Tag Archives: Pastor

A Christian Voice In A Changing Culture

Overcoming False Intimacy

I became a man through confronting my pastor for partaking of his sheep, e.g. emotionally and sexually manipulating a host of single women. My efforts were unwelcomed: the pastor duped his overseer, blamed us for being overly rigorous, and turned our colleagues on the pastoral staff against us. For the first time in our lives together, Annette and I (and Desert Stream Ministries) were homeless.

I loved this man but he refused to see the power of his position, the misuse of his body and other bodies, and its impact on the congregation. His moral blindness diminished the power of the Gospel. The community shrank for a couple years until more women came forward and the overseer served justice by replacing him.

Shepherds with sexual integrity serve justice; they give the sheep their due. No confusing messages, no lingering hugs and longing glances—an intact pastor lets his sheep be sheep and makes no sexual or inordinate emotional demands upon them. Such clear seeing and solid limits result from good moral formation before ordination. The pastor-in-training makes peace with his sexuality, is aware of its power, and learns—in the power of the Spirit–to restrain and direct desire for the good of others. For the sake of the Gospel.

But. Sometimes the runner stumbles. Good men begin the race with noble intentions. Yet under the weight of multiple pressures, dormant weaknesses may resurface and become wicked. I have known many men whose unmet need for connection finds a human outlet, which overwhelms their good judgment and goads them to break sacred bonds all the way around. Lord, have mercy. We can and must pray that such compromised shepherds come to their senses. Unlike the pastor I referenced, many do not defend their divided lives. The eyes of their heart open to the damage done and they cry out for mercy.

We recently had the privilege of standing with a pastor who, admittedly weak in areas, has fought hard and out loud for his integrity. In a dark season, he fell back into some old patterns. We as a community served justice with mercy. He was broken and vulnerable before us. Each person honestly expressed pain over his compromise. We had felt his distancing and denials; we conveyed some mistrust and asked what he would do to prevent this from happening again.

Return to his first love. This pastor was successful, much sought out; the roar of ministry had deafened his ear toward Jesus’ still small voice. He committed to reordering his life around adoration of the One. ‘…the answer to the problems that beset so many priests, causing them to fall into patterns of sin, is the friendship I offer them.’ ()

Reveal himself constantly to a small band of brothers. We urged him to redraw his commitment to two or three trusted colleagues with whom he vowed to be utterly, prayerfully honest. None of us surrounding him were pastors, and thus, we could not wholly grasp his burdens. But his pastor brothers could, and we insisted that he forge a community that would be mutually refining. He also promised to let his overseer know his struggle and how he was handling it; at the same time, he knew that daily ‘truth-telling’ would have to be homegrown, not hierarchical.

Reclaim robust chastity. He became a pastor based on his commitment to growing in chastity, a virile integration of his sexuality that would free him to confirm others with clarity and conviction. We confirmed that earthy call and called him to agree once more with Jesus’ ‘yes’ to power from on high to live a united, pure life—body, soul, and spirit. ‘We need that wholeness from you,’ we said. Mercy liberates justice, then justice is served by shepherds whose ordered desires ‘lead us besides still waters’ where we can ‘lay down in green pastures.’

Please take time to watch our video and become ‘Chaste Together.’

prayer schedule

prayer schedule

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Advocacy, Not Acrimony

‘I will not leave you as orphans…The Advocate, the Holy Spirit…will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you…Peace I leave with you. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.’ (Jn. 14:18; 26-28)

Freedom from our ‘pastor wounds’ frees us to advocate for shepherds. They need advocacy! When we pray for their immersion in ‘living water’, we flush out whatever bitterness (acrimony) still tempts us to bite them and we become conduits of the Holy Spirit. I love that! Rather than pine for pastors’ empowerment of me, I can advocate prayerfully for renewal of their strength. That is how St. John continually defined the Holy Spirit—the Advocate, or mighty Counselor, who makes Jesus known to His own, including pastors.

Our spiritual authority to advocate for shepherds is a great empowerment. We kneel child-like yet ferocious before the One who hears and acts when we rebuke the accuser who shames our shepherds constantly; we invoke that Spirit who reminds pastors of who they are as beloved of the Father. We bind away any familiar spirit of discouragement and ask the Father to woo these ones ‘beside still waters’ where He just wants to love them. There He reenergizes His shepherds for all the glorious impossibilities before them.

Their purposes are essential. God has called these ones to function differently than we do. They have assumed the weighty task of re-presenting Jesus to us. That is one big sacrifice! When they do it well, we grow; when they flounder, we are confused, even scattered. We can pray: ‘Good Shepherd, open the eyes of ____ heart to know You well this day, to walk in step with You, to heed Your whispers. Whatever burden You ask _____bear, may (s)he bear it gracefully with You whose yoke is easy. Reveal Yourself through ____ today.’

Not only have they a weighty purpose, they bear that weight in their personhood. (Yes, yoked to Jesus, but also in their humanity.) Some began to pastor unaware of the weaknesses that could cave under pressure; some pastored as to displace or deny those weaknesses. Surprise! Ministry, like marriage, exposes our cracks. We can cry ‘hypocrite!’ over our divided shepherds, or we can cry out for mercy for them, that ‘living water’ might invite them into wholeness. Ask yourself: what invited you to heal, the accuser or the kindness of God? ‘Jesus, lead these ones into trustworthy friendship with persons who can love them truthfully, well.’

More than anything, pastors need to live out of the loving Presence of Jesus who called them in the first place. ‘Having begun in the Spirit,’ shepherds often proceed in the flesh to do the impossible. They readily bear too much weight which breaks down their lifeline: intimacy with the Father through Jesus. We pray for His Real Presence to come quickly and gather these ones in His arms. ‘Father, would You draw Your shepherds like lambs and carry them close to Your heart?’

We take heart. Like the bold and persistent man who sought bread for his friend at midnight, so we cry out as advocates for our shepherds. We know that You, Good Shepherd, hear and act: ‘If we who are evil give good gifts to our children, how much more will You, our Father in heaven, give the Holy Spirit to those who ask You.’ (Lk. 11: 5-13). ‘Pour out Your Spirit like rain upon our pastors, we pray!’

Please take time to watch our video and become ‘Chaste Together.’

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prayer schedule

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pastor

Loving Pastors?

OK. I’ve got a great pastor. Father Justin is orthodox and admittedly human: richly so, kind of noble but not self-important. His confidence in mercy frees him to be a sinner but not perilously. His solid bearing as a father frees me to exhale. The impact of a pastor’s integrity makes me want to pray for all the pastors I know. That’s what our Lenten prayer focus will be for the next 47 days. Plug in your pastors and join us?

I pray for pastors because if I do not, I get caught in petty judgments that calcify into suspicion. Let’s face it: we are consumers–spiritual gourmands–when it comes to our leaders. Add the global virtual lens that frames them as pedophiles at worst, abusers at best, and we might confess we see pastors ‘through a glass darkly’. I submitted a piece on pastors last year to Justin and he remarked gently: ‘You sound angry…’

Angry. Got it. He was right. I carry concealed weapons when it comes to divided pastors who threaten to divide others. But my caution belies a deeper truth: human anger tends to frustrate the righteousness of God (James 1:20). I look no further than my own divides—personal fissures irritated by a host of external prods. My self-directed anger, or another’s, heals me not. Either makes me sick and sad, inclined to isolate and lie against the truth. Only this gaze of Love, this Jesus who looks on me kindly and constantly, frees me to bypass pet idols and proceed (however shakily) to offer others my best self.

If that is true for me, then why do I deny that for pastors? Why do I deflect the light of love from them rather than offer them up to the One whose love sustains and dignifies each one of us, if only we would open ourselves to Him?

Lately I spend a lot of time in Adoration—focusing on Jesus’ Real Presence in the Eucharist—wordlessly confessing that He is all and nothing else much matters but His gaze of love on me. On us. When I think of the demanding, inherently frustrating, never completed, usually lonely task of pastoring, I know that only Jesus’ intimate bond of love with each shepherd can cure what ails him. And as I linger in His courts, I can bring these leaders with me and offer them up as well, asking Him to shine on them and so call them in from the cold and be loved for a while.

I am indebted to a book on praying for pastors—In Sinu Jesu–written by a monk for fellow priests. The author listens, and Jesus speaks to us: ‘Do this one thing, Adore Me, and wait upon Me, and you will see in astonishment that I will do all the rest. There is but one obstacle to My plan here, and it is that you lose the grace for which I brought you here by becoming distracted and consumed by a multitude of other things. Be faithful to what is essential, your being with Me—and all the rest will be given to you besides.’ (Matt. 6:33)

We at DSM will give up distractions this Lent so we can linger longer before the One who makes us whole and who can do the same for our pastors. Let’s forego our laments and lay our shepherds before the kind face and heart of Jesus.

I’m including a schedule when we at DSM will pray once a week. Besides following us weekly, may I ask you daily to lift your pastors using this simple prayer?

‘Father, I offer You the Precious Lamb of God for my cleansing and healing, and for the cleansing and healing of Pastors_____. I ask that You Jesus shine the light of Your merciful face upon_____; Holy Spirit, break the grip of discouragement, and infuse them with the grace to linger before Your love. May You become their all-in-all.’ Amen

Please take time to watch our video and become ‘Chaste Together.’

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Behold the Lamb 4: Refining Fathers

God always honors His Word and sacraments even if His servants act dishonorably. For example, I once had a pastor whose stellar preaching (some of his word-pictures still shed light for me on complex truths) coexisted with a trail of confusing seductions he initiated with women in our congregation. God’s Word prevailed (through our efforts and a long wait)–he was finally disciplined–but until then the congregation breathed toxic air. God sustains the faithful but sheep still suffer from sleazy shepherds. How much better for fathers of the faith to prepare for leadership through the splendid, humbling task of becoming chaste?

Here’s the rub. Due to the sexual abuse scandals in the Catholic Church, in which entire dioceses have been brought to their knees by multi-million dollar settlements for victims, the Church is now super wary of any sexual vulnerability in her priests and religious. In the sexual arena, avoiding litigation seems the Church’s greatest goal; she fumbles at forthright, compassionate dealing with her fathers and mothers who actually need help in order to become chaste. ‘Just be chaste, don’t be known’, she conveys today.

To misquote Simone DeBeauvoir: ‘We are not born chaste, we become it.’ How else do we grow into integrated men and women unless we come into the Light with our misdemeanors before they become felonies? How many priests and diocesan workers do I know who fall regularly into masturbation/porn cycles, habits born of disintegration that keep them disintegrated, hobbled by shame and wounded in their self-gift? Having sinned weakly, does each one have a responsibility to come boldly to the throne of grace? Of course!

But that requires context for church leaders, especially those who always handle the confessions of others. Does the Church provide clear, merciful, powerful, and effective relationships through which these ones can break fear and silence and quicken the journey toward self-mastery and gender integration? Today’s Church, though clear on the requirement of priestly chastity, fails to invite most priests into the messy process of becoming chaste. In part due to the litigious mess she is in. I can almost guarantee you that the majority of priests will not take a seminary course on sexual integration this year.

That is at least short-sighted. Failing to provide wise preventative measures for her weak servants sets the Church up for further scandals and reveals an unloving, unreal expectation toward them. Everyone, especially her saints, is sexually broken! Lust in its myriad forms touches all of us. So must we as the Church provide real life opportunities for leaders-in-formation to be rightly formed in the sexual arena, without fear of being buried for being broken. Better to breakdown in the arms of the saints than to break another through lust.

My wife Annette is right. She claims that ‘the best preparation for ministry lies in discipleship: persons gathering long enough with safe, powerful saints in order to know themselves honestly in their sexual and relational depths, and to be known by Jesus through these members of Christ.’

At first I thought she was overstating her case. She was not. We as the Church must guarantee that our ‘Fathers’ do not go–it-alone. We have seen what happens when they do. Fathers and Fathers-to-be especially need refining love. Bring it on God.

‘Make Your Church wise and tender and strong toward her servants. Help her to love them like a good mother and father, only better. Reveal Your almighty tenderness to prodigal elder sons and daughters, O God; give them a fighting chance to come clean and become whole. You can only love us if we expose ourselves to love. Make Your Church a place of where we can come broken, boldly.’

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Unoffended?

John the Baptist, imprisoned and burning with hope for the Messiah, sends friends to check out if this Jesus is the real deal. Christ’s response? ‘Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind regain their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have the Gospel preached to them. And blessed is the one who takes no offense at Me’ (Matt. 11:4-6).

Why are Jesus’ miracles of transformation offensive to us? Pastor Jimmy Seibert, founder of the evangelical Antioch church planting movement, took heat recently for upholding how his congregations are helping persons with same-sex attraction ‘find out who God is and who He has made them to be…I’ve seen hundreds of people change their direction from SSA to a heterosexual lifestyle. It doesn’t mean there isn’t struggle…but there has always been grace for those who choose that.’

Yes and amen! We honor the work of Seibert and Antioch–a fresh wave of mercy flowing throughout the USA and the world in order to provide community support for persons turning from all types of false identifications unto Jesus Christ. Among them are persons rendered blind, lame, deaf, and poor by the exploits of the ‘gay self’ and who discover a whole new way of being in Christ and His Church.

Offensive. What may once have seemed like an ordinary expression of Jesus’ transforming love has now become a feast for media vultures. And sadly, as in Jesus’ day, it is often the religious establishment who join in the accusations. Remember, it was the Pharisees and Sadducees who railed against Jesus’ wonder-working power. They found His almighty mercy disruptive and intrusive; He encroached on their domain with power to set captives free. He exposed their powerlessness to call persons out of the tomb of sin and death. They took offense, and put Him to death.

Similarly, the Jimmy Seiberts are among the bold and few churchmen who do more than uphold the law of God–they champion His power to raise sinners from the dead! To be sure, breaking free of LGBT identification and becoming wholly grounded in Christ is no minor miracle. It requires nothing less than the juncture of our recognized poverty with the One whose love breaks the low ceiling imposed by our rebellion and an unbelieving culture.

Such breakthrough should seem plausible in this season of angelic visitations, pregnant virgins and guiding stars; nevertheless, I encounter Catholics and evangelicals constantly who raise their eyebrows at the prospect of Jesus actually having the power to reorder the sexually disordered.

Maybe that’s the rub. Weary and worldly, we now tend to doubt that there’s anything ‘disordered’ about same-sex attraction, or any other gender variation. To recognize another’s transformation would be to admit that maybe something is wrong—with a loved one, or with oneself. And that we are wrong for settling for less than God’s best.

And if something is wrong, then what? Does God have good things for us beyond our agreements with the status quo? Will He bear with us in our fragile and inconsistent efforts to become all that He has called us to be?

We are in the center of His heart. Advent is a time of hoping for more, of recognizing that the deserts in our lives are actually virgin territory, the very ground in which Jesus wants to impart to us the seed and water and breath to make us fruitful. A Child is about to be born; He vows to summon a host of sons and daughters from the dead of sin.

‘Then will the eyes of the blind be open, and the ears of the deaf unstopped. Then will the lame leap like a deer, and the mute tongue shout for joy’ (IS 35: 5, 6).

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