If you aspire to ministry, don’t be stupid. Decide now to avoid these obvious pitfalls.
I had the privilege of sharing a pulpit with Dr. Mary Ann Brown two times. She was bold, prophetic and painfully blunt. People who hate women preachers hated her even more because of her no-nonsense sermons—always delivered in her Texas twang. She would get her audience laughing and then skewer them with a hot blade of truth.
When this spiritual giant died last month at age 73, I remembered the last words she said to me when we were together at a conference in Chicago in 2011. After lamenting the fact that so many ministers in the United States were failing, Mary Ann locked eyes with me and said with stern, motherly authority: “Lee, please don’t ever get stupid.”
I knew exactly what she meant—and I’ve pondered her words often, especially since her death. I don’t want to be stupid; I want to finish well. So how can we avoid spiritual stupidity? We can start by avoiding these 10 mistakes that have become common in our movement during the past decade. If you are a minister, or if you aspire to be one, please decide now that you will never copy these behaviors.
God loves us enough to make our path straight, but it is so much better to get on the right path first.
We are all living in a fast-paced, hard driven, “make it happen” world. I have operated in this world for most of my life outside of a Kingdom worldview, even as a Christ follower. By the grace of God, the Lord took me out of the Matrix several years ago and I was able to see the world’s systems for what they were, the good, the bad, and the ugly within them.
Through continued trials and errors, Father firmly establishes my faith and my view in Him alone. I desire to see what He sees, hear the sound of His voice, and love and serve by the power of His Spirit within me.
As I travel, I see common patterns that limit the effectiveness of Gods people as being the salt, light, and love in the world as His Kingdom ambassadors. If we do not pause, reflect and hear correctly, we will often look back and say, “Wow, so much time has passed and very little of what we had intended to do ever got in motion.” We may realize that a long period of time has gone by, sometimes years, where we have been stuck in unfruitful patterns in our minds, hearts, and in our ways.
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Have you ever wondered what is happening to churches today? Many have lost their sense of purpose, floundering for identity, in a sea of hundreds of other churches competing for the same people. Approximately 80 percent of “church growth” numbers can be attributed to people transferring from one church to another rather than new converts. As many as 3,000-4,000 churches close their doors every year—unable to stay open due to financial burdens, infrastructural turmoil and apathy.
In this discouraging environment, day in and day out, pastors and church leaders toil for the kingdom of God. Often overworked, underpaid and unappreciated, they deny themselves the luxury of time for rest and spiritual renewal. Is it any wonder that more than 1,500 pastors leave their churches every month due to spiritual burn-out, moral failure or contention within their congregation?
For decades, maybe centuries, the church has gathered weekly around a sermon. Our reasons are noble: We value the Scriptures and know that our lives are to be anchored in truth. But the study of the Scriptures is meant to launch us into an encounter with the person of Jesus Christ.
In that moment of connection, we obtain life. Without encountering the One to whom Scriptures point, we are a people to be pitied. As Jesus told the Pharisees, “You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me. But you are not willing to come to Me that you may have life” (John 5:39-40).
Nearly every leader wants revival in one way or another, and many want healings, deliverances and miracles. But it’s hard to have the same fruit as the early church when we value a book they didn’t have above the Holy Spirit they did have.
I’m sure most Ministry Today readers are very aware that year-end giving campaigns are perhaps the most important fund-raising time for non-profit organizations. With 41 percent of all donations occurring in the last few weeks of December, the year-end campaign is a make or break proposition for many churches and most non-profits.
While you are crafting your year-end campaign I wanted to make sure you didn’t neglect the fastest growing way to connect with new givers—your online presence.
First, lets examine the facts. According to Charity Navigator’s survey, 93 percent of those surveyed said they gave during the 2010 year-end giving season. Of those who donated in 2010, 91 percent said they planned to give during the same period in 2011.
Note: This story was retrieved from Ministry Today's archives and was published in Ministry Today Magazine in 2004.
Meet three pastors who left their churches to hit the books.
They are among a growing number of Pentecostals and charismatics pursuing higher education ... and a higher calling.
At 53, Bob Proy hit the books ... again. A former pastor with more than 20 years of ministry experience, Proy has spent the last several years in classrooms, furthering his education.
He recently earned masters' degrees in communication, and marriage and family counseling from Oral Roberts University (ORU). Now, he is devoting his doctoral studies at ORU to establishing an after-care program for inmates and their families.
Proy envisions establishing rehabilitation centers outside urban areas where ex-convicts and their families can be discipled while adjusting to post-prison life. And he says higher education is the spark that lit his vision for the future.
Note: The following is an excerpt from the book Lead and Succeed by Sara. J. Moulton Reger
David was the second king in Israel, and he was a great warrior both before and during his reign asking. This story of his leadership in battle was recounted at the time of his death:
David was then in the stronghold, and the garrison of the Philistines was then in Bethlehem. And David said with longing, “Oh, that someone would give me a drink of the water from the well of Bethlehem, which is by the gate!” So the three mighty men broke through the camp of the Philistines, drew water from the well of Bethlehem that was by the gate, and took it and brought it to David. Nevertheless, he would not drink it, but poured it out to the Lord. And he said, “Far be it from me, O Lord, that I should do this! Is this not the blood of the men who went in jeopardy of their lives?” Therefore he would not drink it. These things were done by the three mighty men. (2 Samuel 23:14-17)
There is strength in numbers, but in the past election the numbers weren’t on the side of those who care about Christian values. The lack of unity in the church has caused us to lose ground in the fight to keep the sanctity of marriage between a man and a woman.
This election saw residents of Minnesota, Maryland, Maine, and Washington all vote their approval of same-sex marriage. Statistics suggest that even many self-identified Christians joined in this approval, while other believers either didn’t vote or chose to remain silent on the issue in the run-up to the ballots.
Where is the wisdom in all of this? If the Bible says that the “fear of The Lord is the beginning of wisdom” (Psalm 111:10), then it is clear that as a nation we have lost the fear of God.
What changes can you make to be more effective at making and releasing disciples?
Are we making disciples surrendered to Christ and His Lordship? Though very few concrete statistics on our overall effectiveness currently exist, it’s difficult to argue in the affirmative.
What then can we do to get better at the Great Commission? Based on his considerable experience with starting churches from disciple-making small groups, Real Life Ministries founder Jim Putman has identified five paradigm shifts church leaders can make to become better at accomplishing the mission of the church. We asked him and Dave Ferguson, who also leads the church-planting network NewThing, and Community Christian Church in Chicago, to help unpack each shift and its potential impact.
How to counsel married couples through bedroom problems.
Terry and Tami seemed like the perfect married couple. They were in their 30s, attractive and successful. They’d known Pastor Phil for several years and one day came to him for counseling. As soon as they all were seated behind closed doors, Tami blurted out: “Pastor—Terry and I aren’t having sex!” Pastor Phil’s mind reeled: Not this couple. No way, he thought.
His mind instantly raced back to his Bible-school training. He could not recall any lessons he might have had on “The Sexless Marriage.” In fact, he couldn’t remember ever counseling a couple who didn’t want sex. In the end, all he could say was: “Terry, Tami—you should fast and pray.”
The article you’re reading would have come in handy for Pastor Phil. Couples like Terry and Tami avoid sex for definite reasons. After counseling for almost 20 years, I know. Let’s look at some of these obstacles.
How to leave your denomination ... for all the right reasons.
A few years ago, my wife and I felt God calling us out of our denomination into another network of churches. Being in connected relationships with like-minded pastors and churches was important enough for us to navigate the choppy watters of change.
Some said, “Stay and be salt.” Yet, I sensed no call to take my “salt” there. (I know of a Spirit-filled priest whose calling in life is “to save as many as he can before they kick him out.”) Albeit humorous, note how he is certain of his call. I could not say the same. My “salt” had been trampled on, and others who stayed to be a prophetic voice discovered that they were ignored as well.
It ought to haunt us that no county in the country has grown one percentage point in the last 35 years with regard to the number of Christians. The Lausanne Committee for World Evangelization released a report in 2005 forecasting that by 2050, in the Western world, the number of Christians will drop far below the population increase.
Being in healing ministry, I have witnessed the miraculous regularly and seen thousands touched by God each year.
I remember two times when the Lord spoke something to me out of His Word, and it gave me an insight that brought an increase for healing. The first instance happened about two years ago, and the second about a year ago.
The first came out of 2 Corinthians 4:13, where Paul said, “It is written: ‘I believed; therefore I have spoken.’ Since we have that same spirit of faith we also believe and therefore speak” (NIV).
I’d seen this Scripture many times, but when God quickened it to me, all of a sudden it took on life. All of a sudden I made this connection: Faith needs to be spoken. You can say you believe something, but if you don’t have enough faith to declare it, to speak it, there’s something that’s not released.
God created and gave us times of respite for a specific purpose that’s worth taking seriously
Scripture tells us that work is one of the things God created man to do. Effort and productivity are expected in every area of our lives. Parents strain to bring children into the world, and then for the next 20-plus years must midwife their proper acclimation into society. Businesspeople must produce materials and services that serve the public while making a profit. Pastors ... well, they seem to have no end to their job description! Whatever the responsibility, work seems to incessantly demand our attention. Yet, if regular moments of respite are not prioritized, both quality and quantity of life can diminish.
Craig Sawchuk, assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the University of Washington School of Medicine, debunks the idea that more work necessarily means a more productive life. After thousands of hours of research, He concluded that, “If you establish a more balanced lifestyle, enjoying your leisure can in fact improve the quality and quantity of your work.”
Sawchuk rediscovered the value of a balanced work/rest lifestyle. Though his discovery is noteworthy, he certainly is not the first to present it. God invented the idea of a balanced life. Genesis 2:2-3 says, “By the seventh day God completed His work which He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done. Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He rested from all His work which God had created and made” (NASB).
Note that one of God’s distinguishing attributes is that He doesn’t need to rest. Still, He thought enough of the concept He created and mandated to exemplify it by taking an entire day off so that man might understand its importance to his own well-being.
God’s emphasis on rest cannot be overstated. He created us as creatures of rhythm. Our workdays generally start and end at predictable times. After a good day’s labor, our circadian rhythms (the 24-hour cycle found in the biochemical, physiological or behavioral processes of living entities) mandate that we regularly get between five to eight hours of sleep. And we are wired to eat at semi-regular intervals.
Most of us accept and enjoy the fact that daily life is constructed so that balance can be maintained. Yet in our busy lifestyles and efforts to accomplish our to-do lists, the rhythmic priority of biblical rest too often gets overlooked.
Instead, our capableness, competency and strength often deceive us, making us believe we can routinely ignore cyclic respites. And while we may experience no immediate consequences, it’s unwise to assume that the absence of immediate discomfort means we have escaped discomfort altogether.
Even though the unfortunate effects of continually violating God’s prescription for rejuvenation and recuperation may not be quickly noticed, those results can (and will) slowly affect us. Unfortunately, most of us don’t realize this until an army of considerable strength—led by stress, heart disease, depression, high blood pressure and the like—wages war against our body, mind and soul.
The success of the assault is determined by how much time we’ll need to recover and rest. The sad thing is that in many instances, we could have avoided this assault. Even more sad is that the rest we should have regularly practiced in prior years would have been much more enjoyable than the forced recuperation required by mental and physical breakdowns.
God knew we would need routine life intermissions. He knew that each period of pause was pregnant with the well-being we would need in later years. Rest is a blessing He intended us to enjoy. We rob ourselves, and those we love, when we don’t take regular intervals to refresh and recharge.
Since most of us have the work-ethic thing down pretty good, let’s figure out how to live the rest of our lives. Live right, live well.
As senior pastor of Grace Covenant Church in Chantilly, Va., Brett Fuller also oversees another church planted from his congregation in downtown Washington, D.C. He currently serves as chaplain of the Washington Redskins, chaplain of the National Association of Basketball Coaches (NABC) and chairman of the Board for Every Nation Churches in America.
I once heard a sermon titled, "The Devil Is in the Details." Recently, I learned that saying is actually derived from an exact opposite quote, "God is in the details."
This more positive statement is attributed most often to Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, a German-born architect. But the quotation didn't originate with him; it goes back more than a thousand years.
I believe it's especially significant that the phrase comes from the architectural community. This group understands that their ability to receive divine assistance with their work is enhanced by the more strategic, focused and committed they are. The level of creativity and craftsmanship invested in their work often makes the finished product breathtaking. Think about the beauty of the Sistine Chapel. It's easy to understand the full meaning of this great architectural proverb.
It's gratifying to know that God wants to be with me in the details of my ministry as well. Sometimes it seems like "the devil" has been in my inbox for years. No matter how many times I rebuke and send him away, the next week he shows up again.
It's not a big church. It's not a new church. It's not a really old church, either. But Agape Assembly of God (AG) in Waterloo, Ind., has become a praying church--with signs and wonders following.
Pastor Tom "Nedd" Neddersen with his wife, Kim, both retirees, have pastored Agape Assembly of God in Waterloo for more than seven years. The Neddersens had spent the previous 10 years as bivocational ministers in California.
Recently, a hospital stay spurred the Neddersen's to lead their small church of about 40 members into spiritual battle through prayer and fasting.
"Back in August, we as a church started praying for the sick and our nation," Neddersen says. "I had just come out of the hospital and decided that I was sick and tired of being sick and tired."
Neddersen contacted a local AG evangelist, Tyron Moore, to come and help him to pray over the church. He also called the church to prayer and fasting starting Sept. 1 to Jan. 1. Since Sept. 1, the power of the Holy Spirit has been more than evident.
Ravaged by apostasy in the church or the pressures of ministry, many pastors have given up and have quietly fallen by the wayside in defeat. But it is possible to stand strong in your personal life and ministry.
Apostasy has silently crept into the church, seeking to strangle and kill pastors as well as those in the pew. Every year, an alarming number of ministers decide to never again go behind the pulpit. Many others have their credentials taken away by their denomination.
I can spot an Old Navy commercial from a mile away. Maybe it’s the bright colors or the almost-recognizable celebrities or perhaps the fact that I used to work at an Old Navy in Minnesota. Whatever it is, their commercials are obvious. Unfortunately, their commercials aren’t always attractive, at least not to me. They are loud in every way possible. Loud announcer. Loud music. Loud colors. Yet these commercials keep coming. Their marketing must be working.
I think pastors and church creatives can learn a few things from Old Navy’s repetition.