Pastorally speaking

Sunday, November 18, 2007
Well, it's been quite a day, Canadian Football League wise. My Riders owned BC, and Winnipeg, my second team, beat Toronto. That means that the Riders and Winnipeg will meet next weekend in the final, the Grey Cup.

Talk about your bliss...

But today I am feeling pastorally challenged.

The beauty of being a "hired hand" as a pastor is that you are able to keep yourself at some distance, relationally at least. But if you're going to be more than that, if you're going to be a friend or confidant, or a shepherd, then at some point you're gonna hurt.

This weekend its catching up with me again.

Tonight I sat with a friend of ten years, who it seems, is nearly done with this part of her life. She can barely talk, and her words are unclear and whispered. The oxygen she breathes makes it hard to hear her. But I sit and encourage and whisper my own words to her ear. She wants me to say a prayer, and I gladly offer one, it seems to calm her.

But I wander out of the hospital into the thick falling snow, and I grieve, again, for the loss of a friend.

Last night I was up late praying for a kid from church who's making some really poor decisions lately. I can't get him out of my head. The choices he's making will lead to more pain for him, and he will have to grow through the choices he makes. But I care, I'm concerned with his safety and his future, so I pray.

I see the person in church who has made it clear to me that they no longer want me around. They have difficulty watching as I talk from up front. Strangely I feel no animosity towards them. I see the pain of their lives and the frustration they direct at me, and others, and I wish they could be free too.

I pray and I see the elderly woman who had her basement flood and furnace need replacing, and I think how much more can she stand with her physical pain and financial limitations and living alone in that big demanding house. I know that it means independence for her, something she deeply values, and I pray for God to be close and to watch over her and provide for her.

And the names and faces go on and on. They guy who thought my interpretation of the passage this morning was, "Interesting." (I smiled inside and thanked him...) Or the three ninety year old ladies, each now on their own cane, who still regularly attend, even in spite of the snow and cold, and whisper how tough things are getting more and more.

Or the young mom with three little ones whose husband is away at school for six months and how overwhelming that can be.  Or the young parents with kids who exasperate them completely.

See what I mean??

I don't carry their stuff. God hasn't asked me to do that. But I do walk with them through the things of life. Praying for them when things are garbage, celebrating when a moment is pure and good.

It just means that there are weekends like this that are a challenge, pastorally speaking.

But it's good to be back home. I told them that this morning, because it is really good to be back after a busy autumn.

And though it's difficult to say goodbye to a dieing friend, I wouldn't have it any other way.

Pastorally speaking.


  1. Thank you.

    You convey God's love to us by caring so sensitively for all of us.

  2. Thank you


    I am glad that you are our/my pastor.

  3. Randall, I had a strange longing as I read your remarks about your "flock" this morning. I longed for the day when our pastor was a part of our family life, knew what issues we were dealing with and cared to ask how things were going.
    Our church has grown large, remote, weak and lonely, superficial even. I feel lost and alone even though I have attended for 28 years. I am dissapointed in our leadership who have let us down morally . Yet I stay because there is much invested and it is my family. Any advice?
    Is this the price of fast growth or wrong emphasis? What do we do when our board makes comments that make us feel out of step with modern growth methodology?
    Your congregation is so fortunate to have a pastor who is open and real. Have a day of blessing....Linda Hilderman

  4. Your job is vital and important but it is not like a project that you can complete and then staple and hand in as finished. It is unlike any other job and you are so needed and vital to those of us who call on you for spiritual guidance and some strength when ours is low. You do a great service sir and I thank you.

  5. Dorothy, I think you are on to something there, it isn't like another job. I get into trouble when i start to compare my time commitment or financial renumeration with other "jobs."

    That just leads me down roads I don't want to go down.

    It is a work that I do, but when we try to measure it or classify it in ways that help us understand it better, sometimes we begin to expect too little, calling it a job or giving it time limitations of however many hours a week.


    I feel for you. It is REALLY hard when the group you've helped create and poured yourself into, changes. That's one reason I've let people here push against changes I've wanted to bring into place, trying to give them time to process the changes...

    But, if a church is going to grow and sustain itself, you probably don't want a guy like me in charge. I'm the guy who is busy caring that all the people are still with us. I'm the guy who often won't move if all the people can't move along with us.

    It's great for helping with personal growth, but lousy in the numbers growth area.

    So we have sustainability concerns. I can probably care for X number of people during a year. You know, be aware of their needs, pray for them by name, give them a call, that kind of thing. I can care for more if they are healthy individuals, less if they are unhealthy individuals.

    But the bottom line might be that we will only grow the size of the number of people I can give care for.

    Some churches wish to grow larger and so they need pastors and leaders who are big picture, visionary types, who set up processes and programs for people to be cared for.

    They are wise if they have Pastor/Shepherd types caring in the church for the people, but sometimes that gets forgotten.

    Is it better to effect 10 people deeply or 50 people thinly? I don't suppose they are mutually exclusive, but rather go together, depending on the gifts of the leaders and the context of the church.

    But I hear your heart. That's where I live too, smaller, able to care groups are what keeps me interested.

    As for advice, can you connect with smaller groups of old friends and others who you can meet with regularly to worship and pray and care for one another? I guess I'm thinking that within the context of that church. On an evening, meet as a small part of that larger church? and that can become your main point of connection and relationship in that body?

    God be with you and yours Linda, and he will. And may he give you your hearts desire.

  6. "Rich and compelling" - Ron Burgundy

    Randall, I also want to point out that 4/5 of your prophecy from Refresh has come to pass. If the Riders win next weekend I won't have to ignore your entire message. At least if the Bombers lose they'll have a good excuse and can save face, though I doubt they realize that the validity of a pastor's words is riding on their loss.

  7. Matt, there's nothing like an Anchorman quote to brighten up a person's day, is there?

    Time to musk up...

  8. Sweet Lincoln's mullet that made me laugh.

    yeah, that prophecy... if it comes to pass I'll have to listen to myself much more. Maybe set up a booth at the fair or something.

    Kinda weird that it's playing out like it is. Against all the odds.

    But yeah, if it comes to pass you should take what I said with deep consideration.


    Still in a glass case of emotion!

  9. randall friesen you are an awesome dude, this post was really good. i can't wait to be home in p.a. at christmas and hear you hear speak again. i'll also try and get those sermons from refresh burned for you asap.


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