Let the leaves fall where they may

Confession time.  As a Lead Pastor, with my particular personality-type, when someone(s) stops attending the worship Gatherings of the congregation that I am tremendously blessed to be a part of, I struggle with feeling like they don't like me.  I know in my mind that this is not necessarily the case - actually, the opposite as I'm told, "We love your teaching, but..." yet in my heart I battle with the feelings of being left out, unappreciated, and unloved.  Especially when I actually have no idea as to the "why???" someone, or a family, disconnects.  This is when this struggle inside me puts the best MMA contest to shame.

I was feeling this last week, and then I began studying Genesis 15 for a "life of Abraham" class I am teaching on Wednesday nights.  In this chapter of Abraham's life, God basically reminds Abraham how blessed a man he is. Abraham responds by complaining, "I don't have even one son, God.  What good are these blessings of yours if I have no one to share them with?"

Then God took Abraham outside.  Have you ever been taken outside?  You gotta think when God is the one taking you outside, it's pretty serious business.  What my study showed me was that Abraham's view was too small inside his tent, so God took him outside so he could see the stars in the vast expanse of the sky.  "Your descendants will be as numerous as the stars in the sky!"

I was talking with God one day last week, alone in the auditorium at Oaklawn, when I was completely overwhelmed with understanding that God wanted to take me outside.  Not gonna lie - I was a little nervous.  Just outside the auditorium is this ginormous tree; I mean, this thing is the granddaddy of all trees.

As I stood looking out from under the shade of this behemoth, God spoke to my spirit saying, "Look at the leaves on this one tree.  Can you count them?"  At this point I was seriously contemplating the art of delegation to our Youth Pastor.  Before I could even let God know that my schedule was too busy to count leaves, His Spirit spoke again to mine: "You struggle with fear that people don't like you... you wonder if your life has any real and lasting influence at all.  These leaves represent all that you may ever influence - some are green and fresh and cling to you dearly... others wither... and others fall away.  Others still are the acorns - some are with you for a while, then depart as seed planted elsewhere."  It was then Jesus spoke the same words to me He did to His followers back in the day:

"I am the true vine; you are the branches.  Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit.  For apart from me you can do nothing." -John 15:5

God reminded me that producing fruit may happen through me, but producing fruit is not my job.  My job is to stay connected to Him.  All the leaves are His, not mine, so I am learning to trust God and let the leaves fall where they may.

Comments

Steve,

Thank you for opening your heart and being transparent and sharing what is happening in your world. What a splendid lesson... this going out back, as it were, to count the leaves...

You should totally nominate yourself as most transparent blogger on my page, as you are totally up there and I really would like to honor you in that. I love your heart for people and for God.

Harmony
Steve Nelson said…
Thanks Harmony! :) My counselor says I should be more guarded and less transparent as a pastor. I dunno... feels kinda fake to pretend I'm not a "real person" who struggles with junk just like everyone else.
Anonymous said…
Steve,
I have never been to one of your services, but just getting to know you through Facebook has been a blessing. You are doing God's work and it shows. Just keep in line with him. I am one that you have touched and for you to open your heart and tell others your feelings, good and bad is what we need to hear. So many think that a Pastor doesn't have problems and their job is so easy only 1 and 1/2 days a week is all he does but we know different. You have to prepare a lot and you have to get in tune with what God is wanting you to do. When you get up to preach, I believe that it is God's words coming out of your mouth. You have the personality that you can connect to all ages and that is a plus. Keep on doing his work and you are feeling this way because Satan is trying to destroy you because of what you are accomplishing for God.
Love you Brother! Joan
Sweeney said…
Steve,
I read this post the other day and have given it a bit of time to settle in with me. Of course, I personalized your story. My response has nothing to do with you so much as it has to do with the way the vast majority of ministers (it seems) function. Flip this around and look at this from a congregational perspective. How about when pastors leave? Too many times in my life a number of pastors have come into the church I was a part of and built not just the church, but also the trust and friendship with the various congregation members. Then at some point that pastor is suddenly "called" elsewhere leaving many of the congregants hurt and brokenhearted. I've gone through this on three different occasions with the church I considered "home" and have witnessed how each time nearly half the congregation leaves because that pastor is no longer there. The remnant (which each time got smaller in number and older in physical age) was left wondering how to struggle/move on to the next phase. A new pastor would come in and hope, optimism, and growth would happen and the BAM! Here we go again. It is one of the reasons why I rarely attend church anymore (save for the Christmas season). For the congregation it also is a very hurtful and painful process. At what point to we just finally throw the towel in?
Matt
Steve Nelson said…
Matt, I feel you man. One of the things I personally loathe is the "pastor-as-employee" model. This has set us up to look for ways to "move up the ladder" or whatever. I don't know the answer, but I do know more and more young pastors are coming to understand the necessity of connecting and serving a community instead of filling the pulpit for a season. I wish I knew how to fix this, but all I can really do is start with me, and try to influence as many other pastors as God sends my way.

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