After work, we changed clothes in the restroom and then ran through Taco Bell on our way to the church. Life as a bi-vocational pastor is a bit hectic.
If you aren’t careful, you could find yourself with a burnt out adrenal system, wondering if God stopped talking or if you took a wrong turn somehow.
Elijah knew what that felt like. Sitting on the side of the desert, alone and completely burned out, he asked God to kill him.
There are a lot of things we can do to help avoid burnout. However, when we reach the edge, there are a few things that we must do in order to keep up the crazy pace so we can impact the world God has called us to.
"My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts," says the Lord. "And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine. For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so my ways are higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts."— Isaiah 55:8-9
At once. Now. Immediately. Deadlines.
These are words that come to mind regarding the fast-paced lifestyle many of us find ourselves in. We expect our newspaper to be on the front porch when we wake up. We expect traffic signals to turn green the instant we approach them. We expect a bag of popcorn to explode into light, fluffy goodness in exactly three-and-a-half minutes. But what happens when our desires don't materialize in what we consider to be a timely fashion? We may experience frustration, grumpiness, possibly even anger.
As one of the fruits of the Spirit, patience is a character trait God desires to produce in us (see Galatians 5:22-23). Yet the only way to really learn what it means to be patient is to experience it firsthand. Patience is an oh-so-gradually unveiled gift.
Noah lived in a time when lawlessness and sin were the rule, not the exception. Imagine his reaction when God told him about his plan to destroy humanity! Picture Noah's reaction when God told him to build a boat, giving him specific dimensions and directions! Imagine having to wait 120 years to see it happen! I wonder if Noah ever said to himself, "Okay Lord, things are getting worse instead of better. Aren't you going to execute your plan? After all, it's already been fifteen years!" Thankfully, Noah learned the lesson of patience, trusted God's timing, and was spared from the flood as a result.
Our response when something doesn't happen on schedule speaks to how well we have learned to be patient. Maybe God has something better just around the corner. He will let you know when he's ready--or perhaps when you're ready. That's something to consider the next time you throw a bag of popcorn in the microwave.
Conviction is a major anointing that is needed in the prophetic ministry. The Scripture tells us that the gifts and the calling are without repentance. Many prophets operate in the gifts without having any conviction in their personal lives. Conviction can be defined as “the act of convincing a person of error or of compelling the admission of a truth.”
When you spend time in the presence of God, you are measured according to His standards, not the standards of man. In light of the Lord revealing Himself to Isaiah, he got a true picture of himself.
Too many churches are led by wounded pastors and leaders who can’t really love people, can’t be vulnerable or focus on the future because of past rejection and hurt. But there is healing for wounded leaders!
There are a lot of things that wound us in life. Maybe you were wounded because somebody lied to you. Maybe a promise was made to you that was broken. Or maybe you were in a conflict with a church member or fellow leader.
In that conflict, some angry words were said, and you were deeply wounded. Maybe you were wounded by a betrayal, by rejection or by being misunderstood. You may have been wounded by being devalued, overlooked or not valued enough. And you can be wounded by loneliness.
Last year, I attended the Velocity 2012 conference hosted by lead pastor Shawn Lovejoy at Mountain Lake Church in Cumming, Ga. For the last seven years, Shawn and his team have invested in the lives of pastors, and in particular church planters, with passion and excellence.
To be invited to speak on leadership development was a delight and privilege. My role was to pour into the young leaders, but I found myself learning and being inspired by the people I met.
Let’s be honest: The church faces significant challenges these days, from financial pressures to declining loyalties toward any one church body. My take on the church is positive, very positive in fact, but I hear a lot of negativity.
I am burdened with concern right now for the body of Christ. The days are urgent, and time is limited. We need to be ready, alive and alert to the Spirit. People around us are hurting, the world rushes toward coming catastrophes, and yet I see too many believers who should know better falling into self-centered emotional turmoil, moral compromise and inconsistency at just the time when we need to be at our finest and most focused. Lives are at stake.
I'm not just talking about my own flock. I see this in too much of the wider body of Christ, even as a remnant sharpens its hunger and passion for God. In my book Visions of the Coming Days, I wrote of the preparation we need to be making, but I despair that few have read it and that even fewer understand the urgency of what they're reading. I wrote of a sense of hope for the economy from 2012 into 2013 and said that it could not last. This current period of relative improvement has lulled many of us into complacency, a sense that it’s all going to be all right. It isn’t. We’ve been given a limited season of grace in which to prepare for difficult times, more than just economically, and we must use it.
Pastor John puts away his tools for the day. His shift at the construction site ends in 10 minutes. Already, he has begun switching gears and thinking through the evening ahead. Tonight is the board meeting, but first he has to get home, shower and check in with his wife and kids.
Like many pastors, John has to divide his time and attention between a “day job” and his calling—to pastor a church.
Bi-vocational ministry has a unique set of challenges. If you asked John what his No. 1 problem is, he would say time—time to give every activity the attention it needs. Like many startups, his church is full of young Christians who need to be discipled.
As often as the word holy is used by Christians, you’d think that we could all agree on a uniform understanding of its meaning. We read our “Holy” Bibles. We receive “Holy” Communion. We sing the hymn “Holy, Holy, Holy” and acknowledge the “Holy” Spirit, the third person of the Godhead. We understand the word generally to mean “divine” or “of God.”
But when Christians start to discuss holiness, they discover that the implications of the word vary widely. It seems that holiness can mean anything from a name for the pope to teetotalism and not wearing makeup.
From Moses to Martin, preachers have parted political waters and led the oppressed to the Promised Land. Either by summons to a pharaoh to “Let my people go,” parting the Red Sea with an outstretched shepherd’s rod, or accompanied by a soulful protest ballad, “We Shall Overcome” and a federal court order granting rights to march over the Alabama River on the Edmund Pettus Bridge—throughout millennia, preachers have led the advance of liberty and religious freedom through troubled waters, on dry ground or over them on segregated asphalt.
The birth of America’s freedom came no differently, as our forefathers crossed the Atlantic to escape Europe’s political and religious oppression. Has the time come for another Reformation? I believe so—an American Reformation! Where are the American clergy who will stem the tide of religious oppressions rising in our land by taking action against the political forces responsible? Maybe it’s time for a new breed of American clergy or just a restoration of the American preacher.
I talk with team leaders every week where the team is struggling and trying to figure out how to succeed again. I understand. I’ve been the leader of teams in situations like that many times. Every team experiences times of decline. What you do next almost always determines how long it lasts and how well you recover.
First, I should say that every situation is unique and requires individual attention. Don’t use a script for your team. Also, don’t be afraid to bring in outside help. It could be anyone, from a paid consultant to a friend who leads another team with whom you trade a favor. Everyone can use a fresh perspective at times. It takes humble and wise leaders to welcome input from outsiders.
In the same way, when you obey me you should say, "We are unworthy servants who have simply done our duty."— Luke 17:10
The goal of any college or professional football player is to help his or her team win the championship game at the end of the season. It takes dedication, strength, and a good measure of teamwork to get to that point. In recent years, however, the sport has focused more than ever before on outstanding individual performances, helped in no small way by the media. Sports figures can rarely avoid the spotlight. So when athletes have microphones shoved at them and are asked questions, they have an opportunity to exhibit a key leadership trait. They can brag and boast about their personal accomplishments, they can criticize another team and its players, or they can make sure that everyone on the team gets the credit he or she deserves.
The ability to deflect praise toward those who deserve it is important for a number of reasons. Giving credit to others keeps us from becoming conceited and self-absorbed. In addition, it allows those who had a contributing role to experience the success as well. Praising others also shows our personal desire to be a servant, a true mark of leadership (see Luke 22:26).
This attitude is not one that comes naturally to people. To this end, we must commit ourselves to God daily, asking him to help us live lives that reflect his character. If we're constantly looking for glory and praise from being a "significant" Christian, then our priorities are wrong. The same is true if we choose to give God and others praise, but in a showy, "look at me" manner. Jesus made it clear that we are to simply do the things he asks us to do and reflect any praise we might receive away from ourselves. We're only doing what he asks, right? And in the end, that's more important than any honors and awards we might receive.
Olan Hendrix once said, “Strategic thinking is like showering; you have to keep doing it.” Many churches are intentional about setting short and long-term goals. Unfortunately, because there is no ongoing process, they quickly get stuck and revert back to previous ways of thinking once goals are accomplished.
Strategic Operating Plans guide teams to clarify their mission, vision and core strategies—and then create the right structure and accountability to realize it through prioritized action initiatives. The process is a continual circle because strategic thinking must always be ongoing.
The May edition of Fast Company recently featured an article by Danielle Sacks that really demonstrates the importance of strategic planning.
Those are words many of us have spoken and all of us have heard from others. We know how vital it is for every church to have and fill a solid leadership pipeline. But for many, some of the steps involved in that process seem overwhelming, and many don’t know where to start.
I’m a small-town, simple-minded pastor that has difficulty with complicated processes. So here is a simple pattern I’ve learned to get new potential leaders on your radar and start a process to move them through.
For some time now, the ministry of Heal Your Servant has been dedicated to helping ministers who are at any stage of a moral failure. Some have misappropriated funds. Others have made wrong decisions that have adversely affected their congregations, while the majority of the ministers we deal with are trapped in some sort of sexual indiscretion, whether it is pornography, adultery or a dual identity.
These types of transgressions have left a trail of hurt, pain and anger throughout the entire body of Christ. Many say, “Forgive, forgive,” while others declare, “Off with their heads.”
I recently had a phone conversation with a woman from our congregation who said, “We’re thinking of leaving the church.”
“Tell me why,” I replied.
“Because we just haven’t been able to connect," she said. "The church is so big.”
I can’t argue with that point. Churches can get big. And I believe there truly are times when someone is called out to serve in a different capacity within the community. I’m not one to suggest there is one church that can meet the needs of an entire community. In fact, I truly believe it’s the whole church (all church organizations working together) that will meet the needs of a community because we are the functioning body of Christ.
You can have a thriving ministry without a thriving relationship with God, but only temporarily. Anyone can fake it in the short run, but to go the distance, you need a passionate devotional life and continual closeness to Jesus. Often pastors tend to allow the busyness of ministry and the necessity of studying for sermon preparation to replace a real, personal walk with Jesus. But God wants better for you.
Three T’s for a thriving walk with Jesus are as follows:
People often complain about angry preachers. I don’t like them either, and I agree that if a person mixes a sermon with hateful language (or if he believes God has called him to picket other churches) he’s in the wrong profession. Yet today we’ve jumped to the opposite extreme. Now we are afraid to confront sin.
We can’t preach about materialism because we might offend rich people in the audience—as well as the poor people who buy Lotto tickets every week. We can’t preach about fornication because there are people in thechurchwho are living together. We can’t preach about domestic violence because there are deacons who sometimes hit their wives. We can’t preach about homosexuality because our culture says it’s hateful to call that a sin.
I recently spent a couple thousand dollars cutting down and stump-grinding nine trees that I spent hundreds of dollars planting 10 years ago. Seems dumb, I know. But sometimes, that’s what it takes.
Perhaps you’ve seen these trees—they are called Cryptomeria. They grow extremely fast and easily reach 35 to 40 feet and more with a 20-foot spread at the bottom. They are similar to the Leyland Cypress but typically seem to grow larger, more lush, and are deeper green in color.