Being the new pastor at a church is exciting and frightening at the same time. It is exciting because I have all kinds of ideas, dreams, and hopes for the future of this little mountain church. I want to grow old with her. I want it to be the last church I pastor. I’m thrilled with the idea of settling into the community and getting to know the people, feel the Spirit-wind blow and join God in what He is already doing here in this Valley.
But it is frightening too. It is frightening because everyone’s expectations are so high. Including my own. With such high expectations will come the inevitable fall when I, or they, don’t live up to those lofty ideals. I fear making a mistake. I fear letting people down. I worry about hurting someone’s feelings with my snarky humor or strong opinions. I am concerned that the church will not respond to my leadership; that she will resist the change that needs to occur in order to reach others with the Gospel of Jesus and care for the souls that are already here.
So, there you have it. Excited and frightened.
Reminds me of the early days of my marriage. Thrilled that this beautiful blond would even consider wanting to spend the rest of her life with me. I had few prospects at that time. I was pouring concrete for a living. But she saw something in me that made her take a chance on an old redneck like me. And I was scared at the responsibility of providing for her, worried that I would let her down, and frightened out of my mind that I would make a mistake that would break her heart.
Eventually, all of those things happened.
And yet we are more deeply in love today than we were 34 years ago this spring when we were in the blush of a new relationship.
That is all I can hope for with my new church, Mountain Heights Baptist Church.
I have three priorities for this new relationship in the mountains. They apply to my first wife and my new Church.
- Hear her
Listening is the most undervalued skill in the relational process. We have opinions and we feel a compulsion to inflict those on everyone in our world. We have advice we give out freely with or without permission. But the greatest gift I can give both my wife and my church is a zipped lip, an open mind, and unhurried time.
- Love her
I want her to feel cherished. I want her to know down deep, where the knobs are, that she is the love of my life. That I would live for her and die for her. I want her to see my love in how I server her, pray for her, and play with her. I want her to feel as if she is the top priority in my life. I want our love to grow old together, for old love is the most gentle and vigorous love there is. And it is that love that will change the souls of both of us.
- Bless her
I watch her as she sleeps. I whisper a prayer of blessing over her. I am fully present when I am with her. I say words of affirmation, affection, and truth to her. I believe in her in ways that makes her believe in herself. I want her to know that she is the only one for me. I want her to feel completely secure in my love. I want to sing, dance, and laugh with her. My heart will be wide open to her.
What will keep me from turning the Church into my competing lover instead of my first wife? What will ensure that appropriate boundaries are maintained? It’s pretty simple. I used to tell my sons when they were little that I loved them, but I loved their mother first and loved her more. They got to where they could finish that last sentence.
“Boys,” I’d say “I love you.”
Then they would say in unison, “We know, Dad. You love Mom more.”
I love Jesus, I love Lynette, and I love the last best hope for this world—the Bride of Christ. In that order.
So, I show fear the door, because…
“…perfect love casts out fear…” ~ Saint John