Welcome to the Shepherd's Connection. This site, and the ministry it supports, is dedicated to those who have committed themselves to serving in Christian ministry. The web site is a place for ministers to connect and share growth opportunities, encouragement, and find/share support with other ministers. The backbone of the ministry is not a “person” but the ministers.
“As iron sharpens iron, so a man sharpens the countenance of his friend.”
I suppose it’s a vocational hazard.
We preachers walk through the valley of the shadow with people in the church and out of it. We do our best, weep with them, tell what we know, and offer all the encouragement we can. Then, we go on to the next thing. Someone else needs us.
That family we ministered to, however, does not go on to anything. They are forever saddled with the loss of that child or parent. They still carry the hole in their heart and return to the empty house or sad playroom. However, there is one positive thing they will always carry with them. They never forget how the pastor ministered to them.
He forgets; not because he meant to, but because after them, he was called to more hospital rooms, more funeral homes, and more counseling situations. He walked away from that family knowing he had a choice: he could leave a piece of himself with them–his heart, his soul, something–or he could close the door on that sad room in his inner sanctum in order to be able to give of himself to the next crisis.
If he leaves a piece of himself with every broken-hearted family he works with, pretty soon there won’t be anything left.
So he turns it off when he walks away. He goes on to the next thing.
He hates himself for doing it. But it’s a survival technique. It’s the only way to last in this kind of tear-your-heart-out-and-stomp-that-sucker ministry.
We pastors shake our heads in amazement at this, but we know it’s true. We get it all the time. Well, that’s not right. We get it from time to time. And when it comes, it’s like a love-letter from Heaven. Like something the Heavenly Father decides to send our way as if to say, “You’re doing good. Hang in there. I know you think you’re so weak and so flawed and understand so little that it can’t possibly be of help to anyone. But it’s better than you know. Keep on.”
Durn. I’m tearing up again.
Do you ever find yourself preoccupied, encased in your own little world? Today I was considering the times I have missed ministry opportunities because I was in my own little world. “Missing a ministry opportunity,” this is a strange statement coming from a minister. We are surrounded by ministry opportunities. If anything we cannot keep up with the ministry opportunities, or we are exhausted from ministry overload.
Let me explain my statement, “missing a ministry opportunity.” There are ministry opportunities that come with our job. They are somewhat expected and/or demanded of us. Then there are the exciting opportunities that God lays in our lap. We might slide by if we miss the first type of opportunity. They are routine and accompany our vocational calling. However, those God-given opportunities involve a different story line. They stimulate a little more excitement. They are characterized by an air of intrigue! Questions such as, “What is God up to?” come to mind.
This discussion reminded me of the story of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:30-37). The part of this story that disturbs me the most is the description of the two religious leaders. “A priest happened to be going down that road. When he saw him, he passed by on the other side. In the same way, a Levite, when he arrived at the place and saw him, passed by on the other side.” (vs. 31-32) All of us have heard sermons, studies and read commentaries about this passage. The priest and Levite may have entertained religious reasons to pass by without helping. They might have been in a hurry. My current thinking prompts me to ask, were they preoccupied? Were they so busy being ministers that they did not have time to minister? This challenges me to ask several questions:
Last week I watched a football game in which the star player for one team was tired and slightly injured. The coach took the star out of the game, had him checked, and placed him back in the game. Do you ever feel like you are tired and injured and need to be taken out of the game? You are not alone!
In Exodus 5 we find Moses wondering if he should be in the game. After a season of struggle Moses reluctantly accepted God’s call to go into the game and lead the Israelite people out of Egypt. After embarking on this task Moses faced an immediate trial. He came against Pharaoh. As he came against Pharaoh things got worse instead of better. Instead of Pharaoh allowing the Israelite people to go free he increased their burden. Not only did he keep them in bondage, he required them to make the previous quota of bricks. In addition, he made them collect straw with which to make the bricks. Collecting straw had not been demanded in the past. After this encounter we find Moses’ words in Exodus 5:22-23. “So Moses returned to the LORD and said, ‘Lord, why have You brought trouble on this people? Why is it You have sent me? For since I came to Pharaoh to speak in Your name, he has done evil to this people; neither have You delivered Your people at all.’"
In this encounter Moses faced several negative emotions.
1. Moses was discouraged. He asked why God had “brought trouble on this people.”
2. Moses doubted. He asked, “Why is it You have sent me?”
3. Moses was basically defeated. He said, “neither have You delivered Your people.”
The title of this article represents a disturbing thought. It is especially disturbing for those who serve in ministry. You would expect a non-believer to be too busy for Jesus. You would expect a back-slider to be too busy for Jesus. This thought is disturbing and might even be offensive to faithful followers of Jesus Christ. However, the fact is, there are times when we are too busy for Jesus. One passage comes to mind.
In Luke 10:38-42 we find the story of Mary and Martha. In Luke 10 we read, “But Martha was distracted by her many tasks, and she came up and asked, ‘Lord, don’t You care that my sister has left me to serve alone? So tell her to give me a hand.’” (vs. 40 HCSB) Martha was doing good things. She was even doing good things for Jesus. However, she was too busy for Jesus. Mary took the time to sit at Jesus’ feet. (vs. 42 HCSB) Jesus said, “Mary has made the right choice, and it will not be taken away from her.” (vs. 42) Making time for Jesus is a choice.
The choice to be with Jesus is discussed in Peter Scazzero’s book Emotionally Healthy Spirituality. The sub-heading of Chapter 5 is “Stopping to Breathe the Air of Eternity.” By his own testimony and admission Pete discovered the consequences of not taking time to be with Jesus. He almost lost his marriage and his ministry. Emotionally Healthy Spirituality shares the lessons learned on his journey.
Do you ever catch yourself saying “I cannot believe I did it again?” That happened to me last week. I have my weaknesses as a minister. In fact, over the years of serving in churches I developed a list of my weaknesses. This list was used as a watch list to remind me of my shortcomings. In doing this I held myself accountable when my shortcomings raised their ugly head. I will not give you my entire list; however, I use this concept to convey a growth point for all of us.
I share this, not to make you feel pity for me, but to make a point. I have been busy. Our association of churches recently conducted its annual meeting. This meeting requires a lot of extra work. My wife and I have been working to sell our home. Also, I am working to complete two books. In addition, we recently planned and conducted two events for pastors and their wives. I have learned that when I put too many irons in the fire, one of them does not get hot.
This brings up the problem. When I am stressing because everything is not done to perfection, this attitude cannot be of God. If I beat myself up because “I did it again” there is something wrong with this picture. As a pastor and servant of Christ what should I do?
“Go to the ant, you slacker! Observe its ways and become wise. Without leader, administrator, or ruler, it prepares its provisions in summer; it gathers its food during harvest.” (Prov. 6:6-8) We learn several valuable lessons from the ant.
Last Thursday and Friday the Shepherds Connection conducted a “Survive and Thrive Retreat” in Shreveport, LA. The purpose of such retreats, sponsored by the Shepherds Connection, is to offer encouragement and support for those serving in ministry. We call these “Survive and Thrive Retreats” because it is our conviction that the Lord wants us to “survive” emotionally, physically and spiritually but also “thrive” in our place of service. As we conducted this retreat there were several elements that created a “good” experience for us. I want to share these observations so that we might (hopefully) enlist your participation in a future event but also to challenge you to a healthy ministry lifestyle.
A spirit of transparency was present. All of those attending the retreat serve in ministry. Thus, all recognize the importance of seeking safe places where they can share with others who serve in ministry. After all, who understands a fellow minister better than a fellow minister? All of us need safe places where we can, as the saying goes, “let our hair down.”
A spirit of affirmation and acceptance was present. We need people who will affirm us, understand our ways and share our dreams. Also, we need people who accept and affirm us for who we are, not our denomination, eschatological position or the size of our church.
Humor was utilized. We listened to several short humorous video clips. In addition, we played the “newlywed game” for those who serve in ministry. The Bible says “a merry heart doeth good like a medicine.”
Encouraging worship and Biblical teaching was utilized. Oftentimes we pastors do all of the teaching and receive little take in. We need to be fed and enriched by the teaching and worship skills of others. A pastor who gives out without taking in will be like a bank account that runs out of money when no deposits are made.
A spirit of prayer was present. During this short retreat there were no less than five opportunities to laugh, cry and lift in prayer the burdens of fellow pastors and their wives.
The Shepherds Connection was started because we see the loneliness, isolation and challenges of those who serve in ministry. From this summary I challenge you with the following questions.
If you buy a $25,000 car you do not neglect its maintenance. It is too valuable a possession. As a pastor you are valuable in God’s service. Regular maintenance goes a long way in keeping you on the road of ministry.
Reprinted with permission: Written by Charles Stone of Charles Stone-- Stonewell Ministries
God created sleep not only to cure sleepiness, but to serve our bodies and brains in many beneficial ways. Unfortunately, many leaders, especially pastors, try to lead without getting adequate sleep and live with a sleepy leader's brain. When we don't get enough sleep, our brains don't work as well. Thus, we don't lead at our best.
So what happens when we don't get enough sleep, besides feeling sleepy? Here's what the experts tell us happens to our brains when we don't get adequate sleep.
• Our memory is impaired. Sleep helps turn short term memory into long-term memory (called consolidation) by strengthening memory traces. Lack of sleep hinders this process.
• We don't learn as well. Related to memory, when our memory is impaired, learning suffers.
• We can't control our emotions as well. Emotional control (called emotional regulation) best happens when we think most clearly. Lack of sleep keeps our executive thinking center (called the pre-frontal cortex) from operating most effectively.
• Creativity suffers. When we sleep our brain continues to work. One way it works is by making novel connections which doesn't happen as easily during wakefulness. If you rob yourself of sleep you may be robbing yourself of creative insights that otherwise could enhance your leadership.
• We don't recharge our brains and our bodies. The body needs to reset its physiological processes each day to keep in balance (called homeostasis). If you don't get enough sleep, you can keep your body from resetting its chemical balances. As a result, chronic lack of sleep can put your body in a stress state which keeps the stress hormone cortisol constantly in our system, which damages our bodies and brains.
How's your sleep pattern? Are you getting enough sleep? What can you do if you believe you are sleep deprived? I list several suggestions in this prior post where you can take a quiz and learn if you are sleep deprived. http://charlesstone.com/are-you-a-sleep-deprived-pastor-take-this-quiz-and-find-out/