One Lesson Blogging Has Taught Me About Pastoring

When I was in middle school I published my own newspaper. It was a riveting journal of all things sports. It was in the mid-90’s and I used the Microsoft Works program which came on my trusty AST computer. It was a bit difficult downloading the photos with my 14.4kbps dial-up internet, but I just used the download time to write more articles. It was also a tad disappointing having to print them in black & white, but we couldn’t afford a color printer.

I plodded along and churned out a few editions of The Sports Gazette. I even went to the local grocery store and spent ten cents per page to make a copy for my readers…even though my readership stood at a booming zero customers. (Actually I think I got an uncle to buy a copy for 50 cents one time).

And then my whole business changed. I got a color printer for Christmas and our dial-up speed went up to 28.8. This revolutionized my little paper. I remember my first new edition with the exciting header: Now in Color! I couldn’t wait to get this new edition out on the market.

Let me give you a little peek into my twisted brain. As I was writing all of these articles I was doing it for the whole world to see. I wanted each article to be written with excellence. Each photo had to pop. The outline had to be perfect. I spent days on each issue, because I knew a good magazine would mean more and more readers. And somehow I never got discouraged. I loved writing. I loved seeing the finished project. All my imaginary customers loved it.

But here’s the deal. Not a single person notice my special “now in color” edition. It did not mean a single thing to the outside world. When I revamped The Gazette nobody noticed. And when I quit publishing The Gazette nobody noticed.

Fast forward about fifteen years and I’m a twenty-something sitting at the keyboard designing my first blog. High school and college had burned me out on writing, but I rediscovered my passion for writing through blogging. This blogging thing was amazing. And just as I did as a middle school student, I wrote every single article as if the whole world was watching.

And for a really long time nobody cared.

I made changes to the format, I worked hard on my writing, published articles that I figured people would care about, and did many of the things bloggers were supposed to do. And nobody noticed. Not a single change that I made to the blog in those early days mattered one bit as far as gaining new readers.

But it was not all a loss…

How This Relates to Ministry

This has served as a lesson for me as a pastor. Those outside your church don’t come to your church because of things you do inside your church. Unless you want to attract church hoppers who behave like cats chasing laser pointers, nobody cares about your slick campaigns or the changes you make inside your doors. Simply because they don’t know they exist. Nobody cared about my new color edition of The Gazette because nobody was reading what I wrote. I could have put millions of dollars into each copy and hired the best of writers and it wouldn’t have added a single reader.

Churches mostly grow the same way my blog did, by faithful plodding and word of mouth. I write because I love to write. Yes, I write as if everybody will read this. And I pursue excellence because of that. But I don’t write so that everybody will read. There is a big difference in those two sentences.

Churches are going about things backwards when we put so much energy and effort into trying to compete with the world and entertain people into our doors. Yes, we should make sure that when we gather we are sensible to unbelievers and visitors to our church. But at the end of the day the most effective thing to do is to pursue faithfulness (read excellence if you desire) for the sake of Christ and for the congregation that is right before us.

If you do stuff for the sake of growth it’s going to bite you and drain you and have you chasing an ever moving target. But if you do things simply because it’s right to do them, you’ll be in a better shape for when God does bring growth to your church. Do things as if the whole world is watching, but do them the same way whether you’ve only got an audience of One.

Photo source: here

Read This! 09.12.17

Labor to Stop Laboring

I appreciate Jared Wilson’s comments on Galatians 2:17

3 Things Pastor’s Kids Need From Their Churches

This is helpful. And it’s a helpful reminder for us pastors to in this.

5 Beliefs Upheld by Calvinists Which Don’t Undermine the Doctrines of Grace

That’s a mouthful for a title, but I think it really does help clear up some misconceptions.

When Kids Don’t Bow to Your Idols

I found this really helpful.

5 Benefits to Reading Entire Books of the Bible in One Sitting

I’ve done this a couple of times and it really is helpful. (A bit easier on the smaller books).

14 Major Findings From Landmark Study

There are some interesting findings in this study. Some are deeply concerning to me.

7 Standards for Good Writing

My biggest fear is not accomplishing number 5.

Eight Traits of Outstanding Church Staff Members

I’m praying that we find one of these really soon to be our new associate pastor.

I tend to agree with Dr. Schreiner on this one:

One of the Saddest Verses in the Bible and A Heart of Baby Skin

Exodus 6:9 is one of the saddest verses in the Bible.

“Moses spoke thus to the people of Israel, but they did not listen to Moses, because of their broken spirit and harsh slavery”.

What Moses said to the people was that God was going to redeem them. God’s Word came to an enslaved people. He was promising liberation, redemption, adoption, and to be brought into a land that is their own. They had believed the promise once before but now everything has gotten worse for them instead of better. Now they cannot believe these good words.

Have you ever been there?

As I reflected on this passage I thought back to an old Keith Green song and a few words he said before singing:

On Monday night this week about midnight I wrote a letter to the Lord. I didn’t know where to mail it so I put it in my Bible. And I asked Him, “Lord, You gotta do something about my heart. You know a lot of time has gone by since I’ve met You, and it’s starting to harden up, You know, It’s kinda natural. I want to have baby skin, Lord. I want to have skin like a baby on my heart. It’s starting to get old and wrinkled, and calloused. It’s not because of anything I am doing, it’s because of a lot of things I am not doing. And I stayed up until about 2 in the morning writing this song…

After saying those words Green broke into a moving performance of O, Lord You’re Beautiful. I remember hearing this shortly after I became a believer and praying that prayer quite often. I started praying that the Lord would give me baby skin on my heart and that he would keep giving me baby skin.

Then I became a pastor…

Baby skin for a pastor is often seen as a deficit. It’s too tough to wear your heart on your sleeve. You take way too many shots and criticisms to pray for baby skin. And so I started praying for different things. I started praying for toughness. For strength. For the ability to lead.

And I think my heart gets a little harder and harder and old and wrinkled and calloused. I find myself going through the motions. My prayer becomes rote. My Bible study becomes less personal. I find myself in cruise control. And suddenly these great and grand truths which used to make me weep I’m now a bit calloused to. I believe them still. But I believe them as mere facts.

I still want the Lord to redeem me and to do work on my heart and to see some of those early dreams fulfilled, but I want to do it without the pain of “stinking to the Egyptians” (Exodus 5:20). I suppose I want to be redeemed in the way that I’ve set forth. And that’s a way that doesn’t require me having baby skin and tenderness and to walk through painful stuff with a fully alive heart. It’s easier to be a bit more leprous.

And then I read this by Mike Wilkerson and realize how desperately I need to believe the gospel enough to keep praying for baby skin.

“To hold our picture of redemption out to God and say, “Save me like this” doesn’t require nearly as much faith as saying, “I know you’re good. Save me like you want to.” (From Redemption)

So, Lord, give me baby skin on my heart.

Photo source: here

Here is that Keith Green performance:

Read This 09.07.17

Envy Never Hunts Our Hearts Alone

Man, I wish I had written this article. Just kidding. But it is phenomenal. Envy, really does come in a pack.

How to Pray When You Don’t Want to Pray

This was convicting to me. My prayer life needs such a boost.

My 7 Most Productive Habits

These are helpful.

4 Ways My Preaching Has Evolved

I enjoy reading articles like this from fellow preachers.

Yes, Leading Others to Sin Brings Greater Punishment

A Tom Schreiner article, you know the drill…

I Would Rather Die

This is a letter to a would-be adulterer.

40 Truths About the Fear of God

What a wonderfully helpful list.

When Should a Church Address a Current Event?

I probably err on the side of not mentioning them enough, and therefore not showing how the gospel applies.

Ever wonder why it’s called “going Dutch”?