“For this reason we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding; that you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him, being fruitful in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; strengthened with all might, according to His glorious power, for all patience and longsuffering with joy.” (Col. 1:9-11)
Nicole had just been wheeled into the air ambulance helicopter. Her 30-minute ride from our city to the medical center was under way. I stood numb and speechless with her mom and dad in the parking lot as they gathered courage for their car ride to the hospital. A week earlier their daughter had been a picture of health; now Reyes Syndrome had filled her with toxins that were eating at the very fiber of her life.
Another friend came over to offer encouragement. “She’s not going to die,” he said, “She’s going to be all right.” And then he left.
I wanted desperately to concur. Two options were alluring. Perhaps I could promise a miracle, or at the very least say a pastoral word that would help them to deny their excruciating reality. I found words for neither. She died the next day.
On another occasion we arrived at little Sarah’s house to pray with her and her parents. A special shipment of drugs had just arrived from a specialty cancer treatment center, and they had asked that we pray for Sarah again, and ask God to add his blessing to the new treatment she was about to receive.
The sturdy carton sat next to us on the floor as we knelt at Sarah’s bedside. Her strength had ebbed to the point of little responsiveness. Her discomfort had worn her out to bland resignation. The pain of her family was obvious in their drawn faces.
I wanted desperately to help them all escape. Perhaps I could promise a miracle, or at very least say a pastoral word that would help them deny their excruciating reality. I found words for neither. We held her memorial service last week.
Eugene Petersen has got me thinking again. This time the book is Five Smooth Stones for Pastoral Work. In the chapters on Lamentations and Ecclesiastes he deals head on with the pastoral temptations to avoid hard realities or to deal with them inappropriately. Neither, or course, is an acceptable alternative to living through the real thing. It is not that God cannot do miracles; He can and He does. I have witnessed it myself. But sometimes He says no, and then it is left to pastors to hear, accept and affirm His “no” even when there is congregational pressure and inner temptation not to do so.
Several weeks ago, while visiting Sears, I received a simple but profound message from a line that separates parking spaces. When I parked there was no car on either side of mine. However, when I returned to my car there were cars on either side. The car on my left was parked especially close to me. When I saw the close proximity of the car I became a little agitated. I thought to myself “how dare that driver crowd me?” I could barely squeeze into my car.
After closer examination I discovered I was the one who parked over the line. I was at fault for the close parking conditions. The other fellow was innocent. As I contemplated that incident I considered the lessons God had in store for me, a minister.
First, I should be careful about judging others because I may have a log in my eye. “Why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye but don’t notice the log in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ and look, there’s a log in your eye?” (Matt. 7:3-4) When I preach or teach or talk, I should be careful in judging others without recognizing and confessing the sin in my own life.
Second, I should beware of my pride. As I work with others I may make quick judgments that are totally wrong. That was certainly true at Sears. In working with people it is easy to place blame on others when I need to look in the mirror myself.
Third, the Sears incident reminded me that I am a work in progress.
I stood there staring through a sliding glass door watching the rain fall and wondering how things got to this point. I had just heard the news from a deacon friend that several of the deacons wanted me to resign. “For what, and why?” I asked. He thought for a moment and said, “Not for any particular reason and I’d rather not say.” He added, “I think you should resign.” I replied, “I don’t feel like it is time for me to go. The Lord has not released me.” I have invested three years of my life, I thought, in the community, church, and the unchurched in my community. Tears rolled down my cheeks as I thought of my wife and kids.
The reason for these accusations was unclear. The only thing of which I was guilty was loving people. I work hard visiting, reaching out and preparing a word for the people. I asked the deacon, who bore the bad news, “Do I have your support?” He responded, “Yes, but I don’t want a church vote.” “It shouldn’t have to come to this,” I replied. I sat through a week of tense meetings, where I was drilled for any and every flaw. In one meeting seven to ten people verbally ridiculed me for three hours.
Over the next few weeks all I could do was cry, pray and cry. My heart was crushed. I felt broken. I had truly loved the people who were out to get me. I had spent hours visiting, drinking coffee and ministering to these people. Now they were shooting me down. I felt utterly alone. My hands would tremble from stress and people would say, “Bro Tim you are losing weight.” I felt like a walking shell. I didn’t lock myself in my house or office, due to some helpful advice. The lights were on in my heart but no one was home. My spirit was broken and missing in action. I was numb.
Finally, I was given a list of the things of which I was accused. I felt like the list was put together by a group of junior high kids. The list included: using non-deacons for the Lord’s Supper, letting dogs in the church building, not asking for permission to secure a revival speaker and borrowing toilet paper without permission. Yes, toilet paper!
While talking with a young pastor a few days ago, I asked how he was doing. He gave a canned answer that all of us use. He said something like, “I am doing fine.” From that point he shared how busy he had been and hard he had worked. He proceeded to share how we are called to pour out our lives for Christ. I admire his enthusiasm and dedication. He is a hard worker.
The previous discussion started me thinking. When are we pouring our lives in dedication to Christ and when are we foolishly managing our emotional reserves? Failure to discern between these two concepts could have devastating consequences.
First, we are called to pour out our lives in service to Christ. After all, Jesus said, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me.” (Luke 9:23) John said, “He must increase, but I must decrease.” (John 3:30)
Our hearts are stirred by great saints who poured out their lives for Christ. I am reminded of William Tyndale who was burned at the stake for his efforts to translate the scripture into the common man’s language. I am reminded of William Wilberforce who struggled for years with insult and persecution as he sought to eliminate the slave trade in England. I am reminded of Lottie Moon, the Southern Baptist missionary who died of malnutrition and exhaustion as she served the people of China. I am reminded of the great saints listed in Hebrews 11 who poured out their lives in service to Christ.
I share a couple of simple observations. People who pour out their lives for Christ seldom see themselves as making a sacrifice. Their surrendered life is a part of their identity. People who pour out their lives for Christ are like a galloping horse who is hard to reign in. Their passion is their life.
One of my first sensations on driving a new Camry home from the dealer was the pristine condition of the windshield. No nicks, no dents, no dried bugs. None of the stuff you get with older cars.
After a few months and several thousand miles, the windshield began to look like all other used cars.
There is a way to keep a windshield unflicked (is that a word?). Park it in the garage and leave it there. Never take it outside.
Real life is this way. If you get out in the world, you get nicked and dented and even scarred. If you get involved with people you will occasionally come home at night with bruises and the occasional black eye and bloody nose.
A friend who left the pastorate to become the director of missions (my former ministry) with the Baptist churches in a Gulf Coast county wrote recently to say no sooner had he unpacked his boxes than he had to mediate a situation between a pastor and a church. The pastor was being forced out and the DOM worked with the church leadership to arrange an appropriate severance package.
I observed that sooner or later, if he does this enough, both sides will turn on him. He was unfair, he was partial to the other side, he is unworthy to call himself a Christian, let alone a minister, he is no friend.
The minister should expect it; don’t be blind-sided; it happens. No one said it was going to be fun.
We all get beat up in life. If our lives count for anything larger than ourselves, we will occasionally have to wade into difficult situations not of our own making in order to salvage lives or relationships or justice.
Policemen will tell you the most dangerous aspect of their jobs is settling domestic disputes. An angry husband who has been beating his wife resents the intruder who tries to calm him down and now turns on him.
Pastors and counselors live in the same world as the cop. “A ship is safe in the harbor, but that’s not where ships belong.”
If you are looking for a carefree career, one with pleasant working conditions, smooth and supportive relationships, and constant rewards, the ministry is not for you, friend.
When you became pastor of that church, for a brief shining moment, it gave your ego a thrill. That lasted about 24 hours.
Then the phone began to ring. People began to knock at your door. The chairman of this committee or that project informed you that they’ve been waiting for you to arrive so you could tell them what to do. Caution: the reason they’ve not already made the decision is there is no good choice. This is a steel trap waiting for a head just the size of yours.
Last week my wife, Judy, and I stopped for lunch at a Cracker Barrel restaurant. Our car has a hard time passing a Cracker Barrel! As we sat waiting to place our order I noticed two men being ushered to the table next to us. As I watched I thought to myself, “If I were a betting man, I would guess those two men are preachers.” My assessment proved to be right. (Please understand, I am not judging these men. They may have been totally Godly men, as far as I know.) This is not the first time I have made such an accurate assessment of preachers, simply by looking at them. This assessment occurred before these individuals ever opened their mouths. After they were seated their conversation proved me to be right.
The thought raised in the previous paragraph caused me to do a little soul searching. I wondered if I look like a preacher. If my behavior and conversation cause people to raise an eyebrow out of respect, then I praise the Lord for such a testimony. However, if people evaluate me negatively by my dress, demeanor, carriage and manner of speech, then I should do a little soul searching.
When the Lord called me to preach I rejected His call because of a stubborn heart. However, there were certain perception issues which encouraged my procrastination. These issues were based on the naïve heart of a teenager more than on actual fact. I list several of my issues: I thought all preachers wore Sunday clothes all of the time. I thought all preachers were loud and arrogant. I thought all preachers were gluttons and had huge bulging stomachs. There I said it!
Oh, I know, this appears to be a change of tune for me. My blog has been critical of controlling leadership as a very poor leadership style. I apologize. I should have recognized the benefits in controlling leadership before now. Thankfully, there's still time in my leadership career. Hopefully I caught you in time too.
Controlling leadership, if done well, offers some powerful contributions to the organization.
Here are seven benefits of being a controlling leader:
1. You keep things small. Small is so easy to manage. Growing is so overrated.
2. New ideas are stifled. New always translates to different...you know...how we've done things before now. Different can be messy. Keep things neat and tidy and life is more comfortable.
3. Change is minimal. Change is hard. Unpopular. Challenging. Ain't nobody got time for that.
4. There are fewer misunderstandings. Everything is clear. You're the boss and no one questions your authority. There. Take that.
5. You get all the credit. You can even blame others for mistakes. Because, after all, you're in control.
6. Risk and fear is minimized. (Or so it seems at the time.) If you can control things, you can keep things from getting away from you. It's safer. (At least it seems.)
7. People don't grow. You know what happens when people grow. They start developing their own leadership skills. Pretty soon they start thinking they could do things on their own - perhaps even better than you can do them. They may even leave searching for another opportunity. They may leave. Stop that. (And that'll keep 'em with you forever, right?)
See how cool this is. Right now you're probably thinking you should've thought of this controlling leader deal years ago. You can thank me later.
But, you controlling leaders better quit reading this post. Someone is waiting on you to make a decision. You make all of them around there...don't you? It's what you do best.
Note from Pastor Tim – I hope you appreciate Ron's cynical look at Controlling Leadership. Happy New Year to our Shepherd friends.
Printed with permission from h http://www.ronedmondson.com
Do you remember a time when a gift you gave lit up the face of a child or someone special? During the holiday season we are given the opportunity to repeat this action a number of times. As a believer it is my prayer that I would always remember the joy of giving.
During the Christmas season I am reminded of several gifts that should be shared at Christmas and throughout the year. First, there is the gift of unconditional, unsolicited love. All around us there are people crying out for unconditional love. I think of Jesus' love for the social outcast, the leper, the demon possessed, and the unlovely. He displayed the grace and unconditional love of our Heavenly Father.
The gift of encouragement is also needed. All around us there are people who need encouraging-- the single mom seeking to raise children by herself, the lonely senior adult who receives few visits from family, the recently released prisoner who is trying to rebuild his life, the cancer victim who struggles with the insecurity of the future, the widowed/widower who faces the first Christmas alone. All of these individuals need the gift of encouragement.
The greatest gifts are not necessarily those that can be wrapped in a package. Some gifts require extra effort and extra thought to process. It is easy to love when it is expected or the love flows along family or friendship lines. Jesus said,
"For if you love those who love you, what reward will you have? Don't even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing out of the ordinary? Don't even the Gentiles do the same?" (Mt. 5:46-47 HCSB)
The words that stand out to me in this passage are the words "out of the ordinary." As a Christian and a minister, am I willing to go beyond the call of duty? Am I willing to go beyond the ordinary?
Some time ago I heard a story, on the morning news, about a young American Marine who went beyond the call of duty. He went beyond the ordinary. He took a bullet and died in a valiant effort to rescue a medical doctor who was being held by Islamic extremists in the Middle East.
As ministers and Christians there are certain things we are expected to do. We are expected to fulfill our responsibility to the church. We are expected to maintain a Godly character. We are expected to support our families. These are all noble and commendable actions. My prayer is that during this holiday season - and throughout the year - we will fulfill what is expected but also perform those actions that are beyond the ordinary. Such actions will bring us an extra special level of the "Joy of Giving."
I suppose it’s a vocational hazard.
We preachers walk through the valley of the shadow with people in the church and out of it. We do our best, weep with them, tell what we know, and offer all the encouragement we can. Then, we go on to the next thing. Someone else needs us.
That family we ministered to, however, does not go on to anything. They are forever saddled with the loss of that child or parent. They still carry the hole in their heart and return to the empty house or sad playroom. However, there is one positive thing they will always carry with them. They never forget how the pastor ministered to them.
He forgets; not because he meant to, but because after them, he was called to more hospital rooms, more funeral homes, and more counseling situations. He walked away from that family knowing he had a choice: he could leave a piece of himself with them–his heart, his soul, something–or he could close the door on that sad room in his inner sanctum in order to be able to give of himself to the next crisis.
If he leaves a piece of himself with every broken-hearted family he works with, pretty soon there won’t be anything left.
So he turns it off when he walks away. He goes on to the next thing.
He hates himself for doing it. But it’s a survival technique. It’s the only way to last in this kind of tear-your-heart-out-and-stomp-that-sucker ministry.
We pastors shake our heads in amazement at this, but we know it’s true. We get it all the time. Well, that’s not right. We get it from time to time. And when it comes, it’s like a love-letter from Heaven. Like something the Heavenly Father decides to send our way as if to say, “You’re doing good. Hang in there. I know you think you’re so weak and so flawed and understand so little that it can’t possibly be of help to anyone. But it’s better than you know. Keep on.”
Durn. I’m tearing up again.
Do you ever find yourself preoccupied, encased in your own little world? Today I was considering the times I have missed ministry opportunities because I was in my own little world. “Missing a ministry opportunity,” this is a strange statement coming from a minister. We are surrounded by ministry opportunities. If anything we cannot keep up with the ministry opportunities, or we are exhausted from ministry overload.
Let me explain my statement, “missing a ministry opportunity.” There are ministry opportunities that come with our job. They are somewhat expected and/or demanded of us. Then there are the exciting opportunities that God lays in our lap. We might slide by if we miss the first type of opportunity. They are routine and accompany our vocational calling. However, those God-given opportunities involve a different story line. They stimulate a little more excitement. They are characterized by an air of intrigue! Questions such as, “What is God up to?” come to mind.
This discussion reminded me of the story of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:30-37). The part of this story that disturbs me the most is the description of the two religious leaders. “A priest happened to be going down that road. When he saw him, he passed by on the other side. In the same way, a Levite, when he arrived at the place and saw him, passed by on the other side.” (vs. 31-32) All of us have heard sermons, studies and read commentaries about this passage. The priest and Levite may have entertained religious reasons to pass by without helping. They might have been in a hurry. My current thinking prompts me to ask, were they preoccupied? Were they so busy being ministers that they did not have time to minister? This challenges me to ask several questions:
Last week I watched a football game in which the star player for one team was tired and slightly injured. The coach took the star out of the game, had him checked, and placed him back in the game. Do you ever feel like you are tired and injured and need to be taken out of the game? You are not alone!
In Exodus 5 we find Moses wondering if he should be in the game. After a season of struggle Moses reluctantly accepted God’s call to go into the game and lead the Israelite people out of Egypt. After embarking on this task Moses faced an immediate trial. He came against Pharaoh. As he came against Pharaoh things got worse instead of better. Instead of Pharaoh allowing the Israelite people to go free he increased their burden. Not only did he keep them in bondage, he required them to make the previous quota of bricks. In addition, he made them collect straw with which to make the bricks. Collecting straw had not been demanded in the past. After this encounter we find Moses’ words in Exodus 5:22-23. “So Moses returned to the LORD and said, ‘Lord, why have You brought trouble on this people? Why is it You have sent me? For since I came to Pharaoh to speak in Your name, he has done evil to this people; neither have You delivered Your people at all.’"
In this encounter Moses faced several negative emotions.
1. Moses was discouraged. He asked why God had “brought trouble on this people.”
2. Moses doubted. He asked, “Why is it You have sent me?”
3. Moses was basically defeated. He said, “neither have You delivered Your people.”
The title of this article represents a disturbing thought. It is especially disturbing for those who serve in ministry. You would expect a non-believer to be too busy for Jesus. You would expect a back-slider to be too busy for Jesus. This thought is disturbing and might even be offensive to faithful followers of Jesus Christ. However, the fact is, there are times when we are too busy for Jesus. One passage comes to mind.
In Luke 10:38-42 we find the story of Mary and Martha. In Luke 10 we read, “But Martha was distracted by her many tasks, and she came up and asked, ‘Lord, don’t You care that my sister has left me to serve alone? So tell her to give me a hand.’” (vs. 40 HCSB) Martha was doing good things. She was even doing good things for Jesus. However, she was too busy for Jesus. Mary took the time to sit at Jesus’ feet. (vs. 42 HCSB) Jesus said, “Mary has made the right choice, and it will not be taken away from her.” (vs. 42) Making time for Jesus is a choice.
The choice to be with Jesus is discussed in Peter Scazzero’s book Emotionally Healthy Spirituality. The sub-heading of Chapter 5 is “Stopping to Breathe the Air of Eternity.” By his own testimony and admission Pete discovered the consequences of not taking time to be with Jesus. He almost lost his marriage and his ministry. Emotionally Healthy Spirituality shares the lessons learned on his journey.
Do you ever catch yourself saying “I cannot believe I did it again?” That happened to me last week. I have my weaknesses as a minister. In fact, over the years of serving in churches I developed a list of my weaknesses. This list was used as a watch list to remind me of my shortcomings. In doing this I held myself accountable when my shortcomings raised their ugly head. I will not give you my entire list; however, I use this concept to convey a growth point for all of us.
I share this, not to make you feel pity for me, but to make a point. I have been busy. Our association of churches recently conducted its annual meeting. This meeting requires a lot of extra work. My wife and I have been working to sell our home. Also, I am working to complete two books. In addition, we recently planned and conducted two events for pastors and their wives. I have learned that when I put too many irons in the fire, one of them does not get hot.
This brings up the problem. When I am stressing because everything is not done to perfection, this attitude cannot be of God. If I beat myself up because “I did it again” there is something wrong with this picture. As a pastor and servant of Christ what should I do?
“Go to the ant, you slacker! Observe its ways and become wise. Without leader, administrator, or ruler, it prepares its provisions in summer; it gathers its food during harvest.” (Prov. 6:6-8) We learn several valuable lessons from the ant.
Last Thursday and Friday the Shepherds Connection conducted a “Survive and Thrive Retreat” in Shreveport, LA. The purpose of such retreats, sponsored by the Shepherds Connection, is to offer encouragement and support for those serving in ministry. We call these “Survive and Thrive Retreats” because it is our conviction that the Lord wants us to “survive” emotionally, physically and spiritually but also “thrive” in our place of service. As we conducted this retreat there were several elements that created a “good” experience for us. I want to share these observations so that we might (hopefully) enlist your participation in a future event but also to challenge you to a healthy ministry lifestyle.
A spirit of transparency was present. All of those attending the retreat serve in ministry. Thus, all recognize the importance of seeking safe places where they can share with others who serve in ministry. After all, who understands a fellow minister better than a fellow minister? All of us need safe places where we can, as the saying goes, “let our hair down.”
A spirit of affirmation and acceptance was present. We need people who will affirm us, understand our ways and share our dreams. Also, we need people who accept and affirm us for who we are, not our denomination, eschatological position or the size of our church.
Humor was utilized. We listened to several short humorous video clips. In addition, we played the “newlywed game” for those who serve in ministry. The Bible says “a merry heart doeth good like a medicine.”
Encouraging worship and Biblical teaching was utilized. Oftentimes we pastors do all of the teaching and receive little take in. We need to be fed and enriched by the teaching and worship skills of others. A pastor who gives out without taking in will be like a bank account that runs out of money when no deposits are made.
A spirit of prayer was present. During this short retreat there were no less than five opportunities to laugh, cry and lift in prayer the burdens of fellow pastors and their wives.
The Shepherds Connection was started because we see the loneliness, isolation and challenges of those who serve in ministry. From this summary I challenge you with the following questions.
If you buy a $25,000 car you do not neglect its maintenance. It is too valuable a possession. As a pastor you are valuable in God’s service. Regular maintenance goes a long way in keeping you on the road of ministry.
Reprinted with permission: Written by Charles Stone of Charles Stone-- Stonewell Ministries
God created sleep not only to cure sleepiness, but to serve our bodies and brains in many beneficial ways. Unfortunately, many leaders, especially pastors, try to lead without getting adequate sleep and live with a sleepy leader's brain. When we don't get enough sleep, our brains don't work as well. Thus, we don't lead at our best.
So what happens when we don't get enough sleep, besides feeling sleepy? Here's what the experts tell us happens to our brains when we don't get adequate sleep.
• Our memory is impaired. Sleep helps turn short term memory into long-term memory (called consolidation) by strengthening memory traces. Lack of sleep hinders this process.
• We don't learn as well. Related to memory, when our memory is impaired, learning suffers.
• We can't control our emotions as well. Emotional control (called emotional regulation) best happens when we think most clearly. Lack of sleep keeps our executive thinking center (called the pre-frontal cortex) from operating most effectively.
• Creativity suffers. When we sleep our brain continues to work. One way it works is by making novel connections which doesn't happen as easily during wakefulness. If you rob yourself of sleep you may be robbing yourself of creative insights that otherwise could enhance your leadership.
• We don't recharge our brains and our bodies. The body needs to reset its physiological processes each day to keep in balance (called homeostasis). If you don't get enough sleep, you can keep your body from resetting its chemical balances. As a result, chronic lack of sleep can put your body in a stress state which keeps the stress hormone cortisol constantly in our system, which damages our bodies and brains.
How's your sleep pattern? Are you getting enough sleep? What can you do if you believe you are sleep deprived? I list several suggestions in this prior post where you can take a quiz and learn if you are sleep deprived. http://charlesstone.com/are-you-a-sleep-deprived-pastor-take-this-quiz-and-find-out/
I wonder if I’m the only one with this problem.
Thursday morning I was wide awake at 5:15, got dressed and studied several chapters of the Old Testament book of Esther. Then, I turned on the television, watched the weather forecast while doing 15 minutes of a stretching-and-weights routine I put together years ago. I bundled up, grabbed my water bottle and headed for the river levee where I walked three miles and talked to the Lord. It was 7 o’clock when I returned. I turned on the coffee, took my bath, and got dressed. My wife awakened, I brought her a cup of coffee and we chatted. I had breakfast and read the paper, and then a phone call occupied 15 or 20 minutes. I thought of a message to put on my website; a pleasant chore which I can never do in less than half an hour. The time was 9 A.M. and I was just leaving the house.
The drive to my office across New Orleans’ morning traffic takes 45 minutes. All the way, I kept thinking, “I’m late to the office. What will people think?”
Wonder if I’m the only one with this problem.
In a real sense, I had been on duty since 5:15. Reading the Bible, praying, reading the paper, and then counseling by phone are my responsibilities. “Be on guard for yourself,” the Apostle Paul instructed the pastors of Ephesus in Acts 20:28, and then “for all the flock among whom the Holy Spirit has made you overseers.” First, take care of yourself. Fail to do that and you’ll not be caring for anyone. Then and only then, take care of the flock.
Pastors generally do not have a taskmaster breathing down their necks, timing their arrival and departure from the office, checking off their chores, making sure they get their work done. In my work with the hundred or so Southern Baptist churches of metro New Orleans, I most certainly do not have a taskmaster, for which I am grateful. However, I’m my own taskmaster, and not a very merciful one at that. At any given time, I could produce a long list of tasks I left undone. Also, I can list instances of self-indulgence when my time could have been better invested, and enough evidence of laziness and sloth to convince a panel of judges of my unworthiness for any position of trust in the Kingdom. My conscience reminds me that I watched a 1942 Bette Davis movie on television last night, and enjoyed every moment of it. My good sense says it was relaxing and beneficial; my guilty conscience points the accusing finger.
Wonder if I’m the only one with this problem.
Decades ago I read where an old preacher started his day when the factory workers walked by his front door at five o’clock each morning. “It’s important,” he said, “that they not think their pastor is in bed while they are working.” Therefore, he set his alarm clock and rose at the same hour and made certain he was at work in his study as soon as his people began in the factory. He did not say if he went back to bed later–okay, I admit I’m a cynic.
Hey pastor, do you struggle with the tension of being “the” pastor or an equipper? As a young pastor I did not feel this tension. In fact, I was not aware such tension existed. As my knowledge of scripture, ministry experience and responsibilities expanded I became aware of this tension. Let me explain what I mean. As a young pastor I naively saw it as my responsibility to serve as a resident chaplain. I visited every home, performed every wedding, conducted every funeral, attended every meeting, sat through every surgery and preached two or three times a week.
There is nothing wrong with this style of ministry. Congregations will applaud you for ministering in this manner. However, there are three difficulties with approaching ministry in this fashion.
First, it will wear you out as you try to wear so many hats. A sure recipe for burnout is to wear too many hats and burn the candle at both ends.
Second, this ministry overload will hinder you from doing things with excellence. You cannot do one or two things with excellence when you are stretched in doing many things.
The third difficulty with the pastor doing everything is that it violates our calling to equip people for ministry. The Bible tells us, “He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints.” (Eph. 4:11-12) We are called to equip all of God’s people to minister.
In considering our call to equip others there are several thoughts we should entertain.
First, do I attempt to do all of the things listed in paragraph one because of my ego. As a young pastor I found it flattering to hear people brag on me and the “hard working pastor.” Pride is a sin! I will leave this discussion for another article. However, we will call it for what it is. A root of pride grows in many directions.
Second, do I trust people? Am I willing to back up and delegate responsibility to fellow believers and trust them to do the job? This requires that I invest in them by equipping with ministry skills to perform the task.
Third, am I willing to confront cultural barriers in order to equip others? For example, most religious traditions refer to “the pastor.” Some of these comments are used generically in referring to a position in the church. However, others see the pastor as “the minister.” Those with such views see the pastor through a different lens than they view other believers. The correct view is that he is a minister/equipper working among fellow ministers. Dismantling this view will require teaching, patience and a new vision. We must establish the vision of a multitude of people ministering and witnessing. We must help our people see the church’s potential when a multitude is active and serving. This new vision will require special effort in areas, such as rural areas, where the demands of ministry (for the paid staff) are less demanding. Some people might criticize you for delegating ministry to others.
The pastor is a pastor/minister! We should add to this the title of pastor/equipper. This will enhance the effectiveness of our work and expand our reach. It will not hinder our work unless we hinder it in our minds.