and harder for him to be away from this church family...to build things.. It is going to get stronger and stronger on his heart to care, along with his wife, for the people God has put under his care. I love it...because it is like my story a bit...and my friends in Zim...we were just going along enjoying life and church...WHAM!...we are pastors. We fought it...denied it...prayed around it...then gave in to it. 

Funny thing the church we are working with nearby are men and women that knew this is what they were going to do...trained for it...pursued it...got it. Kind of different for me to be interacting with them a little...but good for me...and them. It will work out...they have some real organized leaders working with them also...I am just there for the relationship part. To be the old guy in the room whose knees cracks when he stands up...who lost all his hair...and his beard is totally gray. My only desire is that they do well...better than me...they finish this race strong. It is Jesus  Church...not mine...not theirs...His. I think He wants them to do well...don’t you?