What is Love?

“What is love, baby don’t hurt me, don’t hurt me, no more.:” –Haddaway
I’ve heart a lot of opinions about love in my lifetime and I would sum up our world’s definition of love as relationships void of pain. But is a relationship void of pain really full of love?
After a difficult ministry season my wife and I went on a quiet retreat. I had experienced great conflicts, unfair accusations, and was held in resentment by people close to me. While normally pretty resilient, I was beginning to crumble inside. I spent time in prayer asking God to immerse me in His love and give me the courage to continue in these difficulties. It was then I found myself singing an old hymn.

The Love of God is greater far than any pen or tongue can tell.
It goes beyond the highest height and reaches to the lowest hell…
To write the love of God above would drain the ocean dry.
Nor could the scroll contain the whole though stretched from sky to sky…
The love of God so rich and pure, so measureless and strong,
it shall forever more endure, the saints and angel’s song.

He reminded me that responding to the love of God would guarantee that people would hate us (1 Jn 3:13), and that to continue in this loving relationships with Him by faith I might feel abandoned by Him from time to time (Job 13:15). His loving plan for my life might even involve painful experiences (2 Co 12:8). Dr. Henry Cloud points out in Boundaries in Marriage that “ just because someone is in pain doesn’t necessarily mean that something bad is happening…. (Is it) pain that leads to injury? (Or is it) pain leads to growth?” I realized the pain I was experiencing was not leading to permanent injury, even the fact that it led me to cry out to God was indicating it was pain that was leading to my spiritual and relational growth!
I prayed that He would cast me so far into the oceans of His love that I couldn’t swim back to my flesh even if I tried. I prayed that He would plunge me into the depths of His love so far I couldn’t swim back up to the surface of earthly resentments even if I was tempted to.
In “The Lego Batman Movie” the Joker is trying to convince Batman that he is the villain Batman hates the most. Batman says to Joker: “I see what you’re trying to do. You’re trying to entrap me into a relationship.” Joker says to Batman, “Do you realize, [in all these years], you’ve never once said, ‘I hate you, Joker.’? Listen to this, ‘I hate you, Batman.’ Now your turn.” And Batman replies, “Me too.” To which Joker replied, “I am not going to be part of a one-sided relationship any longer!” I sat there considering whether you can hate without acknowledging love? Can you be an atheist without acknowledging there is something not to believe in?
The Bible doesn’t define love as the absence of pain. Infact, Jesus willingness to experience a painful crucifixion is His demonstration of love for us. “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life.”  Sounds painful to me!  The Bible defines love as the absence of fear (1 John 4:18).  So while love may involves pain, we don’t have to be afraid of the pain.  Love covers a multitude of pains!

for more articles by this author see http://www.choosemercy.org

Why Pastor In Residence Ministries?


Have you ever lost a job? It’s never a fun experience. It hurts. Cleaning out your office is hard. Then the questions start. What am I going to do? How will we pay the bills? What will we do about health insurance? Will we lose our home?
When a pastor transitions out of a church, there are more conversations. He has to comfort his wife’s tears as she loses her community. He has to explain to his kids why they can’t go to church with their friends anymore. And while many people can change jobs without changing homes, for most pastors, a change of churches requires moving to another city. A pastor and his family invest their whole world into the church, their home, their community, and all their Christian relationships.
My wife and I are in a transition of our own. Two years ago we found mold in our attic because it wasn’t vented properly. We spend a lot of time and money fixing the problem. Recently we realized our kids rashes, stomach aches, and other symptoms may be from mold. We have been displaced from our home for three weeks this time. Fortunately, we’re finding it may not be our home, but our belongings. We are in the process of losing all our clothes and porous possessions. Why do we care so much about where we live and what we wear? I don’t know but we do.
In John 21 Jesus said to Peter, “18 Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, you used to dress yourself and walk wherever you wanted, but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will dress you and carry you where you do not want to go.
Many pastors have a Peter calling and this effects the whole family. Sometimes they find the Lord’s plan is difficult. Pastor In Residence (PIR) Ministries exists to help pastors and their families in the difficult transitions of ministry. http://www.pirministries.org   Many pastors transition every 4 – 10 years and many of these transitions last 12-18 months. If you’re a pastor and you don’t know what is next, you’re not alone. You’re not crazy. Be encouraged. God’s plan may be uncomfortable but He always takes care of His kids.

The road I have traveled has sometimes been steep,
through wild jagged places of life.
Sometimes I’ve stumbled and fallen so hard
that the stones cut my soul like a knife.
But the staff of my Shepherd would reach out for me
and lift me to cool pastures green.
With oil of the spirit anointing my wounds,
there I’d rest by the clear healing stream.
Oh, but now more than ever I cherish the cross.
More than ever I sit at His feet.
All the miles of my journey have proved my Lord true,
and He is so precious to me.
Is Love’s Old Sweet Story too good to be true?
Do you find all this hard to believe?
Has the cruel world we live in so battered your heart
that the hurt child inside you can’t grieve?
I can’t say I blame you.
I’ve been where you are.
But all I can say is it’s true!
You’re wanted, You’re precious,
You’re the love of His heart,
and the old rugged cross is for you.
More Than Ever lyrics © Warner/Chappell Music, Inc.

David Strengthened Himself In The Lord


As a pastor I spend most of my time in one of two areas.  I serve people suffering weakness, like hospitalizations or financial needs, and I spend time responding to conflicts like  broken marriages and church disagreements.  I was recently encouraged by Dr. Zack Eswine (The Imperfect Pastor) when he shared the story of how David responded to these things in 1 Samuel 30.

In previous chapters David had been fleeing King Saul who was trying to kill him and then he was rejected by the Philistine leaders in 1 Samuel 29 who didn’t approve of him.  In the beginning of chapter 30 David and his men were raided and all their wives and children were taken.  David’s men were so upset they wept till they had no more strength to weep, and then they talked of stoning David.  And the Bible says, “David encouraged himself in the Lord.”  As we continue reading, some of David’s men were so overcome with grief they were too weak to go recapture their wives and children, so 200 of them stayed behind.  Upon reclaiming all the wives and children and plundering the Amalekites, the 400 who went resented the 200 who stayed back and refused to share the plunder with them.

And David, having strengthened himself in the Lord, was able to “manage well with all dignity” (1Ti3:4) and give grace to them all.  Those too weak to contribute were blessed alongside those who worked hard for it.  And those in conflict, who were filled with resentment, were blessed alongside those who had been overcome by love for their families.  May we strengthen ourselves in the Lord and bless those who are weak and those who are angry.

Be encouraged; God’s grace is for you.

Creating a Culture of Ministry Health

Dear Church Board and Chairperson,

Management Consultant Peter Drucker called church leadership “the most difficult and taxing role he knew.”1  LifeWay Research Vice President Scott McConnell said of pastors, “This is a brutal job, churches ought to be concerned.”2  100% of pastors surveyed by the Francis A. Schaeffer Institute of Church Leadership Development had a close associate or seminary friend who had left the ministry due to church conflict, stress related burnout, or a moral failure.3 

Until your church is large enough to hire an executive pastor, you as a board are the human resources department.  It is a huge responsibility to steward your employees, and stewarding the pastoral position has unique challenges.

If you want to create a culture of ministry health and growth, you need to intentionally identify and address the risks that could sabotage your goal. Below are 10 questions that reflect the challenges that you and your pastor face, as researched by Dr. Charles A. Wickman in Pastors at Risk (note chapter references in parentheses).

  1. How do we become unified with our pastor to clarify, communicate, and contend for God’s vision for our church? (Ch#4) “The primary stressor experienced by pastors, leading the most often to forced resignation, is vision conflict.” -Wickman/Spencer4
  2. How do we help our pastor by setting appropriate and manageable expectations of our pastor and clearly communicating them to him and our church? (Ch#7) “In a survey asking how exited pastors experienced stress in their ministry, role conflict was a top ranked producer of stress second only to conflict over how ministry was to be done in the church.” –Wickman5
  3. How are we helping our pastor train volunteers and delegate (administrate) responsibilities? (Ch#6)George Barna has discovered that while 69% of the pastors of effective churches have preaching/teaching as their primary gift emphasis, administration and leadership are found in only 15% of these pastors.” – John Hawco6
  4. How are we facilitating healthy communication in our church? (Ch#9) “Most church conflict results from poor communication.” -Rick Warren7
  5. How do we help our pastor manage the grief and loss he experiences regularly and create a culture of joy? (Ch#11) “Ministry is fraught with grief because of difficulty in relationships between sheep and shepherd, people and pastor.” -John A. MacArthur8
  6. How do we help our pastor manage stress related burnout and encourage him to have enough rest? (Ch#1-2) “75% of pastors experience a significant crisis that they faced due to stress in the ministry” -Fuller Institute9
  7. How do we help our pastor say no and handle the criticism that comes with it? (Ch#8) “All of the top at risk pastors said it was difficult for them to say no.” -Wickman10
  8. How do we help our pastor manage discouragement and encourage him to invest in self care? (Ch#3) “70% of pastors constantly fight depression.” -Fuller Institute11
  9. How do we support our pastor to pursue a healthy relationship with his wife? (Ch#10) “77% of pastors felt they did not have a good marriage.” -FASICLD 12
  10. How do we help our pastor manage isolation and encourage him to meet with pastors of other churches and denominations? (Ch#5) “Only a fellow minister can point out the width and depth of the rut in which a colleague may be running.” – Winton H. Beaven13

Thank you for investing in the health of your church by addressing the 10 Risks every church and its pastor face.  If you would like further resources or there’s any way we can support and strengthen your ministry, please don’t hesitate to contact us.

Serving Jesus together,


1 Grudem, Elliot. “Pour It Out,” Leadership Journal, Winter 2016.

2 Green, Lisa Cannon. “The One Percent;” Christianity Today, September 1, 2015.

3,8,9,11,12 Krejcir, Dr. Richard J. “Statistics On Pastors,” http://www.intothyword.org/apps/articles/?articleid=36562, 2007.

4,5,10, Wickman, Dr. Charles A. Pastors at Risk, 2014.

6 Hawco, John. “The Senior Pastor/Executive Pastor Team: A Contemporary Paradigm For The Larger Church Staff,” Dissertation, https://www.xpastor.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/12/hawco_john.pdf, 2005.

7 Warren, Rick. “Develop These 7 Skills When You Want People to Listen,” http://pastors.com/develop-these-7-skills-when-you-want-people-to-listen/, October 2, 2015.

8 MacArthur, John A. “Restoring the Grieving Pastor’s Joy,” https://www.gty.org/resources/sermons/47-48/restoring-the-grieving-pastors-joy-part-1, September 24, 1995.

13 Beaven, Winton H. “Ministerial Burnout-Cause and Prevention,” https://www.ministrymagazine.org/archive/1986/03/ministerial-burnout-cause-and-prevention, March 1986.

Pastor, Are You At Risk?

In 2012 my 10 year plan was completely derailed as I found myself exiting a pastoral position I loved.  In the wake of this painful transition I was introduced to the Pastor In Residence ministry to pastor’s and their wives.  Their at risk survey would have been a huge benefit to me on the front end had I known about it.

If you or those around you are feeling that something isn’t right about your present pastoral situation, please take this free survey created through years of research by Dr. Charles A. Wickman regarding the risks pastors face.

At-Risk Pastor Survey

May God richly bless you and your family.  Thank you for serving His church.


Waiting On Dad



As a young child I remember being afraid of going to kids church.  I would beg my dad not to make me go.  He would kneel down and put his right arm around me and show me his analog Michigan State watch. He’d say “see the second hand, when it goes around to right here is when I’ll be back to pick you up.” I would often wonder, what if he forgets, maybe he’s not coming back.  As a child my sense of security was in my dad and mom.

While on vacation I would often drive my dad nuts in the morning asking, “What are we doing today? What’s the plan?!” He would usually respond with, “I’m reading the newspaper, find something to do. Ok, sometimes he said, “Go play in the street!” If I didn’t know the plan, I felt insecure.

Recently I have done the same to God, asking “when are you coming, what’s the plan?” You get the idea. And I felt like He said, “Hang on a minute Jay, I’m holding hell at bay so you’re not crushed, and when I’m done, we’ll discuss what’s next.” Finding security in our Heavenly Father and His plan requires us to wait, watching the second hand of God’s watch while He deals with the newspaper of spiritual affairs.

In Daniel 10:13, Daniel is told the delay in the answer to his prayer is because God was dealing with the enemy. Daniel’s told, Do not be afraid, because you have humbled yourself and desired to gain understanding, though delayed 21 days, I have come to help you understand what’s next.

If you’re waiting on God in uncomfortable circumstances, “to those with an anxious heart, take courage, fear not, behold your God will come!” (Is 35:4) He makes all things beautiful in its time Eccl. 3:11.

When my wife was growing up, they would often sing a song at supper time when they were waiting on dad.  “Where is daddy, I don’t know. He was supposed to be here, 5 minutes ago!”

“Do not fear for I am with you, do not anxiously look about you for I am your God. Is 41:10


The Office Table


Table with Wade.jpg

This past year I made a table for my office. I wanted my kids to be able to come and sit across from me while they were doing their school work. So in essence, I prepared a table for my children.

Looking back, I think many of my favorite memories involve tables. We ate supper at the dining room table every night together growing up.  I remember having donuts on Saturday mornings at my Grandma June’s table. Grandpa Skipper would add tables in the living room when all the family gathered together over Thanksgiving. We always had a big bowl of popcorn and pizza rolls on the coffee table for Sunday night parties. How about lunch around the pool at the umbrella table in Florida?!

And God prepares a table for us as well. Psalm 23 says He prepares a table for us in the presence of our enemies. No matter how bad life is, God invites us to take a break and enjoy a meal together.

And do you realize the Christmas story involves a table?  When Jesus was born, the Bible says Joseph and Mary laid Him in a manger. A trough. A feeder. It’s basically a table for animals. So when Jesus came at Christmas, he didn’t sit at the kids’ table, he was assigned the animals’ table!

Every time Stephanie and I go to a wedding reception, at some point while sitting at the table enjoying being together, Stephanie will lean over and say, “I think this is the closest we’ll ever be to heaven here on earth.” She’s referring to the wedding banquet of the Lamb. Heaven will be a wedding reception!

God prepares a table for you. Have you come to eat? Have you prepared a table for someone else?!

Unexpected Delays

delayed flights

After Stephanie said yes to my wedding proposal, we sat on the top of the sand dunes over looking Lake Michigan and Silver Lake, and I handed her a Snickers bar and said, “Have a Snickers, we’re not going anywhere for a while!” Those next months leading up to our wedding seemed like the longest months of our lives.

Often times it feels like we need a Snickers in our relationship to God. We’re all excited about eternity with Him, and then it seems like His direction for tomorrow just vanishes. I know He’s promised, but why is this taking so long? Where did He go?

I wonder if that is how Job felt during his year of suffering? Or if Joseph ever had a Snickers moment in his two or more year imprisonment during his thirteen year debacle? How about David’s 8 years as a caveman? What was Paul doing during those fourteen years of obscurity between his miraculous conversion and his ministry? Zerubbabel endured a 16 year delay.  Maybe the servant of God I most want to talk to in heaven is Caleb, who faithfully and confidently waited 45 years in tents between seeing the promised land and living in it.

But I know for sure God didn’t forget these men. And He hasn’t forgotten you either. And I know for sure these hard events in their lives in no way damaged how God was to use them. Neither has what’s happened in your life damaged in any way how God has planned to use you from before you were born!

John 12:24 says, “Unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies it bears no fruit.” Death hurts so badly. Paul said, “I am called; that is why I have suffered” (2Ti. 1:11-12). When you are suffering, don’t think you were wrong about your calling. Your suffering PROVES that you are called. Have a Snickers – He will come.

About Choose Mercy

Choose Mercy was birthed on a journey from wrath to mercy. While many in the church think wrath is the appropriate response to disagreement, we think the New Testament calls us to choose mercy (Col. 3:12) We have a passion for supporting and encouraging pastors and their wives and children.  This comes from the comfort we have received in our own pastoral experiences and witnessed in the lives of pastoral colleagues. Unfortunately the pain of church conflicts, forced exits, health challenges, broken family relationships, and personal failures often leave us wondering how to move forward. Our greatest desire is for each of God’s children to know their Father’s heart for them, and for pastors to personally experience the love and grace they have preached to others for so many years.  If you know of a pastor in transition that we can come alongside, please email jason@pirministries.org.