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.
Pastor Andrew closed the door to his study and leaned against the hard wood, letting out a long breath. A ball of anxiety grew inside his mind, threatening to shut down all functions.
There are times when that ball of anxiety threatens to overwhelm us. It might be because we have overwhelming responsibilities or because people problems loom. The anxiety can also grow from bills or that feeling that we are missing something.
Have you ever noticed how fear takes over your brain? What starts as a niggling feeling in the back of your mind soon has you comatose in front of the television, hoping to drown out the cacophony of "what ifs."
Simeon was righteous and devout. What distinguished him from other people who were righteous and devout was that the Holy Spirit was with him. This seemingly ordinary man was living a supernatural life simply because the Holy Spirit was on Him:
“Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was on him”(Luke 2:25).
Gilian made the point that the Bible makes no reference to the word supernatural. He said that the supernatural was simply a byproduct of the presence of the Holy Spirit in one’s life. It is the same Holy Spirit that supernaturally impregnated a normal teenager named Mary. It was also the Holy Spirit who visited the ordinary and normal men and women on that fateful day of Pentecost.
The pastor had been called from his rural church to another part of the country. He was excited about the new challenge, as he well should have been. In a parting comment to a friend, he assessed the state of spirituality of the church members he was leaving behind:
“There is enough ignorance in this county to ignorantize the whole country.”
What happens when a pastor gets called to a church like that? A church where the members and leaders alike do not know the Word of God and have no idea of how things should be done (what Paul called “how one ought to conduct himself in the household of God,” 1 Tim. 3:15) or why it all matters?
Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel and Jeshua son of Jehozadak responded by starting again to rebuild the Temple of God in Jerusalem. And the prophets of God were with them and helped them.— Ezra 5:2
The term guru has become a description of a person so knowledgeable on a subject that people seek him or her out for advice. These individuals are often depicted as sitting alone on a mountaintop, waiting for someone to stop by for some wisdom. And when the time comes to share, their answers are brief and filled with multiple levels of understanding.
However, leadership does not come from dispensing mysterious advice. Nor, to be more exact, does it come from acting in isolation. God created people to be creatures of community, and within that network of relationships come opportunities to allow others to challenge and encourage each other regardless of title or distinction.
Zerubbabel learned this while attempting to rebuild the Temple after the exiles returned to Jerusalem. Some of the Levites were distraught and wept when the foundation was laid, knowing this version wouldn't be as magnificent as the one Solomon built. Meanwhile, Israel's enemies wanted to help with the building, but when Zerubbabel told them no, they used their power and persuasion to stop construction for sixteen years.
During this time, Zerubbabel could have given up on the whole project. However, two individuals offered him advice and help: the prophets Haggai and Zechariah. Not only did they prophesy to the people, but they also helped get the project back on track again. Their advice and encouragement helped Zerubbabel and the people to complete the Temple despite all the opposition.
Not only do leaders need to be able to encourage others, but they also need to find their own consistent sources of encouragement. This doesn't mean that a "guru" needs to be found. Instead, a leader needs to find trusted people who will listen, pray, and offer advice as God directs them to. Leaders flourish under consistent counsel. Now that's good advice!
All of us who lead in a church understand the cost of doing ministry—the financial cost, that is. We know our budgets and the limits of what we can afford or not afford.
However, many pastors and leaders are allowing some intangible costs to rob them now, and the net result will be devastating if these “costs” are not cut.
1. A complaining culture. We all know what this means. It’s that thing that says, “It’s not my way, so I’m going to complain about it.” Your church can’t afford that. You have to teach your people and get it into your DNA that people simply can’t complain. You want your people to be about 80 percent happy. When people are 80 percent happy, you know you’re reaching all kinds of people. The second people get 100 percent happy, you will only reach those just like them. Here’s the thing: Teach your people that they can’t complain about the 20 percent they’re not happy with. It’s suffocating to your church and your vision. The cost is too high.
Jesus was definitely an iconoclast, continually challenging the conventional thinking of His day. Twenty different times, Jesus said, “You’ve heard it said ... but I say to you ... ” And even today, His thoughts on leadership go against the grain.
Most modern books on leadership, whether Christian or secular, give the same advice: Be confident, never admit fear, maintain control and be composed, be convincing and never show weakness. But Jesus had a different style altogether. Instead of leading from a position of strength (lording authority over people), Jesus led from a position of weakness, becoming a servant.
The term profiling is relatively new in today's vocabulary. It became nationally popular in the early 80s, when the public suspected and targeted a person, or persons, on the basis of some characteristic, behavior, color, race or religion. This has become known as profiling, usually carrying a negative connotation.
Before jumping into biblicalprofiling, which is a major step in God's direction, let me share with you my horrifying experience of personalprofiling. I speak from an event sketched in my memory forever. This is a story I'd rather not relive, but I will offer it up for your benefit and to lay a firm foundation for the value of profiling others.
The power of accountability sets the tone in any organization.
So, what about when someone completely drops the ball?We all have experienced this as leaders. I know I have. How do you respond?
You give a big assignment or project to someone on your team, and they lay an egg—totally drop the ball and don’t get it done. We’ve all been there. I know I have, both as the goat who goofed up, as well as the one in charge trying to figure out how to handle the situation.
So, how do you handle it? Let’s look at this situation from both sides—both the one who dropped the ball and the one in charge.
I absolutely believe that divine judgment is in the earth today, and I reject the teaching that states that from the cross until the Second Coming, God’s wrath will not be poured out on the earth. There is a substantial amount of New Testament evidence that stands against this doctrine.
At the same time, we better be very careful before we start calling specific events “divine judgment.” It is dangerous and unwise to bear false witness about the Lord.
Recently, a caller to my Line of Fire radio broadcast stated that the Boston Marathon bombing was a divine judgment, one of the main causes being the legalizing of same-sex “marriage” in Massachusetts in 2004.
I’ve been helped by a lot of books in my lifetime. The Bible has helped me more than any other book—by several orders of magnitude.
Here is what the Bible claims it can do for you:
1. It will inspire you. When I read the story of David killing his giant enemy with nothing but five stones and a sling, I start to think that maybe I can conquer the giants in my life. When I read the story of Daniel rising to become prime minister of a large foreign country, I think maybe I can do a little more than I am right now.
For who would begin construction of a building without first calculating the cost to see if there is enough money to finish it? Otherwise, you might complete only the foundation before running out of money, and then everyone would laugh at you.— Luke 14:28-29
One of the most recognizable landmarks in Washington, D.C., is the Washington Monument. This 555-foot tall obelisk in the middle of town provides a spectacular view of the city and surrounding areas. It also has a rather fascinating story regarding its construction.
Work on the monument began in 1848, but six years later, members of the Know-Nothing Party (the nickname of the American Party) stopped the flow of funds, leaving an unsightly stump in the middle of town. It would be 25 years before construction resumed. Visitors can take note of this by looking at the color of the marble used in the building. A lighter shade is used for the first third of the monument, while the remaining section is darker.
I'm thankful that the Washington Monument was completed. It wouldn't look too good unfinished! And neither will our Christian lives if we don't consider the cost of following Christ.
With a large crowd following, Jesus told a story illustrating how costly faith is. No one would build a tower or go to war without first considering whether the endeavor would be successful. If the builder decided to plunge into these activities with reckless abandon, the results would be disastrous. Faith is not just reserved for church services but has a part in every decision we make at work, at home, and at school. It affects our choices of entertainment, our comments to other people, and how we spend our spare time. It reveals what our true beliefs about God are.
The cost of being a follower of Christ is immense. In fact, judging from the parable of the treasure hidden in the field (Matt. 13:44), the cost is total. But it pays huge dividends in the end. And we will be complete, instead of unfinished.
The late great American preacher Clarence McCartney recounted ministering at the funeral of a young husband. He stood by the coffin and listened as the young widow poured out her soul in grief. Finally he said to her: “God will give you strength and faith, and out of this will come good.”
“No,” she answered, “good will not come out of this.”
McCartney later reflected that no matter how much God wills it, good would never come to that widow unless she also willed it.
When ministering in a church, the prophet should have a specific area the Lord has revealed that needs correction. Jesus gave each church a specific place of constructive criticism.
It’s important at this stage to determine if the message should be given to the senior leader publicly or privately. Most words of correction should be judged by leadership before their delivery over the congregation. The interpretation and application of the prophetic word is at the discretion of the senior leader. The senior leader must filter the partial, progressive and conditional part of the prophecy.
Time magazine for May 20, 2013, devotes an entire page to “assessing the creative spark,” a rarity in newsmagazines.
Now, I’m no authority on creativity or anything else, but I have long been fascinated by the subject and attuned to writings dealing with it.
“Creativity is that ineffable match-strike, that flash in the dark that comes to you from, well, it’s hard to say where. You can’t summon it on demand, though inclining your mind to a task does help.” —Time (Jeffrey Kluger, writer)
I know a little about this right-brain activity, being a preacher, a writer, a cartoonist and a storyteller.
Here’s something of what I have learned about creativity:
Just because I’m a pastor, that doesn’t mean I don’t continually learn things about God. It’s a daily process for everyone. Here are some things that I have learned or am learning about our Heavenly Father:
Sometimes God opens doors simply to show me that He can. I’ve seen it many times. God seemed to provide an opportunity, only to later make it clear that’s not the right one for this time. It’s always though an encouragement than when He is ready He can and will make a way.
God’s plan for my life is always bigger than mine. Every. Single. Time. I have underestimated Him all my life. You’d think I’d learn.
I’ve been called a lot of things in my life but I never thought I’d be called the “Anti-Fat Pastor.” Not me, the one who for years wouldn’t go to bed until I’d eaten my nightly giant bowl of ice cream as I sat in my La-Z-Boy™ recliner.
“The Anti-Fat Pastor,” who me? The one who weighed in at 340 pounds and suffered with high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes? Wow! Has my life changed!
Someone once said a journey begins with the first step. My journey began with a prayer to God for guidance with my weight and health issues. My first step was the decision to live better once my heart was impressed with a passage from the scriptures that would inspire me to change.
Have you ever thought about the fact that the biggest giant David ever faced was not on the battlefield but actually the one in the mirror? In an idle, unguarded moment, the “man after God’s own heart” left his spiritual mindset to pursue “forbidden fruit”–if but for a fleeting moment. That’s all it took. The luster of his kingdom would be forever tarnished. David’s biographers have used different phrases to describe the consequences of the king’s fatal attraction to Bathsheba:
Charles Gulston observes, “he fell a great distance.”
F.B. Meyer considered it “the sin of his life.”
Chuck Swindoll called it “the most distressing episode in David’s life.”