Discouragement is a universal experience for ministry leaders and the word actually self-defines itself…dis-courage meaning no courage. Some of the Bible’s greatest characters faced it: Moses, David, Paul, Mary the mother of Jesus, and the apostles. Nehemiah, the great Old Testament leader faced it when he led the Jews to rebuild the wall. Yet, his response offers us hope when we face it.
Big picture thinking can be a lifesaver. How’s that so, you ask? Maybe looking at the big picture exhausts you. Many times, we are sabotaged by what I call short-term thinking. Let’s say it’s Monday morning and you are depressed because the attendance was off on Sunday. Low attendance may a relevant concern; however, before slipping into depression back off and look at the big picture. God is up to something, even when you can’t see it.
Are you a late-night person or early riser? The Bible says, “It is vain for you to rise up early, to sit up late.” Ps. 127:2 Does this mean you are a bad person if you stay up late or rise early? Obviously, there is more to this verse than the surface meaning.
I love dogs. We’ve owned as many as four at once. One currently makes her home with us. Lulu (in the picture on the left) is a combination of a cat, a rat and a dog. She’s as quick as a cat and looks like a hybrid rat-dog. She was a stray when we took her in “for just a few days until we find her owner.” We became the owners. On the other hand, P-nut was our registered Chihuahua. I had the agonizing job of taking him to the vet last year to have him put to sleep. But he was a funny doggie. He was missing most of his teeth. And sometimes his lip got stuck on his remaining molars so that he sported an Elvis look (no kidding). When I reflect about our relationship with our dogs, I’ve learned these five lessons from them that apply to me as a pastor or to any leader. Leadership lessons from dogs.
“No one is more influential in your life than you are, because no one talks to you more than you do.” When I heard this quote by Paul Tripp while I listened to his book Dangerous Calling: Confronting the Unique Challenges of Pastoral Ministry it caused me to pause and reflect. He’s right. No one talks to me more than I talk to myself. A corollary to his quote might be this. “We become more like who we listen to. If what we tell ourselves about our identity is false, then we develop a false identity.” In this post I suggest 10 question that might reveal when pastors misplace their identity.
They are experiences that I will never forget.
Walking among the rubble, the destruction, hearing the stories of those who had now unexpectedly found their lives turned upside down with the onset of a disaster; shouldering the weight of the shock and seeking to bring hope in the midst of the storm…that was the task set before us.
In those moments when life is uprooted, when chaos ensues and questions abound, the church has an unprecedented opportunity to be a beacon of hope to communities of people who are in dark hours.
I’ve seen it firsthand.
Yesterday I went to the funeral of a three-week old baby. We had prayed diligently for her healing. For some reason God was silent, in response to our prayer.
Last week Hurricane Harvey devastated the Gulf Coast of SW Louisiana and South Texas. God seemed to be silent.
Does it disturb you, like me, that God sometimes takes the path of silence?
“God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth gives way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging…the Lord Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.” Psalm 46:1-2&7
Disaster brings chaos.
It brings a lot of chaos.
What an oxymoron, the skeptical optimist. Is it possible for such a creature to exist? Yes, and you will find an example in John 6.
At the feeding of the 5,000 there was a skeptical optimist present in the crowd and his name was Andrew. When Jesus discovered the hunger needs of the crowd he asked if anyone had food. Andrew spoke up and said, “There is a lad here who has five barley loaves and two small fish, but what are they among so many?” (vs. 9)
Pastor, are you guilty of allowing your church to become a “one horse church”? That’s an intimidating phrase - one horse. It stirs a challenge to our leadership and tends to carry negative connotations. Despite its negativity, I feel compelled to use it because we need to challenge ourselves to recognize and reverse it if it’s happening in our church. Notice I said “we.” I include myself in this challenge.
Editor’s note: As we head into another school year, please take time to share this article with your children.
“Now, it came to pass that when Samuel was old that he made his sons judges over Israel…But his sons did not walk in his ways; they turned aside after dishonest gain, took bribes, and perverted justice” (I Samuel 8:1-3).
Let’s talk about the offspring of the Lord’s shepherd, those sweet little lambs birthed into his beloved family in order to enrich their lives, to bless the church and to provide a fresh palette on which the preacher and his lady can demonstrate all it means to grow up in the fear and nurture of the Lord.
One of the challenging tasks pastors face is working with lay people in the church. The challenge comes in trying to balance leadership with cooperation. Sometimes when a pastor assumes a leadership role he ends up being accused of being a dictator. On the other hand, he is foolish if he does not cooperate with lay people.
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. Our church in Alabama went to Matamoros, Mexico to build a church.
Discouragement comes with the territory for ministry leaders. Unmet goals, putting out fires, staff issues, displeasing people, and general tiredness all contribute to discouragement. When it weighs us down, how can we dig out? The life of the prophet Elijah gives us hope.
“He who is greatest among you, let him be as the younger; and he who governs as he who serves…I am among you as one who serves” (Luke 22:24-30).
Serving people. What a novel concept!
Nothing defines you, pastor, like your willingness to get your hands dirty, to do menial jobs, to help sweep the floor or serve the iced tea or clean up afterwards.
This is a call for pastors to be servants. This is not a new or strange idea, to be sure. After all, our Lord said, “A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master” (Matthew 10:24).
“Wait on the Lord. Be strong. Let your heart take courage. Yes, wait on the Lord.” (Psalm 27:14)
Saturday, a pastor texted to ask for prayer. He has been without a church for a year now and has exhausted all his savings. The opportunities to preach have been few and far between, and he has been unsuccessful in finding secular work.
My heart goes out to him and I’m praying diligently for him.
Sunday, a friend asked for prayer for her pastor husband. He’s discouraged and would like the Lord to open up some new place of service.
Most of us have been there at one time or other.