I’ve always considered myself to be a person who handles stress pretty well. I like to be busy. I enjoy taking risks. I tend to have my hands in numerous endeavors at any given time. I never thought anxiety was my problem.
Then a little less than a year ago I hit a wall. The previous several years of starting and growing the church I now pastor had caught up with me. I could never seem to get enough sleep. Small tasks became very difficult. Things I had normally done with little thought or stress were suddenly accompanied with an almost crippling anxiety.
It all came to a head one day as I was driving between meetings when all of a sudden it felt as though my heart was malfunctioning. I pulled the car over to the side of the road convinced I was having a heart attack. I remember thinking this might be the way I go out and I began praying for my family. That was my first panic attack. It was that moment that I realized I could no longer ignore the stress and anxiety that was slowly taking over my life.
One of my heroes, Brennan Manning, used to tell a story about a friend of his named Mary. Mary worked out of her home in New Orleans and in her living room hung a large banner that read, “Today I will not should on myself.” Whenever one of Mary’s friends said something to her like “Mary, you should get back into teaching” or “You should go on vacation,” Mary would respond “Don’t you should on me. Don’t you dare should on me.”
Should is a powerful word.
At any moment on any given day there is an endless list of things I should be doing. I should eat right. I should exercise. I should spend time in prayer. I should read my bible. I should be more productive. I should be more generous. I should be more disciplined. I should read that book. I should pursue that thing I’ve always talked about. I should get together with so and so. I should be a better husband, dad, friend, neighbor, employee, _______.
Yesterday I received a text message from a good friend that caused me to slam my phone down in disgust.
My friend had just delivered a large order of sandwiches to a church here in town to the tune of $1,500. He shared with me that it took he and another employee the majority of the morning to prepare the nearly two hundred box lunches. Although this church has a reputation for never tipping the delivery drivers from the business where my friend works, he thought surely they would tip this time. The order was enormous and the church had requested a discount. Perhaps, if nothing else, the church would tip the 10 percent discount to those who served them.
Let’s be honest, while there are some good reasons for leaving a church, there are a lot more bad ones. As a pastor, I hear some of them every now and then as people walk out the door. As a church planter, I hear them constantly as people walk in the door. If you’re thinking about looking for a new church home, please don’t use one of these five reasons to make the jump:
I have a confession to make: I am a pastor and until now I have largely avoided the topic of homosexuality. I have avoided writing about it. I have largely avoided talking about it. And until a couple weeks ago, I have avoided preaching about it.
If I am really honest, I suppose a lot of it has had to do with fear. Homosexuality is a “lightening rod” issue. For many, it is a deeply personal issue. As a pastor, it can often feel like a lose-lose scenario. No matter where you land, what you say, or how you say it, someone is going to be hurt or angry. Personally, I don’t want to hurt people. Most of the time I don’t want to make people angry. And honestly, I don’t want people leaving the community I pastor. Like I said, mostly fear.
But can I tell you something? I have reached a point where I am more afraid of what might happen if we don’t speak up. I am afraid of what might happen if the only discernable “Christian” voices on the issue continue to be those that make for the best television: the loudest, the angriest and the most polarizing.