My wife and I are in the process of building a new home. The home is located in the midst of three acres of wooded property. This process led to my purchasing a chain saw. The saw and I are faithful companions. I can spend hours sweating, working and cutting. One aspect of the chain saw routine that I dislike is sharpening the blade. It is a tedious task. However, without a sharp blade the chain saw routine becomes a difficult task.
Chain saw sharpening reminds me of one of the tasks of the pastor. It is essential that a pastor keep his skills sharp for ministry.
Have you ever gone through the effort to stop an app on your cell phone only to find it continues to run in the background? This often happens with cell phones. You can use a program, close the window, leave your phone, and come back later only to find the program is running in the background.
I have a music application on my cell phone that does this on a regular basis. I go through the motions of attempting to close the application but find it is still running in the background.
Several weeks ago my wife, my mother and I went fishing. It was an awesome experience. We visited a catfish pond and within 30 minutes filled our cooler. The only down side to the trip was having to pay for the privilege of fishing.
Is fishing ever a bad idea? Rarely, would be my response. Fishing is relaxing, fun and a good stress reliever. However, fishing often reveals things we had rather leave hidden. The relaxing effect of a fishing trip reveals our need for rest, relaxation and gives us a fresh perspective of life.
Have you seen him lately, The Enemy Within? You are probably thinking this will be a rant against the devil and his tactics. No doubt, Satan needs to be confronted and kept at arm’s length; however, for this discussion I refer to another enemy. The enemy to whom I refer is the enemy within our own hearts. In looking back I am painfully aware that I was often my own worst enemy.
“They don’t call us any more. And the last few times we tried to get together, they had other things prioritized. Something is wrong.”
My wife and I were wondering about our friendship with this couple. It had been good to have someone with whom we could be off-duty. It seemed to us that they did not feel any need to be flossing their spiritual teeth just because they were in the company of a couple who had been appointed to take care of them. But now I felt I had to see them.
“Could I come over for a few minutes? There is something I’d like to talk with you about.”
Several years ago a young man walked up to me and asked this question: “If you were not a preacher, who would you be?” He went on to explain that his question was meant as a thought provoker. He explained that much of our identity is tied to our vocation, possessions, accomplishments and the like. My friend reminded me that we are valuable because God created us and loves us just as we are apart from our accomplishments.
All of us know this to be true. God loves us unconditionally! Love is His nature. “God is love.” (I John 4: 8) Sometimes we forget and need to be reminded of this simple truth. As I pondered my friend’s question I quickly formulated my list of things in which I seek value.
My vocation- I am a pastor. I feel affirmation in being a pastor. I must differentiate my vocation from my standing before God. I need to be reminded I will always be valuable even when I am not serving as a pastor.
After declaring everything to be meaningless, Solomon asked a piercing question: What does a man gain for all his efforts that he labors at under the sun? (Ecclesiastes 1:3)
Everyone pursues something, labors for something, works for something. And Solomon’s point was that all the labor under the sun is meaningless because there really is no gain, no profit in the end.
Do you have trouble giving thanks for some people? These people may cause you to join the Sons of Thunder in hoping God will rain down fire from Heaven. Don’t be so spiritual, you think similar thoughts! LOL!
A few weeks ago I read through I Corinthians. As Paul opens the book he gives thanks for the Corinthian believers. (1:4) As I read those words I thought to myself, “Come on God, give thanks for the Corinthians.” After all the Corinthians were marred by division, jealousy, envy, immorality, lawsuits, marriage issues, questions of Christian freedom, drunkenness, and questions about speaking in tongues. Talk about a church with problems. I might have missed a few of their issues. Giving thanks for such a group would be like giving thanks for a migraine. I was reminded of the command in I Thess. 5:18, “In everything give thanks.” So, if Paul could give thanks for the troubled church in Corinth, what can we learn from him?
As I write this, I’m getting ready for a test at the hospital. Just routine, I think. Last week I went for an annual checkup and my doctor spotted a couple of areas for which she wanted more tests.
About the time I get through with these tests, a note will arrive from the dentist announcing my 6 month checkup. Right now, my car is overdue for its 3,000 mile oil change and it’s time for a tire rotation. The house needs painting and the air conditioning unit is being serviced.
Nothing about ‘maintenance’ sounds very glamorous. A friend of mine is in charge of maintenance at a chemical plant up the river, but don’t let it fool you. We’re not talking about sweeping the floors and mowing the grass. His area is keeping those massive machines and intricate processes working as they were intended.
That lovely old car you spotted on the highway still purring like a kitten after 200,000 miles functions well not because some rich guy bought it and spent a fortune overhauling it, but more than likely because its owner took good care of it from the first day. He had it serviced regularly and kept it in a garage and treated it as an investment.
Sheri, a single young woman, said to me once, “I don’t know what all the fuss is about maintenance. I’ve owned my car for a whole year and have never had an oil change or anything, and it drives like new.” I said, “Just stick around. You’ll find out.” She did.
Teams that don’t feel valued often simply go through the motions and that dampens motivation and decreases productivity. Great leaders pay keen attention to how valued their teams feel. Poor leaders seldom even think about it.
Evaluate your leadership against these five behaviors that great leaders show.
Judy and I are in the process of building a new home. This has been a time of great reflection for me. Many thoughts run through my mind. The thoughts I ponder are different than when I was younger. (I am 60.) When I was younger the excitement and adventure of such a project motivated me. As I get older, challenges such as building a house stir a different set of emotions. For instance, thoughts such as: I might not live long enough to see a 30-year mortgage paid in full! (or) Why is a sixty-year-old building a new house when we ought to be downsizing? Such thoughts are foreign to younger guys. These thoughts sound negative. However, changing thought patterns are a part of life. Stay with me, I am going somewhere with this thought.
As I focus on this new construction the thought that motivates me is not the final destination but the joy of the journey. That is what I desire to share with you. I enjoy cutting bushes, working with my hands and doing things around a construction site. The journey is a lot of fun! That should also apply in our service to Christ. Many times the journey becomes cumbersome. The speed of life, the trials of ministry and the challenges we face can steal the joy of the journey. Each day we should ask ourselves if we are enjoying the journey. If not, there should be adjustments. What kind of adjustments? I offer the following suggestions. You will probably add to your list.
aniel and his three friends are some of my favorite Biblical characters. They modeled what it means to live a life of integrity, which is taking a beating today. Several years ago James Patterson and Peter Kim authored the book, The Day America told the Truth. They conducted a survey by asking Americans what they would be willing to do for 10 million dollars. Here’s what they learned.
When I read this my heart sunk. I can only imagine that since that survey over 20 years ago, the same survey would yield even more discouraging results.
Have you ever been pleasantly surprised by prayer? Last week my wife, Judy, and I closed on the sale of our home in DeRidder. Our intent was to sell this property, which was in town, and buy a couple of acres in the country. In recent months we have driven most every road in our area seeking a piece of property.
As we waited on the sale of our home we located several pieces of property, only to have them sold before we could make arrangements. In addition, nothing seemed to match our dreams. These two factors caused a bit of frustration. I know none of you ever feel this way. However, God sent an answer to the door of our home.
Several Saturdays ago a real estate woman brought the lady who purchased our home for a final check. Judy and I cleared out to give them room. While they were looking, Judy and I rode by a piece of property we had been watching for three years. There were no “for sale” signs on the property. We returned home and found the realtor and home buyer with several unanswered questions.
A few years back, Steven Covey wrote a popular book, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. The book provides helpful concepts in life management. Among the concepts Covey advocated was Quad 2 living. Covey divided daily activities into four quads:
1. There are things that are urgent and important. These are the crises events you cannot avoid, such as the death of a family member.
2. There are things that are not urgent but important. These are life’s vital activities, such as our relationship with God, relationships with friends and family, personal growth and recreation. These activities contribute to a stronger life and help you move beyond crises events.
3. There are things that are not important but urgent. Some meetings and some phone calls would fall into this category.
4. There are things that are not important and not urgent. Browsing the internet and watching television would be examples.
Quad 1 activities (crises) cannot be avoided. Quad 3 activities deplete you because they must be fulfilled, but you do not get excited about them. Quad 4 activities are time wasters or activities that we run to after Quad 1 events. They help us chill out, but do not contribute to our productivity in life.
This brings us to Quad 2 activities. These are the proactive activities. These contribute to our growth and development. These help us avoid many Quad 3 activities and a dependency on Quad 4 activities. All four quads are a part of life. However, our aim should be to prioritize Quad 2 living. This will make us stronger physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually.
Lynn Pope could recite the seed varieties of every truck crop known to man. Billy Martin was acknowledged as the authority on beef cattle. Doyle McCullar knew more about fishing and the Brooklyn Dodgers than anyone we knew. Doyce Bailey specialized in lumber, Sonny Musgrove in corn, and J. L. Rice in carpentry and guitars. You get the idea. I envied none of them. What I did care about was picking cotton.
Not that the act itself was of any particular enjoyment. Cotton picking was hard work designed to give back-aches and poverty to anyone taking it seriously. However, all the other areas of expertise required years of experience to master. One could rule as the champion cotton picker by one day’s concentrated effort.
Each teenage claimant to the unofficial cotton-picking championship produced numbers such as 230, 285, and 290. I kept quiet, recalling that 175 was the best I had ever done and my daily average was more like 145. Just to lay on the class a respectable number like 225 was my goal. That’s why I hurried down to Junior Roman’s as soon as word came that he was hiring. And that’s why I began picking at noon.
By the sundown weigh-in, I had picked 140 pounds, my best afternoon ever. The fever had struck by now and I stayed after everyone else left, picking until the dark made it impossible. I ended the day at 165.
The next morning, I arrived in the field soon after sunrise. When the noon bell sounded, I weighed in at 150 pounds. In one afternoon and the next morning, I had gathered 315 pounds of cotton. Having done what I had come to do, I turned in my sack and walked home, eager to tell the world what I had accomplished.
This is the second in a series. Our ability to manage the issue of church complication may well affect our health and effectiveness in the ministry.
Second, we are guilty of “layering.” At some point in history churches began to layer new programs and new ministries in an effort to strengthen our churches. We added Sunday school, discipleship classes, brotherhood or men’s ministry, women’s ministry, various music groups, three or four children’s ministries, VBS, nursery, committees, Wednesday night activities, and the list goes on. All the activities I mentioned are good. There is not a bad idea among them. However, as the layers build up so does the complication.
An example of layering occurs in children’s ministry. If a church conducts Sunday morning, Sunday night and Wednesday night activities they feel obligated to provide children’s activities during each of the time periods. That is a noble gesture. However, the problem is, there are only so many people who are gifted, willing and able to work with children. Parents and church leaders desire to provide children’s Sunday school, AWANA (or a similar) ministry, mission organizations, VBS, and other children’s activities. All of these are “good,” but they put a strain on children’s workers. In order to get the needed workers a church ends up asking people to fill two or three ministry positions or use people whose hearts are not into children’s ministry. In this scenario the issue is not what is “good” but what is “best.”
When church leaders cannot get enough workers they tend to criticize church members for being uncaring. The problem, many times, is not uncommitted people but “layering.”
Do you ever feel that church is “too” complicated? If so, this article is for you. I first realized this truth when I was thirty-one. My awareness of this truth developed in the following way. I was serving a church in rural Mississippi. We typically averaged 100-150 in worship on Sunday mornings. As a young pastor I thought I had to visit each church family once or twice a year and every prospect who visited the church. In addition, I was preaching three sermons a week and teaching a discipleship class. Plus, I visited every person who was in the hospital, I was available for counseling, and I performed all weddings and funerals. Add to that list, deacon’s meetings, church leadership meetings, budget meetings, personnel meetings and the like. Plus, I was the only full time staff member in the church. I enjoyed all of these activities. I enjoyed being a pastor. However, I soon learned I was not superman. I began to feel empty. I began to lose the joy of ministry. Where did this come from? The technical name for my condition was burnout. The burnout was induced by a complicated lifestyle. When church becomes so complicated that you do not enjoy church, something is wrong! (I refer you to Dr. Thom Rainer’s book Simple Church.)
The story of Mary and Martha helps put this concept into perspective. “But Martha was distracted with much serving, and she approached Jesus and said, "Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Therefore tell her to help me." And Jesus answered and said to her, "Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things. But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her." (Luke 10:38-42 NKJV)