Kraig Lowell Pullam

My thoughts. My reflections. My journey…. On pastoring, preaching, leading & learning.

Archive for the month “March, 2014”

I guess I’m ‘Old School’

crossyayA few days ago I ran into a well-established Pastor who was visiting the hospital where I serve as a chaplain.  He wanted to get a parking validation after visiting a member there, as many pastors do.  In exchanging conversations, we  discovered we had a mutual friend whom I had the privilege of working with while Minister of Education with a congregation years ago. Walking with him through the hospital, somehow our conversation shifted to the subject of preaching.  He said to me that, in his preaching, he doesn’t always go to the cross.  He said he doesn’t see the point of preaching on certain topics or issues, current affairs or events, etc. and then feeling the need to always have to go to the cross.  He said to me, ‘Preacher…I’m just not that preacher who has to go to the cross and Jesus crucified every Sunday.  You may come to my church and not hear me say anything about Calvary or the cross.  Sometimes it’s anticlimactic.  That’s just old school.  Them old preachers thought it was something you just had to do.’

After parting from my brother, I left his presence burdened, disheartened and heartbroken.  I felt like I had been on the old TV show ‘Punkd’.  Primarily because this came from an average-looking Baptist preacher from an average traditional congregation, who appeared to be fairly successful, by human standards.  And while, maybe not overly trained formally; he appeared to have a sense of collective reasoning and some good sense.

I also left that fateful meeting saying to myself, ‘Well…I guess I’m ‘Old School.’  I make no apologies for preaching the cross.  Whether I am preaching on green grass; I’m going to find a way to make it to the cross planted around the green grass on a hill called Calvary.  If I am dealing with marriage; I will find a way to get to the cross.  If I am dealing with how to handle ungodly people in the workplace or a boss who is a heathen, my primary goal is to somehow make it to the cross of Calvary to ultimately declare the resurrection of Christ.

In 1 Corinthians 2:2, Paul tells the people there, “…I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.”  Essentially, he says that he was mentally and entirely preoccupied with Christ and His suffering.  In 1 Corinthians 1:18 he says that “…the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.”  No preacher should ever come to some conclusion that the cross is unnecessary.  Now, I get it….we may not always tell the entire story in full at the conclusion of every sermon or delivery.  I get that.  But the job of God’s Holy Spirit is the put the spotlight on Christ; ALL of Christ.  Therefore, if the Holy Spirit is really leading us in sermon preparation and clear exposition, the sermon would and should naturally be seasoned in a Christocentric hermeneutic and homiletical slant.

How can we make it to the cross?  On the surface, I can use how I personally begin my own sermon preparation.  Those below an not exhaustive, but suggestive.

1.  Identify the tension in the text.   Before I do anything in terms of exegesis, morphology, lexicography, commentary reading, etc… After prayer, I am asking what’s the tension in this text.  God has something He wants to say to man in any given text, passage, scripture, discourse, narrative, writing or story.  At times, man has something he is trying to say to man or nature through ideas, thoughts, agendas, etc.  Incidentally, every person in the pew is a compilation of hidden tension.  As a consequence, the tension in the text meets the hearer and the preacher at the point of the tension in their own lives.  Riddle me this: WHERE DOES THE ULTIMATE TENSION WITH HUMANITY BEGIN?  I contend that it begins in the garden of Eden at the beginning of our own sin.  Therefore, any bibliocentric sermon  points to a Christocentric homiletic and cannot help but to expound on the life, death, burial and resurrection of Christ.

2. Identify the needs of God’s people.  People need Jesus!  More than they need a fast car, a big house or a good-looking spouse, they need Jesus.  Why?  Because the evolving of every one of our needs can only come to subjection and structure under the gravity of God’s grace through Jesus Christ.  This is constructed beneath the anvil of the gospel narrative that peaks at Calvary/the Cross and climaxes at the empty tomb.  Of course, this requires the preacher and pastor spending time with people.  It also requires an understanding that Christ is the only answer to the questions asked by the human heart.

3.  Pray and ask the Holy Spirit to direct you.  As stated above, the Holy Spirit’s objective is to put the spotlight on Christ.  God’s Holy Spirit will literally show Christ to the preacher and Christian from Genesis to Revelation.  I stand on that; and I believe that.

I am convinced that our preaching time can be long.  But I am also convinced that it might be best to shorten some of the content of our sermons if we feel a temptation to shorten the gospel narrative.  I simply believe that God the Father will ultimately honor the preacher who follows the direction of God the Holy Spirit to tell the truth concerning the suffering and resurrection of God the Son.

‘Devotion’ from Valley of Vision

God of my end, it is my greatest, noblest pleasure to be acquainted with Thee and with my rational, immortal soul; it is sweet and entertaining to look into my being when all my powers and passions are united and engaged in pursuit of Thee, when my soul longs and passionately breathes after conformity to Thee and the full enjoyment of Thee; no hours pass away with so much pleasure as those spent in communion with Thee and with my heart.

O how desirable, how profitable to the Christian life is a spirit of holy watchfulness and godly jealousy over myself when my soul is afraid of nothing except grieving and offending Thee, the blessed God, my Father and friend, whom I then love and long to please, rather than be happy in myself! Knowing, as I do, that this is the pious temper, worthy of the highest ambition, and closest pursuit of intelligent creatures and holy Christians, may my joy derive from glorifying and delighting Thee. I long to fill all my time for Thee, whether at home or in the way; to place all my concerns in Thy hands; to be entirely at Thy disposal, having no will or interest of my own. Help me to live to Thee for ever, to make Thee my last and only end, so that I may never more in one instance love my sinful self.

Why Do You Blog?

Not too long ago, someone asked me the question, ‘Kraig…why do you blog?’images

He was arguing the point from the angle of one who honestly didn’t understand what blogging was, nor did he see how any preacher who has a schedule with ongoing demands would even have the time to do it.  (To that, he has a point!)

On the cuff, I gave him a list of reasons why I blog, and have blogged through the years, since 2006.  These are they….

1. Cultivating my writing skills

I love books; and I love words.  By default, I’ve learned to love writing!  Admittedly, I often wonder if I am growing or regressing in my writing ability.  Nonetheless, I keep on writing.  I have wondered if my growing desire to write is hewn out of an early frustration of not finding enough material among more preaching giants within my culture.  I would relish more of the words of a late Manuel Scott, Sr. (who wrote 2 books) or a Miles Jones or a C.A.W. Clark, or an Isadore Edwards, E. Edward Jones, William J. Shaw and so many others.  These aforementioned preaching minds, among many others, in the African-American context, stand with the W. A. Criswell’s and George Truett’s and Adrian Roger’s of their time. But….we are hard pressed to find their materials.  As a consequence, many of ‘us’ resorted to taking the words they preached and writing them ourselves; only to compromise our preaching integrity with endless plagiarisms and non-credits that came to ‘discredit’ us in our preaching.  Somehow, and in some way….the writings of the white preacher not only gave credibility to the one who preached; but also added validity, weight and credibility to the one who repeated it.  I just decided, a while ago, that if I never become one of the premier preachers of yesteryear tomorrow, I hope to be a good writer and a communicator of truth.  At any rate….a clear writer!

2. Clarify my unrefined thoughts

In order to be a clear writer (see #1), I must not only continue to blog and write, but I must sift and think through my thoughts with the likening consistency of a swordsmith who sharpens iron or a baker who filters flour.  I often wonder how some of these great bloggers who I enjoy (please see blogs I follow), ‘how in the world do they write with such clarity?’.  I’ve discovered they blog often and are avid readers.  There are simply no excuses for the preacher not pressing toward the goal of being a voracious reader, a consistent writer and a continual thinker & philosopher.  I want my thoughts to be clear and concise.  And a primary way to do this is through continued writing.  This is a challenge to me when I consider myself to be a person who finds complex ways to say the simplest things.  The more I grow, the less I feel the need to use a big word to say a very simple, elementary thing.  The greatest minds are able to discern and select each word, and ascertain where it should be ascribed and placed.  And even if you aren’t a great writer, just start writing!

3. Chronicling my journey

I am literally amazed when I go back to my original blogs and read many of the words and thoughts I chronicled along the way, during my first pastorate, and leading into my current pastorate.  I received quite a bit of criticism from discreet and aloof Christians and pastors who felt I was being too transparent in my early writings.  Man….I am so glad I kept writing and being transparent!  I have absolutely no regrets.  I am actually smart enough to know what should not be shared, and mindful that some things are too much.  As I look back over my older blogs, beginning in 2006, I chronicled the birth of 2 of my 3 sons, losing children, starting a congregation, personal and private struggles, etc.  I have no doubt that it has blessed some whom I may never even know.  I pray that somehow it will one day even bless my own children, in some way.  For me, I would never do this on a sheet of paper or a booklet called a ‘journal’.  Blogging is my journal! I make absolutely no claims to be one of the greatest minds in the world; but I do have an innate desire to leave resources for coming generations to read it and run, as found in the words of Habakkuk 2:2.


4. Build Consistency

I suppose that when blogging is done as I imagine, it builds consistency.  If a blog is to be minimally effective and efficient, there is somewhat of a forced consistency that must be established and maintained.  After all, a person who blogs once or twice a year (which I encourage, rather than not at all) somehow loses the war on consistency, UNLESS they are consistent about that one or two annual blogs!

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5. Communal Interaction….kind of

A few years ago, I discovered something that blew me away – people read my blogs!  Well, maybe I should clarify – I don’t always know whose reading my blog!  I was once in a church during my vacation.  Incidentally, I attended a service hoping to hear the pastor.  Much to my surprise, they had a guest congregation and preacher that day.  The church was filled to capacity!  The visiting congregation was, in their own right, a church that had grown to over a thousand, as a new church; and well-respected for their consistent growth in such a short period of time.  After the preacher delivered his sermon (an interesting sermon dealing with Mephibosheth!), the pastor saw me and called my name.  The guest preacher stood up and said, ‘I know you.  I read your blogs!’  I was completely shocked.  It made me a little proud of my little blog; but it also humbled me.  To be brutally honest – it devastated me!!!  I had to go back and reflect on all of the things I wrote! But I say that to say this – interactions are all but commonplace in my arena.  I relish those who are following my blogs and, through the years, have left feedback on my page.  But to be honest, many who are touched will never leave a name, comment or website.  But they are touched!!!

6. Impact, Encourage and Inspire

Here is another reality – some WILL give feedback.  That feedback simply serves as an encouragement to let me know that my journey and story is touching somebody else.  In turn, it has a way of blessing me!

7. Instilling

I believe the purpose of blogging, at least in my context, is to leave something beneficial in the life of the one who reads.  It is my hope and prayer that I may instill something that only I can, with the dynamics of the life I lead.  We can impact the world and change generations by sharing from our history and biography.

What are some ways blogging has benefited you as a writer or a reader???

Sunday Review & Non-Series Preaching

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This past Lord’s Day I had the opportunity to share in the preaching moment with the precious people of Mt. Salem.  I love my church!  I love where we’ve been.  I love who we are.  Interestingly…I am most in love with where we are going.  Often I say to myself we have so far to go; all the while realizing that we may be there before we know it!

Non-series preaching, typically during Lent, always proves most difficult for me.  I need the structure of knowing where I am going.  I have developed, in most instances, the habit of knowing where I am going in preaching at least 6 months out of the year.  For me, the best time of study is when I am in a particular book or passage or Let me say that this past Sunday had its challenges for me personally.  Spring Break took a toll on me.  Not only this – but the lack of consistency and clarity regarding my direction often proves futile.

I am most effective when preaching through a book, a passage or a theme.  Because of my thoroughness, and my attention span, even short books can prove to be rather lengthy for me (I spent about 6 weeks on the first 5 verses of 1st Peter). I am challenging myself to now buckle down and go through an entire book nonstop, cutting out all of the thoroughness and using that for midweek teachings.

As was my lot, I found myself working on two passages throughout the entire week.  I spent all week long periodically (my study time suffered due to Spring break) perusing Acts 20:7-12 on the story of young Eutychus, where this young boy fell out of the window while Paul preached.  Third Sunday is generally our youth Sunday.  Somewhere in there, I began to explore Mark 1:21-28 where the unclean spirit comes to church, the temple.  I wrestled with both texts throughout the entire week. Needless to say, I went to the pulpit this past Sunday with two sermons on my heart and in my head.  This is completely ill-advised for preachers and pastors, I know.  But, yes, I did it.  And this is not the first time I’ve done this!

Ultimately, as was my fate, I announced via social media that I’d be preaching from Acts 20 on ‘There’s a Child in the Window’.  However, shortly before the time to stand, I changed the message and asked our church to turn to Mark 1 on ‘When the Devil Shows Up At Church.’

Well….I don’t remember getting any feedback on the sermon.  Even if our congregation was helped by the message, the Lord simply allowed this opportunity to teach me the importance of having more direction and a stronger preaching plan, between plans.  I get it; and I will adjust accordingly.

That being said, I need to work on shortening my sermons to at least 20 minutes in length.  I can simply do all things through Christ who gives me strength.  Again….this can only come through cutting out any words that are not crucial, critical or necessary to the central idea of my text or the overall point of my sermon.  I will try my best to work on it. I am praying now for my direction in the coming weeks.  So many varying places I want to go – wanting to continue on prayer; NEEDing to deal with stewardship of giving; having this pull of preaching a few messages on Christ’s passion leading to resurrection; and this strong desire I’ve had, for some time, to deal with Psalm 119 and 1st Corinthians.

How was your Sunday?

Spring Break: A Father’s Perspective

425496_10150554731494506_373487663_nThe greatest joy in my life (after being Christ’s follower and D’Ani’s husband) is being the earthly father and steward of my three boys: Kai, Kaden & Karter!  Everything else pales in comparison to the joy they bring, which says a lot!  The older I get, the more I love them for not only the fact that they are a byproduct of the union between my wife and I, and that they are my seed; but I am growing to love their individual uniqueness and worth.  They are special, in every sense of the word!

I’ve reflected on the words of Ben Behunin who said,

“There is more to a boy than what his mother sees. There is more to a boy then what his father dreams. Inside every boy lies a heart that beats. And sometimes it screams, refusing to take defeat. And sometimes his father’s dreams aren’t big enough, and sometimes his mother’s vision isn’t long enough. And sometimes the boy has to dream his own dreams and break through the clouds with his own sunbeams.” [Behunin, Remembering Isaac: The Wise and Wonderful Potter of Niederbipp]

This past week has given me the opportunity to both enjoy them and learn them.  Spring Break has never been a big deal for me, even when I was younger.  I suppose I would be deemed a ‘square’ or ‘boring’ in that I always viewed Spring Break as just that: a BREAK!  If I did nothing at all during this time, I felt I was missing nothing at all.  Even at a young teenager, I felt as if I had a book, television, a roof over my head with air conditioner, and a good meal at my disposal, I was on top of the world!  I actually enjoyed watching some of the Spring Break parties that would come on MTV thinking to myself, ‘….this is fun.  So glad I’m not out in that crowd getting sunburned or drunk!’  I can tell now – that 1) I was a weird dude and 2) my sons are pretty much a different breed.  My guess is they get it from my lovely wife!!!  The Friday before Spring Break, my 10 and 7 year old boys knew what time it was, including the movies that were out, etc.

I must admit…they are such a joy, amid my seeming inability to keep up.  I have somehow known, even as I youngster (there I go again.  I’m starting to sound like ‘older’ people who are always referencing they ‘youth’) that I should seize the moment and take full advantage of the present ride.  Therefore, I’ve always had a sense in my collective conscience at present, ‘I’m going to one day miss these days.’  I’ve felt this way ALL WEEK.  I’ve sat back and looked at my boys, observed their interactions with one another,  their response to certain things, what makes each of them laugh or get frustrated; how they remind me of me or their mother or someone else in our family, including their physical features.  It’s amazing!  I see myself in each of them – the good, the bad and….well, you know the rest!

I want so much for them to be a better man than me.  I want them to be a better husband and father than me.  I want them to be a better follower of Christ than am I.  If they were ever called to preach, I’d want them to be a better preacher or even pastor than me.  Words cannot entail how much I want for them.  I sometimes wonder if they can ‘feel’ my love, or even if I show my love to them enough.  My father did such a wonderful job of exemplifying love to me.  He both expressed it and said it.  At times I’ve felt his disappointment and even his wrath (like the time I climbed over a gate or went into a girl’s purse), but I can never recall a time that I couldn’t feel the love of my Dad.  I hope and pray my boys can feel the same way.

I can often feel I am the hardest on my oldest, Kai.  It’s just not fair for him!  He’s a good son.  But he’s also the oldest and my leader.  I would always expect him to lead the pack when it comes to looking after one another when I am gone (a long time from now, I pray).  He is the one I pray would be the example to his younger brothers in how to conduct themselves in the home, at school, with their mother, at church, etc.  Therefore, my disappointment can sometimes tend to be a little more evident when it comes to my expectations.  But I must also realize he is not perfect.  I have to understand that he is a boy!  Therefore, I am learning to share my expectations and my love for him amid the shaping of his own identity.  It has been amazing to see him grow, and to even eat us out of house and home.  My middle son, Kaden, is absolutely one of a kind.  All of my sons are so much smarter than me; but Kaden’s mind is that of an Einstein.  My conversations with him, should I say, his conversations with me, are mentally stimulating.  I could go on and on all day, including a couple of years ago when Kaden was about 5, getting in trouble with a girl who had been getting on his nerves, his rebuttal was, ‘She’s melodramatic.’  What?  Interesting!  My greatest challenge with Kaden is redirecting all of his energy, giftedness and genius in a right direction, including his attitude.  He must be broken; but he must be broken like a stallion – where his attitude is broken but not his spirit.  I am sensitive to this; and I am asking God to direct me with him.  Kai is my boy for life; Karter is my baby; Kaden is my heart.  If there is anything or anyone who can wear me out, it is him.  Lord, help us!  Karter….as I said, is my baby boy!  He is the final act!!!  He seems to be Kraig Pullam re-born.  I can’t say much about his flaws, simply because, like most baby’s in the family, it’s hard to see his flaws.

20140312-004130.jpgMoving on… I hope and pray that I can make them proud one day to say they are my sons and I am their father.  I have a lot to learn; and so much farther to go.  Often I feel inadequate as a man who wants to be a better preacher, go back and begin doctoral work, grow my church, build their college fund. etc.  They don’t care about any of that.  The most important thing to them this past week has been ME.  They’ve just wanted me.  Thankkfully, I am smart enough atleast to know this may not always be.  It has also caused me to reflect on how my aging parents must feel now that I am gone, and fail to spend the time I should with them.  My challenge now is simple: balancing all of this.  Living in an occupation where many are thriving in preaching and pastoral ministry at the behest and detriment of their families, I have seen many preachers who prioritize family and suffer in preaching and pastoral ministry.  By the grace of God, I have been fortunate in ministry, all while making time for my family.  I honor pastors and preachers who do the same.  And I pray for those pastors whose homes have become difficult places to reside.  Some, I believe, are victims even in their own homes, but that is another blog.  I thank God for a wife who has prayed for me and lifted me to become the man, husband, son, father, servant and pastor God has called me to be.  This work would be so much more difficult if we weren’t working together these 14 years.

What are your thoughts?  How was your Spring Break?

Cheating for Priorities

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Several years ago I ran across a copy of Andy Stanley’s book ‘Choosing to Cheat.’ In this book Stanley offers a compelling argument against the workaholism that has plagued and inundated generations of American families. “Choosing to Cheat” is built on the premise that everyone cheats somewhere, be it work, school, family, spouse, church, etc. He affirms that there simply aren’t enough hours for everything and everyone pressing an vying for your attention and primacy. And of course, it’s easier to cheat our families than to cheat our families. Scripture teaches and avows a structuring of one’s life and prioritizing the elements of our attention in a direction that will ultimately strengthen us from the inside, out. As a bi-vocational Pastor with the growing needs of a growing congregation, challenges of serving as a chaplain to a level-1 trauma center in a large metropolitan area, and keeping up with my love for preaching, Christian education and learning the scriptures and writing – I can sometimes feel like I am drowning. Couple this with being a devoted husband to a wonderful woman for 14 years, Dad to growing boys, son to aging parents and a host of family and friends who cannot be measured in time increments – well, it all can become overwhelming; especially without an administrative assistant or full-time secretary. I tend to agree with Stanley’s notion when I say, in my own way, ‘Something’s Gotta Give.’

The preacher/pastor must set priorities. The challenges I faced at 25 are not the same as challenges I face now at 35. My life is completely different. Andy Stanley writes, “Following the principles of God results in the blessings of God.” The author’s dad, Charles Stanley, says, “God doesn’t reveal His will for our consideration. He reveals it for our participation.” The challenge is finding a way to emulate and become a direct reflection of the man described in Psalm 1.

1 Blessed is the man
who walks not in the counsel of the wicked,
nor stands in the way of sinners,
nor sits in the seat of scoffers;
2 but his delight is in the law of the Lord,
and on his law he meditates day and night.

3 He is like a tree
planted by streams of water
that yields its fruit in its season,
and its leaf does not wither.
In all that he does, he prospers.
4 The wicked are not so,
but are like chaff that the wind drives away.

5 Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment,
nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous;
6 for the Lord knows the way of the righteous,
but the way of the wicked will perish.

God wants His people to flourish and lead a positive life in a negative world. But often, people tend to be creatures of habit and conventional routine. We often gravitate toward what is safe, not necessarily what is good. Or we settle for the ordinary rather than pursue what is superlatively greater. Tragically, this is often the case for those in ministry.

In order to succeed in one’s call, one must want to be successful in ministry BAD ENOUGH. One must desire more for every area of life—especially as it relates to that which is spiritual and eternal. This requires a willingness to obey God’s plan and principles; and a willingness to ‘cheat’ where needed, in order that priorities may be established and we may show ourselves, ‘approved’.

As I sort through how I can be a better 1) Follower of Christ 2) Husband 3) Father 4) Pastor/Teacher 5) Son 6) Friend….there are 5 ways that setting objectives and goals for cheating can help:

1. Imagination. Psalm 33:5 says that “the earth is full of the goodness of the Lord.” I am asking God in prayer to rule over my imagination and my thought-life; and asking Him to show me how to creatively navigate through all of the challenges and pressures of my schedule, as I seek to prioritize what’s important to Him. In Jeremiah 29:11, we discover that God has ‘plans’ and ‘thoughts’ concerning the affairs of His people. The term ‘plans’ is a picture of a craftsman who gnits together fabrics for the purpose of creating a garment to be worn and adorned. The craftsman has a plan for the product. In like manner, we must visualize the dream and vision God has for us, and how He seeks to ultimately reveal His plan for our lives.

2. Anticipation. A man cannot truly know where he is going without knowing how he will get there. As you visualize and identify your goals, you place yourself in a posture to ask God (the Creator of the universe) specifically for what He desires and then to look for His prescription or provision.

3. Inspiration. How does God view your life? How does God view your priorities? What’s most important to God in your life? What in your life displeases Him? Is there any part of your life that others would view and make them think you don’t know Jesus? The ultimate aim is to see your life as the Father sees it, and then act on what He guides you to do. Psalm 32:8 clearly teaches that God is concerned about the direction of our lives, and is willing to instruct us and teach us the way that we should go.

4. Reflection. This is, essentially, meditation. Meditation comes through submission to the Father. I think we fail to often understand the Lordship of Christ. Someone has said, ‘If He is not Lord in all, He ceases to be Lord of all.’ As you meditate on His Word, you learn more about the lordship of Christ, the goodness of God the father, the leading of God’s Holy Spirit and His plan for your life.

5. Realization. True to His Word, God will faithfully guide His servant into all truth. I am convinced that God will reward those who are faithful. Whether one’s assignment is to preach to 10 each week, or you have been entrusted to lead thousands; or one’s spouse is gainfully employed or challenged to make ends meet – thank God for what you’ve been given as your lot. Let God better you and grow you, as you draw closer to Him; and watch Him reveal His plan for your life, even in life’s testing places.

The Makings of Ministry in Pastoral Life

Quite a few years ago, I was riding in the car with my parents.  I wanted them to hear a new r&b song from a ‘hot new artist’ by the name of Musiq Soulchild.  This song, entitled ‘Just Friends’ echoed a subtle sentiment of admiration of a guy’s feelings for a young lady.  Needless to say, my Dad was unimpressed and unincumbered by my interest.  Later my father, who is a music lover at heart, pulled out an old album of Curtis Mayfield and began to play for me ‘The Makings of You.’  The song began to describe every ideal of the perfect life at it’s finest, surrounded by aesthetic beauty, roses, well-behaved children and the like….and then he tells the object of his affection, ‘These are the makings of you…!’  Admittedly, I was completely floored and this began my quest of further learning the art of ‘real music.’

As I reflect, I cannot help but wonder – what are the makings of ministry?  Further, I wonder – what are the makings of ministry in Pastoral life?  The ministry of the Pastor is more than meets the eye.  Jeremiah 3:15 says, “And I will give you shepherds after my own heart, who will feed you with knowledge and understanding.”  God says that He will do the giving while shepherds are given the responsibility of doing the feeding.  When one looks at the dynamics of a culinary artist, many of the details of their works is behind closed doors.  We may often enjoy the products of their due diligence; but we often fail to see their labor, toil and endeavors.

As stated before, we celebrated 3 years together as Pastor and People at the Mt. Salem Church.  To date, this has been the greatest outer expression of love from a congregation I’ve felt as a Pastor.  That being said, we had a few challenges with initial renovations of walls in our sanctuary.  In the past 48 hours, I have privately called these walls, ‘The walls of Jericho!’.  On the day prior to my anniversary celebration, I went through the ordeal of how to work around these incompletions and, in my ‘perfectionist’ complex, I thought I was going to fly to the moon.  In addition, our toilets were not flushing at the church.  At some point, I simply prayed, gave it over to God and dealt with what I could.  Amid my own private realities (one of which was picking up my ‘anniversary suit’ from my suit guy of over 10 years and for the first time I didn’t try on the suit-since they always get it right-it was wrong….pants were 2 inches TOO LONG!  Not good…)  I got through it.   I went to bed Saturday night at peace and confident in God’s faithfulness.

Needless to say God blessed the entire day!!!  Amid all of this….I still found myself dealing with the usual joys and sorrows, twists and turns of pastoral life.  In the midst of great celebration, I had to contemplate how to deal with the issues of the ‘Jericho Walls.’  In the midst of great celebration, I asked one of my beloved members how they were doing and how a recent doctor’s appointment had gone; only for that member to inform me that cancer was in her blood; and while her doctor is saying it is ‘non-aggresive’, it can turn ‘aggressive’ at any moment.  In the midst of this, I closed out the day hearing from one of my young members (who was instrumental in launching our praise team and re-shaping certain aspects of our worship service) he will be transferred to Fort Worth, Texas later next month with his job.

These are the makings of the ministry of pastoral life.  This happens every week; and often every day of the week.  Having the heart of a Pastor is essential in leading God’s people.  If we fail to love God’s people, we will fail to feed them.  And there is nothing more detrimental than a starved, malnourished, neglected and abused flock.  If you are a Pastor and reading this, I pray for you daily.  If you are a layperson, PLEASE, pray for your Pastor.  Your Pastor may not be perfect; and you may disagree with some of the moves made in the ministry or vision of Christ’s church; but please pray for your Pastor.  My experiences of this past weekend, for me, simply point to the reality that I am where God wants me; and where He has planted me.  I’m loving this ride; and looking forward to what God will continue to unfold along the way.  The BEST is truly YET to come!!!

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