Category Archives: pastor

Because this is not about me

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Martha and Alex’s softball team, the Aftershock, won by a one point in the last inning.

This is about others. I’m the Valley Boy Pastor, but the church is about the members, and helping them to get into right relationship about God. They are Christ-followers, and He is the center of attention. My talents or lack thereof are immaterial. I dedicate myself to God’s people, not them to me.

So why do I show up at member’s softball game? Because this is about them. They are important (not me). They are the center of attention.

2 Cor. 10:8 says that pastors are supposed to “build up,” not tear down, their congregants. So I strive to show them how special they are to Christ. And in 1 Chron 14:2, David understands that God raised him up for the good of the people, not for the good of David.

Pastor, get off your pride trip. You are just a facilitator to help men get to God. You are tool the toolbox of the Master Fixer, Jesus. When does the tool brag about the fix the Master does. God is moving in the Lighthouse Church in Van Nuys, part of the Christian Fellowship Ministries.

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The upside down pastor

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For the upside down pastor, the church is there to serve him, not he the church. And not only serve him, they must admire him. He alone does everything right. He alone hears from God. He alone tells everyone what to do. He gets all the credit and doesn’t credit others.

I think I was an upside down pastor when I started 20 years ago. Success bolstered my fragile ego. Being a pastor provided me with the affirmation I so often lacked in life. The incredible thing is that God used me despite being upside down.

Now I’m starting a new church, and I hope to get it right. The people are the focus, not me. I’m there to serve them, to help them realize their destiny in God. It’s not about me. It’s about them, and it’s about Jesus.

The upside down pastor gets mad easily when things don’t go his way. He prays for people to do what he thinks they should do. He alone hears from God. Praise time is showmanship.

If you’re an upside down pastor, you can put things right side up. 2 Cor. 10:8 says God has given the pastor authority to build up his congregants, not tear them down. 2 Sam. 5:12 says that David perceived that God had established him, not because he was better than others, but “for his people Israel’s sake.” Your existence is for them.

You can turn things right side up.

Mr Toad’s Wild Ride 2

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When we left for Guatemala in October 1994, we didn’t have kids.

I’m Mr. Toad. The first time, I whirled my wife, Dianna, off to Guatemala for a crazy adventure of lurches and swerves called being a missionary for almost 16 years. There were thrills and discomforts. It was definitely not a luxury and leisurely tooling through the park.

Gear up for Ride #2. We just got re-ordained for another mission, this time in Van Nuys, which I kind of already started with a Bible study. I’m calling myself the Valley Boy Pastor, a gimmick to remind myself to not take myself so seriously. The 6-year break between gigs was boring. Rest made me restless.

Dianna has supported me 100% through poverty and privation. There was abundant danger and betrayals. At the same time, we saw emotionally-rewarding turnarounds as gang-bangers, alcoholics, fornicators and others straightened up in Jesus.

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Re-ordination last night at the Tucson Door Christian Center Bible conference0. The church belongs to the Christian Fellowship Ministries.

Are you ready, Dianna, for another adventure, careening recklessly through whatever may come in the unpaid, unappreciated job of pastoring pioneering a new church?

Even as I became a youth, I always found Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride at Disneyland to be charming and delightful. If you haven’t gone on the 1955-original ride at the theme park, a car turns abruptly through apparent crashes and narrow escapes. By today’s standards, the special effects are quaint at best. For some reason, I loved it as a kid. For some reason, I lived it as an adult.

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Burned out or bored out (of your mind)

IMG_9853It seemed like I teetered on burn out for many years in Guatemala. I always asked God to take me home before I burned out. I think that’s what happened.

But now that I have been serving in the mother church for six years, I’m bored to tears. I’m aching to get out on the field and play (and not sit on the bench). Maybe you can relate:

Then I said, I will not make mention of Him nor speak any more in His name. But His word was in my heart as a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I was weary with forbearing, and I could not hold my tongue. — Jeremiah 20:9

IMG_9875He who is called can’t escape the call. Any other life will only reap frustration and misery. Are you tired of ministry? Consider the alternative. Are you running from your calling? You’ll only be miserable.

My recent trip to Guatemala only confirms the urging in my heart.

Far from my wife on her bday

IMG_9800There wasn’t a good time to come to Guatemala. First we determined Hosea would come with me, so we had to renew his passport. Then we looked for cheap tickets. The result? We are missing Dianna’s birthday?

We celebrated it early. Di likes Chinese, Rebekah Japanese, I Mexican, Rob red meat and Hosea Idk. So we opted for middle ground: Italian. That’s how we celebrate at the Ashcraft house.

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Italian food was the compromise.

I am currently in Guatemala, preaching the gospel. There are sacrifices for serving God. But these sacrifices are better than the sacrifices in the world: parents who sacrifice their kids for money, for example.

Still, I’m missing her.

Back to what God has for me

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Then I said, I won’t talk about God anymore. But His word was in my heart burning like a fire in my bones, and I couldn’t bear it. — Jeremiah 20:9

I don’t know how people get out of ministry and manage to forget it. They move on to making money. They compromise their morals. I got a good look at this sort of thing when I rested from being a pastor for six years. I left the mission field and haven’t started a new church. Hopefully I will soon. It has been a more or less miserable time.

Right now I’m ministering in my old haunts. I had been a missionary/pastor/founder of a Christian school for 16 years. I’m visiting once again. My three kids were born here, but only Hosea, my youngest, is with me, seeing his childhood buddies. It is a blessing to see everyone again. There is no greater life to live than to speak God’s word and help people come to Him.

Let your imagination run wild!

EliManningAs Peyton Manning was winning his second Super Bowl, the cameras panned his family. A grim-faced Eli Manning, who quarterbacks for the New York Giants, just got his record (two Super Bowls) equaled. The media speculated wildly: He was mad that his brother and rival tied him. He was no longer the favored child. Etc. and nauseating etc.

It turns out the wild imaginations were all projecting their own evil thoughts on poor Eli. Yes, he had a grim face, but not because he had a rivalry with his brother. He was thinking, he came forward to clear up the record, about strategy. What would the Broncos do next to guarantee the win? Deep in playroom cogitations, he didn’t show on his face the rejoicing of the rest of the family.

No, you’re not “hearing” the Holy Spirit guessing what a brother or sister is thinking. If you suspect evil in his heart, maybe it’s your own evil. Maybe, if YOU had that face it would be because of some bad thoughts. But maybe the other person not so.

Pentecostal Christians make a mess of church ministry by confusing psychological projection with Holy Spirit thinking. Don’t pay attention to the face. Just preach the word and love people. Don’t judge them based on their face.

Ha ha ha! Orange marmalade has ‘wires’

Orange-marmalade1The pungent and sweet taste of orange marmalade is one I missed as a missionary in Guatemala. So when we got back to the U.S. a few years ago after 16 years abroad, I got it, and I shared it with my youngest son. To put it mildly, Hosea didn’t like it.

“Dad! It tastes like it has wires!” He was somewhere between aghast and livid. He believed it was his duty to inform me what I didn’t know. The rind gratings — um — were grating to his palate.

Of course, I cracked up. For his ingenuousness, thinking I didn’t know it had rind gratings. For his descriptiveness.

This is how I feel when newbie leaders want to give me a lecture on spirituality. When does the senior ever let the freshman tell him how to play varsity football? You have to take things with humor or it can be a discouraging thing coming back into your mother church. And you gotta enjoy the orange marmalade despite what people say.

Don’t pass over to the dark side of the force

star warsSometimes I tune out the movie-maker’s message and get my own. Such was the case of Star Wars. I’m a middle-aged pastor, who’s between churches right now. I’ve gone through some tough experiences, disillusions, etc. I can see how it would be easy to grow bitter, to rack up the negatives experiences and to snipe. So God spoke to me about the danger of passing over to the dark side of the force, as the movie says. It would be easy. I could be very effective. BUT, I would be in darkness.

This post goes out to all the aging pastors who have lost of the sense of romance when you’re young and starting ministry. Maybe you’ve been removed from ministry, suffered financial hardships, gone through unfair circumstances. Don’t pass over to the dark side. Renew yourself in the Lord, rejuvenate, refresh. Let waters flow into the desert and make it a lush garden again.

The only basis for pastoring

basis for pastoringA pastor holds a delicate position in society. His job is to get his people into right relationship with God. He must not confuse his will with God’s will. Because he speaks the word of God in the name of God, he can mistakenly think everything he says is of God. He can abuse the trust given him by insisting on his way, by wanting always to get the credit, by injecting self into ministry.

If you love others selflessly, you’ll do well in the pastorate. If you love God above all else, you’ll do well. Beware if you love self intensely. You are going to hurt the flock of God.

The cantina brought him back to Christ

Iglesias del Companerismo Cristiano | GuatemalaOnce drunk with co-workers in a cantina after hours, former Christian leader Otoniel Rodriguez began to defend the gospel against their trash talk.

“Don’t mess with the gospel,” growled Oto, who, despite being backslidden himself, respected the truth profoundly. “Men make mistakes. But the gospel is something that God has given and is perfect.”

The argument grew heated, and he and his boss fell to blows. The police came, and Oto punched a cop. They wrestled him to the ground and handcuffed him. If it weren’t for a friend who just happened to be a friend of the cop, he would have been carted off to jail.

Whew! What a way to come back to Jesus – by way of a beer brawl!

The next day he woke up hung-over and spied a dirty Bible in the corner of his ramshackle sheet metal and wooden post house in the poorest neighborhood of Guatemala, only four blocks away from the city’s dump. Over time, he managed to block out the repulsive stench wafting from the dump, he says.

All he got out of the Bible that day was more condemnation for his sin. He cried out to God. For two and a half years, he’d gone from being a respected church leader to a heavy drinker and womanizer.

“God, I don’t want to go to Hell,” he cried. “If You can give me a chance, do it.” Read the rest of the amazing testimony.