Do you ever wonder what you would do differently if you could start over in ministry? As I draw closer to retirement age (I am 64) I find myself pondering this question more often. The beginning of a new year also challenges us to reflect on new beginnings. (We call them resolutions.)
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.
Do you ever get up in the morning and feel flat? I equate this feeling to a flat tire. A flat tire is depressed, of no value, and not prepared for the purpose at hand. Surely pastors never feel this way. LOL!
So, what can we do when we feel this way? I share these thoughts from my journey.
1) Never pass a Salvation Army kettle without dropping in some money.
My friend Annie got me started on this. Recently, I noticed on her Facebook page that she was re-emphasizing this commitment, and told how after finding herself with only big bills on one occasion, she has made it a practice of having a number of ones and fives in the front of her purse, just for this reason.
Years ago I heard a speaker say, “The modern church has been given the task of maintaining an institution.” How true! Buildings, budgets, meetings and administrative tasks are a necessary part of church life, but it can be a drag.
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).
We are in the Thanksgiving season and want to take this opportunity to give thanks for you and to offer a holiday greeting.
Do you struggle as much as I do with giving up control? Recently I organized an event that required me to give up control. The requirements of this assignment meant that I had to put together a team and then release them to do ministry. The event was/is much larger than one person can handle. Such occasions require that somebody give up control, and that’s a hard thing for me to do. However, if I am called upon to lead people, it is critical that I continually give up control.
A few days ago, I borrowed a dirt mover from a neighbor. With the machine I borrowed some frustration I did not want. My neighbor and I spent three out or four hours working on the machine. At one point my neighbor went to pick up a part, to answer some of our frustrations. While he was gone I decided to use the frustrating, supposedly wasted time in a positive way. I used the time constructively to address another need.
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.