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

 

Cultivate Joy . . .

when a run goes bad.

Today’s run was poopy. Every step I took felt like work. I had dry mouth two miles in. My ankles kept cracking. I was extremely hot. My breathing was labored. My rubberband broke, leaving my hair flying everywhere. After going out to my car and getting another rubberband, I tried to set the new pace again. I was so disappointed with how this sacred running time had manifested itself. I tried to concentrate on acceptance, embrace what it was and let go of what I expected and wished it would be.

I reflect on that ideal run—where I feel so strong—where I am mentally focused, and I idealize that run. I compare today’s run, and yesterday’s run, and last week’s run, to that glorious, fantasized run of yesteryear. I just want to get back to then.

For the last several weeks I’ve met with some girlfriends to discuss what it means to “choose joy” in our everyday life. Part of choosing joy (for me) is accepting. Accepting today and being in this moment, allowing my senses to feel right now the smooth satin sheets pressed against my calves.

My new friend Catherine lost her firstborn, a son, after he was born at 28 weeks gestation. Then she became pregnant with her daughter, and, spending the last several months of pregnancy on full bedrest in the hospital, birthed her premature (but alive), and raised her with love. Then just over six months ago this little girl, 3 years-old, was tragically killed in a car accident. A mother who has lost two babies.

We sit in a circle talking about “choosing joy” and Catherine smiles. And I see before me someone who should, in no way, have any joy whatsoever. But she does. She says that God has used it to bring her back to Him. I asked myself, “Could I ever do that? Could I choose joy if I was Catherine?” Then I thought, “I’m such a pansie. What is my complaint?”

Oh to be dissatisfied with a run when there are people with no legs on which to walk. To balk at the slightly-too-salty mashed potatoes when there are children in this world with distended bellies, dying of hunger related diseases every day. That I gripe when we’ve run out of ice, and that my pillow is going flat, that my child woke me up in the middle of the night, and that the mango was not ripe. I set out to focus my time and energy and thoughts on what I DO have and what I DO know. Not what I don’t. This is an exercise worth cultivating.

Veering from grumpy, I swirled my thumb on my ipod over to One Republic’s Good Life. I told myself that today I would run slow, that my ankles needed the exercise. I listened to the air rushing into my lungs and felt my chest rise. I noticed the monarch butterfly eight feet ahead of me and decided the sun on my face was God’s smiling. I thought how nice it was to be alive, and what a gift that I was running sans children, and how nice the lukewarm water felt on my parched tongue. I thought about my mom (today is her birthday) and how she cared for my every need, and how I’m alive today and have fullness in my life because she gave so sacrificially. I considered the clouds, the beauty of the trees, and a God who invites me in, who created me in His World for His glory, and I felt happy.

I took joy . . . I ran with it.

Categories: Sound Familiar? Comments: 1

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.”

Categories: I Choose To Preach Comments: 0

Get Rid of Your Crappy Pastor!

I simply cannot count the number of complaints that I get to hear about other pastors. I’ve responded to such complaints in many ways over the years. I simply smile and nod, without actually agreeing — or conversely, the serious head shake. I’ve advised the individuals to go and talk to their pastor about their complaint. I’ve even tried to convince the complainer that their pastor really is pretty good.

But enough of that. I know what most of these complainers want … they want to get rid of their crappy pastor. The sooner the better. And so, without further ado, six steps to get rid of your crappy pastor and get a better pastor in your congregation.

1) Pray for your crappy pastor.

I know, you really don’t want to pray for your pastor right now, but give it a try. Pray for your pastor’s preaching, for your pastor’s life, even for your pastor’s family. Prayer was one of those things that Jesus was kind of big on, so go ahead and give it a try.

2) Make sure your crappy pastor takes a day off.

Really, you don’t want your pastor doing all those things that annoy you any more than absolutely necessary. Make sure everyone knows when the pastor’s day off is, and then don’t call him on that day. If there is a congregational event, or an emergency, or a wedding, or a funeral on the normal day off, let it be known that your pastor will be taking another day off to make up for it.

3) Insist that your crappy pastor take every week of vacation in the contract.

Many pastors leave unclaimed vacation days every year. Let’s face it – you don’t really want your pastor around anyway, so encourage him or her to take all of their allowed vacation. And make it an easy decision for your crappy pastor to leave town! Line up volunteers to take care of all the work around the congregation so the pastor doesn’t have to work extra hard before leaving and when coming home. Offer up your vacation home, or a gift card for a plane ticket out of town. Make sure everyone comes to worship, so the pastor doesn’t feel guilty about leaving for a Sunday.

4) Make sure your pastor goes to continuing education events.

Speaking of getting your crappy pastor out of town, by contract your pastor probably has continuing education time. Make sure that your pastor is attending lots of events with exciting speakers, great preachers, and innovative thinkers. (You know, just so your pastor can see the ways in which he or she doesn’t measure up.) While you’re at it, go ahead and increase the continuing education budget – make sure there is no reason for your pastor not getting away from your congregation and going to these events.

5) Take over the tasks with which your pastor struggles.

We all know that pastors should be good at everything in the parish – from administration to preaching, from visitation with the elderly to youth events. Chances are, your crappy pastor has some places where there are struggles. Hire an administrative assistant. Get the parents and other volunteers to coordinate and host the youth events. Get a group of volunteers together to visit with homebound members. There are all sorts of ways to make sure that your crappy pastor doesn’t mess up these tasks that he or she is already struggling with.

6) Encourage your pastor to spend more time in prayer and reading.

Now that you have freed up your pastor from all those tasks that were the worst trouble points, there is all sorts of extra time. You don’t want him or her to jump right back into those tasks and mess them up do you? Encourage him or her to go and read, or spend time with other local pastors, or spend more time intentionally in prayer.

There you go! It’s foolproof!

If you do these six simple things, I guarantee you will get rid of your crappy pastor. Get your congregational leaders on board with this plan. Recruit the key people in the congregation to help you with it.

Pray for your pastor, make sure your crappy pastor takes all of the allotted vacation and days off, send your pastor to amazing continuing education events, recruit volunteers (or hire other staff) to fill in your pastor’s weaknesses, and make sure your pastor is spending time praying, reading, and dreaming.

Yup, that’s it. Do those things, and I guarantee you will stop complaining about your crappy pastor. You will hear better sermons. People will feel more ministered to. Exciting ideas will start to come from your council meetings.

And all these things without having to go through the search process and hiring of a new pastor!

Take these six steps, and watch your crappy pastor become the sort of pastor you have always wanted.

 

Photo Credit

Categories: Fodder For Sheep Comments: 0

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.”

Categories: I Choose To Preach Comments: 1

3 Simple Ways to Encourage Your Pastor

Pastors are human too. That means, of course, that they sin, but it also means that they have ordinary human needs. While no one joins the ministry in order to receive riches or accolades, honor or power, while shepherds are called to serve others rather than themselves, such doesn’t mean that they are not given to discouragement.

Most of us, most of the time, love our pastor, and are grateful for him. Few of us, however, understand that he needs encouragement. What even fewer of us grasp is how we can be an encouragement to him. Here are three simple ideas.

First, pay attention to his labors. Though we do not have a duty to be at the church every time the doors are open, one thing that discourages pastors is our unwillingness to simply avail ourselves of his gifts. When the pastor labors in his study to prepare a Bible study lesson, or writes a blog post and the sheep under his care pay no attention, it is discouraging. It says to the pastor, “I do not value what you do for me and my family. Your efforts have no effect because I won’t even be bothered to read, or to listen. I will download the sermons of celebrities that don’t know me. I will read the wisdom of those with book contracts.” It’s not that your pastor is jealous of the gifts of others. It is instead that he is jealous for you and your growth in wisdom. A less gifted man who knows and loves you is far more potent in your life than a more gifted man far, far away.

Second, speak well of him to others. When you speak well to the pastor, if he is prone to discouragement, it might not have the impact you wish it to have. Such kind words can easily be written off as kindness rather than gratitude, as flattery rather than sincerity. But if word comes back to him, and it will, that you have spoken well of him to others in the church, or even to those in your community, he will have to take your good word to heart. It might also encourage those with whom you speak to have a deeper appreciation for your pastor, and that’s usually a good thing. Of course the one you should be speaking to the most about your pastor is the Great Shepherd of the sheep. Pray with gratitude for the man Christ has given you, and the man will be encouraged.

Third, pursue godliness. Because he loves you, what your pastor wants more than anything else is for you to grow in grace and wisdom, to become more like Jesus. What is most discouraging for him then isn’t how poorly he may be treated, how badly he may be honored, but how poorly his sheep are doing. He is encouraged most, however, when you are doing well. When he sees your wife’s beaming face, he knows it is because you are seeking to be a godly husband and father, and is encouraged. When he sees you turning the other cheek in your relationship with your pew neighbor, he is encouraged to know that the leaven of the kingdom is spreading among his flock. When he sees you visiting the widow and the orphan, he knows you are practicing true religion, and rejoices.

Don’t, in short, tell your pastor how smart he is, nor how brilliant his sermons are. Don’t tell him how funny he is, nor how dignified. Show him how his labor in showing you Jesus is making you more like Him. That is the desire of his heart, because that is the desire of His heart.

Categories: Fodder For Sheep Comments: 0

10 Reasons I Can Hardly Wait

to come back to your church!

This is not a theological discussion, it’s a practical one for leaders who want to think about ways to reach people for Jesus Christ. Imagine how exciting it is to discover churches actively seeking to be spiritually “in tune”, Kingdom of God-centric, and attractive to newcomers at the same time. This piece is based on several churches that each have long lists of “atta-church” credits to their collective name.

The visitors who reported these findings are many, and this digest of their comments speaks to the ways in which we can reach people who might otherwise disappear back into the non-churched masses.

1. I had my curiosity about God pumped and prodded. I didn’t think God was all that interesting and I certainly didn’t think God was interested in me.

A truly inviting church always manages to convey the idea that God is not just historical, but relevant to our time and culture. Our talk about God needs to include the history we’re all living through together, as in, “What do you think God wants us to do about this in the coming week?”

2. You didn’t talk down to me.

“Holier than thou,” is more than a well-worn phrase. In some churches it’s a creed! It can be as subtle as carrying a huge Bible (or three) to church or only talking in God-slang when you’re on church property. Strangers sometimes feel judged before they even walk in the door.

3. You welcomed me without smothering me.

In our desire to make disciples, we sometimes make deserters out of guests who flee from our confining zealousness.
Welcoming and suffocating with good intentions are two very different things.

4. I liked that the signage was so clear, I didn’t have to ask a lot of questions and it made me feel more independent.

There’s a subtle line between being a hovering host and being the kind of host who says, “Welcome, take a look around and ask anybody anything. We’re always happy to help.”

5. I liked your music. You didn’t seem to be trying to impress me, but I was impressed!

There are lots of churches priding themselves on their great music. That’s a good thing. Surprisingly though, visitors can usually tell the difference between sincerity and raw manipulation. In the former, they are free to participate. In the latter, they usually come out with mixed feelings.

6. I really liked the fact that your pastor hung around after the service for a long time.

Even if you have multiple services to lead on any given day, taking time to be available is a sign of church leadership dedicated to serving people and their needs. There are even pastors in humongous churches who hang out afterwards for long, long periods of time, wunderkind Joel Osteen among them.

7. I was never made to feel guilty for the years I have spent ignoring the church.

You may disagree, but grace is always a better starting place than judgment. The Holy Sprit doesn’t need our help or advice on how to convict the human heart.

8. It felt good to be comfortably dressed for your service.

Many folks who haven’t been to church in several years are unaware that it’s less formal than it used to be. In a church where all “responsible” attire is welcomed, people will cross that off their list of “religious don’ts” which may have kept them away previously.

9. I found myself more content and less scattered than I have been for a very long time.

Sometimes, in our attempt to keep people “engaged” in worship, we also keep squirting huge amounts of adrenaline into them. In the 80’s we used to call it “happy clappy” worship. Interestingly, one of the most engaging things we have to offer is disengagement, or the slowing of the constant stimulus our congregations and guests are subjected to in our ADD culture.

10. I was pretty impressed that there was someone in the parking lot welcoming people as they headed toward the church.

We welcome, then we welcome, then we welcome…
…then we say, “You’re welcome!”

 

Categories: Doing Church Comments: 2

Marking Time With Facebook

Is Your Ministry Ready For This Mandatory Change?

No matter how we feel about it, our culture communicating via the social media platform is here for the long term. There is no getting away from it. If your ministry doesn’t yet have a website, or if it already has a Facebook Page, you may want to take a moment and consider what is on your immediate horizon. Does the screen shot above look familiar? Next week on March 30th, the social media giant Facebook, will be changing the way we do church business with our social mediums. Facebook has already rolled out their new “Timeline” layout as an option for those who were in the know. Some have embraced the new visual stimulus package, and others have not. Be aware, next Friday, you won’t have a choice in the matter. However, the new layout may not be all that bad for ministries with tight purse strings. For many of us, our small donation dependent budget’s haven’t yet grown to afford a website, much less a designer or programmer to create one. Facebook’s new Timeline layout may be a bit of answered prayer, if done correctly. With the new visual format and the mega following FB has, for those of us who choose to think outside of the box, we can take advantage of what FB Timeline has to offer. The new FB Business Page is quite willing and built to serve as web communication central, if you choose to let it. The required new “face” of your ministry on FB will come with many new and exciting features that really are worth using to their full potential. Alas, there are also a few technicalities of which we all need to be aware:


Rule #1

Do you know if your ministry has a Facebook Business Page, or a Profile? You need to know the difference. Make sure your ministry is not using a Personal Profile as its Business Page. Back in the day, this was an easy mistake to make and many good intentioned volunteers did so in good conscience. Now however, Facebook considers this to be a direct violation of their TOS (Terms of Service). You may ask “What is the big deal, we’re just a small non-profit ministry?” First and foremost, it is important that our ministries operate within the law. Even when some might interpret it as just a small “rule”. It is important that we live by the high standard Jesus layed before us in all circumstances. James the “just” reminds us that,

For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point

is guilty of breaking all of it.         James 2:10 (NIV)


As with any and every sin, pleading ignorance will earn no mercy. It may seem circumstantial, but FB has a legal right to impose their policies and they will. If you are in violation, you run the risk of the giant chewing up and spitting out your ministry’s identity, never to be found again in the cyber-world of FB. In Facebook’s mind, people (Personal Profiles) have “friends”, businesses (Business Pages) like your ministry, have “fans”. When you try to make the transition to get in compliance, if not handled with care, you run the risk of loosing all of your ministry’s friends as well as all of its potential fans.

Change Happens

Like it or not, FB is forcing this fast approaching huge change in just seven days. If your ministry is not in compliance, better to start down the road to correct the error now, than to beg for forgiveness later. There are those who know how, and are willing to try to help ministries who find themselves in this predicament. For those of you who are slightly overwhelmed by the whole social media craze, a little bewildered and trying to determine just where to start, there are folks who can help you sort it out. They can also work along side you in the design of your ministry’s new “face”. Try reaching out to the people at yourpagesolution@gmail.com, contactus@jennergy.com, tjtodd@studio490.com, daniel@pageprogressive.com and others with the same attitude of servanthood in this area. They have already helped a few businesses and ministries migrate their Personal Profiles to Business Pages without the loss of friends, fans, or FB vanity URL’s.

Vanity At Stake

Does your ministry have a vanity URL? If it does and its current “face” is a Personal Profile, likely the URL is linked to that same identity. A big concern for most, is the blaring risk of loosing your branded vanity URL’s that are now associated with Personal Profiles. When your ministry makes the switch to a Business Page, its URL may not migrate with it. Many have become painfully aware that FB policy clearly states it does not reassign URL’s. Once claimed and used in cyberspace within the FB platform, the giant considers that piece of real estate non-recyclable. If your ministry doesn’t have a vanity URL already, you may want to wait until after it makes the transition to a Business Page to get one.

The New FB Timeline Layout

Like it or not, here it comes! Your new one-size-fits-all layout will consist of a cover photo, a profile photo, a tab strip that links to photo albums, events, and other custom apps, as well as some bright and shiny new features like pinning posts. (Hmmm – any guesses where that idea came from?) Your Page will also allow your stories to be larger, and you can highlight them with a star icon so that they span the entire page width. Or, you can make them age defying by creating “milestones” within your Timeline. FB has in mind that you use milestones for your monumental events and accomplishments like your first overseas mission event, the building of your new church or a church planting, the introduction of new leadership staff or programs, etc. As an FYI, fan gates still exist, but you may be disheartened to learn that landing pages are gone for good.

What To Expect From Your New, Free, Web Presence

With a good design, you can make the most of what the cover photo and Timeline layout have to offer. They can be eye candy if done right. However, there are some strict FB rules that make it bitter-sweet. A few being that cover photos are not allowed to include contact information, references to FB features or actions ie; “like” or “share”, price or purchase information or calls to action like “Visit us this Sunday”. We know, we hear you — sounds a bit like an oxymoron for a business doesn’t it? Facebook offers more information with regard to these limitations, read about them here.

The profile photo is pretty straight forward. It is likely to be the place where most ministries are going to feature their logo. The profile photo does have a dual purpose however, it also functions similar to an avatar within the FB platform. When making your selection, keep in mind the “mini-me” philosophy of its appearance.

Your photos and apps will appear by default as a line of “tabs”, above the fold. Try to picture it as your room, but you don’t get to choose where your guest finds the photo album. FB has a real passion for photo images so they have programmed this as a permanent fixture, first in line on the tab strip.

You also get to choose what you want visitors to read first by “pinning” posts. This is a great place for  announcements like the upcoming pot-luck, conference, VBS, retreats, prayer requests, stories, etc. You can pin a post or important story to the top of the Page where it will reside for seven days. After that,  it will automatcially resume its proper place in the Timeline hierarchy.

Basically, the new Timeline layout has more of a “website” feel, rather than just a page of posts. It gives you the opportunity to display the character of your ministry and tell your story with visual aids. The new features give you more control, allowing you to interact with your followers on a FB level. Since you aren’t going to get away from the social media giant, you might want to consider taking full advantage of what it has to offer.

The Good News

What have always been handy, and easy to use, are the FB Insights. Most of us are now guaranteed to appreciate them even more. You will have even better access to even more information. Such as, if you click the “Likes” box within the tab strip you can see, in a nut shell, basic data about your audience as it applies to your specific ministry. This section reveals how many “People are Talking About” the Page, its total number of “Likes”, “Most Popular Week”, “Most Popular City” and “Age Group” as well as other useful information. Spend some time wandering around this new frontier called “Page Insights”. It has much to offer and makes swallowing the pill of change a little easier. Insights also offers great information for assessing your ministry’s reach that many of us otherwise could not afford. A nice feature for all of us.

Our Facebook Future

So why all the change? Facebook had to know that none of us were going to like being forced to do anything against our will. What’s their point and who is really going to benefit from all this? That is yet to be determined but all in all, the recent changes in FB are going to allow ministries to function more like, well . . . a business. That may not have been their intention, but it can be to our benefit if we take full advantage of it. After all it is free — at least for now!

How do you think these changes might affect your ministry? Do you know of some exciting ways ministries can benefit from the FB changes? We are curious to hear your thoughts and ideas about the new Facebook features. Leave your questions and comments below. Thanks for stopping by!


Categories: Doing Church Comments: 2

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!

Categories: I Choose To Preach Comments: 1

A Pastor’s Story…

I went into my third pastorate with 10 years of pastoral experience. My previous ministries had seen their share of difficulty and conflict, but only of the kinds common to any ministry setting. Over all, God had given me great success as a pastor, providing significant church growth and allowing me favor with people. I was happy in the church I just left, and they were happy with me. I just simply sensed God’s leading into the new setting. I think part of it was pride. Because of my past successes, though I denied it, I thought fairly highly of myself. Therefore, when the search committee of the new church explained that they had seen much conflict in the past, I was confident I could handle it. I entered the new position fully aware that the previous four pastors had been force-terminated and that the worship attendance had declined from around 1,000 to under 200. The committee told me they had not had good pastors and that they needed strong leadership. I was their guy. Of course, when I entered the new position, I knew there would be some conflict. I knew I would face difficulty. A sick and declining church does not reverse course overnight, and some people would likely be problematic. I had a pretty tough skin and a hard head, so I thought I could handle anything. Surprisingly, however, the honeymoon was sweet. I say it was a surprise because the previous pastor only lasted fifteen months. However, for well over a year, things went pretty well. Attendance increased, we started some new programs, and some good things were happening. Then things started heading south.

A few issues were arising at around the same time. For one thing, I made some decisions (not even major decisions) that were not popular. This led to some very nasty and untrue rumors about me. Also, a couple of people by this time had simply decided they didn’t like me. One person in particular would show up at my office at least once a week and tell me the things I “need to do.” When he saw that I only took some of his advice, he became very hostile toward me and started spreading the word that “the pastor thinks he knows everything and doesn’t listen to anyone” (he actually said this to my face). The worst thing, however, was that we had a new chairman of the personnel committee. I’m still not sure why, but this man who initially supported me, became my worst nightmare. Not only did he become extremely critical of me and the rest of the staff, but he proved to be a blatant liar. For example, when one of the committee members called me and urged me to attend the personnel committee meetings, I said, “I’ve never missed a meeting.” She said, “We’ve been meeting every week, and the chairman said he keeps asking you to come, but you refuse.” I had no idea they were meeting every week.

When I did meet with the committee the following week, I had already been experiencing about two years of false rumors and overt confrontations, so I was feeling somewhat beaten and much less confident. In the meeting, I was shocked at what I heard. They told me that “the church” was having “serious concerns about my leadership.” For one thing, I never visited hospitals. What? While I lived in a city with five hospitals (it once took me five hours to make one round of hospital visits), I rarely missed seeing a church member in the hospital. In fact, when the chairman’s father, who lived in another town, was in the hospital in our city, I visited him three times. Another issue was that I needed to start spending time with the staff. I said, “In addition to weekly staff meetings, weekly lunches together, frequent dinners in my home, and daily interactions in each others’ offices, how much time should I spend with them?” The response? “You don’t have weekly staff meetings.” When I produced a very thick file with four years of personal notes from the weekly staff meetings, they were unsatisfied, simply replying, “Well, the church doesn’t think you spend time with the staff, so you need to do something about it.” I was dumbfounded. I was being called on the carpet for these and other accusations that were demonstrably false, and the only reaction was that I needed to improve. Now don’t get me wrong. If they had actually told me of legitimate things I was doing wrong, I would have listened and made changes. That, however, was not the case. I just didn’t know what to do.

I decided to update my resume and post it on the placement site of the seminary where I was currently working on a degree. Every time I proceeded to upload the resume, however, I couldn’t bring myself to click the mouse. I wanted to leave, but I just didn’t have peace about putting my resume out. The previous pastor had been given a year’s salary and benefits to resign (in our denomination, an outright termination typically requires a 3/4 vote from the congregation, and that can be messy). I found myself praying that the committee would make the same offer the previous guy got. They never did.

Then a business opportunity appeared on my radar screen. A new coffee franchise was making a splash, and at a family member’s prompting, I decided to look into it. To make along story short, I was approved for a franchise, I found an ideal property, and I lined up funding. I was so fed up with being a pastor and being abused, I was going to go open a coffee house. I just wanted out.

Things at church were not improving, and I kept waiting for them to offer me a deal, but my mind was made up. I was going to go regardless of what they did. Then one morning before the sun came up, I was out running. As I turned up my street, my mind was preoccupied with my new career, and just as clearly as anything I’ve ever heard from God, He said to me, “That is not your calling.” That’s all He said, but I knew in that instant that I was called to preach—to pastor—and I could not possibly open a coffee shop. I showered and dressed with a new sense of my calling, and by God’s grace I was not going to let a personnel committee take that from me. I had a plan.

The thing is, I knew that only a small percentage of the church members opposed me. I knew that if a business meeting were called to vote me out of my position, the vote would never reach 3/4, or even simple majority. In fact, I suspected it would have been just the opposite. So I called a meeting of the personnel committee, and I told them, “I’m not resigning. If you want me to go, then call a meeting of the church, but I will not be bullied, and I will not step down. God has called me here, and I’m staying until he calls me elsewhere.” While most of the committee sat in stunned silence, the youngest member said, “I’m with my pastor. I’m tired of all this, and I refuse to be a part of it anymore.” From that point on, I had a revived sense of calling and purpose. It was life-changing.

What happened next was exciting as well as surprising. Some good, godly people decided to be like that young personnel committee member. They started standing up and speaking out, and they even started defending me from rumors. Some of our key leaders also started getting right with God. The church was slowly becoming more unified, and we were starting to see some positive signs, including some modest growth. I was content, and probably 98% of the church was as well. Things were good. Then a search committee called me. I was not looking, so I was not interested, but God was in it. I am now in a new ministry position, and I am so thankful to God that I am not running a coffee house. I’m also thankful that He caused me to stay in that situation until He made it possible for me to leave rightly. I still find it hard to believe I almost abandoned my calling. Thank God that His heavy hand was on me.

Pastor Mike

Categories: Sound Familiar? Comments: 0