That’s a picture of Matt Chandler, I believe. He’s a very good, successful pastor with a big church and a book deal. Nothing wrong with that, but that’s certainly not me.
In case you’re wondering who I am, here’s a little of my story…
This morning was pretty normal. Woke up to the sound of our little girls jabbering in the next room. Poured cereal for them. Made coffee for me. Tried to let my wife sleep a few minutes longer before she has to get the toddlers dressed for daycare.
About an hour later, I’m dropping them off. A young mom, dressed like a dancer from a rap video, admires my beautiful two-year old daughter.
“She so adorbs (seriously, she said that)! Do you have any other grandchildren?”
That’s something I forgot to mention. I’m in my 50s, and my little girls are adopted. I smiled at the mom… while saying extremely bad things to her in my head.
This is why I’m a bad pastor. A very, very bad pastor.
I often enjoy these internal monologues. And no, I don’t hear other voices talking back to me. Thankfully, that internal monologue is the reason most people think I’m a nice person…
I’m really not.
They just can’t hear me internally criticize everything from their fashion sense to their grammar.
I’ve got a pretty sharp mind and a sharper sense of humor. I know how arrogant that sounds, but it’s just who I am. But those things don’t always go over well with the senior adult lady who doesn’t get your cryptic references to Monty Python and SNL. To her, you’re just a jerk. Which is probably true. So you keep that stuff inside.
That is, until you start a self-indulgent website where you can actually be yourself. I guess that’s why I’m here.
I used to be a pretty modest person before I had these new toddlers. I was the guy in the stall next to you who had trouble “going” because you were standing right next to me.
Too much info, right? Well, being a father to these babies right now in middle age (yeah, it’s “middle age” as if I’m going to live past 100) has stripped me of any personal dignity or delicate sensibilities.
About five years ago, I was making a really nice salary at a large church. I was successful, but had a nagging suspicion I wasn’t really living a life that pleased God.
Why? Because it was too safe. No risk involved. And without risk, no faith is needed. And “without faith, it’s impossible to please God”. I was keeping the wheels moving on things, but no one’s life was being changed. Just as tragically, my life was becoming increasingly mediocre to match my church.
So… I quit my job. We lost all our income. I started a little church from scratch. We started reaching out to people who didn’t know God. We struggled financially but kept looking for needs around us. God showed us children who needed parents. We opened our home to them, eventually adopting them. And evidently we’re not finished yet.
My wife moved me out of my home office area to make room for the kids we were fostering and adopting. So my office is now at a local coffee shop. Honestly, it was a little humbling at first. But now, I don’t mind it.
I think more pastors should be kicked out of our cushy offices of solitude and out into the mess of humanity. Isn’t that more likely where Jesus would be? Though He occasionally retreated to the mountains for prayer, He tended to stay in the midst of people. Increasingly, that’s where I feel I should be as well.
It’s been hard though. Our church didn’t bring in much at first, so I had to take a lot of odd jobs to make ends meet. We have even financed things by raiding our retirement, an admittedly stupid thing to do. But I love the crazy people we’re reaching, even though tithing seems to be the last thing they ever learn.
For a while, I worked as a jail chaplain. I counseled people in recovery programs. When things got tight, I rode a bicycle back and forth to the coffee shop 6 miles away. We lost our health insurance when we quit the big church.
I know I probably sound like I think we’re martyrs. But I know we’re nothing close. We’re just people who’ve decided to say “yes” whenever God asks us to do something outside our comfort zones. And even though we’re not sure where that “yes” may ultimately lead us, we’ve learned to happily relinquish control of our lives to Someone much smarter than us.
We’ve decided we want to be the ones on the rollercoaster with our hands in the air, not gripping the guardrail for dear life. Because it’s only the ones with their hands free who end up really enjoying the ride, right? The ones who try to stay in control only end up miserable, with no fun to show for all the sudden ups and downs they’ve been through.
I am indeed doomed – doomed to a life now of continual surprises!
I also now have expert skills I didn’t possess before. While I used to be shy in the bathroom, I now can shower while a virtual marching band of toddlers make their way through the place. In addition, there’s no bodily fluid I cannot clean up. Nothing makes me gag anymore. I could probably be a paramedic now if I had to.
Most of all, I have the joy of living with these little fairy princesses, plus whatever guests stars drop in our home this week. Trust me, they bring more entertainment than a hundred hours of Netflix. Watching their eyes light up as we blow bubbles in the backyard is more entertaining than my neighbors get in a thousand games of golf.
Little did I know God would make the world a colorful place for me, right when I’d thought everything was fading to black and white. And it’s all because I got on God’s rollercoaster, let go of the bar, threw my hands in the air and surrendered.
I discovered that if I listened to what God was telling me to do, a lot of people would think I was a failure. If I focused on people and not just budgets and buildings, I might not have as big a church as others. And if I wanted to reach people outside the church, I might make some good church folks uncomfortable. They might actually wonder what a good pastor is doing hanging out with “people like that”.
Well, that fine. If that’s the case, I’m ok with not being a “good pastor”. I’m fine with hanging out with losers and feeling like a failure of God calls it success. I know that sounds a little self-righteous, but that was the choice I made and I think it was the right one.
Since I am a pastor, I guess there’s a sermon in the midst of all this for you, dear reader. So here goes…
I want you to know your Daddy’s created a great adventure for you, but it’s not found in the safety you continually reach for. He wants to take you along with Him in the passenger seat for the ride of your life.
So…take your hands off the bar and lift them high in the air. Then let the ride take you wherever He wants it to go.
Ok, sermon over. Pass the plate and let’s get to the Sunday buffet before the Methodists.