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Photo of Greg Atkinson

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. read more

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7 Reasons Pastors Burn Out

I heard the story again last week. A pastor I know announced his resignation. No moral failure. No severe crisis at the church. No major family problems. No sickness. He was simply burned out. That’s how he described it. He said he had gotten to the point that he was having trouble putting one foot in front of the other.

So he quit, without another job. His church family was stunned.

I admit I haven’t seen recent statistics on pastoral burnout but, at least anecdotally, it’s high. It seems that hardly a week goes by that I don’t hear another story of a burnout victim in pastoral ministry. read more

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Prayer and Fasting in the Life of a Pastor

Prayer and fasting is one of the most neglected spiritual disciplines in the life of the pastor. We know that prayer and fasting was not only a part of the lifestyle of many major leaders in the Scripture, but even in the life of Jesus Christ. Therefore, I want to focus on prayer and fasting in the life of the pastor.

What Is It?

Fasting is abstinence from food with a spiritual goal in mind. It is when you neglect the most natural thing your body desires, which is food, in order to pursue the God of heaven to do something supernatural in your life. Prayer and fasting is not a hoop you jump through in order to try to catch the attention of God. It is far more significant than a self-determined tactic to get God’s attention. We cannot manipulate God. read more

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Dan Reiland: Beefs and Bouquets

For more than 30 years now, through three churches and a season of church consulting, I’ve keep two unique files. One is titled Beefs. The other is titled Bouquets. It may sound a little strange, but it has proven to be a great tool for reflection on both sides of a life given to ministry.

Ministry always has two sides, and much like God’s Word, there is grace and law. Most of us prefer the former over the latter, but they both represent an equally important part of reality. read more

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The Lonely Pastor: 9 Observations

The conversation took place recently. A young man told me his dad, a pastor, recently committed suicide. He talked about the pain his father experienced in ministry as well as the intense loneliness.

Though suicide is not an inevitable outcome, I do know the number of pastors experiencing loneliness is high—very high. I hurt for these pastors, and I want to help in any way I can. Perhaps my nine observations can be a starting point for a healthy discussion on this important matter. read more

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5 Different Ways Leaders Respond to Critical Anonymous Letters

Every leader will get one or more at some point in his or her leadership: the harsh, critical letter that is unsigned and unidentifiable. I recently asked via Twitter how leaders respond when they get the anonymous letter. The responses were fascinating.

First, it was evident that many leaders have received such letters. Second, most leaders and leadership groups view writers of these letters with a fairly negative view. They do not understand why they do not have the courage to criticize with clear identity, regardless of the consequences the writer may think he or she will face. read more

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Learning the Importance of Saying No

The word “no” is a hard word for many people. But I have learned that it is one of the most important words we can learn to say if we want to excel in ministry and leadership.

At the same time, hearing “no” can be really demoralizing.

How can we create healthy boundaries using the word “no,” while still excelling in grace and likeability? If we are going to increase our influence and become the best versions of ourselves we must learn embrace and navigate this tension well.

So here are three thoughts I have about learning to be better with “no”: read more

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10 Enemy Attacks on Leaders

For more than 15 years, I have studied the biblical reality of spiritual warfare. Many of my writings (e.g., Discipled Warriors, Putting on the Armor) address this topic that evangelicals have often neglected. I regret that evangelicals have been afraid of this topic because the enemy is nevertheless real.

Recently, a church leader asked me what tactics I’ve seen the enemy most use against leaders. In no particular order, here are the 10 most common strategies I’ve seen. read more

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Why Leaders Need to Keep Growing Too

If you love to learn, improve and grow, think back on who helped to ignite that fire within you.

A mentor in my late teen years, Ray Crowell, was the first person to inspire me to grow as a person. He taught me to think, and he challenged my thinking. From philosophy to human nature—oh yeah, and girls—we talked about everything. My world became larger because of Ray.

John Maxwell is my longtime friend and mentor in life and leadership. I graduated from Asbury Theological Seminary thinking I was ready to pastor and lead. Little did I know—and it’s a good thing John was there. From attitude to relationships, he poured into me as a young leader. My life would never be the same. read more

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Top 10 Things Pastors Would Like to Hear From Their People

The majority of Christendom has no idea what it’s like to be a pastor. Pastors think a lot about the words they use, and about the words they hope others will use.

I figure David Letterman would never get around to this, so I’ve developed the list. In case you’ve ever wondered, here are some of the words pastors dream about hearing.

Some of them are tongue-in-cheek; others are straight from the heart. I’m sure you can improve the list (Post yours below).

10. “Last week, we read that the pastor who preaches and teaches is worthy of double honor, so we’re doubling your salary.” read more

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Heal Your Servant: Grace and Exposing the Enemy’s Demonic Motivation

Through the ministry of Heal Your Servant, we have four scheduled weekly conference calls. Every call is unique, and most are filled with surprises. Sometimes we will have one person on a call, and other times we have several callers.

On a recent phone conversation, I had one individual call in. I introduced myself. He then gave me his name. As is customary, I began a short prayer, asking God for His wisdom.

I concluded, and instead of hearing the words, “Amen,” I heard, “Why do you do this?”

It was as if the Lord had been preparing me for this question. read more

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When Refreshment Comes

The youth ministry I grew up in was amazing. I was offered so much activity and was infused with so much passion that I was always serving somewhere.

Each week started with Sunday school, followed by Sunday service and a meal out with fellow youth groupies. Sundays ended with the evening service. On Monday nights, we went street witnessing, on Wednesdays we had youth group (all of the “mature” students served in multiple capacities), and on Friday nights we did ministry at the nursing homes.

My spiritual life was packed with social activities and service opportunities, and I owned my kingdom responsibility. I wanted to make a difference, and I wanted to win the world. read more

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Don’t Blame Your Schedule for Your Burnout

We live in a world that is defined by boundaries. Our roads are painted with them, our sports games are designed around them, and our psychologists tell us we need to expand them around that codependent crazy aunt of ours.

While it may be true that the term boundaries has been “Oprahfied” in the last few years, I think it’s an area that is vital in the lives of church-planters and pastors.

People often point to too much activity as the inherent culprit of fatigue and early departure from ministry. The problem, however, transcends a busy schedule. read more

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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. read more

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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. read more

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. read more

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