Archives For Kurt Bubna

Pews

I’m a recovering idiot, meaning I tend to learn most lessons the hard way.

I’m also a church planter and the founding pastor of Eastpoint Church in Spokane Valley, Washington. My peeps would tell you they love me, and they would also confirm my proclivity for taking the less-than-glorious path of church leadership at times.

Before we launched Eastpoint in 2003, I read and reread Rick Warren’s The Purpose Driven Church. The inspiring and biblical insights within this book challenged and motivated me. I knew in my knower that this book was a timely gift from God to me (and many others).

From the beginning, we identified our mission, vision, and values based on the five purposes (i.e. fellowship, discipleship, worship, ministry, evangelism). I told our launch team “we are a purpose driven church”, and we were pumped to begin the adventure.

At first, things went extremely well. We started with hundreds of people, and the church grew rapidly. It was exciting, and I started hiring staff. By year two we were looking for a larger and more permanent facility. Then that “recovering idiot” thing started to kick in, and I made a series of serious…

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Nobody intentionally sets out to fail as a parent. No one plans on raising an axe murderer. I’ve never met a mom who lies in bed at night envisioning how to mess up her kids.

I have, however, met many parents who can’t sleep at night because they worry—a lot—about the fruit of their loins.

Where did I go wrong?

How could my son make such a terrible choice?

What’s up with my daughter? Seriously, what does she see in that guy?

I raised him “in the Lord,” and today he doesn’t want anything to do with God or church.

The struggle is real.

The doubts are crippling.

The personal agony is devastating.

My mom experienced distress and misery on my behalf. Once upon a time, I was a prodigal son. I walked away from God, the Church, my family, and my faith. It wasn’t pretty. I broke a lot of hearts, including my mom’s. Gratefully, she never gave up on me even though no one would have blamed her if she had.

Motherhood is one of the toughest jobs on the planet.

So what can a mother do when she has a wild, out-of-control child?

First, remember that you are responsible for how…

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Junk Drawer

Junk drawers. We all have them. Maybe yours is in a desk or somewhere in the garage or kitchen. Junk drawers are fairly common.

Let me tell you why I’m writing about those hidden places filled with odds and ends, lest you think I’m about to rant about something inconsequential.

I’m using your physical junk drawer as a representation of a relational junk drawer you probably have in your life.

The relational one is the place where we put the people who baffle, annoy, irritate, or scare us. It’s that place in your heart where you stow people you can’t get out of your life, but whom you’d rather not deal with at the moment—or ever.

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Why do we have physical junk drawers?

  • It’s the spot where we put something when we don’t know where else to put it.
  • It’s the spot where we hide stuff because we like to appear neat and orderly on the outside.
  • It’s the spot where we leave items because it’s easier to throw something in a drawer than it is to put it in its proper place. In other words, we’re a bit lazy at times.

Why do we have relational junk drawers?

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I’m a church planter, and most of what I’ve learned about the church has come the hard way.

Thirteen years ago, on the first Sunday in January, I launched Eastpoint Church. In the 25 or so years before that, I had helped start or reboot six other churches.

None of that makes me an expert, just experienced. I’m still learning. My most recent lesson is one I didn’t especially like, but I needed it nonetheless.

Here’s my latest discovery: At some point in your pastoring journey, you may end up in the land between “the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat,” and what you do then matters—a lot.

In this in-between season, things aren’t necessarily all bad. In fact, you might have much to be thankful for in your church. The bills are paid. The staff are gifted, capable, and faithful. People are showing up and still getting saved.

But the land between often means . . .

  • The buzz has faded, and you aren’t the hot new thang in town anymore.
  • The faithful are still with you but are much harder to inspire to sacrificial greatness.
  • When you announce a new series, the old regulars suspect it’s not…

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Brutus Old

Betrayal hurts. Whether it’s from a spouse, a parent, a child or a BFF, when someone is disloyal and lets you down, you feel it. Deeply.

“Et tu, Brute?” is a Latin phrase meaning “you, too, Brutus?” and supposedly these were the last words of the Roman dictator Julius Caesar to his friend Marcus Brutus at the moment of his assassination.

You may not die at the hand of your betrayer, but something inside of you hurts so badly you might wish you were dead.

I told my wife about thirty-five years ago that I was done with our marriage and wanted a divorce. That betrayal wounded her deeply.

In a moment of intense anger, my dad once told me never to call him “Father” again. That rejection sent me into a tailspin of grief and despair.

Over the years, some good friends (at least I had thought they were good friends) who were involved in my church have betrayed my friendship, and they left cursing my name on their way out.

Like I said, betrayal hurts. It rips your heart out of your chest, stomps on it, and then casts you aside like trash set out at the curb for pickup.

You’ve probably already dialed up…

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Letter of Criticism

“You’re a pathetic leader and pastor. Why God would let you pastor our church or any church is a mystery to me!”

That was just the opening line in a four-page single-spaced letter. Seriously. Of course, it wasn’t the first scathing correspondence to cross my desk, and it won’t be the last, but it hurt. A lot.

Adding insult to injury, this letter came on the heels of some other staff struggles and in the midst of a season of decline in our church. It might not have stung as deeply as it did if I hadn’t already been questioning my leadership. Nothing like getting kicked in the head when you’re down. For several days I wondered what it would be like to sell cars for a living.

I wish I could tell you that I’m so secure that I am unaffected by criticism. I wish I could write a blog about how to put people in their place when they go ballistic on you. Frankly, I wish the awesomeness of my leadership skills and the growth of our church were enough to silence the critics. They’re not.

So what did I learn…

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Give up b & w guyWe tend to see God through our shattered perspective, and that’s a big problem. With a severely damaged self-image, we generally have a broken God-image too. In fact, let’s be honest; some of us believe God is great and all-powerful, but we can’t imagine Him doing anything astonishing through our lives. We sing worship songs about His awesomeness, but we believe God is limited in what He can do with screw-ups like us.

A huge part of the dilemma is that we like to create gods in our own image. We make gods out of the rich and famous. We elevate leaders (including politicians and pastors) to god-like status. We put them on a pedestal somewhere prominent in our lives, but in the end it’s a puny little god we’ve made to worship rather than Almighty God. Here’s the problem: If our God is too tiny or too human (like us), then our faith and confidence in Him will be too small.

Deep down we want to believe that God can do anything, but we’re pretty sure He has limits when it comes to us. Time or space might not…

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Mute BusyOur world is filled with noise. It’s hard to find a place of quiet reflection anymore. Whether it’s some kid’s over-driven-bass-thumping music from his car, the laughter or racket of children, or jets overhead—we are frequently bombarded with sound. Some good. Some not so good.

Due to my bad back, bad knees, and bulbous belly, I haven’t backpacked in years. One of the things I miss about those great outdoor outings into the backcountry of the Cascades or Glacier National Park is the serenity. Except for the occasional call of a bull elk or the melodic chatter of birds, the silence was golden. Those quiet times refueled my soul.

Believe it or not, I’m an introvert. I love people. I can engage in a crowd with smiles and conversation. But I am refreshed in moments of solitude. There’s nothing I love more than a good book in one hand and a great cup of java in the other. Reading. Alone.

I find solace in solitude.

Interestingly, many people are uncomfortable with silence. I know people who must have a radio, CD or TV playing in the background all the time. Perhaps quiet intimidates some…

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Leaving“It’s my church home. I will never go anywhere else!” I smile when I read those words on our church’s Facebook page, but I know differently. Nobody stays forever. In fact, I’m pretty sure the only person not eventually leaving is my wife.

People come, and people go often for all the wrong reasons.

  • They grow bored with your teaching. “I’m not getting fed any longer.”
  • You’re not new and exciting anymore. “We feel called to support a new pastor in town.”
  • They don’t like the music. “We don’t do my favorite songs enough and the music is too loud.”
  • They’re struggling relationally. “I’m having some issues with Bob and feel it’s best to just move on.”
  • It seems like you’re all about numbers and reaching new people. “What about me?”

Of course, there are a hundred other reasons given, but they always boil down to one: they don’t love you anymore or at least not as much as they used to. Let’s face it, people rarely leave what they truly love.

They don’t leave a dream job that they love.

They don’t leave a spouse whom they love.

They don’t leave a church that they love.

It just doesn’t happen. We…

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Church Sucks!

By Kurt Bubna

Not too long ago, a family entered our church lobby looking fairly stressed. Having had a few fights on my way to church over the years, I understand the potential for family tension on the way to worship. It also seems that Murphy’s Law is extremely active when people are on their way to something that’s good for them.

As I smiled and said, “Hello” to this family, one of their kids (a junior high boy) said under his breath, “Church sucks!” From the look his mother gave him, I suspect he was grounded for a long time following that comment. Unfortunately, the dad almost winked at him as if to say, “I understand how you feel son; I don’t want to be here either!”

As you can imagine, this is not a great confidence booster for pastors.

You see, for pastors, church is like the Super Bowl, except it happens every Sunday. We love it! We’re excited to connect with our community of faith. We look forward to investing in the lives of people we love. So when they don’t show up, or worse yet, they show up with an attitude, it’s hard for us to understand.

Sure, at times I’ve left…

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Curse-Leadership-FailEveryone has seen a political or religious leader implode, and often the failure is sexual in nature. Recent political history has many examples from men like Bill Clinton and Eliot Spitzer. In the Church it’s been guys like Ted Haggard and Doug Phillips. Of course, biblical examples include men like King David and his son, Solomon. It seems there is a potential curse, of sorts, on those who lead.

Tragically, I have way too many friends who have fallen as well . . .

  • A mentor in ministry who committed adultery many years ago.

  • A good friend who lost his church and wife due to a pornography addiction.

  • A fellow pastor in town who now is in prison for the use of and distribution of child porn.

Frankly, it’s happened so often to so many that I find myself bouncing between depression and anger.

How could he do that to his wife?

Why would he risk everything for the temporary pleasure of sexual sin?

What possible reason could he have for risking all and losing so much?

But then . . .

I turn on the television, and the normalization of the abnormal and the promotion of illicit sex is everywhere.

I open…

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Back Door“Everybody is leaving someday!” When my pastor and friend of almost forty years made that declaration, I was a bit shocked. He could see the look on my face, so he clarified, “We shouldn’t get too bent out of shape when people leave our church because everybody will end up eventually leaving or dying.” If that didn’t come from a guy who pastors a very large congregation, I might have suspected he was just bitter about a struggling church.

Frankly, I wasn’t sure how I felt about that blunt statement then, but I know how I feel about it now. He’s spot on; no one (except my wife) is with me until the end.

For years, I’ve read articles and books and listened to brilliant mega-church pastors tell me, “You must close the back door to grow your church! It doesn’t matter how big your front door is if you’re hemorrhaging folks out the back.” In other words, if you don’t have a dynamic small group ministry, an effective way to plug people into service, and a strong discipleship program, people won’t stay long.

For years I believed them, but not so much…

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