My question: Am I in danger of losing my job?
The leadership response: Well, not at this time.
Two years into my first pastoral position, I had lunch with three ministry leaders who also doubled as friends: Ron Covert, Duane Peterson, and Steve Clarke. I’m pretty sure the actual restaurant in South Sacramento has been razed, but that small portion of our conversation is permanently etched in my mind.
This is a post about faithfulness – that foundational trait of doing what we’ve said we will do. But we’re also going to discuss being steadfast in carrying out what we have been directed to do, which is different.
I’ve got a story about each of them, which will lead us some thoughts about the faithfulness of God.
And then lead us into a new chapter for The Blue Spigot.
I interviewed with Valley Hi Covenant Church (now Common Ground) before I finished seminary. They were clear about what they wanted: a Youth Pastor who would lead the church’s strong youth ministry and the local Young Life Club.
I was also clear. I wanted to be the Associate Pastor of Youth Ministry – you know, do all those typical youth-ministry things, but also help the Lead Pastor to lead the entire congregation, preach regularly, attend board meetings, etc.
I accepted the position and was given the title I wanted. I’m on it.
Hmmm. No, I wasn’t. Faithfulness is about being true to your word. Saying yes must be connected to doing yes.
Two years in, I was trying to keep far too many marbles on the table. But I wasn’t succeeding. Exhibit A was the sputtering youth ministry, both in the attendance of the teens and the attitude of the volunteer leaders.
Which was why I got “invited to lunch” – nice euphemism, huh? – with the present and former church chairs and the longest-serving volunteer in Youth Ministry. Am I in danger of losing my job? Well, not at this time.
Message given. Message received. Choking down a dish of cold humble pie for dessert, I vowed to make changes. I drove back to the church office and shared the same with Pastor Kurt Miericke. Yes, I worked faithfully from that day forward, and the youth ministry regained its health.
I can’t give you many of the details of what I did differently, but I can tell you one action which summed up my resolve. Knowing I needed a new vision, I did something small yet very significant.
I moved a piece of furniture.
On day one of my ministry at Valley Hi I placed my desk in the far-right corner as you entered. As I sat looking out the window, I saw a symbol of the entire congregation – the sanctuary.
But the congregation had called me to have a different focal point. They wanted me to be the pastor for the youth ministry – the teens and the leaders. So that day I moved my desk to the opposite wall, which gave me an unobstructed view of the youth building. The change in me started with that move.
Faithfulness is about keeping your focus. It’s about looking daily at the people to whom you have said yes, I will. Your family. Your spouse. Your children and grandchildren. The people with whom and for whom you work and earn a living.
Faithfulness matters to God. Jesus spoke repeatedly about it in the last week of his life, often in parables. If you believe his words, we will sit with our Father in heaven and give an account of whether we have been faithful or not. *
You may have to make some changes in order to be faithful. You may have to change your daily focus. Are you willing? Is faithfulness important enough for you?
Two years later I left Valley Hi Covenant Church with a smile, knowing that some of the first seeds of the fruit of the spirit called faithfulness had been planted in my soul.
Only to be assigned by God to a position a year later, one I didn’t want to accept.
In previous editions of The Blue Spigot I’ve written about my grudgingly-accepted-call to serve Escalon Covenant Church here, and the eventual turnaround and a second commitment to stay here. But I haven’t mentioned my attitude in those first eighteen months, which was hardly exemplary.
I may have learned a lesson about faithfulness in Sacramento, but it took some time for me to sort out and swallow the reality of being the pastor of a small church in a small town, which meant – or so I mistakenly concluded at the time – that I was a small man. Few people dream of being insignificant and inadequate, and I had no such aspirations.
Yeah, I had known and could recite the verses from childhood by heart: Trust in the Lord with all your heart … and he will direct your paths.** I didn’t particularly like the path upon which I had been placed.
My office windows looked out onto Highway 120 with an average of 14,000 cars every day. I preferred to be one of those who could drive through the town, but often wondered why God wanted me to park my car every day in one of the six striped parking places in our lot.
And every one of those reflections came around to the same topic: faithfulness. What does it mean to trust the One who has directed you to a place where you don’t want to be? What does it mean to be faithful to your assignment?
Did the church’s eventual turn towards health come because of our fervent prayers? Or did it begin to thrive because I finally took my eyes off my self-absorbed dreams and focused on being faithful? Maybe the answer to both questions is yes, but I think they were connected.
Monumental or miniscule. Destined for obscurity or filled with promise. Storm clouds aplenty or blue skies. Rough waves or still waters. It is required of a servant to be faithful.
Once again, saying yes must be connected to doing yes.
Which brings us to the faithfulness of God, with whom it is always yes!.
Whatever God has promised gets stamped with the Yes of Jesus. In him, this is what we preach and pray, the great Amen, God’s Yes and our Yes together, gloriously evident. God affirms us, making us a sure thing in Christ, putting his Yes within us. By his Spirit he has stamped us with his eternal pledge—a sure beginning of what he is destined to complete.***
Which brings me to some news about The Blue Spigot, which will continue to open but at a slower pace.
Much of what you have read for the past year – yes, it’s been a full year! – has been my attempt to be faithful to a vow I made long ago to God: I will testify to his faithfulness in my life by recording these episodes. First in the faltering handwriting in my “Book of Stones”, and more recently by including many of them in the Blue Spigot.
I have no idea whether the stories you’ve read over the last year will fade off into oblivion, but I can’t worry about that. I hope they’ve been a blessing to you at the very least, but I also hope that they might have enlarged your faith in God and sparked some new knowledge. Maybe they'll make their way into a book.
God’s faithfulness to me has been evident in another way, and I feel the same compulsion to share it in print.
Twenty years ago, he graciously began to teach me how to extricate myself from the daily roller coaster of my emotions in my quest to follow him. I had long been captive to the addictive highs and depressing lows of my feelings, as well as to how I tended to interpret them. The day or the week often reflected my moods.
It wasn’t helping me spiritually, and it wasn’t spiritually healthy.
All God desires from any of us is two things: love him with heart, soul, mind and strength, and love our neighbors. Jesus stated it plainly: Do this and you will live.****
But what does that mean? How do you know if you’re doing it?
After reflecting and recording thoughts – and countless more rounds of reflecting and recording – and incorporating them into my daily life, I am finally ready to write a book outlining the practical steps that I have learned. I still have emotions, but they are not driving the train of my discipleship as I seek to love God and love my neighbor.
I’m tentatively planning to call it The Narrow Path, picking up on Matthew 7:14.
But I can’t write the book while continuing to work forty + hours a week and still cranking out weekly posts in The Blue Spigot.
Therefore, starting in September, somewhere around once a month you’ll find a fresh Blue Spigot post coming to your email in box. That’s assuming you have signed up for that. If not, directions are below.
I’ll also be setting up a separate FB page for The Blue Spigot, so you can check that or my personal FB page as you choose.
It’s been a great year writing The Blue Spigot. It’s been good for me to get back into the practice of writing regularly, and I will keep it up despite the less frequent posts. I hope it has brought a smile to your face, and a new vision of God’s love and light in your life. I ask for your continued prayers for me as I write my book.
Benediction of Blessing:
May you seek God’s help to develop the spiritual fruit of faithfulness in your life.
May you strive to be faithful regardless of the circumstances.
May you sense God’s loving faithfulness to you as you walk with him each day.
* Read Matthew chapters 21-25 and notice how often Jesus emphasized faithfulness.
* Proverbs 3:5-6. As a child, I memorized the King James Version, with the last line being: he shall direct your paths. The NIV and most other translations render the phrase: he will make your paths straight.
*** 2 Corinthians 1:20-22 The Message
**** Luke 10:28
Men shaking hands – Photo from Shutterstock
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All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version, NIV. Copyright 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc. TM