Promises Every Pastor Should Make

I-Promise (1)When a church calls a pastor, the expectations that are made upon that person can sometimes be unrealistic. In a few instances, the expectations of a pastor can border on abuse. When counseling pastors who are considering a call to a church, I often times tell the pastor to take a  long look at the job description. After looking at that, I tell the pastor to ask about any expectations that are not listed in the job description. Sometimes the assumed expectations that a congregation has about what a pastor will or will not do are even more important than the job description itself. In my years of ministry I have heard nightmare stories from pastors and churches about misunderstood expectations that have led to incredible pain on the part of the pastor or congregation.

So, what are some of the promises that every pastor should make to the Lord, their family, and to the church that they serve?

Here are some things that I think the Lord, my family, and my congregation should expect from me. These are areas that every pastor struggles with. Every pastor will fail on these from time to time. We are, after all, human. But, that should not stop us from striving to do our best to keep these promises. These promises should motivate us to get back up and try again whenever we fail.

In my relationship with God:

I promise to make Jesus Christ the greatest Love of my life. I will pursue a growing relationship with the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. I will make God my top priority. I will seek the approval of the Lord over the approval any human being. I will strive to live my life in such a way that those around me will see Christ reflected in me; following in the servant way of Jesus. I will seek to make much of Jesus and little of me. I will strive to do the work of ministry through the power of the Holy Spirit, knowing that anything I accomplish of eternal significance will be because of His power at work within me. I will make my prayer life a priority, seeking God’s face continually throughout each day. I will seek to understand God’s preferred future for my life, my family and the church that He has called me to serve. Then, I will follow His path no matter the cost. I will recognize my spiritual poverty and need of God’s grace, and forgive as God has forgiven me. I will confess my sin, daily, to the Lord; and seek to join Him, daily, in His mission of making more disciples. .

In my relationship with my family:

I promise to love my family more than the church that I serve, the work that I do, and the personal dreams that I have. I will seek to be the shepherd of my family more than being the shepherd of the church God has called me to serve. My spouse will be my greatest love after the Lord. My spouse should know that she is more important to me than the church that I serve. I will model to my family that loving God and loving the church isn’t the same thing. I am called to love God first, my family second, and then others.

To my children, I will strive to love your Mom as Christ loved the Church; laying down my life and my dreams, for our life and our dreams. I will love you for all of my life. I will recognize that you are the greatest gift that God has ever given me, next to Himself and your Mom. I will not let the busyness of ministry crowd out the life that God has planned for our family. You are my greatest priority – after God and after your Mom. I will disciple you at home, and be a volunteer in some of the ministries that you are a part of. I will do my best to not embarrass you, and will ask your permission before using you as an illustration in a sermon I preach or a lesson that I teach. I will take an interest in the things that you are interested in; because if it is important to you, it is important to me too. I will not expect of you the perfection that belongs to God and God alone. I will love you when you make mistakes and not allow the unrealistic expectations of those in our church to be expectations that I place upon you. I will pray for your future spouse and when the time comes to let go, I will give you back to God, recognizing that you were never really mine to begin with.

In my relationship with my church family: 

I promise to remember that the church that I pastor is God’s church. It doesn’t belong to me. I will seek His direction, in tandem with the leaders that God has placed around me, for this church body. I promise to love you, with the hopes that the community around us will know that we are Christians because we love one another. I promise to work hard. I will study God’s Word and do my best to accurately teach what Scripture teaches. I won’t be perfect. When I make a mistake, and realize it, I will own up to it and do my best to correct the problem. I will be an advocate for the pastoral and support staff that you have entrusted me with. I will pursue integrity in all areas of my life, seeking to be someone that you can trust, surrounding myself with people who will hold me accountable to God’s standards. I will do my best to not embarrass you, or the cause of Christ, by bringing shame upon His name. I will do my best to treat each attender of our church with honor, respect, fairness and confidentiality. I will speak the truth in love, even when it may not be what you want to hear, and I will welcome the same from you. I will welcome all, but not affirm the sin in any – including myself. I will recognize that there will be some people at our church who will be difficult for me to love, and try to remember that I am many people’s  person who is difficult to love. I will recognize that I am not the Savior, and therefore won’t have the solution to every struggle that our church has. God does. I am not ultimate authority. God is. I am not going to be competent in every area that our church will face; so I will work together with the beautiful body that Christ has built here to accomplish His purposes. I will recognize that the church that I serve does not have the “corner on the market” on God. I will live a life of inter-dependency with other pastors and church leaders across denominational lines.

We will pray as a body. We will serve as a body. We will learn as a body. We will worship as a body. I will seek to make sure that the vision that we pursue as a body comes from Christ speaking to the church and not just to me. I will do my best to help you discover your gifts so that you can honor God in the unique way that He has made you. I will recognize you as a gift to the body of Christ. That said, I will not reward dysfunction or those whose motives prove to be detrimental to the overall body. I will hang out with people who don’t know Jesus so that you can see modeled in me someone who is actively living out the Great Commission and the Great Commandment.

Okay, I’d love to hear your thoughts on these.

For further ideas, check out the National Association of Evangelical’s recent Code of Ethics for Pastors.

A Gift From My Grandpa Ray

n514316325_715945_8086

Grandpa Ray Schulenburg dressed in my Dad’s army uniform.

My son Jeremy had a school assignment that he was required to work on over Christmas vacation. His job was to write a paper about when his ancestors came to the United States. It was a joy to work with Jeremy and watch as he discovered his family history come alive.

By the time that Jeremy’s assignment was done, I found myself missing my Grandpa Schulenburg. Many of you know that my Grandpa was a pastor for many years, and one of my life’s heroes. Since it was New Year’s Day, I had some extra time on my hands. I remembered an interview that my Grandpa had done for Quad Cities Area Youth for Christ many years ago. I know I have that video somewhere, so I looked for it. I couldn’t find it. Instead I found a videotape that my mother gave me a year or so ago. It was in a box of items from my childhood and some things that she thought I might like to have. The videotape was a 50 year anniversary tape of Youth for Christ International. I watched the video, thinking maybe I’d see my Grandpa in the tape since he was one of the founders of Youth for Christ. He wasn’t on the tape. Until the 50th Anniversary video was over. I almost turned off the tape when I saw Grandpa’s face, bigger than life. There at the end of that YFC video was a 37 minute interview with Grandpa that one of our relatives conducted.

In the video Granada shares the history of Youth for Christ. He shares stories about Billy Graham, Torrey Johnson, George Beverly Shea, Paul Rader, and even the famous lawyer Clarence Darrow. He talks about what it was like to be a pastor during the Great Depression and World War II. And, he about his love for his sons and his grandchildren. He shares his passion for Jesus, prayer, and telling the story of Jesus to as many people as he could. He even talked about the state of the modern church and the importance of prayer in the life of the church.

I missed Grandpa yesterday. I haven’t heard his voice since his death in 2003. Yesterday, almost ten years since the time of his death, God allowed me to have a visit (albeit via video) with my Grandpa. He was always famous for his advice. I relished the advice that he gave to me as a pastor. I put his video on Vimeo today. Here it is. I hope it is a blessing to you too!

Interview with Rev. Ray Schulenburg, Youth for Christ Pioneer from Brian Schulenburg on Vimeo.

Christian Pariahs

HaggardWhat is a Christian pariah?

In my world a Christian pariah is often times a pastor or church leader who has been used by God in powerful ways in the past, who somehow or another dropped their guard, walked into sin, and got caught.

Ted Haggard is a good example. He served as the Senior Pastor of New Life Church in Colorado Springs, Colorado. While there, God used him to grow the church from 22 people meeting in a basement to over 14,000 people. He served as the President of the National Association of Evangelicals. He was a prolific author, speaker, and was seen as a model for working across denominational lines in movements of prayer. He was also a man struggling with temptation, pride, and some very secret sins.

Haggard was caught in a web of lies. And almost immediately the group of believers that had walked with Haggard throughout his nearly 30 years of ministry abandoned him. He had become a pariah; like many Christian leaders before him. The sting that a congregation feels when their pastor lets them down is very real. It is a normal thing for Christians to have difficulty trusting someone who has lied to them so much in the past. There has to be a time of proving yourself before a congregation or even close friends will trust you again. There will be some who never have you trust again. It’s all a part of the consequences of sin.

To be fair, there were those who loved and ministered to Haggard in the days and years after his public fall. There were some in his close circle who felt that he too quickly moved through the “process of reconciliation.” There were some who thought that Haggard too quickly wanted to be behind the pulpit again. All of these are tough issues to wrestle with. I imagine that each case is going to be different. Many churches teach that a pastor who has fallen the way that Haggard fell should never pastor a church again; that he has disqualified himself from pastoral ministry. John MacArthur wrote a good piece on this here.

That said, I found myself genuinely moved by this article from Michael Cheshire, a pastor from Colorado, and a guest writer for Leadership Journal. Cheshire, like so many of us, wrote Haggard off. His perspective began to change while having lunch with an Atheist friend that he had been trying to reach for Christ. Here is part of the story.

A while back I was having a business lunch at a sports bar in the Denver area with a close atheist friend. He’s a great guy and a very deep thinker. During lunch, he pointed at the large TV screen on the wall. It was set to a channel recapping Ted’s fall. He pointed his finger at the HD and said, “That is the reason I will not become a Christian. Many of the things you say make sense, Mike, but that’s what keeps me away.”

It was well after the story had died down, so I had to study the screen to see what my friend was talking about. I assumed he was referring to Ted’s hypocrisy. “Hey man, not all of us do things like that,” I responded. He laughed and said, “Michael, you just proved my point. See, that guy said sorry a long time ago. Even his wife and kids stayed and forgave him, but all you Christians still seem to hate him. You guys can’t forgive him and let him back into your good graces. Every time you talk to me about God, you explain that he will take me as I am. You say he forgives all my failures and will restore my hope, and as long as I stay outside the church, you say God wants to forgive me. But that guy failed while he was one of you, and most of you are still vicious to him.” Then he uttered words that left me reeling: “You Christians eat your own. Always have. Always will.”

For the rest of Cheshire’s story click here.

And, then I’d love to hear how you think we should respond to so-called “Christian pariahs.”