Life Lessons from Pastor Ray Palompo
“Nothing that’s worthwhile is ever easy. When did God ever call anyone to an easy task? He calls us to a worthy task. Jesus didn’t take the easy way, and neither should we.” (Comeback Churches, Stetzer and Dodson, pp 175)
“Nobody changes until the pain of staying the same is greater than the pain of change. Comeback leaders know that change is necessary and change is painful. Change is a challenging thing.” (Comeback Churches, Stetzer and Dodson, pp 176)
“9 Then I said, “I will not make mention of Him,
Nor speak anymore in His name.”
But His word was in my heart like a burning fire
Shut up in my bones;
I was weary of holding it back,
And I could not.” Jeremiah 20:9 NIV
Pastor Ray Palompo has been married to his wife for 20 years and has a 12 year old and 16 year old sons and a 15 year old daughter. He grew up in Honolulu, lived in the Philipines and settled in California for 30 years. While living in Valejo,California, Pastor Ray served as a youth pastor in a non-denominational church for 17 years prior to moving back to Honolulu to plant Island Grace Church.
As he thought back and recalled living in Valejo, Pastor Ray remembers feeling a burden to return to his home in Honolulu. Pastor Ray prayed to the Lord that if there was a calling to return to Hawaii that doors would close in California Over time, Pastor Ray recalls, rather than shutting the doors, the Lord increased the burden to relocate to Honolulu to plant a church. Confirmation about the move came for him when 5 families from his home church affirmed his calling by volunteering to relocate their entire lives from California to Honolulu in order to help establish the church plant. Among the families that relocated were a youth ministry leader/teacher, a worship leader, and an associate pastor.
Pastor Ray and his team moved to Honolulu in August 2009, and launched the church in November 2009.
The church started at the home of Pastor Ray’s brother and continues to meet there. Pastor Ray and his church plant team are true heroes in the faith as all of the team serve as bi-vocational leaders who are dedicated to the preaching and proclaiming of the Gospel.
When asked his three most important lessons learned while serving as a lead pastor, Pastor Ray mentioned the following…
1. Don’t go unless you are sent.
Pastor Ray recalled that in order to move toward a church plant, one has to have a calling and a burden to move forward. He felt that he had received affirmation from the people around him and he advised that when giving one’s all to starting a new ministry, there should not only be a calling from the Lord upon one’s life individually, but there should also be affirmation from the Lord through people around them.
2. Go with a team or burn out and stress self and family.
Pastor Ray thought about the Apostle Paul who is known for his church planting endeavors. “Paul always had a team.” Pastor Ray reminded me. “There was always a Titus, Timothy, or Barnabas.”
Pastor Ray recognized that if the responsibility of the ministry duties all fell upon the Lead Pastor, it would surely lead to a pastor that is both burned out and stressed out. Not only that, but it would cause the pastor’s family to also to be burned out and stressed out.
3. Go with a clear mission and use what you have.
What is it that you understand is the mission of the Christian? Pastor Ray identified that his calling is simply to preach Gospel to the lost and to the saved. Preach the Gospel and make disciples. He emphasized also that it is important not to be sidetracked by trends. While Pastor Ray did not disapprove of church campaigns and programs that are sold by larger churches and ministries in order to help younger or smaller congregations, he did recognize the danger of being a Christian leader who only looks for the latest ministry trends to follow (as opposed to seeking out the God given mission and identify that He had intended for them).
Pastor Ray advises that while methods of ministry do change over time, the message and purpose of the ministry are non negotiable. This reminds me of a preacher I heard recently who said, “A good preacher is like a good used car salesman. He has nothing new to sell. He just makes what he has, look good.”
Pastor Ray also identified that he needed to learn to work with what he had. It is easy, especially in the context of a smaller church, to look around and idealize that things would be so much better or smoother if there were more resources or people.
“Ask God to bring the people” and when He does brings them “work hard to raise them up.”
I recall reading through the great miracles in the scriptures and working with what you have seems to be what was needed for just about every miracle that I have read. Moses used his shepherd’s staff to part the waters of the Red Sea, David used his sling and stone to defeat Goliath, and Jesus used mud and spit to heal a blind man! If God could use a stick, a sling, a stone, and some spit, there is no limit to what He could do with as few people sold out to Him.
If you could do one thing differently, what would that be?
“If I were to do it again,” Pastor Ray contemplated, “I would pray for a finance person.” He recalled that while his church planting team was skilled with worship and music skills, teaching/preaching skills, and youth ministry, there were still great challenges in dealing with church finances. As the Lead Pastor, he recognizes the great importance of financial integrity and knows that the administration of the finances of a church is of vital importance. He seems to have also come to realize that overseeing of church finances can be an extremely difficult thing to manage without a business background.
Having been a small church pastor myself, I strongly identify with being given a teaching/preaching gift, but not an administrative gifting. I had been a social worker by trade for nearly a decade when I entered the ministry, and consequently had no experience with church finances when I went out to pastor our church. Not knowing or understanding the laws that pertain to tax exemptions, not-for-profit agencies, health insurance, and general excise taxes can be very confusing. I actually get flashbacks of dealing with these matters as I write this.
Pastor Ray pointed out the importance of utilizing proven leadership when dealing with such critically important issues. After all, while Paul’s people were young, they were still proven in the ministry. Work towards the development of leadership.
I have often answered calling like Isaiah where God says, “Whom shall I send? Who will go for me?” I’ll answer, “Here I am Lord. Send me.” Pastor Ray teaches me of a different way that the Lord also calls through an increase in our burdens. Over the years I have tried to avoid it, but the Lord has given me an increased burden to serve the faithful servants of Christ and to use my gifts to resource the under-resourced for Christ.
I identify with the challenges and hardships that Pastor Ray has coming from a similar background. I believe that the Lord has placed me in a season of life where I MUST act on the burden to serve the servants of Christ. The scripture posted at the top of this devotion is an excerpt from the life of the Prophet Jeremiah. Jeremiah tried to stop preaching for God, but in the end could not because of the intense burden that God had laid on him. A burden from God is not something given to me in order that I might complain about the lack of actions taken by others. A burden from God is given in order to call me and pull me to do as He has compelled me to do.
For more information on Island Grace church, click here.
Lord Jesus, forgive the times I have tried to suppress the burden You have given me because of my fear of failure and my own fears of rejection. Empower me now to step out to serve Your servants and to resource the under-resourced. In Jesus’ name. Amen.