OK, before I reveal the Top 10 list, a bit of honesty.
The journey of being a pastor has been a pretty good gig for me. There are moments, though, where I have wondered if I should be doing this job. As you can imagine, those moments coincide with difficult season of ministry and/or life – either feeling overwhelmed by the decisions that have to be made and the thought that I could make a bad choice which would negatively affect lots of people or relationships that just don’t seem to be working.
I don’t think that this is unique to being a pastor. My guess is that most of you can relate and that most of you who have been working awhile – even at jobs you really like – have considered leaving to do something else. So, just know that there have been a few of these moments over the three and half years of pastoring City Church.
With that being said . . . this is a blog about what I’ve loved!
The top 10 list:
- Planting a church with one of my best friends. Those of you who know Bill know that awkward is his middle name. But, he loves Jesus and is content to pastor with me. I know it’s cliché to say, “I couldn’t have done it without you.” But, it’s absolutely true. I never would have done it without this particular co-pastor. And, I think who Bill is has been a great complement to who I am. I hope most of the folks at City Church (and around Long Beach we’ve met) feel the same way. One of the things that has made this so great is that I’ve gotten to do it with Bill.
- The chance to shape a congregation around the person of Jesus. It’s strange. We didn’t set out to plant a church, so much as we set out to help people get connected to and grow with Jesus. That has made me happy.
- The unexpected gifts of people along the way. I didn’t know so many of the people I spend time with on a daily basis when we started City Church. It’s kind of that field-of-dreams reality of, “If you build it, they will come.” Folks just showed up at worship or at Open Houses or in coffee shops or baseball fields – and suddenly they get involved. And then a month later they’re leading something and we’re hanging out and we’re being the church together and I’m even getting my hair cut by one of them. And I think, “How did this happen?!” It’s incredible.
- Creating a community I was glad to invite all my non-churchy friends to be part of.
- I have loved the focus on baptism and communion at City Church. This has changed the way I think about what it means to be Christian. More and more, I think our unity is sacramental. By this, I mean that I view anyone who is baptized and takes communion as a brother or sister in Christ. We might see a ton of things differently, but neither one of us gets to play the bouncer in of the community. Also, I just find myself looking forward to communion every week and the concreteness of experiencing the love and grace of Jesus in the bread and the juice.
- The community of pastors and church-planters in Long Beach. We are for each other. Obviously, this is the way it should be with Christians and churches – but, sadly, it’s so often NOT the case. More often than not, churches and pastors are competing with each other. My experience in Long Beach has been so different. Bill and I have suggested to new people showing up that they check out other churches who might be closer to where they live. So many of the other pastors have done the same with City Church. I know I’m gonna sound uber-cheesy, but there’s a lot of love between the pastors and leaders I’ve met in Long Beach. I think a ton of this is do to the work of PlantLB who brings us together every month to share a meal, listen to people who have interesting things to say and pray for each other.
- Beyond the community of churches are all the non-profits and community-minded folks and organizations in Long Beach. Wow. There is so much good stuff going on in Long Beach. I’ve had the privilege of getting connected to organizations like Precious Lamb and the Long Beach Rescue Mission and Northeast of the Well and We Love LB and New Hope Grief Support and His Little Feet and Beacon for Him and the amazing faculty and Principal at Lafayette Elementary. It has been my honor to get connected to these people and groups (and I apologize to those of you I’ve spent time with who I’ve failed to mention!) who are doing such a good job of loving the people in this city.
- The chance to try and fail. We’ve tried lots of things at City Church – some of them have worked and some of them haven’t. So, we’ve just kept doing our best to pay attention to what the Spirit is saying and respond with courage and hope.
- The chance to lead a church in a way that honors my stage of life with my family. So many of our nights have been busy getting kids to and from stuff at school and sports. I’ve been able to coach baseball and soccer. And the lay leadership at City Church has not only been respectful of this but encouraging. Frankly, the baseball field and soccer pitch are pretty good spots for me to meet new friends and, just in being myself, help them take a step or two in getting connected to Jesus.
- The width and breadth of the people at City Church and in Long Beach. I suppose the traditional word for this is diversity. I have loved going to my “office” at Fox Coffee House and Starbucks on Willow and meeting people whose stories are so different from my own. I’ve loved watching the community at City Church grow and become a home for people of all colors and spiritual backgrounds. I can’t pinpoint all the reasons why the diversity of City Church and Long Beach is so meaningful. It just is. There’s something about it that feels right in the economy of the Kingdom of God. And, it’s something I will really miss.