In July of this year, I celebrated five years as pastor at Grace Life. This is part two of some of the lessons I’ve learned (and am learning). You can find part one HERE. Here are the final three truths that God is teaching me:
5. The necessity to identify and train men for pastoral ministry.
Every pastor and every church knows that this is their responsibility, but there are so many questions as to what this may look like. Honestly, with all that takes place in a church this easily gets placed toward the lower end of priorities. Ultimately, it seems to become non-existent. If a man is called to pastoral ministry than it appears to be extra, but not necessarily one of the main responsibilities of the church.
Our pastoral residency has become one of the pleasant surprises of pastoring. God has gifted Grace Life with quality men who are serious about their walk with the Lord and wondering if God is calling them to shepherd His church. Talking with men who are discerning God’s call upon their lives has been one of the most rewarding aspects of ministry these past five years. I love hearing these men preach. While the residency program is still in its infancy and there are questions that need to be addressed, God has placed one man in pastoral ministry and we wait to see what God will do with the others.
While all of this is going on, God is providing more men to serve as elders at Grace Life. This is a sign of spiritual growth and health! I praise God for this work. I look forward to the day where a man is born-again, baptized, and discipled here at Grace Life and then serves as an elder or goes out to shepherd another church.
6. The beauty of an ethnically diverse church.
If there’s one comment I receive from guests more than another it is: “I have never been in a church that is as diverse as Grace Life!” To which I say, “Praise, God!” In fact, we are more ethnically diverse than our zip code which is remarkable and to which I say, “Only God could do this!”
One of our theme verses over these years has been Revelation 7:9-10, “After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!”
God is creating at Grace Life what heaven will be like. So, we sing in Spanish. Some pray in their heart language whether it be Spanish, Chinese, French, tribal dialects, Italian and a few others.
When the gospel is at work it brings people together under the banner of Christ. We want people to see that while our culture may divide us by skin color, or along cultural lines, the gospel of Jesus Christ unites us because our unity is in Christ!
7. The value of a supportive wife and family.
While this may be last on my list it is not the least. This final truth is a special gift of grace from God Himself. In fact, you have the pastor you have today because of the daily encouragement that my dear wife is to me. Pastor’s wives are unseen heroes. I know my wife pray for me every Sunday before I preach because she tells me so. There’s nothing that encourages me as much as those words from her. She is my best friend and I am so thankful for her!
While I’ve tried to be more disciplined over the years not to be gone in the evening, my kids are the ones who bear the weight of those late night meetings. I thank God that they are growing in grace and learning to be faithful testimonies to the gospel. I also thank you, Grace Life, for allowing them to grow up as normal kids and not feel the unhealthy expectation that often meets pastor’s kids to perform.
Five years have come and gone. It’s not been without tears of joy and tears of sadness, discouragement and encouragement, and highs and lows. Should our gracious God give us another five years together it is my prayer that we will keep on doing what we’re doing just more of it, more preaching, more praying, more evangelizing, more baptizing, more discipling, more serving, more sending out, more church planting and more of Jesus.
I dearly love you, Grace Life! Thank you for letting me be your pastor!