In the last few weeks, I have heard through e-mail from some great people who I haven't heard from in years. A few of them had stumbled on to this blog. A couple of others found my e-mail address through other friends.
What made this particularly special is that all of them were from years spent working with a church in North Alabama (1982-1990) and teaching part-time at a small Bible college. Each year, for seven years, I taught a class called "Christian Ministry". As I think about those years, one of the great blessings was preparing for that class (which also humbled me as I realized how little I knew). I was also learned from the interaction with some very fine people who took that class.
It has been 16 years since that ministry came to a close. I have not seen most of these former students for even longer than that. Now, some 16 years later:
I continue to be convicted that what I am (and who I am) in Christ is more important than what I do. How I am formed and shaped as a man or woman under Christ ought to be front and center. There have been times when I have kept that focus better than other times. But--my intention is to keep my relationship with Jesus front and center.
As a minister, one of the best things that I can do for a church is to be a healthy person. I can't begin to tell you how many churches I have seen which have been seriously damaged by immature people in leadership roles. Far too often ministers (and other church leaders as well) carry emotional baggage from the the past into these churches. It often surfaces in relational struggles, anger, or even immorality.
I've broadened my circles of friends. I left Florence, Ala. almost sixteen years ago not having one single friend who was a minister/pastor/church leader of any church outside Churches of Christ. That after having lived in that community for almost eight years. I made no effort to form or cultivate such friendships. Why? Some of that was rooted in a deeply ingrained sectarianism. That was also due to my not really being in the community and connected with the community where we lived. Today, I am so grateful for such relationships. I still have a lot to learn.
I live with less fear and less insecurity. I no longer live with the paralyzing fear of not being like or accepted. Of course it feels good to be liked. But--it had become much too important to me. What helped? Realizing that my life is actually going to be very short. Life really is not that long. All of a sudden your children are grown and you have some gray hair! Also, I have come to believe even more strongly that my identity (and sense of self-worth) is found in who I am in Jesus. Finally, I was helped by two different Christian counselors. (Experiencing some depression was the motivation for seeing someone). I saw one person for a while when we lived in Kansas City, Mo. When we moved to Waco, I saw another counselor for a short time. These people were safe and very helpful.
Hmmm. Maybe more of this later.