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)
In 2014 my wife and I built a new home. At the time we also added a small catfish pond. Over the past four years we have caught a few small catfish but no large fish, until this past Saturday. We had gotten a little discouraged because the fish did not seem to be growing. In fact, we caught very few fish in recent months.
I started this week feeling fruitless. I needed to write this blog, prepare a sermon for Sunday, and prepare a sermon for a prison ministry. None of the tasks came easily. The little productivity I squeezed out flowed like molasses. You know those weeks. Sunday is coming, and the sermon is not there.
As I drove to work, I pondered the fruitless stages of my life and asked myself the question: What does it take to rise above fruitlessness? I offer the following points. I even alliterated, for you preacher types. I hope my ideas will help.
I woke up this morning feeling a little glum in my view of people. Don’t be so pious, we all feel this way from time to time. People don’t live up to our expectations. People don’t stroke us as much as we would like. People aren’t as perfect as we want them to be.
Today I picked up a copy of John Maxwell’s book, “25 Ways to Win with People.” This book quickly refocused my glum attitude. I did a quick scan of the contents of the book and was reminded of the truth, “people are our business!” In short, the Lord reminded me to get over myself.
“Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned as it were, with salt, so that you may know how you should respond to each person” (Colossians 4:6). “Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification, according to the need of the moment, that it may give grace to those who hear” (Ephesians 4:29).
Mary Todd Lincoln was gifted in the dark art of sarcasm. Her sister Elizabeth said of her, “She was also impulsive and made no attempt to conceal her feelings; indeed, it would have been an impossibility had she desired to do so, for her face was an index to every passing emotion. Without desiring to wound, she occasionally indulged in sarcastic, witty remarks, that cut like a Damascus blade, but there was no malice behind them.” Lincoln’s biographer notes, “A young woman who could wound by words without intending to was presumably even more dangerous when angry or aroused.” (Honor’s Voice: The Transformation of Abraham Lincoln by Douglas L. Wilson).
The past several years I have performed two jobs. I have served a church, as pastor, and I have served as a Director of Missions. As a Director of Missions, it is my pleasure to serve forty-three churches. There are times when the juggling act of fulfilling these two positions gets tedious.
Failure, this is not a word we relish. In fact, most of us avoid as if it were a disease. I would venture to say most of us would rather never hear or read the word again, especially if it’s being applied to us.
Have you ever seen a team that refused to play as a team? I once witnessed a basketball team that self-destructed because they failed to play as a team. It was predicted that this team would win a state championship. The previous year they had great success and won most of their games. At the end of the year they lost very few players.
Getting the Monday Morning Blues is normal for most pastors. Here are some ways to deal with it in a healthy way.
A few months ago, we got a new puppy we named Lily. This puppy is so cute that I can’t stay upset with her on a long-term basis. I say that because she wakes me between 4:00 and 4:30 each morning. Most of the time I’m okay with this ritual, but sometimes I get a little frustrated. Between the puppy and my age, getting up early is not the problem it would have been when I was younger, but somedays her early risings are a little tough on me.
I had scrambled eggs for breakfast yesterday morning and did not enjoy them at all. Having survived cancer of the mouth and then radiation for the head and neck area some years ago, my present reality is simply that some foods are to be eaten for their nutritional value, not for their taste.
Back in the 70s a man named Randy Bachman wrote a song entitled, “Taking Care of Business.” The thought behind this song could be applied to many areas of life: take care of your job, family, health, or other areas needing special attention. As I pondered this idea I applied it to those who serve in ministry.
Several years ago Dr. Paul Meier, Dr. Robert Hemfelt and Frank Minirth wrote a book entitled We are Driven: the Compulsive Behaviors America Applauds! The book addresses the driven mentality that afflicts Americans. I experienced this first hand on a mission trip to Mexico.
Let’s say you are a minister on the staff of a medium-sized church. You finished seminary and at the invitation of this church, you moved your young family here to this city and have gotten deeply involved in ministry. You are in the process of buying a house. Life is looking good.
Then one day, you are asked to attend a meeting with a few leaders of the church. The administrator is there, accompanied by the chairman of the personnel committee and the deacon chair. Long story short, you learn you are being terminated. Let go. Superannuated. Fired. Getting the ax. Pink-slipped.
Do you remember the last time you thought you gave a bad sermon? Last Sunday was one of those Sundays for me. If the truth be known there are probably many Sundays when our preaching is bad, but most Sundays we don’t recognize it. LOL!
Do you remember an occasion when God showed up in a special and unique way? My experience was a night visit. I had been serving as a pastor for approximately ten years when this occurred.
I was tired, discouraged, and burned out. In addition to these emotions, which pastors encounter on a regular basis, I was hurt by the loss of a large group of people from the church I was pastoring. The hurt was intensified by several people making disparaging remarks, as they were leaving the church. The disparaging remarks were like pouring salt into a tender wound.
Do you ever feel torn between the flesh and the spirit? This morning my wife and I said goodbye to our son and his family, who are missionaries overseas. We shared a refreshing ten-day visit in our home. We said our goodbyes at the airport at 5:00 a.m. The last image I have in my mind is our seven-year-old granddaughter standing at the door of the airport, waving goodbye to us.
(This post is outside the normal parameters of our web site, but Bro. Joe shows some unique wisdom in sharing this post. Thanks, Bro. Joe.)
“Therefore, brethren, seek out from among you seven men of good reputation, full of the Holy Spirit and of wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business…” (Acts 6:3)
The original trouble-shooters–the Lord’s S.W.A.T. team perhaps–in the New Testament church were the deacons. They still are best at this risky business.