Archive for June, 2012

My Best First Year in Ministry EVER!

June 18, 2012

I have just completed my first year as the senior pastor at Sugar Hill UMC. Looking back I have loved this fresh start and feel it has been my best first year in a new appointment. I think after 30 years I have learned how to start well. While in the shower this morning I thought about all the reasons this has been the best:

-God’s grace. The Lord knew I needed this place at this time. This beginning has been healing, challenging and full of wondrous surprises. I give my Lord all the credit. He prepared me, he opened the doors and he promises the best is still to come.

-The people prayed in mass for me, my family and their church. They wanted this to work. They are open to change, have an outreach mindset and expect God to love us and guide us weekly and across generations.

-My age and experience was a plus. The present trend is for young, creative, cutting edge pastors. And I see this too for the church to change and reach this culture. Pastors my age who thrive will surround themselves with 20-30 somethings and actually listen and learn from them. Age plus relativity is powerful!

-I am blessed here with a highly committed staff – diverse in ages and welcoming change for the sake of the Kingdom. They loved and respected me from day one, were honest when I missed the point and are prayer partners and team players.

-I followed a wise pastor who sacrificed and was willing to tell this church some hard truths during a recession and major cultural change. His last two months he tirelessly pursued an avenue to refinance our burdensome debt. This has freed us for new ministries, given us hope and helped us faithfully pay our connectional support to UM missions and ministries worldwide.

-My wonderful spouse! She made the move easy for me, quickly got us into a great “home” and works alongside me in the church. We make it an adventure & partnership. My best sermons are usually linked to her prayers and input.

-I have focused on connecting to the people and community. In previous churches it seemed the train was racing through the station and all I could do was grab on and serve the biggest needs and opportunities. Here, I have had the joy of growing into the role of lead pastor. Thanks to the staff and a focused ministry plan, I have already connected personally with most of the congregation through visits, small gatherings, classes and special events.

I could go on and on. My thanks to Bishop Watson,  DS Sharma Lewis for seeing the possibilities and need here that my gifts would match and for all the laity of this church who love their pastors and staff, worship with joy and pray without ceasing. We still have many good challenges ahead of us. I can’t wait to experience all the Lord has in store for us in this second year and beyond….

Pastor Richard

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Mid-Life Exhilaration

June 4, 2012

Recently my wife posted on Facebook that I was living out my mid-life crisis when I purchased a sporty new car. She admitted it could have been much worse if I had purchased the car I really wanted, grown out my hair or even decided to go rock climbing in Nepal to reclaim my youth. I have to say I enjoyed this venture into mid-life. Of course, one of my friends questioned calling it “mid-life” since I turned 54 today and that would mean I expect to live to 108! Whatever the Lord wills – let it be.

My venture into mid-life not only included the car purchase, which is I must say, a very sporty little Altima couple that is solid black and sleek all over. The venture also included going with my son on a zip-line adventure one Saturday and then to the firing range several weeks later. Both of these ventures were out of the norm for me and brought exhilaration to my mid-life attainment.

Mid-life is very different for me. Both of our children will be living in Europe this summer. Austin will be interning with a missionary for eight weeks and Anna is in Germany for three years while her husband is deployed with the US Army. This gives me another opportunity for mid-life exhilaration as we go to visit them and explore parts of Europe I have never seen. Mid-life will make this possible. We have the freedom of time, good health and the resources to do things we could not have done when I we were younger.

When I was crossing 40, I read a book entitled Halftime and committed to doing something significant with the second half of my life. This  was starting new congregations and mentoring young pastors who were called to start these new ventures for the kingdom. I have been able to do this in multiple ways and it has been exhilarating and fulfilling. Now I look forward to continuing this calling in my continuing life ventures.

I am blessed to serve a congregation with a kingdom mindset. Everyday through our Academy we shape and influence the next generation of Christian leaders. My church here wants to reach new people groups for Christ so we plan to start a Korean speaking worship service in the fall. We have just agreed to a joint venture with a church in Togo to bring water to their village through a well and spiritual water through mutual ministries and support.

I think entering mid-life is exhilarating and never a crisis when our eyes are fixed on kingdom goals. I think I will go rev up the new car and drive into the office. I wonder how fast I can get there and how many people I can impact through today’s meetings and calls to live out their life mission. Life is good. God’s grace is sufficient. You and I are loved and called by our Creator to a life of significance. So, let’s  get on with it!