For the past two days, I was with church friends and church members. I want everyone to know that sometimes ministry is the most fun thing to do. So, the title of this blog is a little deceiving! It has merit, but not so much in the context you might take it. Let me explain.
A pastor friend of mine serves a church in Anaheim. His name is Abel Galvan. I first met Abel when he was a student at California Baptist College (now University), and he was interested in serving as a Youth Minister. I was pastoring the 29 Palms church at the time. He didn't necessarily feel called to full-time ministry, but he loved the Lord and wanted to work with teenagers. We immediately knew that he was to come to 29 Palms and serve, even though he lived on campus in Riverside. He had a heart for Jesus, and it was evident as he worked with the youth group.
Some time later, I was called to pastor at First Southern Baptist Church in San Diego. At the time, that church was without a youth leader. I called Abel and asked him if he was looking for a place of ministry service, as he was not in a church position at that time. We talked and fairly soon he was down in San Diego on staff with me again.
That summer, we had two college students come to our church for a week of ministry. They were summer missionaries sent out with our denominational mission board for the United States. One of the summer missionaries was a young girl named Jennifer from Tennessee. There was some attraction and they began to correspond in the ensuing months. To make a long story short, they are now married and have two wonderful children and serving the Lord in Southern California together.
That's why Abel jokingly blames me for everything going on now in his life. I was the first to give him an opportunity to do ministry work. I was his pastor who introduced his future wife to him. I gave him his first place to serve as pastor, as he became Interim Pastor of the San Diego church when I moved back to Rialto to pastor in 1997.
On Thursday evening, I went with Abel and two of his church members to the Dodgers and Phillies playoff game. It's the first playoff game I have ever attended and I love sports, so this was just plain fun with believers from another church!
Then, on Friday (yesterday) a church member from Vision Plus, "Big Jim" Ward, asked me and another couple fellows to join him for Vista Paint Day at the Santa Anita horse racing track. Jim is a house painter by trade and goes to this event every year. Many paint-related vendors have free gifts and samples for the ones who come, in addition to a big lunch and free prizes.
It was a warm day in the sun, and it was a relaxing time to spend with church members. We only stayed for the first three races. I bet $14 on seven horses for the three races. I won with two tickets, but still ended up in the hole for $8. All in all, it was a kick. This was only the second time in my life I had been at a race track for horses.
"Big Jim" asked me a pointed question on the way home. He said, "Is it alright to praise the Lord for winning at the race track?" He came away with about $40 to the good when we left. Two of his picks had actually come in first. We were both beginners and just had fun picking by name or number or color or whatever.
I told Jim that, if we set aside a certain amount of money that does not take from our normal living expenses and needs, then it is money spent on entertainment. If we set aside $40 to take someone out for a good dinner (and that's not very much these days), then that $40 was spent on enjoying life. If I drive to San Diego to sit on the beach, and it cost $40 for gas there and back I have enjoyed a day looking at God's magnificent creation for $40. It is a matter of intent, a matter of the heart.
We talked about those who have a compulsion to gamble, about those who use necessary expense money needed for daily life and use it to gamble. We talked about those who have a desire to live on the edge, to experience a thrill and high by the risks involved in gambling. There is certainly a difference in playing with a few dollars at the track for entertainment and having an addiction problem with gambling.
It was a great teaching moment and a great relief for him. There are some who will criticize me and my viewpoint, because they want to put a guilt trip on anyone who gambles or plays the lottery or buys chance tickets or whatever. There's enough guilt on so many things that need attention. Having fun for a minute at the race track is not one of them.
So, the day was fabulous. The fellowship with all of us there from the church was sweet. The food was good, and the gathering of commercial painters was interesting and enjoyable. The joy of us four from the church, just being together in that setting, was a time of ministry in the truest sense.
Boy, ministry can sure be exhausting! And I love it!