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My two sons (9 and 6) love adventure stories just as much as I do. Pretending to be heroes, they wield (plastic) swords, defeat bad guys, and travel on heroic journeys.

At some point, though, we grow up. While we might never lose our sense of adventure or our joy in a good story, our age and responsibilities necessitate adult thinking. 

Often this means we set aside our pursuit of adventure and risk-taking for the everyday. After all, it’s the job that pays the bills, not the fantasies of books, video games, and make-believe.  

In the last several weeks, I’ve been rethinking this perspective. If you’re anything like me, you’ve been reading, studying, learning, and listening to all you can about COVID-19. 

Not only does the current pandemic feed our minds for personal information, but if you’re in any field of leadership, it’s also a necessity. We need to be informed and aware of what’s going on to make well-informed decisions. 

In this article, I’m intentionally trying to write a different perspective. I’d ask a bit of grace as well. 

When you read the perspective that follows, I’m not trying to minimize the hurt and suffering faced by so many. Rather, I’m offering a view that interprets the pandemic as a difficulty to overcome—a dangerous adventure. 

Here are just a few ways adventure stories can remind us how to get through this pandemic. 

WE’RE ON A JOURNEY WE DIDN’T ASK FOR OR SEEK OUT.

Think of the stories of Frodo Baggins, Harry Potter, or Luke Skywalker. None of us in leadership (Christian leadership in particular) sought out these leadership challenges. 

We didn’t create the environment for these stay-at-home orders, social distancing, or online church, but we find ourselves on this journey. 

We can’t change our situations. We’re responsible for what we do with what is in front of us, not for what we can’t control. 

THE SUCCESS OF THE HERO’S JOURNEY OFTEN DEPENDS ON THE DETAILS

I love a good turn in a story where a seemingly minor detail plays an important role in the entire plotline (Harry’s invisibility cloak, Indiana Jones’ whip, or Aragorn’s sword). 

Friends, we’ve been placed in an imperfect situation as imperfect people. We’re going to make mistakes and probably make wrong decisions. I already have. 

Without adding too much pressure, we must remember the details matter. Now, don’t stress out. I’m not suggesting our online media needs to be perfect or trying to add worry about imperfect communication strategies. 

I mean something more basic. The details that’ll get us through are these: spending time in the Word and prayer, listening to others, taking time to make a phone call, or pausing in your busyness to take a stressed-out child on a walk. 

When all is said and done, successful journeys often turn on the ability of the leaders to remember the details that matter. 

WE NEED OTHERS TO MAKE IT THROUGH. 

Luke Skywalker had Han Solo, Frodo had the fellowship for part of his journey and Samwise for all of it, and Harry had Ron and Hermione. 

But isolation is a real challenge these days. 

As a pastor, I’m heartbroken over the many who are suffering the negative effects of isolation and loneliness. And at another level, I’m saddened for leaders who are without any support or aid. 

Friends, you won’t make it through this alone. You need someone who’ll say, “You don’t have to be Jesus.” 

You need church leaders who’ll say, “Pastor, I’m praying for you. Tell me what you need, and I’ll do it.” 

You need others around you that you can depend on. In Philippians 2, Paul bragged on Timothy and Epaphroditus, two men who helped him make it through. 

I’m convinced that when all is said and done, those with a strong support system will be those who make it through healthy and strong. 

WE HAVE TO RECOGNIZE THAT OUR STRENGTH IS OUTSIDE OF US

Luke had the force, Harry had his mother’s love, and Frodo had Gandalf the wizard. Please refrain from your theological critiques. I’m not equating the outside influences in these stories with God. 

However, what I think is instructive is that popular psychology, liberal theology, and humanistic philosophy want us to look within ourselves to find our strength. But in nearly every great story, the hero has outside help. 

This says something. I’m preaching to the choir here, but we won’t make it through this pandemic without God. 

Your church members won’t make it without God: those who are delaying funerals, those who can’t visit aging parents in nursing homes, those who find working from home while educating children nearly impossible, those who can’t provide for their families because they lost their job and unemployment hasn’t come through yet, and on and on. 

You get it. We need the help of the only One truly outside the situation. 

And gloriously, the gospel teaches that Jesus came into our situation to experience our sufferings, to become our Savior, and to offer us hope. 

Christian leadership in this pandemic is an adventure. Thankfully, our Savior is the Hero who’s already faced His journey victorious, and His strength is there for us to make it through. 

Originally published here through Lifeway Facts and Trends.

Photo by Simon Matzinger on Unsplash

It is so easy for us to get caught up in our own stuff. We have much going on that requires our focus—families, jobs, health challenges, to-do lists, managing details, helping others, etc. I could go on an on and not list all the necessary, even good things that draw our attention. I’m afraid that too often though we get so distracted by our stuff that we miss what is most important.

Jesus taught us to pray in the model prayer, “Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” In other words, life is not ultimately about us or for us. There are bigger, more important things going on than our stuff—God’s kingdom and will being accomplished here on earth. What does that look like in our daily lives? I think simply it looks like us focusing on spreading the good news of the kingdom of God (God’s reign through Jesus in our lives) and pursuing his purposes of love and holiness in the world around us.

The beauty of Jesus’ request in Matthew 6 is that we can pursue the will and kingdom of God in the everyday things of life. God has a place for you to expand the influence of his kingdom—your family, your job, your to-do lists, your stuff. He doesn’t necessarily want us to do away with all the things that get our attention. Rather, he wants to be central in the way we relate to all of these things. Here are some questions that will get us started in evaluating how we are at focusing on the kingdom of God in the midst of all our details:

  • Do I use my influence in my home to help my family know and live the good news?
  • Does my character and conduct at work exhibit the integrity Jesus expects of me?
  • Am I relational as I go through the day? Do I see the people around me as individuals who might need compassion, grace, kindness, or encouragement or am I so busy that I don’t even notice them?
  • Do I pray for the things God is most interested in (salvation of others, spread of his gospel, provision for missionaries, spiritual growth for others) or the things I’m most interested in?

Bottom line—let’s participate in God’s plans and purposes today.

This article was originally posted at Lifeway’s Pastor’s Today Blog.

Recently, we had a birthday party for our oldest son, Will. His mother and I planned, prepared, and invited a handful of his friends. We spent a lot of time investing in his party. We expected his reaction to be wonder, enjoyment, and gratitude. What we received was complaint, ungratefulness, and pouting. Needless to say, we spent the rest of our evening attempting to teach our son the importance of gratitude and respect when others do something nice for you. This little experience got me thinking about some of the ways being a parent is like being a pastor.

  1. Sometimes our children are ungrateful. My wife and I were pretty disappointed in our son’s attitude regarding his party. We put a lot of time and effort into making a day all about him and didn’t receive any genuine gratefulness. This sometimes happens as a pastor. We invest, spend time, and pour ourselves into a parishioner or a ministry and receive little or no gratitude. It is easy to take such things personally. But we must not. While we should model gratitude for our children and our churches, we should move past our good deeds for others and onto the next person or assignment.
  2. Sometimes our children are disingenuous. When we pointed out our son’s failure to be grateful, he rather quickly told us, “Thank you for my party.” However, with scant a pause, he followed that up with more disrespect. He didn’t really mean the thank you. If you’ve been a pastor for long, you’ve had church members tell you to your face what you know they don’t mean in their heart. My personal favorite is when they tell you how good your sermon was when it appeared to you during the sermon that they were asleep for most of it. Now, I don’t think most of the comments coming from our church members are disingenuous, but some are. We have to learn to discern the truth and show grace when we hear disingenuous comments. Saying “thank you” and moving on is generally the best thing we can do.
  3. Sometimes our children are disobedient. It is our job as parents to correct and discipline our children, which are important aspects of teaching obedience. If we don’t teach them, then who will? As a pastor, there will be times that correcting a church member will be necessary. As with our children, correction must take place with compassion, deliberation, and consistency. Restoration to obedience is the goal, not pointing out the sin.
  4. Sometimes our children are needy. Sick little ones or those who are hurt may require more time and attention from their parents. This is a necessary part of parenting. Church members are no different. Those who are hurting, emotional, going through difficulty, or sick may need more attention from their church or pastor.
  5. Oftentimes, both parents and pastors feel overwhelmed. The tasks and expectations of parents and pastors are never-ending. Parents, there’s always somewhere else to go with your children, always something to clean, pick up, or fix, always homework or school projects to do, and on, and on. Pastors, there’s always the next sermon, the next lesson, the next counseling appointment, project, mission trip, or task. If we’re not careful, we’ll let our lives be run by our schedules and the next thing on our to-do list.
  6. Our children were created to grow up. Our privilege as parents is to assist the natural growth of our children. They were made to grow. Similarly, those we pastor were made to grow spiritually. It is our privilege to provide systems, ministries, and opportunities for the spiritual growth of those we lead.
  7. Our children bring us unprecedented joy. Witnessing their development, smiles, wonder, love, and dependence is incalculable. I realize that pastors are not parents to their parishioners as they are to their children. But in part, pastors have been tasked with the spiritual development of their congregation. Much joy comes from watching the spiritual growth of people. Seeing the relief and joy on the face of a new believer whose weight of sin has been lifted by Christ is incomparable. Experiencing a counselee apply the Scripture to their situation is spiritually satisfying. Or participating with church members give of themselves and their heart on a mission trip or project is deeply encouraging.
  8. No investment in life is as important as the investment in others, especially our children. When our life concludes, the influence we’ve had on our children will be one of the few things that will last beyond our days on earth. They will carry on our character, our values, and our names by the way they live their lives. While not as directly impactful, the investments we make in the lives of our congregation can also be far-reaching. Like being a parent, a pastor’s influence and impact is not defined by outward success, popularity, twitter followers, Facebook friends, or blog readers. The true impact of a pastor, like a parent, will be found in the relational investment of lives changed, disciples made, and people equipped for ministry.
  9. Ultimately, how our children and our congregations turn out is the Lord’s responsibility. Sometimes, being a parent and a pastor, we think we’re in control of the spiritual progress of our children and our congregations. We’re not. God is. Yes, we partner with God in the process of the spiritual development of those we parent and lead, but we are not ultimately responsible. Learning or in my case, relearning, that truth is deeply liberating and encouraging.

For those who are parents, let your parenting inform your responsibilities as a pastor. And to all, cast the burdens of being a parent or pastor on the Lord who is able to carry them.