We have come through a busy Christmas season, and, hopefully, we have escaped without injury—too many credit card bills, family fatigue, and the post-seasonal “blues”. For Beverly and I it has truly been a wonderful season with intentional time spent contemplating the true wonder of the season. That coupled with my November ministry trip to Haiti, Thanksgiving a family trip to Dallas, a gathering of the local Barrett family on Christmas Day, and a myriad of special church opportunities to worship and celebrate has made this a truly blessed season!
And now it’s on to a new year…with the same potential hazards—exhausting ourselves emotionally and physically in frantic pursuit of all that a new year offers If that sounds vague let me suggest that there is value in intentionally evaluating meaningful goals in a new year. Prioritizing what is important helps in that discipline—negotiable and non-negotiable demands on our schedules. I am doing that again as the new year starts. I reflected today on my personal goals when I first came to Amador County the second time fifteen plus years ago. I was impacted by my reading of Petersen’s THE CONTEMPLATIVE PASTOR; in his preface he asks, “ How can I persuade a person to live by faith and not by works if I have to juggle my schedule to make everything fit into place?” He concluded that if no one asked him to do anything, he would do these three things as a pastor—pray, preach (“drenching” himself in the Word), and listen (it requires “unhurried leisure”).
I confess my years of ministry have not always reflected those three priorities to which I committed myself when I arrived to help birth Grace Fellowship Church. But I believe they are still valid for me as a leader today, even in a time of personal transition.
1. I want to practice what I say I believe about prayer.
2. I want to preach (and teach) what I have discovered for myself to be true in God’s Word.
3. I want to listen with “unhurried leisure” so I can better respond to the needs of others.
Petersen writes near the end of his book with regard to congregational expectations, “There are many other things to be done in this wrecked world and we are going to be doing at least some of these, but if we don’t know the foundational realities with which we are dealing—God, kingdom, gospel—we are going to end up living futile, fantasy lives. Your task is to keep telling the basic story, representing the presence of the Spirit, insisting on the priority of God, speaking the biblical words of command, promise and invitation…”
Pray, preach and listen—these are priorities I affirm once again as I enter this season of transition with you. It won’t be easy-my personal history reflects that. But it is essential for me as I seek to pass the baton of pastoral leadership off to Pastor Mark and the other godly men with whom I am privileged to work.
What are your priorities? How far away are they from the true landscape of your daily life? Let’s seek God together and commit, with His divine enablement to a more intentional discipline in our lives of loving service to Him—that in the spirit of Romans 12:1, as an “act of spiritual worship”. If we purpose to do that we may more readily escape the injuries of self-inflicted busy-ness and unfulfilled expectations. Let’s hold each other to it! Happy new year!