Pastoral Care Mon, 02 May 2016 08:37:13 -0400 Joomla! - Open Source Content Management en-gb Pastors, Your Physical Health Matters Too

As pastors, we tend to like to focus on spiritual things. But God is the Creator of our physical bodies, and it’s in our physical bodies that we live our spiritual lives out before others.

We pastors have a tendency to let our physical health go unchecked, and we have plenty of excuses, such as our busy schedules, our calendar being heavy with meal-centered meetings, and our need to be behind a desk a lot to feed people spiritually.

For every excuse we can come up with to ignore our physical health, there are other pressing reasons to consider it:

  • Our longevity in ministry can be cut short by poor health.
  • Our sharpness of mind is affected by what we eat and our activity level.
  • We challenge others to live healthy lives, so we should set the example.
  • Our physical energy level rises to the demands of ministry if we’re in shape.
  • Our bodies are temples too, created by the Master Craftsman and placed under our stewardship.

The Bible is full of health rules and guidelines. I want to remind leaders of just six principles from God’s Word about building a healthy body. When you feel bad physically, it affects everything else. Shakespeare said it’s hard to be a philosopher with a toothache. I’d say it’s hard to be spiritually alert when you’re physically dull, when you’re tired, fatigued or out of shape.

1. Maintain your ideal weight. Scientists know that you have an ideal weight based on your bone structure and your height. First Thessalonians 4:4 says, “Each of you should learn to control his own body in a way that is holy and honorable.” I realize there are many medical and glandular reasons for being overweight and for having weight problems, but the fact is that for many of us, we simply eat too much. You cannot eat everything you want to eat and still maintain your weight. Ecclesiastes 6:7 says, “All the labor of man is for the mouth and yet the appetite is never filled.”

2. Balance your eiet. You need to focus on controlling both the quality and the quantity of what you eat. Do you eat a balanced diet? A hamburger in both hands? I was on a seafood diet—if I see it, I get to eat it. First Corinthians 6:12-13 says, “Everything is permissible for me but I will not be mastered by anything. Food is for the stomach and the stomach for food, but God will eventually destroy them both.” The point that Paul’s making is that eating is not an end in itself. We eat to live; we don’t live to eat. It’s a means, not an end in itself. And if we get those reversed, food becomes our master.

3. Commit yourself to a regular exercise program. Most of us are convinced but not committed. You know that exercise would be good for you, but committing to it seems hard. First Timothy 4:8 says, “Physical exercise has some value.” In Paul’s day, people were very active. If Paul wrote that verse today, he’d probably change it to say that it has great value. In the New Testament times, people walked everywhere, engaged in a lot more manual labor and ate natural foods. Today, we drive everywhere, live sedentary lives and eat processed junk foods.

How do you know when you’re out of shape? You know you’re out of shape when you feel like the morning after and you didn’t go anywhere the night before. You know your body is in trouble when your knees buckle and your belt won’t. You know you’re in trouble when you see your friends running and you hope they twist an ankle. You know you’re in trouble when you breathe harder walking up a set of stairs than you do when you hold your sweetheart’s hand.

The key is training, not straining. If you want to get in shape fast, then exercise longer, not harder. Commit yourself to a regular exercise program. The fact is, your body was not designed for inactivity. You were made to be active. Even a daily walk will make a difference.

4. Get enough sleep and rest. Psalm 127:2 says, “In vain you rise up early and stay up late.” The Living Bible says, “God wants His loved ones to get their rest.” Rest is so important that God put it in the Ten Commandments. He said every seventh day, you should rest. Jesus, in Mark 6:30-32, insisted that His disciples take a vacation. Make sure you’re budgeting your time wisely. Make sure you get enough rest and sleep.

5. Reduce or avoid drinking alcohol. Ephesians 5:18 says, “Don’t get drunk with wine, which will ruin you. Instead be filled with the Spirit.” Health-conscious consumers are sobering up America. There’s been a dramatic change in America’s drinking habits. A growing number of Americans are beginning to view alcohol as unhealthy or downright dangerous. It’s not surprising industry-wide sales are dropping. These are not religious people. These are just people who are concerned about their health. And for some surprising statistics about alcohol, see this infographic.

6. Live in harmony with God. Proverbs 14:30 says, “A heart at peace is life to the body.” Our emotions have a tremendous effect on our physical health, just like our physical health has a tremendous effect on our emotions. You cannot fill your life with guilt and worry and bitterness and anger and fear and expect to be in optimum health. A heart at peace gives life to the body. If you feel bad, it affects every area of your life. It’s a part of stewardship. Your body is a gift from God. What are you going to do with it?

Note: As I write this, my 10th book has just hit the shelves today, The Daniel Plan: 40 Days to a Healthier Life, and it’s a book about what changed my life. In addition to the book, there’s an interactive website where you can track your own health progress and find small group studies and other resources to help you get healthy.

Rick Warren is the founding pastor of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, Calif., one of America's largest and most influential churches. Rick is author of the New York Times best-seller The Purpose Driven Life. His book The Purpose Driven Church was named one of the 100 Christian books that changed the 20th century. He is also founder of, a global Internet community for pastors.

For the original article, visit

]]> (Rick Warren) Pastoral Care Thu, 05 Dec 2013 17:00:00 -0500
Thom Rainer: Pastors and Christmas Gifts

I am always grateful when pastors and church members share with me topics of interest to them. Those suggestions tend to be viewed by more readers than my own ideas. I guess that says something about my creativity!

A reader recently indicated his curiosity and perhaps concern about how pastors are treated at Christmastime. In the course of posts similar to this one, I typically hear from one or two persons who are eager to point to pastors who feel entitled or who are treated too lavishly.

Please hear me clearly: Those pastors are the clear exceptions. Most pastors receive little and expect little. They see their clear call to serve and to care for the congregation.

The Question and the Concern

So I asked a simple question on Twitter: "What do you do for your pastor at Christmastime?"

For pastors, I asked what their congregations gave them at Christmas. Though my survey was not scientific, it was nevertheless revealing. I am truly concerned about how congregations treat pastors. I thought the issue of the Christmas gift would at least be an indicator of such concern.

The Responses and the Heartbreak

There were two dominant responses, each at about 40 percent of the total. One of those came from pastors or church members who shared with me they indeed did give a gift to their pastor during the Christmas season.

The most common gift noted was a cash gift equivalent to one week of salary. The pastors who received such a gift expressed deep appreciation for the thought. I sensed no attitudes of entitlement in their responses.

A second dominant response, from both pastors and church members alike, was that the pastor received nothing at Christmastime. Church members were more likely to comment on this attitude than pastors. One person said, “If it’s anything like pastor appreciation month, they won’t even know it’s Christmas.”

My heart broke as I read many of those type of responses. My pain is not so much related to the failure of a church to give a monetary or material gift; rather, it’s the failure of a church to acknowledge the gift that a pastor is during this season.

The Exhortation and the Inquiry

There are a few hundred thousand pastors in America. The vast majority of them sacrifice and give for the sake of their congregations and for the glory of God. Many of them struggle financially and, often, emotionally. A gift of some sort would do wonders for the pastor and the pastor’s family. The amount or cost of the gift is not the issue here; it is the encouragement the pastor receives when he knows he is loved and appreciated.

As we approach the season of Christmas, please remember your pastors and staff. Please let them know in some tangible way how much you truly value them.

And I would also appreciate your help informing this issue. What does your church do for the pastor and staff? What do you think your church should do for these servants of Christ?

Thom S. Rainer is president of LifeWay Christian Resources. For the original article, visit

]]> (Thom S. Rainer) Pastoral Care Tue, 03 Dec 2013 14:00:00 -0500
Judge Declares Clergy Housing Exclusion Unconstitutional

For more than two years, the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability (ECFA) has been closely tracking a federal court challenge brought by the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) to declare the clergy housing exclusion of Section 107 of the tax code unconstitutional.

In a decision that is sending shock waves across the religious community, a federal district court judge has declared a portion of the statute unconstitutional, leaving many ministers wondering what the impact of this case will be.

Click here to read today’s ECFA news release, “Federal District Court Rules Clergy Housing Exclusion Unconstitutional.”

While it is still too early to know all the potential ramifications of this decision, here is some of what we know up to this point and what to be looking forward to in the coming days:

  • The court’s decision applies only to ministers who receive a cash housing allowance from their employers to provide housing. Ministers who live in employer-provided housing (such as church-owned parsonages) are not affected.
  • Even ministers who receive a cash housing allowance will not be immediately impacted by the ruling. The district court’s decision on the clergy housing exclusion may be appealedby the government’s attorneys to the Seventh Circuit, where it could be overturned. Since the case was filed, attorneys for the federal government have defended the constitutionality of the clergy housing exclusion and have argued that FFRF lacked legal standing to bring the challenge in the first place.

If allowed to stand, what effect would this ruling have on clergy and their families?

  • For the most part, pastors across the country are compensated modestly for very demanding work. The history of the clergy housing allowance provided parity to pastors who did not live in church-owned parsonages.
  • Many members of the clergy have relied on this exclusion for decades. This ruling, in effect, would force clergy of nearly every religion across America to pay additional taxes, regardless of faith or creed.
  • This will either force congregations to increase clergy compensation to offset these taxes or require pastors to dig deep to see if they are able to absorb these taxes.
  • In most cases, this will lead to several thousands of dollars in additional taxes each year for clergy.
  • Retired clergy, in particular, would be impacted by this ruling, given their more limited sources of income to help offset the loss of the income tax exclusion.

Stay tuned to ECFA’s “In the News” page for future developments in these cases and for other legal, tax and finance updates affecting Christ-centered churches and nonprofit organizations.

]]> (ECFA Staff) Pastoral Care Tue, 26 Nov 2013 17:00:00 -0500
18 Ways to Motivate Yourself in Ministry

When it comes to ministry leadership, I don’t focus on trying to motivate other people. I worry about motivating me, and if I’m motivated, it will be contagious.

This is true in any area of ministry. Your duty is not necessarily to motivate others. But if you stay motivated, people will catch your enthusiasm. They will catch your vision.

1 Corinthians 15:58 says, “Always give yourself fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain” (NIV). I spend most of the weeks of the year preparing to preach multiple services on the weekend, plus writing and all of the other speaking opportunities that come along. I have to continually come up with material that is fresh and powerful and practical and witty and useful in people’s lives—and that’s a burden, but I manage to stay motivated.

This list isn’t deeply theological—it’s just practical, usable advice.

1.  Put your plans on paper (or on screen). Dawson Trotman said, ”Thoughts disentangle themselves when they pass through the lips and the fingertips.” If I can say it and I can write it down, then it’s clear. If I haven’t written it down, then it’s vague. A lot of us go around with anxiety that is this free-floating, vague fear that I’m not getting it all accomplished. Just the very fact of putting it down, a lot of times, gives credence and relief to your mind and you’re able to focus on it.

2. Break big tasks into smaller tasks to remove excuses for not starting. Some tasks are way too big to be chewed on all at once, but you can tackle them like you would eat an elephant—one bite at a time. When you have a big goal, a big event or some big project going, break it down into smaller tasks, and take them one at a time.

3. Decide how you want to start. Ask yourself what needs to be done first. If your goal is to make more phone calls and personally invite more people to your church, you probably need to start by writing down the names of people you will contact. Decide what your first simple step will be.

4. Establish checkpoints in your progress. Tasks are best accomplished when they have a date attached to them. And today, there are plenty of mobile apps for making lists with reminders built in.

5. Know the difference between “I can’t” and “I don’t want to.” Be honest with yourself. Sometimes that means you’ve got to get tough. It was Ben Franklin in Poor Richard’s Almanac who first said, “There is no gain without pain.” Most of what’s done in the world is done by people who don’t feel like doing what they’re doing, but they do it anyway. Successful people have developed the habit of doing things unsuccessful people don’t feel like doing.

6. Remind yourself of the benefits of completing the job. Often in ministry, things become routine and repetitious. In a given week, you may be doing 20 significant tasks that you repeat every week, only to start over again. How do you prevent the feeling of mundane from setting in? You remind yourself of how it’s going to feel when you’re done.

7. Do a small part of it right now. When I have a big topic or task I need to accomplish, I just say, “I don’t want to do this, but I’ll give it five minutes.” I sit down, and after I get going in it, it’s not as intimidating. Once you’ve gotten the rocket off the launch pad, it gets so much easier. I’ve written some books. Books are overwhelming, but I give it five minutes. Every book that I’ve ever written, I sat down and wrote, “My next Book, by Rick Warren.” Sometimes you just have to start.

8. Be optimistic. I have found this to be so important in accomplishing large amounts of activities and projects and programs. Optimism creates energy. The person who says “I can” and the person who says “I can’t” are both right.

9. Establish an action environment. When you prepare messages, you need an environment where you can focus on the task at hand. I have my own study area both at home and church. Kay has her own study area too, so we don’t fight over them any more. We have two desks in one room. I clear everything off the desk when I’m going to study because I don’t want to focus on anything else. Success comes from focusing on one thing at a time.

10. Avoid places where distractions occur. I don’t do any of my sermon study at the office. The walls are thin there, and I can hear everybody having a good time outside, and I’m a party animal. I want to have fun! I don’t want to be sitting studying. I want to be out there with people. So I have to study at home to keep myself from having a great time with all these people I love at the office. And they appreciate it too! Then they get their work done.

11. Know your energy patterns and take advantage of peak times. Some of you are morning people. Some of you are night people. Have you learned that at some points in the day, you are brighter than at other times? There are times when you’re habitually at your best. The only people who are at their best all the time are mediocre people. You need to know when your body clock is geared toward maximum performance so you don’t waste maximum performance on secondary tasks. If your peak time is 10 to 12 in the morning, don’t read your mail from 10 to 12. Save those kinds of tasks for other times, like at the end of the day. Or if you’re not good in the morning, read it then. When you are good, make that your time for your ministry time and your preparation.

12. Use the stimulation of good news to do extra work. Somebody will tell me something great that happened, and it’s like God shoots another shot of adrenaline in me. All of a sudden, I’ve got a little extra bounce in my step, and I try to channel that into ministry.

13. Recognize when indecision is causing inertia. A lot of procrastination is not really procrastination; it’s indecision. For a lot of pastors, their weekly struggle is, “What am I going to preach on this next week?” which is one of the reasons I preach in series. I only have to make that decision six or seven times a year. “For the next six weeks, we’re going to talk about culture.” Try to lengthen those decision-making periods out. Identify your choices, and choose one. Don’t let it sit around.

14. Use visible reminders. Use Post-it notes or the lock screen on your phone to remind you of the big things.

15. Give yourself room to make mistakes. I give myself the right to make mistakes on any project that I’m doing. Perfectionism produces procrastination. Perfectionism paralyzes us. If it’s worth doing, do it—whether you do it perfectly or not. There are very few things in this world that are perfect.

16. Don’t set goals you don’t expect to reach. That’s because there’s no motivation in them.

17. Enlist a partner. If you’ve got a big task to do, always get a partner. Get somebody else to help you out in your ministry. The Bible says in Ecclesiastes, “Two are better than one, and a threefold cord is not easily broken.” If you’ve got a big task and it’s up to you, you’ll probably procrastinate. But if you’ve got somebody else and can say, “We’re going to meet and get this thing going,” you’re more likely to get it done.

18. Keep reading to increase your skill. If I find myself having a hard time being motivated in some area of ministry that I’m called to do, I get a book or magazine that covers that area. If you have a hard time recruiting people to your ministry, go get a book on recruitment and read it. If you’re having a hard time delegating responsibility, get a book. Remember that leaders are readers and leaders are learners. There are no great leaders who refuse to learn. And learning sharpens and motivate you to accomplish your next goals.

Rick Warren is the founding pastor of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, Calif., one of America's largest and most influential churches. Rick is author of the New York Times best-seller The Purpose Driven Life. His book The Purpose Driven Church was named one of the 100 Christian books that changed the 20th century. He is also founder of, a global Internet community for pastors.

For the original article, visit

]]> (Rick Warren) Pastoral Care Tue, 26 Nov 2013 14:00:00 -0500
When Mental Health Issues Aren’t Sin

We love to live in a black and white world. We tend to think of those who are doing well as “winning,” and those who aren’t doing well as “losing.” When things go wrong, we need to think there is a cause that could have been avoided.

Unfortunately, even with the Spirit breathing life into our souls, we live in bodies that are part of our fallen nature.

The endocrine system reacts to stress, affecting both our physical and emotional situation. Sometimes, our system gets so overloaded that our regular helps don’t work.

Then there are times that our body just goes haywire. We tend to feel alone, isolated and empty.

Someone Does Understand

I thought I had God over a barrel once, shortly after the birth of my fourth child. As I stormed around the house in a hormonal fit, I informed God, “You were not a female, you can’t possibly know what it is like to have your body go haywire like me.”

With great patience and love, God showed me a picture (in my mind) of Jesus, beaten and bleeding, carrying his cross on the road to Golgotha. In this picture, I could see the response of Jesus’ entire body to the stress he faced—both emotionally and physically. He didn’t skip up the hill, but he did manage not to give into his errant emotions. Then I heard God’s whisper “and the same Spirit that raised Christ from the dead now lives in you.”

If you are in a lonely, empty spot, be encouraged. We do not serve a God who sits far off, waiting for us to make it up the hill. We serve a risen Savior who understands what it is like to walk in the crazy space. He knows what it is like to have your emotions and entire intuitive system screaming for relief. He understands.

Others Have Walked This Road

Elijah ended up on the edge of the desert, alone, tired and unfocused. He prayed that God would just let him die.

The interesting thing is that the activities that landed Elijah in that difficult space were not sin, but fantastic, necessary ministry.

When we feel as if our life should be over, when paranoia and panic define our inner thought life, we can learn from Elijah.

Honesty. Elijah was honest with himself and God. He didn’t try to sugarcoat his situation. In fact, if he had, he would have pushed the emotions down and tried to fake it, only making the situation worse. Instead, he chose blatant honesty.

Run to the mountain. There are days where the best response to life seems to be escapism. If we could ignore our situation long enough, or push the bad feelings aside (usually through dependencies), life would get better. Yet, history and experience tells us that escapism only delays and compounds the results. In desperate need, Elijah ran to God. He didn’t try to fix his situation, or self-talk himself into his next ministry venture. He ran to God.

Expect an answer. Elijah didn’t just run to God; he expected an answer. He didn’t blame himself for his emotional situation; he knew that the only way out of this difficult position was to be infused again with the strength that only comes from knowing that God has given you a direction and purpose.

Don’t do it alone. Elijah thought he was alone. God let him know that there were plenty of people to walk with him. God even told him to go appoint Elisha as an apprentice of sorts—someone that would know Elijah from the inside out. God has put people in your life that will walk with you. You might have to reach outside your current circle, but they are around. These might be in the form of a mentor, mentee, doctor, colleague or coach. As you pray, follow up on any connections that God seems to send your way. He is directing your step, and as you walk in honesty with yourself and God, He will bring people around you who won’t judge, but will walk with you, helping you keep your eyes on Him.

When the black starts to descend, our first inclination is to work harder. This usually is the wrong response. Instead, take the opportunity to delegate. After all, if you knew you were going to get a heart transplant, you wouldn’t plan to work harder during your recovery.

When your body is in crisis, no matter whether the indication is physical or emotion, you will need recovery time. Sometimes, God provides times like this just so that we will delegate—as we give ministry away, we open up the possibility that God will expand our influence. When Elijah came down off the mountain, his influence didn’t shrink. Instead, it was multiplied through the lives of others.

Kim Martinez is an ordained Assemblies of God pastor with a master’s degree in theology from Fuller Seminary. She is a ministry and life development coach and can be found online at She writes a regular column for

]]> (Kim Martinez) Pastoral Care Mon, 25 Nov 2013 17:00:00 -0500
10 Reasons Leaders Need a Confidant

Leaders are called to be courageous and confident yet constantly humble.

Being confident is important. But change out the e for an a in confident, and this is also a huge need for leaders: a confidant. defines confidant as “a close friend or associate to whom secrets are confided or with whom private matters and problems are discussed.”

Every leader I know needs a confidant. Here are a few thoughts on leaders having one:

1. This is not someone on your team who reports to you or is a peer.

2. This is not your boss. And for nonprofit and church leaders, this is probably not someone on your board.

3. This is probably not a family member, since family members seem to only see one side and not the whole picture.

4. Make sure it’s someone with honesty and integrity whom you are 100 percent sure won’t talk to anyone else about what you are sharing. Loose lips sink ships.

5. It is someone you can rely on, share with, lean into for tough decisions, gripe about things and receive counsel from.

6. There are lots of executive coaches out there. And I don’t think it’s necessarily a bad idea for your executive coach or life coach to potentially be a confidant. But ideally, your confidant is not someone you pay to help you.

7. A confidant doesn’t make decisions for you; they advise you. Don’t allow your confidant to be your final decision maker.

8. They have nothing to gain. Make sure your confidant is not motivated one way or the other by the outcome of your decisions. For example, as a professional athlete, many look to their agents as their confidants—but ultimately that can be a bit risky, since the agent’s job is to get more money for the athlete, thus gaining more money themselves.

9. Confidants are more for listening than they are for talking. Advice and counsel many times can be best given through a sounding board than a clanging gong.

10. Start early in your career. You don’t need to be a CEO or president to have a confidant. As a leader, having an outside voice to give advice to you at any level in the organization is helpful.

Brad Lomenick is president and key visionary of Catalyst—a movement purposed to equip and inspire young Christian leaders through events, resources, consulting and community. Follow him on Twitter @bradlomenick, or read his personal blog at

For the original article, visit

]]> (Brad Lomenick) Pastoral Care Wed, 20 Nov 2013 17:00:00 -0500
How to Survive Going From Awesome to Awful

We pastors are a strange lot. We have been called and commissioned by God, empowered beyond our own resources, and granted the privilege of caring for His flock.

And yet we still struggle with fear and insecurity. We still wrestle with our own flesh. And we will always, it seems, face the reality of rejection.

Growing up as a PK (preacher’s kid), I knew that pastors were far from perfect. I also knew the flock sometimes bites their shepherd. I’d seen my dad deal with the hurt that a parishioner can inflict many times. In fact, for that reason, in my teens I told God, “I will do anything for you but become a preacher!” (God just smiled!)

Many times, however, I also heard the accolades my dad received from those he had impacted. Hundreds and hundreds of people called my dad “pastor” with pride. To this day, though he has been with Jesus for nearly 14 years, I still get an occasional email or card telling me of my dad’s influence in someone’s life.

What baffled me as a child, and frankly still amazes me as an adult, is how quickly a pastor can go from awesome to awful in the minds of some.

Every Sunday I have the honor of standing before my community of faith and proclaiming God’s Word. I love my job. I love my call. I love our people. I was made to do what I do and cannot imagine doing anything else.

But every Sunday, I am keenly aware that I am being evaluated as well. Some will like me and what they hear; others will not.

Some will leave after a service and think, “How did that guy ever end up a pastor, and what in blazes is he thinking wearing jeans to church?”

Others will make a beeline for me after a service and say, “That was the best message I’ve ever heard! You’re the best pastor I’ve ever had!” And I smile, not in cynicism but in the knowledge that we humans (and I include me in that we) are a capricious clan.

I am always grateful for the encouragement and kind words but also painfully aware of the fickleness of human nature. That very same person who patted me on the back sometimes ends up punching me in the gut weeks, months or years later as they exit our church in a tizzy.

Rejection is hard.

Here are some things I’ve learned about this along the way:

  • Guard your heart. Don’t be cynical. Don’t live in fear of rejection. Remember, Jesus too went from awesome to awful in the minds of many. He understands, so take your pain to Him when you are rejected.
  • Grow through it. Without getting caught in a maze of self-doubt, ask yourself, “Is there something I need to learn through this bite?” Criticism has value if there truly is something I can discover through it. I tell our church on a regular basis, “I’m not perfect.” So what’s the point of pretending like I am? And why then would I immediately and without consideration reject criticism as if I never make a mistake? A wise imperfect person continues to grow when confronted with the opportunity to do so.
  • When it’s all said and done, shake off the dust and move on. Rejection hurts. Even the most spiritually mature feel at least a twinge of pain when it happens. But getting stuck there is stupid. Reality 101: No one is perfect. Reality 102: Your criticizers aren’t perfect either. Reality 103: The best thing is to grow and go—don’t spend too much time or energy worrying about what you can’t change. Sometimes we get derailed from the bigger picture by proud people who feel the need to smack us around. Don’t go to their level; keep moving forward, and stay focused on the goal.
  • Speak well of the departed. This one is tough. Again, our human nature demands that we defend ourselves. We feel the need to put others in a bad light so that we look good. I really wrestle at times with a tendency to react rather than respond. Yes, there is a place for speaking the truth in love. Yes, there are times when we’ve actually done nothing to deserve the wrath we have received. And yes, sometimes we must explain or clarify something about the departed for the sake of the church. But make sure your heart and your motives are pure rather than polluted by your own pain.
  • Thank God for the blessers and the biters. Of course, I’d rather be blessed than bitten, but the Word challenges me to give thanks always (1 Thess. 5:18), even when it hurts. Thanking God for the pain is an act of faith that declares, “I believe You can redeem, restore and renew any situation and anyone fully surrendered to You.”

In one of the longest chapters in the New Testament (John 6), Jesus miraculously feeds 5,000 hungry people, and as a result they want to make Him king! Later, He walks on water and blows the minds of His disciples. But after a difficult teaching, one that ticked off a bunch of people, many disciples deserted Jesus. The very people who once thought He was awesome now rejected Him as awful.

Jesus felt the pain. He was God, but He was also human.

He turned to the 12, and I am certain with angst in His voice, He asked, “Do you want to leave Me too?”

Peter replied, “Lord, to whom shall we go?”

I’m sure Jesus appreciated Pete’s loyalty at the moment, but He knew that one of them was a betrayer (Judas) and that all of them would eventually flee from His side in fear.

But you know what amazes me? Jesus loved these guys anyway. He never gave up on them. He never lost focus. He never quit.

My prayer is, “God, help me to be much more like Your Son. Help me to stay the course even if that course takes me to a cross. Help me to love even when I am not loved and to forgive as I have been forgiven. Help me to remember it never has been and never will be about me.”

Kurt Bubna has been in pastoral ministry since 1976 and now serves as senior pastor of Eastpoint Church, a large, vibrant, growing, creative and community-focused congregation in Spokane Valley, Wash. Kurt's first book, Epic Grace: Chronicles of a Recovering Idiot (Tyndale), is available online or in bookstores. He has traveled extensively as a speaker and short-term missionary in Great Britain, Central America and Asia.

For the original article, visit

]]> (Kurt Bubna) Pastoral Care Thu, 31 Oct 2013 20:00:00 -0400
Who Is Responsible for the Pastor’s Joy?

He’s not a soldier, but he fights for truth.

He’s not a police officer, but he watches out for me.

He’s not a university professor, but he teaches me.

He’s not a social worker, but he is always available to listen to me.

He’s not a professional consultant, but he provides guidance for me.

He’s not a relative, but he loves me like family.

He’s my pastor, and he wears more hats than any other job in the world.

Nobody understands the pastor’s workload, stress, pressure and demands. Every member of the church takes home their own worries, but the pastor takes home everyone’s worries. He wears their burdens and feels their pains. He laughs when they laugh, cries when they cry and mourns when they mourn. Most of the time, nobody else sees what is going on inside of his heart. Constantly giving of one’s self can be a lonely, draining job.

October is Pastor Appreciation Month. I want to publicly express my appreciation for the pastoral staff at my church. I am incredibly blessed by the ministries of Jason Aultman, Bobby Tucker, Brian Ratliff, Stephen Castleberry, Nathan Brewer, Shawn Hammontree, Travis Sellers, Luis Ortega and Randy Anderson. These guys go the extra mile for our congregation and never complain. They serve our church like soldiers, officers, professors, counselors, consultants and family!

Unfortunately, in many churches the congregation treats its pastor like an employee rather than honoring him as God’s chosen leader. But Hebrews 13:17 condemns that kind of thinking:

“Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you” (ESV, emphasis added).

Did you see that phrase “let them do this with joy”? Can I paraphrase that? “Give your pastor a break and make his ministry to you a joy.” You are responsible for making your pastor’s job a joy. Further, it is to your advantage to have a joyful pastor.

So, here are a few ideas for blessing the man who wears so many hats for you:

  • Send him a gift certificate to his favorite restaurant.
  • Volunteer to babysit his kids.
  • Mow his yard or wash his car without asking.
  • Give him season tickets to your local high school team events.
  • Bring cookies to his home or the church office.
  • Write him a letter of encouragement.
  • Have your children draw him a picture.

There are so many ways to bless your pastor. So go ahead—make his job a joy!

After serving in campus ministry at the University of Central Arkansas and coordinating student conferences for the Department of Church Ministries from 2000-2005, Scott Attebery pastored Wyatt Baptist Church in El Dorado Arkansas. In 2008, Scott’s wife, Jill, passed away in an automobile accident. He recalls, “God used our church to be Christ to my family and me during that time.” After seven years of pastoring, Scott was selected as the executive director of DiscipleGuide Church Reources, a department of the Baptist Missionary Association of America.

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]]> (Scott Attebery) Pastoral Care Wed, 23 Oct 2013 16:00:00 -0400
Why So Many Pastors Are Leaving the Ministry—and How to Stop It

Mark Brewer is a motivated pastor to say the least. He’s founded and led multiple congregations—some starting in a living room and growing into the thousands each week. But something in the distance kept calling him, and after dealing with numerous church leaders who left the ministry in frustration—some even committing suicide—he realized his ultimate calling: the Ministry Lab.

It’s a bold new effort to help both novice and experienced leaders in the practical aspects of ministry leadership, which is something they rarely learn in Bible college or seminary. Recently, Phil Cooke sat down with Mark to find out what this new outreach is all about.

Phil Cooke: You come from a Presbyterian background. Today when we describe churches as "innovative," "contemporary," or "megachurch," not a lot of Presbyterian churches come to mind. And yet the Presbyterian denomination has powerful roots. What's happened in that denomination, and what's the future look like for Presbyterians?

Mark Brewer: You’re right about my roots being within the Reformed tradition of Presbyterians. I’m a third-generation Presbyterian minister and yet have had the experience of leading a large interracial nondenominational church during the 1990s. I also started a network of churches in Denver that were primarily large charismatic and Baptist churches, so I feel I have a rare view of both worlds.

I think most mainline churches have been held back by their polity and their perspective. Ironically, they were the great innovators a few centuries back, doing things that were so unheard of they were called heretical. But what they unintentionally exchanged was focus on process versus end product. Like most of us, we’ll choose stability over growth every time. People usually don’t change unless it’s too painful not to change.

But ironically, the shrinking mainline denominations happen to be positioned to meet the hunger of the 20- to 30-something generation remarkably well. Millennials say they don’t want "big box" Christianity, they don’t want "big program, big show" churches. Those are the fruit of my generation of boomers. They say they want small, organic, neighborhood, relational-sized worshipping communities with low emphasis on doctrine. Is that the average mainline church on the corner or what? Yet time will tell if we in the mainline can effectively connect with the next generation.

Cooke: Your most recent assignment was senior pastor at Bel Air Presbyterian Church in Los Angeles. That was Ronald Reagan's church. Tell me about that church's heritage and impact in LA.

Brewer: Leading Bel Air Presbyterian was a wonderful and humbling experience. Yes, it was President Reagan’s church. When I first got there in 2001, the president had not yet died, so I had to meet with the Secret Service my second month to prepare for his funeral. (Did you know every president has their funeral planned out by the Army the second month in office? Talk about a statement of a risky job.)

When President Reagan died, it was his desire to have his service at his home church of Bel Air. He was a very devout Christian in his private life. But because 9/11 had just happened, the Secret Service vetoed the venue because providing security for the estimated 50,000 who would come by and pay their respects—it was just too unmanageable at our site. There was a three-fold memorial of the main service in the National Cathedral in D.C., a service at the Presidential Library in California, and I did the service for the congregation and others at Bel Air. Very moving.

Bel Air was a grand mission. Over half of the people attending worked in some way with the entertainment industry. I was always impressed how the members never asked any of the celebrities for autographs or bothered them on Sundays. We had our challenges with the paparazzi and exposure, but I can say there are some wonderful Christians making deep impact in Hollywood. We would lay hands on people once a year and commission our missionaries to the "foreign field" of the entertainment industry who were the writers, producers, actors, set directors and the rest to be salt and light.

Cooke: Bel Air was one of the most visible pulpits in America. What made you leave to start a new church plant in the Denver area?

Brewer: I get asked that a lot. [Laughs.] Even though I’m basically wired to be a builder and not a manager, things were going fabulous at Bel Air. We had doubled in attendance and tripled in budget the 12 years I was there. We had launched Bel Air’s first two mission churches. We had established six global church networks of large churches on five continents helping each other.

The tipping point was talking to a friend at his daughter’s wedding. He said, “Hey, Brewer, how come so many pastors quit the ministry, and why do so many pastors stink at their jobs?” I’ve always had a love for pastors and the gut-wrenching jobs they have. I watched the ministry tear my family of origin apart as my dad left the church and our family with the church secretary. I buried my younger brother, who committed suicide from the pressures of trying to be a pastor. A friend I was ordained with committed suicide after shooting his wife. I know how brutal it can be. But how could I help some people who are going into this arena to thrive and not be a statistic?

I totally believe in Bible schools and seminaries. Not only have I never doubted the investment I made in earning three degrees, but my understanding of the gospel exploded in seminary. What they are lacking is the methodology and opportunity to teach the basics of the "how to" of ministry today.

I’ve had way too many gifted and talented friends quit the ministry the past 30 years of serving Christ. And attracting the top talent and hearts to full-time clergy? Forget it—it is almost impossible. It’s not a crises of faith and good theology. It’s a crisis in the fundamentals of how to lead, manage and oversee the basics of good business and good ministry. Few are being taught that.

If I can have at the end of my life a few hundred pastors say, "That was the most practical and effective thing I ever experienced—those insights and methods saved my ministry career," I will stand before the risen Christ a happy servant.

Cooke: Tell me about the Ministry Lab. What does it do, and why is it necessary?

Brewer: The Ministry Lab Network is a school of practical theology that lets current and future clergy experience the hands-on training they can’t get in the rigors of a three-year graduate seminary. Graduate schools are just not designed for that. The Ministry Lab is designed to not just inspire and motivate like the typical weekend conferences out there, but to actually give a chance to learn from the best and then test drive the application themselves. The lab part is a unique chance to create fresh new ways of impacting people. It’s an opportunity to discover the unique spiritual DNA the Spirit of God has placed in each of us rather than mimic someone else’s style.

There are basically five training offerings in the network:

  1. Weeklong executive immersions where you learn from the best, meeting in regional venues around the country
  2. Two-day tune-ups for people who are already in place leading but just need a new retooling and refining with outside coaches and experts
  3. Seminary partners who help design their own curriculum needs and requirements for training their students
  4. Residency churches who take on people in a real-time setting of discipleship for leaders
  5. The training center in Denver for feedback from qualified and gifted congregational members in giving helpful and insightful guidance in communicating, management and worship leading

Cooke: Who's the perfect candidate for the Ministry Lab?

Brewer: The perfect candidate is anyone who is in the position of leading ministry. The only requirement is a teachable spirit and the faith that God can use them. People heading into ministry are great candidates.

The challenge with seminarians is the old adage "They don’t know what they don’t know." But as we partner with seminaries, we’re conscious of the great men and women the Lord is calling who can learn skills even before they realize how desperately they need them.

The ideal candidate would be someone in the midst of their first years of ministry who is conscious of their own strengths and weaknesses. But even veteran pastors who are thrust into this "brave new world" of ministry can be trained with new tools to supplement their ministry toolkit.

Cooke: Why do you have a worshipping community in a local church alongside what's essentially a teaching experience for pastors?

Brewer: The only feedback I get are from my fans or my critics. An actual community [that is] trained as well as feels called to help communicators or worship leaders is an invaluable tool for the kingdom. Professional coaches are good, but it’s the everyday people we need to get input from—just like the ones we’re endeavoring to pastor back home. More than an American Idol sort of "I like them" or "I don’t like them," it’s a living community who has learned to move beyond their own personal style preference to create a safe, encouraging, honest environment to aid in self-discovery of those up front.

Cooke: What's the greatest need you see among pastors today?

Brewer: The last year has been quite an eye-opener. I’ve found, from being with over a hundred pastors from every flavor church, there are common themes. I bunch them into the "big five":

  1. The lack of training in overseeing lay and paid staff
  2. The pressures of finances and budgeting in tough financial times
  3. Conflict resolution and leading a church into new unchartered waters
  4. Shepherding the brave new world of online and social media
  5. The exhaustion personally alongside the family dynamics of living in the relentless world of ministry.

Cooke: What’s in the future for the Ministry Lab?

Brewer: God knows. This is all brand new. We’re all on a steep learning curve in equipping the current and future leaders of Christ’s church. It’s a new way of training, as yet as old as Jesus and His disciples.

Since I believe the greatest church the world has ever seen was not the first one but the last one before Christ returns, these are incredible days! As the "wheat and the tares" grow together and the world simultaneously gets better as it gets worse, I think the greatest music, the greatest novels, the greatest works of art, the greatest inventions and the greatest fellowships are right in front of us. It our call to let the Holy Spirit create the greatest pastors the world has seen yet.

Cooke: If I was a pastor or ministry leader who was struggling in ministry, what's the best way to contact the leadership team at the Ministry Lab?

Brewer: Contact us at our website at

Phil Cooke is a filmmaker and media consultant and author of Unique: Telling Your Story in the Age of Brands and Social Media. Learn more at

]]> (Phil Cooke) Pastoral Care Fri, 11 Oct 2013 13:00:00 -0400
Only God: A Pastor’s Confession

God did something amazing in my heart recently (but it’s not about me). God did something amazing in our church (but it’s not about us).

I could share stories and testimonies with you all day (and maybe one day I will), but right now they’re too dear and precious to my heart. They’re too fresh. I know you understand.

What I do want to say today is the following. Only God Can:

  • Save
  • Heal
  • Rescue
  • Deliver
  • Break through a hard heart
  • Open blind eyes
  • Awaken a dead heart
  • Set people free

My brief testimony is God set me free from my past, my hurt, my anger, my pain, my shame, my guilt, my neglect, my being self-absorbed and most of all my pride. He has broken my heart (in a good way), ruined me (in a good way) and set me free! Praise God. My point is: Only God can set someone free.

You guys know this. I knew it in my head, but I had to experience it so that I would believe it in my heart. I hope I’m making sense. I’m not crazy. I’m just grateful and thankful to my Savior.

Hear me loud and clear:

  1. I’m not bragging.
  2. If I am boasting, it is in Christ alone. I mean that sincerely.
  3. I’m not proud of being humble. (I’m on guard about this. I’ve been warned. Pray for me.)
  4. Get this: I’m not perfect.
  5. I’m a work in progress.
  6. I’m on a spiritual journey just like everyone else.
  7. And finally, God’s not finished with me yet.

Only God. I thank and praise Him for what He’s done in my heart, my family and our church (and what He will continue to do), and I pray He does the same thing for you, my friends.

Note: Our worship pastor, Matt Rector, partnered with “the genius of the Holy Spirit,” as Dave Browning would say, and we had an amazing experience of worship at our church recently. The song "Relentless" by Hillsong United will forever be special to me (for the rest of my life—no matter how old it gets). The bridge ruined me (in a good way).

You’ve got to listen to it! I’m so thankful that our worship pastor allows God, through the Holy Spirit, to choose what songs we sing each week.

Last Thing

Our God is setting people free (not just me)—every day, every hour, every minute, every second—all around the world! That’s our great and good God.

I pray that all this blog post does is lead you to Christ and point you to Jesus and most of all lead you to worship our great and good God.

Amen. Let it be.


For every prideful, rude, arrogant, boastful, harsh or cold statement that I’ve every written on my blog or anywhere else—please forgive me. For the times I bragged or boasted of how many books I had read—please forgive me. For the times that I’ve bragged about our attendance or baptisms or come across like I was putting down a small church—please forgive me. That’s not my heart anymore. I was wrong, and I’m genuinely sorry. Now when I read, I want it to be not just for more knowledge and to get smarter (old Greg), but to know God more (my new heart’s desire).

When God set me free, I feel He spoke to my heart (in that still, small voice) and said, “My child, I love you, and that is enough. That is enough. You don’t have to prove yourself to anyone. You don’t have to self-promote. You don’t have to stress over the church and buildings and budgets and the economy and low offerings." (You guys and gals know what I’m talking about.) He simply spoke over my heart: "I love you." And that, my friends, is enough.

I vow that my writing moving forward (Lord willing) will be Christ honoring, uplifting and encouraging to you and your ministry. Forgive me for ever bragging about what “Greg has done.” May it never be again. It was all Jesus—always has been. Always will be.

Continue to follow along in my writing as I share the journey that God is taking me and our church on. I pray God blesses your ministry.

By the way, I know some are going to be skeptical or confused or wonder if this is genuine. That’s OK. My brother said, “Greg, the proof is in the pudding.” I get that. I know I need to live this out the rest of my life and not just post about it once. Please pray for me. God knows I need it. I’m a work in progress. And if there’s anything I can ever pray for you about, contact me and I will add you to my prayer journal (that my wife just bought for me this week). Friends, I was living a life of destruction. 


I’ll close with two Scriptures God laid on my heart this week (besides Isaiah 6 and the entire book of Romans):

“Oh let the wickedness of the wicked come to an end, But establish the just; For the righteous God tests the hearts and minds. My defense is of God. Who saves the upright in heart” (Ps. 7:9-10).

“Bless the Lord, O my soul; And all that is within me, bless His holy name! Bless the Lord, O my soul, And forget not all His benefits: Who forgives all your iniquities, Who heals ALL your diseases, who redeems your life from destruction, Who crowns you with lovingkindness and tender mercies, Who satisfies your mouth with good things, So that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s." (Ps. 103:1-5).

Amen. Let it be, Lord God, in all of our lives.

Greg Atkinson is the campus pastor at Forest Park Carthage, a multisite church with 5,000 members based in Joplin, Mo. He has started businesses, including the worship resource website WorshipHouse Media (where he served as director), a social media marketing company and his own consulting firm. As a consultant, Greg has worked with some of the largest and fastest-growing churches across the United States.

For the original article, visit

]]> (Greg Atkinson) Pastoral Care Wed, 09 Oct 2013 20:00:00 -0400