First, repent

I’ve been pastor of this amazing church for ten years, a milestone that seems to call for reflection. What have I learned? What surprised me? What could I have done better?

Ten years ago, I thought that I might have something to offer in the way of experience that would be helpful to the church. Now it seems to me that my role is insignificant, at least compared to what God is doing here and has been doing here all along.

Both the joys and the challenges are greater than I imagined.

The church has transformed me far more than I’ve transformed the church.

The thing that surprised me the most? How hard it was to name a problem. You would think that you could identify a problem, fix it, and then move on. That doesn’t seem to apply in church. When I pointed out what I thought was a problem, people got hurt or mad. As our church secretary frequently said, “You expected this to be logical?”

I’m starting a sermon series on Nehemiah this week. Nehemiah was a long way from home; an exile in a foreign country; when he got word how bad things were back in Jerusalem. Instead of getting angry or depressed, Nehemiah prayed…and prayed.

And Nehemiah repented. Not just for his own sins, but for the sins of his ancestors and for the sins of the entire Jewish people.

I had no idea just how many jobs pastors do, especially city-center pastors. Now I think the job is to first repent, cast ourselves on the only One who can really fix things, and then work as hard as we can.

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