SE Introduction: Session Four.
God has more to say to you right now than anyone else. Dave Jacobs, pastoral coach.
If you’re just joining us, we’re in the beginning stages of preparing ourselves to walk through the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius. In just six more sessions, we will begin a thirty-two week walk through of the Exercises and my hope is that you’ll blog your way through with us! In preparation for our journey, let me continue my story of how I finally arrived at my desperate need to walk through the Exercises.
It was 2009 and my once-healthy growing church was beginning to fall apart at the seams. Just about everything that could go wrong was starting to do so as Sandy and I entered into our second decade of church-planting in Cedar Rapids. As a firm believer in church growth principles, I was convinced that if I could get a coach to help me transform my pastoral shepherding skills into much-needed ranching skills, I’d be well on my way to solving my church problems and getting back to building the church I knew Jesus would be proud of. I asked a close friend of mine for advice and he recommended that I contact a pastoral coach he had been working with. His name?
After a few phone calls with Dave, I really liked everything about him except the name of his ministry. Small Church Pastor. Quite honestly that name bugged me. With a church of 350 attendees on the line, and a drive for much, much more, I had little patience in me at the time for anything small.
Looking back now, I know that God had little interest during this season of my life in transforming this insecure, striving-for-significance pastor into a rancher par excellence. I’m sure that Dave was much more aware that the Lord’s true interest in my life and ministry was to dismantle my deep-seeded, insatiable drive for success using the 3-B’s for my measuring stick, but being the professional that he is, he never let on.
What’s a 3-B pastor, you ask?
A 3-B pastor, you see, is any pastoral shepherd who is addicted to measuring his or her “success” (or failure) in ministry using three major components of “success” utilized in many of our churches, large and small, across North America. I like to call this triad of components, the 3-B’s:
(B)utts in the seats.
Now, back to Dave Jacobs and me, the burned-out, frustrated 3-B pastor…
As I remember it, Dave spent our first few sessions asking me questions about my story. As I unfolded my sad tale of the last year or so, Dave spoke few words, but much like E.F. Hutton, when Dave did speak, I certainly wanted to listen. Of all the gems that Dave gave me in those early days working with him, here’s the payoff line that continues to live with me and will do so until my dying day…
“Marty, my job as your coach is to ask you great questions and get you thinking above the fog you’re presently in. I won’t try to tell or sell you anything. I’m simply going to ask you questions and then listen. But before we go on, let me tell you this one basic truth…”
“God has more to say to you right now than anyone else.”
Fortunately, I heard that. I began to slow down. I began listening more carefully to Dave’s great coaching questions. I started thinking and feeling again. And most importantly, I began listening for what God had to say to me. But here’s the sad, deep-down, dirty confession. Once I started listening, I didn’t really like what God was saying!
Why, you ask? Because as I was slowing down, giving more intentional time to the Lord, I was hearing Jesus personally invite me to step out of the 3-B traffic, walk away from my self-driven mission to be the biggest and best church in town, and simply sit with Him for a spell. Keep in mind that I’ve always been a big “doer” for God and I’ve always loved it when I can touch and feel something that I’ve built for Him. Now, quite honestly, transforming a “git-r-done-doer” for God into a contemplative pastor just doesn’t happen overnight. Especially when the drive for significance and success is so deeply embedded into a pastor’s heart as it has been in mine.
So, first things first.
In order to carve out some extra time in my busy life for listening to God (i.e. soul care), Dave strongly recommended that Sandy and I schedule a multiple-week sabbatical in the summer of 2009. We had been, at that point of our lives, in ministry for nearly 27 years with never more than just a few days or so away at one time. Exhausted, I agreed with Dave to schedule a sabbatical, but you guessed it, when push came to shove, the workload of the church demanded that I reduce our scheduled multiple-week sabbatical down to only two weeks of vacation. I reasoned with myself at the time that a break of two weeks was certainly better than nothing, and in fact, it was.
Now, as I look back at that season of our lives, I wish we’d gone ahead with the multiple-week sabbatical as planned. But, praise God, the Lord took what we gave Him and in early June 2009, Sandy and I headed off for a few days of relaxation at The Lighthouse Cove in Pompano Beach, Florida.
It was there I realized that God truly did have more to say to me than anyone else! Join us next time for that part of my story.
My prayer: Father God, there are so many voices vying for my attention. Many are just worldly voices, full of fleshly advice and counsel; wooing me to live my life for the sake of self. Others, on occasion, do contain wisdom and truth, but still, the buzz of all the noise makes it difficult to sort out truth from lies. Holy Spirit, You have more to say to me right now than anyone else. And Jesus, it’s Your voice I must hear. For Your name’s sake. Amen.
My questions to ponder: Which voices are getting my undivided attention today? Am I listening to self, responding to that fleshly will inside me that wants to focus all of my time, energy and resources on me? Or am I getting quiet, waiting on the voice of the Master; the One who has all the truth and wisdom I really need?
So what is God speaking to you today as we ponder together The Ignatian Adventure?
Over an eight month period, you and I will be working our way through the Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius. For more information on our journey and how to begin…click here!
To go onto the next journal entry…click here.