Thursday, December 22, 2011


Our Redeemer Staff,
at T. K. Wu in Ann Arbor
Here are my priorities in life.
  1. 1. God
  2. 2. Linda
  3. 3. Family
  4. 4. Pastor
If you are a pastor, never get "Pastor" higher than #4.

This is my 20th year at Redeemer. When Linda and I met with the church leaders over 19 years ago I shared these priorities with them. They have not changed.
  1. God. I continue to take Tuesday afternoons, one of my "work days," to pray, seek God, listen to him, come before him, be led by him, and be loved and cared for by him. I need God; therefore I meet with God. My Tuesdays with God overflow into the entire week. During these times I'm not working on sermon material or church stuff; God is working on me and in me. If a pastor does not do this, or does not make this #1, he or she will quickly become inauthentic and irrelevant. And, they will burn out. Meet with God. Tend the fire within.
  2. Linda. I am married. Linda is my co-partner in life and ministry. People in my church know she's as valuable as I am, even moreso in many ways. "Pastor" means "shepherd." Linda is a true shepherd of people. We still date. Before marrying we knew each other for a year and a half. We've been married 38 1/2 years. That's 40 years of being together! For us, Friday night is date night. 40 years times 52 weeks a year = 2080 dates. If a dinner and a movie is $30, that's $62,400. Give or take a few dollars, depending on our economic circumstances. And this does not include other time we spend together. For us, this is money well-spent. We love each other. The consequences of not doing so would weaken our people, even devastate them. One time a pastor friend of mine called on a Thursday evening. He was in a panic. He said, "John, we have a conference tomorrow night. Our guest speaker is sick. Will you come and be our speaker?" I said, "No, I can't." Inappropriately, he asked, "Why not?" "Because," I responded, "Linda and I have a date." My friend was upset. We said good-bye. I felt angry with him. Five minutes later he called back and apologized. If a pastor is married and not investing in their marriage so that it is failing, they can forget speaking into the lives of their church's marriages.
  3. Family. Our sons are older now. But when they were growing up I played with them. I wore out many pairs of tennis shoes! Mostly, I savored parenting. When our boys were small I remember, many times, coming home from work, walking around the house to the living room window, and looking through it on the scene inside. There they were, with Linda, the ones I love most in life. I remember thinking, many times, "I will not let these precious times get away from me." If a pastor is married with children and does not invest much time and love with them he or she will be unfit to mentor the coming generation.
  4. Church. A few years ago two film students from the University of Michigan interviewed me for a movie they were making about our Monroe community. One of the questions they asked me was this: "What, as a pastor, is the most important thing you need to do for your people?" I answered immediately: "The most important thing I need to do for my people is: abide in Christ. Because what my people need is Jesus, not me. If I fail to do this my people will lose out and be led astray." That's why, for a pastor and, really, for any lover of Jesus, #1 must remain #1. 2 and 3 follow from that. "Church" will be stronger if 1, 2, and 3 are in place.
There have been times when these priorities have gotten out of order. Sometimes circumstances cause this. But I don't think that, for Linda and I, they have deliberately gotten out of order. "Church," like any labor, can be used as a way of avoiding 1, 2, and 3.

I will keep my priorities in order.