When I was in middle school, I remember the science teacher handing out information on science fair projects. One particular year, the day the information was handed out, I was in a hurry to get started. I brought the info home, gave it to my mom and told her that we needed to go to the store so that we could get supplies to get the project done! She asked to see the paper I brought home and noticed that the due date wasn’t for 3 more months. But, we started the project within the next few days. That particular project took me to the state science fair “competition”. My project was on the ‘viscosity of motor oil’ to see if synthetic oil was worth the cost and to see if it lived up to the “hype” of the commercials on TV. It took me several weeks to get the testing down so that the results had comparable information. I remember thinking that this was the dumbest thing to do for the science fair. I knew that one of my friends was going to have some sort of volcano or a test to see which stain remover worked the best or even the test to see what the best method to transport an egg without it cracking would be. But no body (and I mean no body) brought in a 1/4″ plate of steel, several quarts of different motor oil, a propane torch and a piston to set up in front of their cardboard display! My science teacher (and the other judges) were impressed. Not by what I brought in, but by the testing and my results. I won the fair in our school and was sent to some sort of regional science fair and then went on to the state science fair. At the state science fair, I finished in 2nd place.
As I grew up, I was drawn to jobs that I could see the results of my labor. I worked on a farm from the 7th grade until after I graduated high school. Just about everything I did on the farm rendered immediate results. From cutting weeds out of soybean fields, turning over the ground with a disc or a plow, bush-hogging field edges and waterways to combining a field of wheat, corn or soybeans, you could see immediate results. After that I worked with a paint contractor. Every single job I did with him there were immediate results. I even started my own home renovation business before going to college and results were seen every single day. When I began school, results were shown in a different way. Tests were given to show the work you had done outside of the classroom. Projects were handed out and sometimes I would be placed in a group for a project. If you (or someone in your group) didn’t do the share of work for the project, you could tell. The group could tell and the professor could tell. I remember one class that the professor began with a simple question. “Someone tell me what your assigned reading covered last night.” Not one of us in the class had done the reading and no one answered the question. The results of our lack of reading were obvious. His response was classic. He slammed his book on the desk, stood up and pointed his finger at each of us and said, “If you all don’t put in the required work for this class, there’s no sense in me trying to teach today. But mark my words, there will be a test during our next class time and you better be ready!” After that, he walked out of class. We were stunned that 1) no one had done the reading and 2) that now we were going to have to make double sure we did the assigned reading from that day forward.
As I entered into ministry as a youth pastor, results changed again. There were no tests. There were no walls that got painted or patched on a daily basis. There weren’t even fields of dirt or grain to work. But ministry is still driven by results. As a pastor, the results are numeric. You feel the pull of the financial numbers being where they should and the number of full or empty seats week after week. Then there’s the number of people who attend or don’t attend bible studies, small groups, midweek activities, youth group, children’s ministries or any other ministries that are in place at a particular church. What most average church going people don’t understand is that, as a pastor, we report those numbers to our superior leaders. It’s a system of accountability that’s based on numbers to show results. As a kid, my father would have to go through a review. I was unaware as to how the review process worked at that time. I was informed recently that the way this process used to be conducted in the Nazarene Church was that the District Superintendent (his superior leader) would come in and hold an all church meeting and vote. In that moment, the church would vote to keep or let the lead pastor go. Talk about added stress to a pastors life! (I’m sure some pastor somewhere invested in Pepto-Bismol or Maalox due to those meetings…) Most of those votes that were cast were based on the results (or lack thereof) of the pastor in leadership of the church. Now, thankfully, those meetings aren’t held the same way. There is still a review process but it is handled more from the church leadership board rather than a whole church membership vote.
In the business world, results are needed, demanded and counted in different ways to check the effectiveness of a product or person. But far too often, in ministry the results that matter to the Kingdom of God aren’t realized until years later. Many times you never see what kind of Kingdom impact you are having until you resign and are getting ready to leave one church to go to another. While in that moment you are happy to see that all the work you did is finally bearing fruit, you realize that you may never be able to see the fruit grow to its harvest potential. The job of a pastor is tough. I think that I have gotten to a point in my ministry where I have realized and accepted that I may never see the full results of the work that I am putting in. And, in a weird way, I’m ok with it.
How does all this work in to the dream of Restoration Farm? While I know that I am a results driven person with a hard work ethic, I also know that what we will be doing with Restoration Farm we may never see results. I mean zero. Think about this. The idea of Restoration Farm is to bring pastors and their families in who are hurting or just need time away, minister to them in the short time they are on our property and then send them back to their church, community or place of ministry only to never visually see how God will use us in their Kingdom work. You would think that this would be a difficult thing for me seeing as I am results driven person. Here’s “the deal” that I have come to accept with this idea of ministry… it is not about me. It must never become about me. Even the role in the current church I am serving in now isn’t about me! The thing that drives me toward a ministry like this is knowing how much of a needed thing it is. I know that that there are pastors out there that will benefit in their local context of ministry by having a place that will not burden them financially to come to and be better when they leave. Here are some more results from a study that I keep on my desktop as a solid reminder of the need for Restoration Farm: 97% of pastors have been betrayed, falsely accused or hurt from their “trusted” friends. 70% of pastors battle depression. 7,000 churches close each year. 1,500 pastors quit each month. 80% of pastors feel discouraged. 94% of pastors families feel the pressure of ministry. 78% of pastors have no close friends. 90% of pastors report working 55-75 hours per week.
If you are reading this and you’re not in ministry, I challenge you to stop now and pray for your pastor. If you are a pastor and you’re reading this, just know I am praying with and for you.
Lord, this is a big dream. It is bigger than me. It’s bigger than my family. It’s bigger than what we could ever dream of it to be. This is a God-sized dream and only you can fulfill it! Help us to never think that we can do it. Help me to always rely on you to see Restoration Farm become a physical place of healing for pastors and their families. Lord, help the results of Restoration Farm to be so far reaching that when we see you face to face, the Kingdom of Heaven will be flooded with those pastors and people that benefited because of it. Lord, it’s not about me and it can never be about me. I ask you to stay in the forefront of this dream to make it a reality in your time. Thank you for giving the dream to us and we pray that this ministry would benefit thousands for your Kingdom. May the results only bring glory to you, Amen.