My family and I just returned from 6-days in Omaha, Nebraska where we got to attend and also lead worship for a Mid-America ministerial convention. The event drew pastors and their families from Wyoming, Colorado, the northern part of New Mexico, the Dakotas, Kansas, Nebraska, Iowa, Missouri, and Minnesota. Pretty awesome when you think about it. Since that event is fresh on my mind (and since it was the only thing on my mind the past 6 days), I figured I could depart from my normal blog style and just share a few takeaways that really hit home from my recent experience there in Omaha.
The blood will never lose its power
On opening night, an appeal was extended to the pastors and their spouses that was simple and powerful: bring your family to the cross. We each had our own family's picture in our registration packets, and we were given permission to prayerfully come to the front as an act of seeking the saving grace of Jesus in the lives of our families. The videos here show what the cross looked like when it was all over and also the last song we sang as we wrapped up that cross-picture activity.
It was a moving experience! And the truth is that this is our privilege everyday. Each day, God's mercy is new every morning, and each day we can bring our families to the cross in prayer and surrender. On another occasion, our worship team led the congregation in a familiar song, the chorus of which confesses that the blood of Jesus "will never lose its power"! I needed those reminders. And I'm probably not the only one.
First things first
One of the repeated themes throughout conference was an appeal to pastors to pastor their families. The reality is that while others may be able to pastor my church, no one else can be a husband to my wife and a father to my children.
When I pray for and pursue faithfulness in pastoral ministry, I need to stay true to my first ministry calling as husband and father.
That can be a challenge at times. There are expectations that pressure me to do differently...whether they are merely perceived expectations or actual expectations. And sometimes my own sense of what's important can be skewed depending on the context and particular responsibility. In fact, if you look closely at the video of the song above, you'll notice that I slipped off the stage before the song was over. It just so happened that as the song was nearing its end, our youngest son Jacob let out a distressing cry because he wanted to be on stage with his parents. It was one of those moments of tension: let someone else take him off stage to maintain the quality of the ministry product or be present to give him the assurance of fatherly love and trust that the ministry product will take care of itself. I chose to be present, which I think he immediately appreciated, and thankfully that was without much consequence to the program. I may not always make the best choice when my responsibilities are in tension, but I pray for God's grace to be aligned with what's truly important to Him, to habitually keep first things first.
I'm sure there are more takeaways to reflect on, but for now, this is what's fresh. May the Lord give us the good sense to not just share the gospel with the world around us but to firstly and daily receive the gospel for ourselves and for our families. May He give us the grace to keep first things first, that in all our serving and ministering we would seek first to be faithful in those things which we alone can do.