Tag Archives: pastor

You are Needed on the Mission Field

designWouldn’t it be great to pastor or attend the perfect church? Imagine a church where everyone loves the Lord, loves each other and loves the pastor! Everyone is a tithe-paying member. Everyone attends every worship service and everyone always volunteers for every ministry opening. Too many nursery workers, not enough work to go around on church workdays and everyone agrees on the kind of music we sing.

This may sound like the perfect church, but this side of heaven, it will never happen.

The truth is, we are not called to the perfect church; we are called to the mission field. Our communities are full of hurting people. The people attending our churches have been hurt by life. They are far from perfect. God did not ask us to find people who have it all together, He told us to find the sick and minister to them. Jesus Himself had to clarify his mission: Luke 19:10, “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” Mark 2:17, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” The church is not a gathering of perfect people – it is a place of hope for the hurting.

We make a mistake when we expect our place of service to be easy. When we get frustrated with the sinful nature of the people we serve, we misunderstand the call into ministry. Your town is your mission field. The county where your church is located is your harvest. If everyone in the city limits already knows the Lord, you can feel free to move on. However, God never calls a missionary where everyone already knows Him. Working for God in today’s culture is hard work and sometimes frustrating. But “the one who calls you is faithful, and he will do it.” (I Thessalonians 5:24)

You are needed right where you are. Those within walking distance of your church need Jesus. Broken families and rebellious teenagers and strung out street people need the Lord. Successful businessmen and lonely homemakers and hopeless senior citizens need Jesus. THEY are our mission field!

Please don’t undervalue the people you serve. God loves your community. He has placed you where you are and He expects you to love them as well.

You are called for a purpose. Jesus asks you to join Him in His Mission. You are needed in the mission field – in the mission field where you are right now.


When You’re Mad at Your Pastor

designIt is part of human nature and relationship dynamics that, from time to time, we get angry with the people around us. When we spend lots of time with others, we will get irritated, aggravated and sometimes mad at them. Spouses, kids, neighbors – they all have a way of getting on our last nerve. It is no different with our church leaders. Without a doubt, someone reading this post is particularly ticked at their local preacher right now. Take a deep breath and read on!

In my line of work, I deal with what, at times, seems like an inordinate amount of anger at pastors. Disappointment with preaching, frustration with decision-making and annoyance with quirks are a regular part of my conversations with church members. Don’t be mistaken, the vast majority of people are perfectly happy with their pastor; at least that is my takeaway. But occasionally, I hear some pretty fiery vocabulary centered around the ineptitude of the shepherd.

Let me quickly share one positive aspect of people getting mad at their pastor: they care enough to be passionate. I have met too many church members who are so disconnected with their church that they just don’t care what happens. So thanks for caring enough to get angry. But be very careful not to allow your passion to cause you to do something that is hurtful.

What do you do when you are mad at your pastor?

Don’t talk negatively about your pastor. When you express your displeasure with the pastor with anyone besides the pastor, it more than likely will be damaging. Fight hard to keep your discussion appropriate. My experience is, more damage is done by inappropriate conversation than by the pastor’s infraction. The Bible has a lot to say about this. Ephesians 4:29 is a great example.

Save communication until your emotions are in check. We are told in Communications 101 to guard our mouths when we are emotional. It’s best to put off decisions until one’s excitement is under control. This is true whether we are happy or sad, angry or glad. Hold off on discussions about your anger until you can clearly and concisely articulate your concerns without saying detrimental things. Adopt the “24-hour rule”: Wait at least 24 hours before firing off an angry email. This allows you time to pray, consider more details and communicate more effectively.

Understand how challenging the role of a pastor is. There are a lot of armchair quarterbacks who think they could be a great pastor with one hand tied behind their back. The “you only work one day a week” joke isn’t funny. Pastors (like many other professionals) are faced with the pressure and stress of organizational finances, legal issues, volunteer personnel management, social tensions and personality differences. Add to that the extreme strain of the spiritual health of church members and the load gets heavy. While I am quick to defend pastors, I am also quick to admit that we mess up – a lot. But never assume that the pastor has an easy job. That simply is not the case. Being reminded of this will help you to better process your frustrations.

Express yourself face to face, not in writing. Issues like the church are too important to be handled impersonally. Emails, texts and letters don’t allow for the reader to see facial expressions, to hear the intonations and inflections of the voice or to see a tear running down a face. Reading between the lines is a very imperfect science. Don’t risk being misunderstood. If you are angry with your pastor, respect yourself and him enough to talk in person.

Never express your anger at your pastor on social media. Ever. In fact, social media is not the place to deal with anger at anyone. It is unfair, rude and childish.

Respect the office of the pastor. While you may be angry with your pastor, please honor the office and calling of the pastor. They are no better than you and they do not deserve special treatment. However, it is the mistake of some to disregard the significance of a person who is appointed by God to serve as a spiritual leader over a church. In your anger, maintain respect and dignity, if for no other reason, because God is watching.

If it’s bad enough, and you’re mad enough, what do you do?

1st. Recall that God appointed them and, if necessary, God can unappoint them. Trust God with the church – She belongs to Him.

2nd. Pray for your pastor. It is difficult to be very angry at someone for whom you are praying. When something happens to frustrate you, spend a moment in sincere prayer for your pastor. I assure you, they need it and welcome it.

3rd. Watch your influence. Be aware that others are watching you and your behavior will impact them. You never want to be guilty of leading others into an offense.

4th. Guard your heart. Too many times, anger against a pastor morphs into anger at God. Pastors fail, God never does. Keep your spirit pure.

5th. Forgive! Whether or not your pastor deserves it, forgive them. The Gospel is full of instruction on how we must forgive others as God has forgiven us.

6th. If you must go (leave the church), go the right way. It is unfortunately inevitable that some people need to leave some churches. There is a proper way to do this but we see very little demonstration in today’s culture. While much can be said about this topic (and others have), at the end of the day, we must be right with God and with others. If leaving a church does not coincide with that, you’d better not leave.

If you’re angry with your pastor, welcome to the church! It’s normal. But let’s not allow our emotions to damage the church, our pastor or ourselves.


A Culture of Conflict

img_0290Not unlike the culture of the iconic Wild West, America is currently enthralled with fighting. From political elections to reality TV to road rage, we love our conflict. It is not uncommon to witness a verbal altercation on the subway or in the boardroom. Metaphorical “shootouts at the OK Corral” happen every day in the classrooms, courtrooms and bedrooms of the U.S.

This is a culture of violence. It is a culture of disrespect. It is a culture of conflict.

Even something as simple as sports teams rivalries are steeped in conflict. Good-natured trash-talk goes, in my opinion, way too far to the point of dividing friends and family.

Let’s not confuse debate, confrontation and conflict.

We need to be able to discuss matters of difference and do so in a civil manner. When we are wrong, those who care about us must possess the responsibility to lovingly confront us. Conflict, however, is a collision, a war, a clash. The Latin conflictus means “a striking together, to contend, to fight; combat.” According to Erik Erikson’s theory of psychosocial development, a conflict is a turning point during which an individual struggles to attain some psychological quality. (https://www.verywell.com/what-is-conflict-2794976) One researcher defines conflict as “a disagreement through which the parties involved perceive a threat to their needs, interests or concerns.” (ohrd.wisc.edu) I would add that conflict often includes a response to those perceptions; and many times the response is ugly.

It is one thing to fight for one’s family or freedom. But many in today’s culture thrive on conflict. Some people just love a good argument. I literally had a women tell me last week that she was a Hatfield of Hatfield and McCoy fame; and she proceeded to explain that this was the reason for her position of quarreling in her church.

We have become so accustomed to conflict, it feels normal. But it should not be normative for Bible believing Christians. Church fights have been known to be bloody, vicious and eternally destructive.

Ephesians 4:29 Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear.

Lucado says: when those who are called to fish don’t fish, they fight.

Why?

I am of the opinion that the foundational issue behind our propensity to conflict with one another is spiritual. There is a deep-seeded discomfort or irritation that, when fueled, becomes a source of contention. Many times, those who fight with others are also fighting with themselves as well as with God. The enemy of our souls wants to make us miserable. An effective way to accomplish this goal is to cause us to turn on one another.

It is a matter focus. When we don’t focus on what we are called by God to do (the mission), we focus on one another. When we focus on one another, we fight. I love the writings of Max Lucado when he said:

   When those who are called to fish don’t fish, they fight.

   When energy intended to be used outside is used inside, the result is explosive.

   Instead of casting nets, we cast stones.

   Instead of extending helping hands, we point accusing fingers.

   Instead of being fishers of the lost, we become critics of the saved.

   Rather than helping the hurting, we hurt the helpers. 

http://pastorhow.com/tanseowhow/when-fishermen-dont-fish-by-max-lucado/

We can concentrate on minutia or we can concentrate on mission, but we can’t do both.

When we are not fulfilling what God called us to do.

We are frustrated. We know there is more to life.

We have a divine purpose and we are not fulfilling it.

They are focused, on the wrong things. Other people.

And when this happens, we are failing.

So, the question really isn’t, “why do we have so much conflict?” but “how can we get back on mission?”

We must get good at conflict resolution. However, we must get even better at conflict prevention. Let’s embrace the responsibility we have to do what God told us to do so we won’t fight with each other. More importantly, let’s do what God wants so we can honor Him.


Leading with Contrast

leading with contrastSome things to look for:

  • Being counter-cultural.
  • What if no one follows?
  • How should we to measure success?

Read: Matthew 5:13-16 “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot. 14 “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”

My initial reaction when reading this passage from a leadership framework is to be reminded of the call to be an agent of contrast to the world in which we live. It is tempting to fall into a pattern of fitting in with our surroundings rather than being counter-cultural. Going with the flow comes naturally to most of us. As Christian leaders, we should not expect to be accepted or honored for our faith and we surely shouldn’t be surprised if our faith costs us. We have to be different and we have to be ready to deal with the fallout when we are different. The world doesn’t need us to be like everyone else – the world needs us to be like Jesus.

Jesus’ words are pertinent for leaders today because we struggle with the need for people to follow our leadership. We are called by God to lead others; when we do not have constituents, it is difficult (ok – impossible) to lead. The temptation when followers are few is to lower the bar of what it means to be a follower. Many leaders have come to the conclusion that if the rules eliminate people, we can just eliminate the rules. The problem with this approach is leaders become liable for misleading followers. We must never compromise our Biblical approach to leadership in order to gain followers. Remember, your success as a leader is not a matter of the numbers of people you lead but rather the life-change that is being experienced by those you lead. While this may not be a new revelation to you, I hope it is a refreshing reminder of our priorities and expectations as we move forward into an uncertain future.

What do we do with this info? My plan of action is to try to measure my leadership effectiveness, not in consideration of quantity but rather quality. Let’s avoid the trap of thinking that bigger is always better. A good analogy may be your choice of restaurants. You can chose a cheap buffet where you can eat all the bad food you want or you can chose a gourmet restaurant with world class food. If it’s one or the other (and if someone else is paying!), I’ll take the gourmet food every time. Hopefully, in life and ministry, it is not one or the other. I believe that if we are diligent to lead with contrast, God will take care of the increase of our influence.

Lead with Contrast. Be the difference the world needs.

Be encouraged and lead on!


4 Essential Elements of Leadership

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I am delivering this lesson tomorrow to a group of ministry leaders. Rather than limit it to one presentation, I thought it may be helpful to readers of this blog.

Leadership is a trust. I Corinthians 4:2 “Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful.”

Like other spiritual gifts, leadership is a gift from the Holy Spirit. Romans 12:8 “if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.”

The spiritual gift of leadership is closely related to the gift of administration and, interestingly, the spiritual gift of pastor/shepherd.  The Greek word for the spiritual gift of leadership is proistemi.  This word means to lead, to assist, to protect and to care for others. http://www.spiritualgiftstest.com/spiritual-gift-of-leadership

The gift of Leadership is the God given ability to lead people to accomplish God’s vision and goals. The biblical image used when describing leadership is “shepherd”. A Shepherd does not force his will upon the sheep, rather he tends and cares for them. The sheep instinctively follow a good shepherd. Jesus describes himself as the “Good Shepherd”, and calls Church leaders his “Under Shepherds”. The “Under Shepherds” must faithfully follow the example of the “Good Shepherd” and lay their lives down for the welfare of the sheep (John 10:14-18). The person gifted by God with Leadership abilities, will display the same servant leadership principles evidenced by Jesus and the Apostles. (http://www.assessme.org/about/spiritual-gifts/leadership.aspx)

Like with others gifts, God expects us to nurture, explore and utilize the gift of leadership for His glory.

We have become stewards of the gift of leadership. We must make the most of it, as ones who will give an account to God. See the parable of the talents in Matthew 25:14-30. (If you don’t use what you’ve been given you may lose what you’ve been given.)

Are leaders born or made? “Leaders are neither born nor made. Leaders are summoned. They are called into existence by circumstances, and those who rise to the occasion are leaders.” (Leonard Sweet – Summoned to Lead)

Let’s be the best leaders we can possibly be for God’s glory!

 4 Essential -(imperative, indispensable, necessary_- Elements of Leadership:

Note that the title is 4 Essential Elements – not THE 4 Essential Elements. There are many more! In his book, Spiritual Leadership: Principle of Excellence for Every Believer, J. Oswald Sanders lists: discipline, wisdom, decision, courage humility, integrity and sincerity, humor, anger, patience, friendship, tact and diplomacy, inspirational power, executive ability, etc.

  1. Authentic

(adjective: not false or copied; genuine; real.)

Synonyms: credible, real, genuine, legitimate, pure, reliable, trustworthy.

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Paul’s declaration of authenticity: “Those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do: and the God of peace shall be with you.” Philippians 4:9

“Followers trust leaders to lead. When leaders don’t lead, followers stop trusting their leaders.”

There is no leadership issue more important than trust. Without trust, we are not leaders.

Trust is fragile: it takes a lifetime to build trust and only a moment to lose it.

For discussion: Name some things that can compromise our authenticity:

  1. Visionary

The ability to look forward to God’s plan.

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Leaders must be solutions oriented; anyone can point out problems, it takes a leader to fix them.

“The term vision is a key buzzword in today’s ministry world.  I believe that vision is vital to your people seeing what “could be” – what our great God can accomplish through them (Eph. 3:20) in your ministry community.”  (Aubrey Malphurs –Advanced Strategic Planning)

Leaders must 1) accurately assess the current situation of the group they are leading, 2) discern where God wants to take the group and 3) implement the best plan in order to get the group there.

Vision is not just a pipe dream. Vision isn’t fantasy. Vision is not wishful thinking. Vision is hard work, directed by the Spirit, demands great sacrifice, requires faith and embraces risk.

Three of the most renowned Biblical visionaries: Moses, Nehemiah, Paul.  Study their leadership!

Visionary leaders must have foresight. “A mark of leaders, an attribute that puts them in a position to show the way for others, is that they are better than most at pointing the direction to go. Foresight is the “lead” that the leader has. Once leaders lose this lead and events start to force their hand, they are leaders in name only.” Robert K. Greenleaf

Leaders, ask of the group you lead…

  • What is?
  • What could and should be?
  • What will it take to make it happen?

For discussion: What are some of the things that may prevent leaders from being visionary?

What are some Biblical responses to these things?

  1. Industrious

 design[29](Paul) II Thessalonians 3:7-8 “For you yourselves know how you ought to imitate us, because we were not idle when we were with you, nor did we eat anyone’s bread without paying for it, but with toil and labor we worked night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you.”

“A dream doesn’t become reality through magic; it takes sweat, determination and hard work.” (Colin Powell)

It is reasonable to expect full time ministers to work 50 or more hours per week.

Make the distinction between selfish ambition and godly ambition.

“Pastors of 50 or fewer people – if you work and pray as though you have 100 people, you may soon have.”

We must guard against time wasters: (social media, non-essentially long meetings, extended lunch or coffee breaks).

It is necessary to not only work hard, but to also work smart. Learn to utilize tools and innovations such as the Internet, teams within the church, and resources from other pastors/leaders.

Be diligent in your work for the Lord. We cannot hide laziness!

 For discussion: What things might contribute to the reputation that pastors are not hard workers?

  1. Spiritually Deep

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I Corinthians 11:1 “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.” (NIV)

“And you should imitate me, just as I imitate Christ.” (NLT)

 

One of the most sobering identities of a leader: Example. People actually follow!

 Remember: As goes the leader, so go the followers.

“If the preacher always preaches shallow messages, the church members will never learn how to swim in the deep waters.“

It has been said, “Whatever you see exemplified in church members can be traced back to the pastor.” While there are exceptions to this statement, there are elements of truth to it.

A few indicators of spiritual maturity:

  • Stability – we will not be wishy-washy in our spirituality.
  • Humility – we think of ourselves less and others more.
  • Practicing sound doctrine – Not prone to flaky theology or bandwagon gimmicks.
  • Thick skinned (Not easily offended) – it is hard to hurt our feelings.
  • Faith – God has proven Himself over and over, we do not doubt Him!
  • Persistence – we refuse to quit.

For discussion: What must we do in order to assure our spiritual stability?

Conclusion:

Are you as effective as a leader as you would like to be?

In what areas is God speaking to you about your personal leadership development?

What is your plan of action?


The 5 Hardest Things I’ve Done as a Pastor

The 5 Hardest Things I've Done as a Pastor

When you are a pastor, you have a lot of really great days. But you also have your share of bad ones. These are the times when your responsibilities force you into spots that you’d rather not be in. In thinking back over the last 25 plus years, I have mostly good memories, but some difficult times stand out.

Warning: the list below may not be what you’re expecting and it may be difficult to read.

The 5 Hardest Things I’ve Done as a Pastor:

Watch a child die. While we’ve had that unfortunate experience a few times, the day a little boy hemorrhaged to death while his mother held him in her arms is burned into my memory.
Inform two children their father had died. This is a conversation that no one wants to have. I still recall their response.
Identify the bodies of a father and his four-year-old daughter who died in a fire. The sight and smell created lasting trauma for me.
Watch a young leader and friend die a slow and excruciating death. I still argue with God about that one.
Preach the funeral of a 17 year-old suicide victim. There is no adequate way to prepare for that.

No, these events were not about me. But I was there. This is not an effort to garner sympathy. Of course, I did not hurt as much as the family members of these people hurt, but I did hurt.

Notice something about all of the above events – they all involved death. They did not involve a church fight or an argument over money or even a moral failure. Here is the purpose of this article: Sometimes the things that we think are serious are not. The things that really matter involve life and death and eternity.

I hope that the Church can begin to focus more on issues of eternity.


5 Ways to Discourage Your Pastor

5 Ways to Discourage Your Pastor

As a pastor of a local church for over twenty-five years, I had my share of buildups and letdowns. Sometimes I recall the discouraging times more. I know that I was not supposed to get down because of people and circumstances, but it happens. I also know that the people who discouraged me did not always mean to do so. But it happened.

The purpose of this post is to let you in on a few things to avoid (unless you want to discourage your pastor). If you are bent on discouraging him or her, here are 5 surefire ways of doing so:

1. Be a no show at Sunday service. Vacation, kid’s sports, sleeping in … pretty much any excuse for not going to church serves as a way to frustrate a pastor. Of course, there are legitimate reasons for missing church. But the general lack of commitment to the church by members is a major source of discouragement for most pastors. Here is why: non attendance is a statement that whatever we chose over church is simply more important to us at that time; that is discouraging to a pastor, and understandably so.

2. Don’t support the church financially. Statistics show that an overwhelming majority of church attenders give little (or nothing) to the church. Although they are limited in what they can say on this topic, pastors get upset about this for a few reasons. There are spiritual implications and consequences. Lack of generosity indicates a lack of gratitude to God. Lack of giving limits the blessings that God will provide for individuals and churches. It’s no wonder why Pastors get discouraged about this issue.

3. Don’t grow as a disciple of Christ. Good pastors will want to measure the progress of the church members. We preach, teach, pray and counsel with the goal of spiritual maturity for the people. While we see with physical eyes and spiritual growth is difficult to measure, it is frustrating to perceive people as stagnant and stuck in their relationship with Christ. It’s sometimes enough to make a pastor want to quit.

4. Fight progress and growth; refuse to accept change in the church; don’t welcome new people into the church. I once had a church member say to me of our church, “the smaller, the better.” Spiritual leaders take people on a journey. They are assigned by God to move people toward God. They discover where the church is and where God wants to take it. There is no such thing as a leader who remains motionless. When God places a vision for growth in the heart of a leader, it can be devastating if people refuse to go. Certainly, there are many conditions that are required which pastors must observe. They must earn the trust of the people and be able to discern the direction of the Spirit. But once this is realized, the refusal of participation by church members is one of the greatest sources of frustration that a pastor can experience.

5. Leave the church. Although many people approach church as consumers and change every time something happens that they don’t like, pastors hope for more dedication. When someone leaves the church, it hurts personally. It is rejection. Pastors suffer when people leave.

The list could go on…

Most people don’t want to hurt their pastor; I hope you don’t. But please don’t overlook the possibility that you may be doing so inadvertently.

Grace and peace to you!