Where is God when Life Seems Unfair? : Shane Stanford
How do we respond when we are faced with fierce challenges and life just seems unfair? In this week’s conversation on FrontStage BackStage, host Jason Daye is joined by Dr. Shane Stanford. Shane is the president and CEO of The Moore-West Center for Applied Theology and JourneyWise. JourneyWise is a ministry that seeks to disciple others while promoting good mental health. Shane has served as a church planter and a pastor and has written a number of books, including his latest entitled JourneyWise. Together, Shane and Jason look at how we can reconcile our expectations with the realities that we face in life and ministry. Shane also shares his personal story, which you will not want to miss, of how he has experienced the goodness of God, emotionally, mentally, spiritually, and physically, as he has wrestled with an intense medical diagnosis.
Looking to dig more deeply into this topic and conversation? Every week we go the extra mile and create a free toolkit so you and your ministry team can dive deeper into the topic that is discussed. Find your Weekly Toolkit below… Love well, Live well, Lead well!
- Video links to this week’s episode – easily share with the ministry leaders in your church
- Audio links to this week’s episode – easily share with the ministry leaders in your church
- Additional resource links from this week’s conversation – so you and your team can easily find what is mentioned or referenced
- Ministry Leaders Growth Guide – key insights and concepts from this week’s conversation as well as engaging questions for you and your team to consider and process
- Full-text transcript of this week’s episode – review something you heard, pass along snippets, post tweets, create presentations to share, or use in whatever way you find most helpful in developing your ministry leaders
- Shareable Social Graphics – Feel free to post them on your church social accounts, your personal accounts, or use them as graphics in your communications
Share the video with your ministry leaders >> YouTube
Share the audio podcast with your ministry leaders…
Additional Resource Links
www.shanestanford.com – Explore the abundance of valuable resources available to you right now on Shane’s website. From his book, podcast, and videos to an array of essential tools, all meticulously crafted to enhance your personal growth and provide invaluable guidance on your path in ministry.
JourneyWise: Redeeming the Broken & Winding Roads We Travel – In his book, Shane will stir your spirit and touch your emotions to bring healing so you can follow Jesus wholeheartedly. Writing with honesty, poignancy, and compassion about the complexities of our daily existence, Shane shows how, in each beatitude, Jesus provides a foundation for developing a significant and spiritually formed life. Here, you will find words of hope and the infinite possibilities of Christ’s simple blessings.
www.journeywise.network – JourneyWise is a faith-based media network dedicated to meeting people where they are and helping them start or strengthen their journey with Jesus.
Feeling overwhelmed, burned out, or just want to talk? Complimentary Coaching Session for Pastors http://PastorServe.org/freesession
Ministry Leaders Growth Guide
Key Insights and Concepts
- Pastors, like everyone, are imperfect human beings answering a divine calling, with journeys that can be filled with challenges and growth.
- Fear can lead people down unexpected paths and cause them to make choices they never thought possible.
- The church should be a safe space where authenticity reigns. There should be no topics too sensitive to discuss openly within its walls.
- Recognizing our limitations and vulnerability is often when we most allow God to do work in our lives
- The Lord often brings unexpected helpers and divine interventions when we need them most. These moments remind us to acknowledge and appreciate His presence and faithfulness in our lives.
- Focusing first on being a good spouse, parent, or friend leads to being a good pastor or ministry leader.
- Keeping a prayer journal can provide valuable insights into the presence of God’s intervention in our lives, even when we don’t initially recognize it.
- Our world is broken and suffering is an unfortunate reality. However, in the midst of adversity, we can find strength and purpose by helping one another carry our burdens and making life a bit more fair for each other.
- Life’s fragility and the presence of suffering remind us of the importance of cherishing every moment and striving to make the most of our time.
- The Beatitudes, often seen as mere poetic verses, are actually the foundational wisdom values in Jesus’s teachings, serving as a bridge connecting the Old Testament with the principles of the gospel.
- The eighth Beatitude reminds us that following these principles may lead to persecution, emphasizing the importance of standing firm in our faith even in the face of adversity.
- Pastors and ministry leaders are a blessing and have the privilege of being the hands and feet of Jesus even when certain circumstances don’t make sense.
Questions for Reflection
- What moments have there been in my pastoral journey when I’ve felt challenged and experienced personal growth? How have these experiences shaped me?
- Can I recall instances in my life where fear influenced my decisions in a way that felt contrary to trusting the Lord? What did I learn from these experiences?
- In what ways do I contribute to creating a safe and authentic space within my church community? Are there sensitive topics I’ve hesitated to address openly, and why? How can I move forward differently with those topics?
- When have I recognized my own limitations and vulnerability? How did these moments allow me to let God work in my life?
- Reflect on instances where unexpected helpers or divine interventions came into my life. How did these experiences reinforce my faith in God’s presence? Did I recognize it immediately or did it take time and hindsight?
- How do I prioritize being a good spouse, parent, or friend in my life? How does this affect my role as a pastor or ministry leader? Have I ever felt that I’ve gotten those priorities backward? Are there any changes I need to make in this area of my life?
- Have I ever kept a prayer journal? What insights have I gained about God’s intervention in my life through this practice, even in moments when it wasn’t immediately evident? If I have not kept a prayer journal, when will I start?
- How do I respond to the brokenness and suffering in our world? In what ways have I found strength and purpose in helping others carry their burdens and promote fairness? Can I implement an act of kindness per day to be the hands and feet of Jesus?
- Reflect on the fragility of life and the presence of suffering. How do these realities influence my perspective on cherishing every moment and making the most of my time?
- Consider the Beatitudes and their significance. How do they serve as a bridge between the Old Testament and the principles of the gospel in my understanding? How does this impact my life and ministry?
- Explore the eighth Beatitude and its message about potential persecution. What is the difference between persecution and inconvenience? When have I experienced persecution due to my faith? How does this inspire me to stand firm in my faith going forward, especially in the face of adversity?
- Take a moment to describe the blessings of being a pastor or ministry leader. How can I find joy and blessing in my role, even when circumstances are challenging and might seem unfair? How does this impact my perspective on ministry?
How do we respond when we are faced with fierce challenges and life just seems unfair?
In this episode, I’m joined by Dr. Shane Stanford. Shane is the president and CEO of The Moore-West Center for Applied Theology and JourneyWise. JourneyWise is a ministry that seeks to disciple others while promoting good mental health. Shane has served as a church planter and a pastor and has written a number of books, including his latest entitled JourneyWise. Together, Shane and I look at how we can reconcile our expectations with the realities that we face in life and ministry. Shane also shares his personal story, which you will not want to miss, of how he has experienced the goodness of God, emotionally, mentally, spiritually, and physically, as he has wrestled with an intense medical diagnosis. Are you ready? Let’s go.
Hello, friends, and welcome to yet another insightful episode of FrontStage BackStage. I am your host, Jason Daye, and I’m very excited about today’s conversation. I believe you all are going to really glean a lot of wisdom from our conversation today. It is an absolute pleasure and honor for me to get to sit down every single week with a trusted ministry leader and dive into a conversation in an effort to help you and pastors and ministry leaders, just like you embrace a healthy rhythm for both life and ministry. We are proud to be a part of the Pastor Serve Network. Along with this podcast in this episode, our team also creates a downloadable toolkit for you and your team to dig more deeply into this topic that we’re going to dive into today. And you can find that at PastorServe.org/network. There you will find additional resources and you’ll find our Ministry Leader’s Growth Guide to help you dig in more deeply. So please avail yourself of that opportunity. Now, we love coming alongside of pastors and ministry leaders at Pastor Serve and we are offering a complimentary coaching session. If you’d like to learn more about that you can visit PastorServe.org/freesession. If you’re joining us on YouTube, please give us a thumbs up and take a moment to drop your name and the name of your church in the comments below. We absolutely love getting to know our audience better and our team will be praying for you and for your ministry. Whether you’re joining us on YouTube or your favorite podcast platform please be sure to follow or to subscribe. You do not want to miss out on any of these great conversations. So at this time, I would like to welcome Shane Stanford to FrontStage BackStage. Shane, welcome to the show!
Well, thank you. It’s great to be here, Jason.
Yes, brother. Now, you’ve spent the past few decades serving as an effective pastor and as a church planter. You’ve been pointing people to Jesus. For all of us who have served as pastors or served in ministry leadership, we know that the journey is challenging at times. It can be very rewarding, yet it has its difficulties as well. Shane, throughout your entire ministry, you’ve carried an additional challenge, a medical challenge, which has impacted your life. And so Shane, as we dive into our conversation today, I would love for you to bring us into your story a bit and share a bit about this additional challenge that you’ve carried in your life and ministry.
Well, thank you, Jason. And I love what you guys do on your network, it is just so important. And having lived this life, knowing that you have someone you can turn to and someone you can count on to be on the journey with you is so important. So, thank you. I was born a hemophiliac, which for those who don’t know, is a condition where I don’t clot or heal very well. I’m missing parts of the clotting factor that allows your body to do those things. And so usually it’s not an easy life for hemophiliacs just in general because of being afraid of getting hurt or problems that you may encounter. But they started in the late 70s making the medicine that they use to treat it. It was a game-changing drug called Factor. And it was made out of human blood donations. And we did not know that the medicines that I was taking starting, which I guess was around ’80 for me, 1980, were contaminated with HIV and hepatitis C. And so at the age of 16 I contracted HIV and hepatitis C both, we found out a couple of years later. And so was told at the age of 16, I told someone I went to bed one night as president of the class and captain of the golf team, even had still been through some difficult things trying to just be a functioning hemophiliac. And then being told the next day that you have about two years to live, that I actually was about six years, probably, into the contraction of the diseases. And that was at a time when there was no medicine, AZT has not come out yet. The group that I was a part of of hemophiliacs had what were called chapters. And so all the hemophiliacs in that region would come together. And there were about 12 of us in the region where I grew up and I’m the only one alive today. Everyone else has either passed away from liver disease or from HIV and AIDS. And so I knew that it was going to be a difficult journey. But I also had come from a home of very strong faith. My mother is a true champion of the church, loves Jesus, and really taught me that that was probably the best gift that she could have given me. And so trying to figure out how to balance my faith and what I trusted going forward versus the uncertainties of what I knew I had to face. That really has been the challenge. And I tell people, in fact, I said this several years ago at a conference where I was speaking. And by the way, I’m using headphones because we’re at my daughter’s where she just had a new baby, my first grandchild, and I’m trying to keep as much sound down as possible. So thank you for that. I said that I’m at war with time. I’ve been at war with time my whole life. Being told that you only have so many years left and then wondering what the next year would bring or the next day would bring. And so we all decided to try to live as normally as possible as a 16-year-old. Ended up finishing high school, I married my high school sweetheart at the age of 20. We thought we had just a few years together. We’ve been married now 33 years and so it’s been a wonderful marriage. But decided to go to law school. I’m sorry about the way the story comes back around, Jason. Decided to go to law school, and got into a theology school where they had a law degree and a theology degree together. So they had a law school and a theology school that worked together for a joint degree. And so I thought, you know, I love the Lord. I was feeling a call to ministry and thought I would do both. Well, it took me about a semester and the Lord did away with the law school part and sent me on through the seminary part and I became ordained. But I had not had to tell anybody about my health until I was getting ready to be ordained and had to fill out a medical form, and had to have a doctor that looked through it and all of this and so I decided to go public with it. And my denomination that I was part of at the time, the United Methodist Church, really struggled with whether to ordain me or not because it wasn’t just about the theological issues and the demands of being actually the pastor, but we had a death benefit for our pastor spouses. And this is just how human beings work. They were worried that I would die young and they would have to pay for 30 or 40 years of this death benefit. And I mean, I was literally told that. So I’m confronting these issues of very human concerns and very carnal concerns. Also just trying to be a faithful person answering his call, got through ordination, literally by one vote yes to no, one vote difference. And then I was appointed to my first church out of seminary and was supposed to meet the congregation on a Monday night. They found out about my health on Sunday, I was going to tell them on Monday night, but they found out the day before and had a special meeting and decided not to take me. Basically, one gentleman was quoted as saying that he’d rather burn the parsonage down and have someone with HIV living in that parsonage. And it was all the fears that, if you remember all of that time, it was such as a sense of uncertainty and unsettledness. And the church really was a microcosm of some of the worst things that happened in the HIV and AIDS crisis because the church was always at tension. And thank goodness for Rick Warren and Kay Warren, when they came around in the early 2000s. They really set the evangelical church on a footing to be able to respond not just to HIV and AIDS around the world, but they did it for HIV and AIDS in the United States. And I was able to become good friends with Kay Warren through that and I’m very thankful for all that they did. But for a while there it really was a gamble anywhere you went. So I ended up being a church planter because they literally could not find anywhere else for me to go. And I thought, Well, why don’t we just do something simple and easy like starting a church, which is a complete farce, but I loved it and ended up realizing that I was pretty gifted to do it. I told everybody in the little town where I was appointed to start the new church about my health on the front end. People who didn’t like it could come, people who did good, and people in the middle could check it out. But we ended up staying there for over 10 years and starting a wonderful church that then led me to go to work in other places. I was in television and broadcasting for the United Methodist Hour for a while and then went on to pastor for 20 years in a large church. So, my whole life I think the best image, Jason, is this sense of not being enough in a world that all so often wants you to think you have to be more than you are in order to do the job you’re called to. We sometimes forget that pastors are simply human beings who’ve been given a calling to this vocation. They’re not any better or different than any other human being and therefore we all bring our strengths our weaknesses and our challenges into the job. In my case, I’ve just always had my challenges and weaknesses be very, very apparent everywhere I went and every step I went. And so it’s been a joy for me over the years, the place where I’ve enjoyed working the most is with other pastors, both who are dealing with health issues and pastors who are not because I’m able to say to them, Look, There literally is nothing that you can face that God can’t walk you through, literally. And that all you need to do is give him your commitment and just show up. You know, he doesn’t need help in doing most of the things that he’s going to call you to. So that’s sort of the background on my story. Most of my problems over the years, Jason, have not been related to HIV, it’s been related to the medicines. Medicines that treat HIV and Hep C both are very toxic. I had to have open heart surgery at 36 because of medicines. I’ve lost my right eye, this is a prosthesis because of a bleed and because one of the medicines that I was being treated with had some other vision issues. Of course, I’ve had hip joint and other problems because of bleeds and some of the medicines they’ve tried have caused some problems. So the diseases have been fairly easy to deal with. It’s the medicines used to treat them that I’ve had a lot of trouble with.
Wow, Shane, I’m sure everyone watching along or listening as you’re sharing your story is shaking their head, like me, in disbelief at some of those things. I can’t imagine being a teenager, and living in the 80s of all times, right? And learning that you’ve contracted HIV through these medications. Because we look at one side, there’s the medical side of it all. But then there is the stigma attached to that, all of the challenges of the social side, right? So we have a physical medical side, then you have an entire social side, which you experience not only in the world but that you experience in the church itself. I mean, you’re very first assigned to pastorate. The excitement and a little bit of anxiety that comes along with that for all of us. We all remember our first pastorate or our first ministry role, right? But finding out the evening before you’re supposed to show up that they don’t want you simply because of something that was completely out of your control, right? That’s got to be I wanna say devastating in some ways, I imagine in that moment. I don’t know what you’re experienced but I’d love to know because I think all of us in ministry, maybe not to that degree, but we’ve all had those moments where the church has hurt us. Where the place that we thought was a safe place has caused harm to ourselves or one of our loved ones, you know, our family. Shane, talk us through those moments and that time and what you experienced and how you navigated that. I mean, how did you continue on and end up planting a church and going into having a very effective fruitful ministry?
Well, it’s funny that you bring it up because, by the way, I’ll have to put in eye drops occasionally just for those watching. The remaining eye has a condition that I won’t be able to see you in about 10 minutes it gets so dry. So I’m sorry about it. I know that there are so many conditions that Shane has to walk through in order to just be able to podcast But it’s funny you bring that up because the conversation that I get mostly with young pastors is that they can identify with some aspect though they may have been perfectly healthy, there is some aspect of the journey that does resonate with every person who’s called into ministry. Because there are so many unknowns that are in any pastorate, right? The sense of am I truly capable of this? Am I equipped enough for this? Am I going to be the right fit in that circumstance? How do I deal with having this balance between trying to be faithful in ministry, and yet at the same time, having a life with my family and enjoying the things that God puts in my path? When I got rejected the thing that amazed me was the bishop, we had bishops, and I asked him, I called him that night and said, Look, they don’t want me, what do I do? And he said, I still want you to go to the meeting. And I thought he’d lost his mind. Because I mean, these are people who are saying they’re going to burn the parsonage down. And I did not know Ryan White, most people have heard of or know Ryan White. I know his mother, Jeanne, she and I’ve spoken at several conferences. I’m six months older than Ryan. So he would be just a little bit younger than me today. And so I, those were the days when kids weren’t allowed to go to school, that they were still burning kids’ houses who are hemophiliacs in Florida, living in the community, so there was a lot of concern. And here, this bishop said, I’m gonna make sure you’re okay. And we did. We had, you know, a lot of folks that went with us. But he said You need to go for them. Because the body of Christ needs to be reminded of the very essence of what you’ve been called into ministry for. It needs to be reminded of what you’ve heard, you don’t need to care about what they’re saying. They need to be listening to what you’re going to say to them. He says, maybe this has come about not for you to go and be their pastor, maybe all this happened so that you could go and usher this word of grace, a reminder of what their mission is. And there were two couples there that night who showed up. And I’m still friends with them today, even though I never went to be their pastor. What I saw though, Jason, was the brokenness in the eyes of a church that knew what they were doing. They felt so emotional about it all. But they knew what they were doing was not right. But they were still headed in that direction because their fear had really begun to define them. And whenever we allow fear to define us, we will make the unthinkable decision, we will go in the unthinkable direction. Because it’s so easy for us to get caught up in that uncertainty that we really do let the struggle kind of take over what are the movings of the Spirit in us. And of course, my first instinct was I wasn’t going back to that church either. And he says you cannot let your fear decide. And that bishop became a very important person in my life. Because later when I did go to be a church planter, he was the reason that I called the local town paper where I was going to be a church planter and got the editor to do a story on my health and put it on the front page. You know, it was a little less straightforward than “HIV-positive person comes to town”, but it was a lot in that same vein, right? And it was the best thing I ever did. Because people knew that I wasn’t afraid of what God had called me to do. That really it was in their ballpark. Are you gonna respond to what God’s called and working in this situation? But I will tell you that God always angled people into my path, Jason, at the right moment, no matter what the circumstance was, whether it was a doctor, or if it was another medical professional, it was a pastor, or possibly just a random friend that I would make would always angle into my path at exactly the right moment to be able to speak a word of hope and of strength and of confidence for me. You know, the first, the first 10 years of my diagnosis were really fairly simple with the exception of things happening from the outside. My T-cell count stayed high, my immune system was not having really any effect, and there were no medicines really to be on. AZT came out about in the middle of that. And so my main job was dealing with the emotions of other people and the secrecy. Oh, my gosh, the secrecy of who you could tell and who you couldn’t tell. I remember my mother saying to me after we found out the diagnosis, don’t tell anyone, don’t even tell your aunts or your uncles, or don’t tell your pastor. Because I wanted to be able to tell Brother Billy, he was the one I wanted to be able to tell. She said no, she said, I just don’t know how people are going to respond. And it was the first time that I had ever encountered a circumstance where you couldn’t say something in church. And one of the ministry divisions of the organization that I’m running now it’s called No Whispers. And that there should be nothing that you should have to whisper about in church, that you should be able to talk boldly and openly about whatever you’re facing, whatever your struggles are. Our primary emphasis today is on mental health and wellness. But a lot of that comes from that moment when I didn’t feel like I could say things to the people who I wanted to know that I couldn’t say what I needed to say.
Yeah, that’s a whole other layer of challenge there. And I think in ministry we often experience that and at Pastor Serve we work with ministry leaders and pastors as well, that they’re wrestling with something but there’s that fear as to how that might be received. So we keep it to ourselves. And we know whenever we keep things to ourselves that that isn’t healthy for us, isn’t healthy for us emotionally or mentally because we’re carrying an unseen burden. And we have no one that we can really talk it through with. Shane, in your story, it’s amazing that Bishop, the wisdom of that bishop in that moment. Like you said, it literally changed your life in many ways because he was willing to lean in, speak into your life, encourage you, and come alongside of you. And then you’ve shared that you’ve had just at the right time, different people God’s brought into your life. Talk to us a little bit about it, because I think one of the things that we wrestle with in ministry, too, is sometimes we isolate ourselves, right? So, share with us a little bit about how you had every reason to isolate yourself in so many ways, you know what I mean? Because of what you were trying to keep. Talk to us a bit about those relationships and how God has used that.
Well, the first real relationship that God used in the circumstance was my grandfather. My grandfather was an older farmer, just a good old country guy, you know, didn’t have a lot of education, but was very wise to the world. And he would never say the letters HIV, he would never say AIDS. I don’t think he could bring himself to say it. I was always the apple of my grandfather’s eye. And when he found out, we would play a lot of golf together, we were big golf buddies. And one day after we were playing, we sat down under a tree there at the golf course. And he looked over at me, he said, So what are you going to do with this thing? He didn’t even say HIV or the diagnosis, but what are you gonna do with this thing? And I said, I don’t know if I have much choice. He says, Oh, you have a choice. And I said, Well, please tell me. He says, Well, you can get the corner and feel sorry for yourself, and you can cry about it and he says, I love you so much, I’ll get the corner and cry with you. He said, But I think you’re gonna make every day every step count, no matter how many you have. And he says, isn’t that all that any of us can do is just make every step count? And so he was, he was the first one that really got me to thinking that none of us are guaranteed tomorrow or the next step. But what we are guaranteed is right now we can be the very best witness that we could be for where God is calling us to be and to serve. And so that was a reminder for me. And when I had to be ordained, I had to go through a psycho-analysis that you have to do for a counselor and they do a psychological test on you. And I told him everything that was going on in my life. And he came back and said, I think I have to diagnose you as being in severe denial. And I said, Oh, wow, what does that mean? And he says, Well, I don’t think that you realize everything you’re going through. And I just started laughing. I said, Are you kidding me? I’m very aware of everything I’m going through and that is not the problem. He said, well, but you made no arrangement emotionally for how you’re supposed to deal with it. And I said I disagree with you because I feel like the way I’m dealing with it is to just take the next step. You know, I don’t forget it’s there. I don’t imagine it’s not there. I don’t pretend like it’s not there. But what I do is I trust that whatever the next step is, the one who has me in his hands is enough and will always provide for me. And so that counselor went on and passed me anyway, I’m sure there’ve been days that I wondered whether or not he should have passed me. But what amazed me was that every time I got to align, there was always someone else that God brought in. I had trouble forever, Jason, finding a doctor when I was young, I just could not find anyone who would treat me in the area. I was in South Mississippi and so we didn’t have anyone who specifically treated HIV and AIDS. And I needed someone to do infectious disease. And out of nowhere, I was at some restaurant and saw a church member. He said, Hey, I just met an old friend of mine who’s a doctor here in town now who just moved back. And we went to school together. And he says, You ought to give her a call. She’s just in family medicine. I gave her a call and one of her primary specialties in that area, but she wasn’t making a big deal about it, was infectious disease and she became my doctor. So that’s one of those intersections. I had people who at just the right time came along to help me be able to go to college, to help me to go to seminary, who helped me to take care of that financially. There was always someone who came around that corner. And the thing that I always remembered, and maybe some of your folks will think of this too, Jason, is I was always worried about taking that for granted, though. I wanted to live in a world where I expected that God was going to intercede. But I didn’t want to take that for granted. I wanted to make sure that I had done everything that I could do to be as strong and as capable as I could be. But then not to take for granted that God was always providing an intersection, always angling into our path someone who could help us in that circumstance. And so like that bishop, I did not know Bishop Matters very well before then, but we became good friends later after that. But you know, he had come from a different part of the country and could not figure out why. And this is a true story. He could not figure out why he had gotten appointed to be bishop in Mississippi, he really thought it was the end of the world for himself. He really did. And I remember him growing to love Mississippi very much. But he would say later, many years later, he’d say he thought he was sent to Mississippi in order to navigate my situation. And to hear people talk like that, you really do when you back up, you go oh my gosh, he’s been working from start to finish. And he’s the one that actually started me doing a prayer journal. 29 years ago, I started doing a prayer journal, I still have it to this day. It’s about this thick now. But he wanted me to do it so that when I would write down what I was praying for that years later, I could go back and look. And as I go back and look now I see where God was intervening in every single request, whether I knew it or not, whether he answered it the way I wanted him to or not. He was making that way. And that’s the way he’s working it all of us.
Yeah, I love that, Shane. And as you share your story, it’s obvious God’s fingerprints are all over it, like it is with all of our lives. But that’s not to say that, Oh, Shane had this huge experience. He had these big challenges and God showed up and made it smooth sailing because Shane said I’m all in for you, God. I mean, you’ve obviously had your challenges throughout your life and throughout your ministry. And so talk to us a bit about how, in those times of brokenness, those times of struggle, those times of man, can’t I just catch a break? When you experience those, Shane, what sustained you in both life and ministry in those moments?
Well, it’s interesting, I’m at a stage in my life, in which I’m probably more at peace today than I’ve ever been. And content just because I can look back and see where God was intervening. There have been so many days, Jason, that if you would have caught me, you would have thought, oh my gosh, that is the worst pagan I’ve ever encountered in my life. You know, the way he’s responding man, he is angry. And it wasn’t so much that I was… I never got to a place where I was shaking my fist at God. I got to places where I wished that he could shake his fist with me. I was really calling out to him, I just need to know you’re there. And when I look back, I can see he was there. And so this far down the journey, I’m able to say to people, absolutely, he was there at every angle, every intersection. I know that. I see the evidence of it. But at the time, I had to trust that the word he was sending me at that moment, whether it was through a friend or whether it was through scripture, or devotion, or writing, whatever it might be, that that word was a reminder and that it was true, and that I could count on that word. There are moments though in our lives, and I’ve faced several of them where you get to a point where you go, okay, no matter what Lord, I just can’t do this. I’m not strong enough to do this. Those seem to always be the safe word. I call it, for my faith. When I got to a point where I said I am not enough is usually where I saw God show up the most vividly. But when I was trying to be more than I was at the time or trying to be the one who had all the answers, oh my gosh, my wife and I went through a terrible time in our marriage during church planting, because I was spending so much time trying to prove people should take a chance on HIV positive pastor, I was working myself to death, which means that I was also ignoring her. And we had tried to start having a family at the time. And I remember thinking to myself, it does not matter what you accomplish out here if you don’t have peace in here. If you’re not listening to what he’s saying, and working, and moving in here, Shane, it doesn’t matter what you accomplish out there. And that’s the thing that more than anything, when my wife and I go talk to marriage conferences, it doesn’t matter that I’ve been a person with all these illnesses, or what the circumstance has been, everyone in that room who’s in ministry together knows what that’s like to know that your spouse has that third person living or third being living in that relationship with you and it’s the church. And it’s hard for us to figure out where the church goes in our marriage and where the church goes in our relationships. God has intended, I think very much for people to be in ministry together. But not both people are called in the same ways, in the same places, and to the same degree. And therefore, I realized that my relationship with God and my wife’s relationship with God was the real conduit by which I could be a good pastor. I couldn’t try to do that, in spite of or instead of. I became a good pastor first because I was trying my hardest to be a good husband and a good father. And once I got that priority in line, I could look back and see where God had sent just the right person at the right time, or interceded in the right way for me. The main thing I’ve learned, though, Jason, over all of this, is that you cannot give up. So many times, I’ve wanted to throw in the towel. I’ve wanted to quit and say, You know what, I just, you know, I don’t want to do this anymore. And you can’t do that, because that so much is Satan’s battle with us. Satan doesn’t need to destroy us, he just needs to distract us. And that could lead us enough off target that it could cause all kinds of problems throughout. I think I’ve had a blessing, to be honest with you with my health. Because not having my health always reminded me of certain things that most people don’t get reminded of, except in very unusual moments in their lives. I woke up every day being reminded of how fragile and how precious time was, and I still made a mess out of it sometimes. But very quickly, I could get re-centered. And so what I worry about with my brothers and sisters in ministry is them not having to get to that place before they remind themselves every day of who they have, why they have it, and what they’re called to be a part of when they live it.
Yeah, that’s good, Shane, that’s excellent. Shane, all of us in ministry have challenges. We’ve said that. And a lot of times those challenges come, it’s for a season or whatever and they’re there. They’re somewhat expected. Some of your challenges people would look at and say, well, that’s just unfair. I mean, like, here’s someone who has given his life to Christ or someone who’s given his life to the kingdom work. And yet he’s facing these. And that kind of unfair piece comes in and there are others in ministry who experience things that just seem to be unfair. Shane, what would you say to a pastor who finds himself in a season where they’re experiencing things that just seem unfair?
That is something I’ve been wrestling with for the last few years. Just to give you an idea, my wife and I have three daughters, we were able to go through a procedure that kept them safe, and it kept my wife safe. And so we’re very blessed. But when we filled out our wills, the first time there was a young man that is married to my wife’s would-be sister. They’re not sisters by blood, but they’ve definitely grown up together and been close. And so Uncle Randy, as he was called, was the guy that was going to be in the will. He had Tracy and had custody of the children if anything happened to us. When I went through heart surgery, he was the one who made sure the yard was mowed. He’s the one who made sure every detail was taken care of. He’s just such a good man. And I can remember him looking at me going, I just can’t believe how unfair it is that you don’t get to live the same life that I do. Seven years ago, he got diagnosed with ALS and died three years ago, young man, just a wonderful guy. And it was so funny that in spite of all that I’ve been through, the first thing I did when I got along with God was I said how unfair this is that he had died with this and he dealt with this. And so the first thing I would say to people is that feeling like something’s unfair is absolutely normal because it is unfair. But remember that the world we live in is not based on fairness, it is a broken world where our physical, emotional, relational, and spiritual lives are all broken. So when sin hit us, everything failed. So I don’t think we were supposed to have cancer. But cancer came along in a broken physical world, I don’t think we’re supposed to have hurricanes, but hurricanes come along in a broken world. And so does spiritual death and spiritual brokenness. I think what we forget sometimes is that when you live in a broken world, broken things are going to happen. People are going to get sick, they’re going to have diseases, you’re going to face trials and struggles that oftentimes seem beyond your reach, or it frustrates you because you should have never had to be the one to deal with it. But I’ve had so many people who’ve said to me, Jason, Boy, I would have given anything if I could have just taken this burden on for you. And one of the things that I always say to people is that don’t ever wish to take on someone else’s burden. Just wish to be more faithful in the burdens you carry and the ones you help others carry. I’ve had friends who, I’ve been anointed, Jason, in every way you could possibly imagine in almost every sphere in the universe. I’ve been in Europe and South America, and people have anointed me trying to heal me. And at the end of the day, I’m still HIV positive. Still, but I’m here. And the people who have helped me in this very unfair situation have done incredibly kind fair things for me. They’ve tried to make a difference, even in the unfair, because I know that one day, it’ll all be fair. I’ll be for my Lord, I’ll see him face to face, I won’t have to worry about tomorrow. But until then, until that day, I do know that I’m not alone in this journey, that not just the Lord who walks with me, but God’s people who walk with me. And so every day, I try to do two things. I try to be faithful in my own witness. So I try to do whatever I can to take whatever I’m dealing with to be faithful. But I call them ARK, I just try to do an Act of Random Kindness every day for someone to help make their journey a little more fair. And I’ve been doing this now for 17 years, it started out of a Bible study I was a part of in Florida many years ago. And it amazes me how every day God just whispers back, See there, see there, see how you are able to make a difference in that person’s life, you don’t want any credit for it, you’re not trying to get any accolade for it, you may not even make a lasting impression about it. But in that moment, you got to help make the world just a little bit easier. And if we would do that for each other, I think what we would find is there would be so many fewer people going, Boy, that’s not fair and more people going, thank you. And just this idea of gratefulness. I tell people all the time because I minister to a lot of pastors. And I will say, look, you’re like a politician who has to go through an election every week. Because after your sermon on Sunday, they’re voting at Sunday lunch, trust me. And I do know that’s not easy and things don’t make sense a lot of times. But remember, the audience you have to be most contented with is the audience of you and the one you follow because you’ll know if something’s right or not right in that situation. And then you’re also listening to those who you’ve brought around you to help be that voice with you. I said the number one thing you need to worry about is how can I be that faithful witness. And how can I do an act of goodness and fairness to someone to just make their journey a little bit better? I could not spend too much time worrying about fair and unfair because it can consume you and it will weigh you down to where, it’s like I talk about with sight, it distracts you and it will cause you to miss that day. Maybe that one thing that could have intersected into your life that could have been the best thing you did or experienced that day. I don’t know if that answers your question.
That’s, that’s powerful, Shane. Very powerful. Thank you for that word. Brother, as we kind of wind down just a couple of things. One, you have invested a lot of time in the Beatitudes. And that has become a big part of your life, your ministry, and you’re sharing that with the world through JourneyWise. The mystery that you’re in at this season of life, and recently a book that you’ve written on it, including a devotional book, in addition. Talk to us just a little bit about how the Beatitudes relate to this entire conversation that we’re in the midst of. How does it relate to us overcoming the brokenness that we’re experiencing and those types of things?
Well, for most people, the Beatitudes were good for refrigerator magnets and for keychains. They had a good poetic verse and that’s how I view them. Then my grandmother, I talked about my grandfather earlier, but my grandmother, my mother’s mother, but my grandfather’s my dad’s father. And the reason that matters is what I’m about to tell you. My grandmother died about 17 years ago. And I knew she’d had a hard life. And she would use this phrase, journey wise. And so I can remember being a teenager and going, What does that mean? And she would say, I would rather learn something from every step along the way than to have been born the wisest person on the planet. And she would always reference Solomon and how being born with wisdom doesn’t mean you’re actually learning how to be wise. And so she would use that phrase. When my grandmother’s husband, my mother’s father was murdered, when my mother was ten, and my grandmother was pregnant with her fourth child. And it was a terrible situation, guys started setting forest fires, my grandfather was a forest ranger and went to stop him, and he shot him. And so my grandmother ended up having to ride three nights a week, 45 minutes each way in the back of a laundry truck to go get her degree to be a teacher. And so four children, just trying to make the world work. She ended up becoming a teacher and teaching for 40 years. And so I would hear this example of being journey wise, making the most of every circumstance. When she died, I found next to her bed five different translations of the Beatitudes. One was King James and the other was New American Standard, NIV, the message, and New Living Translation. And so I didn’t ask my cousins, I’m sure I’ll stay in trouble for this for a long time. But I just took those translations and put them up on the wall of my study. And for a year, read the Beatitudes, just to see what my grandmother was doing reading five translations every day of the same scripture. And over that year, I realized that the Beatitudes were not just the preamble to this amazing Sermon on the Mount. But it really was the start of Jesus’s wisdom values. If you look at the Beatitudes, they really do line out as sort of the core principles of what Jesus will teach on at other places throughout his ministry. And at the same time, Jason, it was during the WWJD movement, where everybody would say, What would Jesus do? And the one problem that, as a pastor, I would find in that movement was that the reason most people couldn’t really use what would Jesus do is because they had not taken much time to actually know what he did or what he said. And so, we created the JourneyWise discussion first by looking at this very specific part of Jesus’s teaching ministry, the Beatitudes, as the start of the start of when he began to be a teacher. And what we discovered was that it is this amazing set of not just principles for living, but it really is a bridge that allows us to connect both the Old Testament and the principles of this new gospel together. And you really do learn not just about Jesus’s teaching, but you learn a lot about what Jesus considered to be important. You know, being able to be fully present with the Lord totally, completely destitute in spirit so that the less of you is there, the more God can fill up. Hungering and thirsting like a person, not just like, I get hungry during the day, because I’ve only had two meals, but a person has not had meals in days, having that kind of hunger for justice and righteousness. Being a peacemaker, and not just a peace lover. What does that mean for our world? And then after you do those first seven Beatitudes, we notice that Jesus was very, very straightforward with us. He said, Oh, by the way, the eighth one is, you will be persecuted. If you do the first seven, you will be persecuted. He was very, very upfront about that. And what we try to do with that is to show people how in the daily awakening of just knowing what God is doing around you in whatever the next step of your life is, that he’s building something in you a set of lessons and a sense of being able to not just receive the world but to enter the world. So that no matter what’s happening to you, you’re always witnessing for him, you’re always doing the thing that matters most as a follower of Jesus. And so the Beatitudes is a great start, we then went on and created what you mentioned earlier, a 360-day journey with Jesus, where we took all four gospels and the first chapter of Acts and put them in chronological order. So in one year, in 4 90-day sections, you read all the Gospels in a year in the chronology of the ministry of Jesus. But the Beatitudes is sort of the example of it, what does it feel like to go that deep, and to look at the teachings of Jesus from such a practical, but also poignant sense of what they meant when he taught them but still mean today?
Yeah, that’s helpful. And because oftentimes, as you said, the Beatitudes seem very aspirational. I mean they’re a good thing to say, a good thing to repeat. You find yourself in a situation and you talk about, Blessed are the peacemakers, right? Or you’re in a difficult time and you lean on the persecution piece, right? But for those to really be values that shape our lives is different. There’s a difference between viewing these as aspirational things, and as things that really… and what I love in this, Shane, is that there is that piece of that reality that we will suffer, we will experience challenge and trouble and hardship in life. And yet these ring true and these are what we’re called to embody.
Jason, I’ve got a lady who did one of the first Bible studies of this that I ever did years ago. And we got to that first one where we hear it as blessed are the poor in spirit. And what Jesus really means there is he uses a word for poor that means destitute. So the more destitute you are in yourself, the more space there is for God to fill up in you, to be more present in you. And I remember I taught it, and every time I see her now she’ll say, You know what, I’m having a pretty good day, there’s not much of me in there. But she’ll say, Boy, I’m having a rough day, there’s a lot of me still in there, I’m trying to get more of me out so more of God can fill in. And it’s given her an image, a way to look at what it means to be present in the power of what it means to be emptied for Christ so that God can fill you up. She gets that now. Well, that was never supposed to be mystical. Jesus used it as a way for us to be able to cross the ages with it so that we know what it means to be filled up with him and not filled up with him. So it has a lot of practical but very important usages.
Yeah, I love that. I love that, brother. Shane, man, your story is so encouraging in so many ways. Just to see how God’s been at work in your life, through your life, and just how you’ve shared that with so many over the years. As we’re winding down, I want to give you an opportunity to share maybe some parting words of encouragement to our brothers and sisters who are serving in ministry.
Sure, I would just like to say to my brothers and sisters that I know the road is long, and it’s hard. But there aren’t many things in this world that are worth doing, that aren’t long and hard to take care of and face. And what you’re doing, I believe is the hope of the world. Because you get to be the witness, you get to be the hands and feet of Jesus in the place where you’ve been planted. There’s going to be so much that’s not fair. And a lot that doesn’t make sense. Just trust someone who’s been there on the journey for a lot of not making sense. But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t matter. Even through the things that we don’t understand, God shows up and does an amazing work in us and through us even when we’re barely hanging on. And I know that for so many times, I felt like I didn’t give God enough. And I remember the person who looked at me and said, if you’re just available, God will use what you give him, he can he can change the world by using just what you give him. And it took the guilt off of me not trying to be a certain thing before I believed God could use me. Right now where you are God can use you and God can make a difference in whatever the circumstance. Write that journal down though, and start documenting every day of your walk as a pastor so that not only you’ll be in the process of that faithfulness, but you’ll be able to look back and see the roadmap of where God has led you and how he’s gotten you there.
Yeah, I love that. It’s a great word, Shane. Appreciate that. If people want to learn more about JourneyWise or connect with you in the ministry, what’s the best way they can do that?
Go to journeywise.network, journeywise.network or you can go to shanestanford.com, either one of those sites will get you further down the rabbit hole as they say. We’d love for you to come and be a part of what we’re doing. Thank you.
Excellent, excellent. And for those of you watching or listening along, we will have links to both those sites in the toolkit for this episode, which you can find at PastorServe.org/network, along with a link to Shane’s books. We’d love for you guys to take a peek at those incredible resources there. Shane, it’s been an absolute blessing to have you on the show and to hear your story. Thank you for your faithfulness. Thank you for all that you’ve done to impact the kingdom and how you’re continuing to serve brothers and sisters who are serving in ministry and come alongside and encourage them and all that you’re doing. Certainly appreciate you taking the time to be with us.
Thank you, Jason. What you guys are doing is so needed and so helpful. Thank you.
All right. Thank you, brother. God bless.
God bless you.
Now, before you go, I want to remind you of an incredible free resource that our team puts together every single week to help you and your team dig more deeply and maximize the conversation that we just had. This is the weekly toolkit that we provide. And we understand that it’s one thing to listen or watch an episode, but it’s something entirely different to actually take what you’ve heard, what you’ve watched, what you’ve seen, and apply it to your life and to your ministry. You see, FrontStage BackStage is more than just a podcast or YouTube show about ministry leadership, we are a complete resource to help train you and your entire ministry team as you seek to grow and develop in life in ministry. Every single week, we provide a weekly toolkit which has all types of tools in it to help you do just that. Now you can find this at PastorServe.org/network. That’s PastorServe.org/network. And there you will find all of our shows, all of our episodes and all of our weekly toolkits. Now inside the toolkit are several tools including video links and audio links for you to share with your team. There are resource links to different resources and tools that were mentioned in the conversation, and several other tools, but the greatest thing is the ministry leaders growth guide. Our team pulls key insights and concepts from every conversation with our amazing guests. And then we also create engaging questions for you and your team to consider and process, providing space for you to reflect on how that episode’s topic relates to your unique context, at your local church, in your ministry and in your life. Now you can use these questions in your regular staff meetings to guide your conversation as you invest in the growth of your ministry leaders. You can find the weekly toolkit at PastorServe.org/network We encourage you to check out that free resource. Until next time, I’m Jason Daye encouraging you to love well, live well, and lead well. God bless.
Shareable Social Graphics
Strengthen Your Church
Strengthening your church, for us, begins by serving you, the pastor!