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.
“Whatever you do, do it enthusiastically, as something done for the Lord and not for men, knowing that you will receive the reward of an inheritance from the Lord–you serve the Lord Christ.” (Colossians 3:23)
Last night, sometime along about 3 or 4 a.m., unable to sleep, I did something I rarely do: I turned on the television. Usually, I’ll read or just lie there thinking until sleep returns. But last night, I channel-surfed and ended up watching one of those true-crime re-enactments.
Law enforcement investigators had painstakingly built their case against this fellow in Jacksonville, Florida, who reported his wife missing on a trip to Miami. Facts eventually indicated he had murdered her and buried her body in an abandoned golf course near home, then driven south. His plan had been for the police to focus on south Florida rather than his hometown.
My wife and I recently obtained two horses. I love horses, but it has been years since I spent time around them. The horses we got are three-years-old and very much in the training stage. In the past the horses I owned were trained and I enjoyed the fruit of someone else’s labor. Not so this time. I am taking up the training that was begun by someone else. I am learning valuable lessons about working with people, from a horse. Consider these lessons, as you work with people.
This coming week welcomes a new year, 2015. As each New Year begins I ask myself this question: Am I going to seek anything new or watch things remain the same? It is easy to teach, preach and challenge others about the New Year, but what about me? Am I seeking something new? Am I seeking fresh inspiration? Am I seeking fresh ideas? Am I seeking fresh ways of serving God?
Pastors are continually solving problems! You know the ritual of disturbed sleep when your mind subconsciously works to solve a problem. Or, your wife recognizes that blank stare when your body is present but your mind is not. It is impossible to avoid problem solving. So the question becomes, what am I learning or how am I resolving the problems I face?
All of us are in learning mode. Each day offers a new adventure and new lessons. This past week I considered Jesus’ approach to problem solving. These lessons are not new but they certainly added to my resume as a problem solver. Also, they can reduce our stress load as we seek a more balanced approach to problem solving.
I think the best leaders expand their influence and leadership potential by continuing to learn and grow in experience. It takes an intentional effort to improve as a leader. You can read books, follow blogs and Tweets, attend conferences, and hang out with other leaders. These are all good practices to improve as a leader.
In my experience, however, my leadership influence grows the fastest when it grows through the people I’m supposed to be leading. Let me explain.
Here are five ways I expand my leadership potential:
In Romans we find a warm word of thanks from Paul for his co-workers Priscilla and Aquila. “Greet Priscilla and Aquila, my fellow workers in Christ Jesus, who risked their own necks for my life, to whom not only I give thanks, but also all the churches of the Gentiles.” (Romans 16:4)
As we are in transition between the Thanksgiving and Christmas seasons, I want to take this opportunity to give thanks for you and to offer a holiday greeting.
All of us have them, difficult people. This is not new. Leaders and writers of the Biblical era also faced difficult people. While reading this morning I was reminded of one such situation. When John wrote 3 John, he mentions one person with whom he had to contend.
“Be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity.” (I Timothy 4:12)
When attempting something I’ve never seen done, I need to look over the shoulder of someone doing it. I don’t learn how to do hard things just by reading plans.
The Air Force has instructor pilots. They sit beside the student in the cockpit, showing how it’s done, and then giving hands-on instruction when the pupil takes the stick.
The educational system has interns who sit in the classrooms of veterans and learn from them. Other occupations have apprentices, associates and trainees.
Several years ago I became a Director of Missions in Southwest Louisiana. A Director of Missions works with a group of churches (in my case 46) as an encourager, adviser, servant, pastor’s friend and resource provider. When I accepted this position I had the impression that most church/pastor conflicts are because of dysfunctional churches. Since that time I have come to believe otherwise. Now, I realize, church/pastor conflicts can be a two way street.
I’ve been there. I’ve faced burnout and frustration in my work. Thankfully, I’ve never “bottomed out,” but I’ve felt near the bottom in my spirit. More than that, I’ve walked through these times with dozens of other leaders.
I’ve learned there are some common indicators that a leader is heading toward burnout. The sooner we can recognize them, the sooner we know to reach out for help.
Here are seven indicators you’re heading for burnout.
Last week we took a look at Jesus’ instructions to the disciples before they headed out. We also took a look at our expectations - we pick up there again in this post.
3) What you may expect from everyone, good or bad (10:21-23) …
Family members will betray you. You will be hated by all on account of My name. They will run you out of cities. When that happens, go on to the next one.
“Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves; therefore, be shrewd as serpents and innocent as doves.” (Matt. 10:16)
For Christian workers, one of the most significant Scripture passages is the commission the Lord gave His disciples just before sending them out on a short-term assignment. This is found in Matthew 10 and Luke 10. In Luke’s account, the commissioning takes 16 verses, but in Matthew’s, it’s a full 42 verses—so therefore, my favorite, since it’s far more helpful.
At that point, the 12 apostles were something like seminary students, preachers in training with diverse backgrounds and limited experience. (Some of us used to stand on the street corners in the French Quarter preaching. And, we roamed up and down the sidewalks with handfuls of tracts talking to strangers. We were in boot camp, learning how to talk to people about Jesus. That’s what was happening with these disciples.)
The title of this piece may cause you to raise an eyebrow. When we discuss the subject of tolerance or intolerance actions such as immorality and liberal theology tend to jump to the front of our minds. That should certainly be the case in reference to the aforementioned subjects. However, there are occasions when intolerance may burn fuel that should not be wasted.
Consider this example. In Philippians Paul discusses people who were preaching Christ out of envy and rivalry (1:15). Paul says they are preaching Christ, not with a spirit of love, but from selfish ambition in order to stir up trouble for him.
Have you ever been guilty of forcing things? This can happen with people, circumstances, projects or God’s will. I recall an experience I had while building a chain link fence. This involved one of the chain link fence post tops. The post tops are made of a soft but inflexible metal. Too much pressure and they will shatter. While constructing the fence I came to the point when I installed the tops on the metal posts. Everything went smoothly up until a point. However, one of the post tops did not readily slide onto the post. I decided to help it. I gently laid a piece of wood on the piece and struck it with a hammer. I forced it. Guess what? The piece shattered.
“Why does the Sunday school class always expect me to answer all the questions?”
“No other kids ever go to Sunday evening church, and we have to be there every pickin’ time!”
“When others talk or giggle at church events it’s normal, but when I do it I get stared at.”
“They said if I get caught messing up you’d have to resign.”
“And they said, ‘We expected better from a pastor’s child than that,’ and I’m hurt and angry and sick and tired of it. I don’t even want to be there anymore.”
Does it disturb you that God sometimes takes the path of silence? Not only is God silent, but His silence comes at the most (seemingly) inappropriate times. What are those times?
Obviously these examples are a small sampling of God’s silence.
For me, the challenge of God’s silence would be more difficult to bear had He not allowed us to sample this reality in His word. In Matt. 27:46 we find the agonizing prayer of Jesus as He hung on the cross. He felt forsaken by His Father. He felt the silence of Heaven.