Pastor John puts away his tools for the day. His shift at the construction site ends in 10 minutes. Already, he has begun switching gears and thinking through the evening ahead. Tonight is the board meeting, but first he has to get home, shower and check in with his wife and kids.
Like many pastors, John has to divide his time and attention between a “day job” and his calling—to pastor a church.
Bi-vocational ministry has a unique set of challenges. If you asked John what his No. 1 problem is, he would say time—time to give every activity the attention it needs. Like many startups, his church is full of young Christians who need to be discipled.
The spirit of cowardice lives and thrives in churches these days. It has a corner in the office of many a pastor and makes whimpering sounds familiar to many of us:
“You don’t want to do that. It might rock the boat.”
“Deacon Crenshaw will be upset if you preach that. I wouldn’t.”
“Back off on that vision God gave you. You’re going to lose some members if you push that.”
“Pastor, you must not oppose the power group in your church. They ran off the last three preachers.”
“The biggest giver in the church is threatening to withhold his tithes if you persist in letting those people come to our church.”
As often as the word holy is used by Christians, you’d think that we could all agree on a uniform understanding of its meaning. We read our “Holy” Bibles. We receive “Holy” Communion. We sing the hymn “Holy, Holy, Holy” and acknowledge the “Holy” Spirit, the third person of the Godhead. We understand the word generally to mean “divine” or “of God.”
But when Christians start to discuss holiness, they discover that the implications of the word vary widely. It seems that holiness can mean anything from a name for the pope to teetotalism and not wearing makeup.
From Moses to Martin, preachers have parted political waters and led the oppressed to the Promised Land. Either by summons to a pharaoh to “Let my people go,” parting the Red Sea with an outstretched shepherd’s rod, or accompanied by a soulful protest ballad, “We Shall Overcome” and a federal court order granting rights to march over the Alabama River on the Edmund Pettus Bridge—throughout millennia, preachers have led the advance of liberty and religious freedom through troubled waters, on dry ground or over them on segregated asphalt.
The birth of America’s freedom came no differently, as our forefathers crossed the Atlantic to escape Europe’s political and religious oppression. Has the time come for another Reformation? I believe so—an American Reformation! Where are the American clergy who will stem the tide of religious oppressions rising in our land by taking action against the political forces responsible? Maybe it’s time for a new breed of American clergy or just a restoration of the American preacher.
I talk with team leaders every week where the team is struggling and trying to figure out how to succeed again. I understand. I’ve been the leader of teams in situations like that many times. Every team experiences times of decline. What you do next almost always determines how long it lasts and how well you recover.
First, I should say that every situation is unique and requires individual attention. Don’t use a script for your team. Also, don’t be afraid to bring in outside help. It could be anyone, from a paid consultant to a friend who leads another team with whom you trade a favor. Everyone can use a fresh perspective at times. It takes humble and wise leaders to welcome input from outsiders.
In the same way, when you obey me you should say, "We are unworthy servants who have simply done our duty." — Luke 17:10
The goal of any college or professional football player is to help his or her team win the championship game at the end of the season. It takes dedication, strength, and a good measure of teamwork to get to that point. In recent years, however, the sport has focused more than ever before on outstanding individual performances, helped in no small way by the media. Sports figures can rarely avoid the spotlight. So when athletes have microphones shoved at them and are asked questions, they have an opportunity to exhibit a key leadership trait. They can brag and boast about their personal accomplishments, they can criticize another team and its players, or they can make sure that everyone on the team gets the credit he or she deserves.
The ability to deflect praise toward those who deserve it is important for a number of reasons. Giving credit to others keeps us from becoming conceited and self-absorbed. In addition, it allows those who had a contributing role to experience the success as well. Praising others also shows our personal desire to be a servant, a true mark of leadership (see Luke 22:26).
This attitude is not one that comes naturally to people. To this end, we must commit ourselves to God daily, asking him to help us live lives that reflect his character. If we're constantly looking for glory and praise from being a "significant" Christian, then our priorities are wrong. The same is true if we choose to give God and others praise, but in a showy, "look at me" manner. Jesus made it clear that we are to simply do the things he asks us to do and reflect any praise we might receive away from ourselves. We're only doing what he asks, right? And in the end, that's more important than any honors and awards we might receive.