CrossPointe Church’s 10th Anniversary is just around the corner! This week I have been reflecting on some of the lessons I have learned over the 10 years that I’ve had the privilege of shepherding CrossPointe. To get through all 10 lessons by Sunday, I’m going to pick up the pace today with 3 lessons in one post. These 3 are all tied to one another and of the 10, they were by far the most painful to learn.
Lesson #4: I can’t please everyone, and I don’t have to.
As a new pastor, my desire was to please everyone. I know this sounds silly, but I wanted everyone to feel confident about their decision to entrust the position to me. So, any feelings of disappointment, dislike, or worse, toward me, my sermons, my decisions were taken very personally as a sign that I was failing as a pastor. The weeks leading up to our merger were filled with tension as some people were very unhappy with parts of our plan. (Changing the name of the church and transitioning to Elder leadership were chief among the concerns.) Later on, it seemed every decision had someone waiting in the wings to protest. I quickly found that I could run myself ragged trying to please everyone. I am grateful for the wise men that God put in my life that led me to a firm understanding of this principle: I need only to please God! Focus on pleasing anyone else was foolish and dangerous. Moses was my example of the danger of catering to the protestors. His desire to please the complainers and shut them up caused him to act rashly, ignoring the command of God. As a result of this disobedience, Moses wasn’t allowed to lead the people of Israel into the Promised Land (Numbers 20:10-13). I have an audience of One. I don’t have to please everyone, but my hope is that everyone will be pleased with my desire to please God.
Over the 10 years, there have been many people come and go through our ministry. It’s easy to celebrate those that come. Who doesn’t want more people in their ministry, right? But seeing them go is hard. Over the years we have had many go home to Heaven. Many have moved away to other cities, states, and countries. Some never left the city but moved on to other churches. And, still others just preferred their couch or bed to being committed to a local congregation. Some left on very good terms with lots of fanfare, tears, and blessings as they went. While others left enraged at one thing or another, deciding that our differences could not be worked out. So, we parted ways. Then there is another group whose leaving was particularly painful. It is those that were in a strong fellowship with us, serving alongside us in what appeared to be a great relationship. Then, out of the blue, they were gone! No complaint. No explanation. Just gone. That hurts. Some of those, I still have no clue as to why they left, and I am coming to grips with the fact that I may never know. But the lesson I have learned is this…
Lesson #5: People come through our church, not to our church.
A professor once told me that we pastor parades not concerts. The church is a connection point on the journey of life for many people. They will come in and stay for a season, some longer than others. And in that season, I have a responsibility to faithfully love them and minister to them where they are. God decides how long that season is, and what is to be accomplished in it. It is hard to let go when the time comes, but I am realizing that I can be grateful for the time that God allows me to have the people He sends our way. I am learning to say, “I’ve got you, but I’m not holding on to you.” You need to be where God wants you and, I will not stand in the way of that.
One last lesson for today stems from the last. There are some people who do not recognize that their season with us is over. There are some who need help to see that they aren’t in the right place. I’ve fought some heated battles over the 10 years on a hill I certainly wasn’t meant to die on. In the midst of that battle, I realized the crux of the matter was the direction I was leading the church. I realized I am the steward of CrossPointe’s vision and direction. It is uniquely designed for our ministry. There are other ministries around the city that also have uniquely designed visions and directions. Those people that were not on board with our vision and direction, had passions and desires that were a good fit for other ministries. So rather than fight against them and force them to tow the line and get on board with where we were headed, I learned today’s final lesson…
Lesson #6: Sometimes you have to invite people to leave, and that’s OK.
That’s right. I know it sounds like it goes against everything we think naturally. We want to invite people to come. Invite people to surrender to and follow Jesus. Yes! But if their oars don’t row in the direction this boat is going, then there will only be tension, frustration, confusion, and stagnation. (Probably some other “-sion” and “-tion” words, too.) I needed to make our current situation clear. So, with confidence and authority, I took to the pulpit to clarify the direction we were going. As I prepared for that, I remembered an episode in the Gospel of John when Jesus laid out the reality of what was going on for His followers.
“So Jesus said to them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him.’” (John 6:53-56)
The scripture tells us in John 6:66, “After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him.” They weren’t on board with where this was going, and Jesus wasn’t trying to sweeten the deal to appease them either. So, they went another direction. I am not advocating inviting people to walk away from their faith in Christ. Rather, I invited them to see that the tension and frustration they felt may very well be caused by them being in the wrong fellowship. Rather than slow the movement in our church, why not go and add to the strength of another ministry better suited to them. This is an invitation to leave, with my blessing, so we can preserve unity and peace moving forward.
Those are lessons 4-6! Thanks for reading! Come back tomorrow for Lesson #7 which stems from one of the most unique and memorable stories in the history of CrossPointe. It’ll make you shout, “Holy Frijoles!”