You know the feeling—you see her coming and you want to turn away.
Mary is in your church. Something isn’t quite right with her. Sometimes she seems balanced, lucid and smart. Other times she is really off. She might have strong mood swings, flow in and out of psychotic episodes, or she could have one of dozens of mental illnesses.
The bottom line is that you (and most everyone else) feel uncomfortable around her, and with that discomfort comes frustration and sometimes guilt.
MarriageToday’s Jimmy and Karen Evans know firsthand that even the most seemingly hopeless marriages can be resurrected and restored
Twenty years ago in April 1993, a 39-year-old pastor woke up from a dream at 3 a.m., feeling like he’d heard from God.
“I saw my wife, Karen, and I sitting on a TV set talking to people about marriage,” says Jimmy Evans, founder and CEO of the international ministry MarriageToday. “I just had a strong impression in my heart that God wanted us to do a TV ministry that was very compassionate, excellent and about marriage.”
The next two mornings, he awoke from the same dream. But not unlike other leaders who receive a calling, Evans told God, “I’m not qualified. You need to find someone else.”
Still, he knew he’d heard from God and shared his dreams with Karen and the elders of Trinity Fellowship in Amarillo, Texas, where he has served as senior leader for 30 years to date. As he continued to pray about it, Jimmy says God gave him several promises and began to fulfill them. A little more than a year later, Jimmy and Karen had produced several pilot programs as a result.
How do you and your wife keep your marriage prioritized above ministry? What is your greatest challenge in keeping your marriage strong? What is and isn’t working in your church to reach couples and strengthen their marriages?
We asked a group of pastors these questions and more. What follows are their insightful responses, as these leaders give us an inside look at how they pursue marriage and deal with the inevitable struggles, as well as how they’re leading their churches to help build marriages. And we are richer for their experience.
Pastor, you set the tone and atmosphere in your congregation. If you want to know the warmth of your church, put the thermometer in your own mouth.
I’ve visited some churches where the pastor’s lack of love is the main reason the church isn’t growing. Some pastors, by their cold demeanor and lack of personal warmth, virtually guarantee that visitors won’t come back. And in some larger churches, I’ve gotten the impression that the pastor loves an audience but doesn’t like people.
Great preaching without love is just noise in God’s view. Every time I speak to at Saddleback, I repeat a simple reminder to myself. I never preach or teach without thinking this:
I have told my son, who is a young pastor, “There are just two things you need to do: Love God and love people.” If you do these two things, you will not go too far astray.
Many younger pastors immediately try to assert their authority because they feel insecure. They try to change things overnight, do not respect the DNA of the church, and run over people. I did some of that as a younger pastor.
On one occasion an issue came up, and I was out of sorts. Fortunately, there was an older person on the board who would listen to me vent. He sat in my office about 45 minutes before one Sunday evening service while I vented. If the board did not go along with me, I was going directly to the membership. After all, more people had come to the church under my leadership than under the previous pastor. It was going to be the board or me. He did two things: He listened to me without rebuking me, and he kept confidence.
A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to lead a breakout session at Lifeway’s Kids Ministry Conference 2012 titled "The Non-Confrontationalist’s Guide to Confrontation."
I thoroughly enjoyed this conversation, primarily because no matter the context, no matter the size, no matter the organizational structure … leading through conflict is one of the most important things we do.
In this session, I unpacked three reasons why you should choose to lean into conflict rather than step back from it. And I shared four steps I use to lead through conflict. I believe everyone can be a better leader by applying these simple steps.
Yes, someone needs to eventually make a decision. But if you want to fully engage the people on your team, you have to routinely ask the magic question: “What do you think?”
People want to contribute to the conversation. They want to be part of the big decisions. Don’t worry if you don’t take their advice every time. That’s not their expectation either. They just want to know their voice has been heard.
People Are Different
There are certainly some folks who appreciate a more directive style of leadership, who say, “Just tell me what to do, and I’ll go get it done.” Those people will value your decisiveness.
“What do I do when the former youth pastor is still attending our church?”
I get this question from time to time and have actually had to work in this environment in both of the churches I’ve served in over the past 20 years.
Sometimes the former youth pastor takes a promotion and ends up a worship pastor or the director of a regional campus. Maybe they were a key volunteer holding together the ministry during transition until you stepped into the role.
In larger churches, he or she might have been promoted to the student ministries pastor and you take over a junior high or high school ministry. In any case, contending with the former head of a youth ministry you are now charged to lead can be unsettling, challenging or even painful.
Anytime we exalt the men of God above the God of men, the church has been charmed. I thoroughly and wholeheartedly believe in honoring deserving men and women of God. This is right and well pleasing in the sight of the Lord. Paul instructs us in the Book of Romans to give honor where honor is due. Quite honestly, honor is a rare commodity in many Christian circles nowadays. We would do well if we practiced giving honor to those who merit it more. But trouble is on the horizon when we exalt our leaders as if they are Gods and give glory to them that is due the Lord. Men can and should be honored, but they must never be worshipped.
When I was learning to drive, I lived in the country. Roads were narrow, one lane in each direction.
One of the first things you learn when driving in tight quarters is to keep your eye on the right edge of the road. The problem is that you tend to steer where you are looking. If your eyes are on the headlights coming at you, chances are high that you will steer your car right into the oncoming traffic.
What does this have to do with church leadership? What your leadership team focuses on and where you spend your energy will impact your entire congregation.
I was out for a run for the first time in months. A “runner’s injury" to my right foot has been slow in healing. It was great to be off the exercise bike and back outside!
While I was out, another runner passed by me in the other direction and greeted me with a cheery “Hey, keep going!” and a big smile. It was a lifting moment and brought a smile to my face. The next runner passed by within inches of me. I offered a cheerful “Hey!” and he never looked up. The difference was staggering.
That moment was a fresh reminder of how much I appreciate people with a positive and cheerful spirit. They bring life! Others steal life. Both options can take place in a moment.
I spent three days recently at a cabin with five other pastors, holding what we call a roundtable.
I’m from California. We met in Illinois, where there was a blizzard one day and the temperature hit minus 7 degrees one night. I didn’t care. What we were doing was so important, we didn’t need to go outside. We do this every year. We plan to continue doing it until our last days of ministry.
Here’s why I’m involved in a roundtable:
1. These guys inspire me. They’re my friends, all are pastors, and seeing how they live out their commitment to God inspires me. There aren’t too many people who do what we do. One of the guys lost his wife and best friend to cancer in the same year. Another adopted and is raising four high-risk children. A third runs triathlons. All of them are devoted to their wives and to walking in close quarters with Christ. During dark seasons in my ministry, I think of them and it boosts my determination to keep going.
Our church was in the middle of a building project, and the new sanctuary was almost done. On Sunday morning I overheard a board member: “We should never have given her (the pastor’s wife) the authority to pick out the color. That isn’t white. It’s pink!”
This was my first building project, but it wasn’t my last. There is something about aesthetics that brings out the best and the worst in us. Whether it is the color of the carpet, the style of the pew, the genre of the artwork or angle of the lighting; for every decision there is a myriad of opinions. How can you stay positive when people are lined up on all sides, ready to shoot?
Paul exhorted the Philippians to rejoice in the Lord. When trials, troubles and disagreements come, we have to make a choice to focus on the positive. Disagreement isn’t the problem.
God has given you a fantastic team at work. Your team might be small—family members, or a few volunteers. Maybe you are blessed to serve at a church large enough to afford a full staff. Regardless, God has given you a team. Even if you have to search to find them, they are there.
People are unique. If they were all the same, we could just give each one a function and expect amazing results. Instead, personalities get in the way. This person brings the fun, that person is very concerned about details … and each thinks the other is … annoying.
Your job is to help these people become who God created them to be and to help them gel as a team. How can you make the most of this fantastic resource and help these dedicated people reach their full potential?
Last Monday I walked by this secluded beach in Ko Olina in Hawaii. Without the clean soft breeze, the chirping birds, the sound of waves splashing on the rocks, and the scent of the blue ocean … pictures like these are … well … just pictures.
No matter how beautiful this spot was it is of little value because I had no one to share it with. The Bible is indeed correct when it declares, “it is not good for man to be alone.”
It’s funny how we work ourselves to death and take for granted what actually matters, our closest relationships. I could only wish Marie was with me at that particular moment. Life is meant for sharing.
Life is composed of multiple moments that are here for a while and then are gone. Makes you think of how important each moment we have with the people we love have to be maximized and taken advantage of. Life is meant for sharing.
“All of you together are Christ’s body, and each of you is a part of it.” (1 Cor. 12:27, NLT)
A church family moves you out of self-centered isolation. The local church is the classroom for learning how to get along in God’s family. It is a lab for practicing unselfish love.
As a participating member, you learn to care about others and share the experiences of others: “If one part of the body suffers, all the other parts suffer with it. Or if one part of our body is honored, all the other parts share its honor” (1 Cor. 12:26 NCV).
Only in regular contact with ordinary, imperfect believers can we learn real fellowship and experience the New Testament truth of being connected with and dependent on each other.
Yep, it happened again. You are in the doghouse, and this time, you really messed up.
The worst part is that you were trying! There are days (and sometimes weeks) when we seem to offend people with surprising regularity. Sometimes, it is because we didn’t have enough information or the skills to handle a situation.
Sometimes we mess up because we genuinely sinned. Sometimes, our “mess-up” is really someone else’s sensitivity. Relationships are important to us, and when we mess up, it is important to deal with it properly.
Remember high school science? Even in the most controlled environment, every scientific experiment result must take into account a plus or minus three percent for human error. This means that, even in the most controlled environment, you are going to mess up at least three percent of the time. Since life isn’t controlled, that number is sure to be much higher.
So, given the fact that you can’t get through life without making a mistake, what do you do when you really mess up?