I flew in to our prayer meeting this morning on my private jet. A car service whisked me from the airport to the doors of the sanctuary at 5:55, just in time to hear the first notes of the hymns that were raised by the choir before setting the day’s prayer concerns before the congregation. Two hours later I rose from my kneeling position, noting that I was the first to leave of the hundreds of souls gathered, convicting me all over again of my accountability for the spiritual welfare of those God has brought me to shepherd.
Okay, that wasn’t my reality, but it might have been some pastor’s morning!
The truth is I drove my 12 year old creaky pickup truck to the church, arriving at 5:30 to turn on the lights, open the doors and start the computer and projector to display the concerns of the church for the gathered. I don’t do this for my glory or to be noted as a servant. I do it out of love for my God and my church. (We, your pastor included, don’t do this for our glory or to be noticed. We do it out of love for God and Church.) We do what we do out of love for you.
The book of Ezekiel can be a tough read, but it can be a convicting read as well. Turn to chapter 33 and read it with your pastor in mind. He is called to be the Watchman, accountable to God for your spiritual welfare. God has called him or her to warn you of the roaming lion or the sweeping sword.
But if the watchman sees the sword coming and does not blow the trumpet to warn the people and the sword comes and takes the life of one of them, that man will be taken away because of his sin, but I will hold the watchman accountable for his blood. (vv 33:6)
Few pastors who take passages like this seriously would do what they do, giving sacrificially of their lives for you in return for 30 pieces of lucre. One need only turn the page to the next chapter to see a warning against taking on the role of spiritual shepherd strictly for material gain or personal status. As the prophet records:
This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Woe to the shepherds of Israel who only take care of themselves! Should not shepherds take care of the flock? (vv 34:2b)
Pastoring with love and humility, I wish you grace and peace.
Peter turned and saw that the disciple whom Jesus loved was following them. (This was the one who had leaned back against Jesus at the supper and had said, “Lord who is going to betray you?”) When Peter sah him, he asked, “Lord, what about him?”
Jesus answered, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me.” (John 21:20 – 23)
This small section of scripture, buried in the larger pericope of Peter’s restoration is one that I go back to again and again to remind me of my proper relationship to the Lord and others in His Church. Dr. Vernon Grounds once spoke on passage in chapel, reminding the ministers in attendance that our ministry was never to be compared to someone else’s. Whether we were successful in the eyes of the world (i.e., megachurch growth) or a failure by the same standard (nurturing a small, unnoticed body), the minister was simply to make sure that he was a success according to the call of the Lord. If Jesus calls you to toil in some small body, go and do it with all your heart. If he places you in a megachurch, work every day to ensure your own humility knowing that the success is the Lord’s, not yours. Blogging pastors who spend more time bragging about all the conferences they speak at or their world travels that an ‘unnamed benefactor’ sends them on should bookmark this passage.
As Dr. Grounds said, pointing to men and women in the chapel body, “don’t worry about him or her and what they have been called to do. Simply follow Jesus.”
Amen Dr. Grounds.
“I walk into a large white room. It’s a dance studio in midtown Manhattan. I’m wearing a sweatshirt, faded jeans, and Nike cross-trainers. The room is lined with eight-foot-high mirrors. There’s a boom box in the corner. The floor is clean, virtually spotless if you don’t count the thousands of skid marks and footprints left there by dancers rehearsing. Other than the mirror, the boom box, the skid marks, and me, the room is empty.”
Everyone who creates must begin here; the environment and your tools. For the woodworker there is the wood and your edge tools. The writer begins with a blank screen and the keyboard, the photographer with a lens and unexposed film, and the teacher with knowledge and a course schedule. The process of creating something from nothing is difficult, challenging work that often finds you bumping up against a variety of blocks. Preparation to create is the key to climbing over these obstacles to mine the creative gold that lies on the other side.
The renowned choreographer Twyla Tharp shares the core elements that she relies upon to create new dances over and over throughout the decades of her storied career. Key to the process of creating is to prepare yourself to create. You will not run a marathon without having trained yourself to go that distance. A table will not be created from that expensive walnut without your having learned find it in the wood. Why do we expect creativity to simply flow without having trained ourselves to be prepared to harvest the flow?
Tharp’s theme throughout is to emphasize the habits that the truly creative people develop. She relates her own rituals as well as those of other creatives to point you toward finding your own set of habits that will prepare and arrange you in the place where your mind and soul are prepared to create. Be at your keyboard, with your camera, in your workshop and your brain will automatically know that it is time to create.
But I’m not creative, you say. Twyla would say nonsense! You simply have not prepared yourself to create. You have not identified your specific creative spark, you have not developed a process (The Box), you have put yourself in a place to scratch, you have not identified the core of the work (The Spine), and you have not put the time into the basics (Skill) that must be second nature so that creativity can put them to use in new forms.
Tharp’s book is not a manual but rather, an inspiration. She is not telling you to follow her method step by step. Instead Twyla practically demands that you find your personal method, strengthen it and make it tough, and then put yourself in a position of letting it work for you. Savor the book; get a pencil and make it your own.
Now, get out and create something.
Pastors and other ministry leaders might look at a book like this and wonder what it might have to offer them. In reality, is there any more demanding job than preparing to speak God’s word each week? God is a Creative Entity and he has placed this in you. Train yourself to be creative, know your skills (scripture and theology), and let that creativity color the work you produce each week.
Merlin turned me on to this book and many of us can benefit from the new direction he has taken 43 Folders. The language and humor can be a little coarse so be aware but check out what he has to say and who he links to if you want to continue to grow in your creativity.