Working on My Introvert Ways

It didn’t take long for a couple of people to contact me about my blog post on being an introvert from yesterday. These people all had the same thing to say, “That describes me,” or “That describes someone I know.”

The world is full of introverts and yet I believe God called us all to live in community. He commands us to love our neighbor and not ignore them. Being a Christian is not about my relationship to God alone, but also my relationship to other people. I clearly understand that to follow Jesus puts me in connection with all others who are following Jesus.

With that said, here is how I am trying to overcome my introvert ways:

1. I continually remind myself that I have to connect to other people. When I am standing quietly in the back of the crowd and not interacting with other people I have to purposely step out and talk. If God wants me to care for other people then I have to follow his will and connect to other people. I have to purposely make a decision to get out of my own head.

2. Focus on one or two people and not the whole group. I do not have to run to the front and shout, “I am here. Talk to me.” I do not need to have everyone’s attention. If I take the time to have one or two solid conversations each week, then I am doing okay.

3. Put meetings on my calendar. Someone showing up at my house unexpectedly can freak me out. But if I invite someone over for next Friday I am much more at peace. I can focus my mind and pray before they show up at my door. This allows me to meet people in a more controlled setting that I need.

4. Pray, Pray and pray some more. Before events I have to ask God to give me courage and strength. I ask him to remind me of his will. Being with people is not natural for me and I will need supernatural help to get through it.

5. Find a balance with people and away from people. Every Sunday morning pushes me to my maximum people limits. To balance that I need time to myself on Sunday afternoon. In fact, I often take a nap and quietly watch TV. If I have people over to my house on Friday night then I need to be alone on Saturday. I desperately need balance.

I have been preaching almost every Sunday for 22 years. I wish I could say that I do not still struggle with personality issues, but I would be lying. The truth is that I have to push myself and make a conscious effort to become, not an extrovert, but more like Christ.

My Life as an Introvert Pastor

Honestly, I would rather be alone. I love my wife and kids and time with them fills me up emotionally. All other people are draining. You need to understand that I am an introvert by nature. I prefer to be alone and live in the quiet shadows of life beyond the public eye. This might work for some people but not for me, because God called me to preach. I didn’t really choose this life, instead God gave me a gift of public speaking and I am trying to use it for Him. This has made my life a constant contradiction of personality and vocation.

Here are some of the realities of my life:

1. Being with people exhausts me. Last week we had Vacation Bible School that ended with a full Church on Sunday and a party after Church. Then I had a couple of meetings to start this week. I have been with people for the last 9 days and I am exhausted. People wear me out rather than fill up my soul.

2. I would rather avoid people. Sunday evening I had a break in my schedule from Church and I slipped away to quietly metal detect by myself. Within a few minutes I looked up and a neighbor was standing there and wanted to talk. I almost cried. I see people in town and find myself avoiding them, not because they are bad people, but because I naturally don’t want to connect with people. People misunderstand my heart and my nature.

3. People issues are my biggest criticism. Through the years I have had people praise my preaching and teaching but I have never had one person compliment my people skills. I struggle to talk to people, I hate going to the hospital because I know it will lead to hours of conversation and I would rather not have people in my home. It is not that I don’t like you rather it is more about my difficulty with people.

4. My personality is a source of marriage conflict. My wife wants to have people in our home. She enjoys talking to people and being outgoing. She says what needs to be said when I hide in the other room. As a result people will talk to her about issues instead of talking to me. We disagree with how to handle situations that involve people. We have learned to handle most of my issues but it is still a source of tension.

5. I would rather serve in the background than out front. I enjoy taking out the trash during an activity because no one ever wants to join me. I like to hang in the back and get involved in whatever needs to be done as a way to avoid people. I have to continually tell myself that I need to step out and talk to people.

6. Deep Relationships are difficult for me. As an introvert I long for only a couple of deep relationships. Those are hard to come by for me. I am extremely slow to open up my life and invite people to connect with me. Through the years I have only a couple of close friends that really knew and loved me. As a side note, I find this to be true of all introverts, especially males.

I do not tell you these things to get your pity. I tell you these so that you will know your preacher better. Maybe it will explain a little bit about me and answer some of your questions. This is how God wired me up and I have spent my life trying to deal with it in the best way I possibly can. I find that most of my struggles are shared by other people who are introverts and maybe this will help you to understand them.

God has been gracious to me and I have had some success as a preacher but I give full credit to God. I would not be doing this if it was not for Him.

Lessons From Vacation Bible School 2015

After any big event I encourage the people involved to type in (or write down) their thoughts and reflections. I want people to get their ideas down about what worked and what didn’t, about ways we could improve and things we could change. This has been my process for years and it helps me to keep my thoughts straight the next time we have a big event. So here are some of the things I have on my mind after this year’s program.

1. Willing Servants Are the Heart Of A Church. The Church is not a building, it is people. Really it is not people, it is willing servants. Honestly, I question the faith of anyone who sits in a chair/pew on Sunday and does nothing more. Serving others selflessly is a trademark of the Christian faith. When someone steps up and helps another person, especially a child, they move beyond mere words of faith into a practicing Christian.

2. Real Joy is Found in Serving. Last week I loved watching some people serve for the first time. (At least the first time since I have been at ACC). They found great joy in being a blessing to other people. Yes, it can be exhausting some nights, but still there is so much joy in giving of ourselves. I rarely talk to anyone who regrets getting involved in ministry. In fact, the main frustration most people have is when the Church is not ready for people to serve. They have bad policies or procedures that hinder their ability to truly serve. I do not know if you can really understand this lesson until you serve.

3. The Church Needs People Willing to Lead. Last week we were blessed to have dozens and dozens of people willing to help. But for every group of people who want to help there needs to be a leader to show them the way. Leadership at its core is not about doing something for the people. It is not about making decisions about everything. Leadership is about equipping people to serve more and in better ways. I thank God for every servant, but I pray he will send more leaders.

4. Small Events Can Make A Big Impression. I have been in leadership so long that I have forgotten how it feels to be a new believer. Watching a young person make a small accomplishment for the Lord can be the building block for bigger accomplishments in the future. One small victory – singing in front of a group, a craft completed, a meal served, or any activity – these can be the first steps on a journey of serving the Lord.

5. Having a Program is Not the Same as Touching a Life. VBS is a great program. It gets people in the door and gives us an opportunity for something greater. Touching a life is when you personally connect with someone. A kind word, an affirming touch, a moment of listening and an assortment of other activities are where lives are changed and molded. It is one thing to ask people to serve and it is something more to have them open up their life to someone else.

The longer I have served in ministry the more I appreciate people willing to lead, to serve and to grow. Last week was a great opportunity for our Church, but it doesn’t end after one week. These lessons are the foundation stones of a great Church. My hope is that this week will be a starting point for a strong future.

A Recap of the Past Week

Words can never seem to express the depth of gratitude I have for all of the people who donated their time in the service of the Lord through our Vacation Bible School program.
Still I want to shout “THANK YOU” to all of you in my blog.

1. Thanks to all the people who planned and prepared since January for this one event.

2. Thanks to Ike for planning, purchasing and creating our decorations for the week. His creativity every year ceases to amaze me.

3. Thanks to everyone who stayed after Church on July 5th to set up all of the decoration, move furniture and get everything ready. I especially thank all of the teens who gave their time that day to set up so much.

4. Thanks to Tisha, Hannah and Stacey who worked behind the scenes with registration and getting paperwork in order.

5. Thanks to everyone who made registration go well the first night. I believe we had 137 different children through our program this week.

6. Thanks for all those involved with music, crafts, activities and Jaron for the lesson.

7. A special thanks to Martha Reid for organizing the kitchen and to all the ladies who came and prepared the food each night. It was great to see you here early along with your laughter and joy. It was a great example of what ministry should be like for everyone.

8. Thanks to everyone who stepped up to help make my Jr. Mission events a success. Thanks Ike, Anna, Stacey, Hunter, Mallory, Brohde, Sue and Brian.

9. Thanks to all the kids who attended each night (average around 122 a night) and I especially want to thank all the kids who performed yesterday.

10. Thanks to everyone who stayed around yesterday and helped to tear everything down and put it all away while cleaning the building up. Many hands made light work.

I am sure there is someone or some group I forgot. I apologize. We had about 100 people volunteer in large and small ways over the last week. It is all deeply appreciated. You may not feel like your little contribution means much, but every little piece is an important part of the big puzzle.

Yesterday after Church we had one person rededicate their life and one person who stated that they want to be baptized (hopefully next Sunday). Those are immediate responses but I firmly believe the effects of this week will be felt for years to come. A seed was planted and one day their will be a harvest. Thanks to all the workers in the vineyard of Adrian.

The Whisper of God

There is a story about a young boy standing in the British National Museum looking at the picture of Jesus knocking on the door by William Holman Hunt. The painting is entitled “The Light of the World” and is based on Revelation 3:20, “I stand at the door and knock.”

holman-hunt-light-of-the-world

The young boy looked at his father and asked, “Daddy, Why don’t they let him come in?”

The dad paused for a moment and said, “Maybe they are making too much noise inside to hear him knocking.”

I believe it is possible to be making so much noise that we miss the sound of God in our life.

We are told that Elijah once went to cave and was listening close to hear the voice of God.

1 Kings 19:11-13 (NIV) The Lord said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.” Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. (12) After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. (13) When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave. Then a voice said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”

Often the Lord speaks with a quiet steady voice into our lives. The problem can be that we are living a whirlwind and earthquake life and totally missing the whisper of God.

So how might God be speaking to you today? Could it be in the quietness of his written word? Could it be in a conversation with a friend? Could it be in the words of a prayer? Could it be in the words of a song you have playing in the background? How?

Sometimes God grabs us and throws us the right direction with a loud voice of change. Quite often God is nudging us with subtle hints and quiet whispers. The real question is, “Are we listening close enough to hear Him?”

One Person’s Influence

Last night I was debriefing after our VBS program was finished. It was some of the usual questions: “How many kids did we have?” “How many new kids showed up?” “How did it go for you?” “Was everything okay in your areas?” After all of the usual conversation we began to dig deeper into the evening. Upon evaluation my second night had gone much better than the first night in about every way. The more I talked the more my mind focused on two primary changes between the two nights. First, I was far more prepared. On Monday I had twice as many kids as expected and I needed to adjust my plan and schedule. Second, I noticed a change in some of the kids. Most pointedly we had added three new Jr. High students and we had the subtraction of a couple of kids. Finally the conversation landed on the effect one child has when he is part of the group. Don’t get me wrong, this is a good kid. This child just brings a dynamic to the group that changes everything.

This whole discussion has me thinking about the influence of one person over a group of individuals. Some people really have no influence on the larger group but others seems to dominate a group no matter what the size. Their impact can either be very positive or very negative to the larger group. This lead me to some personal evaluation questions.

1. Do people’s attitudes improve when I enter the room? Are people glad to see me? Do they smile when I enter a room?

2. Do people generally avoid me or embrace me when I enter the room? Do other’s often turn their back toward me when I head their way?

3. How often to I apologize for my negative attitude? Because I can sense other people’s uneasy feelings am I constantly apologizing for my attitude?

4. Do my words build people up or am I constantly tearing people down? This can be obvious with gossip and backstabbing. It can also be subtle with constant complaints, questions and arguments.

5. Are people thankful that they spent time with me? This might not be quickly apparent in most situations, but over a long period of time do I have people who are thankful for my words and actions.

These are some simple questions and I am sure there are more that I could ask. For me, it is easy to see the effect some people have on a larger group because I am a leader. The real issue is not how I see other people but what my behavior shows. Some people walk through life leaving a trail of frustration and confusion without ever knowing it. I do not want to be one of those people. I hope you don’t either.

Three Parts of Selflessness

This week I am working with a group of Junior High students during our Vacation Bible School program. They call my young people a “Jr. Mission” group as we spend the week trying to do some minor displays of mission and ministry. For example, tonight we are taking a meal to the senior housing community to try to give them a good home-cooked meal. Tomorrow we are heading to the Life Choice center to help clean and beautify their property. Basically we are trying to teach these kids to be selfless. I hope they somehow grasp the concept that life is not all about them and they can use their life as a blessing and not just as a consumer. My overall hope is that they will learn the three parts of serving and loving others.

1. Say Something – I honestly believe that the greatest tool most of us could use for good is our tongue. A word of encouragement is greater than gold. A statement of concern is more powerful than medicine. A compliment is more valuable than cash. Send a text, write an email, hand write a note, make a phone call or just sit down and talk. Listen to the other person and use your words to build them up.

2. Do Something – Everyone has at least one job they are avoiding. They do not have the time, the strength or the money to get the job done. You could help them accomplish this task. A helping hand is a great gift. Setting aside all that I could do to help another person is the best use of one’s time and talent.

3. Give Something – My life has been blessed in so many ways just by the giving of one small gift. It may not seem like much at the time but the gift of a meal, of fresh produce, of something with value and meaning is a wonderful gesture. The list of possibilities are unlimited.

Tonight I am leading these young people in the process of taking their time to help prepare a meal and give it to some older people while visiting with them. It will not seem like much to them but it will bless people in ways they never imagined. In a world of selfish people who want to be in every picture, express everything they are feeling and be the center of attention this activity holds the possibility of changing the world. Maybe not the world as a whole, but at least our littler corner here in Adrian Missouri.

This issue is not just something that Jr. High kids need to address. It is a question for all of us. Will we spend our life totally on ourselves or will we seek to bless others? The answer lies in what we are saying, doing and giving.

Personal Rundown

Well, it has been an interesting few weeks in my life. First I was on vacation, where I traveled to see my parents. Then I was in the office and trying to grind things out. Finally I enjoyed some extra time with the family over the holiday weekend. As a result of all of these things my mind is filled with lots of thoughts to share.

1. Thanks to Adrian Christian Church for the gift for my 1 year anniversary at your Church. Thanks for the flowers for my wife. Your kindness is appreciated!!

2. Yesterday my parents celebrated 56 years of marriage. Congratulations to them

3. Many of you have asked about my dad. He is doing well and improving daily. He still has a long way to go in his recovery but is doing well. Thanks for your prayers!

4. I enjoy the fourth of July celebrations and fireworks, but think that when you have seen one firework you have seen them all.

5. I have strong feelings about patriotic Church programs – THIS ARTICLE – captures some of my feelings.

6. A HUGE Thank You to everyone who helped set up for VBS yesterday. Thank you for giving up 3 hours or more to help!! It is greatly appreciated. I especially thank the Whitaker family for their planning, design work, and creativity.

7. Say a prayer for our VBS this week. Pray for the leaders and teachers and every person that interacts with a child.

8. Thanks to everyone who has shared produce from your garden. It is a great blessing, especially since my first year with a garden has gone very wrong:-)

9. I am still working on the ministry sign up sheets. If you have not been contacted yet, do not be discouraged. My vacation and VBS have slowed progress with some ministries and volunteers, but I am still making progress and will cover it all by August. Please be patient with me.

10. More rain in the weather forecast for here in Adrian. Is anyone else getting tired of this?

11. A new concrete slab has been poured at the Church building. We have made a plan to purchase a very nice basketball goal which we hope to have up very soon. The leadership hopes this will be a place where our young people can play anytime and invite their friends. It will also be a space for any Church activity that needs a flat place with solid dry ground. I am excited to see it used and my boys are excited for it to be ready.

12. I really enjoyed these two pictures. People happened to be in the right place at the right time and caught something special.

raccoon and gater

Eagle-and-Crow-1

Thanks for a great first year and I look forward to many more in the future. May God bless you all today.