Reflecting on the congregations that I pastored has caused me to reflect on the subject of influence. Influence is a two way street. My congregations each one had influence upon my life and my ministry. It was in 1991 that we moved to Michigan for the first time. Our son started kindergarten in Portage, Michigan. While living there a young man graduated from high school in Kalamazoo and signed a contract with the New York Yankees, his name? Derek Jeter.
The church experienced rapid growth. This was my shortest pastorate. I learned some important lessons while living in Kalamazoo and pastoring First Church of the Nazarene.
1 No one is impressed by your press clippings. We had experienced some good days toward the end of our ministry in Syracuse, Indiana. Yet you can’t live fixated on what you did yesterday. Today is a new day. Ministry happens in the present, not the past.
2 Leadership is both an art and science. What worked while pastoring a young church did not necessarily work in an established church. Answers are not automatic, that is why we need to keep learning and seek the wisdom of the Lord.
3 God moves in ways only known to Him. In this church where I felt out of my element, was where we experienced some of the best numerical growth of our ministry.
4 God is always doing something to shape and fashion His will in our lives. God does not allow us to keep doing or redoing the same things that have worked in the past.
5. Your leadership has to change as well. This was the first traditional church I pastored. The other congregations I had pastored were newer churches and called for a particular style of leadership. Here I learned about checks and balances and committees and processes, I had a bias toward being in charge and against processes. I discovered that just because the denomination says that I was the pastor/leader, did not mean I was the leader in actuality. It was in Kalamazoo that I learned that leadership has to take into consideration culture, the constituency, and the mission.
6. There are some things in retrospect that you will never be able to completely understand. We must give the mysteries of life over to God as well. An important leadership lesson gleaned from this time period is: do not place blame, take responsibility. The people of this congregation were wonderful folks who loved God with all of their heart.
We made some wonderful friends while living in western Michigan. I did not know then that we would make a return trip to Wolverine state years later. So, in many ways Michigan is our adopted home and we have so many dear friends who reside in the wolverine state.