I continue to share what was building up to us moving to Washington. If you are just now jumping into this series, you can read the first one here: Part One
Ultimately everything falls to God’s sovereignty and calling in our lives. He called my family and me out of California to go to Washington in 2020 during COVID. There is no doubt in God’s timing and leading. I was afraid of going out. I was comfortable. This was the biggest step of faith we ever took as a family and in my life. God started to work on my heart about leaving Harvest and pursuing a lead pastor position in 2015.
There was some behind-the-scenes work that God was doing in my life during that time. First, as I mentioned in the previous post, God was working on my wife and me with not being comfortable but wanting to be obedient. Second, there was this leading to be a lead pastor and wrestling with what did that look like. This took years of God working in me and maturing me. I was comfortable with a salary, benefits, and community. We had great friends and a wonderful family close by. There was a fear of going out, knowing it will be hard. There was the fear of what about the future and provision. I wondered; would I ever have it this good? The Lord needed to push me. We aren’t told to pursue being comfortable, we are to pursue obedience.
The Lord was showing me areas in that I was not trusting him, and he was helping me grow in being a shepherd. I did have formal education in ministry as well as many years of experience. In 2015 I read The Pastor’s Justification by Jared C. Wilson and The Way of the Dragon or the Way of the Lamb by Jamin Goggin and Kyle Strobel which challenged me immensely regarding ministry.
Both these books painted the picture for me of how Scripture lays out pastoral ministry. Don’t get me wrong, I was highly influenced by some very godly men. For example, Pastor Forrest Rickard who was my boss for several years, modeled servant leadership and was very diligent in what he did. Another was Pastor Ralph Arthur. He was calm, not pushy, patient, and humble. When I think of a shepherd he comes to mind (He went home to be with the Lord in 2009). Alyssa’s father, Paul, is a pastor who serves behind the scenes. He doesn’t want to be in the limelight. These men, could teach the Bible well, but were not charismatic in personality that amassed a huge following. They didn’t care about their Instagram or Twitter followers. What made them stand out was how they cared for others and humbly served. In short, they pointed to Jesus.
Am I Missing Something
There are several others too that are not speakers at conferences nor have written books but that they quietly served the Lord. I guess God used these examples as well as these books to help with the wrestling that was going on with me. I would ask myself, is what I see with so many big-name evangelical pastors the way we are to pastor? The rise of the celebrity pastor, what seemed to be influencing young men in ways to pursue the pastorate just didn’t seem quite the same as what we read in the New Testament. Am I missing something? There was this constant pursuit of what do I need to do (the following) and what the Bible says (Jesus is bigger than me).
It was in 2018, Alyssa and I went on a trip to do some research on different multisite ministry models. This particular trip led us to a church that had many locations and it seemed to be successful at it but what I witnessed was disturbing. I do not want to go into detail but to summarize what I witnessed was not a model of Jesus shepherding. Outside this trip, I was beginning to see a lot of shepherds feeding off the sheep instead of feeding the sheep (Ezekiel 34:2-5). I was alarmed and I needed to look at myself and see my motives, was that me?
Was that Me?
Shepherding From Behind the Scenes
Two passages that kept coming to mind during this time were John 3:27-30 and 1 Peter 5:1-3.
In the first passage, John 3, we read how John the Baptist was asked by his disciples why so many were leaving to Jesus. Basically, John’s following was shrinking. This would be a hard pill to swallow but his response reveals the goal as shepherds.
He says, “A person cannot receive even one thing unless it is given him from heaven. You yourselves bear me witness, that I said, ‘I am not the Christ, but I have been sent before him.’ The one who has the bride is the bridegroom. The friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom’s voice. Therefore this joy of mine is now complete. He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:27-30).
I constantly need to remind myself- It is not about me! Jesus must be known, and I don’t need to be. Guess what, I struggle with this daily. Pride and power come up. I want to be known. Sometimes under the guise of making a difference. But at the end of the day, if I point to Jesus and I may be forgotten, that is a win because Jesus is magnified. I need to die to myself daily.
The other passage is Peter’s admonishment to elders.
So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as a partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed: shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock (1 Peter 5:1-3).
Notice Peter is pointing to the one who really runs the church, Jesus. The witness of the under-shepherd is to magnify the beauty of the Savior, the chief Shepherd. Oh, how I fail at times. There is too much of self that I must cut out and more of Jesus to point to.
Ministry is tricky. The pastoral ministry is even more so. The danger of pride and power today run rampant amongst pastors just like it did in the first century. The danger of pride and power is something that I too am prone to. Sin is knocking at the door and a shepherd must guard, fight, and ask for others to hold them accountable. Really this is shepherding behind the scenes. Jesus is center stage and there is joy pointing to him from behind!
To summarize, what led us to leave California and move to Washington to a smaller, rural church was that I was called to pastor a church. May Jesus be magnified. He must increase, but I must decrease!
Thank God for his grace and his patience. I am still learning this.