Looking for Growth Beyond the Numbers

file0001938132513You can pretty well predict a pastor’s mood on Sunday afternoon by how the attendance figures looked that morning. If the numbers were up then the pastor’s mood is up, if down then the pastor’s mood is down. Some Sunday afternoons finds the pastor’s mood just so so, because attendance was average. 

It’s hard not to play the numbers game. I know, there’s a place for numbers. Each number represents a precious human being possessing a soul we want to see turned to God. But, there’s more than numbers growth, and sometimes we need to celebrate that. 

Take, for instance, a few weeks ago in my own church. A man shared with a small group of us how he found out his ex-wife (it was never his idea she become an ex-wife) was battling cancer. He had to go over to her house to connect with a grown daughter they share together. He related to us how he had a nice and cordial conversation with his ex-wife, telling her how sorry he was to hear of her situation. Then he asked, “Would you like for me to pray for you?” She responded, “That would be nice.” So he did. He told us, “You know, a few years ago I would never have done that.” 

Now that’s growth in a church, spiritual growth! I’d encourage all of us to be sensitive to seeing where spiritual growth is happening among our people. It could be a real encouragement to be reminded that God is doing some pretty great things in our midst, and it may have nothing to do with numbers!

My Retirement, a Fresh Call from God

MayfairPlymouthCrossCropI announced my retirement from being the senior pastor at Mayfair-Plymouth at our annual celebration/congregational meeting in January.  The Lord willing, by my retirement this coming October I will have completed 39 years of ministry at M-P and into my 40th year.  What follows is the letter I wrote to the congregation.
____________________________________________

From Pastor Dave:

God is doing His good and great work in our Mayfair-Plymouth Church Family. Part of what He has been doing is leading us through a process of transition in which Pastor Joe is to be your next senior pastor. As you recall, I had announced my intention to retire in October of 2015. The transition is going well, so well that I believe God is leading us to shorten this transition. Therefore it is my intention to retire a year earlier, in October of this year, 2014. By God’s grace we will conclude our ministry at Mayfair-Plymouth on Sunday, October 12.

This decision has not been made lightly. First, let me say that this decision was made by me and my wife Diann. No one has suggested moving the date up. When I told Rupert he was surprised, but came to respect my decision. A week later I told Joe of my plans and he too was surprised.

Several factors have played into the decision. I really do believe the transition is going very well and that another year would make the transition too long. In October it will be time for the church to move on with a new senior pastor, Pastor Joe.

I truly believe that God calls a pastor to step away from a church as well as step into a church. I felt God’s calling in 1975 to be the pastor of Mayfair-Plymouth and now I feel God’s release from His calling upon me as pastor of Mayfair-Plymouth. I prayed in seminary that the Lord would call me to a church “for a good long time, if not a lifetime.” Mayfair-Plymouth has been my lifetime pastoral ministry, and I believe it is coming to a close.

Since our grandson Danny’s death this past year Diann and I have both felt an urgency to come alongside both of our adult children and our grandchildren. Life here on earth is short. We want to embrace our new calling to be with them.

Both Diann and I don’t see this so much as retiring as God calling us to a new phase in our lives. Our plans are to divide our time between our daughter Julie and her family in Mexico and our son Dan and his family in Tampa, Florida. In Florida I hope to mentor and encourage younger pastors as well as focus more on writing and photography. In Mexico I’ll be able to fulfill my dream as a little boy to be a missionary; we’ll be missionaries along with Julie and Victor!

We’ll be selling our house and hope to move immediately after our retirement in mid-October and settle near Dan and the family in the Tampa area. Then, soon after Christmas, we’ll head to Mexico to begin building a small house at Refuge Ranch.

There is, of course, a sadness about our leaving. We have lived so much of life together with you, our church family! We all will grieve this transition. I have to remind myself, and I remind you too, that this day was to come sooner or later. It’s just happening a bit sooner.

We won’t be dropping off the edge of the earth. I’ll continue to write, share photography, and videos on my web site. You’re invited to keep in touch via e-mail. You’re also invited to stop by either in Florida or Mexico for a visit. There will be a guest room waiting for you in both locations!

The plan, as agreed upon by the congregation several months ago, is to have a special congregational meeting in the not-too-distant future at which time there will be a vote to officially call Pastor Joe as your new senior pastor, to take effect when I retire in mid-October. Pastor Rupert plans on staying as one of your pastors for a few months after my retirement to further facilitate the transition.

Though Diann and I have rejoiced in being a part of the life of Mayfair-Plymouth for such a long time (and part of your life too!) the church will go on without us. The vitality of Mayfair-Plymouth and your own spiritual walk with the Lord is dependent on the Lord, not any human being. Depend on Him! Love Him! Walk with Him! Yes, just stay close to Jesus!

With love, always, for His precious church, Mayfair-Plymouth,

Pastor Dave (and Diann)

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Good Reminder

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I know we all preach and teach this, but I know I sometimes have a more difficult time making application of the truth to my own life. I have found, though, that the people in my church who have helped me grow the most in the Lord are those with whom I don’t have a natural affinity or with whom I have had conflict. My faith in the Lord has also grown more by grappling with and accepting answers to my prayers that have disappointed rather than delighted.

God’s Gift of Time Being Linear

aaaaaaaaaasc copyReminds me of Jesus’ prayer,
“Give us THIS DAY our DAILY bread.”

Christmas Hymn

You have my permission to use the following song
I wrote for your Christmas celebration or worship.

It’s sung to the public domain tune “Immortal, Invisible”
I would appreciate it if you’d let me know you used the song
and give me credit with my name and web site –

” Copyright 2001 by David J. Claassen — http://www.daveclaassen.com
It’s Christmas

It’s Christmas, it’s Christmas, a time of great joy,
A stable, a manger, the birth of a boy.
The leaving of heaven to earth He came down,
Relinquishing glory and heaven’s great crown.

The stars on that dark night were lost in the light
As heaven’s great chorus to earth took their flight.
Amazed were the angels at what God had done;
They let loose with praise for the gift of the Son.

God’s heaven was emptied of His only Son.
The shepherds, in awe, to the village did run.
The wise men, they came from a distance so far,
To worship the Christ Child, announced by a star.

It’s Christmas, it’s Christmas, a time to rejoice.
To make Him our King is our very own choice.
None other, none other we hail as our King;
His praises forever and ever we’ll sing!

Copyright 2001 by David J. Claassen
(Sung to the tune of “Immortal, Invisible”)

A Photovotional — Warming Up to God

evangelismThe accompanying photo shows me trying to communicate spiritual truth to a snowman. He may look like he’s smiling but, truth be told, I’m getting a cool reception, a downright cold shoulder! Maybe I have him snowed; his eyes looked glazed over, don’t they? OK, enough of this silliness. When I took this picture in Iowa it was really cold. I mean really cold! Thankfully, while my wife Diann quickly took the picture the snowman cooperated and never moved a muscle, an icicle, whatever. We dashed inside to get warm (the two of us, not the snowman).

Sometimes I set up a picture to communicate a message, as was the case here. People can be cool to receiving input, and that includes spiritual input. Putting it more personally, it’s good to reflect on just how open we are to letting God get through to us.

This is the first week in Advent, Advent being the period of time beginning the fourth Sunday before Christmas (which was last Sunday). Advent is viewed as a time of preparation, to get ready to celebrate Christmas.

As awesome and humongous and glorious as God is, He will not impose Himself on us. Perhaps His greatest miracle is the ability to hide Himself from us when we really don’t want to find Him! He gives us the freedom and space to do with Him as we want. Even if we’re really serious about Him there are still a great many distractions and attractions we have to deal with and overcome in order to sensitize ourselves to His presence and working.

The Practice of the Presence of God is a small volume of the collected teachings of 17th century monk, Brother Lawrence. During this Advent season how about joining me in practicing the presence of God?

How can we do this? You know, I think I’m just going to leave that an open ended question. The Good Lord will help each of us figure out just how we might open ourselves up to Him. Let’s not be a Frosty the Snowman when it comes to faith! Instead, let’s warm up to the idea of a closer experience of God this Christmas season.

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