This year I am approaching 35 years in ministry. I’ve served as a singles pastor, discipleship pastor, teaching pastor, church planter, and as a lead pastor where I currently serve. I’ve served in the Deep South (the land of grits), the Southwest (the land of Mexican buffets), the Far West (the land of fish tacos), the Mid-West (the land of Chicago hot-dawgs), and now in Canada (the land of poutine; I wondered what that was too. Google it). Three kids, one grandchild, and four books later, each experience has made me a more rounded leader. Yet, as I look back, I think I’d have done a few things differently. Here’s a list of my do-overs.
Do you know how to let go? Let me pull a page from my story to help you think through this question. Over the years my wife has left a trail of young couple’s Sunday school classes and ministries. In each church we served Judy started or expanded such a ministry. However, she has always done something that caused me to cringe, at least until I saw the wisdom of her actions. She builds a healthy class, trains leaders and turns the ministry over to the class members. In short, she knows how to let go.
Henry Ford once told a leadership team, “Any customer can have a car painted any color that he wants so long as it is black.” Obviously that opinion did not last. Ford Motor Company, at some point, had to change. We now see cars of every color imaginable.
1. I should have found a mentor early in my ministry and made good use of him.
After majoring in history in college, I began pastoring - not exactly great preparation for this work. My efforts were like trying to invent the wheel. I started from scratch in every sense of the word. What I wish I had known - and had the gumption to act on - is that behind the door of almost every Baptist church (and a lot of others) was a veteran preacher who would have been glad to spend time with this kid pastor and help him. All I had to do was ask. And I didn’t.
This article was birthed while cutting and clearing trees on my property. It is amazing how God shares insight and inspiration when we least expect it. When we put our minds in neutral God speaks to our subconscious minds to give us clear thinking and (usually) some of our best work. The best work phrase is not my assessment of this article. LOL!
Several years ago I got a tweet that a large church in the southeast was starting another campus in the county where I started a church more than 20 years ago. The new church started out with more than 1,000 attendees on day one. The church I started finally reached 500 after 14 years. I must confess that unpleasant emotions crept into my heart when I read this tweet. The curse of comparison had reared its ugly head. When we pastors compare our work against others, what are we doing to ourselves?
A few years ago I was running in Philadelphia. It is one of my favorite cities in which to run. I love the Fairmount Park System because I can run for miles in new territory.
On this particular day, I set out to explore a several-mile loop around a portion of the park. Shortly into my run, I entered the park in front of a young college-aged girl running at the same pace with me. (I assumed her identity based on the college sweatshirt she was wearing—and the proximity to a local college.)
Silence is an awkward visitor! This past week my wife was away visiting friends and family. The silence created by her absence created an empty spot in my spirit while she was gone. I talked to our dog Lucy more than ever. She seemed to understand. At times like this I can sense the loneliness widows/widowers face. Silence is a companion to loneliness.
How would you define the thought behind this statement? "I have been very zealous for the LORD God of hosts; for the children of Israel have forsaken Your covenant, torn down Your altars, and killed Your prophets with the sword. I alone am left; and they seek to take my life." I Kings 19:10 (NKJV) Obviously the title of this article reveals my take away on this statement by Elijah. Do pastors struggle with self-pity?
Bottom line: Every organization—whether a church, business or nonprofit—needs change in order to continue to grow and remain healthy.
But here’s the thing about change. If you’ve ever been in leadership you know this. Change is hard. Very hard.
And it’s especially hard for some people. In fact, in my experience, the most common reaction to change—at least initially—is rejection or rebellion.
Look out! This phrase could be used in many different contexts. It could be used by a logger to warn of a falling tree. It could be used around a bad dog to warn of a dog that is preparing to bite someone. It could be used to warn of an oncoming car. The phrase could also be used with believers to warn of sin issues.
This past week I read in Genesis 25 of the death of Abraham. I have read this passage many times. However, this time I was keenly reminded that great men, like Abraham, die. Great men, just like all other people, die. Presidents die! Movie stars die! Sports heroes die!
Editor’s Note: This article and the last two articles focus on limits. All of us must identify our limits, learn to say no, and identify the important values we treasure. These lessons will sustain and enrich an effective ministry life. May God bless you in this endeavor.
Starting each day well is certainly important. We must prioritize our goals, prepare our soul, and schedule our time wisely. When we discipline ourselves to begin each day with intention and thoughtfulness, we do ourselves and others good. I suggested 7 questions to ask yourself each morning in an earlier post. http://charlesstone.com/7-questions-leaders-ask-every-morning/ But what about preparing to end your day? How can we end it well? Consider these 7 questions to ask yourself as you end your workday or before you go to bed.
Editor’s Note: This article, last week’s article and the article to follow next week focus on limits. All of us must identify our limits, learn to say no, and identify the important values we treasure. These lessons will sustain and enrich an effective ministry life. May God bless you in this endeavor.
I hate disappointing people. And, every time I say the word “No,” someone isn’t happy with my answer. That’s reality.
Last night as I drove home from a late speaking engagement I thought to myself, “What a day.” I was encouraged that I had several speaking opportunities. I was pumped because I had a good day. However, I was emotionally drained. I taught Sunday at 10:00, preached in my home church at 11:00, preached a deacon ordination at 3:00 and led a discipleship seminar at 5:30. These engagements amounted to three hours of speaking.
Have you ever wanted to quit? Obviously all of us have experienced days when quitting looked like a good option. During those periods of doubt, remaining faithful is both challenging and needed. I am praying that this call to faithfulness will ring true for you.
Sponsored by The Shepherds Connection.
Saturday, February 21, 9:00-3:00
Tunk's Cypress Inn
Hwy 28 - 10 miles west of Alexandria on Kincaid Lake
Lunch includes: Seafood & Prime Rib Buffet with dessert
$5.00 per person ($30 Value)
Please RSVP Tim Patrick (337) 348-4924 by 2/18
Have you ever stumbled? Of course you have; we all do. Stumbling happens in many ways. In one church where I served, a group of men enjoyed hiking together. When this venture started I was not equipped for hiking. On our first trip I wore slick tennis shoes. After a few miles on the trail I learned a valuable lesson about hiking - it pays to wear the right kind of shoes. My slick shoes would not support me on slippery leaves or other challenging places, such as walking down a steep bank. I slipped and fell so many times the other men laughingly accused me of being drunk.
A few days ago I saw a book with the title that inspired this article. I highly recommend the book by Jim Minor. When I first saw it, I was captured by the title. The words Church Shouldn’t Suck are in large bold print. However, the phrase “the Life out of you” quickly calms the shock waves created by the bold print.