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, _______.
I hate regret. It’s an awful feeling. As I look back on this past year, if I’m really honest, I have some regrets. There are some things I did well, but there are also some things I wish I could go back and do differently. There are areas of my life I wish I’d given more attention, and others I wish I had focused a lot less on. My disdain for regret is one of the reasons I have a love-hate relationship with the end of the year. The end of the year is a time to look back as we prepare to move forward. This is not always a painless exercise. It takes courage to look in the review mirror and honestly assess what we see, but I believe it’s absolutely necessary if we are to live next year better than the last. And that of course is the beauty of a new year. It is a chance to start over. The beginning of a new year bring with it the opportunity to learn from our mistakes, to turn the page and to begin a new chapter.
So for those who like me want to live this next year better than the last, this post is for you. And to make this personal and prove I’m not just blowing smoke, I’ve also included some brief reflections in italics on how I am applying these to my own life in the coming year.
Here are 6 questions to help you avoid regret and live with greater clarity in 2016:
This morning a photo popped up in my newsfeed of one of our early gatherings with the Mosaic launch team. Back then we were just thirty-five or so people meeting in a basement dreaming about starting a church together. My wife Megan and I smiled as we reminisced about those early days. We were young and crazy, full of excitement and anticipation for what God was going to do. Looking back it is truly humbling to think about all we have indeed seen God do over the past five years. But if I’m really honest, it also hurts. As I looked at that picture I saw faces of people I love, people we served with and bled with, many of whom are no longer a part of our church.
One of the things I’ve found hardest about being a pastor is seeing people leave. Some leave because life takes them elsewhere – graduation, a new job, an opportunity that can’t be passed up, etc. There are others, however, who leave simply because they choose to go somewhere else. It’s always hard when people leave, but it’s this latter category that can be especially hard. I’ve sat with enough pastors to know I am not alone in struggling at times with the shuffling of the saints. On the other hand, I’ve also sat with enough parishioners to know that it’s not always understood why this is. Why do some pastors have such a hard time when people choose to leave the church they pastor? Why is it such a big deal? Why do some seem to take it so personally?
So I thought it might be helpful to share a few of the reasons why it can be so hard on us pastors when people leave:
I am a pastor and I struggle with depression.
I know you’re not really supposed to say that as a Christian, and certainly not as a pastor, but the truth is I have struggled on and off with depression for as long as I can remember.
The problem is I grew up in a church where we didn’t talk about mental health issues like depression. The result was a lot of confusion about what depression is and what it is not.
Yesterday the Nebraska state legislature passed a landmark bill (LB268) to abolish the death penalty in Nebraska. It’s been a long time coming in our conservative state and its passing didn’t come without fire from both sides.
It’s a hot issue and, as one might expect, there are strong convictions on both sides. That said, as a pastor and someone with a small platform, I feel the need to at least share why I can’t get on board with the death penalty as a Christian.
Just over five years ago my wife Megan and I and our then two kids packed up everything we owned into our Honda Accord and made the drive from Los Angeles, CA to Lincoln, NE with the hopes of planting a new church. When we arrived we hit the ground running. We would spend most most of that year throwing parties at our home, investing in people, building a team, raising funds, making a plan and then in March 2011 we launched.
Five years into this journey I can say it has been a great ride and God has been exceedingly faithful. By many accounts, we’ve lived the church planting dream. We’ve seen people from many different faith backgrounds find Jesus. We’ve grown substantially and consistently each year. We have a small army of amazing volunteer staff. This fall we even plan to launch a second campus.
From the outside looking in, things look great. Conventional metrics might even suggest we’re knocking it out of the park. But if I’m really honest, I fear this pastor made some big mistakes in the way we went about planting our church that now five years in we are going to have to work really, really hard to undo.
I was recently driving across town with our daughter Paige when a car pulled into our lane and abruptly hit the brakes. Before I had a chance to respond sweet little Paige erupted from the backseat, “OH COME ON! YOU ARE A HORRIBLE DRIVER!…right, Dad?”
Being a parent is a humbling endeavor, isn’t it? It seems hardly a day goes by when I don’t drop the ball in front of my kids in some way, shape or form. Fortunately, our three little ones are still too young to fully understand just how depraved their dad is, but a day is coming when they are going to realize neither of their parents are the superheroes they once thought we were.
As the pastor of a young church, I get to interact with a lot of young people, many of whom dream of doing something significant with their lives. To quote the late Steve Jobs, they long to make a dent in the universe. They want their life to matter. I love getting to spend time with young people who aren’t content to settle for the status quo and who long to make a difference. That said, there are some things I’ve noticed that are common to aspiring young leaders that often get in the way of them actually seeing those dreams realized.
So here are a few pieces of advice I have for aspiring young leaders:
1. Learn to follow.
I’ve had the privilege of working with pastors from all kinds of tribes and ministry contexts. Though no two pastors are the same, we do share a lot of the same hopes for our churches. We share a lot of the same frustrations too. And while I obviously can’t speak for all pastors, I’ve spoken with enough to know I’m not alone in hoping I never hear these phrases again.
- “Good Sermon”
Can I tell you something about pastors? We didn’t get into this business for the pats on the back. We got into it because we long to see God do in your life what we’ve seen him do in our lives and the lives of so many others.
That’s why we pastor. That’s why we preach.
When someone says “good sermon,” it immediately tells me the sermon was, in fact, not that good.
Like many in my generation, I’ve done some moving around and with each new move I’ve had to begin the difficult process of searching for a new church home. If you’re like most, a day is coming when you too will be on the search for a new church to call home. When that day comes, you may want to think twice before using these all-too-common reasons for making your choice:
1. “The Pastor is Really Good.”
Perhaps no other man apart from Jesus has had a bigger influence on the church than Paul. But here’s the thing: neither you nor I would have been a big fan of his preaching style. Paul had a reputation for being unimpressive in person and giving contemptible sermons (2 Corinthians 10:10). One sermon in particular was so bad it lulled a parishioner to sleep who then fell out the window to his death (Acts 20:9).