Throughout this blog our team of brothers reach out to their
fellow spiritual leaders aiding them in their time of need.

 

Brothers In Arms Blog

BROTHERS \ noun plural: men who share a parent in common
IN \ preposition: used as function word to indicate purpose
ARMS \ noun: weapons\verb: to furnish with weapons

FRIENDS WITH WEAPONS

 

Pastoral Care and Counseling

Bob Newhart’s Version

They don’t teach this method at Seminary – at least not that I ever encountered. I’m reading the book of Nehemiah every week for seven or eight weeks while I preach through it at my church. It’s been pretty interesting to read the story of the exiled community returning to find their city in ruins and then dropping everything to rebuild the walls. We’re doing Chapter 5 tomorrow, it’s the story of when some of the leaders of the community were taking unfair advantage of those who were vulnerable. Nehemiah proposes a radical solution to solve the problem: stop it. Funny thing was that it worked.

I don’t think I’m that great at pastoral counselling. I don’t really have a method. I listen. I pray. And I try to tell the good news to people. I don’t know if it helps. But I have been the beneficiary of some great pastoral care over the years – mostly from friends of mine who are pastors. Usually the very best care I get sounds a lot like Nehemiah and Bob Newhart. It’s a real gift when someone who loves me will call me on my crap and tell me to stop it.

If you are struggling with an addiction or a disease like alcoholism, ptsd or a diagnosed issue – this is terrible advice. Don’t watch this video and know that you are loved. If you are struggling with something pedestrian but powerful there is some value to this advice. What has you stuck in a rut? What’s causing you trouble in your life? What silliness do you return to day after day that you know isn’t good for you? What’s killing your relationships and robbing you of joy? What is hindering your involvement in the mission of God?

Here’s a little classic MadTV… Bob Newhart at his best, to offer you some advice.

 
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The Business of Ministry

Those of us whose ministry is also our job have an ongoing challenge.

There is a certain amount of work and business that has to be addressed. How much can we spend on something worthwhile versus how much we will make on it? Should we speak at some small venues that can’t pay much or only at the big ones? Do we write what will sell or what God lays on our hearts? How much time should we spend on mission projects that actually cost money and pay nothing, versus engagements that pay the bills? Do we nurture relationships simply to be a blessing, or do we focus on the ones that will be advantageous?

Yuck. The business of ministry raises uncomfortable questions. When does it stop being ministry and become business?

Where and when do we cross that line?

When I let someone pressure me into something God has not told me to do.

When I consider the money before I seek God’s guidance.

When I approach a project without praying and immersing myself in His Word first.

When what I want to say becomes more important than what God wants me to say.

When I care more about how it will benefit me than how it will benefit others.

When I respond unkindly.

When I see people as “in the way.”

Most of us are well-intentioned and sincere. We love God, love people and want to give. But selfishness is a subtle, silent stalker. It creeps up on us and little by little, corrupts our motives.

Consider the following quote from a commentary on 1 Corinthians 13:3:

“If I can write articles or publish books that win applause, but fail to transcribe the Word of the Cross into the language of His love, I am nothing.”

Ministry is supposed to be about loving and serving. If those aren’t our bottom line, we have compromised our spiritual integrity.

“Oh God, keep us humble. Keep us grateful. Keep us honest. And above all, keep us surrendered. Amen.”

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5 Reasons Why Pastors Should Apologize

For some reason, the hardest two words for a leader to say are often, “I’m sorry.” This is especially difficult for young leaders, especially young pastors. But here’s the thing, an apology may be your best leadership tool. This I know because as a young, green, inexperienced pastor, I’ve had to do my share of apologizing.

So here are five reasons why pastors should have a quick trigger with their “I’m sorry.”

1) It builds respect — A young pastor often thinks he has to assert his authority to let everyone know that he’s the boss and it’s “his way or the highway.” This, he thinks, gives him more respect and authority. Aside from being unbiblical (Matthew 20:25-26, Titus 3:2 and 1 Timothy 3:3), what a young pastor doesn’t realize is that admitting when he is wrong or hasn’t fully weighed a matter, actually builds respect. People begin to think, “Okay, he’s young, but he’s mature about this.” On the flipside, there is no bigger sign of leadership immaturity than a leader who insists he’s right all the time.

2) It’s humanizing — Pastors are put on a pedestal whether we want to be there or not. We’re tasked by God to deliver His Word. We’re the spiritual leaders and some can be intimidated by this. When we have the courage to say, “I messed this up”, “I could have done this a different way” or “I should have listened to your concerns more”, we invite people into our own struggle and spiritual growth process. They realize: Hey this pastor is just a human, he’s growing, he’s learning, he can do this.

3) We model biblical relationship — No relationship can thrive without the wash cycle of repentance and forgiveness. It’s essential for us, as sinners, to constantly forgive and ask forgiveness. By apologizing to people we may have wronged we model true, biblical community. We’re showing the wife how to apologize to her husband, we’re showing the dad how to say “sorry” to his daughter, we’re showing the employer how to seek forgiveness from his employee. If the pastor is big enough to admit when he is wrong, then it empowers others to live with similar authenticity.

4) We disarm potential adversaries — It is true that often a pastor has to firmly stand against someone else in his church. Indeed, there are troublemakers in every church. However, I wonder how many church conflicts and splits could be avoided if somebody in leadership simply demonstrated biblical maturity and admitted their mistakes. Or actually listened to genuine concerns. When a pastor says something like, “I’m so sorry”, “I didn’t know you felt this way” or “I should have considered what you were saying”, it has a powerful way of diffusing a conflict and paving the way for peace. Romans 12:18 says, “As much as lies in you, live at peace with all men.” Sometimes there isn’t a way to find peace. Sometimes there are issues that can’t be resolved. Sometimes there are nasty people who can’t be assuaged and whose presence hurts the church. More often than not however, it’s simply a matter of spiritual maturity. Pastors should lead the way in this.

5) Sometimes you’re just flat wrong — Simply because you hold the office of pastor doesn’t mean that you are always right. Sometimes you’re wrong. An insecure pastor hides behind his biblical authority with all kinds of defensiveness. But a godly, mature pastor has the humility to admit when he is wrong. I’m grateful for my wife and the men on my Board who are willing to challenge me and ask “Why?” Because the worst thing for an organization is a leader with total, unchecked power. Men, especially young men, must admit when we are wrong. We must not be defensive. We must not be brawlers. When we do this we divide Christ’s body, we model worldly leadership and we harm the very sheep we’re called to serve.

Please note: This is not a prescription for doormat leadership. Pastors at times need to be tough, thick skinned and make hard choices. But there is no need for brawling, unapologetic tyrants or being a “wimpy” pastor. It’s called being a servant leader and those who are, have the courage to say “I’m sorry.”

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How to Burn Out, Stress Out

and Water Down Your Ministry in 7 Easy Steps

In my early days in ministry I was full of excitement and passion. It seemed that my energy was boundless, I worked as a youth pastor, went to school, and managed to work another part time construction job to pay the bills. As I grew older and God blessed my wife and I with children, things began to get more complicated. My energy seemed to wane and I found myself stressed out, burned out, and coasting. The passion and excitement I had in those early days wasn’t gone, but it was on it’s way.      I went through a lot of pain, soul searching, prayer, and guidance from mentors before I identified the cause. I’ll admit, I still find myself struggling to maintain balance in these areas. Thankfully I have men in my life who will point out when I need to step back and readjust a few things. Take a look and see if any of these are issues you struggle with as well.

1. Let other people determine your worth
No matter how many people tell me how great the message was on Sunday, just one negative or overly critical person’s voice seems to drown out all the others. The problem isn’t with that one Negative Nelly, the problem is when we derive our feelings of success or satisfaction from people rather than from the Lord. If you are preaching from the Word of God, which is sharper than any two edged sword, sooner or later you will offend someone and offended people often lash out. When they do, it is easy to get down on yourself because of their hurtful words. Pastor Perry Noble, when speaking on the issue of critics in the church says,
“When you allow the voice of those who know you the least, to define you the most, you are in trouble. The voice of the critic does not define you if you are a follower of Jesus and called by Christ. You need to trade in your self esteem for God esteem.” – Perry Noble
However, by the same token, if your confidence rests on getting “attaboys” from certain people in your congregation you are playing with fire as well. In Luke 6:26 Jesus said, “Woe to you when all men speak well of you.”  The Bible is clear, we are first and foremost accountable to God, and our chief aim must be to please him.
Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.
         2 Timothy 2:15 (ESV) emphasis added

When we allow the voice of the crowd and their opinion, whether positive or negative, to shape our sermons and leadership we are really allowing them to lead instead of following the Holy Spirit. Pastor you are the called and anointed leader of the church and your family. The Lord has entrusted, equipped, and called you to this task, at this time. Don’t let anyone strip away or diminish what the Lord has               called you to.

2. Compare your ministry to others

This is so natural to do, but it is also destructive. We compare numbers, facilities, budgets, even softball team records and when you do that, either way you fail. You end up either feeling like you don’t measure up or pridefully conclude that your ministry is better or more anointed than someone else’s. God wants us to be confidently humble, to be neither in envy of another or prideful over what God has done through our work. 1 Corinthians 3:6 makes it clear when Paul wrote “I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow.” God is the one doing the real work. The first question you need to answer is, “Am I being obedient?” I’ll take obedience over numbers any day. People will know we love Jesus not by how many people we cram in our churches, or by how big the offering was, but by how we obey. I also have this sneaking feeling that obedience leads to health, which leads to making disciples and growth in every significant area in the church. Pursue Christ through obedience, He will take care of the rest.

3. Don’t take care of yourself

Current CIA Director, General David Patraeus, has stated that the human body is the ultimate weapons system. When well cared for, these bodies of ours are capable of amazing feats. However, when we are running on caffeine, subsisting on junk and fast food, and carrying too much excess baggage, we find ourselves running low on energy to the point where enthusiasm and passion just aren’t enough anymore. Not only do we have less energy, we are less productive with what we do have. Getting on a whole body health plan that addresses body, mind, and spirit is one of the most challenging things I have ever attempted to do. It takes discipline and commitment to be successful, but I find that when I take time to exercise, eat right, and fill my mind with good things, the dividends far outweigh the expenditures.

4. Stay isolated

Ministry is lonely, but it doesn’t have to be. I have found that because pastors tend to struggle with 1 and 2 they often fail to build real relationships with other pastoral peers in their community. These are the men who know the load you carry, and have been down that same road you are on. Even pastors need relationships so that “iron can sharpen iron”. Younger pastors need to connect with more experienced pastors, and more experienced pastors need to pass on their knowledge and wisdom. Sadly, there are many that are more dedicated to their pet doctrines than they are to the unity Jesus prayed for in John 17:20-23 and Paul wrote about in Ephesians 4:1-16. We need to lay differences aside and find time to build relationships with other pastors for prayer, fellowship and support. Who knows if pastors led the way in this, entire communities just might follow suit!

5. Maintain poor boundaries

As one called into ministry, the word “no” is both surprisingly hard to say and seems to be very offensive to people when they hear me say it. But everyone needs to hear it from time to time. After a spate of very early morning and middle of the night phone calls, I asked a person in the church to stop calling my home and to only call me during business hours at the office. It’s not that the calls were completely pointless, but they were disturbing my family’s rest and my family comes before anything but a legitimate emergency. There are people in your church and community that are needy and while they cannot be ignored, good boundaries must be put in place or everything else will suffer. There is simply not enough time or energy available to meet the needs of everyone around you and maintain the things God has called you to. Know where the line is and do not hesitate to draw it.

6. Keep even poorer priorities

We are called to our personal walk with God first, to our spouses second, our families third, and then to our ministry. In that order. It is easy to get that out of whack and when we do, ministry becomes a mistress that attacks our marriages, families, and can ultimately destroy the church. Some pastors allow their walk with Christ to suffer because they replace it with sermon prep. If God is indeed desirous of relationship that is so often described in passionate and intimate terms, there needs to be passion and intimacy in your daily pursuit of Him. The same goes for your spouse. They need to know they are number one in your book and you can show that by making time, cultivating your relationship, and doing the little things that matter. Guess what? Your kids need that same type of relational cultivation. One requirement of ministry in both Titus and Timothy was a healthy home life. No, you don’t have to be June and Ward Cleaver. But you need to take care of your household first. As 1 Timothy 3:5 reminds us, “For if a man does not know how to manage his own family, how can he take care of the church of God?”

7. Refuse to rest

This is a big one. We often preach honor the Sabbath day and keep it holy, but it seems that many pastors struggle to maintain a consistent day of rest for themselves and their families. Here are some tips to a healthy Sabbath.

Set aside – a day each week specifically for rest.
Attitude – train your mind to stay off the work you need to get done at the office.
Boundary – again, unless it is an emergency, this is a day for you and your family to rest in the Lord.
Bible – Remember this isn’t a vacation away from the Word. The Bible is meant to refresh and reenergize so make time in your day for your own study.
All together – your family needs to be a part of this rest time as well, whenever possible. Plan time to be together.
Teach yourself – I have a stable of preaching podcasts I listen to for my own edification. This is not when I listen to leadership podcasts though. On my days off I specifically listen to preaching so that through hearing the Word my own faith might become activated.

Home – spend some time at home. Unless rest is just impossible at home, spend time around your house. Fix things, garden, take a nap, play with the kids, enjoy time with your spouse, whatever you need to do to relax, find a way to do it at home.

The title of this article is a little tongue-in-cheek, but seriously, any one of these can lead to burning out, stressing out, and watering down your ministry. If you find yourself dealing with multiples of these, you may have a real problem on your hands and may need to see somebody. I know where my greatest struggles are and which ones come more easily, but I definitely have plenty of room to grow in all these areas. If you have anything to add I would love to hear it!

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