The 5 most challenging things for me...
- Letting go: I may need counseling for this. I can’t. I can’t let go of my writing. I have written more than I will ever publish - the only way I can “put a project to bed” is with a hard deadline. I can’t let go of sermons. How many Saturday nights have I been up at 2 or 3 still working - not cause it wasn’t ready but because I can’t let go? I’ll still be crossing out, adding to, minutes before I step into the pulpit. How much better would I be if I just let go! I can’t let go of people. I want to be right with people - not bragging - it is a headache. Sometimes people need for their own spiritual health to move on. It is more painful than a trip to the dentist for me. I remember every person at every church I’ve ever preached for who left. I’m never cynical. I always believe that if we’d just give it another chance things would get better. On the up side, I am always ready to give others another chance. But I need to learn to let go.
- Being consistent: This could just be a sign that I’m human. If so, I’m very human: diet, conducting personal Bible studies, sleep, running. I suppose they are vices. It is frustrating being in this flesh. I don’t give in - even in my inconsistencies I am constantly striving to improve. To do better.
- Visiting sick people: I know it is not my job as a preacher but I also know it is expected. And I know that while it is not my “job” as a preacher, it is my job as a loving brother to those who are hurting. Now, I’m pretty good at visiting the hospital. I’ll drive a hundred miles or more to make that visit. But it’s long term sickness. It starts innocently enough. I don’t want to bother people. But then I find myself adding their name to a list each week of people I need to stop by and see. Then I find myself feeling guilty for not having seen them and I hate to see them because it’s been too long. And I’ll go a time or two but then I find myself unsure of what to say when I’m there. Do they even want me there - I who have been so negligent. I just stink at it! I wish I didn’t. I vow to do better and do for a while but I’ll never win any awards for this area of ministry.
- Shutting up: My old friend Ronnie said “I’m wordy.” He was and is correct. In one way I suppose it can be seen as a blessing. Rarely do I let a moment pass when someone needs to speak up and no one does. The downside of it all is that I talk too much. In meetings, on boards, in groups. How often have I left a meeting and called to apologize to the guy in charge for saying too much? Sometimes I overstep my bounds and sometimes I’m sure I come across as a jerk or a know-it-all. I pray about this often. Melanie used to be in Mary Kay and she learned that you ask a question and then just wait and whoever talks first loses. The upside to this is that it’s hard for me not to express appreciation or give honor or let something that needs to be challenged slip by.
- Staying: For the life of me I can’t figure this one out! My dad preached for two churches full time in his 50 years of full time ministry. My father-in-law has been with one congregation now for 54 years - yup. But I’m good for about 7-10 years (and good may be an overstatement). I want to stay but never to overstay so I get inside my own head. Anytime I’ve left it’s been my decision BUT it’s always been when I felt someone else could do more than I could - that it was time for someone else to come in and help the church go forward. I read that most churches do better with longer tenured ministries. Now there may be more reasons than just length of ministry but that does seem to be part of it.