Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Vision is Limited

Recently Barb and I took a few days and got away on the motorcycle for our anniversary. We knew of a quaint inn in south east Ohio that sets right on a river next to a dam. The second day we took off for a ride even though the chance of rain was high.  We rode to a town nearby and had lunch with friends and then checked the weather app and saw the chance of rain had fallen drastically so we took off for a nice ride through Hocking Hills park and beyond. Then it happened…rain. We put on rain gear and rode on trying to head towards wherever it looked like the skies were clear. Mind you we are in the country, with hills and winding roads, really winding roads, which is why we were there, to ride the hills and curvy roads…just not in the rain. So the rain kept coming and going until it mostly was raining. We began heading towards the area where the inn was located and we missed a turn or two but the GPS kept re-directing us toward our destination. It was raining pretty hard in places and we began seeing the water running alongside the road, down hill getting deeper and deeper. Missed a couple of big puddles and hit a couple of more. It was difficult for me to see to navigate our way on strange roads. Narrow roads with little space to pull off so we kept moving along with me straining to see the road in front of me. Seeing just far enough to make the turns in front of me we were not riding very fast just trying to work our way to a safe and dry place. There was a pick up truck following us in one stretch and I was very appreciative that he was giving us space yet I was aware he was there. Sometimes I think I focus too much on what is behind me rather than what is out in front. 

Then it happened…as I strained to see the road in front of me all I could see was water. Maybe 10 feet away but more like less than 6 feet away water was running across the road and there was nothing I could do. I yelled to Barb to hold on and she did what she does best…yell out the name of Jesus! We hit the water…I would guess at least a foot deep, maybe more maybe less but a lot of moving water across the road. As we entered the water I kept applying the gas and holding on as the bike squirmed back and forth. I was pretty sure this would end badly…but we came out the other side and kept moving. (I would love to talk to the guy behind me to see what he saw as we splashed through the water.) A mile or so up the road I saw a large building with an awning on the left so I pulled into the gravel lot and pulled all the way up under the awning and we got off the bike. To say I was a little shaken would be an understatement and yet Barb was like, “That went pretty well didn’t it?” She told me,” I knew you could do it so I was not afraid at all…well other than asking Jesus for help loudly and He did. Jesus helped!” The rain slowed down and we finished our trip to the inn…I am not sure it even rained there! Sunlight broke through and we were safe. 

 This is leadership for me. I do not always see way out in front with great clarity. Fact is most of the time it seems like I am struggling to see through a foggy, wet windshield in a rain storm navigating one curve or hill at a time. Rarely do I feel like I am traveling familiar roads with wide pull off areas and run in a straight line in the sunshine. As Barb expressed her confidence in me I shake my head and tell her I was terrified we were going down. I fought every curve and intersection…nothing was easy. I wanted to pull over and call for an Uber driver to come and get me…but there were no Uber drivers where we were…no obvious ways of help. It was perseverance and steadfastness to keep pressing on even when it looked like this ride was going to end badly. It did not…it ended well with a great story to tell, an adventure that Barb says we should celebrate and not miss out on. 

I get it…sometimes leadership is having all the answers and walking with extreme confidence in who you are and what you are doing. Well, sometimes leadership is pressing through a storm, even though visibility is low and there are things like huge puddles trying to take you out. You hold on and press on…sunshine is just ahead…it was not where we were at it was just ahead. We could not sit and wait for it to come to us…we had to keep pursuing it. I think there are only so many John Maxwell’s in this world and for many of us in leadership roles this thing does not come naturally. We try but it becomes mechanical and not real and then we are frustrated. The best thing I can do for those who will choose to follow me is keep getting back up and moving forward. The next morning after all of that excitement we had to climb back on the bike and ride four hours home to attend a funeral. There were no options just get back on the bike and head home…if I have one talent it is simply that…getting back on the bike and riding…not stopping when it really does seem like it would be a good idea. For some of you reading this you cannot relate to my story at all and for others you totally get it. That is why I write…for those, like myself, that find themselves in leadership roles and you feel like you don’t fit the mold. You probably don’t…have you read the Bible? God chooses the unlikely all of the time…be good with it and keep getting back up and leading…we need you. 


Thursday, April 5, 2018

Really? This is it?

Whoosh! That sound is the sound of me blowing the dust off my blog…and boy is it dusty. Barb mentioned  a friend of hers was reading my blog and I began to panic and try to remember what I may have written in my blog that I regret now…kidding. While my blog has been pointed at leadership issues and styles I hope to expand it a bit in the future. I did find that in part of my writing I was angry at the state of the Church and even at times angry with my own tribe. I do apologize if my anger or frustration seeped in and offended some. Having led a church now for over 20 years a reasonable person would assume leadership would be easier now. I am seasoned…and also my head and my heart have taken quite a beating. One needs to remember that the person out in front makes a great target. And if fear or injury takes over that leader it leaks to the rest of the group. Fear. It creates indecisiveness, makes one want to shrink back and it paralyzes. Quite an effective tool of the enemy. 

A favorite quote of mine comes from a small book a I read a few years back titled, “Jim and Casper Go To Church.”  Jim Henderson, a former pastor and Matt Casper, an atheist go on a road trip visiting about 10 churches, many of them of the mega style. Now let me say up front this book is not an in-depth study of churches and how they work, it was more like a drive through view of church. At one mega-church with lights, and cameras, big cameras and smoke machines and a lot more Matt turns to Jim and asks, “Is this really what Jesus asked you guys to do?” I have never been able to shake that question and again to be fair if we all rolled out Radio Shack sound systems and used hymnals or over heads we would be criticized also. But…what brought this question back to me is the things I see pastors have to be concerned about. The incident that caused the question come back for me was an innocent one. Our sound guy took Barb aside recently and said he would be leaving the church in June. Now before anyone goes off on him let the say that 1st off he is in love and he is engaged to a wonderful young lady and he has decided to go to church where she attends. That is not evil…it is sweet…and it seemed to crush me. Why? How did we get to the place where a young sound person can seem to make or break our church? I read the Bible and wonder why didn’t Jesus or even Paul address things like sound people, small group leaders, or musicians? Jesus spoke to hundreds and even thousands at a time…without lights or a sound person. He fed thousands without a commercial kitchen or a smoke machine. 

My point here is not to criticize all the glitz or to throw my sound guy under the bus, again he has an incredible servants heart, but to unveil a bit about the things pastors and leaders concern themselves with…many times at the cost of them loving their own neighbor! I heard myself asking Jesus Himself, “Is this really what you called me to do?” Can I be real transparent with you? Only a pastor knows the feeling of having a person you love and have cared for come tell you that this is their last week at the church…on a Sunday morning. And they tell you like it is good news! You have to smile when you want to cry. You have to hug when you want to run away. You have to go preach all the while you feel like you are bleeding to death on the inside. Please hear me when I say I am not writing so someone will feel sorry for me. Don’t! I love what I do….even the crazy parts. I love the people God brings our way…all the way to the back door if need be. But I write in hopes some young guy or lady who will or is even now leading a church will know they are surrounded by other leaders who know exactly what they are going through. They actually may be kicking butt right now and they are the place to be…but what they are called to do is not wrapped up in the details of sound, musicians, heating and air or any other thing screaming for their attention. What has to sustain us is making sure we are sitting at the feet of Jesus and taking what we get in our times with Him to the people we are called to shepherd. We need to be living from His love for us, being secure knowing He loves us and that He has called us, so that every day we can love what He loves…and He loves the Church. Not the structure and the buildings…the community of believers who have called on His name.

My blog is called “Thoughts From a Regular Guy” and that is the difficult deal of being a leader, a pastor. I am not special…I do not have a secret line to the Father…I do not live in a bubble…I am not extremely gifted. I am a regular guy…who has been called…and I said yes…like thousands of other men and women. We said yes…to serving the Head of the Church, Jesus, and to loving His body, the Church. One more thing to my friends who are leading churches…when I look into the mirror I do not see Pastor Bill…I see Bill…Jesus follower Bill. The title can be taken away…but who you are in Him is eternal…live there…