One of the great joys I have as pastor is to teach the sacred Scriptures each week to my congregation. I spend hours praying and studying, hoping that the message on Sunday encourages the saints, convinces the cynic and calls the prodigals home. For the past nine years I’ve preached at the 9am service, lingered to pray for people after the service, and then gone to my office to refuel for 20 minutes. At 11am, I have preached the message again, followed by an hour or so of praying for individual members and greeting lots of guests. It is a full, but really rewarding day.
This Sunday, I made a necessary change. I will still preach at either the 9am or 11am service, but not to both services. It’s not easy to ask for help, but the elders of our church agree with me that I can’t continue my “normal” routine for two really good reasons.
1. My health needs some attention right now. After three major heart surgeries the past 49 years and two corrective procedures in the past nine months, I need to adjust my pace. I simply do not have the same energy levels as I did ten years ago, and my doctors have told me explicitly to limit my stress. Our bodies require a great deal of adrenaline to preach well and then it needs time to recover. I need to listen to my doctors and my body right now, so I must modify my Sunday schedule. I believe these changes will enable me to actually preach more sermons at New Life, long term. Burnout is simply not an option for me.
2. The church needs to hear many voices, not just mine. I’m still responsible for the pulpit at New Life, but God has given us some really gifted and humble communicators who love our congregations as much as me. They study with me each week and we usually preach from the same text each weekend. They have different perspectives and stories, but they’re solid bible teachers who I trust completely. If I’m not at one of the services, it means I’m preaching at the other.
When I’m absent, Glenn Packiam or Daniel Grothe will primarily teach in my spot. Glenn is the pastor of New Life Downtown and Daniel leads our Friday night congregation and together, we’ll now comprise the senior teaching team. They will continue to lead those congregations in our city while helping me by teaching more at New Life North. This creates additional opportunities at all our locations for us to hear more often from some trusted guests and the other great teachers on our team.
These small changes will allow me to hang around a lot longer with adequate strength to finish the race. I’ve also adjusted my weekday work calendar, so my primary energies can be spent where most needed. I’ll still lead the staff each week and oversee all the ministries at New Life, including the amazing work happening in our city through the Dream Centers. I’m getting good healthcare and feel really confident that my health is sustainable and will actually improve. Thanks so much for your prayers and kindness. Great days are ahead for the church that we call home.