Tag Archives: pastor

Meet Paul Lim

During a recent visit to Nashville, I was able to spend a couple of hours with Paul Lim, a man who has had a significant impact on my life as a professor, pastor, and friend.

I've learned a lot from this man.

I’ve learned a lot from this man.

My times with him are always enriching… and hilarious.

Anyhow, I wanted to take the time to congratulate him for recently receiving the prestigious Bainton Book Prize for his book, Mystery Unveiled: The Crisis of the Trinity in Early Modern England.  This review by Scott Clark goes into more detail about the book and its significance.  Very cool.

In addition to Paul’s many contributions to the academy, he’s also taught me a few other things:

1.  Pursuit of Excellence – Whether it was playing Paul in ping pong (he’s amazing) or listening to his theology lectures, I’ve really appreciated the effort Paul puts into whatever he does.  Paul’s verve for excellence really shows how much he cares, and as a student who would comb over his well-prepared notes, I really felt like he cared about me by his meticulous preparation.

2.  Humility – I think he’d probably laugh at this, but Paul is someone whose humility I really respect.  The dude is mad gifted and mad accomplished, but I’ve never met anyone as introspective as him when it comes to the motives of his heart.

3.  Being Who I Am – I don’t know how else to explain this, but Paul has taught me a lot about being who I am.  Paul models this well, in my opinion.  He is unabashedly who he is, and it’s really refreshing to be around.  But he’s also been able to point things out about me at different points in my journey that have been helpful in discovering who I truly am… in Christ.

I am so grateful for Paul in my life, and I’m excited to see his recent work get recognized (and I can’t wait to see how else God will use him in the future)!

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Advice for Church Planters

Today I was asked by some seminary students what advice I’d give to church planters.

After thinking about that question some more, I’ve listed five adages below that help keep me centered through the task of planting Hope Church NYC.

I imagine some people can relate to these, whether you’re a church planter or not.

*Each adage has a Bible verse italicized which I think captures the essence of each saying, I think. 

1.  Pray.  Now. (Psalm 27)

The two words go together for me.  I have to remember that above all else, God is the author and perfecter of my faith.  Prayer is the most obvious byproduct of remembering this truth.

As a church planter, it’s convenient for me to forget about God because there’s so much to do and there’s an insufferable feeling that it’s all on my shoulders.

Well, it’s not.  God’s ultimately in control.

The word “Now” is added because prayer is often the easiest thing to push to the back of my to-do list.

Perhaps there are some more urgent things to do as a church planter – but nothing more important.

Hence I need to pray.  Now.  Not Later.

2.  One Day at a Time (Matthew 6:34)

I alluded to this in a previous post, but this saying is extremely helpful for me.

I so want Hope to instantaneously be what I envision.

Too bad life doesn’t work that way.

Tina laughs at me when I ask her when she thinks we should add another service.

We’ve barely started laying the groundwork for the first, she reminds me.

How was the Great Wall Built?  One brick at a time.

3.  “Go, Sit in Your Cell, and Your Cell will Teach You Everything– A Saying by A Desert Father (Phil 4:11-13)

I’ve read/heard this phrase a few times over the years, and it comes from the Desert Fathers.

The saying could mean a lot of things, including the need for silence, solitude, and “think” space.

The way I take the phrase is to focus on what God’s given me to do, instead of peering out over the horizon at what everyone else is doing.

I’ve noticed that when I fall into the comparison trap, I lose sight of what God’s called me and our church to do.

I can get so concerned with other church plants or the latest trends in church world that I lose sight of our church and our community.

There are so many God moments that I might miss out on because I’m so enamored with what’s happening over there.

Meanwhile, all that’s happening right in front of me is quite sacred and beautiful.

4.  “What is This Life if, Full of Care, We Have No Time to Stand and Stare” – WH Davies (Exodus 20:8)

With all the stresses and tasks of church planting, it’s easy to feel miserable.  That is, if I don’t take the time to “stand and stare”.

For me, this means Sabbath-keeping and other disciplines that give me space to experience joy and pleasure.

This saying has been especially helpful since we have a newborn.  Although we look forward to getting out of these first twelve weeks with David (our son), Tina and I have been consciously enjoying this stage of our son’s life.

He’s such an adorable little guy, and it’d be so easy for me to miss out on precious moments with our son because I’m so caught up in the tasks I need to complete.

Sometimes as church planters we can sacrifice the wrong things for the sake of mission, as if it’s an honor to be a miserable church planter.

I’d much rather be a joyful church planter (who gets miserable sometimes).

5. Love God, Love People (Matthew 22:36-40) – ‘Nuff said.

Is there any advice you’ve found helpful as a church planter or entrepreneur?

The Spirituality of Failure

It’s a bit ironic to be talking about failure on Easter Sunday, especially since we celebrate the ultimate display of power and victory found in Christ’s resurrection. However, I’d argue that that the resurrection becomes all the more compelling in our own lives when we reflect upon our own failures relative to the triumph of the cross and empty tomb.

It’s like being a fan of the perennially losing LA Clippers (or NY Jets), only to have them win the Ultimate, Eternal, and Final NBA Title (or Super Bowl). I know, it’s a crude analogy, but trust me, this feeling of elation is that much sweeter when we’ve been losers most of the time.

I once read that after the age of 21, spiritual lessons are only learned through failure and suffering, NOT success. This is not to say that success is evil – this is just to say that success has very little to teach us when we’ve grown older, other than the temptations to think that we’re better than we actually are.

As one who loves success and is quite driven to succeed, this maxim is a problem for me. I love success too much to allow failure to happen, and when it does, I usually don’t think about spiritual lessons outside of “better not make a mistake again”.

As a pastor, it’s especially difficult for me to come to terms with failure because I convince myself of the stakes involved:
– the souls of people
– the families and marriages of people
– the welfare of a community

So in some insidious way, it’s often difficult for me as a pastor to accept failure that is inherent with being human, even though the very thing I want people to believe is that God loves them despite their failures!

Now that I’ve left the “official” role of a pastor and I can no longer lean on measurable ministry “success” to validate me as a person, I’ve begun to discover just how deeply I’m loved despite how I’m “succeeding”… or not “succeeding”. Quantifiable numbers like “attendance”, “baptisms”, etc, used to drive me, and although there’s nothing wrong with succeeding in these areas (in fact, I’d argue it’s good to have growing numbers in these areas!), I’m having to access the depth of spiritual truth found in a gospel that triumphs in love despite my non-success (or failures, even).

Moreover, I’m beginning to learn that “non-success” and failures actually teach one of the most necessary profound spiritual insights – that humility is at the heart of spiritual maturity.

There’s been a growing awareness these past few days that God wants to humble me in this season of my life – for me to see my dependence more acutely, and to trust God’s provision and abounding grace more ruthlessly.

With that, I’ve been praying the Jesus Prayer quite frequently in recent days, hoping to internalize the foundation of my spiritual lifeline with God.

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.

The above is my prayer for the summer.

But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us

For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!- Romans 5:8, 10

The above is God’s answer to my prayer. 

Easter Sunday – Resurrection Sunday to be exact – is glorious, indeed.