I feel that it is best if I spend a bit more time offering some clarification on a few of the statements I made during the sermon “I love my church.” I’m realizing that as I grow in my preaching, so does the length of my sermons. Because I’m racing against the clock, sometimes I rush over things that should really be explained in greater detail. Hopefully, I can do that here with this blog post.
First of all, I want to explain my use of the word “frustration.” As I said yesterday, there have been a small few (I can count on one hand) who have communicated with me in an effort to voice their “frustrations.” Before I write more, I think it best that I define what I mean when I use the word frustration. Merriam-Webster defines frustrate as “to induce feelings of discouragement.” This is the sense in which I am using the word. Sometimes we like to associate the emotion of anger with the word frustrate, but that is not the case here. Each of the letters, phone calls or face-to-face meetings has been means by which the individual(s) has communicated to me their “discouragement” with our present situation.
I don’t fault them for having these discouragements, and as I said on Sunday, I share their frustrations…discouragements. The decline in our average attendance and current budget shortage are two major issues. To ignore the seriousness of these two issues would be a mistake. Proverbs 27:23 exhorts us to “be diligent to know the state of your flocks, and attend to your herds…” Ministry leaders have to look at attendance and giving because they are indicators of the health of the flock. Frustration enters when we are unable to pinpoint exactly what those indicators are indicating…does this make any sense??? I wish I knew why our budget is what it is, but I don’t. Now, I actually DO know why our attendance is down – less people show up for church on Sunday mornings. Wasn’t that a tough nut to crack? But, frustration enters when I don’t know how to correct that problem.
I don’t want you to think that I’m angry or disappointed with you, the people of Duncan Park. In fact, it is just the opposite, hence the title of my sermon – I love my church. Allow me to let the cat out of the bag here – we aren’t perfect! Our church needs to improve in some areas. Honestly, I think it is safe to say that improvement in ALL areas is necessary, but isn’t this also the way it is for own personal lives. We all have room for growth! But…I say it is easier for us to grow through the encouragement and exhortation of one another than to attempt it alone. (Hebrews 10:24-25) We will continue to seek God’s face and set our faces on “the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” (Phil. 3:14)
Secondly, I think I failed to communicate that the letters, phone calls and face-to-face meetings were filled with love and compassion. Please don’t think that anybody beat up on your pastor. There wasn’t any finger pointing or efforts to blame anybody. In fact I will say that the majority of the individual conversations or letters were filled with words used for the purpose of encouraging me. Please don’t feel the need to defend me or to protect me, because that isn’t necessary. (Someday I may really need you to fill that role, so I’ll save that favor for another time.)
Lastly, I wanted to communicate to those who wrote or spoke with me that I was listening, even though I didn’t offer you a formal response. I want you to know that I am approachable and teachable. I may not always agree with you, in fact, in the end I didn’t agree with everything that I discussed with one individual, but I did give it consideration. I also wanted our congregation to know that there were men who were willing to speak into the life of a younger believer, even if he is their pastor. They did it well, and you should know they did it well. I am better because of these conversations, and I hope they won’t end. I invite you to speak freely with me because this is one way that iron will sharpen iron. I’m proud of them and I’m grateful for them.
I do hope this clarifies some of my statements. If not, please talk to me. I sometimes hear that my sermons “step on your toes.” Good! Your toes need to be stepped on sometimes, as do mine. However, we also need to be encouraged. I was made aware of that yesterday when some of you came to me in tears and said you really needed to hear that. Ministry is tough sometimes. Ministry is discouraging sometimes. Ministry is frustrating sometimes. So let’s continue to minister together so that we can support one another by faithfully loving them unconditionally. The easiest way to start is by simply telling others that you love them. So here it goes…
To Duncan Park: I am humbled by the opportunity to pastor you. You have demonstrated grace and patience to me, allowing me to grow at my own pace. You have stood with me and fought for me. You have accepted me as I am and loved me in both word and deed. You have given us a place where my wife and I can thrive and our children can grow in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. We love our church, and we love you.
Now it is your turn to tell me why you love Duncan Park. Send it to me however you wish, and remember that anonymity is OK too.