MY 2018 JOURNEY

The Highlights, The Lowlights, and the Takeaways for Growth

annual review word cloud on napkin

Last year brought massive change in my life and ministry! That, along with the encouragement to post an annual review by my writing coach, Chad Allen,  prompted this summary of milestone events and learning experiences.

The Highlights This Year

Led the way to a peaceful pastoral succession. After fifteen years of service as the lead pastor at Orlando Grace Church, I passed the shepherding baton to Jim Davis. From the moment I accepted the ministry challenge at OGC, I determined to gift the church a seamless transition in leadership when that time came. Nothing matches this milestone for significance and delight for me in 2018.

Launched my book, The Peacemaking Church. This highlight comes in a close second! The three-year writing project finally reached completion with publication in November. Jan and I were thrilled to return to Central Florida for a signing event hosted by Orlando Grace. The number of folks who joined us that night to celebrate the accomplishment of a lifelong goal fueled our hope for how the Lord might use the book to promote church unity elsewhere.

book signing

 

Travelled to East Asia. For security purposes I regret that I cannot say much about our experience overseas. This survey trip to encourage M workers in a challenging environment proved to be the privilege of a lifetime for this pastor and his wife. We witnessed just how much God is working in a difficult place. It was our joy to speak about peacemaking on multiple occasions for the benefit of precious servants laboring in the field.

Relocated to my beloved Idaho. With succession came the challenge of what to do and where to go next. After much prayer, the Lord led us to our five-acre spot in the Clearwater valley. A major component of that decision involved the recent planting of Trinity Reformed Baptist Church just twenty minutes from our home. Their need has brought us here to explore what the Lord may have for us in providing part-time pastoral ministry help. At the same time, He has faithfully met our needs in amazing and practical ways.

Idaho View

The Lowlights This Year

Struggled to lead well in crucial meetings. On two particular occasions before exiting OGC, I failed to execute the kind of courage necessary to love others well in conflict (Eph. 4:15). My weaknesses disappointed and hurt brothers and sisters for whom I care deeply. I will always regret the taste my shortcomings have left in some mouths in an otherwise savory final year in Orlando.

Lost partnerships with gifted servants. Closely related to lowlight one, number two involved sharp disagreements (Acts 15:36-41) leading to parting of ministry ways. While I believe these relationships are reconciled, the difficulties in navigating the conflicts resulted in lost opportunities for future ministry collaboration.

Mediocre performance in peacemaking training. I participated in a two-day advanced conflict coaching and mediation course in St. Louis. My mentor’s first question in evaluation says it all. “Have you done much of this kind of thing?” Actually, I have, but apparently still have some way to go.

Robojaw woes continued. I endured a final surgery in jaw reconstruction and subsequent multiple attempts in both Orlando and Boise to place correctly an eight-teeth sized bridge in my mouth. A proper fit to the appliance still eludes my longsuffering dentist. A trip to Orlando is right around the corner to take another shot at getting things right.

Man adjusting a rearview mirror

Takeaways for Growth

God is not done with me yet. He has opened doors for me to continue preaching and help others with their conflict. I am passionate about these things and want to continue serving others as He gives me grace to do so!

Two are better than one in doing the Lord’s work (Ecc. 4:9-12). I knew this before but time and again the Lord shows me how priceless a treasure I possess in my wife as we partner together in this new season.

My “fear of man” sins must continually be put to death with the Spirit’s help (Col. 3:5). I cannot afford to let my guard down on this perpetual threat. Too much is at stake.

Peacemaking skills require constant improvement. St. Louis was a wakeup call for me. I’m not as skilled at the mediation thing as I thought I was. I want to find ways in 2019 to get better at helping others this way.

Writing is something I can do reasonably well. Or so I’ve been told in various reviews! I want to explore additional projects the Lord might have for me in the future.

Thanks for hanging in with me for a longer post than usual. As you review your own 2018 journey and anticipate 2019, I offer these words of encouragement from January 3rd’s entry in Morning Thoughts:

Living in a world of imperfection and change, we must expect nothing perfect, nothing stable, in what we are, in what we do, or in what we enjoy. But amid the dissolving views of the world that “passes away,” let us take firm hold of the unchangeableness of God. The wheels may revolve, but the axle on which they turn is immoveable. Such is our covenant God. Events may vary- providences may change- friends may die- feelings may fluctuate- but God in Christ will know “no variableness, neither the shadow of a turning.”

Question: What’s one highlight from your 2018 journey?

Help for the Feeling Ineffective Blues

feeling blue

I get these sometimes. I suspect most leadership-types do. You struggle feeling very effective at what you do. You wonder what kind of real difference you make. You suspect you lack something significant for making a greater impact.

I’ve learned over the years in pastoral ministry that evaluating effectiveness often boils down to gaining perspective over how I tend to feel. When a bout with this malaise hits me, I ask myself four questions to help get a more objective assessment of my performance.

One, who ultimately is in control?

This question immediately steps me back to look at the big picture. God is sovereign over every aspect of my life including my relative effectiveness/fruitfulness. He determines the breadth of my ministry. Remembering a text like 1 Cor. 3:7 proves very comforting. “So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth.” So does a verse like John 3:27. “A person cannot receive even one thing unless it is given him from heaven.” I love that scene in the film Rudy where the young man desperate to get accepted to Notre Dame so he can play football for the university seeks counsel from the campus priest. Although wanting to help Rudy wherever he can, the pastor admits at a given point he can do only so much. He quips something to this effect: “After seminary and all my years of ministry I know two things–there is a God and I am not He.” Pretty good theology, Hollywood notwithstanding.

Two, what legitimately can I change?

Sometimes a lack of effectiveness can point to an aspect of one’s performance which really does need improvement. Recently my leadership team conducted a review of my role as a pastor at our church. It encouraged me to receive affirmati0n on several fronts, but the inputs definitely revealed some key areas where I can focus for enhancing my effectiveness. Since receiving that report, I’ve been asking the Lord to bring to the surface the two or three things He has for me as takeaways from the review so I can determine a strategy for addressing them and set some goals for change. When I can’t get perspective myself on this effectiveness thing, asking a wise, honest, and loving cheerleader for his assessment makes a lot of sense. When you do, don’t neglect to arm yourself with a Psalm 141:5 attitude. “Let a righteous man strike me—it is a kindness; let him rebuke me—it is oil for my head; let my head not refuse it.”

Three, where actually am I contributing?

Glass half-empty souls can struggle with this. We tend to focus on the downside of things. While doing frank evaluation of where one can improve, it’s important to balance things with gratitude for evidence of one’s contribution. Paul counsels the need for sanctified equilibrium when it comes to assessing our impact in the body of Christ in Rom. 12:3. “For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned.” One can fall off the horse in the opposite direction as well. We can tend to think of ourselves more lowly than we ought to think. Effectiveness rarely amounts to an all-or-nothing proposition; it’s usually a mixed bag. Don’t lose sight of the pluses when wrestling with the minuses.

Four, how realistically am I content?

This one hurts. It touches close to home. Too close. Often my feeling the ineffective blues stem from idols of the heart that simply desire more achievement than God deems wise to grant me. At the end of the day, when I’ve worked hard and done the best I can do by the grace of God, I must come back to assess my contentment quotient. Philippians 4:10-13 shows the way.

10 I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at length you have revived your concern for me. You were indeed concerned for me, but you had no opportunity. 11 Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. 12 I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. 13 I can do all things through him who strengthens me.

Whether an abundance or need in any situation, Paul spoke of  learning one of the world’s most elusive secrets–how to be content. This matters more than my effectiveness. Jesus, give me strength and keep my/our blues at bay.