Looking out from the top of a mountain in the Shasta-Trinity Wilderness, I am overcome by the amazing horizon. The view from up here is incredible! I keep looking at the map to find the names of valleys, river, hills, and mountains. Is that Castle Crags? I think that is Mt. Burney….am I seeing all the way into Oregon? My curiosity is fully engaged!
And then suddenly I am reminded of my long and tumultuous journey of defining the role of “pastor.” With all the opinions of culture, people’s expectations, and social pressures, finding a true vision of being a pastor is always challenging. The world around me tells me I have to be so much more…always more. The demands are exhausting and the expectations unforgiving. The landscape is skewed by the fog of demands and expectations both real and imagined. Gaining regular clarity has become a much-needed discipline as I try to understand the landscape that surrounds living as an authentic pastor. I have needed to get up here on the heights to look out and re-connect with the true call of a pastor!
As I look to the horizon, I realize that here, right in front of me is a clear example of what I have come to believe is most important for those of us that serve in the sacred role of pastor. Our primary objective is to climb the mountain and check out the landscape so that we can point the way to those who depend on us to reveal God in the landscape of their lives.
Exodus 19 reveals to us the story of Moses climbing the mountain to encounter God so that he can lead God’s people. In this passage, God actually calls out to Moses to come up to the mountain where God will not only give Moses direction, but also connect with Moses in such a way that his heart is full and his spirit ready for the challenging task ahead. This intimate encounter between Moses and his Creator sets him apart to successfully accomplish kingdom work. As you know, Moses regularly returned to the mountain to gather fresh insight from God for himself and for the people that were his sacred responsibility.
As pastors we have a divine opportunity to hear the voice of God inviting us to climb up and encounter Him. Here we can allow Him to interpret the landscape we see around us and fill our hearts with His confidence, so that we can lead with authenticity and strength. The only way I have been able to make this a regular discipline in my very demanding world is to follow these few steps:
Make mountain meetings non-negotiable
Don’t make excuses for not setting apart time and place for connecting with God. There are many seemingly good reasons to give my time to every other demand and skip out on God. In the end, all my reasoning falls short. At the end of my days I want others to know that all my talking about God flowed from my being with God. No excuses. Get great at being intentional. Mark it on your calendar like you would do with any important meeting you must attend.
Create a space and place to meet with God
When we set aside places and time to be with God there is much less potential for our connecting with Him getting hijacked by other things. One thing that has helped me is to find great places of meeting and set them aside as sacred spaces. They are the places I return to time and again and they hold a special place in my story with God. When I have these places identified, I am much more likely to return to them. Your place may not be a mountain but I promise that He will help you find a great space that meets your needs and becomes that special destination for you!
Train yourself to run to the mountain primarily for personal connection and secondarily for gaining wisdom for your role as a pastor
I always set my agenda and needs for wisdom aside to simply BE with Him. In being with Him, all my needs for wisdom, writing good sermons, and working out church strategies seem to get met with abundance! I find that He is more interested in me than in what I “do” for Him. When my connection with Him is my priority all the other needs get met in the process. It requires great trust to set aside my agenda and let Him guide me, but that work is a great discipline for my heart!
I have a suspicion that men and women who are showing up in our churches are longing for a pastor that meets regularly with God. This would give them confidence in what you have to say and confidence in your love for them. I believe they will trust us more. I believe our words will carry more authority. I believe that our strategies will be born in the spirit and our wisdom will flow from heaven, if we would simply make connecting with God our first priority. I think they need a pastor that looks out to the horizon and sees the landscape through the loving eyes of the Savior!
I am praying for you – that you would look to the horizon and that you would have intimate moments where He fills your life with strength and your heart with hope. May you create many sacred spaces with the King and may He develop in all of us a greater capacity for authenticity and authority as we serve Him in the sacred pastoral work.
Your place might not be a mountain, but I am confident He has already provided a place and is calling you to come away.
From the top…
Pastor of Spiritual Formation and Leadership Development
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