Several years ago I was on the phone with an adman in Los Angeles, hashing out the details of a promotion I was helping with. Now, the California coast is about as far removed from small-town Illinois as you could get. As we talked through the plans he asked me where I was from.
“It’s a little town in Illinois called ‘Kansas.’ You’ve never heard of it.”
“Wait,” he said. “Is that near Moonshine?”
Moonshine Illinois, population 2. The happiest little crossroads you’ll ever find. It’s the kind of place about which people say, “You can’t get there from here.” But once you find your way there you’re in for a treat in the finest hamburger you’ll ever eat–a Moonburger.
Getting to Moonshine is half the adventure and people from all over take on that adventure. The guestbook boasts signatures from every corner of the globe. Whenever we’re entertaining out-of-state guests we always plan a trip to Moonshine. I wouldn’t want anyone to miss it.
Any excuse to go to Moonshine will work but one of my favorites is the “Moonshine Leadership Summit.” Twice a year Rick Champ, Director of Partnership Development at Ignite Church Planting organizes the event that draws ministers from miles around to meet together and discuss the most pressing burdens facing our ministries that day.
Specifically, “What do you want on your Moonburger?”
If your calendar is like mine there are plenty of opportunities for seminars and conferences and continuing education. Too often rather then being times of renewal they become times of increased stress with travel, time away from the office and the inevitable follow up of “what did you learn and how will you implement it?” While these are valuable and often necessary, they can’t replace the simple pleasure of spending times with co-laborers in Christ.
I learned that value early on in ministry. While I was still in college and preaching on weekends, I would find opportunities to meet with the other more seasoned ministers in the area. Some of these were monthly county-wide meetings with no more of an agenda than “What’s happening in your church?” and “Where are we going for lunch?” Still, those meetings were formative for me. I learned through the candor and experience of others who had been at this longer than I had been alive.
In my first full-time ministry, a neighboring preacher invited me to join his monthly, “Ministry Symposium.” This was a more formal and organized affair where two men would present lessons on the chosen topic (perhaps a chapter from a book of the Bible we were studying together or a particular aspect of ministry). Following our presentations we would defend ourselves with question and answer time. It was often brutal and took me back to my college days of term papers and reports. However, since it was also held at a buffet, there was still that wonderful time of fellowship that energized us as we served together.
A few years later, I volunteered to head up our “Tri-county Ministerial Alliance.” To encourage growth and depth in our ministries I talked the attendees into asking for funds from their churches to pay for a yearly “Excellence in Ministry” seminar. We would bring in a speaker (often from one of the local Bible colleges) to cover a topic for a day. These ran for several years and were well attended and very practical.
“As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.” That quote from Proverbs 27:17 is well-known and well-appreciated but is it also well-implemented in your ministry? I’m not talking about accountability groups or mentors or even “who is your Timothy and who is your Barnabas?” I’m talking about “who is your friend?”
Too many guys are serving on their own. Their occupation and position in the community cut them off from significant relationships with others in their church. The statistics are staggering–fifteen hundred pastors leave the ministry each month due to moral failure, spiritual burnout or contention in their churches. How many of those guys have hurt silently because they have no opportunity for fellowship with those who know their deepest struggles best?
Our excuses rival those of our most adamant nominal church members. “I don’t have any time for meetings” and even “I don’t get anything out of those meetings.” Maybe it’s not for you. Maybe it’s for that other guy who needs your support and partnership in a work where he feels out of his element and is sinking into depression.
There is only one Moonshine. For better or for worse they won’t be selling any franchises near you. But whether it’s an area monthly ministers’ meeting or an afternoon in a coffee shop with a friend, wherever you are I hope you have a little Moonshine in your ministry.
So how about it? How do you connect with the others serving in your area? Please share in the comments.