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pastors note
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Pastor's Note
From the desk of Reverend John Sanders, Pastor

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Good morning. I was driving down the rain-slicked roads to Lamesa this morning on my way to a meeting with other pastors in our area. The purpose of the meeting was a quadrennial training event concerning sexual ethics. Every four years we gather to discuss the changes in state and federal laws which affect each church throughout Methodism. It is an opportunity to learn, to reflect, and to renew. I got the chance to also see old friends and colleagues.

As I was driving down the road I began to think about what bit of wisdom I might share with you. I reviewed what I have said in the past and the direction that I am moving my ministry toward; I thought about the other events happening this week: the surgeries and procedures, the needed hospital visits, the phone calls, the home visits, the work being done at 1011 Houston. Long drives have that effect on me. And then my mind wandered into the realm of reviewing my own path of ministry.

Prior to entering the pastoral ministry, I struggled with church politics – I was never a fan of those who thought getting to the "top of the food chain" a goal to pursue. I was the church's lay leader in Abilene when I asked my pastor for a recommendation to enter part-time pastoral ministry and that's how my journey took its current turn. Eight years later I became a full-time pastor and was ordained a Deacon of the United Methodist Church. Following two more years of intensive observation and personal investment by mentors and lay-persons, I was ordained an Elder. My current assignment is the fourth since that time, and I have a tendency to stay as long as both the congregation and the cabinet will allow me.

I have never been driven to be the pastor of the largest church in the largest town; in fact, the thought terrifies me. But, what kind of a disciple would I have been in the time of Jesus? Would I have been satisfied to be among the poorest, sleeping under the stars with nothing but a cloak wrapped around my body and rock for a pillow? Would I have joined in the discussions and arguments about church politics?

Yet, there they were, walking with Jesus, talking about who is the greatest among them. Who would have the privilege of sitting at the right hand of Christ? Who would be the one to accomplish the greatest feats imaginable for Christ's church? Who would be the one to whom Jesus would say, "Well done, good and faithful servant"? And as they walked, Jesus listened without saying a word or showing interest in their argument, until …

He stopped, turned to them and said something like this: "Guys, you still don't get it, do you. You talk about greatness like it's a goal; you're not considering the cost of getting there. You are so focused on getting to the top that you aren't willing to endure the journey. So let me tell you once again: the greatest among you must become the least. The one who wants to be served must become the servant of all the others. The one who gets to the door first must be willing to stand there holding it open for the others and then entering last. Greatness isn't a goal; greatness is what happens to you when you put everyone else's needs ahead of your own. Greatness isn't trying to win the Nobel Peace Prize. Greatness is being awarded the Peace Prize, but not having the opportunity to receive it because you're too busy continuing to be the servant you are called to be. Therefore, stop with the ambitious goals and begin to live the important work of the Kingdom of God."

Jesus would have had a difficult time in most of the churches today. He might have been rejected by the boards and agencies that select the perfect pastor; he might have been criticized for his teaching methods and his choice of materials; he might have been fired for stepping on the wrong toes. In fact, he would never have been allowed to be the pastor of a large-membership church, a medium-membership church, or even a small-membership church. He would have settled for a small group ministry with a few close friends. Jesus would have done well wherever he ministered, but people would have objected to his methods. That's how we are: we want it our way, in our timing, with our methods. It's a good thing God has a plan that doesn't require our approval. I need to take shorter drives so I don't have as much time to think.

In Christ,
Pastor John
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