Category Archives: Faith

Processing some things

Tuesday morning, I heard some things that got my attention and shook me to my core.

The first one was Tuesday morning. As my normal routine is, I listen to Pathway to Victory while on my way to work each morning. This morning, Dr Jeffress said something that caught my attention. He was talking about a call and as he was speaking I was thinking about it more in terms of an equation:

Call = Burden + Passion + Opportunity

Hearing this and eventually writing it down really shook me!

I was thinking about this while I was driving. I was thinking back to when I had publicly expressed a “call” of God on my life to preach the Gospel. I was probably the last person that would ever be called to preach. I am not a dynamic speaker. I do not have a commanding or charismatic personality. I would consider myself more of an introvert. I stumbled through memorized speeches that we had to give in high school. I never thought that I would be involved in any sort of public speaking at all. I remember preaching my first sermon and apologizing to my English teachers in advance for all the trouble I had given them during the delivery of those memorized speeches each year. All I knew at the time, was that I had a burden to communicate the Bible to others.

Someone once said, “A call to preach is a call to prepare” So, off to Bible college I went in 1988. Along with the burden, I gained a passion while I was in college as I went through my classes and serving in the local church, I began to grow in my Christian life.

So I had a burden and passion, but was lacking in opportunity. I preached wherever I was given an opportunity. Rescue mission, prison, nursing homes, etc. Then I graduated from college and was ordained shortly after. Ordination was/is a big deal because it is a local church’s endorsement of your calling and gifts. I was ordained but there were no opportunities on the horizon.

Fast forward ten years to 2002. I had resigned my position at a mission agency where I had been for 3 1/2 years and moved to MN to attend Seminary.

Fast forward eight years to 2010. I finished seminary with two degrees.

Fast forward three more years to 2013. I have sent my resume out to over 40 different churches and ministries, looking for an opportunity to re-enter full-time vocational ministry with one interview and a lot of rejection letters. The main reason I have been given is that I do not have any pastoral experience. When I graduated from college in 1992, I was told rather curtly, I was too young and had no experience. I was stunned, while watching my classmates who were the same age and also have no experience, leave college and go into various ministry positions. My home church, although they ordained me, did not attempt to hire me at all. When I finished seminary, I realized that I am in the same boat as I was when I finished college, except for the fact that I am older and married. I am still lacking the experience that most churches are requiring.  I was told by someone that if you are looking for a pastoral opportunity within a church, that most church committees will not take into consideration any experience while serving in a non-pastoral capacity. Honestly, that does not make sense, but it is what I have experienced these last three years.

As I was listening to Dr Jeffress, I was processing my life and realizing that I have a burden (and have had for years), passion (it has been waning in recent years), but the opportunities are non-existent. Then it hit me, the opportunities are no longer present. I thought back to 2010 where I did an unusual amount of pulpit supply and then that came to a halt in September 2010 and I did not preach again until late last year in August of 2012 where I had two preaching opportunities (both pulpit supply) back to back and then as quick as they came, they have disappeared again. Pulpit supply does meet a need, but it is a poor way to learn how to preach and it is a poor way to preach with any consistency. Pulpit supply is not the experience that most churches are looking for. The opportunities are scarce in pulpit supply and in my case non-existent. It is the proverbial catch-22, you have to have experience to get hired by a church, but no one wants to give anyone the opportunity to gain the necessary experience. It should never be this way in a local church.

When I got to work our main computer system was down, so after processing email and doing everything that I could do without our main computer system, I remembered that Jason Meyer was going to speak this morning on the subject of Pastoral Transition after a 32 year ministry. I had the time because our system was down and there was nothing else to do, I listened to the live stream of Jason’s message. If you did not know, Jason Meyer is the new Pastor for Preaching and Vision at Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis. He is the successor to John Piper, who was the previous Pastor of Preaching and Vision for 32 years.

As I listened to Jason’s story recounting the process and how he spoke many times about the supernatural and the sovereignty of God. I was struck by the fact that nothing of a supernatural nature has been taking place in my life related to ministry since I graduated. It shook me when I had that thought! I started asking myself where I went wrong, was there sin in my life that I needed to deal with, was God chastening me for some reason? I could not identify any one particular thing but as I kept listening, my discouragement increased. I also noticed that Jason had made an impact on several people as evidenced in this video

When I finished seminary and there was no available opportunities for pastoral ministry, I had prayed regarding further education, a PhD or DMin possibly. I found myself in a quandary, I was not academically qualified (grades were not high enough – competition is too strict) and then I found out that I could not get into any DMin program because I lacked the three years of post MDiv ministry experience. So my formal education came to an abrupt halt and I realized that at this point I would not be able to teach in any institution of higher learning with just an MDiv. to teach anywhere, one would need a Doctorate. So teaching in a college or seminary was out.

I was also struck by the fact that John Piper poured his life into Jason Meyer. Jason started his role in August and I can imagine that he has spent numerous hours with John Piper, learning and observing the ministry. Now, the church voted again in December for Jason to become the Pastor of Preaching and Vision effective January 1, 2013. This represents a four month transition. One can only imagine what kind of intense mentoring that took place during those four months and what will take place from January until April when John Piper will step down as the Associate Pastor of Preaching and Vision.

Recently, I had a good friend who was in a similar situation. He was in full-time ministry and was let go by a pastor/church over money issues. He did nothing wrong, he served with honor, but the church and pastor were not obeying 1 Timothy 5:17-18. He found himself out of the ministry and discouraged. He was faithful and had a desire to serve God in full-time ministry and went over ten years with no prospects and a healthy amount of disappointment. The turning point in his life was an area pastor he met who took an interest in him and kept in contact with him. This pastor eventually recommended him to a church nearby and last Sunday he preached his first sermon as the new Senior Pastor of that particular local church.

What I am noticing is a common denominator in these situations: People took a real interest in an individual. It was not a casual interest, but rather a committed one. It embodied the spirit of 2 Timothy 2:2

And the things that you have heard from me among many witnesses, commit these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.

I was also struck by the involvement of the local church in the life of Jason Meyer and the life of my friend. Acts 13 is a text that reaffirms the role of a local church with regard to its responsibilities of sending out those within its midst who are called and affirmed by the local church for Gospel ministry. Too many local churches take the passive approach and abdicate this responsibility to a Bible college or a seminary. Does the local church that you attend have a method or process for recognizing and affirming those who have expressed a call to ministry?

In the end, I am reminded of the Scripture found in 1 Timothy 3:1

If a man desires the office of a bishop, he desires a good thing.

I am also reminded that I am not getting any younger either.

Still trying to make sense of what I heard on Tuesday morning and wondering how it all fits in the context of my life.


Accountability is not a bad word…

First, I would like to apologize for the lack of posts recently.  I realize that if I want people to read, I have to post!

I have been thinking a lot in recent days about accountability.  Some people are quite negative on the subject,  I do not understand why, but they are entitled to their opinion.

There are various facets of accountability – family, job, church, etc.

Accountability is defined as an obligation or willingness to accept responsibility or to account for one’s actions. [Definition taken from the Merriam-Webster Dictionary-Online]

I am thankful for the various facets of accountability that are in my life.  I am thankful that I am held accountable for my actions on the job.  I have to abide by a code of conduct and I am given a performance review each year that holds me accountable for certain tasks and goals.  I am thankful for familial accountability.  I have certain responsibilities as a father and a husband.  It is not enough for me to be there for dinner each evening and make sure the bills and obligations are paid on time.  I need to shepherd my family.  This is a role that I am becoming more aware of and I am working in the new year.

One aspect of accountability that I am aware of but seems to be misunderstood or lacking is that of accountability among brothers and sisters in Christ within the local church.

Hebrews 10:23-25 reminds us

Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering , for He who promised is faithful. And let us consider one another to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the day approaching.

When was the last time you exhorted someone or you were exhorted when you were in attendance at your local church?  I am not referring to the preaching of the Word, but rather one on one ministry between you and another believer.  When was the last time someone encouraged you regarding love and good works?  Church membership has fallen on hard times, especially in the Bible belt where “everyone is a church member or in church”.  Is church membership to resemble a country club membership or a social club?  Unfortunately, I think that church membership has declined in our culture and partially due to a lack of understanding of the true meaning and purpose.

Is it wrong to hold other church members accountable?  No, in fact it is one of the keys of church discipline (Mt 18:15-17).  Most church covenants have a statement or two regarding mutual accountability.  The church I currently attend has the following statements:

.. to walk together in Christian love;

We further pledge to watch over one another in brotherly love; to remember each other in prayer; to aid each other in sickness and distress; to cultivate Christian sympathy in feeling and courtesy of speech; to be slow to take offense, but always ready for reconciliation…

How can we accomplish these things effectively if we really do not know anyone or have meaningful relationships within the local church?  We talked about this in our Men’s Bible Study last week.

Unfortunately, we hear about a brother or sister in Christ who has fallen into sin and their fellowship is broken with the Lord and eventually with the local church. When you hear about these things, pray for the person(s) involved, then ask yourself this question, “Is there something I could have done to prevent this from happening?”    There are people around us who do not feel that church membership is not important and as a result they resist accountability of any sort and most times do not possess a teachable spirit.  The Bible does give us an admonition regarding how we are to handle such persons.  Again, we see that it involves a form of accountability.

2 Timothy 2:24-26

24 And a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient, 25 in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth, 26 and that they may come to their senses and escape the snare of the devil, having been taken captive by him to do his will.

2 Corinthians 13:5

Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you are disqualified.


So as we look to the end of 2012 and to the beginning to 2013.  How are you executing your responsibilities as a believer not only to be accountable, but to also hold others accountable as well.  Not in a Pharisaical manner, but rather in a loving Christ-like manner.

I would like to hear from you.  Has someone held you accountable within the context of the local church?  Was it a positive experience?



It just hit me…. 20 years

While having a conversation with my dad yesterday, I realized that I have been working full-time for 20 years!  If I had stayed with the same company (which is probably a rare thing to do in this day of uncertainty, unemployment, and mergers, etc.) I would have been there for 20 years.  I am thankful that I have had a relatively stable work history.  I started working full-time in 1991 just before I graduated from college.  I stayed with that company until 1999, surviving two acquisitions and managing to keep my job both times.  In 1999, I went to work for an independent Baptist mission agency in Jacksonville, FL.  I stayed there until 2002 when I moved to MN to attend seminary.  I was unemployed from August to October of 2002 and have worked for the same company since October in 2002 in two different capacities.  I have done the unenviable job of business to business collections (both in person and over the phone) Not my idea of a great job, but it paid the bills while in seminary, when I got married and when we had our first child.  Shortly before my son’s first birthday, I changed roles within this company and now I have a somewhat less stressful job in the Financial Operations area dealing with manufacturer rebate contracts.  It is an okay job, the pay is not competitive for this area, but the benefits are outstanding!

I am still looking for ministry opportunities, but there are not many to be had these days.  In the meantime, I am trying to find something that pays better because we are expecting our second child in August and we found out that God will grace us a with a little girl!  We have not decided on names yet, but I have stated that I would like to give her my mother’s first name as her middle name in honor of my mother who passed away in 2006.

April is a birthday month for our family.  My sister-in-law celebrates her birthday today (2nd), then my dad and sister share the same birthday on the 10th and then I am three days later (13th) and my son is on the 20th and one of my nephews is the 23rd.

Turning 40 did not bother me, but now that I am turning 42, it is starting to bother me a bit because I have been looking at my life and what I have accomplished and what still remains to be done.  I can remember when I was fresh out of college and full of zeal and ready to get busy for God and yet I was told that I could not expect to be hired by any church because of a few things:  1) I was young (23 at the time) 2) I did not have any experience  3) I was not married.

Now almost 20 years later, I am now looked on as being old (even at 42) still no formal church experience (being paid and having a title), but I am married and a father.

I also heard about one of my seminary  colleagues who is getting ready to go into full-time ministry upon his graduation in May, he already has a place to go!  I am glad that he will not have to experience what I have over this last year of rejections and lack of interest on the part of many churches/pastors.

Lord willing, the next 20 years of working will hopefully be more fruitful than this first 20!

Bad news with a twist

It must be a Monday!  Why is it for some reason that Monday seems to be a hard day for most people?

Well today was a difficult day at work due to the conflicting and competing priorities and trying to be productive in the midst of what seemed like chaos.

Just a few minutes ago, I received another rejection email from a church that I had recently sent my resume to. This church had the unenviable task of going through over 300 resumes in order to narrow the field of potential candidates for the office of Senior Pastor.  This email was much different.  The last three paragraphs were done, in my opinion, with the intent of attempting to minister grace in an unpleasant situation.

Here is the quotation that I wanted to share because it was done well:

Please do not take this as a rejection of you or your qualifications, but as from the Lord. We’ve had the blessing of having a significant number of qualified people like yourself, and have had to gradually reduce the number with whom we remain in contact with.  We’ve sought to do this carefully and prayerfully, knowing that many like you could be well-qualified for this ministry. Since we can only call one person, many good people will necessarily be removed from further consideration in our ongoing process.

Like you, we seek the Lord’s guidance in all of this, knowing that He is able and He is sovereign. How fortunate we are to have so many choice servants of the Lord to consider.

This may be disappointing for you as it is for us to have to notify you in this way, but we’d encourage you to move on with the Lord, seeking His direction, always knowing that He has promised to lead us in every step of the way and never to leave us or forsake us.

Wow, what else can be said after receiving an email like that?!  All I can say, “Praise the Lord and thanks for ministering grace to me in bad news!”

My hope is that churches and pulpit committees would learn from what I just read.  I just received a reply from the sender stating that “some have replied with a little “snip” in their reply.  It is unfortunate that some brethren have not learned to minister grace as well.  It is easy to be upset and become hardened and embittered because of continual rejection.

May we minister grace to others and not retaliate!

Response of the week…

I stated earlier this week I received an email from a church where I had submitted my resume for possible consideration for a pastoral staff position.

The response that I received was quite interesting:

‘After prayerfully looking at your resume, it is the conclusion of the Search Team that we would not be a good match.’

Now for the questions that I had after I read this response:

  • How did you determine that we would not be a good match merely based on my resume?
  • Did I attend a college or seminary that you did not approve of?
  • Did I have too many degrees or not enough?
  • Were you put off because most of my experiences are based out of many years of service within three different local churches from 1987 through the present time?
  • Were you put off that my only formal pastoral experience was a one year internship while in seminary?
  • Were you put off that my full time ministry experience (paid) was not in a local church but a para-church organization?
  • Am I too old or not old enough?

I could probably come up with more possible questions/objections, but I hit the obvious ones that could be raised.  You see, I will never know the answers to these questions, because the church thought that they were helping me by emailing that short response to me.  In the secular arena, when you are declined for a job or position, you are never told why because most companies are afraid that if they were to disclose the real reasons why you were not hired that they would open themselves up to a lawsuit or expose the fact that they could be guilty of breaking the law.  This is a different situation, we are dealing with brothers and sisters in Christ and if our true desire is to live for the glory of God, then wouldn’t it be a kind thing to decline someone, but also let them know where they fell short so that they would not perpetuate the same mistake when applying for the next ministry opportunity.

Unfortunately, we fail in this area and we resort back to the same tactics that the secular world does when they hire people.

Why is there no difference between the church and the world?


History does repeat itself

I was reminded of this disputed fact earlier this week, when I encountered some former seminary colleagues and their inquiries as to what I am doing now. It reminded me of when I graduated from college in 1992 (that seems so long ago – almost 20 years ago).   When I graduated from college, I was ready to head into ministry, after all, I had just finished Bible college and earned a B.A. degree in Church Ministries.  However, the following things were not in my favor at the time:  I was 23 years old, single, and had no formal ministry experience.  The economy was bad all over (like it is now) I had a decent secular job, but my heart was not there at all.  I sent my resume everywhere I knew that an opportunity existed that would possibly suit me.  Nothing happened for six long years. I was active in my local church, not real good in the dating arena from 1992 onward.  I was living in frustration because I felt like there was something wrong with me because I was watching my college friends and colleagues leave Jacksonville for ministry positions and opportunities.  The brief stint that I did have in full-time ministry (1998-2002)was a real eye-opener for me (it was not in a local church ministry, but a para-church organization) and it was some of those experiences and the hypocrisy that I saw that God used to get me to leave the dysfunctional situation and resume my education after a ten year hiatus.  So in 2002, I resigned my position and headed north for the Twin Cities to begin my academic career towards a MDiv. degree at Central Baptist Theological Seminary in Plymouth, MN.

Little did I know when I arrived in the Twin Cities how things would change in my life.  I started seminary in the Fall of 2002.  I could not find a job right away (It took 2 months to find a job and I am still with the same company almost 9 years later, but in a different role) I met my future spouse in 2002 and we were married in 2004, while I was still in pursuit of the MDiv degree.  In 2006, our first child was born, Joseph.  We lost his twin brother (earlier) and my mother passed away in September of 2006.  I thought that the convergence of these circumstances would push me to the breaking point and that I would quit seminary.  God was faithful and used several people to encourage me not to quit. As a result, I dropped back into the M.A program and finished the M.A in May of 2008 and then set out to finish the MDiv. which God allowed me to do in May 2010.  I applied to attempt to continue my education but was not accepted for post-graduate work.

Earlier this week, when I was talking with people and they were inquiring about my status (ministerially speaking) and I told them that I had sent out 15 resumes last year and no interviews.  Answering these questions, brought me back almost 20 years ago when I was answering the same questions to college colleagues who came back to the Jacksonville area and I would run into them at Trinity Baptist Church /College functions.

I did not realize how discouraged I had become until I started answering those questions on Monday morning.  By the time I came home on Monday afternoon, I was ready to crawl under a rock.  I asked the usual questions, Why me?  What did I do wrong?  It is also tough because I do not have a mentor or an advocate like so many younger guys have these days.  I could mention instances where guys have gotten their “foot in the door” and eventually obtained a position because of who they were associated with (mentor) or who they worked for or someone who was willing to “go to bat for them.”  I do not have anyone like that.  I thought if I had been accepted to post-graduate studies that kind of a Paul/Timothy relationship would have been fleshed out.  The reason I thought this is because I have heard about these types of relationships from my seminary professors with their mentors and have seen it in the lives of other ThM and PhD students at other institutions.

Now instead of being 23, I am 41 on the verge of being 42, I am married now (7 years in July) and I have one son (Joseph), one in heaven (Jonathan) and a son or daughter due in August. Now instead of being too young and inexperienced, now I am older and married and still do not have any formal experience (most churches do not take into consideration my extensive experience serving in three Baptist churches as a volunteer faithfully since 1987, they want to see that I had a title and/or a paycheck for what I have done and they have come up with the five years of experience as some form of benchmark of success or competency.  I recently saw one church was looking for a pastor that had a minimum of ten years experience!)

Even though time has marched on and now I have three ministry degrees, the pain is still present when I have to answer these types of questions.  20 years ago, Facebook and Twitter did not exist.  Some of the discouragement comes from seeing what others are doing and they are landing some great opportunities to serve God.   The pain is compounded when I returned to the secular  job where I have served honorably for the last eight years, but get no recognition, no career development and the compensation is lacking (when you are the main breadwinner) in an area where the cost of living is high in contrast to the salary that is below the per capita salary for our area.  Then you watch people get promoted who have been with the company less time than I have and with less education.  That does not help.  It would be one thing if I was radically succeeding in the secular workforce and making enough to support my family adequately, but that is not the case.  It feels like a grand failure on both fronts (secular and ministerial).

Charles Spurgeon talked about depression, “Fits of depression come over the most of us. Cheerful as we may be, we must at intervals be cast down. The strong are not always vigorous, the wise not always ready, the brave not always courageous, and the joyous not always happy.”

I am hoping at this point that I will not have to wait another six years before going into full-time ministry, but that is not for me to decide.

Building Demolition, the Church and the Gospel

You might think that the title is a bit weird, but as you read on you will understand.  Earlier last week, the buildings that comprised the campus of Fourth Baptist Church from 1918-1997 are in the process of being demolished to make way for a new Minneapolis Public Schools HQ building.  Even though Fourth Baptist has not occupied these buildings since they were sold to the Minneapolis Public Schools in 1996, nevertheless, to some these buildings represent some significance in their lives.  To some, it was the place where they first heard the Gospel and were converted.  To some it was the place where they met and/or married their spouse.  To some it was the place where they learned about what it meant to be a disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ.

For our family, our context with Fourth Baptist Church did not start until after their relocation to Plymouth.  My wife started working for WCTS AM 1030 in late 1999.  I did not come to the Twin Cities permanently in 2002 to attend Central Seminary.  My son Joseph has been attending here since shortly after his birth.

When it was announced that the old facilities were going to be torn down,  I thought about taking my son to see some of the demolition.  For him it was an opportunity to see heavy machinery at work, which is something that he likes. For me it was to witness some historical buildings come to an end.  Some of you may know that I am a student of history.  I am always trying to learn about things and why they are the way they are.  I had never been inside of any of those buildings, but clearly understood the significance of these facilities in the lives of so many people.  What did intrigue me was that Fourth Baptist Church at one time was a very large church.  The auditorium in the picture on the left was reported to seat at least 2000 people.

When Fourth relocated in 1998 to their new facilities in Plymouth, the church auditorium was built to seat only 1000 people.  Also, they left 150 people along with a staff member to plant an inner-city church, Family Baptist.

You may ask, what does all of that have to do with the title.  Well, I took my son down to Broadway and Fremont a week ago and he watched the demolition taking place and I was explaining to him what was happening.  Then yesterday while we were out, he asked if we could go down again, I obliged and we went yesterday before lunch.  They had made a lot of progress and the only building that was still standing was the Christian School building, everything else was pretty much gone.  My son was full of questions:  Why did they tear the buildings down?  How did Family Baptist start?  Why did they tear down Clearwaters Chapel?  Where is the neon sign?

As we drove around the block, I explained to him that the church is not the building, but the gathering of people.  I told him that our church used to meet at this location, but we moved many years ago to where we are now and that the Minneapolis Public Schools owned the property.  Then he saw Family Baptist and asked about how that church was started.  I explained to him that Family was started when Fourth moved.  He asked if we were members of Family?  I said, no, that mom and dad were members of Fourth Baptist Church.  He wanted to know when he could be a member and I talked with him as we were driving away about in order to be a church member that one had to be saved and baptized by immersion.  He wanted to know about baptism and I explained it to him and we talked more about the Gospel.  He does understand that he has to trust Christ, but does not totally understand the concept of being a sinner and trusting Christ.  He is asking a lot of questions and we are working with him.

As we see the demolition of these buildings, we are reminded of the many great things that took place in these facilities for the glory of God.  We must also remember that they are just buildings, brick and mortar, and temporal at best! I never thought that their destruction would be a topic of discussion that would eventually lead into a discussion about the church and the Gospel, but I am thankful it did!

(remains of the old 1974 auditorium after demolition)