Last Sunday Dallas Bay celebrated 25 years of ministry. My family and I have been blessed to be a part of the last 24 years. God has been gracious enough to allow us to see the church grow from a mission of two dozen adults to nearly three thousand. The church has baptized nearly fourteen hundred believers in that same time frame. I have been privileged to see it grow from an acorn to a mighty oak.
Most parents who have had successful careers have something to leave to their children to carry on after they are gone. I am thankful to leave behind a lifetime of serving the Lord. However, I have never encouraged my boys to enter the ministry, especially at Dallas Bay. It's not that I would not be proud if they did, but if they are called to full time Christian ministry it will be from the Lord, not their earthly father.
So, wanting to provide for my children's future, I decided to open a business and and eventually leave it to my boys. The Lord has been good to me and I have always lived below my means, so I am able to financially become a small business owner. It has not taken away from my time as a pastor. I have spent my off days, after hours, and lunch-times getting the business ready to launch. My oldest son Adam has made most of the appointments and phone calls when I was not able.
Here's what I have found. As I have been working to get the business off the ground it has put me in places where I am confronted with what my members deal with everyday. As my role as pastor of a large church has become more involved and busy, I have found that I spend very little time with people who have no faith in Christ. I'm almost always around ministers or lay people; people who know the importance of faith and belonging to a community of faith. Lately, that has not been the case. You know how long it has been since someone felt comfortable to curse in front of me? Do you know how long it has been since a salesman has invited me out for drinks? Well not anymore.
I have a new respect for the pressure to conform every believer encounters as they face life everyday. It's easy to get isolated when you're a pastor. It becomes difficult to understand the pressure a Christian is constantly under to conform to the norm; to become a Sunday only believer. I understand better why Jesus spent more time around sinners than church people. He certainly loved His followers with every ounce of His being, but He loved the sinner no less. He knew if He were to isolate Himself from the unbeliving crowds He would not be able to empathize with their struggles. He spent tiime with them even when religious people ridiculed Him for it. Sometimes, even His own disciples did not understand His propensity to spend time with tax collectors and prostitutes. I feel His pain. I too have been criticized by some for venturing into entrepreneurship.
It is so easy to wrap our arms around one another and call plays in our holy huddles. It is much more painful to break the huddle and execute the play in the game. Sometimes we have to play through the pain and ignore the boos from those sitting in the stands. They may never experience the pain of being criticized or knocked down. But those who never leave the stands will never get the lift the trophy over their heads or hear "great game" from someone Who truly understands.