This inaugural post to Greatheart’s Table is designed to sketch what we are trying to do and to be. I hope you find that there is promise here, and that you subscribe and invite others to do so as well. Apart from word of mouth — which is quite the euphemism in a day of email and social media! — I have no way of getting the word out. So, thanks!
To Quit or Not to Quit?
On the first Monday of each month I meet a pastor friend for wings and beer. We talk about ministry, about movies, about woodworking, and about family.
And we talk about quitting.
Not quitting family, not quitting woodworking, and not quitting movies. We talk about quitting ministry. Ministry is often complicated, confusing, and challenging, and so we claim that we are going to quit. Then we talk each other out of it.
We have one rule when we meet. When one of us says, “I’m a lousy pastor,” the response of the other is to be, “You’re right. You really are.” To have our worst feelings acknowledged is somehow therapeutic. In truth, we believe the other guy really is a pretty good pastor and so, in the end, we are encouraged to press on.
Every pastor should have such a space - a place where he can be honest, where he can drop all pretension, and where he can say, or have someone say for him, what he really feels.
In large part, to create such a space is the genesis and hope of Greatheart’s Table.
Pastors possess a heart to care for the broken, the confused, and the lost. We want to give our lives to teaching and listening and praying. We want to help the non-Christian to see Jesus and the Christian to trust him more.
All of that can be overwhelming enough. But modern ministry expectations demand that we as well be effective leaders, dynamic visionaries, and successful entrepreneurs, as well as have expertise on the many contentious issues dividing the church and the culture. We do our best at all of this, hoping that no one will ask us The Question.
But they do. “So how big is your church?” As those who have been trained to assess our human worth based upon the size of our church, pastors, especially those of small churches, feel this question in a particularly painful way.
It’s all enough to make us question our calling. “I’m a lousy pastor,” we say. “Yes, you are,” another replies.
Except you are not. Greatheart’s Table is offered as a place where pastors can have their primary calling validated and celebrated. I invite pastors (and those who care for them), therefore, to pull up a chair and join us at the table. Maybe we can keep you from quitting. Perhaps we can help you find again the joy of ministry.
But why the title?
In Part Two of John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress, we meet Mr. Greatheart. Mr. Greatheart is a guide who devotes himself to leading Christian’s wife, Christiana, through the bulk of her journey to the Celestial City. As such, he is a model of the faithful pastor. This newsletter, then, is meant to be a virtual table around which those who resonate with Greatheart’s example can gather to consider ideas, engage questions, and, ultimately, find encouragement for their labor.
So, pull up a chair.
But who am I?
I have been a pastor for more than thirty-five years in the Presbyterian Church in America. My interests, however, are not merely Presbyterian. My relationship with pastors from other traditions has shown me that the many issues that weigh on pastors are broad and touch upon those in every type of fellowship.
Currently I pastor Covenant Presbyterian Church in Oviedo, Florida. I am as well a visiting lecturer in preaching at the Orlando campus of Reformed Theological Seminary. Christian Focus Publications recently published my book Something Worth Living For, an introduction to historic Christian theology built around the framework of the Westminster Shorter Catechism. But at heart, I am a pastor.
Goal and Content
My goal for Greatheart’s Table is to post three times each month to the e-mail newsletter and to replicate that content as a podcast for those who prefer audio.
Each post will convey a single thought, story, or reflection addressing subjects relevant to pastors and those who care for them. (Spouses, elders, and others who care for pastors will benefit, I think, from joining us here.) These posts will be intentionally short, 300-800 words in print or five or six minutes in audio, so as to not tax the reader’s or listener’s attention span.
The content will be conversational and will bear the marks of the fallible practitioner. I hope they will bring a spark of humanity and possibly humor to your calling.
The newsletter format will allow for interaction for those who wish to comment or to pose questions.
And if any feel the urge to confess to being a lousy pastor, we won’t contradict you. As one myself, I am delighted to have you join this community of those whom God, remarkably, chooses to use in his church.
PS If you have not yet subscribed, I hope you will. It’s free! You can do so by clicking the button below.