The greatest leadership principle I was taught I learned when I was a teenager. At an event geared for teenagers called Jesus Northwest speakers and music groups challenged us into a deeper relationship with God. Speaker Becky Tirabassi challenged us to pray 10 minutes a day for the rest of our lives. From that moment my life has never been the same.I stood to my feet to acknowledge that was a commitment I wanted to make and have been faithful to and grown in that commitment over the last twenty-five years. That challenge to pray and stay in the Word was given again the night of my ordination by Dr. Larry McKain. I'll never forget what he whispered in my ear in a noisy room, "Those who stay close to God make it in ministry, those who don't, don't make it very long." What I know now having served as…
Give us this day our daily bread. -Matthew 6:11 I miss making bread. A few years ago my friend and mentor, Helen, took the time to teach me how to knead a lump of yeasty dough into a delicious, edible loaf. Helen made the dough from a starter that she’d been ‘feeding’ for decades (literally). Her kitchen was filled with the smell of yeast, dough and bread. Most days, you could spot a trace of flour on her counter-tops or there would be some other tell-tale sign that bread making was a central activity in this hearth and home. Helen’s bread never failed to delight me. The smell, coming fresh out of the oven, was euphoric, and the taste, even more delightful. Eating this slightly sweet, hearty bread was immensely satisfying and I never tired of making it or eating it. It became a part of me.
After about 10 years of marriage, Ben and I have discovered the benefit and enjoyment of sharing a lot of things. We share the parenting responsibilities of disciplining and playing and teaching and discipling, and each have our turn with the kids when the other is out of town for a few days. We share the cooking. We share the planning of vacations and date nights. The only thing I’ve found over the years I can’t share are my Snickers bars. I mean, really. There are just some things I need, you know? One of the things we share that we try to split down the middle is the house cleaning.
Except for a few short intervals, I have been teaching senior adult Sunday school classes for almost 50 years. Most of the students in those classes have been long time Nazarenes. As I reflect on that experience, I have a number of perceptions. One of the most positive is that these folk, by and large, are very appreciative of the attempt to lead them into a deeper knowledge of the scripture. Only a relatively few have had the privilege of formal study in theology and bible and thus have not been exposed to modern methods of biblical study or perspectives that are essential to biblical study with integrity. This poses one important challenge to the teacher.
Imagine with me that we are gathered together in church on a Sunday morning. The melodic sounds of the people singing together in worship are ending. As I look around, it is a beautiful sight. The people of God are bearing each other’s countless joys and many wounds. We may be singing, praying, lifting our hands in surrender or sitting in silence. We may be in awe of or wrestling with the One who is the Wounded Healer. Depending on the particular “brand” of church I am in, either the music stops or the piano plays in the background as the scripture is read. The people of God join their voice in unison with either a hearty “Amen” or a mellow “Thanks be to God.” As I stand up and begin to walk to the pulpit, the sanctuary becomes silent. All I can hear is the sound of my “good…
I’m guessing that Nehemiah didn’t wake up one day saying, “I think I’ll be a leader.” It almost never works that way, perhaps especially for those of us who are pastors. We suddenly find ourselves having been plucked out of a normal life by God’s call. Now we are faced with the daunting prospect of leading His often stiff-necked people and realizing we have no clue how to do it. So we set out to read the books and attend the seminars, trying desperately to figure it out.
Two weeks after I turned 19, I left the large, suburban Nazarene church I had attended my entire life to start pastoring and working for nonprofits in the inner city. Seven years and 1200 miles later, I’ve learned more than I could ever possibly write down. It has been the most challenging, rewarding, painful, humbling, joy-filled time. I would pray for the same experience for all pastors! Yet, as I hear about more churches moving to the city, I feel an overwhelming sense of worry. Why? The short answer is gentrification.
Our family’s commute to church this summer included driving through a significant construction project. While I navigated the orange cone obstacle course, my eight-year-old grandson became curious about a ladder suspended in the air. “Papa, why is there a ladder hanging from that big crane?” he asked. I guessed that the weight on the cable probably kept the line from blowing in the wind or balanced the crane’s weight. Newton I am not. Even at eight, my grandson developed several compelling reasons why an aluminum ladder would not counterbalance a crane. I couldn’t argue with his logic, so for several weeks I deferred the conversation to the objects, themselves, “Look! There’s a cutting torch hanging from that crane this time.” Driving to church became a game of guessing what would be hanging next, a trailer, a welder, a tool box, a blue lagoon (construction lingo for a porta-potty.) Curiosity finally…
There are some mornings I wake up a little after 4, I shower, and I avoid all the really squeaky steps down the hallway to get myself out the door and off to work for a couple hours before my year-and-a-half old boy gets up for his day. Other mornings, I wake up a little after 4, I shower and avoid all the same squeaky steps to get myself down to the computer for a couple hours for another kind of work. I’m a bi-vocational pastor who manages a small cleaning company but, at the same time, is privileged to care for the spiritual well-being of a flock of about forty people. It can be tricky splitting your energies between pastoring and running a business, between writing sermons and scrubbing toilets. But after just a handful of years I’ve grown to really appreciate the unique opportunities this sort of situation…
One of the easiest ways to understand a person’s life is to look into their spending habits. For example, in college I spent the majority of my income on coffee and books. Have we not all been there?! Although this may seem like a simple example, I think we can use this principle in any stage of life we find ourselves in. Spending money on things we enjoy doing or put value in, is part of the reason we are motivated to work. We motivate ourselves to save money because we believe that after we achieve our goal we or people we love (value) will benefit from it. However, on the flip side when we choose to spend money on one thing we are also sacrificing something else.
The call to ministry in and on behalf of the Church of Jesus Christ is one of the greatest privileges and responsibilities a person could ever imagine. No one earns or deserves that privilege. It is offered as a gift of grace, and often brings with it a sense of “oughtness” that is compelling. But a call to ministry is, by its very nature, a call to prepare oneself for the fulfillment of the call. No one should feel themselves adequate, prepared, and equipped simply for having heard the call. Rather, there will be a deep sense of responsibility to cultivate a growing relationship with Christ through the Spirit, an intense study of the Word of God, and the careful discipline of learning to read, think, write, and speak in ways that represent the Risen Christ.
CPL Director Rev. Dana Preusch shares her story and the launch of the Center for Pastoral Leadership. ‘Mama D’ was my nickname at Blakemore Nazarene Church, my most recent pastorate in Nashville, TN. It was a term of endearment given me by some of my ministry students who had indeed become like children to me. It had been my privilege to serve these college students and young adults who were streaming thru our doors. And as any good parent would, I began to delegate meaningful responsibilities to them - in the pulpit, in worship, and in leadership. With such a youthful congregation, where I was practically the oldest person in the congregation (and me, still in my forties!), helping young adults find a place of service became not only the norm but a necessity at Blakemore - a joyful and gratifying one, I must add. These young people longed to…
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