Reflections of a Church Planting Intern: Week 4

In my my unplanned post Friday evening I referenced my feelings of being rest-less. That is not to say that I was feeling some dis-ease but that I was feeling like I was going days without sleep. This was happening no matter the amount of time I slept or what time I went to bed that night. It just felt like I’d get to places I need to be and would want to curl up in a ball and nap right there on the floor. What I hypothesized and sort of proved myself right about was the amount of real rest I was getting. That is, I was not unplugging from people completely for spans of time to allow myself to recharge. I have since done that and feel like I have recovered quite a little from that exhaustion that plagued me. I’ve hidden in my office and my bedroom for a while and I got about 12 hours of sleep last night.

I’m feeling a little better.

This past week the theme and topic of discussion was leadership. From “go” we knew that it seemed like a waste or just somewhat ridiculous to talk about leadership. I’m used to that kind of talk, myself, from almost 7 years in the teleservices/customer service industry and all of that in a corporate environment. So, as we began to talk I think i started to import my attitude about those kinds of discussions and it was really hard for me to see what was in front of me as a topic at times that compounded with some serious fluctuations in my mood that I could not pin down. It’s usually something I can work through or ignore but that got to be pretty difficult this week and I really wish it hadn’t taken me until Friday to figure out my problem.

We did have some really good discussions though. A lot of it centered around the providential failure of Ben’s copy of some of Erwin McManus’ sermons on DVD. We were supposed to watch “The Barbarian Way” but the DVD would not yield anything up except for one called “Character Matrix”. I refer to this as providential because the content of this particular sermon was, as Ben even said, far more applicable to the topic of leadership. I remember a few things from it that really stuck out to me. One was that one of the key components to being a leader is integrity. Integrity is born out of a combination of humility and servanthood. He also talked about courage and how it’s important that a leader have courage. But McManus was convinced that courage was not how people had stereotyped it because it is not really the absence of fear.

It’s the absence of self.

The gravity of that statement nearly pulled me out of my chair. Why? Because of its implications. Fear is something I’m pretty familiar with. Sometimes I feel I have almost an agoraphobic response to a lot of social situations and even some not so. That kind of anxious response makes me wonder sometimes if I’m just a big coward. What strikes me then as crazy is the times when I need to push through it I literally just step over such things without much regard to that feeling in the pit of my stomach that screams, “No”. The missions trips I’ve been on, the service projects I’ve done have all been a conquering of some kind of fear but the reason I was able to step into those situations was that I was more concerned about the project or the people than I was of my own reservations about the whole thing. Fear is an obstacle but rarely an option for me in those situations and so I just go.

There was something else McManus said that was kind of interesting and it became a topic of discussion because I really had to think about it. He talked about how, in the church, we choose our leaders not based on integrity but based on a 30 minute presentation. As much as I would like to believe that so much isn’t the case I have to say that, as I have seen, that seems to be how things play themselves out. But then I asked myself how you would go about avoiding that sort of process in hiring a new leader. In our case, we lose leaders much more often to moral failures than we do anything else it would seem. In the case of a pastor giving up his role in the ministry for retirement or other opportunities I can definitely see allowing for more time, thought and prayer into the whole process. When the pastor has to be fired or resigns due to moral failure I think, then, you have a problem.

Where an expedient decision must be made sometimes I wonder how much gets lost in the shuffle. The problem then becomes how do you hire someone quickly. Then how do you compensate for whatever failure the previous pastor had? After a lot of thought I have decidedly thought that there is no right answer to that question. And you can’t take the time to analyze integrity so you must then fall back on the resumé to determine who is actually right for the job. And, to me, that is probably more stressful and difficult than I would like to think about right now. I think I’ll jump off that bridge when I come to it.

And now for something completely different.

Last week was mostly, if not completely, focused on writing a sermon and getting it prepared in a lot of different ways. Because of the fact that I was preaching in a church where the only people I knew were the pastor and his wife the message was somewhat impersonal. Not that I didn’t care for the people but I didn’t know what their needs were so I went pretty broad and it seemed to work okay. What you should probably know about me is that in any engagement like this where I get to talk about God and the Bible my prayer is that it strikes just one person right and that’s really all I ever selfishly ask for. So, when someone told me as I was about to hit the door that it was exactly what they needed to hear and then hearing later that she had told the pastor’s wife the exact same thing I was satisfied that God had worked through me and that was sufficient.

But the camera zoomed out and the picture got a lot bigger.

So it turns out I was completely unaware that for the first time in a long time someone and his girlfriend had come to church. The someone was a son of one of the congregation members and he and I had some common ties. They spoke with and then met with Jon later and he basically told me that as many connections as there were yet how random the event seemed that it was really difficult not to see God at work. It made him tear up which floored me because Jon doesn’t strike me as much of a crier. But I was left without words. I think of the odds. What are they that I should show up on the one Sunday when this couple decides to come to a church pastored by a friend of mine. Especially when this person is connected to some people I live with. And then put the location of this event about 90 minutes from where I live.

Wow.

And so I reel from that.

At the same time I have begun to think about my friends more and more. There are some people I consider friends whom I’ve not spoken to in a long time. Some of them, I think, gave up on me because I’m busy and so are they. Others live far away and so it’s really hard for us to communicate some times. And what’s really been boiling inside my brain is how I really feel about people and friends. This can of insanity has been open for quite some time but, admittedly, it takes a while for me to process. Especially when it comes to things at an emotional level. There’s a lot of mess to work through because my emotions aren’t entirely reliable sometimes. What I’ve discovered is that I do not have a difficult time loving people but I do have a really hard time telling people that I do.

I don’t want to blame my family but that’s just how things were when I was raised. It’s not that we didn’t love as a family but we did it through action and a lot of that still plays out today not just in the family dynamic but in the way we treat other people as well. So, when I had a friend tell me they loved me last year my brain seized and I found difficulty reacting. That three word phrase is something I have struggled with mostly because of having been desensitized to it and seeing that same desensitization in others. To me it was as if a lot of people use it without actually meaning it and that phrase carries so much weight that it shouldn’t be tossed around mindlessly. But sometimes that phrase is the closest thing I can get to accurately describing how I feel about a person. I know people I would do anything for, drop everything for, and fight anything for. And those same people are the ones kind of pushing this phrase into my head either by word or by deed.

I guess I have to blame Ben because this is where it all started. I told him all the stuff and more like what I’ve said above a while back and he seemed a bit saddened by it. I’m assuming he told his wife because she made it a point to say, “I love you” as I was leaving their house one night. And since then she’s made it a point of showing me what that looks like until I could actually say it back and not feel weird and actually mean it.

It’s a process. Much like a lot of things.

But when I find a friend worth holding onto I still find it difficult to tell them the importance of their presence in my life. I value a lot of people but I don’t tell them because I think part of me is still holding on to that idea that they’ll see it in my actions. What I’ve learned about myself is that my actions suck. I also find it ironic that I have such an attachment to words and yet I have this trepidation about using them in certain situations. Though I have friends that I do tell that I love them when I feel it necessary I am still trying to overcome this.

And so God continues to work.

Music
Iron & Wine – “The Shepherd’s Dog”
KT Tunstall – “Eye to the Telescope”
P.O.S. – “Never Better”
Astronautalis – “The Mighty Ocean & Nine Dark Theaters”
Brzowski – “MaryShelleyOverdrive”
City & Colour – “Little Hell”
Joy Division – “Substance 1977-1980”
Rancid – “Let the Dominoes Fall”
Third Eye Blind – S/T
VNV Nation – “Empires”
War of Ages – “Eternal”
American Head Charge – “Trepanation”
American Head Charge – “War of Art”
American Head Charge – “The Feeding”
Greg Graffin – “American Lesion”
Neurosis – “Through Silver & Blood”
B. Dolan – “Fallen House, Sunken City”

Movies
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2: The Secret of the Ooze
Gone in 60 Seconds
Star Trek: First Contact
Empire Records
Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory
Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back

TV Shows
Intervention
Hoarders
Obsessed

Books
Orthodoxy by G.K. Chesterton

Bible
Judges 6-20

Verse
Judges 6:34

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2 thoughts on “Reflections of a Church Planting Intern: Week 4

  1. Hi, Jeremiah!

    You’re on to something there. So much in life depends upon relationships (including the earning of leadership), and relationships come down to character, the composite of one’s virtues. Love is the comprehensive, thus ultimate, virtue, which we attain (incrementally, assiduously) as we mature in the more elementary virtues.

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