Today marks my third year as Lead Pastor of Prairie Flower Baptist Church. It continues to be an immense privilege to pray for, preach to, and serve alongside of such a caring and generous group of Jesus followers located right in the middle of a cornfield. Prairie Flower, I love being your pastor! Yes, even with all the ups and downs and crazy turns, I still love being your pastor. Indeed, I love you, and I hope you sense that with every sermon I preach and with every personal interaction that we share together. If you don’t sense that, let’s meet up and have a cup of coffee together…because I love coffee…and I love you as well!
Well, as is my custom, let me with writer’s passion and much enthusiasm relay to you the lessons learned and nuggets gathered in my third year as Lead Pastor of Prairie Flower Baptist Church:
- I have learned that there are seasons in life and ministry. Some seasons are bad…like really bad. Some seasons, like the current season I find myself in, are good…even very good! And it’s so easy to sink into the Valley of Death and kiss the lips of depression when things are bad, and then soar with wings of wax too close to the sun when things are going well. Thus, I have learned (really in the past couple of years) that you cannot ride your highs too high nor your lows too low. To do so is a recipe for burnout and disaster! In fact, as Joe Paterno, a famous football player and onetime Head Coach of the Penn State Nittany Lions, would say: “You’re never as good as you think you are when you win; and you’re never as bad as you feel when you lose.” Bottom Line: I am learning to steward both the blessings and challenges of life (i.e. the seasons of life) in a way that both glorifies God and allows me to remain open for good, productive, and joyful ministry.
- I have learned the immense value of giving certain people the green light to speak truth into my life. Let’s face it, we all want to be awesome, well liked, and validated. Even in writing this particular blog post, I want you to like it and validate it. I want you to walk away thinking: “Wow! That blog post was awesome…or insightful…or witty…etc.” But here is reality: I’m not all that awesome…and neither are you. In fact, we all have a ton of blind spots, shortcomings, and sin issues in our lives. And here’s the thing…I’m blind to most of my issues…and so are you! Like I’m totally unware of most of my sin issues and weaknesses. That’s why God, in grace, has given to us things like His Word and His Spirit AND godly friends, within the context of Biblical Community, to showcase our weaknesses and to provide help. But here’s the thing, you must give such godly friends in your life the permission to speak truth into your life. Have you done that? Are your friends allowed to speak the truth into your life, or are they only allowed to give you a hug, tell you how awesome you are, and validate you for who you are? Let me tell you…it’s an uncomfortable grace in your life to have friends who will say: “Uh, this is an issue…you’re wrong…let’s pray together about this…etc.” You know, it’s funny to me how so many Christians love the verse in Proverbs 27:17 that states, “Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another…”, but these same Christians fail to see what this verse is actually saying! The process of sharpening is a painful process! That is to say, to sharpen something necessitates that something is dull and needs to be sharpened. This verse isn’t talking about friends who merely hug you and validate you, no, it’s talking about true friends who have been given the green light to speak the truth into your life. Do you have such Proverbs 27:17 friends? I have that in Pastor Jon, our Associate Pastor, and in my wife, Heather, and believe me, I’ve grown immensely and am better equipped to lead because of it.
- I am learning that the pastorate may be many things, but it’s certainly NOT boring! Ok, admit it. The picture above is funny, right? Especially with the words that go with it? Well, let me tell ya, the ministry is a crazy-fun ride…definitely a calling, but crazy-fun. In the three years of being the Lead Pastor of PFBC, I have yet to have a boring day. Even my “standard/uneventful” days are not boring, but immensely soul satisfying! In one week’s time, I may experience any one of the following: Times of Prayer. Meetings. General Administration. Sermon Prep. Preaching/Teaching. Children’s Ministry. Nursing Home Ministry. Hospital Visitation. Regular Visitation. More Meetings. Strategic Planning. Camp Ministry. Family Counseling. Crisis Counseling. Standard Counseling. Even More Meetings. Drama. And the list goes on! And FYI…all of these things do not happen on Sunday. That’s right…pastors don’t just work on Sundays. The pastorate may be many things, but it’s certainly not boring. Believe me, I have accumulated some stories in three years of ministry that would make you laugh, cry, and even doubt the truthfulness of my story, but trust me, there’s enough happenings in our church for a very entertaining reality TV show, but I digress.
- I have a renewed sense of commitment to our mission and vision as a church out on the prairie. Our mission and vision is quite simple: We desire to be a strong church, that makes disciples, for the glory of God. Simple, but in no way, simplistic. This mission and vision is based upon Jesus’ own words in Matthew 28:18-20. It’s truly exciting to be pastoring a church who is catching the mission and vision and allowing God to work in our church and community. No, we aren’t experiencing explosive growth, but we are experiencing growth – both numerically and spiritually! But keep in mind, the end state of “making disciples” isn’t necessarily growth, but glory – God’s great glory! It continues to be my prayer that in whatever we do, may God receive all the praise, honor, and glory! As John Newton would phrase it: “Our work is great; our time is short; the consequences of our labors are infinite.” Let’s stay the course, Prairie Flower! Do not grow weary. Remain #PrairieStrong.
- My wife continues to be a woman who is “far more precious than jewels.” Yeah, I know, I always end these types of blog posts on this sappy note, but just endure for one quick minute…and let me tell you…being your pastor is amazing, preaching the Word of God weekly is the greatest privilege of my life, but being married to Heather, my wife, there’s no price tag on that…to be married to her is priceless. Without her, I’m just a crazy half-Asian with a Bible, but with her I’m worth listening to because she finds me worth listening to…and she listens, not because I’m awesome (God and my wife know this VERY well), but because I represent the truth and cling only to the Book. I’m beyond grateful for my precious wife and appreciate her love and loyalty to me and the Gospel ministry.
Well, as one of J.R.R. Tolkien’s characters would phrase it in his classic work, The Hobbit: “The world is not in your books and maps [or blogs], it’s out there.” Indeed, it is. And let me just say…pastoring is quite the adventure! So, let me get back to my adventure and I’ll see you when I see you.