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On the second Sunday of August 1984, the Lake Don Pedro Baptist Church, called me to be the interim pastor. Susie and I had no idea that this would become a 35-year love story of a pastor and his flock. We didn’t know that this would be only church our children would know growing up. We didn’t know how many people would come alongside us to encourage us, bless us, and love Jesus with us. We didn’t know much, period. But we did rejoice and were grateful. We still rejoice and are even more grateful.

 

When this, our church (it makes a big difference whether you think of a church as this church or our church) called us I was deeply struggling with church and becoming a minister because over the span of a year and a half I witnessed firsthand church dysfunction and preacher misconduct in four different churches. In spite of being a Bible college graduate and a call to ministry, I wasn’t sure I wanted any more of church – until I read Romans 14:12 in my personal morning Bible study, “So then each one of us will give an account of himself to God” (NASB). It didn’t matter what everyone else did, how they behaved or misbehaved, I am responsible to God for how I follow him, even if everything and everyone around me goes crazy. It was a watershed moment for me, and a few weeks later I was leading the Lake Don Pedro Baptist Church.

35 years is a lot of time to make mistakes and I have made my fair share of them. The bad thing is that church and pastor mistakes usually hurt people (Remember, the church is a fellowship, a spiritual family of people). If you read this pastor’s note and are one of those I have hurt, disappointed, or let down I ask for your forgiveness if I have not already done so. And, I thank God for all who confronted me, were gracious to me, had patience with me, and forgave me.

I praise God for all who have served with me over these years, for those sharing the same love for Christ, his church, and his kingdom. Besides the goodness and faithfulness of God, you’ve helped make 35 years possible. Like the apostle Paul, I can say, “I thank God for every remembrance of you.”

Our church officially called me to be the pastor but it also meant Susie was going to be the pastor’s wife and our children were going to be the pastor’s kids. All I can say that they, and especially Susie, have been awesome. They have shared the load and have made quiet sacrifices few know about. They have blessed me and our church.

The real reason I became a preacher was that Susie, before we ever dated, told me in a letter that she was going to marry a preacher one day. So, I figured the only way I was going to have a chance with her was to become a preacher. Not really! But at my birth, the midwife/nurse who delivered my two older brothers as well handed me to my mom and said, “This one will be a preacher.” Really!

Finally, to God be all glory. Thanks, your Pastor

 

 

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I needed to fix a slow air leak in a  riding mower front tire. Simple fix, really. You just put in an inner-tube. The guy at the tire shop where I bought an innertube informed me that they don’t like to work on those little wheels, “They are real little buggers,” he said.

I thought, “How hard can it be? I’ve done plenty of bicycle and wheelbarrow tires. I’ll save the fifteen buck installation fee.”

“Real little buggers,” was an understatement. “Gigantic pain in the posterior,” would’ve been much more accurate. I wrestled that little wheel like a greased pig and in the process managed to puncture the innertube six times. When I pumped it up it whistled like a pan flute, and, trying to fix the fix I ran out of patches.

Before putting it all back together I watched some YouTube videos on how to fix “little bugger” mower wheels because clearly, I didn’t know how to do it right. It is amazing what you can learn on YouTube.

I clearly needed some instruction before attempting to put things back together a second time (To be honest, I was tempted to take it back to the tire shop on my next trip to town and plunk down the fifteen bucks. But I couldn’t bear the thought of the tire shop guy looking at my new, six times patched tube and cracking up and call the rest of the shop crew over to “check out this clumsy fool!”) So, with my hurt pride, I got myself a YouTube education on wrestling these little butt-kicking wheels. Two Vise Grips and a long bolt and nut in the bench vise proved to be super helpful.

Would you call me “a little dense,” or “downright stupid,” if after watching helpful YouTube videos I would have tried to get that tire back on the same way I did the first time?

Would you think of me as “ridiculous” if instead of trying to follow the practical YouTube instructions I called everyone on the prayer-chain to have them join in praying for a miracle fix to my tire problem?

Would you have a difficult time not rolling your eyes at me, thinking “Really!” if this weekend at church I would tell everybody how Satan is attacking me again, making my life miserable, how everything that possibly can go wrong is going wrong, and that few people have suffered this deeply and profoundly.

Would you wonder if I had a brain if I would park a perfectly good running riding mower behind the shed and let it rot away because of flat a front tire I didn’t know how to fix myself?

Maybe you chuckled once or twice reading this pastor’s note so far, but thirty-five years of pastoring, preaching, and teaching the Bible this is what I see all too often:

  1. Christians ignoring the greatest life-instruction manual ever written, the Bible.
  2. Christians overestimating their own wisdom, knowledge, skill, and strength.
  3. Christians making a mess, leaking, dragging like flat tires.
  4. Christians turning to God, the Bible, and godly counsel in times of crisis (YouTubing solutions), only to ignore them and go back to what didn’t work before.
  5. Christians turning prayer into some kind of magic wand as a replacement for following sound biblical wisdom and instruction.
  6. Christians rolling in continual self-pity and catharsis but unwilling to inform themselves and refusing to implement biblical ways and wisdom into their thinking, attitudes, habits, behavior, circumstances, and problems.
  7. Christians dragging from Sunday to Sunday (or just dragging) leaking air through self-inflicted punctures only to park the whole tractor of a vibrant life in Christ in the scrap yard behind the barn with all the other old broken-down tractors, trucks, and implements.

“Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the instructions the Bible gives you. Do not deviate from them, turning either to the right or to the left. Then you will be successful in everything you do. Study this Book of Instruction continually. Meditate on it day and night so you will be sure to obey everything written in it. Only then will you prosper and succeed in all you do. This is my command—be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:7-9 (adapted from NLT2)

To God be all glory. Love you, Pastor Hans

P.S. For your tires I got the phone # of the tire shop.

 

 

 

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Amazing Grace and Ray Coffee,

I was his pastor for 33 years, in fact he, along with the others who voted in early August of 1984 to call me as the interim pastor of the Lake Don Pedro Baptist Church, is responsible that I am your pastor today. He was about the age I am now when he cast that vote and I wonder how many times he wondered whether it was a smart move to entrust a stubborn German with the pastoral responsibilities of this flock. And, if I am honest there were times I wondered why in the world I signed on to be Ray’s pastor. Nevertheless, we ended up with 33 years of relationship and friendship, of sharing in God’s amazing grace.

From what Ray told me he was a rough, mean, hard-drinking, short-tempered man before God got a hold of him and he called on Christ to save him. He never did figure out why a girl named Barbara decided to love him and try to tame him, although she wondered a lot about how successful she actually was. Between Christ and Barbara, Ray did change, but growing spiritually was a struggle for him for as long as I knew him, “the old man dies hard,” the flesh wars against the spirit (Galatians 5:16-25). This struggle did make Ray more keenly aware that God’s grace in Christ was his only hope. He was saved by and died (“fell asleep” -1 Thessalonians 4:13-18), in amazing grace.

God assembled a small group of men and women in their late working and early retirement life to start a church here in Don Pedro. Everything that has happened in and through this local church body, this church family (that’s what it was for him) Ray has had a part in it, through serving, helping, building, giving, inviting, investing and showing up. This too is a result of amazing grace.

For Ray, like most of us, his greatest assets were also the source of his weaknesses. Ray had the gift of gab, the ability to communicate with complete strangers, to build relationships quickly, but his mouth also spoke when it should have kept silent, said things that were inappropriate, were ill-timed, and many times hurtful. His patriotism, service to the country, work-ethic, and dependability, were unquestionable, but they also could make him judgmental. His zest for life made him a person of action, but it also could make him selfish. So, it was more than just words when he sang about coming “to the garden alone” to walk and talk with God, to meet with living and eternal “Amazing Grace.”

I miss him, how could I not, 33-year relationships don’t happen all the time, 33- year friendships are a gift, 33 years of serving Christ together is precious. In this relationship, I got to graduate from the “kid” to “You are alright’’ to “my pastor,” I count that as a great honor, and as amazing grace.

To God be all glory. Pastor Hans

 

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Pastor Paul,

Starting this Saturday, April 1, 2017, Pastor Paul is retiring from being the Associate Pastor. He will miss the pay, $ 0, that’s for sure. Diana will miss him down at the church all the time. She’ll will no longer be able to say, “Don’t you have something to down at the church,” when she wants him out of the house. And she won’t have to fret over what else he committed himself to when she wasn’t paying attention.

All kidding aside, Paul and Diana are real gift to our church. In all of my years here few have involved themselves so readily, so deeply, and so faithfully. As Associate Pastor Paul lead and oversaw the Ministry Leadership Team, the Facilities Team, Amazing Grays, Advertising and Promotion, Majesty Adventures, Kitchen Team, and the Website, besides visiting, counseling, and leading an Adult small group. His energy and commitment to do it right amaze me. But more than that it is his heart to please God, to seek and do what is best for us as a church that has so enriched and blessed us. The good news is that Paul and Diana are neither moving nor leaving (you know how much I hate for people do either), but will continue to be involved in some of the above but without the pastoral responsibility. This gives opportunity for you and others to step up.

My favorite thing about Paul is that I can trust him, completely. He cares about you and me and us as a church as deeply as anyone. Even when I frustrated him, consternated him, disagreed with him, or disappointed him Paul has continued to serve, invest himself, and love deeply. I think he well deserves to be a little bit more retired and be a little bit less tied down. I think Diana, his kids, and grandkids will love that.

Three scriptures come to mind as a write this note:

I thank my God in all my remembrance of you” Philippians 1:3 (NASB). 

Behold, how good and how pleasant it is For brothers to dwell together in unity! It is like the precious oil upon the head, Coming down upon the beard, Even Aaron’s beard, Coming down upon the edge of his robes. It is like the dew of Hermon Coming down upon the mountains of Zion; For there the LORD commanded the blessing—life forever” Psalm 133:1-3 (NASB).

“What then is Apollos (Hans)? And what is Paul (Baker)? Servants through whom you believed, even as the Lord gave opportunity to each one. I planted, Apollos watered, but God was causing the growth. So then neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but God who causes the growth. Now he who plants and he who waters are one; but each will receive his own reward according to his own labor. For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, God’s building” 1 Corinthians 3:5-9 (NASB, parenthesis mine).

Thank You Paul and Diana.

With deep gratitude and praise, Pastor Hans

 

 

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When Governor Felix heard the preacher he kept under arrest talk about resurrection he was interested to hear more, as was his wife. It doesn’t matter who you are, how low or high your position is in life, most people want to have some hope for what comes after death.

Felix had another motive as well. He thought since Paul was an influential leader of a religious group that they would want to bail him out, or more precisely bribe him out. As interested as he was in the afterlife he was even more interested in this life.

“A few days later (after hearing Paul for the first time) Felix and his wife, Drusilla, who was Jewish, sent for Paul and listened to him talk about a life of believing in Jesus Christ. As Paul continued to insist on right relations with God and his people (righteousness), about a life of moral discipline (self-control) and the coming Judgment, Felix felt things getting a little too close for comfort (became afraid) and dismissed him. ‘That’s enough for today. I’ll call you back when it’s convenient.’ At the same time he was secretly hoping that Paul would offer him a substantial bribe. These conversations were repeated frequently (often)” Acts 24:24-26 (MSG, parentheses mine).

What Felix wanted to hear and what Paul told him were two different things. Felix liked the thought of going to heaven but he didn’t care for having to think about right and wrong, morality, and especially judgment. He was part of the Roman elite, the powerful who had tremendous leeway when it came to their actions, their morality, and accountability, as long as they did not conflict with the interests of the emperor. This preacher was making him feel guilty, didn’t not grant him the luxury of appeasing his conscience as to his deeds, his standing before God. This preacher left him no wiggle room as to what would be overlooked and what wouldn’t be. This preacher highlighted his responsibility to exercise morality beyond what was acceptable in Rome, but would stand up in the judgment of God. On top of all that this preacher was making sense, this wasn’t irrational religious nonsense.

Felix was smart enough to realize the implications of the truths this preacher was laying out before him. If was going to have real hope beyond death and the judgment of God he would have to face his accountability to God for his actions, for his past, now and in the future. He would have to seek forgiveness. He would have to humble himself. He would have to believe in and follow Jesus Christ, who alone can atone for, propitiate for a person’s sins, bring him/her safely through the judgment of God, raise the dead, and grant eternal life.

Felix did what many do at that point of understanding, the point where God, where Christ gets too close for comfort, where you have to repent and believe. He sent the preacher away, “I’ll call you back when it is convenient,” He kept it on his terms, not God’s.

Felix did have the preacher back, “often” we are told. He knew what he was hearing was the truth, but as far as we can tell he kept checking out when it got “to close for comfort.” Two years later he was transferred, we do not know what became of him. What we do know is real hope, resurrection hope is only found in Jesus Christ.

Maybe this pastor’s note is a little too close for comfort? Will you check out or will you believe?

To God be all glory, Pastor Hans

 

 

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I think designating October as Clergy/Pastor Appreciation Month was the idea of H.B. London when he led the pastoral care division of Focus on the Family. Without a doubt that emphasis has blessed a lot of pastors and preachers, myself included. H.B, who himself was a pastor for many years, knew that although pastoring is in many ways like any other job it is also very unique, with pressures and challenges of its own. Churches, life, and the spiritual battle have a way of chewing up preachers almost as quickly as the NFL does football players. Too many pastors don’t last very long at a particular church and in ministry itself.

I am a blessed pastor because your appreciation goes far beyond some special emphasis, you have made it part of our church’s life year round. I am a blessed pastor because I have so much to appreciate when it comes to you, my church family, this flock Jesus has entrusted to me, my brothers and sisters of the Lake Don Pedro Baptist Church. I am constantly amazed at all the loving, caring, kindness, serving, and generosity I get to witness and be part of.

Let me highlight some things and people I am especially appreciative of this year.

  • I am deeply grateful for all the slack you have given me over the past 16 month. It has been one of the most emotionally trying and draining periods of Susie’s and my life. You have been gracious and supporting even when I was reeling and less than my best. I especially thank Paul, Davidmark, Marilyn, and the deacons for their support and filling the gap.
  • Our facilities needed a whole lot of care and repair this past year and can’t imagine what we would have done without the dedication and hard work of Russ, Tom, Bud, Ty, Christie, Robert, and many others. Thank you, thank you.
  • Every ministry needs good leadership, dedication, and people willing to work or it won’t function well or even exist. This means that everything that is going well in our church is a reflection of many serving faithfully and cheerfully. It means people stepping up, filling in, taking on more responsibility, and being dedicated. Russ and Cindy took over the Clothes Closet, John now leads the Food Basket, Troy has taken on the sound and multi media. How blessed I am/we are to have them be part of the Ministry Team.
  • The water pipes that were springing one leak after another got replaced this week – can I get a Hallelujah! Praise the Lord! In that process Russ and the plumbers discovered some pipes and valves no one knew what they were for. They were remnants of the past, things that served their purpose in their time. They were paid for and put there by people of our church’s past who served God’s purposes in their time. Someday we will be part of that group. It thrills me to see you being dedicated to leave behind blessing that will enable others in the future to serve God’s kingdom here in Don Pedro.

I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.
3 John 1:4 (NIV)

I appreciate you and thank God for you, Pastor Hans

 

 

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When the preacher gets tired

 

Since I am always encouraging others to not hide behind generalities, and because I can’t speak for every other preacher it is better if I let you know about when this preacher, when pastor Hans gets tired.

 

I know this much, when I am tired I am not as efficient, I am more critical, am more negative, have less patience, prayer becomes a struggle, I let myself get sidetracked, procrastinate, and wonder if all effort, all that preaching, teaching, shepherding is making all that much of difference.

 

When I am tired I am tempted to holler more from the pulpit, which is kind of like a frustrated parent yelling at their kids. But since I have been at this for a while I know that doesn’t do a whole lot of good, you end up having to holler more and more.

 

There are different aspects to my tiredness but they are intertwined like night crawlers at the bottom of a worm can. Some of it is my own fault, too little rest, doing too much, my ministry habits and patterns. Susie and I were dirt poor when we got into this ministry thing. When you are dirt poor you fix things yourself, cut your own firewood, do your own pest control, and save wherever you can. When you pastor a small church start in a tiny community you work several jobs, are the janitor, service planner, youth director, and end up plugging the dam a lot. That has shaped me, maybe scarred me, and certainly has worn me out more than once over the years.

 

Some of my tiredness stems from what I am tired of. I am tired of hearing someone who claims to be have been a believer for 25 years still claiming that they don’t know how to share the Gospel with their family, neighbors, and friends, or being afraid to pray out loud or for someone right on the spot. I am tired of watching brothers and sisters scale back or drop out all together, I don’t get it. I am tired of pussy footing, anonymity, outright gossip, and too many careless and trivial words. But I am hollering, ain’t I.

 

I am tired of having to motivate those who profess faith in Christ to follow Christ, to be faithful, to commit themselves to growth, to service, to think missional. I wonder if that is my own fault? Am I preaching Jesus incorrectly, if people are not internally compelled to follow, to change? If there is not a heart constrained by the love of Christ, continually overwhelmed and grateful for the mercy poured out and received?

 

I am tired of Christians talking Bible and flushing it as soon as there is conflict, hardship, change, or something they don’t like. Talking scripture without living it when it really counts is hollow, bridle, lifeless.

 

I am tired of the level of conformity that is required in my own denomination and other denominations. There are too many Christian circles all requiring conformity, be it some form of patriotism, liberalism, activism, or some particular theological ism. So you have to watch what you say and do or you are outrageous, outdated, or simply out.

 

There is a relentlessness to ministry, to being a pastor that is tiring to me. One sermon done another one coming (and it should be good, boring preaching is inexcusable). People don’t transform easily. The needs never stop. The spiritual battle never has a cease fire. There are always things weighing on my heart and mind.

 

Some of my tiredness comes from the fact that a good deal of what I do I am neither gifted for nor passionate about. I know that’s like any other job, which means you know exactly what I am talking about.

 

I am tired, shamed even, by my own slow progress, by the wide gap I still see after so many years between what is the present reality of my Christian life and what Christ, what scripture, calls me to be.

 

Now, I haven’t penned this note to elicit your pity. You could write your own. Teachers, plumbers, police officers, doctors, parents, … all get tired. I wrote this pastors note because I want to live with you in real and transparent fellowship. I hate having to pretend, so I don’t want you or me to do so, not in regard to tiredness or anything else.

 

Be responsive to your pastoral leaders. Listen to their counsel. They are alert to the condition of your lives and work under the strict supervision of God. Contribute to the joy of their leadership, not its drudgery. Why would you want to make things harder for them? Hebrews 13:17 (MSG)

To God be all glory, love you, Pastor Hans

P.S. I will use next week’s pastor’s note to let you know what this preacher never gets tired of.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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