To say worship is a subject of great interest in the church would be an understatement. Worship is an integral part of our lives as Christians. That’s why I’m thankful for worship leaders like Matt Boswell.
Matt serves as pastor of ministries and worship at Providence Church in Frisco, Texas. He leads Doxology & Theology, a community of worship leaders commited to promoting “gospel-centered worship by connecting and equipping worship leaders.”
Everyone knows what a pleasure is. A guilty pleasure is some activity that you enjoy but over which you feel a tiny pang of regret, as though perhaps you should not be enjoying it quite as much as you do.
Okay with that?
Most of my pleasures are completely unrelated to guilt. I love a good meal, a wonderful visit with a friend, an old 1940-ish black/white movie, a ball game, an hour on the patio enjoying watermelon with my grandchildren, and a social at church with two dozen freezers of home-made ice cream in every flavor imaginable.
The Bible is clear that Christians must be “doers of the Word and not hearers only,” (James 1:22) so it’s clear that our responsibility as pastors and preachers of the Word is to challenge people to do somethingin response to what we’ve said. In other words, the goal of preaching is life change.
How can you add more application into our message to make God’s Word more doable? Always aim for a specific response.
The greatest weakness of most preaching is that the sermon has a fuzzy focus. So many sermons are vague & abstract because the pastor isn’t really clear about why he is teaching this particular message, nor does he give the audience a specific direction to go in response.
You probably know by now that being a pastor doesn’t shield you from disappointments. Sorry for the buzzkill beginning, but that’s the truth. The offerings will sometimes be less than your church expenses. The sermon you planned to preach was a lot better than the one you actually preached. People will leave your congregation for the silliest of reasons. The list could go on and on, I promise.
But the good news is that God is working at all times on our behalf in the invisible realm—although that invisibility sometimes causes us distress. So we wrestle. We admit disappointment. We engage in earnest dialogue with our God. In the end, we come around to the same vow: “I trust you, Father. I really do. And while I don’t understand what You’re doing, I know You’re guiding me. You’re still God, and You are good.”
Then Jesus said, "Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest."— Matthew 11:28
Being in any type of leadership role is a difficult task, and it can really take a toll on you. Unfortunately, I have found that it is incredibly common in ministry roles. I have the wonderful privilege of working with the high school youth group at my church. I am blessed to lead a wonderful small group of freshman and sophomore girls. But, it's not easy being a leader. It can be both energizing and draining. I'm energized when I see that my girls "get it." I'm energized when I see the relationships they develop with each other. Wondering if I am making a positive impact on their lives can be draining--emotionally and mentally. I care for these girls, and I want them to grow in their faith.
Jesus says that we can come to him and find rest. The rest Jesus is talking about is not just physical rest but emotional, mental, and spiritual rest. It's rest for your soul. I long for that type of rest.
In order to find that rest, I need to acknowledge my burdens and hand them over to Jesus. That's the difficult part. I want to have rest, but it is so hard to let go of the things that mean so much to me. I want to be in control--as if the more I do, the more I can influence the outcome. I can never be the leader that God desires me to be unless I remember his role in all of it. I must trust that he will take care of things. The outcome of my small group is ultimately up to God and not me. He just calls me to be involved in ministering to his people.
Are you in a ministry role? Do you feel as if you constantly have to work harder to impress people and to have your ministry grow? Have you really let go and handed the ministry over to God, allowing him to work in your life? Give it over to him. It won't be easy, but only God can allow it to thrive. Spend time alone with him, give him your burdens, and he will give you rest.
Habits impact churches much more than they realize. In fact, many churches are stuck because of bad habits.
Charles Duhigg writes in The Power of Habit, “Most of the choices we make each day may feel like the products of well-consumed decision making, but they’re not. They’re habits. And though each habit means relatively little on its own ... over time the way we organize our thoughts and routines has enormous impacts.”
Lately, I have noticed four recurring bad habits developed by teams with no clear ministry strategy.
It's Sunday afternoon, and you have just delivered a powerful, life-changing message to your congregation. However, Sister Million Questions and Brother Doesn't Understand have cornered you again. They didn't understand your message even though they had shouted amen the loudest.
Sound familiar? This scenario takes place in more churches than we might realize or care to admit.
I was talking to a friend the other day about some of the stresses bi-vocational pastors face that are unique. During our brainstorming session, we hit upon one that struck a chord—guilt.
You might recognize some of these thoughts:
1. I must be doing something wrong because ...
2. I have to work a second job.
3. My church isn’t growing.
4. I can’t afford to pay my staff a full salary.
5. Even I get bored during my sermons.
6. We haven’t had a baptism in a year.
7. I can’t get enough workers to …
Moses knew he was special. His entire story said that he was chosen by God for a purpose. Then he messed up. His life didn’t go according to his plan, and he ended up on the backside of nowhere for 40 years. Yup. He probably thought he had his chance and it was gone. Now he just had to do his best to face today.
Then God showed up. If you take time to read Moses' interactions with God in Exodus 3-7 and 14, you will find how Moses dealt with guilt and lack to be the person God called him to be.
1. He was honest with God. Moses didn’t think a lot of himself, and he didn’t pretend. He brought his doubts to God and let God address them.
2. He did what God said. After God addressed his fears and concerns, Moses moved forward.
3. He came back to God with more doubts. Seriously—Moses didn’t just hear what God said and did it. Every little wrinkle brought him back to God: “They won’t listen ... ; he won’t listen ... ”
4. He expected God to fix the problems. Once he brought things to God, problems didn’t hit Moses the same way. When things went wrong, he returned to God with the problem. It is almost like he kept coming back, saying, “I told you this wouldn’t work. What’s next?”
5. He let God be his strength. Moses took hit after hit. People didn’t listen, then they did and later deserted. Pharaoh kept promising compliance and reneging. Instead of feeling there must be something wrong with him, Moses did his part and brought it all back to God.
If you are walking around under a load of guilt, is it possible God isn’t the one doing all the work? He called you. He put you in this impossible situation—not so that you could feel the pain or win the war, but so that He would be glorified and His kingdom would grow.
As a coach, I talk to pastors who have hit the wall a lot. One of the best things you can do when you hit the wall of guilt is to remember how you got here. It is entirely possible that, like Moses and the 10 plagues, you are supposed to go through a time when you discover what doesn’t work before you find what does. It is also possible that God is doing work you haven’t seen yet.
Now it is your turn. In the comments below, please help us answer this question: How would you know if your frustration is God’s opportunity or just a mistake?
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 deepimprints.com. She writes a weekly column for ministrytodaymag.com.
Great leaders expect the best in people, and bad leaders expect the worst. Rinse and repeat.
Over the years, I’ve worked with a number of leaders who think leadership means constant criticism, ordering people around, snarky comments and humiliation. Those leaders (although I don’t think they’re real leaders at all) actually expect the worst in people, and that’s why they treat their teams so badly.
These leaders respond to everything as if you’re trying to cheat them. They use exclamation marks in all their communication. They’re always upset about something.
Change is hard, almost always. Sometimes change is harder than other times.
It’s then where leadership is tested. Tensions can mount. And people are more likely to object.
It’s good to know these times before a leader approaches change. Change is necessary. In fact, while change may produce conflict, without change there will be conflict. Read this post for more on that statement.
Since change is necessary and inevitable, understanding these scenarios before we attempt change may help us lead change better.
Here are five times I’ve discovered that change is hardest to accept and implement:
One of your most important roles as a pastor is as vision-caster. Sharing the vision of your church can’t be a one-time event.
The Bible says, “If people can’t see what God is doing, they stumble all over themselves” (Prov. 29:18, MSG).
As the leader, God has called you to help your congregation see what God is doing in your midst. That’s why you must continually put the vision of your church before your congregation—at least every 26 days. That’s the Nehemiah Principle.
A tree is identified by its fruit. Figs never grow on thornbushes, nor grapes on bramble bushes. A good person produces good things from the treasury of a good heart, and an evil person produces evil things from the treasury of an evil heart. What you say flows from what is in your heart.— Luke 6:44-45
The British Museum in London received an ancient artifact, a painted rock, in 2005. Titled "Early man venturing towards the out-of-town hunting grounds," it featured animals, a man, and a curious tool. After being on display for three days, the museum removed the artifact from its exhibit. It turned out that the "curious tool" painted on the rock was a shopping cart! A notorious hoax artist was responsible for getting it into the museum, where it remained until experts realized the piece was a fake.
People have the ability to show a certain personality on the outside while being something different internally. And just like the museum's "artifact," one's outward personality can be seen as legitimate if concealed well enough. However, there will come a time when something--a phone call, a speeding driver, a crisis--will expose the person's true identity. The hoax-life will be revealed. Unless our outward appearance matches our inward appearance, we will be exposed for who we are inwardly.
Jesus said, "A good tree can't produce bad fruit, and a bad tree can't produce good fruit" (Luke 6:43).
Likewise, a person claiming to know Jesus as Forgiver and Leader should not go around berating or threatening his or her coworkers. These attitudes diminish one's potential witness for the Lord, giving those who don't know Jesus "valid" reasons not to believe him. Sooner or later our outward appearances will drown out our inward claims. We should be doing our best to exhibit Christ in the most positive light we can. Otherwise, our words and actions will be revealed as hypocritical.
Let's be real--to ourselves, to others, and to God--and help others to be the same. That way, the only inward thing that will be exposed is the Lord we love and follow.
While flipping through an old Moleskine this morning, I found some of my scribbled notes that described not three, but four skills all pastors must discover and constantly develop for the rest of their lives.
Here’s a remix of the original three, plus a fourth.
Here in America, we emphasize equal rights and fairness. Nobody gets special privileges because of where or to whom they were born. Nobody gets to cut to the front of the line.
If you get to pick first today, it’s only fair that I get to pick first tomorrow. It’s a level playing field for everybody because nobody is better or more privileged than anyone else. It’s a great system.
The problem comes when we transfer this way of seeing to the Creator of the universe. We sing, “Jesus is my friend.” And He is. We celebrate that “Jesus is the servant of all.” And He is.
There are few vocations that can engender burnout like the pastorate. The demands on a pastor’s time, emotions and energy can be overwhelming. When I was a pastor, I often felt at least the symptoms of burnout.
I recently spoke with 17 pastors who had experienced burnout or who felt they came precariously close to burnout. The good news about these pastors is that they moved out of burnout, and now they are re-engaging in exciting and visionary ministries.
So I asked them the obvious question: What did you do to reverse the dark spiral of burnout? The question was open-ended, so they could respond with as many answers as they desired. When it was all said and done, I tabulated 12 different responses from the 17 pastors. Obviously, many of them gave similar answers.
Read any leadership book today and within the first few pages you’ll hear about the critical function of vision in your organization. To lead effectively without a shared vision is simply not possible.
But sharing the vision takes skill. And sewing vision into the hearts of those I lead is a skill I continue to refine.
Recently, our fpKIDS team worked together to craft 5-to-6 simple, vision-driven phrases. Why? It’s because our greatest opportunity to connect with volunteers and parents is on the weekend … amidst the hustle and bustle of church services.
Any church that doesn’t change in response to the change in culture, community or context will eventually cease to exist. Any church that wants to stay around and keep its doors open will make constant and subtle changes along the way.
How should that change take place?
1. In response to a new “God vision.” God cares about those perishing in your community far more that you and your church do. So God is all-in for the changes necessary to see as many as possible come to Him. He will give a fresh vision to accomplish that to the heart of a humble and passionate leader.
It’s a simple message backed up by simple behaviors and a better knowledge of life or pursuit. In many contexts, you wouldn’t think twice about it.
A mom says it to a naïve child mesmerized by red-hot fire. Tiger Woods addresses you on how to get lift from a golf ball in a sand trap. B.B. King shows you a trick to get the guitar sound you want. Bill Gates says, “I have a new technology idea.”
The normal response in the face of greater knowledge and insight is to listen, learn and apply. Their knowledge transcends your own, and only a fool would deign to say, “Thanks, but no thanks. I got this one.”