Monthly Archives: July 2022

Pastors’ Post Traumatic Pandemic Stress Disorder (PPTPSD) is Real

Pastors’ Post Traumatic Pandemic Stress Disorder (PPTPSD) is real.  Pastors are battle weary. Disappointed and saddened by the extremists on both sides of the common issues have sucked the life out of the most devout clergyperson. Angry church folks seem eager to lob their hot potatoes in the pastor’s direction.  They come flying from the left and right. It seems that every day is a new fight. There’s always a new hill on which he/she is to die upon. It’s exhausting. Pastors’ Post Traumatic Pandemic Stress Disorder (PPTPSD) is no joke.

The PPTPSD pastor looks at the once occupied pews, and realizes that those who used to sit there have been tricked into making church attendance one of many options for a Sunday morning. If they are coming at all. Staring down empty seats, makes one question whether any difference was made prior to the pandemic. “Did I teach them anything? Was it in one ear and out the other? Was church attendance simply a showoff, look-at-me performance or sacred endeavor to meet regularly with God? What am I doing here?” 

The pastor suffering from PPTPSD looks at those same former occupiers of the pews and sees pictures on social media of them sipping coffee from a Bible verse inscribed mugs, spewing platitudes of godliness and telling their followers what’s wrong with the church. It creates more deep-in-your-gut-stress. 

Those fighting for their very survival see friends and colleagues who likewise suffered from PPTPSD, and threw up their hands and said, “it ain’t worth it.” They are now selling insurance, working at non-profits or Chick-Fil-A. Can anyone blame them? The corporate world offers non-believers who want to hear that Jesus is making all things new. Too often, the church world is filled with cynics who have been discipled by a news channel. How many times can pastors bang their heads up against that wall and not be affected?

Exhausted and beaten the PPTPSD pastor looks at the toll the past couple of years have taken on his/her family. They don’t like what they see. Their family is weary too. Is PPTPSD contagious? Apparently. The family’s question is: “Couldn’t you sell insurance too?  It has to be better than this.” It’s hard to argue to the contrary.

The PPTPSD pastor looked to denominational leadership for help. Too often those with the big desks are so intent to not rock anyone’s boat that they are eerily silent when needed most. Sitting in an ivory tour is safe when the world is crashing. But it’s not helpful to the struggling, in the trenches, clinging for their ecclesiastical life and sanity while trying to minister clergyperson. They plea, “Help us, help us.” Crickets. Silence.

What’s the answer to the PPTPSD pastor’s most honest and deepest question: How can I make it another day? Surprisingly, it is the same answer if asked on their most successful and wonderful day (it’s sounds Sunday-Schoolish): It’s Jesus. It’s still Jesus. Jesus must be the supreme focus. Nothing to the Right. Nothing to left. Just Jesus. Stay focused on Jesus.

Jesus said, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”  (Matthew 11:28) The Pastors’ Post Traumatic Pandemic Syndrome Disorder sufferer needs to hear those words now again and again. Rest. Let Jesus give you rest. Rest might include a professional counselor. Rest might mean pausing ministry to focus on you and your family’s well-being. Rest might mean a lot of things. But it’s mostly a settled spirit from Jesus himself.

And maybe, who knows, while Jesus is comforting you, he just might make it uncomfortable for your absent or cynical or cable-news-immersed critics. Jesus has been known to flip some tables at the sight of posers. He’s done it before, He can do it again. Let Jesus take care of those folks and their hot-potato-lobbing ways. It’s not your job, Pastors’ Post Traumatic Pandemic Syndrome Disorder survivor. Jesus is near. Jesus hears. Hang in there. You’ll make it if you keep your eyes on Him.

A Prayer Too Big for God to Handle?

“May your Kingdom come and your will be done In Flint as it is in Heaven” is the prayer that we pray (almost ad nauseam) around Central Church. If you are going to pray anything a lot, it makes sense that we should pray what Jesus taught us to pray. Here’s our belief: Jesus wouldn’t have taught us to pray it, if God had no intention of answering it.  

Now the BIG the question: How in the world is God going to answer that prayer? Have you been in Flint? The streets aren’t golden; the boarded-up houses aren’t mansions; and, Mott Lake is not the Crystal Sea.  

Full Disclosure #1: Jesus said, “on Earth” not “In Flint,” but wouldn’t “In Flint” be included in Jesus’ instructions? I think so…

Full Disclosure #2: I frequently admit the following in funeral services: I don’t know much about heaven. I can’t describe the Pearly Gates. I don’t know the depth of the Crystal Sea. Don’t ask me if your mansion is a split-level ranch or an English manor. Don’t know. Don’t care.

Having offered my little provisos, the Bible does give us some insight into heaven. Here’s a list (not exhaustive) of things that WILL NOT BE In heaven:

  • No suffering, sickness and pain.  See Revelation 20. No need for hospitals in heaven.
  • No death. No obituaries. No Caskets. No funeral homes.
  • No hunger: Jesus said: “The kingdom of heaven is like a king who prepared a wedding banquet for his son”(Matthew 22:2).  Not sure Jesus was equating heaven with the Golden Corral, but we all agree that hunger will not be a problem.
  • No inadequate education systems: Paul wrote: Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known (1 Corinthians 13:12)
  • No racism. Revelation 7 says, there will be folks from every tribe and people group.
  • No housing shortages. Jesus said, “In my Father’s House are many rooms” (John 14:2)
  • No prisons. No prisoners. No crime. No need for need for security guards or police. 
  • No cats (OK. That’s a joke. Calm down, “cat people.” Maybe there will be cats. Definitely there will be dogs).

Can we agree that there will be none of those things in heaven (except for the silly feline line)? 

If God’s Kingdom were to come and His will done in Flint as it is in heaven, then those aforementioned things would be done away with in Flint too. Wouldn’t it?  Maybe not the funeral homes, hospitals, and prisons. We still live in a sin stained world. But we can dream of a time when there are less people incarcerated. Less crime. Could the other societal ills mentioned above– poverty, racism, and inadequate housing, be no more too. Why not? 

Before you quote Jesus saying, “the poor you will always have with you.” (John 12:8), everyone knows that Jesus was not endorsing a lack of regard for the poor. Jesus’ desire is not for the poor to stay impoverished (I mean this in the most non-prosperity gospel way, that is, I mean it in a “dignity-for-all” sort of way). His desire is for all to have life and have it abundantly (John 10:10).

Back to my question—how will God bring an end to earth’s troubles like crime, racism, poverty, hunger so that our city may be as it is in heaven? It’s a big question. But is it too big for God to answer? I don’t think so. 

The way God answers such outrageous prayers is through outrageous people who look a lot like you and me.

  • It’s you and me being the hands and feet of Jesus until He returns. 
  • It’s you and me participating in a new and glorious future with God Almighty. 
  • It’s you and me taking Jesus to our world. 

It might seem crazy, but the Creator of the universe choose to use you and me to bring about His kingdom and His will in Flint (or your home town) as it is in heaven. 

Let’s get to it. We’ve got a lot of work to do!

In Lieu of Flowers…

Reading obituaries comes with the job of being a pastor. Even when I am not officiating the service, nearly always I will read the obituary of a recently departed parishioner.  Some folks, like Vivian Nelson– the Central saint who was recently promoted to glory, write their own obituary. Sometimes it seems like Joe Friday from the old Dragnet TV show wrote it: “Just the facts, Ma’am.” You’ve read them. You know. Obituaries give the important details of a person’s life: where they worked; what they liked; the family members remaining and those who have already died; and, of course, the dates of birth and death. If the deceased wasn’t necessarily a flower-type of person, the last line of the obituary will read something like: In lieu of flowers contributions can be made to “Central Church of the Nazarene.”

This week, I saw an obituary that said: “In lieu of flowers, please root for the Jets they need all the help they can get.”  It was funny. The poor New York Jets fan (at least they have one Super Bowl ring, unlike the woe-begotten Lions’ fans) didn’t need flowers, but even from the grave he was calling for his teams’ success.

Reading that obituary got me thinking, “in lieu of flowers” what would I want people to do following my funeral. Don’t cheer any more or less for the Detroit Lions, they are a lost cause. What action would I want people to take in light of my passing? I’ve got a few ideas for Karla (or whomever) is writing my obituary. Here you go:

In lieu of flowers…

  • Give your heart, your whole heart, to Jesus.
  • Serve your neighbor
  • Determine to bring a smile to someone’s face today
  • Buy lunch for a lonely widow.
  • Tudor a struggling student
  • Buy school items for a local elementary school and then volunteer to help.
  • Ask where you could be used in your church’s children’s ministry.
  • Hate Kids? Ask where you can serve in the youth ministry.
  • Hate Teenagers too?  See Item #1. 

And if you are a rich friend reading my obituary, how about this one: In lieu of flowers please pay off the debt of Central church so we can fulfill the IMAGINE promise of ministering “in Flint as it is in heaven” a lot quicker, better and more generously. 

I hope you don’t consider this a morbid discussion. Like our milk jugs, we all have an expiration date. Still, I’m not planning on this list showing up in the Flint Journal anytime soon, but in lieu of my not passing, how about doing some of those items anyway.

Why I am Hopeful for the Church of the Nazarene (a very biased opinion)

For all the talk of people leaving (stats don’t lie), divisive social issues, and politics taking greater role than Jesus in some churches (ugh… c’mon man), I am hopeful for the future of the Church of the Nazarene. 

I am hopeful (although biased because of my current assignment) because…

1. Central Church’s recent ministerial students.
 One of Central’s recent ONU grads (class of 2021) is now married and solo pastoring on our district. A 2022 Nazarene Bible College graduate from Central, will be pursuing a master’s degree while assisting our age-level teams. A Central church ONU senior, is our summer intern and an ONU sophomore, is interning at a non-denominational church as a worship leader. Besides these, there is at least one middle school student and one high school student who currently are sensing a call to ministry. If these young people are an indicator, the future is bright, Church of the Nazarene, very bright.

2. The young pastors with whom I minister alongside.
Three of our current pastors are under 35 (an executive, middle school and high school pastor). All three are ordained. All three are very gifted. I am proud to serve with them. They are energetic, creative and committed to the message of holiness. Stop the millennial bashing, these ministers are a blessing.  

3. The older pastors with whom I minister alongside. 
Central Church’s older-than-me pastors are our Senior adult pastor, former District Superintendent, Dr. Steve Anthony and his assistant Rev. Don Philips. They have been my biggest supporters. They have been the best cheerleaders for our younger pastors (Dr. Anthony’s grandson is the solo pastor in #1). Don’t look for these men in rocking chairs, they work wherever is needed to the advance the Kingdom. 

4. The happy-in-middle pastors with whom I minister alongside are terrific too. 
These pastors are committed to proclaiming the truth of God’s love with fervor and compassion. Worship pastors who minister to all ages; Children’s pastors who love boys and girls– one of whom is modelling to the entire church by fostering two children in addition to her other three children (her oldest daughter is married to Dr. Anthony’s grandson and the “solo” pastor in point #1); and our other executive pastor oozes leadership and wisdom.* 

Pastors alone don’t make a great church—which is why I am even more hopeful. 

5.) We’ve had a BIG Combined Sunday School Class for July all the teachers are young adults. 
All our classes were suspended for the month of July with one teacher teaching everyone from ages 13 to 90. It’s a big, big class. The teacher each week has been a young adult. Our senior adults are the teachers’ biggest supporters. There are plenty of great young adults in the Church of the Nazarene ready and able to move with us old-timers into the future.

7. Committed lay leaders make or break a church, and like at Central Church in churches across the globe there are good people filling the seats.
Ministry could not happen without strong, loving, fruit-of-the-spirit-infused, generous laypeople. Our church board and pastors had their annual cookout at my house this week, it’s such a blessing when lay leaders and pastors enjoy each other and share a mutual goal of seeing God’s kingdom come “in Flint as it is in Heaven.” Our church is not alone. The Church of the Nazarene is blessed plenty of people that want to see Christ-like disciples made in the nations.

8Central Church has tried her best to keep Jesus as our Central (no pun intended) focus.
Do we have differences of opinion about many of the divisive issues of the day? Yes. Has everyone agreed with every decision? No. But if we want to reach 100% of our city (not just 50% in our divided land) we must keep Jesus front and center. We truly believe that God will answer the prayer he taught us to pray (we’ve modified it for our setting, but it would be true throughout the earth): “May your Kingdom come and may your will be done in Flint as it is in heaven.”

9. The Church of the Nazarene will go as far as the local church takes it.
While every large organization has people in leadership roles that make you wonder about their abilities (and sometimes… yikes…their salvation), by far, the vast majority of our leaders truly love the Church of the Nazarene and message of the holiness. Our denominational leaders working at the Global Ministry Center and in regional offices across the world want to proclaim the Good News through evangelism and compassion. My current DS is working hard to keep our churches focused on Kingdom work. Other DSs are like him. I appreciate the genuine loving effort by our leaders. That being so, still the strength of the Church of the Nazarene is not in Lenexa, Kansas, regional or district offices. It’s the local church. We will move forward as local churches thrive.  

As I look around my church, I am hopeful for the Church of the Nazarene. Look around your church and I believe many of us will be hopeful too.

*Understandably, I am biased and blessed to minister alongside such a wonderful team. Don’t poll my church folks as to who is the weakest link, I might not like the answer. Maybe not every church has a pastoral staff lineup as we have a Central Church. Still, there are thousands of older, middle aged and younger pastors who are qualified and committed to building the Kingdom of God through the Church of the Nazarene. There are far, far, far more good hard-working women and men in ministry than the few stinkers that make the gossip lists (err… prayer requests).

Church Work in the 2020s isn’t for Sissies

We’ve been through and/or are still going through…

The pandemic. (We thought Covid was done. It’s back again. It never left. Ugh.)
Politically divided. Red v. Blue.
Congressional hearings.
War in Ukraine. 
Roe vs Wade.
Gas is $5 a gallon.
Flight Cancellations.
401K? What 401K?
First no toilet paper. Then no building supplies. No semi-conductor chips. No baby formula. No peanut butter. 
The cherry on top: A recession. Excuse me, soon-to-be-declared, recession. 

What is the next shoe to drop?
When will it end?
Will the 2020’s be known as “the lost years”?

All of the above have made people different from just five years ago. They are…

  • More nervous about the future (too many variables have made predictions less predictable)
  • More numb to gun violence. (with each mass shooting comes an increased numbness).
  • More aware of our friend’s lives, but less connected to them (thank you, social media).
  • More likely to have moved to a fringe in ideology. (people live in a vacuum).
  • More apt to have a short fuse. (Less face to face interaction has deteriorated our interpersonal skills).
  • More aware of personal space (close talkers, coughers and sneezers, please, keep your distance).
  • More excuses to miss church. (Coffee. PJs. Sofa. On-line church? Oh yeah, I’m staying in today).
  • Less people in the pews (see above)
  • Less answers from experts (they don’t know how to handle today’s issues either)
  • Less resources. (Gas. Five. Bucks.)
  • Less kindness. 
  • Less Patience. Who am I kidding? 
  • Less all the fruit of the spirit.

While todays issues are new to us, each age has faced its challenges

  • The 60’s didn’t have phones or cameras in pockets, but there was societal unrest and the Vietnam War.
  • The 40’s didn’t have TVs, but WWII still was raging
  • The 30’s didn’t have indoor plumbing in many areas, and The Great Depression.
  • The 1860’s didn’t have electricity or motorized vehicles, but had the Civil War.

All those times were divisive and difficult without the resources and conveniences of today, and the people survived. Some even thrived. The Church marched on. We will too. 

The One Constant throughout: Jesus is Lord. And because of that fact…

Be encouraged.

Be faithful.

Be strong.

That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. 2 Corinthians 12:10