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Pastoring Based On Calling, Not Feeling (via Will Willimon)

Will Willimon tells the story of his first Christmas in a new appointment serving a very small church, having received the news that his estranged black-sheep father has died in his memoir Accidental Preacher.
His stories resonate with experiences of pastoral life, not in a self-serving or manipulative way that presents the pastoral role as one deserving pity, but in ways that demonstrate that pastors can only minister grace when we continually experience our personal dependence on it.
I’m only held together by gaffer tape, baling wire and grace. And the gaffer tape and baling wire are purely decorational.
That’s not the story of my past, as if I’m now beyond what I commit to people as being their current need.
It’s still my daily experience.
From Willimon:

That’s church for you. Church forces us to march in and sing even when we’re not in a singing mood, not feeling faithful, and “joyful and triumphant” is not us. Church doesn’t wait for you to have the proper motivation for worship in order to call you to worship. And there are so many times, when you have been called to be a pastor, that you don’t feel like being a pastor but still must act the part. You may be in pain, may be in over your head emotionally and theologically. Though you are supposed to be an expert in helping others to grieve, you may not know how publicly to mark your own loss. As a pastor, your personal problems take a backseat to the needs of others. You’re the only pastor they have, and Christmas comes but once a year. So you pull tight the cincture and pray, “God, who got me into this, give me the hardheaded determination to get through it.” You go out and act like their pastor even when you don’t want to.
When seminarians plead for graciousness for “personal reasons,” when they are late with some class assignment because an aunt whom “I revered as if she were my grandmother” departed or they are suffering a bout of depression, I think, Clergy who are not periodically depressed have either given up too soon or expect too little of Jesus. You can’t stand up on Sunday and say, Nothing would have pleased me more than to have a sermon for you but first it was one thing and then another so we’re going to break up into discussion groups. Then we’ll pool our collective ignorance and call that todays’ sermon.
I’d get fired for saying this to a student, but even the dean can’t keep me from thinking it.
Will Willimon, Accidental Preacher, Eerdmans, 2019, pgs 71-72.


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On Waiting With Patience (via Jani Ortlund)

Everyone waits, but there is a waiting that is the fruit of trust in God, and there is the waiting that is a stewing form of complaint.
God gives us opportunity to grow in love and trust for him while we wait.

From Jani Ortlund:

Patience is not quite the same as waiting. While waiting is something we do, patience is something we offer. We wait because we must — we have little choice in the matter. But patience is our gift to our Father while we wait. In the silence, in the waiting, patience chooses to declare, “Lord, I love you. I know I don’t love you as I ought, but I want to love you more than your answer to my prayers. I will try to offer you my patient heart as long as you ask me to wait on this.”

Read the whole post at Desiring God.


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More Than Enough Opportunities To Have Been A Genius By Now (via Poorly Drawn Lines)

This just about sums it up for me.
source


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Experiencing Reality Through A Filter Of Sadness And Sorrow (via John Starke)

John Starke writes about pastoring during a season of depression.
And a source of encouragement through that time.

I began to notice that I wasn’t just sad or discouraged about my circumstances. Something was different. There was a darkness that had set in. My sorrow and discouragement began to wrap around me and squeeze. It was hard to not experience my entire reality (my family, work, rest, prayers) through the filter of sadness and sorrow.
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But the more I had opened up and talked about it, the more I heard from other pastors and colleagues that they had never experienced depression until they went into pastoral ministry or engaged some significant conflict or discouragement in their work. I wasn’t alone. What was remarkable was that while words of truth and encouragement often felt as effective as cough syrup for throat cancer, the abiding presence of a fellow sufferer was like the hand of God over my wounds. It helped enlarge my scope of reality. Depression was like being in a confusing, blindingly dark cavern, but the presence of someone who could give witness to my pain was like a voice in the dark, awakening some hope that there may be some direction out.

Read Stark’s post at 9marks.


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Pastoral Anxiety (via Kevin DeYoung)

Kevin DeYoung reflects on Second Corinthians 11:28 “apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches.”
Pastoral life brings what Paul characterises as “anxiety,” and DeYoung is at pains (as is Paul) not to be seeking pity, or to make out that this anxiety is worse that concerns that so many have as part of their daily lives.
Being a pastor is a wonderful calling.
But this anxiety is a constant companion. It doesn’t get left on a desk or worksite at the end of the day. It’s never completed.
This though, is normal.
And if you’ve got a disposition that gets a bit blue at times then it weighs a bit heavier sometimes than others.
Sometimes black dog Monday lasts through till Wednesday.

DeYoung wants to simply “encourage pastors to keep fighting the good fight and encourage congregations to keep encouraging their pastors.”

Read more at Ligonier.


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Ten Types Of Thinking That Undergird Depression (via ERLC)

This is an article by Brad Hambrick, published by the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention.
These ten types of thinking are described as fuelling the depressive-anxious experience.
From personal experience they certainly resonate.
It would be helpful to understand that this is not a matter of identifying these in others and tell them to stop it.
Rather it is a self-diagnostic tool to help individuals recognise that which is unhelpful and unproductive in recovery and self-management.
It is also helpful for those who support sufferers about what sort of thought patterns not to encourage.

The list.
There are expanded explanations and ‘pay attention’ descriptions to help diagnose practical explanations of the thinking at work in the article itself:

1. Idealistic: Ideals are good goals without a sense of time.
2. Impossibly high goals: Impossible goals are either super-human or lack achievable pieces.
3. Personalization: Everything is not “about you.”
4. Emotional reasoning: When we believe our emotions are true in spite of facts to the contrary, this is emotional reasoning.
5. Catastrophisizing: This style of worst-case scenario thinking (i.e., “I’m going to die, fail out of school, be single forever, etc.) is very frequent at the onset of a panic attack.
6. Dichotomous thinking: “It is either great or terrible. It is clearly not great, so it must be terrible.”
7. Selective attention: We constantly filter our attention.
8. Superstitious thinking: In children or sports fans, superstitious thinking can be cute or entertaining.
9. Passivity: “If I can’t [blank], then I won’t do anything.” This is a pattern of thought that often causes people to cycle between depression and anxiety.
10. Equating worth with performance: This mindset requires “salvation by works alone” for you while allowing “salvation by grace” for everyone else.

Read the whole article here.


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Practical Ways To Nurture Mental Health (via Amy Simpson)

Significant changes to eating (drinking), sleeping, and physical activity over the last eight or so months have had some noticeable effects on physical appearance, but they’ve also produced a more stable emotional and psychological state.
The black dog still comes sniffing, but I feel in a stronger place to deal with it.

This post by Amy Simpson provides a number of life-style changes that, while not being a cure-all for existing conditions or a replacement for other treatments, go some way towards building resilience that counter bouts of mental health problems

From her post:
…some of the things that can go wrong with our brains are outside our control—we can’t always do anything to prevent genetically inherited conditions, the consequences of trauma, or other forms of injury and disease.
At the same time, our mental health is not entirely outside our control. In fact, even when a genetic predisposition is present, or our circumstances are harmful, our lifestyle choices can prevent a disorder from developing, lessen its severity, or help us achieve better recovery. Regardless of our predispositions, experiences, or sense of health, it really doesn’t make sense for anyone to neglect the opportunity to protect and strengthen our mental health.
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Making choices like these won’t guarantee you never experience a mental disorder or emotional struggle. And they probably won’t be enough to “cure” a challenge you’re already living with. But in either case, they will help. So as you’re thinking about your health, give some thought to that powerful organ that sits above your shoulders. Consider the all-important function of your mind. And do something good for yourself.

Go here to see her list of practical suggestions.