Honest Confessions of a "Too Serious" Pastor
Does the pendulum of your life ever swing back and forth on the spectrum of extremes?
I know that mine does.
Personally, I think the very nature of the "pendulum swing" is in reality the rhythms of God molding me, shaping me, and making me more like Jesus.
While I believe and acknowledge this to be true, I constantly swing the pendulum back and forth in regard to various things things.
One such topic that has recently really been on my mind is the tension within being too serious, or not being serious enough when it comes to life, especially as it relates to ministry.
When I first entered into full time ministry back in 2008, I was younger and definitely valued the aspects of life that were fun and full of joy. I was always looking for fun, ways to engage with new people and friends, trying new things, and enjoying new experiences. Some may have even said I was the "life of the party".
However, the other side that coin revealed the reality that I wasn't very intentional about living my life for the glory of God in every area of my life. I was trying - but I didn't really have any clue how to connect my spiritual life to the everyday rhythms of life in ways that actually made a difference. More importantly, I was more concerned with having fun than being obedient to Jesus. In short: I wasn't serious enough.
Over the years, however, I feel like I've make significant strides in the area of being obedient to Jesus in most areas of my life and making my life count for things that build His Kingdom. For example, my wife and I followed God's leading and left everything we knew behind when we relocated from the Midwest to Salt Lake City, UT for a new chapter of life and ministry.
Since moving here five years ago, I've grown significantly in my relationship with Jesus. This manifests itself now in tangible ways like: personal evangelism, leading people to Christ, baptizing them and discipling them. I even found my ministry "niche" along the way while serving with Bryan Catherman. Together, we planted Redeeming Life Church three years ago, and now I have the great joy and honor of serving as the Pastor of Mobilization at Redeeming Life Church where I oversee all the discipleship, evangelism, and missions initiatives locally and globally. In all of this, there have been joyful high moments and heart breaking low moments, yet I wouldn't trade a day over the past five years we've been in Utah.
However, as great as all that sounds, God has been showing me that I have definitely swung the pendulum too far in the opposite direction: now I'm too serious.
To be frank, I've lost some of the joy along the way that should be the natural overflow of walking with Jesus and being a part of His mission. Granted, Utah is an incredibly difficult place and there are a million challenges in advancing the gospel, making disciples, and planting a church in an unreached people group like all of Utah.
So, with all that being said, I still can't shake the conviction that even in the midst of hard things there should be joy and, at some level, there should be room for fun in ministry. Yet this is not something I hear a lot about. I don't get a lot of advice from pastors about maintaining a balance of fun and joy. I get advice on a lot of other good things....but fun doesn't make the list. Why is that?
Personally, I've noticed that my passion for the mission of God has almost completely overshadowed my love for the people of God. Unfortunately, this greatly hinders my ability to enjoy both aspects of ministry, not to mention, hindering my ability to care for and shepherd the flock God has entrusted me with.
Biblically speaking, loving the mission of God and loving the people of God should never be mutually exclusive things, yet often I examine my own life and notice that they I easily drift into a mode where they get treated as such.
Here's the worst part: my honest confession is that as I stop and examine my life, it is apparent that because I struggle to love the Church I also find myself treating people like cogs in the machine.
What do I mean by that?
Well, when you're all about the mission people quickly become a cog in the machine. They exist for the purpose of accomplishing the mission. Cogs then get evaluated by how useful they're being at accomplishing the mission. If cogs aren't helping accomplish the mission then they get neglected and won't even get cleaned or maintained properly. Cogs that help accomplish the mission get some attention but, once again, they only get attention because they're serving a purpose that accomplishes the mission, not because the cogs are interesting and special in and of themselves.
The very fact that I could drift into viewing people in this way makes me sick but I'm just being honest in an effort to not only confess the sin in my heart, but to also hopefully bring to light an issue that I think a lot of ministry leaders deal with. I never though it would happen to me (don't we all?) but here we are.
Have you ever felt that way about people?
Have you ever looked at people like cogs in a machine? Have you ever treated them as such?
I need to re-learn how to enjoy people regardless of what they offer the mission of the Church. I need to re-learn how to find joy in people even if it's messy (because 99.9% of the time it is). I need to re-learn how to have fun again and enjoy the journey with people. By the grace of God, He's opened my eyes to see this blind spot in my life and I look forward to seeing how He grows me in this season of ministry with His people.
Thanks for hearing my confession of being too serious. While it's painful to wrestle though, I'm thankful that God is gracious enough to reveal my weaknesses to me and give me His strength and wisdom to overcome them; something I could definitely never do without Him. By God's grace, I will grow and mature to live a balanced life in this area. Thankful for His patience with me along the way too!
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- Does any of this resonate with you?
- How have you found victory in battling this tension?
- If so, please leave a comment below!
For the Kingdom,