Thoughts About My Prayer Life

Many of you know that the past 18 months have been a bit challenging for me, as I lost the calling/career that I loved for 30 years.  In addition, I have been unsuccessful in trying to find new employment.  I spend most of my time looking for work.  When I am not seeking a job, I pray.  That pretty much summarizes my life right now.

My prayer life has gone through a few changes these past months.  Here are a few things I observed:

  1. Prayer is truly a conversation. In fact, it is the conversational part of the most important relationship I have.
  2. I don’t ask for much anymore. I still ask, but most of the time is just spent in conversation.
  3. I pray a lot more, but I say a lot less. I spend most of the time listening.
  4. When I do talk, I mostly pray Scripture. Most of the words I use now are not very original.
  5. When I am not praying Scripture, if I am talking, I normally ask questions.
  6. While I ask a lot of questions, God does not give me many answers.
  7. When Jesus does give a response to my questions, He normally answers with another question. As I read the gospels, this is what He often did.  It is amazing how often Jesus does not answer people’s questions, but instead answers with a question of His own.  Sometimes He just changes the subject to talk about what is really important.

I am not sure what this says about my prayer life, but it reminds me that Jesus values the health of my soul more than the things I normally ask for.

A letter about the next phase of my ministry

Family, friends, and colleagues,

I wanted to update you as to how our Great God is leading me and my family as we continue to grow in His grace and knowledge daily.  God has blessed me with many unique life experiences and ministry opportunities over the years.  I was quite discouraged for some time, trying to fit how God was leading me into ministry templates designed by others that fit their context, but not my own.  Through intense times of seeking God combined with the input of godly counsel, the Lord has confirmed that I am to pursue a different type of ministry that He is putting together, tailor-made for my calling.

After three decades of pastoral ministry, including planting churches, acting as chaplain, serving as a children’s/youth worker, leading as camp director, and shepherding existing congregations, I am now beginning a private ministry that will serve pastors and local church fellowships.  Details can be found at bheinen.com.  Many pastors, especially those serving in smaller congregations, often need people to come alongside and encourage them and assist them with duties that they don’t have time to fulfill.  The foundation of this new ministry is prayerful dependence upon our mighty God, and I will take every opportunity I can to personally pray for my pastor friends, and hope to participate in various community and church-based prayer events.  My family remains committed to praying specifically for our neighbors as we reach them with the love and truth of Jesus Christ.  How can we pray for you?

To exalt Jesus, I will focus on three main areas:

  1. Communicator. I hope to give pastors a needed break by providing church pulpit supply.  I also am available to speak at camps and conferences.  I am a trained FaithSearch Discovery presenter, and encourage your church or group to host this wonderful evangelism/apologetics seminar.  Check out what FaithSearch is all about at org.
  2. Counselor. Many pastors just don’t have as much time to invest in biblical counseling as they desire.  I will make myself available to help busy pastors out in this area.  I am now a SYMBIS premarital assessment facilitator, and would love to do premarital counseling for those whose pastors are too busy to do so.  I am also a certified Fresh Hope group facilitator, and hope to lead support groups all around our community for those with a mental health diagnosis (and those who love them).
  3. Coach. The role of a life coach is to help people decide where they want to go in certain areas of their lives and help them get there.  The Christian Life Coach helps people discover where Jesus Christ wants them to go, and helps them get there by the power of the Holy Spirit.  I would love to help individuals and groups be all that Christ wants them to be.  My special areas of interest are Spiritual Formation, and equipping people going through transitions in life (such as the homeless).  If your church is transitioning between pastors right now, I would love to “coach” your entire church family by making myself available to serve as an interim pastor.

Jesus Christ is my life, my everything.  I want everyone to know Him.  To borrow words from the apostle Paul, “Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ” (Colossians 1:28 ESV).  This is my desire.  Would you help me?

I need your prayer!  Only the Holy Spirit can change hearts and lives.  I simply want to be His instrument.  Contact me to be part of our prayer team.

I need your financial partnership.  Would you prayerfully consider giving a generous gift to help me get started?  How about a monthly gift?  I hope to make all my services available for whatever people can afford.  This means I will need supporters like you to supplement what clients can give.  Right now, until we become a 501c3 organization, donations will just be considered gifts and are not tax deductible.  You can give by sending a gift to our home address or by visiting bheinen.com.

I need you to use my services and refer them to others.  How can I serve you?  Your group?  Your church family?  Please let your friends know I am available.  I can’t wait to share my incredible Savior with you and your friends.

Please contact me if you have any questions or if I can help in any way.

Rev. Brian Heinen

802 E 23rd Street    Russellville, AR 72802

(479) 886-0765    bheinen.com    brheinen1@gmail.com

My Unique Job Search

For the past sixteen months, I have been looking for new employment. (See Desperate for a New Start in the New Year, Fiery Trials, and Grief.) It has been quite a journey, filled with disappointment and wonderful opportunity to seek God. I lost count, but think I applied for about 1,500 jobs. In addition, I post my resume on employment and ministry websites. I contacted every district in the denomination in which I serve multiple times. I did have some success, earning my insurance license, and going off to training to sell health insurance supplements. I attempted to sell insurance twice (see Selling Jesus), failing miserably and losing lots of money. In between those fiascos, I delivered pizza and did dishes. I enjoyed this job, but the tips and salary from twenty hours per week didn’t do much to support my family and pay for the $1,500 in car repairs I incurred. I ended my delivery job to make lots of money in the insurance world (see above).

Throughout this search, I am constantly asked by family and friends the same questions. Rather than answer each of them individually, I thought I would write them down and put them on my blog where people can access them. Here are the questions:

Why can’t you find a pastoral position? I gave my answer in the blog post, The Pastor’s Unforgiveable Sin.

Did you try ______? I heard they were hiring. This is very common. I am so thankful for the input of so many caring people. I pursued EVERY lead I was given, but to no avail.

Have you tried chaplaincy? Yes! I apply to every prison and hospital chaplaincy job in the state (and several out-of-state). I also apply to hospice chaplaincy openings within driving distance. Despite serving as hospital/nursing home chaplain for four years, I do not qualify for hospital chaplaincy because I don’t have the required Clinical Pastoral Education credits. For about one year I pursued an opening in a chaplaincy residency program in Little Rock where I could earn CPE’s, and finally had a terrific interview, but was turned down.

Why not become a substitute teacher? I went through the thorough background checks and training to be a sub, but only received one call in two months to come in, which happened to be on a day when I was not available. I needed something which would better provide for my family, so I went off to sell insurance (see above).

Are you being too picky? I apply for EVERY job opening I see, both part and full-time.

Do you apply for jobs not in Russellville? Yes, but to move it would have to be financially well-worth it. Our current mortgage is cheaper than any rent we could find. Not having income for over a year has resulted in us not having any money to move or pay security deposit and first/last months’ rent. We can’t afford to move. Besides, our girls are at home here.

Have you had anyone teach you interviewing skills? Have you had anyone review your resume? I had experts look at my resume, which is adequate. The problem is, about 95% of the jobs I am applying for require an online application, not a resume. I also listened to critiques of my interviewing ability. I interview well. The last interview was described as “excellent” by the interviewer.

Does Leah get disability? She does not qualify. She does not have enough work credits. We applied several times and have gone through the appeal process. We also sought advice from a law firm that is one of the top disability firms in the state.

Do you receive unemployment? I do not qualify.

Did you receive job retraining? I continue to check into this. My aptitude for welding isn’t very good, so I didn’t go through welding training. Ditto for auto mechanic. My bad eyes, arthritic fingers and shoulder, and feet with non-diabetic neuropathy don’t help. I am attempting some online computer training and all I can say is, “ha, ha!”.

Have you worked with any employment agencies? Yes. I also talked to people at the nearby university and a community college. I often seek help from our local Workforce office.

When I answer these questions, people do not understand why I can’t find a job. This is especially true when companies have signs out front telling the world they are hiring. I don’t understand, either. To be honest, I am tired of explaining my journey, and often feel blamed for what is happening. Obviously, I must be doing something wrong! And I agree with that sentiment, and go home at night battling depression, shame, and feelings of failure. When I talk to people, sometimes I feel I must defend why I can’t get a job! But I don’t have any answers or defense.

This is especially true when I hear of the homeless, addicted, or recently incarcerated finding jobs within three or four months. One teenage girl I know found four jobs in twelve months! I don’t understand.

One thing I learned – More important than your skills and experience is who you know.

Some told me to follow my passions. I still desire to live a life sharing Jesus with others. I am pursuing certification in biblical counseling and life coaching. But I do not see any open doors to walk through to serve in this way at this time.

What is God teaching me? One simple lesson – my identity is not found in my reputation, my education, my background, my vocation, my position, or my ministry – it is found in Christ and Christ, alone. I taught this for years, but now must live it. I don’t have any reputation anymore. My education makes me overqualified. My background doesn’t mean a thing. I currently have no position and no ministry. I am now a nobody. But I have Jesus. And He is enough.

Thoughts About Myself After the Election

Well, it is over.  But in many ways, it is just starting.  I am not just talking about the election and the beginning of the Trump administration.  I am referring to the division we see in families, churches, and neighborhoods.  This election season has not so much caused but revealed the deep divide in our nation that has been simmering under the surface.  This divide takes many forms – racial, economic, gender-based, religious, and political.  Yet, whatever the form, it shows us not just what is in our country, but what is in our own hearts.

My heart grieves for those who are now fearful and confused.  Some of these fears are legitimate and others are the result of people with loud voices/blogs/podcasts/media empires on both the right and the left who greatly benefit financially if such divides exist.  Causing division is big business!  My heart is saddened by the many, again on both the right and the left, who feel that they are forgotten (even invisible), without a voice, and without a champion to further their cause.

I must give a word of clarification.  There always will be division.  There must be.  Jesus, Himself said, “Do you think that I have come to give peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division.”  Jesus, who is Light and Truth and Love, will always be separated from that which is dark, and false and unloving.  If we are followers of Christ, so will we.  There is no place for compromise and a squishy, weak unity based on empty platitudes.  But standing for truth is not the same as being a jerk.  Pride and selfishness always divides in a way that makes reconciliation impossible.  Light, Truth and Love may rightly divide, but they can also change darkened, deceived and hateful hearts.

I hear and read many voices saying many different things.  Some of what is said is valid.  Much of what is said is a mixed bag of truth and falsehood.  Many words are nothing but emotion.  Some are emotionless and unsympathetic.  As I attempt to add my own voice to the cacophony of opinions out there, I realize I don’t have much to say.  I certainly don’t have anything to say that hasn’t been said before.  I don’t have a large and influential voice that will somehow change the tide of public opinion.  But hopefully my words can make a difference to one person – myself.

  1. I need to remind myself to be slow to speak, and quick to listen. I wrote a blog post about this entitled, “Slow to Speak,” where I go into greater detail concerning this.  Please take a few minutes and review my humble opinion.  Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God. (James 1:19-20 ESV).  Could it be that we have so much anger because everyone is talking, but no one is listening?
  2. I need to tell myself that when I do speak, I MUST always do so in love. Even when I am right and when I am speaking truth, I should never use the truth as a club to beat someone into submission so I can win the argument.  Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, (Ephesians 4:15 ESV).
  3. I need to be careful with whom I am aligned. If I am a Christ-follower, the very reputation of Jesus Christ is at stake.  I need others to see my allegiance to Jesus, or else I will be seen as someone else’s pawn.  You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. (James 4:4 ESV)
  4. Jesus cares about all this craziness and confusion and deeply loves us crazy and confused people, even if we have rebelled against His loving and deserved rule over us. He has the answer – Himself!  … but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8 ESV)
  5. Just as God is love and love motivates all that God does, I am to love. I am to love God and my neighbor.  Even my enemy!  A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. (John 13:34 ESV).  Love does not mean I will stay silent to not offend those set in their ways.  I am to love my neighbor enough to share the love and the truth of Jesus with them, even if I risk losing their positive opinion of me.  If I love them in Jesus’ Name, I risk that they might divide from me because of Jesus in me.  But may they never be divided from me (and maybe even from Jesus) because of my unloving/proud/arrogant attitudes, words, and actions.

I guess I do have some things to say after this election.  I hope I listen.

 

The pastor’s unforgivable sin

Thirty years ago when I started full-time ministry, there was an unspoken, unforgivable sin for pastors in the conservative, evangelical world where I found myself – don’t get divorced.  If you did, for whatever reasons, your ministry was over.  It was in the “liberal” churches that divorced pastors could find a home.  Today that has changed.  I have many divorced friends now serving as pastors of evangelical congregations.  This blog post is not to discuss if this is right or wrong, or even good or bad.  It is simply to point out, “The times, they are a changin.”

However, there is another unspoken, unforgivable sin for pastors that remains.  Surprisingly, it is on the opposite end of the marriage spectrum.  While divorce involves the breaking of marriage vows, this other unforgivable sin has to do with keeping them.  This other sin is this – if you are married to a spouse with mental illness, your ministry is over.  Let me tell you my story.

My family and I have been in several small, often struggling churches over the years.  We have greatly enjoyed our opportunities to shepherd some wonderful people, but the difficult assignments have been hard on my wife and three daughters.  My wife’s health has suffered.  Many years ago, she was diagnosed with a mental illness.  For years she responded well to treatment, but the side effects of her medicine lead to weight gain and fatigue.  This, along with the stressful pressures of ministry, has resulted in her battling arthritis, colitis and fibromyalgia.  She is in constant pain.  She has very little strength or energy and has difficulty living up to the unwritten pastor’s wife expectations that most churches have.  When she reached menopause, her tired and broken body could no longer fight the mental struggles, even with the help of medication.  Her mental illness is now out-of-control.  Her medicine is no longer treating her effectively, so she is home-bound and doesn’t make it to church very often.  In spite of her challenges, she deeply loves the Lord.  She remains very wise and gifted, but she does not fit what most churches are looking for in a pastor’s wife.

I love my wife dearly.  She is my best friend.  I cannot imagine life without her.  She took her marriage vows seriously when married to a struggling pastor.  “For better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death us do part” – she stuck by these vows while I took her into some very hard ministry situations.  She is an amazing women.  And while she struggles, I, too, remember those words we stuttered before “God and these witnesses” some thirty years ago.  And because we take these vows seriously, my ministry as a local church pastor is over.

The denominational leaders I talk to are sympathetic to our situation and would never say that I won’t serve in a church again, but I can’t say they are hopeful for my placement.  The real problem is at the local church level.  I don’t know of a church board that would consider me.  While they all say, “We don’t have expectations for the pastor’s wife – we are hiring you, not your wife,” this simply isn’t true.

Many people tell me that they are not considering me because they care and want what is best for my family.  Perhaps it is best for my family to not have the stress of church ministry anymore.  But if you tell me these words, please don’t act like you are doing me a favor.  I received my call to ministry when I was a young teenager.  That call has not been rescinded.  I am told that I can serve God in other ways.  I am told I can easily become a chaplain.  Believe me, every hospice and prison chaplaincy opening I see available I apply for, with no positive response, even though I served as a nursing home and a jail chaplain in the past.  To become a hospital chaplain, I would need at least two years of training to get the required Clinical Pastoral Education credits needed, despite the fact I was a paid hospital chaplain for four years.  Being in my mid-fifties, I don’t have the time to pursue this, and I certainly don’t have the finances.  And while chaplaincy is an honorable option, I was called to local church ministry.  That is where my heart yearns to serve.  I guess staying true to my marriage vows somehow nullified my calling from God.  Believe me, this doesn’t feel like any favor – it feels like church discipline.

There is certainly a stigma attached to mental illness in evangelical circles.  I am pleased that this is changing, due in part to the tragic deaths among family members of prominent church leaders.  Ministries to the mentally ill are now beginning in our churches.  Seminars and symposiums are being held to address this topic.  A few brave churches are actually allowing pastors with diagnosed ailments to serve.  But I have not heard among all of these recent discussions any talk of what to do with spouses that are ill.  I think most churches just wish families like mine would go away.

So we go away.  We try to find work, but are told with our advanced theological degrees we are overqualified for the entry-level jobs we apply for.  We shrink back, hearing the gossip among Christian friends that we must be struggling because we are not holy enough, obviously in bondage to demons and secret sin.  Family can’t fix us.  Friends don’t know how to befriend us.  Everyone becomes frustrated that we don’t “get better.”  We are told that if we just confess  our sins, try the latest expensive supplement, go to this healer or that exorcist, have this person pray for us with enough faith and the right formula – all will get better!  And we try it all, but things don’t get better.  People get weary of our struggles.  We become more isolated and alone.  And the worst question of all is this: “What is this doing to our precious children?”

I don’t have any answers to this difficult dilemma.  All I am asking is that a discussion among God’s people begins to take place.  Please.  If not for my family, please start talking for the one-in-three pastor’s families that will experience mental illness in the future.

 

Selling Jesus

This week I learned an important lesson – I am not a salesman.  In my second attempt to start a business selling health insurance supplements, all I earned was a bruised ego and a new-found respect for those who can do sales and do it well.  I do not have those special gifts.

As I was preparing for my new career, I was told by several people, “You will do great” at sales because, “You have been selling your whole life.”  I received this encouragement because I have been a pastor for almost thirty years.  The implication was that I used to “sell Jesus.”

There are many pastors who do well in sales because they are type-A extroverts who love to talk.  Those blessed with those characteristics often do well in both professions.  I am none of those things.  I just love people and love to share the truth about Jesus Christ.

I am deeply troubled at this idea that we are to “sell Jesus.”  In sales, you are taught to not take “no” for an answer.  You are to be forceful enough to get the initial appointment and then close the sale.  Some sales professionals are selling a product many people need.  Others are selling something no one really needs.  All are taught to convince the buyer that THEY need what is being sold.  The prime motivation for the salesman is not just the satisfaction in giving someone something that will benefit them, but the fat commission that the salesman will receive.

Jesus IS something (rather, SOMEONE) that everyone needs!  Yet, do we in the evangelical church use manipulative techniques to try to convince the unconvinced?  Do we do so not to glorify the God who made us all, but to somehow gain something for our own glory?  Do we treat Jesus simply as a commodity that will benefit the buyer?  Do we stress so much the benefits to the consumer that we forget to call those who follow Jesus to “count the cost?”

We don’t sell Jesus!  We present Him as the pearl of great price that is worth our everything, because He is worthy.  May we all present Jesus to someone today.

 

Slow to Speak

Like many of you, this past week has been filled with many tears and unceasing prayer as almost daily I hear of the loss of lives of those made in God’s image and as I think of their dear families now filled with questions, pain, and overwhelming grief.  The most recent news reports try to figure out why the lives of brave police officers who were protecting the rights of those protesting against the police could be snuffed out so violently.  I sometimes write things down to figure out what is in my heart and mind, so please allow me to do just that and add words to the multitude of things that have already been written and said.

I grieve over those who are gone.  Some no longer have the chance to hear about the everlasting love of our Savior.  How do family members now face the days ahead without those who were so special to them?

I am amazed at the continually increasing divisions our country is experiencing.  Politically we have been aware of this divide for some time.  We are now becoming more and more aware of the gap between people of different races, economic classes, and _________ – you fill in the blank.  We had hoped that many of those gaps were shrinking, but are now wondering if the distance is instead increasing.  People with loud voices and various causes use their volume to take advantage of this divide for their own benefit and amusement.  The result is that these gaps get bigger, fear grips our hearts because of what we are told of those on the other side of the gaps and anger becomes what motivates us to action.  Everyone seems to have a voice and much to say, but few seem to have any desire to listen.

The Holy Spirit through the pen of James told us, “Know this, my beloved brothers: let everyone be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.”  Notice the progression – we need to be very quick to listen.  We must do that first, before we speak.  We must hear the other person and really listen.  This includes mulling over what they just said.  We must think about what they said and why they said it.  Even if we disagree with what we just heard, if we listen perhaps we will understand why they said it, at least a little bit.  We should be quick to listen – but then slow to speak.  Too often we aren’t really listening because we are thinking about what we are about to say.  Our priority is not about the other person, it is all about us – what we feel, what we think and what we know should be done.  Isn’t this what arguments consist of – no listening, fast talking and the next step, anger?  No wonder we are so angry.  We all have too much to say and too many opinions to share.  And now with social media, we can share our words instantly with the world.  (Yes, it is a bit ironic that I am sharing my words with the world right now.)

Now to the grief of today.  Can’t we take some time to grieve?  Can’t we allow families to start to say good-bye to their loved ones before we use their loved ones to further our favorite cause?  Can’t we be silent as they share their doubts, their fears, their questions and their anger?  Can’t we give them our presence and our hugs, but hold off on our words?  There will be a time to talk about these causes.  Some of them are really important.  But do we need to talk about them today?

Followers of Jesus Christ, we have much to say to an angry, divided world.  We have words of comfort to share with the grieving from the God of all comfort, Himself.  We have words of hope about a Redeeming Savior that this world needs to hear.  He is our only Hope!  He is the One who can reconcile sinners like us to a Holy God such as He is, and then help us reconcile to each other.  We are messengers of reconciliation!  But let’s share this wonderful message after we have really listened to this hurting world.