Saturday, 02 March 2013 00:00

The Pastorate: No Place for Crybabies (Part 1)

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It comes as a surprise only to a very few that pastoring a church can be extremely hard work. Rewarding, fulfilling, challenging, and blessed. But there are times when it taxes the child of God to the core of his being, when it tests his sanity, and drives him to question everything he ever believed about the faith he is proclaiming and the people he is serving.

Only the strong need apply.

They used to say that only the hardiest of stock settled the early American west. "The cowards never started and the weak died along the way."

There's something about that which fits the ministry.

What triggered all this for me were the sports announcers on ESPN the other day. They were talking about Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh Steeler quarterback. He had an ankle injury this year, and made every effort to play on in spite of it. Whether this is smart or foolhardy, we'll leave to other people. The commentators were of one mind on it, however: Isn't Big Ben great! He doesn't give in to a little injury. He knows how to play hurt!

I've played hurt. You too, pastor? I will go so far as to say that every pastor who stays in the Lord's work for any period of time will sooner or later "play hurt." He will have a serious burden or strong opposition or major trial or some kind of massive handicap which would destroy a lesser individual ("a career-ending injury" it's called in sports), but he still stands in the pulpit preaching, still goes to the office, still leads his church.

Every week I hear from pastors and/or their wives with similar stories of great upheavals in their ministries. The one this week said, "I perceive that you too have had troubles and trials in your life. That's why I decided to write you."

Saturday, 23 February 2013 00:00

Your View Of The Pew

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congregationWhat is your view of the people in the pew?  These are the people we lead and serve.  These are our co-workers.  Our view of these special people will determine our leadership style and, to a great extent, our success in ministry.

I have observed many diverse attitudes  harbored by pastors and staff, toward the people we lead.

  • There is the condescending attitude.  When we harbor this attitude we tend to look down our noses as if lay people are a step below us.
  • There is the suspicious attitude.  We are suspicious of what lay people think of us and the intent of their motives.
  • There is the autocratic attitude.  We tend to exert authority over lay people and are reluctant to work with them.
  • There is the “I am the expert” attitude.  We tend to show little respect and appreciation for the opinions and feed-back of lay people.
  • There is the “I am in control” attitude.  We tend to feel we must have our hands in everything that happens in our congregation.
  • There is the “I have to do this” attitude.  We feel we must preach every sermon, make every hospital visit, do all the counseling, authorize every decision, and the like.
  • There is the “laissez- fare” attitude.  We yield our leadership to the “democratic process” and go along for the ride.  When this happens we give up or minimize our leadership to the congregation.

DepressionDepression is one of the most debilitating maladies afflicting mankind; and even among Christians, it is rampant. Depression has been around for a long, long time, and many prominent persons have experienced its sufferings. David, a man after God’s own heart, described his despondency with these words, “I sink in deep mire where there is no place to stand. I am weary of my crying; my throat is dried.” (Psalm 69:2-3) And he also cried, “Why are you cast down, O my soul? Why are you disquieted within me?” (Psalm 42:5.)

How can one overcome depression? Doctors do not have ready, sure answers, but there are some steps one can take. One, you can copy David and admit, “O my God, my soul is cast down.” (Psalm 42:6) You can tell God about your problem and ask for His help.

Two, you can seek the help of a competent physician. Often, depression is caused by some physical disorder or malfunction which proper treatment can correct. That ruled out, competent counseling is in order. (I highly recommend that you find a Christian counselor.)

Three, you can turn to God in prayer and trust. “I will say unto God my rock, why have you forgotten me? Why go I mourning? And in the darkest hour, you can know that the Lord will command His loving kindness in the day time, and in the night his song shall be with you. Your prayer unto the God of your life will be heard.” (Psalm 42:7-9) You can ask that “his light and truth lead you.” (Psalm 43:3) You can “go unto the altar of God--you can praise God and claim His joy”. (Psalm 43:4)

            Four, there are some disciplines that you can employ. You can determine that you will “rejoice in the Lord.” You can count your blessings and thank God for each one. You can practice praying about everything. You can refuse to worry - you can think about good and beautiful things and refuse to let your mind dwell upon sad, disturbing things. You can find things needed and useful to do. Keep busy doing them! (Philippians 4:4-8) You can and must do physical exercise - walk, swim, jog, keep physically fit. Look for and enjoy the beauty of God’s creation; and keep on hoping and looking for that better day. Read your Bible - especially the Psalms - and keep company with good, happy Christian people, keep smiling, and it helps to occasionally laugh at yourself.

Saturday, 09 February 2013 06:00

Monday Blues

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monday bluesDo you experience Monday Blues? Today I was visiting with some fellow pastors when the subject of Monday Blues came up. Lay people might not understand the pastor’s perspective on this subject, even though Monday Blues is a universal language. For lay people the Monday blues are the result of a busy weekend and passive rebellion about returning to work on Monday. For pastors the Monday Blues are the result of an exhausted spirit. 

As I reflected on this concept several thoughts come to mind. Is there spiritual truth to address the Monday Blues discussion?  I am reminded of two passages that reflect on the issue. There is the passage in I Kings 19 when Elijah had a meltdown. Elijah had been wide open in ministry mode. Some of his greatest ministry deeds occurred prior to this meltdown.

The other incident affected Jesus. (Mk. 5:25-35) Jesus was walking through a crowd when a lady with a blood infirmity reached out and touched the hem of His garment. Jesus said He felt “power” go from Him. Jesus disciples did not understand this incident. They saw the crowds pressing around Jesus. They thought someone from the crowd had touched Jesus. Jesus knew otherwise. He knew that ministry drains power from the minister.

Both of these incidents illustrate a universal principle. Ministry drains energy from you. This is why Jesus often went aside to pray and replenish His spiritual energy. Jesus managed his depletion by going aside to meet God.

Elijah did not do so well. He crashed after his intense period of ministry. He was depressed, discouraged and defeated.

These stories remind me of an important principle regarding the pastor’s Monday Blues. We can be cynical of these blue feelings or we can embrace them as a fact of life. Ministry depletes your resources. When we embrace this truth we will act proactively toward the negative emotions.

Saturday, 02 February 2013 00:00

Your Own Worst Enemy

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angerHave you ever been guilty of being your own worst enemy? This is a hard truth to discuss and it’s even harder to admit guilt. This being the case I will begin with transparency. Hopefully you will see me as a fellow struggler and not a stone thrower.

I once found myself to be my own worst enemy with a group of deacons. This group of deacons fulfilled an administrative role instead of a ministry role. This is fairly typical in older traditional churches. Pastors struggle to cope with this type of deacon ministry. Our success or failure in coping with this situation is not altogether dependent on the deacons. Our success or failure requires that we manage our hearts properly. In my situation I failed because I stopped communicating with these deacons and emotionally avoided them. There were several times when I became frustrated with this group of men and failed to manage my frustration. My frustration caused me to turn inward (causing depression) and at other times to lash out in anger. This caused some of the deacons to become frustrated with me. I was my own worst enemy.

Consider this verse from Proverbs. “A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” (Prov. 15:1) Another person responding in an inappropriate manner does not justify my responding in an inappropriate manner. If I respond in an inappropriate manner, I become my own worst enemy. Ultimately, I am not responsible for the other person; I am responsible for myself.

Over the years I have seen a number of situations where individuals become their own worst enemy.

Consider these examples.

  • Anger- Sometimes we react to people with anger and frustration. Jesus was severely abused yet He never became angry in His response to His tormentors.
  • Immaturity- Ministers can be guilty of mishandling anger, conflict, and personality issues as much as other people.
  • Superiority- Ministers sometimes develop a superiority mind-set whereby we conclude our vision, decisions, and opinions are superior to lay people.
  • Poor people skills- If we do not treat people with dignity, respect, and integrity they will return the favor.
  • Poor communication skills- Words are tricky creatures. They often do not communicate what we intend. Over the years I have inadvertently run off a number of people from churches I served because they did not hear what I was trying to communicate. I realize those people are responsible for handling their issues. However, I recognize words to be a problem from time to time. Misunderstandings and poor communication are behind most broken relationships.
Thursday, 24 January 2013 06:00

A Good Attitude Helps

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old horseDuring my 83rd year, I visited my friend and trusted physician for a regular checkup. He asked, “How do you feel?” I said, “Alright, I guess.” Sensing that he was waiting for more, I said, “I don’t know how I’m supposed to feel – you should write a book telling me how 83-year-olds usually feel!” His answer was, “I can’t; I’ve never been that old.” Well, I’ve now been blessed to have celebrated my 85th birthday. So that others might be better able to answer their physician’s inquiry, maybe I can shed some light on the subject.

At 85, one must recognize and acknowledge at least to himself, “I’m not as young as I used to be, and the old grey hoss ain’t what he used to be!” There are some things you need to leave undone and don’t fret about it. The combination of age and mileage takes its toll; so, find something you can do and enjoy doing it. Instead of fretting (stressing) over what you can’t do, thank God for what you can do!

Regular trips to the physician and monthly trips to the drug store are a part of the senior lifestyle, and you budget for that. The price hurts; but if it’s any consolation, comparing the prices and income schedules, I was paying more for some medicine in 1950-55 than I pay today. Thank God for the advances in medical care.

I’ve also learned that not too many people are really concerned about another’s aches and ailments. So, talk about the beautiful day, etc., and find something about which to compliment your companions. I’ve tried many remedies, and a frown and/or a groan has never relieved a pain or cured arthritis. At first, a smile may not make you feel better, but it does wonders for others and will make you look a lot better.

I’ve found that thinking about my physical limitations and ailments tends to increase my discomforts; so in keeping with the Apostle Paul’s admonition, I look for “things that are true, things that are noble and lovely, just, pure, virtuous – of a good report and worthy of praise, and I think and meditate on these.” (Philippians 4:8) I refuse to let my mind stay in the dumps. I deliberately, intentionally, Rejoice in the Lord. (Philippians 4:4) I stay busy doing what I can for the Lord and others. I refuse to think about being old. As someone has said, I had much rather be a young 85-year-old than an old 40-year-old.

As you grow older, may God richly bless!

You may contact E. J. Bradshaw by emailing him at: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Saturday, 19 January 2013 08:20

Let Go!

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let-go-let-godI just returned from a building materials store where I purchased two new doors for our home. After paying for the doors, I drove my car into the loading yard to be loaded. While waiting on the loading attendant I reflected on how I have changed. At one point, not too many years ago (I am 59); I would not have waited on an attendant. I am a do it yourself kind of guy. I take care of most projects around the house. (No, I am not like the “do it yourself guy” who, when his wife asked his help with a project, replied “do it yourself.” A little humor there!)

This time of reflection reminded me of an important truth. There are times when we need to “let go” rather than pushing on and doing things ourselves. This reminded me of Jacob. Jacob was a do it yourself kind of guy. He was impulsive, self-sufficient, a manipulator, and a person who needed to be in control. It is hard for God to build faith when those qualities control our lives. For Jacob, this changed over a period of time. However, the most significant change occurred after he experienced an all-night wresting match with God’s messenger (Gen. 32:22-32). That experience changed his life; God taught him how to let go.

As I applied the building materials experience to that of Jacob several important truths emerged.

First, we need to recognize and acknowledge our limitations. As a 59-year-old I cannot do the same things as a 19-year-old. This is hard to admit, but the wise person learns to admit this truth physically, spiritually and emotionally. Jacob learned that he could not always be in control.

Friday, 11 January 2013 12:00

The Blind Side

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Blind-SideA recent movie that enjoyed great popularity was “The Blind Side.” This movie tells the true story of a young African American who went from homelessness to become an All American football player at Ole Miss. The story includes the football player plus a white family who took him in and provided nurture and a home.

The movie’s name could provide the plot for many who are involved in God’s work. I open my heart to allow you a brief glimpse. Last week I was asked to speak in a small church on Wednesday night. In preparing for that experience I had a humbling encounter with pride. Most all of us know Prov. 16:18 by heart or at least the truth. “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.” As I prepared for my speaking engagement I had a much needed encounter with the Holy Spirit.

As I prepared for the engagement I made several mistakes. First, I consulted my memory before consulting the Holy Spirit. I mentally ran through a list of sermons I had preached in the past. I was looking for the easy, fun sermon that did not require a great deal of preparation. Also, I chose the sermon that seemed appropriate for the occasion. Remember, this was done in my mind without consulting the Holy Spirit. I spent some time preparing the message when the Holy Spirit finally got my attention. The Holy Spirit changed my plans. (Don’t you regret, when that happens. Ha! Ha!)

foodLast week, my mail person delivered an advertisement for a new book that purported to expose all the fallacies in the labels on all the food products. I suppose I should purchase the book; but I’m like the farmer who said he wasn’t farming half as well as he knew how to farm now. I am not eating half as healthy as I know how to eat!

But, I guess I should pay closer attention to my diet. Someone has said, “We are what we eat.” I suspect my problem, as well as with many others, is not what we eat that’s killing us; but rather, the amount we eat. Close observation at Walmart will confirm my suspicion. We might point out that when the super religious hierarchy wanted to really smear the Master’s reputation, they called Jesus “A wine bibber and a glutton.” (You don’t hear many sermons on gluttony. Too many preachers can’t afford to talk.) Self discipline at the table and backing off from the junk foods would probably save on our doctor bills and prevent lots of suffering.

So much for the discussion on healthy nutrition; let’s consider the need to feed our soul and mind some food other than junk. Fox Satellite TV Station is advertising a new program; and the man in the red tights acts like the hit star in a porn movie. The air waves are filled with profanity and pornography. The vulgar language is useless to the plot, shameful and revolting. That we become what we constantly see and hear is verified by the ever increasing volume of filth produced. They produce it because it sells; and Satan must smile and clap his hands.

Much of the music (so called) is filled with degrading subject matter. In one current song, the writer pictures himself as being useless in most activities, but “he’s pretty good at drinking beer.” Another sings his request for “someone to put a drink in my hand,” and our President holds “beer conferences” with prospective voters.

A fast food store runs an ad showing two guys in a van discussing the food; the ad successfully “dumbs down" men and this is supposed to entertain us and motivate us to buy the product. It is no wonder that people are bored.

“As we think in our heart, so are we.” We are in great need for a better mental and spiritual diet this New Year!

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