It seems that if someone sees a weakness in the body, he treats it like a messed-up fast food order. He is displeased and complains to those around him. He may just deal with it for a while, but if it happens week after week, then he decides to leave and never come back. He may leave without talking to anyone, but he may also ask to see the manager to give his two cents about how he thinks it should be done and then storms out.
I finished a three year project today with my sixty-first and final message from Ecclesiastes. Of preaching many sermons there is no end, and much study is a weariness of the flesh, but my life has been changed as I’ve learned about, and tried to practice, enjoying the process. As I told our youth staff, part of me is sad that it’s finished, like moving away from your best friend. Though the friendship isn’t over, I’m going to miss hanging out with the Preacher.
While pounding out seven miles on my treadmill yesterday I listened to C.J. Mahaney’s message from the recent T4G conference, Sustaining a Pastor’s Soul. It was the least dramatic message I’ve listened to by Mahaney (albeit out of only a dozen or so from Resolved, Shepherds’ Conference, and various mp3 downloads) but it had/is having appreciable effect on me.
The central point of his message was that God is best served by glad pastors. He asserted that it is simply not sufficient for a pastor to serve faithfully, he must also serve joyfully. I’ve heard that before, but God graciously opened the eyes of my heart anew. The entire sermon challenged the soul by considering the apostle Paul’s joyful ministry in the midst of demanding responsibilities, hard sufferings, and even imprisonment for sake of the gospel as seen in Philippians 1:3-8.
As I’ve heard him do previously, Mahaney urged each pastor to ask those closest to him–wife, ministry team, personal assistant–a series of simple questions about whether he lives and serves joyfully or irritably, with happiness or moodiness, gladness or discouragement. This time I took his advice.
I didn’t have to ask Mo for her answers. I just went ahead and asked her forgiveness immediately after I finished my run yesterday. But earlier today I arranged for some of the guys who work with me on a daily basis to listen to Mahaney’s message with me and then invited them share their observations about my life and ministry. I warned them in advance that a quiz would follow and when it was over I printed the questions and even initialed the disclaimer at the bottom so they could hold me to it.
Here’s the quiz. Click on it to see it full size.
I won’t go into specific successes or failures, but suffice it to say the process was less painful than it would have been three or four years ago. One thing they all agreed on is that my attitude is “ridiculously influential” for better or worse and that I should wield that influence with great care.
Since the door’s already open I suppose you are welcome to participate as well. The condition, however, is that you’ll need to email me so that the comments don’t get carried away in either direction. I’m not looking for praise or pettifogging criticism, but for signs of grace and areas needing growth. Of course God is the ultimate and only inerrant judge as well as the only One who can see my heart. Even so, my progress is supposed to be evident to all (1 Timothy 4:15). Some very important things depend on my paying close attention and maybe you can help.
I’m tweaking some three year old Ecclesiastes sermons. What follows is an illustration that needs to be cut from its current position, but yet seems worthy of a home somewhere. So where to put it? The void is perfect.
Searching for satisfaction under the sun is like being thirsty and:
picking up an empty glass and trying to drink from it.
picking up a glass full of water and then realizing it was only a dream.
paying a fortune for a glass full of water then taking a drink only to realize that it’s salt water.
picking up a glass full of water when the glass shatters in your hand.
picking up a glass full of water when someone runs by and knocks it right out of your hand.
picking up a glass full of water, drinking the cool, clear, clean, crisp refreshing water, then immediately having a fatal heart attack.