Saturday, 14 June 2014 00:00

Shepherding the Flock

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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.

Thursday, 29 May 2014 00:00

Enjoy the Journey

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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.

Saturday, 24 May 2014 00:00

5 Ways to Deepen Your Integrity

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Daniel 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.

  • Would abandon their entire family (25%)
  • Would abandon their church (25%)
  • Would become prostitutes for a week or more (23%)
  • Would give up their American citizenship (16%)
  • Would leave their spouses (16%)
  • Would withhold testimony and let a murderer go free (10%)
  • Would kill a stranger (7%)
  • Would put their children up for adoption (3%)

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.

Saturday, 17 May 2014 00:00

Answer At the Door

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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.

Friday, 09 May 2014 00:00

Quad 2 Living

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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.

Friday, 25 April 2014 08:55

Too Complicated! (Part 2)

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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.”

Sunday, 20 April 2014 21:21

Too Complicated! (Part 1)

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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)

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