On this episode of the Ignite the Word Podcast I sit down with my good friend, Rudy Garcia! We talk about his debut novel, Forged By Fire, and unpack some of the biblical principles found throughout the book! Pre-order it now on Amazon! It officially releases on December 5, 2020!
What does it mean to be a “Christian Writer?” That is the topic of this essay, a question I have been asking myself for some time now. While writing my first novel, I asked myself this question repeatedly. “Christian writer” is every Christian, regardless if they have published a book, or if they have written in their journal, or just texted a friend about Jesus, or the Gospel at some point in their life. I want to answer the initial question and add three more that I think are intrinsically part of the conversation.
“What does it mean to be a Christian writer?” The answer to that question is very simple to me. It means to be a Christian. In other words, I believe every Christian has an invitation to be a “Christian writer.”
“The Christian Gospel has a way of making us all writers in some way, shape, or form. From text messages, emails, and written notes, to church newsletters, missionary support letters, blogs, articles, and even books, everyday Christians do a lot of writing.” Writing is an invitation to every Christian to share what God has done for us. Christian writing is not just a published book. Christian writing is any instance where a Christian uses the ability God has given every one of us to spread His Gospel, love, and hope to the people around us in written form.
What is the purpose of the Christian writer? I could write an essay on this question alone, but I will leave it to the three points that strike a chord with me. The purpose of the Christian writer, first and foremost, is the spreading of The Gospel of Jesus Christ. When I sit down to write, my mind first goes to, “How can whoever reads this know Christ more.” The spreading of the Gospel is the mission of every Christian. The calling, if you will, of every Christian. Now, that is not to say that in every instance, I will be giving a presentation of the Gospel, but the true Gospel is ever-present in my mind whenever I begin to write. There is a second and just as important aspect of Christian writing. Personal, spiritual growth. Writing forces you to think deeply about the topic you are writing, pushing you to make decisions and notices errors in what you believe. It allows you to get your thoughts on paper, organizing them, and solidifying what you believe. I know that The Lord speaks to us as we write, nudging us to write about and help us learn. The third aspect is teaching and instructing. There are quite a few errors and inconsistencies with the church as an organization. Disagreements about denominations and interpretations of scripture abound in today’s day. But it did in the Apostles day as well. A majority of the old testament is the writers instructing and teaching the truth of the Gospel of Jesus and speaking out against false doctrine and false prophets. “We refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God’s Word, but by the open statement of the truth, we would commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God. (2 Corinthians 4:2)” Mathis uses this text from scripture to emphasize how there are people who practice “cunning” and who “tamper” with God’s Word, and how we are called to speak, in other words, communicate, the truth of Christ.
What is the process of a Christian writer? This question is the most open-ended question of them all, in my opinion. Naturally, we all have a different writing process. I, for example, am making fair use of the Mind Mapping technique for this essay. But I think there are two steps that every Christian should take when writing any Christian writing piece. We should write with others in mind. Christian writing is not a selfish way of expressing oneself but an act of love. When we write, it’s not for us to garner sympathy or admiration from others but a sacrifice of love. A Christian has the hearts and lives of others on their mind every time they put pen to paper or they sit in front of a keyboard. Christians should seek counsel from scripture before writing. Like I mentioned before, we should not practice cunning or tamper with God’s word. “We are not, like so many, peddlers of God’s word, but as men of sincerity, as commissioned by God, in the sight of God we speak in Christ.” (2 Corinthians 2:17). Here we see again, a calling to “speak in Christ.” In other words, communicate the truth of Christ found in the scriptures. Ignorance is not a valid excuse to write falsehoods about the Word of God. Every time a Christian prepares to write about the truth of God, they must sit and study God’s word on the issue to be guided by truth and love in their words.
Finally, what are the effects of Christian writing? Again, there are a plethora of answers to this question, but I would focus on three. The first outcome of our writing is that a brother or sister learned something new about Christ. As previously stated, Christian writing is an act of love, so the most apparent response to our writing is that the words bless someone. The second effect is very closely related to the first, the influencing of others. The main difference is that, while the writing can be a blessing to a fellow brother or sister in Christ, the latter is not beholden to just a fellow Christian. Our writing as Christians can influence others outside of our faith, and I would argue that it should. “I think the way you love people is by influencing them, persuading them, winning them, awakening them to delight in God above all things.” If we believe what the bible says is accurate, and that Hell is a real place, that we all deserve Hell because of our sin, and that Jesus made a way to be saved from our sin, Hell, and the grave, we must be striving to influence others who do not know about Christ. First and foremost, for salvation and also so that they can experience the goodness and love of God.
In conclusion, every Christian has the invitation to be a “Christian writer” to write and communicate with others, love others, and spread the Gospel of Jesus through every text, essay, fantasy story, or any written work we do.
Mathis, David. “God Made You a Writer: An Invitation to Every Christian,” August 24, 2017, 1–1. https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/god-made-you-a-writer.com
Piper, John. “How Important Is a Christian Writer’s Influence?” Desiring God, April 10, 2020. https://www.desiringgod.org/interviews/how-important-is-a-christian-writers-influence.com
Rudy Garcia is the author of the upcoming novel Forged By Fire. Pre-order your copy today!
“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, And before you were born I consecrated you; I have appointed you a prophet to the nations.” – Jeremiah 1:5 NASB
Before you were ever a thought in your parent’s mind God knew you. What the Bible says of Jeremiah in chapter 1 verse 5: “before I formed you in the womb I knew you,” can also apply to you and I.
You have purpose.
You were not an accident.
In a world full of critics and heartless individuals who may devalue human life (such as babies in the womb) not one human being who is alive now (whether in the womb or not), in the past, or will be in the future, each has much intrinsic value in the eyes of God. Why? The Bible says we are created in God’s image (see Genesis 1:26-27). And if you are reading this please know today that you are not a mistake. God created you with purpose, with detail, and with much love.
Your worth, identity, and purpose does not come from anything or anyone in this world. We may make poor choices but our choices do not give us our identity. They do only if we allow them. Choose today to believe you were created on purpose and not by accident by a God who loves you and desires a personal relationship with you as His son or daughter.
Pastoral work is no easy task. Eugene Peterson’s Working the Angles focuses on three angles—prayer, scripture, and spiritual direction—that are directed toward those who are pastors, whether vocationally or bi-vocationally. Upon reading the book it appears that Peterson’s main purpose in writing Working the Angles is to prepare pastors to not just do the work that the office of a pastor requires but to be effective in that calling to a high level of excellence that brings much glory to God. What Peterson is ultimately addressing in the book is the fact that so many pastors are “abandoning their posts, left and right, and at an alarming rate.” Many pastors have not physically left their churches but have gone, as Peterson states, “whoring after other gods.” The support Peterson gathers for such statements is likely the amount of broken families, marriages and homes all throughout America. Many that hold the office of a pastor are simply good at wearing the pastor hat and putting on a good act. Peterson aims to address this in Working the Angles, desiring to see pastors who, like centuries past, do pastoral work and not act like they are only to fool themselves and others. They can never fool the Lord.
Peterson reaches a conclusion concerning pastors putting on this facade and he does so by diving into three angles that help shape true pastoral work. As already mentioned they are prayer, scripture, and spiritual direction. These also function as the main ideas or concepts the reader must grasp in order to bring about the resolution to the problem he sees happening with many pastors. From reading Working the Angles it appears that Peterson does not think every pastor has proper training. It appears he understands some have seminary training while others appear to just put on the pastoral hat and learn the lingo to slide by—and unfortunately many churches seem completely content with such behavior. Peterson does not find that sort of behavior to be honoring to the position of the pastoral office.
Peterson argues “pastoral work has no integrity unconnected with the angles of prayer, scripture, and spiritual direction” and throughout the book he delivers his thoughts on these matters from his own life’s work of pastoral work. He also pulls in historical evidence and church tradition, Scripture, and observation of society in order to build his argument.
Peterson argues that if many pastors were polled they would agree prayer is not “the essential act that keeps pastoral work true” but he is not suggesting pastors never pray. Many pastors do indeed pray but if prayer was viewed as essential as Peterson argues the percentage of pastors praying would be pretty high. “How do ministers spend their prayer time? For the average minister, it looks like this: 32 percent in petition/requests, 20 percent in quiet time or listening to God, 18 percent in thanksgiving, 17 percent in praise and 14 percent in confession.” The evidence Peterson presents on prayer being essential, as just one example in the book, provides adequate strength to support his argument. Judging by the percentages given by the Baptist Press, though published in 2005, provides support to the reality that pastors may pray but due to many pastors feeling dissatisfied with their prayer life they perhaps do not view prayer in the same light as Peterson does in Working the Angles.
Peterson is quite clear on his view of the three angles (prayer, scripture, and spiritual direction) being connected to what is considered true pastoral work. As the book unfolds, Peterson is open and honest, diving into experiences taken from his own life that enhance the concepts he is presenting. Peterson states: “climbing a mountain has been a metaphor for the developing life of faith…aware of the danger of the enterprise and my own ignorance of the mountain, I decided that I must have a skilled guide, a spiritual director.” He proceeds to share, after praying it over, how he found a spiritual director.
From his experiences mentioned in the book it is evident he knows what he is talking about in regard to the three angles he presents, which is why Working the Angles is a book that should certainly be read by pastors-to-be, pastors in training, and pastors currently in the pulpit. He is not writing without experience. He is writing from the trenches, from the mountain, and aims to help other pastors navigate the journey.
Peterson’s Working the Angles provides practical advice that will aide any pastor; ensuring the office of the pastor is upheld with much integrity. Due to that very reason this is a book that should be read by all pastors, not just those in seminary or training. Pastors in centuries past have, according to Peterson, understood the importance of prayer, scripture, and spiritual direction. Perhaps the amount of news and distractions that are at pastor’s disposal in the modern world has influenced the abandonment of the posts as Peterson points out in the book’s opening pages. That is all the more reason why pastors today should pick up this book and read it. It will benefit them and those whom they have been given the task of shepherding and leading. The difference Working the Angles will make in a pastor’s life is worth the time it will take to read the book. Drawing from life experience, Peterson delivers a well-thought out approach to the ways of pastoral integrity by delving into prayer, scripture, and spiritual direction as non-negotiables in the call to be a pastor.
Baptist Press. “Most pastors unsatisfied with their personal prayer lives.” Last modified June 6, 2005. https://www.baptistpress.com/resource-library/news/most-pastors-unsatisfied-with-their-personal-prayer-lives/.
Peterson, Eugene. Working the Angles. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1987.
 Eugene Peterson, Working the Angles (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1987), 1.
 Eugene Peterson, Working the Angles (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1987), 1.
 Eugene Peterson, Working the Angles (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1987), 18.
 Eugene Peterson, Working the Angles (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1987), 26.
 “Most pastors unsatisfied with their personal prayer lives,” Baptist Press, accessed October 2, 2020, https://www.baptistpress.com/resource-library/news/most-pastors-unsatisfied-with-their-personal-prayer-lives/.
 Eugene Peterson, Working the Angles (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1987), 168-169.
Sign up to receive Aaron’s weekly post in your email inbox.
Learn about Aaron’s books, including his most recent, Redeem the Story.
Listen to or subscribe to Aaron’s Ignite the Word Podcast.
Connect with Aaron on social media — Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook.
I am huge fan of the personal size Bibles. The ESV Heirloom Single Column Personal Size is ideal for those of you who love a sturdy, small Bible. The goatskin cover is really nice. If you like a Bible that has a cover that will last, this is it! The paper is a little thin so if you like to highlight it will bleedthrough. I love to write in my Bible. The only disadvantage I see is the bleedthrough. Highlights and pen marks show more than I would like. Aside from that, the binding seems quite firm.
Here is a list of features this Bible offers (taken from the Crossway website):
- High-quality Bible paper designed to reduce show-through and make the words of Scripture as readable as possible
- Premium goatskin cover
- Art gilding
- Wide margins
- Just over 1″ thick
- Line matching
- Full-color maps
- Smyth-sewn binding
- Single-column format
- Lifetime guarantee
- Packaging: Box
I am a big fan of the two ribbon marker, especially when it comes to preaching and teaching. For me the font is a great size. But what I love most about this Bible is the color and the cover. It’s a dark blue goatskin that will last a lifetime. I can see having this Bible for many years to come! So, if you are a fan of the small personal size Bibles this is one you will want to get!
I received a complimentary copy from the publisher in exchange for a fair, honest review. You can purchase a copy from Crossway’s website.
Sign up to receive Aaron’s weekly post in your email inbox.
Learn about Aaron’s books, including his most recent, Redeem the Story.
Listen to or subscribe to Aaron’s Ignite the Word Podcast.
Connect with Aaron on social media — Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook.
I remember it like it was yesterday.
My wife and I were in the kitchen standing next to the counter. The kitchen, for us, is the place where many of our deepest, personal, and life-changing conversations tend to happen. And it’s usually with a cup of coffee in hand.
On this particular day, we were talking about some of the things we were seeing in the youth group where I serve as the youth pastor. We were talking about how some of the students were coming forward to get saved weekly and the need for salvation, but not weekly.
After salvation, we don’t need to get saved at every altar call. We need to repent regularly (for me it is daily)!
That got me thinking about God’s grand plan of redemption and how He desires to redeem every story (life). Our conversation turned into how God creates — He never “recreates”! When we come to Jesus we become “new creations” not “recreated” creations. We are brand new!
Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come. — (2 Corinthians 5:17, NASB)
Redeem the Story opens with this:
“Everyone has a story.
From Genesis to Revelation you see a story of redemption unfolding. Isaiah 47:4 (ESV) says that God is “our Redeemer — the Lord of hosts is his name — is the Holy One of Israel.” Since the fall happened in Genesis chapter 3 God has been writing redemption in the lives of countless people. In this book, we will zoom in on a few people in the story of Scripture where God redeemed their story despite their mistakes, guilt, and shame. We will also look at how, even today, God wants to redeem your story too.” — taken from the Introduction on page 5.
Right up front, I wanted readers to know God wants to redeem their story. As the conversation with my wife unfolded in the kitchen that day this idea grew into more than just a thought. It became a concept for a book to call people to let God rewrite their story.
I wrote this first for my students because I wanted them to know God longs to redeem their stories — no matter who they are or what they have done!
I wanted them to know salvation isn’t about getting saved regularly or running on our emotions. We have to learn to let go of the pen and let God write our story. Whether for salvation or simply repentance of any sin.
But beyond that, I wanted whoever reads the book to know how much Jesus loves them and wants to redeem their life story. A short conversation with my wife sparked all this in my heart.
So I wrote.
And I wrote some more.
Until Redeem the Story was finished and finally released to the world through self-publishing on January 12, 2020, after a nearly two-year process of writing, editing, and learning how to self-publish.
Self-publishing wasn’t my first choice. I originally signed with a literary agent in hopes of landing a book deal with one of the major Christian publishers. But all I faced was rejection. Every publisher was a “no”. If you want to read more about that I wrote an article all about rejection.
A conversation with my wife in the kitchen was what inspired me to write Redeem the Story. What I believe was a God-ordained conversation about our youth group became the catalyst for what I would eventually write and self-publish! I think it’s amazing how some conversations literally change our trajectory!
Remember this: Everyone has a story. And every story matters because everyone matters to God. That includes you! Yes, you.
Redeem the Story (SIGNED COPY)
Order via PayPal below to get your copy personally signed by Aaron!
We are less than two months out from heading back to Eagle Rock Camp in July! ERC is a special place for us, because it’s more than just a “summer camp”. It’s a place where we go to meet with God for a week every summer. And there’s nothing better than a week on top of a mountain (with hardly any cell service) meeting with the Lord!
Up until a few days ago, we were nearly maxed out on how many people we can bring, which was 50. ERC has given us the green light to extend that number to 60, which means as of 6/18/20 we currently have 12 open spots for any student who would like to go that hasn’t registered yet. You can sign up right now online at M2LCamp.com! Keep in mind: A non-refundable $50 deposit is due to secure your spot ASAP.
I will update this post as we fill these remaining spots.
When do we leave for Eagle Rock?
We are taking a charter bus to ERC. We will be leaving between 6pm-7pm on July 21 and will be leaving ERC in the afternoon of July 26 to return home.
If you have any questions please email me or comment below and I’ll get back to you ASAP!
What is Eagle Rock like?
This is taken directly off the ERC website:
Eagle Rock is a Christian ministry based in the Great Smoky Mountains of East Tennessee. We offer the facilities, resources and support you need to make the most memorable and meaningful retreat for you and your group. Our trained staff will take the stress out of planning by customizing a program that uniquely supports your goals as a leader and organization. Our aim is to create the best possible experience with flexible scheduling, a variety of lodging accommodations, and the ability to cater to your group’s dietary needs with delicious, home-cooked meals.
Whether you’re looking for the group challenge offered by high adventure activities or a time of personal reflection that often only comes with uninterrupted solitude, Eagle Rock is a place of breakthrough. The wrap-around porches of our Lodge, Bunkhouse, and Dining Hall invite you to soak in the panoramic views and peace that God’s creation brings.
Our country is in trouble if things don’t begin to change. As a pastor I believe Christians need to be more vocal about injustice than anyone else. God’s people must be the voice for change. Silence is warranted sometimes and other times it speaks louder than we might realize. No more silence. Our culture is on a path of great pain. Some thoughts:
Why should Christians be more vocal about injustice than anyone else? The Church should be the place the world looks to for wisdom, to set the example, to give solutions to the cultural and social issues that are plaguing our world. What happened to George Floyd and Ahmaud Arbery was injustice. It was wrong. And it breaks my heart things like this continue to happen.
How can we, as followers of Christ, be more vocal? Use the platform, the sphere of influence, the social media accounts, the places where you have a voice to speak out in love and truth against all forms of injustice. Speaking out in hate or condemnation or blame will not resolve anything.
God’s Word is clear of what the Lord requires of us:
…And what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?Micah 6:8 NASB
To do justice we must speak out against injustice.
To love kindness (or mercy) we must show it to others.
To walk in humility before God we must ask God to remove every bit of our pride. The Bible is clear that God opposes the proud (see James 4:6)!
The words of George Floyd haunt me: “I can’t breathe!”
The video of Ahmaud Arbery being murdered breaks me.
And the injustice of so many others brings tears to my eyes. Why? Because they are people made in the image of God just like anyone else. It’s sad that some parents have to teach their kids where to go and not to go because the color of their skin might invite trouble for no reason. Church, we must use our collective voice for change! We must speak out. We must set the example of how to love diverse people, because the God we serve is a God of diversity!
We must stand united that all forms of injustice, regardless of race, must end!
Church, we are all different. But we serve the same God (see Romans 10:12). God loves diversity. Just look at creation at all the different animal life, plant life, and the different people all across the planet. I’ll say it again and as many times as needed: God loves diversity! His creation screams it but yet so many of us hate it. This is a serious problem!
Let’s make a declaration that we will no longer be silent but vocal about injustice. That we, the Church, will not allow culture to influence but rather the Church will influence the culture.
Use your voice right where you are.
To love people.
To do justice.
To love kindness (or mercy).
To walk humbly with God.
When we do that, I believe the Church can actually be the catalyst for change. We must begin on our knees repenting of any prejudice and racism, ask the Lord to reveal the true condition of our hearts about these issues, seek the Lord’s forgiveness, and allow Him to use us to influence our culture!
Together, our voices will be heard. After all, as followers of Jesus, we are all part of the same family. Begin today using your voice right where you are to tell others about the only solution to end all forms of injustice: the love of Christ, the Gospel!
FYI: Hateful comments will not be posted.
“His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.”2 Peter 1:3 NIV
Isn’t that an awesome thing to know? That by His divine power we have everything that we need to live a godly life. In Christ we lack no good thing!
A few years ago my wife and I decided to go on a last minute trip to Knoxville, Tennessee. With our oldest son being so young, it was best for us to travel at night. I ran to Walmart to grab a few things for the trip and while pulling into the parking lot I saw a family holding a sign saying they needed help. Right away, the Holy Spirit told me to give this family $20. I wish I could say I obeyed right away. At first, I ignored His command (That’s never a good idea)!
I went into Walmart, got what I needed, and as I passed them leaving the parking lot this is the conversation I had with the Lord:
“Lord, if I give them $20 how do I know they won’t use it for alcohol, drugs, etc..or that it’s not a scam?”
The Holy Spirit said to me: “I’m not asking you to worry about that. I’m asking you to be obedient.”
Long story short, I went to the ATM, got $20 out, gave it to the family and then we left for Tennessee. And guess what? To this day it was still one of the best trips we’ve had! Why? God blessed my obedience. I share this story to simply say this: God has given us everything we need to live a godly life. His Holy Spirit is the greatest gift and as believers He’s with you at all times! $20 isn’t anything compared to the having the Holy Spirit! Nothing can compare to that!
The Holy Spirit within you, by His divine power, has given you what you need to live a godly life. And that means being obedient to what He tells you to do—even if it is giving money to a complete stranger!
A godly life is a life of obedience—no matter what, no matter where or when, a godly life reflects obedience to the promptings of the Holy Spirit!
Heavenly Father, help me obey your voice today so that I can reflect what a godly life looks like to the world around me.
This article was picked up by The Christian Post here.
Let me tell you upfront: I’m not confessing some horrendous sin or moral failure. What I am doing is confessing or “sharing” the struggles I, Aaron Joseph Hall, face and I know other pastors likely face as well. Especially in the current circumstance that we are all facing.
Being a pastor is hard. I have heard it said that if you don’t feel God is calling you to the ministry go and do something else. Ministry isn’t glamorous. It isn’t all fun and games. Many times when people hear that I’m a youth pastor they either A) think I’m not a “real” pastor or B) think youth ministry is just having fun with students. Both couldn’t be further from the truth.
Ministry is hard regardless if you are a senior pastor, youth pastor, worship pastor, or small group leader, etc. Ministry is hard because people are messy. That’s not an indictment on you. I’m messy too. I have my failures and shortcoming just like anyone else. If you are a human being you are messy. There, I said it. But in some ways that alleviates the burden, because that means I’m not alone. You’re not alone.
I’m sharing these confessions with the hope that people can see it’s not easy being a pastor. Pandemic or not, it’s hard. It’s exhausting. But at the same time, it’s worth it. It’s fulfilling. Why? Though it can be challenging, people matter to pastors (well those pastors who are genuinely serving with a heart for people and not for selfish gain or motivation). So, without further ado, here are six “confessions” as a pastor.
1. I don’t have all the answers
No pastor has all the answers. But if you are a Christian then you know the One who does. I know that might sound like one of those cheesy Christian lines, but it’s true. As believers, we know the One who has all the answers. We serve the God who created everything, knows everything, and understands everything.
Too often pastors are expected to know the answers to every situation. We are human. Sometimes all we can do is pray and ask the Lord to intervene. Sometimes all we can do is hug you, pray for you, and open the Bible. I’m the type of person that will tell you upfront if I don’t know the answer to something. I’ve been asked Bible questions that I can’t answer. That’s okay.
Pastors, if you are reading this and wrestle with not knowing the answers, it’s okay. A degree doesn’t define whether you are a pastor or whether God has called you (though degrees are great and very helpful). Don’t let your lack of education make you feel like a lousy pastor. The Holy Spirit is the best teacher. Lean into Him. And trust Him for the answers. That goes for any believer, pastor or not! None of us may have all the answers but thankfully God sees and knows everything. “No creature is hidden from him, but all things are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give an account” (Hebrews 4:13 CSB).
2. I struggle with wanting to read my Bible too
Pastors aren’t super-spiritual Christians who wake up every day before sunrise and spend a few hours reading their Bible and praying. Some do wake up early to read and pray. And some do it daily. I do sometimes as well, but not every day (I wish I could say I do). It’s wrong to think every pastor is an early riser. Again, we are human. And if I’m going to be honest, there are days I struggle with wanting to read my Bible.
Some pastors can’t admit that because of the fear of being judged or condemned. That’s because some pastors are held to a standard no one can meet. Pastors wrestle with dry seasons. Pastors battle those days where it’s hard to press into the Lord’s presence. Pastors fight those days where they feel spiritually drained and unqualified.
Though I struggle to read at times I cling to the truth of Psalm 119:105: “Your word is a lamp for my feet and a light on my path.” Those moments I find myself struggling and not wanting to read are the moments where I need to read the most. And so I do, because His Word is a lamp and a light.
3. Sometimes it’s hard for me to pray
I wish I could admit prayer was always easy for me. But it’s not. There are moments where the sheer weight of pastoring wearies me, drains me, and makes it physically hard for me to pray. There are times I find myself, like Peter, James and John in the Garden of Gethsemane on the eve of Jesus’ crucifixion, struggling to pray.
Have you ever felt this way? Spiritually you want to pray. You really do. I know I really desire to pray but there are moments where I’m physically so weak it’s hard. When I find myself in this condition I hear Jesus’ words He spoke to the disciples that fateful night, “The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak” (CSB).
I am beyond thankful Jesus doesn’t leave me in these moments. He’s with me. I’m also thankful the Holy Spirit is in me to strengthen me at all times. So when I am struggling to pray and my strength is failing it’s a good reminder of how I must rely on the Lord’s strength 24/7, because my flesh will fail but His Spirit won’t. I truly believe that moment in the Garden of Gethsemane is in the Bible to encourage us. Even the chosen disciples of Jesus struggled. They are human just like us. And if God could use them – despite moments of shortcomings – He can surely use us!
4. I have moments of faithlessness.
Pastors should always have faith, right? Well, this pastor has moments of faithlessness. Not in the sense that I don’t believe in Jesus, but in the sense that I fall into the type of thinking that God isn’t going to help me. That God won’t breakthrough.
What is really hard about this struggle is I’ve seen God do miracles and yet there are moments where my flesh gives in and I fall short. God healed my firstborn, Oliver, when he was born. God answered our prayers for a second child and literally our second son was prayed into the world. God heard and God answered. God was faithful. In every moment of every second. I wish I could say I’m faithful to God every moment of every second.
The Bible says in Romans 3:23, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (CSB). That includes every pastor (and every human) on planet earth. I’m beyond thankful Jesus is faithful even when we are faithless! 2 Timothy 2:13 reminds us of God’s constant faithfulness: “if we are faithless, he remains faithful, for he cannot deny himself” (CSB). Faithfulness is part of who God is and the Bible is clear “for he cannot deny himself.” Praise God for His faithfulness!
5. I wrestle with balancing ministry with family life
Pastoring isn’t some glamorous 9 to 5 job like some believe. Pastoring is hard work. It’s not just preaching sermons. Pastors work. Hard. A lot. Sometimes forty, fifty, sixty-plus hours a week. Pastors aren’t working just on Sunday mornings or during the midweek service. And because of the nature of ministry, sometimes ministry happens after the church offices are closed. And it is here I sometimes wrestle with balancing ministry with family life. What I mean by that is there must be times where I have to say “no” so I can love and minister to my first ministry, which is always my family.
That’s everyone’s first ministry: their family! And this struggle can be especially hard for pastors given that we can’t open the doors to our church buildings. Working from home and being home can be hard during this season (and other seasons). When I find myself falling into this trap, I cling to Ecclesiastes 3:1-8, because it reminds me there are seasons for everything. And this season too shall pass. Verse 1 says: “There is an occasion for everything, and a time for every activity under heaven” (CSB). And for me, that means there must be times where I say no to everything else and focus on just my family or, as verse 7 says in Ecclesiastes 3, “a time to tear and a time to sew; a time to be silent and a time to speak” (CSB).
6. I want to be liked by everyone
In 2017, I wrote an article titled “We Need to Be Praying for Trump Rather Than Constantly Criticizing Him” for the Christian Post. Recently, I was made aware of some of the comments the article has generated within the last few months. As a friend of mine said concerning some of the comments “they are venomous.”
I admit I want to be liked by everyone. At first, I took some of these comments personally. But right away, the Lord reminded me they aren’t a personal attack on me … it’s their own heart issues. Honestly, I now find these comments somewhat humorous because I am blown away by the audacity of some so-called “Christians” who can post these types of remarks on a Christian website.
Deep down, I desire to be liked by everyone. But don’t we all? That’s why at first those comments were like a knife to the heart. I’ve come to learn that there will always be someone who doesn’t like me. There will always be people who don’t like you too. At the end of the day, I’m called to love and serve people regardless of who they are and what they think of me. Ultimately, I want to make much of Jesus and I pray and hope my life does just that!
I share these “confessions” for the purpose of asking you to pray for me. But more importantly, to pray for your pastor because every pastor has struggles of some kind. Especially, during this season where many churches find themselves in new territory because of the coronavirus pandemic.
We are human. We make mistakes. We have struggles. I know, for me at least, I wouldn’t want to be doing anything else than pastoring. I love God and I love people, no matter how messy, because I know how messy I can be. We all need Jesus. Let’s run this race together.
I love you, Church.