When the Newness Fades

I have met so many people who like the beginnings of things, but not the middles and ends of things. We are a people that love the next new thing. We love new toys, new jobs, new cars, new homes, new programs…and the list could go on. However, when the newness fades (and it will), what is demanded is faithfulness.

I’m not against newness. In fact, we are declared new creatures in Christ (cf. 2 Cor. 5:17). However, what I am against are fickle Christians who are only interested in the excitement of newness and not in faithfulness to the mission. We are in desperate need of Christians who will start AND finish the tasks assigned to them…Christians who are in it for the long run, even when the newness fades.

Yesterday I had the privilege of visiting with a couple who’ve been married for 55 years. Let that number sink in for a moment…55 years. This couple has been married for over half a century! They have witnessed so much life together…all the joys, all the sorrows, all the ups and downs, all the changes and transitions of life…they have faithfully walked through this life together for 55 years. You know there is so much power in their faithfulness. It’s as if there 55 years of marriage is a trump card. They could say anything at this point and I would be at their mercy…”the earth is flat and monkeys swim in the ocean…I know this because I’ve been married for 55 years.” This is an extreme, nonsensical illustration, but my point is that longevity (i.e. faithfulness) yields so much power! Faithfulness to one’s spouse, career, family, beliefs, etc. is a living, breathing, powerful sermon that no amount of youthful passion on my part can replace. We so need faithful Christians because the newness will fade. This, my friends, is a fact.

Galatians 6:9 puts it this way, “And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart.” Prairie Flower, don’t you ever give up. Don’t you ever give up on your marriage, your family, your passions, or your church. Life has a way of draining us of our excitement for service, and when newness gives birth to oldness, it becomes even easier to give up and throw in the towel. However, we have been called to a marathon life, not a quick sprint. Don’t lose heart my brothers and sisters. The promise is crystal clear in this verse, namely, “…we shall reap if we do not lose heart.”

When the newness fades…will you stay faithful?

When Wisdom Speaks…

The Bible declares in Proverbs 11:14, “Where there is no counsel, the people fall; but in the multitude of counselors there is safety.” I firmly believe that every good and wise leader will arm himself with wisdom…wisdom from above (cf. James 1:5) and wisdom from other godly Christians. In a sentence, when wisdom speaks, a wise leader will listen.

In the past several weeks, I have made numerous ministry connections. That is to say, I am building for myself (and for Prairie Flower) a wide ministry net in which to capture much needed wisdom and discernment in moments when I need it the most. The truth of the matter is, I do not have all the answers to all the questions out there, but God does, and He has provided certain individuals with the wisdom and experience to coach me through difficult or unique situations.

In fact, a few weeks ago, I had the privilege of speaking with a certain pastor from the Des Moines area. He is a successful pastor with a fairly large church. I connected with him and asked him for much needed advice on church growth and leadership. In the course of our discussion, he made this simple, but profound statement concerning church growth, he said, “Excitement is surface – only time plus faithfulness equals trust.” In other words, this wise pastor was reminding me that ultimately what a church needs is not fun and excitement, but a faithful shepherd who will stay the course through thick and thin and build trust with his people. When wisdom spoke that afternoon, I listened and was admonished.

Then, just last week, I made another connection with another pastor from the Iowa City area. We chatted for nearly an hour and talked about everything from ministry philosophy to channeling momentum in ministry. It was a great conversation and I learned much from this man, but I think I will always remember his last piece of advice to me, he said, “David, remember your greatest enemy is not from without…it’s from within.” He went on to state that success in ministry can lead to a pastor being lifted up in great pride. He encouraged me to guard my heart and, at all times, fully rely on the Lord, not myself. When wisdom spoke last week, I listened and was challenged.

Then this morning, I met for the first time Prairie Flower’s former pastor, Don Collings. We met in town and had coffee. During the course of our visit, we talked about many things. We laughed together and prayed together. It was a sweet connection and he ended with this…”You know, I love you and I will be praying for you.” Not overly complicated or deep, but it was so incredibly encouraging. In this moment, I was reminded that ministry is truly about loving people and lifting them up in prayer to the God of all wisdom. Pastor Collings is a man who understands that we don’t have all the answers, but we serve a God who does! When wisdom spoke this morning, I listened and was strengthened.

Three pastors. Three separate conversations. Men from different backgrounds and ministry experiences, but all with great wisdom and discernment. Our lives converged, but for a moment, and I was helped, admonished, challenged, and strengthened. Our God is a good God and I am so grateful that He created these men and gave to these men their particular life story. I am benefiting from decades of their life and ministry experiences. The challenge, however, is not so much in processing their wisdom, but in practicing their wisdom. May God help me as I seek to lead in wisdom!

The Task Ahead…

I joined the U.S. Army at age 19. Just before I left for Basic Training, my father gave to me a letter with the following message: “David, before you set off on your own, let me give you three final commands as your father: 1) Love God – let this be your motive for all decisions, 2) Serve Your Country – let this be your path (for at least the next four years), and 3) Remember Who You Are – let this be your guide in all temptations. I love you and I am very proud of you!” I read these words from my father at the start of my military journey, and I have never forgotten the wisdom behind these words.

You know, as I contemplate the task before us, I am mindful of my father’s admonition to me so many years ago. That is to say, things are happening here at Prairie Flower and the task ahead of us (i.e. facilitating the momentum) is great. However, as someone once stated, “The task ahead of you, is never as great as the power behind you.” Therefore, let’s not get bogged down with the monumental task in front of us. Instead, let’s focus on the great power (i.e. the Holy Spirit) that is behind us, empowering us and guiding us!

With that as our focus, we must live everyday with my father’s words in mind. In other words, loving God (and others) must be our primary motive for all that we plan and do. Our planning must not be driven by mere lust for success, but out of love for our great God. Also, serving our church must be the path that we walk. That is to say, we have been saved to serve! This should be a delight, and not done out of mere obligation. Are you serving here at Prairie Flower? Finally, we must always remember who we are. In other words, we must constantly preach the gospel to ourselves, reminding ourselves that we are children of the King, and that God loves us with an incredible love! Don’t ever forget that…and preach this message to yourself often and loudly.

Prairie Flower, tough times are ahead of us. The task before us IS great, but so is our power! Let me encourage you to constantly focus on the power that we have in our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ (cf. Ephesians 6:10). He will lead us, guide us, sustain us, and empower us. All we must do is trust Him.

The Way Forward…

God is blessing Prairie Flower in BIG ways! In order to accommodate for our growth, and to accomplish our overall mission, we are in the process of doing the following:

1) Hiring a 2nd Pastor. This individual would be the first Associate Pastor in Prairie Flower’s history! As was discussed last Sunday, his job focus will be youth programming and counseling. However, it is important to realize that this individual will be the “Associate Pastor”, not the “Youth Pastor”. In other words, his job focus is on our youth (and counseling them), but he will have a very dynamic role in the ministry, and will be doing other things beyond the youth group context. His official job description is as follows: “In keeping with the standards of the Word of God, and in staying true to our core values, and in pursuit of our mission (i.e. to provide grace-based solutions for real-life problems), the Associate Pastor at Prairie Flower Baptist Church (PFBC) will facilitate and manage grace-based relationships within our growing youth ministry by means of producing an effective counseling and discipleship program. The Associate Pastor will report directly to the Lead Pastor of PFBC.” Please be in prayer for us as we move forward with a possible candidate for this position.

2) Reformatting our Sunday services. As was discussed last Sunday, we will be going to an all morning format (no evening service) for the month of August. Again, this will simply be a trial run to see if such a format will work with our church and community. The new format is as follows: Sunday School will be from 9:00-9:45 AM, Prairie Time (i.e. fellowship time/meet and greet time) will be from 9:45-10:15 AM, and the Sunday Morning Worship Service will start at approximately 10:15 AM. Different ministries (some structured and some unstructured) will take place during the Sunday evening hours.

This is the way forward! Your leadership (i.e. pastor and deacons) are firmly committed to reaching the lost and remaining viable as a grace-based community of believers! We are in desperate need of your prayers and feedback! Tell us what you think…and, above all, trust your Heavenly Father because He’s in ultimate control of ALL things, not us.

Shepherding Through Change

Psalm 23 is probably my most favorite psalm in all the OT Psalter. In this psalm, our great God is depicted in the imagery of a loving, caring, and attentive shepherd. I was recently reading this psalm, and I was struck by two repeated phrases…”He leads me…” Twice the Psalmist David points to the fact that God, as our Shepherd, is our Leader. That is to say, “He leads [us] beside the still waters…[and] He leads [us] in the paths of righteousness…” Isn’t it comforting to know that our great God is focused on leading us towards calmness and rightness? I take great comfort in that…and I trust you do as well.

As I contemplate this particular phrase, in this particular psalm, I am reminded of my own duty and responsibility as the undershepherd at Prairie Flower. That is to say, I am reminded that I have a duty to the flock of Prairie Flower to lead it towards calmness. However, with so many changes upon us, how will I do this? Here is my response…I will shepherd your heart through change. But what does that mean? Answer: It means I will be patient with you and your questions. It means that I will lovingly lead you as I listen to you. It means that I will protect your heart and mind through the changes that we undergo. Every sheep (i.e. every person) at Prairie Flower matters to God. Thus, every little lamb (whether young or old) matters to me. Prairie Flower, take heart, momentum does create change, but I will shepherd your heart through these changes.

You know what really strikes me about that first phrase…”He leads me beside the still waters…”? The “still waters” is the destination…it’s not the path! The path towards the “still waters” might be very rocky and rough, but it’s the destination that ultimately matters. Friends, my greatest desire is to lead you towards calmness. But just like road construction, in which they try to pave a bigger, better road, things will get a whole lot more rocky before it gets a whole lot more smooth. Such is the nature of change! So…what do you do during the journey towards calmness? Trust your Shepherd…and trust your undershepherd! And realize that our great God is in ultimate control of everything at Prairie Flower…we’re just along for the ride!