My first ninety days as an Administrative Pastor at my church was not for the faint hearted. Take your pick of the more interesting opportunities for growth that I experienced in my new position in ministry:
- Within the first thirty days I put two employees in jail.
- Announced to the congregation that all of their cancelled checks that they paid their tithes with had been stolen and their bank accounts potentially compromised.
- Was introduced to a media blitz and fervent attack due to a teacher’s indiscretion with a student (life shattering for all involved).
I decided that I could use some wisdom from more experienced folk—men in the same position at area churches. I called up, introduced myself, and made my bargain. I would gladly trade my vast ninety days of experience for some valuable insights and guidance from men who had been in their positions for decades.
To my surprise, they warmly welcomed me and began my education into a world that calmed down a bit, but never entirely.
I come from the fitness industry. For more than thirty years, I built, ran, consulted and owned health clubs. I was amazed at how similar the experiences were—except for the fact that most, but not all health clubs are built on the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the boastful pride of life—all for $19 per month. Other than that, in an excellent health club you are trying to help people get healthy and make good decisions. You are attempting to earn the right to be heard by really caring and creating authentic relationships. A great health club becomes a lot like a family, with all its weirdness. A lot of that goes on in a great church—and more, of course—while you take care of your employees and make sure the air conditioning works.
I found out early on that I was a peculiarly shaped puzzle piece as an Administrative Pastor. Fortunately, Foothills Christian Church is a peculiar puzzle built by Jesus with a unique and special purpose. Reaching out to more than 5,000 young people weekly, there is never, never a dull moment. I had been at Foothills with my four children for about ten years; little did I know that the entire time was a mutual interview for the position that I would ultimately take.
The key skill set that translated easily from the fitness industry to church administration was loving people, connecting with them and taking care of their needs. I figured that the rest would come eventually—if I survived.
There are many stories of how Jesus made up for my lack, but allow me to share one aspect of my journey that amazes me—how I was able to take part in transitioning from the best kept 6,000 member church secret, to a vibrant, fully engaging partner in the life of our 100,000 person city.
For me it really started when I decided to join the local Chamber of Commerce. After thirty-plus years in business, it seemed natural to me that our church should play our role in the marketplace of our city. God had already changed our city government in over a decade. Previously it didn’t even mention “churches” in its city plan, thereby they continually had an excuse to never authorize a conditional use permit to allow a church to be built. The government changed into a city council completely full of God-fearing diligent civil servants. It seemed like such a logical step.
What I didn’t know is that there had been a strong hostility to churches in the marketplace as well. When a pastor on staff had tried to join the chamber a decade before, he actually heard boos as he was introduced at a chamber breakfast. It wasn’t just our church—it was churches in general. It was a harsh, hostile spiritual climate.
Not knowing this until later actually helped. There is nothing like an enthusiastic lover of Jesus and people to undo all but the harshest of critics. Of course, love is a verb as they say. Over the course of three years of engaging the business community, allowing them to see the church as it can be has been a wonderful adventure. Connecting Christian businessmen and businesswomen to those who genuinely did not know that God really cared about business has resulted in astounding experiences.
- The local TV news stations covered a spontaneous prayer-walk down Main Street as business owners asked for God to help them with their challenges.
- For the first time ever, a Chamber of Commerce breakfast was held on the campus of a church. Each year it is the largest (and most profitable) of the year, drawing over 200 business people.
- The Leadership Program awarded a Senior Pastor’s wife “Visionary of the Year.”
- A national award-winning, Ethics in Business event, that creates a full day ethical dilemma dialogue with local public high school students is now sponsored by a church, and has been opened up to Christian high school students for the first time in 25 years.
- For the first time in the 100 year history of the Chamber, a church was awarded the Chairman’s Award as Chamber business member of the year.
- This year the chamber nominated an enthusiastic, if yet naïve, Administrative Pastor as the city’s Citizen of the Year.
What I learned in this position is the reality of what I had read from Dietrich Bonhoeffer—God wants the church to be in the center of the village. We are to engage our culture so that we take part in those “God Conversations” that have been going on for decades without us. So that when those with whom we have created genuine trusting relationships with hit the inevitable challenges in life, we are able to minister and speak Truth into their lives.
So, five years into this adventure, none of the pastors who helped me survive my first year are still at their churches. But I remembered that one of them had told me about a group of people that could come alongside me and help take me to a new level of excellence. He introduced me to XPastor. I had fooled around on the website a couple of times, but this year I heard about a conference in Dallas.
My trip to Dallas opened my eyes to an ocean of experience with men and women who really cared about being excellent and were willing to share and support each other. It was enlightening and encouraging. I immediately signed up for the online course and was impressed, as I had been at the conference, with the commitment to really glorify God in this role where He has placed us.
Who knows what the next five years hold in store?