Monday, a church member came in with great concern that our church is not growing. She sees another church in our area that's only been around less than 10 years. They probably number in the 1000's. They've started a couple of satellite and are looking to open another one. Some of our members, have left our congregation to attend this hot, new church. While this church is one of the hottest things around, we average 120-140 in weekly attendance. That's about the same number we've averaged for 5 years.
I was actually thrilled with our conversation. She wants us to do the things this other, fast-growing church is doing. She wants to see that kind of excitement in our body.
I happen to think a lot of exciting things are happening at HillSong: mission trips, children & teens growing in the faith, new families becoming a part of our ministry, local mission projects. But, as we have many grad students in our body, we see a lot of transition. The incoming new folks don't outnumber the outgoing folks (90% of whom leave because they are leaving the area). The result is our numbers pretty much stay the same, and the woman who came to my office interpreted this as a failure on the part of our church (and maybe on my part as the pastor).
I like our conversation because it shows her passion for seeing the church grow and the lost come to Jesus. It does put some pressure on me but that comes with the job.
Tuesday - a different member came in to tell me about a personality conflict between two people in the church. Of course in the long run, our conversation was ineffective because neither of the participants in the personality clash were present. This concerned member and I were third and fourth parties. But everyone involved, the two conflicting members, the concerned one who came to me, and of course me are high-level leaders in the church. Our discussion was good, but in the end all I am left with is the knowledge that two of our leaders are at each other, and one won't talk to me and the other isn't aware of a problem.
This kind of tension exists for all pastors everywhere, it is just that it is near the forefront at the moment. It will either be dealt with or subside, but right now it's on my mind.
And then there's my home life. My wife and kids are awesome. They are my absolute joy. The only problem is we are in a season of life where sleep is in short supply. I won't go into the details, but most nights, my wife and I are awakened sometime between midnight and 3AM. And then, I am again awakened between 4:45 and 5:30AM. That's the norm.
Millions of parents deal with the sleep loss I am describing here and we are adoptive parents so this is totally of our own making. Still, it renders me tired much of the time.
All of what I've described above leads me to Wednesday. I am driving with my 4-year-old son. We're going about 50mph in a 45 zone. A car comes zooming up on us, really tailgating. And I get mad. So I slow down. About 46mph, the guy zooms by and makes a gesture as he does. Now I am steamed.
Then the guy has to stop at the stop light. And within 3 seconds, I am beside him at the stop light. He makes another gesture. So I roll my window down and begin speaking forcefully (maybe I was yelling, but I don't think so). Repeatedly, I look him in the eye and I say, "Roll your window down." I am sure I have an extremely angry look in my eyes. The guy and his passenger, both men about 55 or so, occasionally look at me in disgust and then look ahead. I know they were uncomfortable.
Finally after an interminable time and me shouting "Roll your window down" about 50 times, the light turns green and we go. At my turn, the other driver and I part ways. And then I hear a 4-year-old voice say, "Why roll window down, Dad?" I respond about how the other driver did something wrong. But, I can feel the Holy Spirit creeping in saying, "Rob, did you represent Jesus well, just now?"
Obviously I did not. I sinned in my anger, in my actions, and in my words. To God, I have to honestly say, "I am sorry that I, a disciple of Jesus, behaved in that way." I am feeling some stress this week. I am very tired and this is at the start of my sermon-research day. And none of that is an excuse for me to be screaming at another driver. What did I teach my son? What did I, a representative of Jesus, model for the world?
In stressful moments when we are tired, we reveal our true selves. I want to be someone who points others to Jesus. Sometimes I succeed. This morning I failed.
I pray for the man in the other car and his passenger. I pray that they would see Jesus today.
I pray for my son. I pray God would help me teach my son how to handle conflict and stress the way Jesus handles conflict and stress.
And I pray for myself. I pray that God would help me grow from this moment. I pray that God would replace the old sinful self with a new creation and that I would die to self and not feel self-righteous anger that turns into sinful rage.
I also pray that God would fill me with grace and love and wisdom and knowledge. I probably won't see those guys who were in the other car again. But I will see the church members I mentioned earlier, along with about 120 others who will worship at our church this Sunday. I need to share with them the word of God and today I begin working on what I will say. I pray God will inspire me so that the sermon I offer contributes to the spiritual growth of all who hear it.
That's my confession.