Found this on my Facebook Memories from two years ago. I added two more.
My Decalogue + Two Years Later
Twelve Years in Ministry
04/10/2016 - 04/10/2018
On April 9th, 2006 (2nd Sunday in April) I was 32 years old and married for 14 years with two sons 13 & 11 when God called me to be the pastor of Joy Baptist Church. That was ten years ago and things back then were a lot different than they are now. I was a young preacher with no education and no experience called to a little country church that maxed out with about 20 people on a Sunday mornings and they were all over 60 and they were all in charge. God in his infinite mercy and divine sense of humor called me to be their pastor. For some reason this group of people saw something in me that I didn’t necessarily see in myself but I knew that God had called me to the ministry and if this was the place then so be it. Interesting enough that whatever those 20 men and women saw in me they didn’t particularly like what they were getting because a decade a later I only have 3 original’s left. They would all leave mostly over something that really didn’t make any sense but leave nonetheless. The most amazing thing of all after a decade is that I am still here.
Upon reflecting over this decade in ministry I figured I would write a list. Ten is a good number. Ten is a milestone. Ten is a decade. Moses even liked the number ten. All of the lists you read have ten points generally speaking. So I want to give you my own Decalogue. What follows is my list of ten things that I have either learned or realized over the last ten years in ministry as the pastor of Joy Baptist Church. Before I get started I want to say that I am so overwhelmed by the people I have met along the way. I am truly blessed to have been here at Joy Baptist Church for ten years and God has truly changed me from the inside out along the way. I couldn’t have done it without my family. Marilyn, my beloved, has been there through the worst of it and the best of it and PRAISE GOD she is still with me. My two sons, Tyler & Dakota, were raised “preacher’s kids” yet they have supported me and prayed for me and have always had my back! To all of those church members who have molded, guided, hurt, encouraged, and strengthened me along the way; I want to say thank you from the bottom of my heart! I am a better pastor, a better preacher, a better husband, a better father, and a better man because of you! So here is my decade list, my Decalogue.
I. People leave
This used to bother me so much that I would often break down in tears wondering why people would leave over something so trivial. I would lose sleep and be so stressed out over it that I would get headaches and wonder what I could have done differently. Now granted… I should have been asking those sorts of things. “God what would you change in me?” But more often than not people would leave because that is just what people do. I have learned the hard way that ministry is hard, tough, and exhausting because we are ministering to people. People are flawed. It is inherent in our nature and we have to learn to love people like Jesus loved people—flaws and all.
So what does that mean? Well it means that no matter how hard we try. Sometimes I was in the wrong. Sometimes I was too strong in my stance. I was too bold with my speech. Sometimes I just made people mad because they didn’t like how strongly I was preaching the bible. Sometimes people left and it had nothing to do with me. Now that took some hard praying to ask God to show me how to get over myself. I realized I am not that important. But then I learned that people really don’t have to have, what I would call, a biblical reason to leave a church. It is just what happens. In ten years of pastoral ministry I have learned that people leave. I do my best to make sure they know I love them and I pray they would find a place where God can use them. But I no longer let it define the success of my ministry. God doesn’t define successful ministry by determining how many stay and how many leave.
In ten years we have had many people leave. But we have grown the church in spite of people leaving. God has done some wonderful work here at Joy Baptist Church and we have some of the greatest people in the entire world coming here. We are a little country church with big kingdom hearts and it is all a result of God’s presence infiltrating every aspect of our lives. Sometimes people leave and sometimes…
II. People stay
Yes that is right and it is amazing to see. Sometimes people leave and sometimes people stay. We have even had people leave our church and come back. We have even had people come, leave, come back, and then leave again. What I find so amazing are those folks who have stayed through all of the trials and tribulations. People who were willing do the hard things and work through the issues no matter the hard feelings. This is the strength of the congregation. This is what supernatural community is all about. People coming to a church with all kinds of backgrounds, resources, and attitudes and for no other reason than the gospel of Christ have entered into community with each other. This is the wonderful miracle of having church.
People are different and people will generally have community with each other because it is how God designed us. But generally speaking these types of communities happen because we have like minds, or familiar and similar interests or we come from the same back grounds. A supernatural community will bring people together that would not fellowship with each other in any ordinary type of community. This is what has happened here at Joy Baptist Church in the ten years that I have been here. These kinds of people who have been impacted by the power of the Gospel of Christ have stayed! They have stayed because it is the supernatural community that they have invested in and just because they didn’t agree with something or someone has hurt their feelings they did not leave because God is greater than any of that.
It has been my greatest privilege to have witnessed such an amazing supernatural community built here at Joy Baptist Church. I could call you out by name but I want. So to all of you that have stayed, stood firm, dug in, manned the wall, and ran the race I say THANK YOU! You have made my journey so much better and because of you I am still running the race, fighting the good fight and keeping the faith.
III. Mistakes happen
No one likes to make mistakes. No one wants to fail. The same applies to pastoral ministry. Joy Baptist Church is my first church. I came into this thing not having a clue what I was going to do and I had no one to tell me how to do it. I wish I had told myself back then what I am writing now – Mistakes happen! I was so caught up with how awesome this ministry was going to be, I jumped in head first into the deep end not really knowing how to swim. Looking back, it is so abundantly clear that I was going to make mistakes. But I didn’t know that then and when I did make a mistake it was devastating.
I have made many mistakes and all of them were devastating! I have learned in these ten years that making mistakes is a part of the journey. God has blessed me in these later years with the confidence of his mercy and grace. I know that risking it all for the sake of the Gospel is greatest and most important thing you can do. Someone said that with great risk comes great rewards but the opposite of that is also true –with great risk comes great failures. I have learned that I have to be willing to fail at it in order to reach for greatness. I have learned that as a church we have to take risks and still be ok if we fail. Mistakes happen and failure is a part of the ministry God has called us to. May we keep taking risks and the mistakes we make along the way teach us to be better.
IV. Being someone’s friend and their pastor are two different things
When I first started I thought that I had to be everyone’s friend. I am a pretty out-going guy and making friends has always been easy for me. In a church our size I thought I could be friends with everyone. But there is a huge difference from being someone’s friend and being their pastor. In a friendship you do all kinds of things together. You hang out and engage in extracurricular activities. Friendship gives you an opportunity to speak into their lives and confide your frustrations and aggravations with. But being their pastor means that sometimes you have to say the hard things like the truth of scripture and the consequences of sin.
I have determined these days that I can’t be everyone’s friend and their pastor at the same time. It seems unfortunate but the harsh reality is that I have to limit my friends within the congregation that I serve because God has called me first to be their pastor. There are some exceptions to this rule. I have a couple a real close friendships in my church. These men understand however that being their pastor is a part of the deal. It is just part of the responsibilities of this office and I have learned from the pain and hurt over this. I don’t consider it a negative but a positive learning moment understanding that God’s truth and his Word is way more important than developing friendships. Now you have to hear my heart. It is not that I don’t make friends with the people in my congregation. Sure I do… we have very friendly people, but just like Jesus had those three special friends that he confided in and spent the most quality time; I believe that is the same concept I have developed as a pastor.
V. Numbers are important but not the most important
When I first started ten years ago I was obsessed with numbers. I thought we couldn’t be successful unless the church grew numerically. I did everything I could think of to get people to the church. I was consumed with high attendance and equipping the church with the right kind of tools to get people to church. It was a hamster wheel. I ran and ran and ran only to see the church grow and the fall off. It was a never-ending cycle that never seemed to get anywhere.
It wasn’t until about four years in that I realized something was wrong. With our current facilities we are full at 100 people. We have hit this 100 people mark on three different occasions. The first time we hit the mark I thought we are going to break through and nothing would stop us from being the next mega-church in East Texas. Then people started falling off and leaving. I began to panic because I couldn’t figure out what was going on. Then it hit me. After having many conversations with men much smarter than me and spending some much needed time in prayer I had an epiphany. Numbers are important must they are not the most important. I needed to show our folks that the most important thing we can do is proclaim the gospel of Christ. We had so many ministries… we had stretched the church and its servants to such a point that many were getting burned out and leaving. What we needed to do find the one or two things that we did great and focus on just those ministries. It must be gospel centered and the gospel must be what motivates us in ministry.
We changed a lot of things and we are still changing to make sure the Gospel is the most important thing here at Joy Baptist Church. I will not say it is easy. When you have a church full of Christians they can get pretty tired of me always preaching the Gospel. But they need to see that the Gospel is the most important! The Gospel is keeping the main thing the main thing. It has proven to be the only standard by which you can measure success in a church. Is the gospel being proclaimed and are people being saved?
VI. Win the Lost
I don’t know if our attitude of winning the lost has ever gotten to the point to where everyone in the church is out sharing the gospel and seeing people saved. It is something that I have realized over the last ten years that the gospel is no longer important in our Southern Baptist Churches. The gospel has taken a back seat to small groups, parachurch ministries, social needs, and ministry growth projects. We have fallen into the same trap here at Joy Baptist Church. However, I have determined and purposed in my heart that as long as I am the pastor we will be a soul winning church.
I am not for sure if I have all the answers in how we become a soul winning church but one thing I do know is that we have to be ready in season and out of season to testify the wonderful saving work of Jesus Christ. We have to be unashamed and willing to be bold men and women of action when it comes to sharing our faith. I have called our folks out to this vision. I have asked and I have preached that our folks here at JBC will buy into the vision of seeing lives transformed by the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We are going to be a soul winning church!
VII. I’m not always right
One of the most amazing and earth shattering revelations that has occurred to me in my ten years of pastoral ministry is that I can be wrong. I am not always right. I am a strong leader and I have always been persuasive in my arguments. If I have an idea and I believe it to be a good idea then it is the right idea and I will use whatever means to persuade you into believing it. Some say that this is a good quality of leadership. It should be something a leader can do getting people to buy into the vision and that is number six in my list. But getting someone to buy into the vision and always being right do not necessarily agree with each other all the time.
It has been a long and tumultuous battle from some of my closest confidants to gently show me that I am not always right. I have learned over these many years that sometimes listening to other ideas and considering that these others ideas may be better than my idea will only produce better and more impactful ministries within the church. I don’t always have the answer and making one up is even worse. I have learned in ten years of pastoral ministry that having people around you to give you wise counsel is of absolute importance. And even better than that is letting them tell you that you are wrong and learning from your mistakes and letting others speak wisdom into your life is helpful and encouraging. It is even liberating to know that I don’t have to always be right.
VIII. Vision matters
Vision matters. When I first started it was just about preaching for me. I thought if I could just preach, everything would be great. I mean there is nothing more to church than preaching. Well there is a lot more to church than just preaching. We need to be a lighthouse to our communities. We need to be a city on top of a hill that cannot be hidden. We must be willing to get dirty, and into the city that called has called us and proclaim the gospel of Christ. If we are going to be a soul winning church then we had better have a vision to see how that is accomplished.
It took way too long for me to understand this concept. But I have realized lately that it is one of the most important things I can do as a pastor is to get our folks to buy into and catch the vision for wining our city for Christ. Vision matters. We have determined here at JBC that our vision is to see lives transformed by the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We are going to see a supernatural community be built within the confines of our church. The only way this can be accomplished is to present a vision and then go on mission accomplishing that vision. I have had the wonderful blessed privilege to be on mission at Joy Baptist Church for ten years and can’t wait to see what God has in store for the next ten.
IX. Preach the bible
I think I have saved the last two points in my Decalogue because I think they are the best ones. One thing I have learned in the last ten years here at JBC is that I must always PREACH THE BIBLE no matter what. One of the cool things about taking this church and not having any formal seminary education was that I hadn’t had the chance for someone to teach me how to preach. All I knew was the bible. I have now acquired more education than I thought I would ever need and still attaining said education. It has all served me to be a better preacher. But one thing that has never changed and I pray will always be this way, there is only one thing I can preach and that is the complete counsel of God’s Word!
It seems these days we have lost the wonderful power behind simple expository bible preaching. I don’t need to make up points or topics and find the text to fit those points or topics all I need to do is expound upon the text. The bible does all the preaching. I am not saying there is something wrong with topical preaching, just as long as the topic comes from the text. The Bible is clear and offers us its wisdom for attaining salvation and living a relevant Christian life. I am so thankful that JBC has given me the opportunity for ten years to preach and teach the bible week in and week out.
X. Equip the Saints
Finally, I have determined there is no greater calling as a pastor then to equip the saints. I think if we were to describe the responsibility of pastors we could narrow it down to one piece of Scripture. Ephesians 4:11-16, “11 And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, 14 so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. 15 Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.”
Sunday I will celebrate ten years of equipping the saints for the work of the ministry here at Joy Baptist Church and it has been one wild and crazy ride. I am convinced that whatever the future is for me and my ministry Joy Baptist Church has built in me a foundation that will stand the test of time and JBC and I are both better because of what God has done in this past decade. I LOVE MY CHURCH
Two years sense… The Dynamic Dozen
XI. I have Feelings
This one caught me off guard. You see, I like to see myself as one of those “manly men” who would never admit to having emotions. We don’t cry, whine, or complain. Pain is just weakness leaving the body! Yeah that’s it! That’s the kind of man I thought I was. This is not the case. Over the last two years I have been blind-sided by this new revelation—I have feelings. I have noticed that I guard my feelings really well. I lock them up in a secret vault and I don’t let them out for anyone to see.
Perhaps it is age, the older I get the more susceptible I am to having my feelings hurt. Sometimes I feel people do not see me as a person, but just a figure head, just pastor of a church. If they have issues then they feel like they need to tell me exactly how they feel. Here is what I know. God is still in control. God owns my “feelings.” I have learned, especially over these last two years, that God is my one and true source of comfort. He is my ever-present help in time of need, my strong fortress, and my Good Good Father!
XII. It’s a Marathon
Ministry is not a sprint. It is a marathon. Sprints and marathons are both races where a runner starts and finishes. Both races leave the runner tired and exhausted. Both races require training and skill. However, both races are completely different in how they are accomplished. A Marathon requires endurance and fortitude. A Marathon requires a good steady pace. You have to be very careful that you don’t burn out right way. You have to be very diligent in your pace so that you can make sure you finish the race.
Being a pastor is a marathon. We need to always keep the long game in mind. Yes, there are times when you have to sprint. Sometimes you need to pass another runner. Sometimes you need kick it in for that last mile. Sometimes you just want to increase your pace. But mostly, you need to keep focused, steady, one foot in front of the other running the race God has set out before you! One thing that has kept me going is understanding that it is not always about how you start but more importantly how you finish.
Well that’s twelve years here at Joy Baptist Church. Praise God for another twelve!