January 7th, 2007 is the day I was ordained into ministry. That day was five years ago. It's quite astounding for me to think how much has happened in these last five years. Believe me I won't dare try to fit it into a blog. But I've learned so much. I told someone this week that I have always felt young, not in a bad way, just really always felt quite youthful. However, I don't really feel that way anymore. At least not in the way that I think. (If you challenge me to tetherball will still throw down and trash talk. No worries there.) What I've experienced these last five years has changed me, shaped me, and has forced me to go through a process I guess you can only call "maturing."
Pastor Jeff recently said that to be an expert at something, you must have spent 10,000 hours working at it. Now I in now way view myself as an expert at what I do, but I have spent at least that many hours laboring in the ministry at City of Life and have definitely learned things that can only come with time. Today, as I knelt on the COL stage and watched the old footage of my ordination, I reflected back on where I started, where I've ended up, where I've misstepped along the way, and where I am going. There's plenty for me to ponder in my heart, but just a few things I'd like to share with you. These would be the top 5 most important things I've discovered in the last five years:
5. There are no natural born leaders
People used to tell me I was a natural. I simply don't believe that anymore. Yes, we all have certain qualities that are evident in our personality but that's not what makes a leader. True leadership is not something that comes out of someone, it's the result of another leader intentionally instilling it in them. I wouldn't have even made it 5 minutes in ministry if it weren't for the legacy of Pastor Gary and Pastor Janis Smith and the intentional mentoring by Pastor Jeff and Pastor Amy Smith. I'm standing on their shoulders completely. They've launched me. I want to be more like them and raise others up.
Also, no leader is immune. Everyone suffers discouragement and confusion. I would have given up so long ago had it not been for the unending support of my bride, Amanda. She knows me best and knows how to stand with me, pray for me, and remind me of God's faithfulness. I am blessed to have her.
4. Consistency trumps capability
I say it to the Neo students this way: Every firework fades. I used to be so passionate and work myself into such a frenzy trying to be the very best and would never focus on just being consistent. The momentum I've gained from just showing up, and continuing to show up no matter what, is so much greater than trying to be a flash in the pan. You can't always be great, but you can certainly always be present. Be consistent, plug into the ministry, and don't let it go for anything.
3. The Word is Life
Remember how they used to teach us in Kids Church that the Bible and Jesus were the answers to every question? They were right. Every single time my life has gotten out of order, I can directly connect it to me straying from careful and devoted study of the Word. If you are living in the Word, your life will be blessed. Period.
2. Grace isn't as easy as it sounds
Living in grace sounds like fun! Being a proponent of grace comes with responsibility. I've had to learn that if I am really going to preach that God accepted me at my worst, I must extend that same grace to others at their worst. No matter how ugly it gets, how low it goes, if we want to be the church, we cannot shy away from those who are calling out for help. If Jesus didn't flinch at a repentant prostitute weeping and washing His feet, we dare not hesitate to embrace a sorrowful addict.
1. This Life is all about Him
Simple right? Yes. It is. Yet, I probably stray from that reality more often than most. I don't just mean that this life is His, I mean it is ALL about Him. I read in 2 Timothy 1: 9 today, "He has saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace." I haven't done anything to deserve or earn this. He saved me, He called me, He justified me, and He is working through me. I am just along for the ride and so are you.
So instead of getting puffed up in your present situation, or me in mine, we must be even more humbled at the fact that He's at work. The last five years have been all His doing, and it's been the best ride of my life. I pray you would be inspired to follow His leading even more closely as I am.
I'm ready for 100 more years!
(Top- January 7th, 2007, my ordination. Bottom left, October 2010 Amanda & I installed as Youth and Young Adult Pastors. Bottom right is a current photo from Neo Youth Culture as we are working to raise up a new generation of leadership)