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A Pastor's Appreciation Month...

I don’t know who came up with Pastors Appreciation Month (though I suspect it was a greeting card company), but I do appreciate it. I have been overwhelmed by warm words and deep acts of love and generosity every year, and this year is certainly no exception!

But I would like to start another tradition—one not many Pastor’s in honesty can subscribe to. Instead of this being Pastors Appreciation Month, I would like to turn it around and “Appreciate” on the congregations at Shiloh and First Church.

What I so deeply appreciate about our Church:

As R.T. Kendall shared, this body feels like a family. That was once a common denominator in the church world, but is now a rarity and a pearl of great value… I am overwhelmed by the love of this family!

You have given me tremendous freedom to preach the Gospel, rather than the “I’m special.” Do you know how many pastors have the freedom to NOT spend every holiday—from Valentine’s Day to Saint Patrick’s Day to Mother’s Day and Father’s Day to Halloween(?!) preaching on the virtues of humanity and how special we are? Almost none. Most pastors are bound by traditions so thick that they only have 15-20 weekends a year to preach the Good News of Jesus. I am profoundly grateful that you don’t get upset when I preach Jesus rather than July 4th!

You are not afraid to spend time in the Presence. This is almost unheard of in the first-world church. Clocks control the service. A pastor who dares run a service over an hour is in grave danger of being fired, in many places. But you don’t mind a service that is long, as long as we are repeatedly enjoying the Presence of the Lord! In musical Worship, Communion, Prayer, the Sermon, the Altar, the Greeting, set-up and take-down—in all these “means of grace” you enjoy Jesus more than a spiritual quickie… I am greatly blessed to be part of a Bride who loves to spend time with her Groom, rather than a harlot that can’t wait to get on to her next client!

You are willing to embrace and flow with a new vision from the Lord. How rare! The “we have never done it that way before” chorus is very loud in churchdom. But here? You were willing to walk with me as your Pastor when my vision wasn’t very clear, until the Lord could grab my attention enough to turn my heart toward our own neighborhood. You stayed when they said “cancer.” The Lord warned me that some would leave, because in a world of superstar pastors a sick one seems like failure or weakness. But in my weakness, God’s grace has been strong; He has given us an Antioch-sized vision of a great Awakening that demands an outward focus—like His…! I am humbled to pastor a congregation that desires and recognizes vision as being more important than comfort…!

You are okay with focusing on others rather than self. That is so counter-cultural! But it has ALWAYS been the flow of the real church. You have embraced the poor and the needy; you have forgone the thrills of being an “important” church; you have recognized that our healing comes from looking and loving others rather than demanding attention be focused on ourselves… I am overjoyed to pastor congregations that realize God does not revolve around us; rather, our lives revolve around Him and His perfect will, timing, and purposes!

Thank you, First and Shiloh, for being the kind of congregations that a Pastor can truly appreciate! You have not made me rich or powerful or well-known (for which I am deeply grateful), rather, you have made me be the kind of Pastor God called me to be—faithful and grateful—in which I will rejoice eternally!!!

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