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D-MinLead Communication

How Is Your Eternity Quotient?

Have you ever had one of those long daydreaming moments while you were should be praying? I certainly have. You know the scenario: You are supposed to be talking to the Lord, and you suddenly find yourself somewhere else mentally!

One recent morning was one of those times for me, when I caught myself daydreaming about eternity. My thoughts did not simply focus on what eternity would be like or when God would call me to heaven. Instead, I mused on how current-day believers seem to focus very little on eternity. Thinking over my 27 years as a Christian, I seem to remember much more emphasis on our eternal reward than I hear today. It seems like things have shifted to the point where many believe our best life is now.

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8 Ways Good Leaders Are Great Followers

As leaders, it’s equally important for us to know how to follow as it is how to lead. In fact, many believe to be a good leader, you must first be a great follower and continue to follow well as you continue to lead well.

I would suggest that great leaders are equally in tune with how to follow well as how to lead well. So here are a few thoughts on following:

1. Good followers are finishers. They get the job done, take projects across the finish line and make things happen on their own.

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Justin-Lathrop

How to Beat the Slump in Church Leadership

Church leadership is difficult (in case you hadn’t already figured that out).

Some days it is easy to feel discouraged, to wonder why you work as hard as you do. Especially when you don’t receive the thanks you deserve. Especially when you don’t see the results you want. Especially when it’s been a long week or weekend—you’ve preached multiple services and tended to the needs of others, and even after all of that, you look around the room and wonder if it was enough.

Maybe you worry there are people you aren’t reaching, or maybe you see people hurting and don’t have the answers.

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How to Use the Web to Help People Grow Spiritually

Remember the days when we just duplicated everything in the church bulletin on the church website? Church websites were just online brochures.

Then we started encouraging people to connect. We offered ways for people to sign up for a group, volunteer role or an event through the church website.

Then we started offering the experience online. Churches began to stream their services live to give people a chance to experience teaching and worship without being at a physical location.

What’s next?

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3 Essential Points for Every Sermon

I enjoy speaking and preaching in our church. Honestly, though, for years it was difficult to get ahead in thought and stay focused with a simple plan for each sermon.

Yeah, I know, I took homiletics too. However, I’m a very simple guy who needs a simple but effective thought process that allows me to pray and study through a subject and stay on point all the way through.

A couple of years ago I “discovered” (only by God’s mercy on a simple-minded leader) a process I have found to be very powerful.

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3 Great Reasons to Tell Stories in Your Preaching

Pastor, your people love a good story. Listeners who have gone on vacation during the first 10 minutes of your sermon will return home in a heartbeat the moment you begin, “A man went into a store….” or  “I remember once when I was a child….”

He never preached without telling stories.” (Mark 4:34)

Those who have died early in your message will suddenly spring to life when you say, “The other day, I saw something on the interstate …” or “Recently, when the governor and I were having lunch at the local café …”  (smiley-face goes here)

Thom-Rainer

Pastor’s Perspective: 10 Ways to Be a Better Church Staff Member

After about a quarter of a century of church consultations, I have dealt with a plethora of church staff matters. I continue to hear many of the same themes since I left church consultation.

Today I present the top 10 issues from the senior pastor’s perspective. In an upcoming post, I will offer 10 issues from the church staff perspective. My desire in writing these two blog posts is to offer a positive framework and to allow church staff today, and pastors on Saturday, to have the best possible work relationships.

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How Perspective Can Be a Leader’s Best Friend

Last night I was reading in 1 Kings 12 as part of my daily reading plan. This pivotal moment in a new king’s reign is interesting to investigate.

I mean, we knew based upon a warning God gives to Solomon that the better part of the kingdom would be removed from the hands of his son. But how it happened is intriguing to me.

In the latter part of Solomon’s life, his great wisdom was not on display. In fact, I would argue that in the season his son, Rehoboam, was growing up, Solomon’s focus was on experiencing the pleasures of life.

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What Items Were on Jesus’ Bucket List?

Somewhere in the councils of the Trinity, a plan was devised for the restoration of the world. Among His other assignments, these fell on the bucket list of the Son of God:

1. Be conceived and born as a human.

2. Live a sinless life.

3. Gather a dedicated following.

4. Equip them.

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Rick Warren: Character Is the Foundation of Leadership

Plenty of highly charismatic leaders have bombed out and failed because they lacked character, which trumps charisma every time. You don’t have to have charisma to be a leader. You do have to have character—credibility—because leadership is influence, and if you don’t have credibility nobody is going to follow you.

While your reputation is about what people say you are, character is who you really are. D.L. Moody said, “Character is what you are in the dark when nobody is looking.” In 1 Timothy 3:1-13, Paul lays out the necessary characteristics for church leadership. He never addresses having a robust résumé, having gone to the right seminary or having a magnetic public persona. He talks about character traits.

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12 Game-Changeable and Tweetable Proverbs

"A gentle answer deflects anger, but harsh words make tempers flare" (Prov. 15:1, NLT).

"A wise person is hungry for knowledge, while the fool feeds on trash" (Prov. 15:14).

"Plans go wrong for lack of advice; many advisers bring success" (Prov. 15:22).

"Greed brings grief to the whole family" (Prov. 15:27).

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How Can You Tell if a Staff Member Is in Pain?

Recently, a friend told me of a major shift in his home life—one of the life-altering kind. The thing that bothered me most (and the whole thing is an issue for prayer) is that I didn’t sense that anything was wrong.

Sometimes people who care the deepest for others are the best at hiding their own pain.

How can you tell if your staff is in a place of pain?

1. Pacing. Sometimes when our personal lives begin to fall apart, we run to what feels safe. Our work feeds us with constant accomplishments (despite the pain), and when home is too stressful it is easy to hide in work. Think about ways to help your staff take time for their families—not just to fix problems, but to build good memories.

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How a Pastor Can Implement Discipleship Churchwide

Discipleship is cycling to the top as a priority for many pastors. Many churches are trying to change their culture to one of making disciples. But how would you actually implement a change of that magnitude—especially on a sustainable basis?

I’m a men’s discipleship specialist, but what we’ve learned working with 35,000 churches also applies to discipleship in general. What follows is a plan I shared with a pastor recently. Of course, you can adapt this in many ways:

Dear Pastor,

Here’s what I would do if I were in your shoes. My thought is to keep the plan as focused on discipleship and as simple as possible. The following represents a plan to help each person understand and implement discipleship for themselves and others in three ways (salvation=call, growth=equip, service=send).

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How to Give Youth Pastors the TLC They Need

Dear Senior Pastor,

Yours is a tough job. The responsibility buck stops with you, and I get that totally.

The list you’re about to read is said with love and familiarity with both “pairs of shoes,” and it’s nothing new, really. I’m just slipping it across your virtual desk as a reminder.

1. Give loving feedback early on. Don’t wait until staff review time or a board meeting six months later to let your youth worker know you weren’t happy with something. How can they improve if the expectations are unknown? Make sure there aren’t any unspoken/invisible rules.

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Can the Church Respond to Depression?

It’s amazing how many Christians are suffering from depression. There are precious people who love the Lord dearly yet find themselves struggling in a day-to-day battle to simply enjoy their lives.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that one in 10 Americans take an antidepressant (it’s even higher in women), yet at the same time so many leaders in the church find themselves ill-equipped when trying to understand and minister to those who suffer from this often-confusing condition.

Justin-Lathrop

3 Things to Help You Receive Criticism Better

One of the best ways to grow is by hearing critiques about yourself from peers and mentors in relationships you trust. But not all criticism is constructive, and even when it is, it can still be hard to receive.

How you do you know which criticism should be taken to heart and which should be dismissed? And how do you respond to each in a way that promotes growth?

I think there are three things to remember when it comes to dealing with criticism in your life.

The Dumbest Thing We Pastors Do

We preachers sometimes torture the faithful with our complaints about the unfaithful.

We don’t mean to do that. It’s just something that happens, usually as a result of our frustration.

Listen to the typical pastor or staffer addressing the congregation:

“A little rain never hurt anybody! And where is half our congregation? But oh, no, they couldn’t make it today. They had no trouble sitting through the ball game yesterday in freezing temperatures! Or playing a round of golf in the rain. But let a little sprinkle drop out of the heavens, and they can’t make it to church today!”

Or this one:

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9 Thoughts on Creating Great Partnerships

Partnerships are crucial in today’s culture. Great organizations seem to always have a strong ability to partner well. If you want to grow your organization or project or initiative, finding, building and sustaining great partnerships has to be part of your plan.

Partnerships are not always easy, though. Teaming up with one another can result in true synergy—or, many times, can result in ultimate failure.

Here are a few thoughts on why creating great partnerships is a must for you and your organization:

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Are You Asking Too Much of Your Ministry Team?

Pastor Jason was frustrated about the level of commitment in general within his congregation. He called me to get some advice, and I think just to vent a little.

I told him he was asking for too much from his people and needed to ask for less. And if he did, he would get a far greater response.

Jason responded saying, “What do you mean? Are you saying I’ll get more if I ask for less?  That flies in the face of all that we know about the ‘big ask’ and challenging people to big dreams!” I talked with Jason about the difference between challenging people to a big vision and draining the life out of a congregation by asking them for something every time they come to church.

Darren-Schalk

5 Reasons Your Discipleship Strategy May Be Stuck

Discipleship has become quite the buzzword. Books, conferences and writings abound on the topic. Most churches understand the need for discipleship but many are struggling to create effective discipleship strategies. Here are 5 reasons why your discipleship strategy may be stuck:

1. You Don’t Actually Have a Strategy. Most churches claim to have a discipleship strategy. Midweek meetings, Sunday school classes, small groups and other gatherings are frequently mentioned when asked to describe the strategy. Meetings don’t entail a strategy. Churches need a discipleship plan that encompasses everything they do based on their congregation’s specific biblical needs. Leadership teams should ask, “What will it take for our people to take the next steps toward maturity in Christ?” A specific plan should be created based on the answer to this question.

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3 Ways of Thinking That Are Holding You Back

When Christian leaders become ambitious, things get tough. Often other people will mistake our ambition for pride or presumption.

But Jesus was ambitious about building His church. Paul was ambitious about pressing toward the prize. Joshua was ambitious about taking the Promised Land. The fact is, God responds to bold, audacious vision and ambition in a leader.

So what could be holding your ambition back?

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7 Ways Satan Tries to Destroy a Church

I’m not a pastor who is constantly looking for Satan behind everything that goes wrong. I concentrate my attention on Jesus and encouraging others to follow Jesus and not to focus on the defeated one.

Yet, I’m fully aware that Satan loves to destroy—or attempt to destroy—a church. Obviously, Satan is a limited being, and God’s church is secure. The gates of hell shall never overcome what God started, but Satan certainly loves to disrupt what God’s church is doing: “Be serious! Be alert! Your adversary the devil is prowling around like a roaring lion, looking for anyone he can devour” (1 Pet. 5:8).

Here are 7 way Satan tries to destroy a church:

Artie-Davis-blog

3-Step Assimilation Process: Fill In the Blanks

A simple assimilation process is absolutely vital for any church to see sustained growth. Here’s the one I’ve seen work so well, and you can customize it for your church quite easily. It covers the three things we’re called to do as the church, but it lets you fill in the blanks according to your culture, community and context.

It has three steps ...

 

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Juggler-ministry

3 Tricks to Juggling in Your Ministry

Juggling is an art.  And it’s fascinating to watch.

My role in ministry is a constant juggle.  There are always projects, special events, team building, volunteer recruiting, personnel conversations, refining conversations, encouraging conversations and “I’m frustrated!” conversations. The plate is always full.

Should it always be this way?  Great question. This is all I’ve ever known, so I’m going to say yes. The trick to navigating all of it is in the juggling.

Here are 3 things I do to juggle well:

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Is Your Church Burning Bright or Burning Out?

Consider this quote by Thomas Edison:

“Being busy does not always mean real work. The object of all work is production or accomplishment, and to either of these ends there must be forethought, system, planning, intelligence, and honest purpose, as well as perspiration. Seeming to do is not doing.”

That is so true. It seems that we latch on to every get-rich-quick scheme and promise of a quick buck yet don’t want to put in the time, the thought or the perspiration to make our busyness really count.

The same can be said of the church.

For all of our programs …

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How Many Hours Does a Pastor Work Each Week?

It is one of the most unpredictable jobs one could have. There will be weeks when there won’t be much taking place out of the ordinary, and the pastor will work a “mere” 40 to 45 hours. There will be other weeks filled with meetings, emergency hospital calls, a wedding, two funerals, and line of members waiting to see the pastor. That workweek could total 80 hours.

So we surveyed pastors on Twitter and asked them a simple question: How many average hours do you work a week, including sermon preparation? Though we asked for an average, most responded with a range. We thus took the midpoint of the range they submitted. We also asked this question only of fulltime vocational pastors.

Is Church Draining You?

Years ago, I realized that I was different than the rest of my staff. When they took vacation, they looked for a big church to celebrate at (and learn from).

I love learning from other churches. Every conference is a great opportunity for me to learn how other people communicate with their members, follow up with visitors, structure their services, etc.

But when I’m on vacation, I want to get alone with God and not hear another human being.

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C-KingdomCulture

Why You Must Be a Couple First, and Then Ministry Leaders

Whenever two type-A personalities combine in a marriage, as well as in a ministry, the results can often be catastrophic. Most ministry couples will tell you it’s far too easy for a couple serving together in ministry to allow their passion and drive to blur the lines between building a church and raising a family.

As pastors of Celebration Church, a church we planted together nearly 13 years ago in Austin, Texas, there’s one thing my wife, Lori, and I know for sure: You cannot fake a great marriage!

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3 Ways to Continually Affirm the People You Lead

We affirm people when we treat them with dignity, knowing that they matter to God. If you want to stand out in your leadership, one secret puts you head and shoulders above everybody else—be an encourager.

Encouragement is very difficult to find today. The Bible says, “Encourage each other and build each other up.”

In America, we live in a very negative culture. Most people get far more jeers than cheers, far more pokes than strokes. We live in a society where the No. 1 form of humor is put-downs.  People are put down, criticized, maligned.

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What Does Restoration Look Like?

For some time now, the ministry of Heal Your Servant has worked with ministers, their wives, elders, congregants and participants in a myriad of infidelity situations.

We have seen and heard multiple stories. Finding your way through spiritual landmines is seldom easy. We all desire to see God glorified in the midst of life’s most challenging situations.

I am continually asked, “What is the ideal way to navigate these situations in order to minimize casualties and bring about true healing and restoration?"

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How to Make Your Marriage Ministry-Proof

My wife Tammy and I first met while she and her family were missionaries in Germany. I later proposed to her in a little café just outside of Hamburg. Now 27 years later, we’ve been in full-time ministry together the entire time and have five kids. We’ve lived life—and ministry—together. 

Just like any other married couple, we’ve had our ups and downs. But I can honestly say that other than my relationship with Jesus, my relationship with my wife continues to be the best part of my life. When others ask for our “secret sauce,” I give the credit to God, to Tammy and to the principles our parents taught and modeled in front of us. Amidst the many demands of ministry and family life, over the years five principles have become especially important in sustaining our relationship. On the next few pages, I share them, prayerfully hoping that these insights can help you make your marriage ministry-proof.

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Hal Seed: A Dangerous Prayer

Many years ago I prayed a prayer that has changed me more than any other. It changed my vocation, location, orientation and just about every other “ation” in my life. What was the prayer?

“God, I don’t ask you for much today. I just ask that You give me Your heart for lost people.”

Twenty words. Twenty-one syllables. Seventy letters. One request.

Tony-Morgan

35 Low-Risk Changes Churches Can Make

One of the reasons churches get stuck is that they’re unwilling to change. They don’t want to rock the boat. Leaders are afraid. People may leave. People may stop giving.

Over time, the culture becomes reticent to change. The status quo becomes the driving value.

When churches stop changing, people get comfortable. It’s impossible for Christ-followers to get comfortable and be sold-out to Jesus at the same time. Comfort is not the goal.

This is probably obvious, but let me offer this advice: If you want to be in a church that embraces change, you have to begin to make some changes.

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Karen Evans: An Open Letter to Pastors' Wives

Being the wife of a pastor for 40 years has had its share of challenges that thankfully we learned to navigate, especially early in our marriage.

We were 28 years young with two small children when Jimmy accepted the call to lead Trinity, which made for several very difficult years for our marriage and family. I know our struggles are not unique to ministry couples—far from it. So when Jimmy asked me to write for the July-August issue of Ministry Today, I knew I wanted to share some of my own experiences and story in an honest letter to pastors’ wives. (If you’re a pastor reading this, you’ll likely gain some real insight into your wife’s journey.)

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5 Tips for Leading Strong-Willed People

Have you ever tried to lead someone who didn’t want to be led? The same children that were labeled “strong-willed” by their parents often grow up to be strong-willed adults. Perhaps you know one … perhaps you are one. (I know one personally… me!)

I believe leadership should be individualized for the needs of the follower. Read a similar post here. With that in mind, here are five tips for leading strong-willed people:

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Taking the Road of Servanthood

Self-conscious about a chipped front tooth, my unruly red hair and the spray of freckles across my nose and cheeks, I was shy and withdrawn throughout high school. But by the time I had been in college for a semester, I’d developed, of all things, a desire to be a leader.

How do you admit you want to be a leader without being egotistical? Scripture says those who desire the office of overseer want a good thing (1 Tim. 3:1).

To fulfill my inclinations to lead, I ran for college class president and served three years in a row. Then I attempted a step up by running for vice president of the whole student body but had my ego trimmed by failing to get elected. The next year I failed to get elected as student body president. But the desire for leadership opportunities remained with me.

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What is God's Vision of Marriage?

Ever met anyone who opened your eyes to something that revolutionized your life? For me, that guy is my ministry friend, David Smith. More than 20 years ago after a game of golf, in casual conversation David unknowingly introduced me to an idea that ever since has been a game changer in my marriage.

Anyone who meets David for the first time quickly discovers he’s married—happily married. David talks about his wife Linda all the time—even on the golf course where many men seldom talk about their wives. I’ve always admired that about him. When I spent time with him, he constantly complimented Linda and went out of his way to build her up in front of others.

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Ed Stetzer: Doxology and Theology

To say worship is a subject of great interest in the church would be an understatement. Worship is an integral part of our lives as Christians. That’s why I’m thankful for worship leaders like Matt Boswell.

Matt serves as pastor of ministries and worship at Providence Church in Frisco, Texas. He leads Doxology & Theology, a community of worship leaders commited to promoting “gospel-centered worship by connecting and equipping worship leaders.”

Matt has also written a book by the same name, and I’m glad to have him here to answer some questions about the book and the intersection of worship and theology:

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One Pastor’s Favorite Guilty Pleasure

Everyone knows what a pleasure is. A guilty pleasure is some activity that you enjoy but over which you feel a tiny pang of regret, as though perhaps you should not be enjoying it quite as much as you do.

Okay with that?

Most of my pleasures are completely unrelated to guilt. I love a good meal, a wonderful visit with a friend, an old 1940-ish black/white movie, a ball game, an hour on the patio enjoying watermelon with my grandchildren, and a social at church with two dozen freezers of home-made ice cream in every flavor imaginable.

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Marriage Battle: The Frontline of Offense

Have you ever stopped to think and seriously consider that the local church—your church—is the frontline of offense in the battle for marriage and ultimately the family?

It’s a daunting thought. God instituted marriage as one of the foundational principals of mankind, and since the moment of its inception, this sacred bond has been under attack. How is a pastor, whose time and capacity are already spread paper thin, supposed to wage a war for these covenant relationships and maintain a revolution of this magnitude and importancewhen the world is working to make them ever more dispensable?

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Power of Prayer Trumps Spiritual Formulas

In a recent interview for our daughters’ new school, I was asked some personal, thought-provoking questions about my walk with God. My answers surprised the interviewer a little: “I didn’t grow up in a home that served God,” he said, “so I am fascinated by those who did. I always just assumed their lives were easy and somewhat perfect.”

I am so thankful that not only did I grow up in a home that served God, but that my parents devoted their lives to helping others serve Him as well. However, those of us who grew up in the ministry or who are raising children in it know it’s far from easy or perfect.

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The 12 Biggest Challenges Pastors and Church Staff Face

In my latest non-scientific Twitter survey, I asked the following question of pastors and church staff: What is your biggest challenge in ministry?

Here are the top 12 responses with representative quotes. I’ve taken the liberty to expand most of the quotes from their abbreviated form in Twitter.

1. Apathy and internal focus. “I have been in ministry for over 20 years, and I’ve never seen church members more apathetic and internally focused.”

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Are You Letting God Be God?

You probably know by now that being a pastor doesn’t shield you from disappointments. Sorry for the buzzkill beginning, but that’s the truth. The offerings will sometimes be less than your church expenses. The sermon you planned to preach was a lot better than the one you actually preached. People will leave your congregation for the silliest of reasons. The list could go on and on, I promise.

But the good news is that God is working at all times on our behalf in the invisible realm—although that invisibility sometimes causes us distress. So we wrestle. We admit disappointment. We engage in earnest dialogue with our God. In the end, we come around to the same vow: “I trust you, Father. I really do. And while I don’t understand what You’re doing, I know You’re guiding me. You’re still God, and You are good.”

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The Need to Evangelize Remains the Same

In article in a 1972 edition of The Saturday Evening Post, the Rev. Billy Graham was quoted as saying, “The vast majority of American young people are still alienated, uncommitted, and uninvolved. There is a deep vacuum within them. They are searching for individual identity. They are searching for a challenge and a faith. Whoever captures the imagination of the youth of our generation will change the world. Youth movement of the past have been perverted and led by dictators and demagogues. Perhaps the American young people will be captured by Christ.”

Rev. Graham hit it on the head. He did not go into great detail about the symptoms of the youth crisis. He did not detail the issues of pornography, suicide, depression, self-injury and hopelessness, but he did highlight the core issue. He reminded us that their problems are spiritual in nature.

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How to Preach For a Specific Response

The Bible is clear that Christians must be “doers of the Word and not hearers only,” (James 1:22) so it’s clear that our responsibility as pastors and preachers of the Word is to challenge people to do something in response to what we’ve said. In other words, the goal of preaching is life change.

How can you add more application into our message to make God’s Word more doable? Always aim for a specific response.

The greatest weakness of most preaching is that the sermon has a fuzzy focus. So many sermons are vague & abstract because the pastor isn’t really clear about why he is teaching this particular message, nor does he give the audience a specific direction to go in response.

How Do You Deal With Mental Illness in Church Members?

You know the feeling—you see her coming and you want to turn away.

Mary is in your church. Something isn’t quite right with her. Sometimes she seems balanced, lucid and smart. Other times she is really off. She might have strong mood swings, flow in and out of psychotic episodes, or she could have one of dozens of mental illnesses.

The bottom line is that you (and most everyone else) feel uncomfortable around her, and with that discomfort comes frustration and sometimes guilt.

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God's Army Takes the Marriage Battle to the Front

As president of the ministry my dad, Jimmy Evans, founded, I’ve been serving him for almost a decade. This year, we’re celebrating the 20th anniversary of MarriageToday, so I’ve been along for a good portion of the ride. From day one, MarriageToday has always focused on equipping the local church to succeed in the area of marriage. My dad, who has been a pastor for 30 years, frequently says, “The local church is the hope of the world.”

We sincerely believe that. We see our broadcast ministry as the “Air Force” in the battle to save marriage and the local church as the “Army,” with its massive supply of ground troops. We absolutely know that we can’t win this war without strategizing with each other.

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12 of the Biggest Lies You Might Hear From Christians

Here are 12 of the biggest lies I’ve heard people tell:

1. I’m not going to let him (or her) hurt me anymore.

2. I don’t need any help.

3. I’ve got this under control.

4. I’m only going to try it one time.

5. God and I have an understanding.

6. I’m a self-made man (or woman).

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4 Bad Habits Developed by Teams With No Ministry Strategy

Habits impact churches much more than they realize. In fact, many churches are stuck because of bad habits.

Charles Duhigg writes in The Power of Habit“Most of the choices we make each day may feel like the products of well-consumed decision making, but they’re not. They’re habits. And though each habit means relatively little on its own ... over time the way we organize our thoughts and routines has enormous impacts.”

Lately, I have noticed four recurring bad habits developed by teams with no clear ministry strategy.

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The Day Hope Died

Hope: An expectation of obtainment. To expect with confidence.

I hope that I get that promotion. I hope that my children don’t get hurt. I hope that I find an amazing man to marry.

Everybody hopes in something. For something. It’s as natural as breathing.

I (Cindy) hoped that one day I’d find my knight in shining armor. I didn’t know when he’d arrive on my doorstep, so while I waited for him, I made a list of things that I desired to find in my future husband. Tall. Musical. Loves Jesus. Sensitive. Funny. Respectable. Admirable. Honest. Trusting. Protecting. Handsome.

I hoped for a lot.

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