Life Lessons from Pastor Alan Maeno
“Most pastors reading this (book) believe that the church exists, at least in part, to fulfill the Great Commission, ‘Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.’ (Matt. 28:19-20). But the average person in a church believes that the church exists to meet his or her needs and the needs of the family. Even though most people coming to a church for the first time cannot articulate this verse, they are probably thinking something similar to what James and John said to Jesus, ‘Then James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to Him. “Teacher,” they said, “We want you to do for us whatever we ask.” (Mark 10:35 NIV). Each week people show up telling the church, many times, “We want you to do for us whatever we ask.” Usually that means solving all issues of relational strife within families, meeting each individual’s specific needs, having great youth and children’s ministries, teaching deep, powerful truths from God’s Word in fifteen minutes or less that will answer all of their questions about God, providing a vibrant, dynamic worship experience… and, of course get it all done before the game begins at noon.” (Comeback Churches, Stetzer and Dodson, pp 30)
“5 For this reason I left you in Crete, that you should set in order the things that are lacking, and appoint elders in every city as I commanded you— 6 if a man is blameless, the husband of one wife, having faithful children not accused of dissipation or insubordination. 7 For a bishop[b] must be blameless, as a steward of God, not self-willed, not quick-tempered, not given to wine, not violent, not greedy for money, 8 but hospitable, a lover of what is good, sober-minded, just, holy, self-controlled, 9 holding fast the faithful word as he has been taught, that he may be able, by sound doctrine, both to exhort and convict those who contradict.” Titus 1:5-9 NIV
Pastor Alan Maeno entered the ministry as a staff pastor in a mainline Protestant denomination before feeling a call to plant a church. Because the denomination he served with did not support church planting efforts at the time, Pastor Alan chose to take steps to independently begin a church plant. He eventually connected with and joined theInternationalChurchof the Foursquare Gospel movement. He had started the church in 2003.
If one were to spend just a short time with Pastor Alan, it is easy to discern that this man has a great passion for his wife Linda, and his three daughters. Here is how he responded to the question of the three most important lessons he has learned in the ministry.
1. When I make ministry decisions, my spouse needs to be 100% on board not just 99%.
Pastor Alan recognizes that serving in vocational ministry can be a mistress in itself. “I need to protect my family and kids.” He says.
I have personally seen and experienced the effects of allowing the ministry to consume the life of a minister. While most pastors understand that service to God is to please an audience of One, they also don’t want to disappoint the people they serve and often have a hard time saying “no” to opportunities to be involved. The result can be disastrous to both the minister and the minister’s family. Pastor’s wives may have a hard time saying to their husbands, “No, don’t be involved in that ministry, you need to be at home with me and the kids more,” because their husband is doing a good work in serving God. At the same time, if he is not careful, it is not hard for the busy pastor to inadvertently neglect his family for the sake of the ministry.
Pastor Alan recognizes his relationship with his wife Linda is of critical importance and that he is called to nurture his marriage. After all, is a pastor’s marriage fails, his ministry fails. He recognizes his wife as having a critical role in his decision making for major life and ministry decisions. Pastor Alan is unapologetic in saying that if he does not receive the full support and confirmation from his wife about being involved in something, that he will not do it. In order to guard his family life, Pastor Alan is sure to involve his wife in the decision making process.
People like King David (during his older years) and King Solomon (also in his older years) in the scriptures were very effective in the ministry that God had placed them in, but failed in protecting and caring for their families. Pastor Alan is a wise man who does not intend to make those mistakes.
2. Proverbs 3:5-6.
“5 Trust in the LORD with all your heart,
And lean not on your own understanding;
6 In all your ways acknowledge Him,
And He shall direct[a] your paths.” Proverbs 3:5-6 NIV
Another key lesson that Pastor Alan learned as he pioneered his church plant was that he did not know how to build the church or how to pastor it. He shared his testimony of leaving a position with a well paying salary to begin the ministry. Following that, his wife needed to quit her permanent job and took a temporary position closer to where they were serving. He shared that when the church began, he as the Senior Pastor started with no income for 6 months. Later, his salary was $500 per month to care for his family.
“Ty, we learned to trust God because we had to.” From speaking to him now, I am not sure if he fully understands how he and his family survived through those difficult financial times. He sees Proverbs 3:5-6 not as a verse that people make into bumper stickers or Hallmark cards. When Pastor Alan sees that passage, he sees his story and his testimony tied into it. There are other times that he has had to put himself in the hands of the Lord and
3. Keep focused on vision.
Like Pastor Ray Palompo, and Pastor Matt Dirks, Pastor Alan recognized that when church stops growing it is easy to look around and try to imitate what other churches are doing. He recognizes however, that doing so actually distracts him, and the church from the vision that the Lord has given them. Pastor Alan has a desire to stay biblically faithful and culturally relevant.
It becomes hard to keep focus and as the Senior Pastor, it is easy to feel that a lack of numerical growth in the church is based on something he is doing wrong personally. Pastor Alan thought about this and recalled that he needed to be clear about the vision that God had given.
“If I call it quits today Ty, I have to ask myself, did I help people grow in God? Did I help at least one?”
I recall hearing a story shared by Pastor Craig Groeshel (from LifeChurch; one of the largest churches in theUnited Statestoday) that has impacted me greatly about this very topic. He tells about a time when he started at the church and the numbers grew very quickly; in reverse. In other words people left the church very quickly. When he started to take ownership of the people leaving and felt depressed about his failure, he said that the Lord spoke to him and told him to be careful because if he would be so quick to take the credit for when the church declined, he would also be quick to take credit for when the church grew.
For Pastor Groeshel, that would serve as a turning point to understanding that the church is Jesus’ to care for. While that is a poignant story about how a senior pastor feels the burden of the church’s growth or lack there-of, it is nevertheless, an issue that every pastor must deal with.
In our society and culture, people look at numbers of people in attendance, facilities, and finances, as a measure of success (or lack-there-of) for the church, Pastor Alan has a different view. He believes that the Lord has called his church to stay small or plant another church. As a result, he places his focus on discipleship, causing the church to grow in faith, and has even set aside a fund to assist in church plating when the season is right.
If you could do one thing differently, what would that be?
“What would I do differently?” Pastor Alan contemplated about his church plant. After thinking back to the early days of the church, he stated that he would have taken more time to develop a stronger and bigger launch team of leaders and not only consumers. He says that prior to launching the church’s Sunday services he would have taken more time to acquire a greater mass to begin with. Pastor Alan recalls that he started with 8 people who were with him and who had servant hearts but were not prepared to be leaders of ministries. When thinking back he says that he would have started with a goal of having at least 10 leaders on board and 10-20 folks with servant hearts.
Having a group of 8 people who are willing to help out in a church plant is helpful, Pastor Alan recalls. Yet it probably would have been more helpful to have a group who were skilled, proven, and ready to lead the ministries that they were a part of.
Pastor Alan serves as a refreshing reminder to me about the importance of caring for, nurturing, and guarding my family time while I serve in the ministry. It is easy for a minister to fall in love with the bride of Christ, or the church, so much so, that he begins to inadvertently neglect the wife and children that the Lord has given him. It can also be difficult for the godly wife to pull her husband away from the ministry because after all, he is “working for God.”
The scripture from Titus 1 serves to teach leaders and elders that God desires that families be cared for. The truth is however, if a minister’s marriage and family fails, his ministry fails. My calling more than being a “successful” minister, is a calling to be an available and nurturing husband and father.
For more information on Pastor Alan and Hope Chapel Pearl West, go to their website at
Lord Jesus forgive the times that I have not stewarded well the family that You have given me. Thank You for reminding me through Pastor Alan of the critical importance of being an effective minister to my family before I can be an effective minister to the church.