What is it like to go from being on staff at a local church to being on preparation for the foreign mission field?

First, my goal for this answer is to educate the church on the life of it’s mission. It is not so the church will “feel sorry for the missionary”, but give a window to peer through helping the church pray more effectively and engage more purposefully. It is also to help the church understand the seriousness of the call of God, in the same manner as the Apostle Paul let us in on his difficulties. Second, my goal for this answer is to help the church catch a vision to where God has called them.

I think the transition from pastor to Jesus’ mission is a natural transition. Both the pastorate and mission field have the same goal in mind. To see the church of Christ and His fame grow among the nations. As a pastor (or church member your task is to do so locally, and as a missionary your task is to do so globally.

Being a pastor and member of the local church has given me a love for Jesus’ church. The church I grew up in and the church I’ve been an assistant pastor at for the last 8-years have both encouraged and cultivated my love for Jesus and His mission through the church. As a teenager, I was discipled purposefully by two mission-minded deacons and a team of youth leaders. They got me involved in serving Christ as a teenager. It is important to look at the young people in your church not as the future of the church, but as the church now.

Before becoming the assistant pastor of Battle Ground Bible Church, I was on a yearlong church planting apprenticeship in South Africa. It was a turning point in my life. For the first time I could honestly see myself sharing the gospel on the foreign field. Also, I being in Africa I got a bug for Africa [maybe more than one bug!]. I wanted to go back. So when I interviewed for the position at BGBC, they were aware they might release me in the future to go to the mission field. They cultivated that desire by giving me opportunities to lead short trips overseas to help our missionaries, to spear-head their own vision to plant churches locally, and explore opportunities to serve in Africa. When Sarah and I married, they funded a trip we took to the Congo to equip youth leaders and pastors. Then a year later when we desired to take a vision trip to Chad, they were excited to support us. BGBC gave us a lot of freedom to follow Christ call and prepare us for that call.

In August, we were commissioned from BGBC to begin raising prayer and financial partners. That last Sunday on staff was incredibly emotional. We shed a lot of tears. It was an Acts 13 moment I will remember the rest of my life. We left a lot of friends, spiritual family, and our small group which was our major source of spiritual accountability. When we drove away there was a huge void of constant fellowship.

To be honest, the first few weeks I was in a spiritual funk. I did not take a course on how to succeed transitions. While on staff I was use to a great schedule–a routine I understood–and an office where I could have some quiet study time. That changed while we were on the road. I guess, I can understand what it is like when a retired couple is around each other after working their entire lives, only we were 3 years into our marriage. It’s been a good adjustment being around Sarah and our daughter 24-hours a day, 7-days a week. I realized I am pretty blessed to have this opportunity. It’s had it’s challenges and learning curves. You really get to know someone on a long road trip. Although for our family the road trip has been 6-months long.

An emotional day came when we sold our home in December. We were ecstatic that we were able to find a buyer so soon and not lose a load of money, which is surprising in our current housing market. Although excited we were a bit sad. It was the first time we’ve felt homeless. We could no longer go back to the comfortable living room we created, play in our grassy backyard, or pick veggies from our summer garden. Our home is now a Honda Element. We’ve enjoyed the generous hospitality of friends, family and churches while being on the road, but it can be exhausting. We’ve really been living our life on display for all to see. That’s difficult when you’re not feeling good, tired, or having a difficult day with your spouse or teething child.

It took me about a month to pull out of that funk. We’ve found a crazy schedule that’s worked for us on the road. More importantly we’ve found times to be in the Word and pray together. And we’ve discovered creative ways to keep accountable to our church while being so far away.

Sarah and I have been surprised by God’s grace. We would have never dreamed we would be at the place we are 6-months into our preparation for the mission field:
•    We have reached 85% of our required support goals. On our way to 100% by June.
•    We have acquired over 250 prayer partners.
•    We have added 3 families to our team [including 13 children, but soon to be 14].
•    We have sold our home without going into debt.
•    We have signed up for language school beginning in August.

Not that we seek confirmation from God for the steps we take, but God has been expediting the  road that leads to Chad. We take it that He really want the gospel starved “Z” to hear the good news and see the church of Jesus rise where it is not.

honor your pastor

I love the great teaching and godly leadership of Pastor Kenny Loehe. Those who know Kenny also know he proclaims the Word of God with boldness. He is not an ear tickler. He does not hold back out of fear of man or a desire to please people. He faithfully and meticulously exegetes the Word of God and delivers meat that I am forced to gnaw on. Steak is hard to swallow sometimes, but I’d rather chew on steak than suck blended spiritual food out of a straw or suck from a baby bottle.

Kenny, you have expanded my vocabulary. In my Bible, I have a list of words that I still need to go to the dictionary for a definition. I have learned how to use the words “flagellation” and “ghastly” without sounding boyish. You are like a Readers Digest Word Power personified.

You have also expanded my love for the church and the the Word of God.  You have showed me a living faith. I have had the privilege of seeing you work from behind closed doors. I have seen you wrestle through sermon preparation trying to apply the truth to your life, your family, and your church family. I have watched you suffer with your people, weep for them, pray over them, losing sleep because of them, and unconditionally loving them [even the difficult ones].

Kenny, I miss you. You are my pastor. You have been just the pastor I’ve needed. You have shepherded my heart.

In honor of Pastor Kenny I would like to encourage those who love their pastor to let them know, even give them a special gift. If you are short on ideas, here are a few…


October is  Pastor Appreciation month. This is the month when many churches will take some time to show their appreciation to their pastor for his love and ministry over the past year. Some churches will take up a love offering for their pastor. Many will put a basket in the vestibule for members to place cards in with kind sentiments they want to share with their pastor. A few churches may even have a dinner or a reception, a nice time to get together, to express  their feelings for their pastor.

All of these things are nice and good. In fact, I believe that it is a great idea for a church to take one month out of the year to do  something special to show just how much they appreciate the time and effort, love and concern that their pastor has for them.

1. Your  prayers. This is the greatest gift you can give your pastor. If you don’t love him like you should, begin to pray for him and you will. Of course, if you already love him, then you’ll naturally want to pray for him. I’ve had several of our senior adults tell me when I call just to check in on them how they pray for me every day. That’s fuel for more ministry!

2. Your love. A pastor who really shepherds his people will expend a great amount of love. His heart will be stretched  and often broken. Next to your prayers, the greatest thing you can give your pastor is your love. By the way, if you love him, let him know it. Despite what some people think, I don’t know of any pastor who has the ability to read minds. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve received a card expressing a member’s love and prayers just when I thought nobody in the church liked me, must less loved me.

3. Your unconditional support. Dr. Jim Henry told our deacons just last  week that researchers say that other than being the President of the United States, the most stressful “job” is that of being the pastor of a local church. I remember years  ago when one of our associate pastors was preaching, he made a statement that at first made me think that he was going to have to make a trip to the pastor’s office. He said, “The pastor is not always perfect…” I knew that. Everybody knows that. I just didn’t think that somebody would say it from the pulpit. Then he added, “But he is always the pastor.”

4. A little grace. I’m amazed at how often people get their feelings hurt in church. Often it is because of something somebody did or said, or didn’t do or didn’t say. Sometimes that somebody is the pastor. The next time you start to get upset with your pastor, take just a minute, breathe and consider the possibility that he might just be human too. Maybe, like you, he actually has good days and bad days. You never know what burden he might be carrying, what issue he’s having to deal with. It might be something at church or at home. So, give a little grace  and cut him some slack. You would want him to  do the same for you.

5. A “good word” to your pastor. Everybody likes to hear when they’ve done something right or been a blessing to somebody. Maybe the sermon spoke to you. Perhaps the service blessed you. Maybe you appreciated his call or visit or you just like his tie. In a given week the average pastor hears a lot of things that he’s done wrong. Take a moment and share something that he’s done right.

6. A “good word” for  your pastor. If your pastor is a gifted Bible preacher, a visionary leader, or a caring pastor, tell your friends. Invite them to come hear him preach, spend time with him. Brag on him. Make sure everybody knows just how great you think your pastor is. This will get out and back and will be a great gift of encouragement.

7. Your faithfulness. Recently I had lunch with a pastor friend of mine who’s served the same church for nearly twenty years and he told me that instead of large receptions or lots  of money, he’d rather just have his people be faithful. I completely agree. Money or cards don’t begin to say what a family’s faithfulness does. Your faithfulness to the ministry of your church says volumes about how much you really love and appreciate your pastor. Don’t just say it or give it, show it.

8. Time with his family. He won’t be any good to your family if he’s not any good to his family. If you have a need that’s not an emergency, leave a message and tell him that there’s no hurry. Or, send an email or a direct message. No pastor minds  taking a call or making a visit  if there is a real need, but make sure it is a real need before your call in the evening or on the weekend when he’s with his family. Another good idea is to insist, and if funds are available, make sure that the pastor and his family can have at least one week to get away on a vacation. In a day where most “faithful” church members miss at least one Sunday a month and take multiple trips or vacations a year, it’s not asking too much to make sure that he and his family have at least one.

9. Time by himself. The demands of being a pastor today are exponentially greater than they were just 25 or 30 years  ago. The pressure of meeting all the needs and living up to the expectations can get to the point  that it just becomes too much to bear. This explains why so many pastors are burning out and quitting – often to never darken the door of a church with their families again. Let your pastor get away to a good conference where he can refreshed. Send him on a hunting or fishing or golf trip. Whatever he likes to do. Allow him to recharge his batteries so that he can come back energized for the ministry the Lord has for him there. If your pastor is always available he won’t be worth anything when he is available.

10. A financial gift. There is a reason why this is last – because it’s last. For most pastors that I know and have talked to, a love offering is way down at the bottom of a list of things they would like to receive from their church. Now, I’m not saying that there aren’t those pastors who are more like used car salesmen who are always out to get an extra buck or two. I’m also not saying that there are not pastors who may have a financial need that the church doesn’t know about and a gift right now would help them maintain their self-respect or help them get ahead a just little bit. I’m just saying that most pastors don’t become pastors to get rich or have a lot of money. They do it because of the call of God on their life. So, consider giving a gift card for a nice meal. Or, even better, a little extra money to do whatever they want to do with it. Express your appreciation for the long hours of ministry and love that he gives, not just during the month of October, but the rest of the year as well.

These are just a few thoughts of a pastor who was raised in the home of a pastor and loves pastors. What gift will you give to your pastor today? Everyday?