I was hospitalized on July 22, 2013 following several days of illness and having my temperature spike to 103. I was eventually diagnosed with West Nile Virus. This inflamed a previous undiagnosed condition called Myasthenia Gravis a rare autoimmune disorder. This lead to a life threatening crisis that included meningitis and encephalitis. The result was several weeks on life support that included tube feedings and a tracheotomy to sustain my breathing. A tumor was found in my thymus gland that required surgery. In the mean time I developed pneumonia in my left lung. Surgery on September 26th included removing the tumor, my thymus and the lower lobe of my left lung. I spent 8 weeks at Northern Colorado Rehab Hospital and finally returned to our Fort Collins home on December 10th after close to five months of hospitalization. This blog chronicles my journey from initial hospitalization to the present status of my recovery.
It has been good to be back with some of my minister friends after a long absence. I am not referring to my hospitalization as much as getting back in a routine of my Church's calendar. During my six years in the legislature this spring event I have been attending for Assemblies of God churches always took place as the session was coming toward the end and the schedules were fairly intense. So last year was my first year to be around this annual event for most of the activities and this year will be my first time in seven years to attend one of the ordination services that concludes the conference.
Ministry, like politics, has similar challenges. I know that sounds strange to many but I would often be asked by people at the capitol and in the public how it was serving in politics after being in the ministry. I would usually responded, “Pretty much the same.” I don't mean the two are equal, but there are some interesting similarities and of course there are some stark contrasts.
For example, when I was first in the process of deciding to run for elective office, a veteran and well respected legislative leader asked me, “Ken do you have the ‘fire in your belly’?” Because if you don’t it won’t be worth it and you won’t find the work fulfilling. That sounded to me a lot like, “are you called to the ministry?” or as my in-laws advised me when I was preparing to go into ministry, “if you can do anything else but ministry, then do it!” Basically, while there are moments of satisfaction in ministry and in politics if you aren’t prepared for the struggles and demands that come with the challenges you won’t have the satisfaction.
Political leadership, like church leadership requires patience and the ability to bring people along to where they need to go. This is why business people who have greater control over people and outcomes would become more frustrated with the political process and the pace of legislation. The adage when I was first at the capitol was, “it takes three years to get a good bill passed.”
When I was first in ministry I was visiting with an older minister about changes in the church. He said, “It sounds like you will need a few more funerals before that takes place.”
Falling in and out of favor with people seems consistent within the two arenas. When what you do pleases someone you can’t do wrong, when what you (often one time) displeases someone you can’t do right. Perhaps the 80% principle would be good for churches as well as politics. It says, “If you can agree with someone 80% of the time or on 80% of the issues or decisions you have a good representative (Pastor)” In any leadership position is far easier to disappoint than to exceed expectations, so that is just part of the territory.
Facing criticism is another commonality between the two arenas. Church members will try to show some constraint; however, politics makes an art form out of taking words out context, impugning motives and character assassination. It is interesting that with the dawn of social media, people often lack the filters in their judgment of what is said and when to whom.
What I found of interest in comparing ministry and politics was that I was glad I didn’t have to stand for re-election every two years in ministry. However, in politics I only needed 51% of the vote to retain my job!
In ministry there is “joy in serving the Lord.” But that should not be unique to ministry. Now, I do believe vocational ministry is special and unique calling and is to be honored as such. However, every person can have sense and satisfaction of “serving the Lord” in what they are doing.
I recall the elderly gentleman I met during one of my political campaigns. After visiting with him and sharing that I had been a pastor he made the comment, “I am sorry you are no longer serving the Lord.” I know what he meant, but I assured him I was still a Christian and a faithful follower of Christ.
It was a joy and inspiration to see those in our morning meeting that were recognized for 50 years of ordained ministry. These are faithful ministers who have been consistent in their labors and have made a difference in the lives of countless individuals here in the US and around the world. One of those is a hero of mine, Pastor Bobby Wilson of Pueblo, Colorado. Pastor Wilson served Praise Assembly for 44 years. It makes me feel old when I can say I have been familiar with his ministry for 40 years! (Picture above Pastor Bobby Wilson and District Superintendent Don Steiger)