On June 1, after a two-day caravan involving an Odyssey filled with kids trailing a U-Haul packed with stuff, our family awoke in the outskirts of west Houston and began the surprising new chapter God is authoring into our half-dozen lives.
Now two months into our Texas adventure, I’m ready to start writing again, this time as a city pastor with fresh new passions that God is kneading into long-held convictions.
In moving from Southern Seminary to BridgePoint Bible Church, I never intended to abandon the academic life of the mind or the signature power of the pen. Rather, I believe God has called me to pour these two passions through the trenches of pastoral ministry, church leadership, and missional strategy, and see what comes out the other end.
No single word could describe the first two months of pastoring. “Interesting” is too bland. “Fascinating” is too dramatic. “Challenging” would be true but incomplete, due to the many ministry fruits already tasted and the many seeds of friendship already sown. “Encouraging” would also be true but still incomplete, due to the many burdens, anxieties, discouragements, and doubts already marking the experience. Perhaps “called” continues to best summarize my thinking at the two-month mark, because no matter the joys or sorrows I’ve seen thus far, the one thing I know is that God called us here to Houston, Texas for a time such as this.
As we’ve gotten started, I’ve felt like a veteran minister and rookie pastor all at once, a dual sensation that leads to both stability and humility. Fifteen years in Christian higher education, primarily focused on leadership, discipleship, and counseling, leaves me unsurprised at the challenges of leadership and the darker issues that arise in people’s lives and families. At the same time, a multi-generational church with a long history and settled traditions raises all kinds of opportunities and challenges that mono-generational ministry simply can’t.
All along the way, though, BridgePoint Bible Church has welcomed us with tremendous warmth. We can’t keep up with all the invitations to homes and groups and outings. The elders are laboring shoulder to shoulder, and the staff is working hard and seems excited for whatever God has in store for the church. God has clearly blessed us with a church family that loves him and loves us, and we are grateful to be theirs in Christ.
Nevertheless, so far, the ups and downs have been the most striking part of my experience. Exhilaration and discouragement can follow each other like links on a chain, a rhythm that seems to reflect the beautiful yet fallen world we inhabit, the sorrowful-yet-always-rejoicing nature of Christian ministry, and my particular psyche as a weak man in need of grace. I’m learning to enjoy the “peaks” without being deceived, and endure the “troughs” without getting depressed, lest Screwtape and Wormwood have their way with me.
I’m still not sure how pastoring a church will affect my online writing. Each day my mind races with lessons and principles and impactful moments worth pondering, but so many seem to arise from vignettes that are sensitive enough or personal enough or confidential enough to make online sharing inappropriate.
In this way, I’m finding, online pastoral reflections are different than online professorial reflections. As an academic, I could simply address topics and share personal experiences in ways that didn’t immediately affect or reflect those under my teaching ministry. But as a pastor, so many of the issues I’m considering or addressing or brainstorming or learning are related in some way to the individuals and groups and ministries and church body I’m tasked with shepherding.
So I’m still contemplating the best ways to share the personal experiences and biblical principles and ministry lessons that keep rolling like waves onto my mental shoreline. Nevertheless, the writing mind finds ways to write, and I’m excited to begin dipping pen in ink once again, joining those who came before me and those who stand beside me in building up the church of Jesus Christ, the pillar and support of the truth (1 Timothy 3:14-15).
In the days and weeks and months to come, I’ll begin reflecting on a variety of issues and topics that have been stirring in my mind as I’ve begun leading this church, preaching through Titus, watching cultural issues, monitoring my heart, reading various books, parenting my children, learning to love my wife well, and continuing to live as best I can with a “mind awake.” Thanks for reading — I pray that the best is yet to come.