I realize it has been almost a year since my last post. In October my dear friend Doug, went home to be with the Lord. It was a difficult year of ER visits, hospital rooms, and Cancer center visits. His passing turned my world upside down. I am now learning to live in an upside down world. Things are now different and I am in the process of finding new ways to handle my personal life. Doug was a big part of my emotional health. He kept me “tethered” and grounded. I miss his input into my world, but life here continues.
Charles Spurgeon once said “By perseverance the snail reached the ark.” I think sometimes we forget how important it is to keep faithfully plugging away in the place that God has called us. Too many times we are always focusing on the “next big thing or program”. We all know those pastors that every time you ask them about their church, they explain the latest “program” they are promoting. You don’t hear many Pastors talk about the mundane but necessary aspects of ministry.
The Bible talks about the idea of “line upon line, and precept upon precept.” I think sometimes we as Pastors forget about the idea of simply plugging away and being faithful to the task we are called to do. Jeremiah is a great example of a servant who continued in spite of his lack of external success. Don’t get me wrong, I am not against success and growth. I just wonder sometimes if the tools that we use to measure success are not Biblically based. “It is required, that we be faithful”
THOT: Are you focused on faithfulness as a measure of successful ministry? Have you become “numbers” or “program” focused? God desires our faithfulness. Stay faithful this year!
Posted in Ministry, Personal Growth, Uncategorized | Tagged pastoral ministry |
Don’t get me wrong, I genuinely love what I do. I have a great church, a wonderful group of people that I get to minister to every week. These people love us and are more like a family than congregation. When I make this statement I am talking about things that are happening in my personal life rather than ministry life.
Maybe some explanation will shed some light on my current status. About 25 years ago God brought a couple into our lives. These 2 people have become more than family. We meet each week, we vacation together and we have raised our kids together. For me it is a Jonathan/David kind of friendship. I realize that as a Pastor I am incredibly blessed to have a relationship like this. Our friends attend a different church and are involved in serving in that ministry. In fact, when they were looking for a new church home, I told them not to come to our church. I explained that I wanted to be their friend and not their “Pastor”.
And that brings me to my dilemma. My friend is a 4 time survivor of colon cancer. He was first diagnosed over 22 years ago and we have been with them through this whole journey. He had his colon removed 2 1/2 years ago and we thought the battle was over. Last month he was diagnosed for the 5th time. The situation is much more difficult this time, because it has reached other into the lymph nodes.
My wife and I are traveling this journey together with them, but we can only carry so much. As far as their spiritual care, I often find myself feeling the need to go into “pastor” mode as we talk. I don’t want to be a Pastor. I want to be a friend and that is what makes this tough. The beauty of our relationship is that I can be a friend. Don’t get me wrong, as friends we talk about spiritual things, but I do not want the responsibility of his spiritual care. I want their Pastor and I want their small group to come alongside of them. My friend and I have talked about this and are in agreement that we want our relationship to stay the same.
I don’t know if this is a common struggle, but it is definitely a struggle as we journey down this road. So I find myself in a conundrum, I love being a Pastor, but during times like this, I don’t want to be a Pastor.
THOT – As a Pastor, we are always “on call”. What practices have you developed to recharge your batteries from a job that is literally 24/7? Even Jesus pulled away from time to time to recharge, so how do you follow His example?
Posted in Personal Growth | Tagged pastoral ministry, Personal Growth |
Over the last month my wife and I have been talking about board members. Please understand, this is not about the board members that I have in our church. I could not ask for a more helpful, supportive group of people. They genuinely love me and my family and I consider all of them dear friends and co workers in the ministry God has given us. Throughout my ministry this has not always been the case. I have served as a board member and have had to work with numerous boards over the course of ministry.
I have noticed that most Board members fall into one of 2 categories. Those who see their primary role to encourage and support and those who have an agenda. I have the privilege of working with a board who all fall into the first category. The organizations we were talking about fell into the second category. People had gotten onto the board with an agenda to change some things. The things that they were seeking to change were not broken. In fact, the things that they were seeking to change were functioning very well. The problem was these people did not have accurate information, insight or understanding. They were functioning from a perspective of pride and power not service.
As my wife and I were talking, we were discussing the impact on these organizations if the board did not change directions. We discussed how it would impact other leaders within the organization. My wife with the wisdom of a Kindergarten teacher (25 years) said, “I teach my 5 year olds that they have to clean up their own mess.” Her solution was to make the board clean up its own mess.
It got me to thinking about ministry. Since I have pastored in the same place for 22+ years, most of the messes that I clean up are ones I created. I realize that many of you are in situations that you have to clean up messes or problems that were created by someone else. I realize you cannot have someone else clean up their mess, but it might be encouraging to remember that it is not your mess. It might be a good reminder to your Board that some of the struggles you face are not your own creation. You are simply assigned with the task of cleaning up someone’s mess.
THOT: When a janitor has the awful task of cleaning up after someone’s mess, we don’t criticize the janitor. We are understanding because he is simply doing a very unpleasant job. Maybe you could take encouragement in the fact that you are simply the janitor. It’s not your mess! And if you are like me and you created the mess, then my wife’s advice applies to you. “We clean up our own messes in Kindergarten.”
Posted in Leadership, Ministry | Tagged Church Boards, criticism, Leadership |
I will finish the lessons from an Air Force Officer next time, but right now I wanted to remind you of an important ministry lesson. As the weather turns to fall in Iowa, I am reminded that we are about ready to embark on a new season. That brings with it a number of things. Different clothes, different schedules, and different requirements. In Iowa, I will start to put away the summer stuff and get ready for snow, ice, and cold. The garden gets tilled under and the outdoor flower pots get moved to the greenhouse.
Just as the year has different seasons, with different requirements, so does ministry. Last month was one of those “seasons”. I had a very full schedule and some high demands on my time and emotions. In a 5 day period, I buried a child that had lived 12 hours, rejoiced with another family who had a healthy baby born and ran a youth retreat for 70 teens. I then shifted to ministry on the weekend with my preaching and teaching responsibilities. Needless to say, by the end of the week, I had no more to give. I needed a “season” to recharge. I purposely put aside a number of things the following week, so I had time to recharge.
I know that many of us struggle with “down” time. When we do get it, we feel guilty if we are not producing or doing something. I am reminded that even Jesus fell asleep in the boat due to an exhausting season of ministry. God established the seasons so the physical earth could recharge. He established time with a rhythm and cycle of day and night. I believe that ministry is no different. I am afraid that many of us try to ignore the “seasons” of ministry and we fail to plan and guard that “down” time.
I know that many of you are in the process of gearing up for the Christmas season. As I Pastor, I know how exhausting December can be. I would challenge you to take some time now to recharge and make sure you are adequately prepared for the upcoming season. A car engine that runs to the red line on a daily basis will eventually overheat and shut down. How long do you think you can “red line” your daily schedule?
THOT: Do you believe that you are exempt from needing time to recharge and refresh yourself emotionally, mentally, and spiritually? If you continue to ignore the principles that God designed for the world and mankind, what will the cost be to you and the ministry God has called you to?
Posted in Ministry | Tagged pastoral ministry |
A second lesson came immediately upon entering the dorm. The officer candidates had arrived a day early to get things in order for the training to start. Since they were not “officially” checked in, they needed to head to dinner. The problem was finding out what time they were allowed to eat. They notice 3 or 4 different schedules. Each schedule had different times posted. This made a simple task like eating very difficult. They spent time trying to figure out where they were allowed to eat and at what time. The problem was they were faced with conflicting information. therein lies the great lesson. Often when making a decision we are given incomplete information or information that contradicts itself. It is a regular part of leadership. I cannot count the number of times I have started counseling a couple when I thought I had truthful information, only to find out that one party had given me information that was “less than accurate”.
Before an Air Force Officer starts their training, they are taught that often decisions must be made with inaccurate or conflicting information. I would like to remind you that ministry is no different. We are often called upon to make the best decision possible with the information we have. Sometimes those decisions need to be made quickly, other times we have the time to gather more information. At some point, the decision must be made. At that moment, we make the best decision we can make and we go forward. We made need to evaluate and even change our decision, but we always learn from the process.
THOT – How much time do you spend beating yourself up over a bad decision? How many times have you made a decision, only to find out later that the information you were given was “less than accurate”? Good leadership makes a decision based on the most accurate information at the moment, realizing necessity is forcing an immediate decision.
Posted in Leadership | Tagged decisions, Leadership |
My youngest son recently received a commission to become an Air Force Officer. He started his training and has been sharing with me many of the things he is experiencing. As a Pastor I spend a large amount of time teaching and learning principles for effective leadership. As he has been telling me of his experiences, I have been focusing on the lessons to be learned from his experiences. For the next few blogs, I thought I would share some of those applications.
Upon entering his dorm area, there was a stack of books with each candidate’s name and room number on them. There was also a blank sheet of paper with a pen. The future officer’s had a decision to make. They wondered whether they should sign the paper or leave it blank. They were not given sufficient information to make a proper decision, but they had to make a decision. Some would sign it and then try to convince the rest of the group to sign it. Some refused to sign it. In the end everyone gets yelled at. The group who signed the paper was yelled at because they were not told to sign the paper. The group that did not sign the paper were yelled at because they could not use common sense and sign something that was clearly evident to be signed.
No matter what the future officers did, they got yelled at. It reminded me of an important leadership principle – No decision will please everyone. No matter what you do in leadership, someone will question your actions. It is a fact of leadership that often decisions are made with incomplete information. You simply have to make the best choice based on your experience, abilities and available information. When you make that decision – someone will be upset.
In 30 plus years of ministry, I have made a number of unpopular decisions. Some were good decisions and others were bad. In every case, people got upset and I have heard my share of yelling over the years. The Air Force teaches future officers on day 1 that your decisions will be second guessed. They will be criticized and you will be yelled at. You simply have to make the best decision you can make.
THOT – How many times do you allow people to encourage you to second guess your decisions? Do you really believe you can make a decision that will keep everyone happy? Have you convinced yourself that you are a poor leader because people do not agree with your decisions? Leadership is difficult and not for the faint of heart.
Posted in Leadership, Ministry | Tagged criticism, decisions, Leadership |
I love to fish, but don’t get to do it as often as I like. One of my favorite spots is a small farm pond located about 5 miles from my home. I have fished it enough over the years, that I know where most of the fish are located. I know the right lures to use and usually come home having caught something, but many days, even with my knowledge and experience, I can be wrong. I am currently teaching through a series on the Miracles of Christ. While studying the miracle of the fish in Luke 5:1-11, I was exposed to a concept I had previously missed. The commentator brought out the fact that Jesus knew where the fish were. He knew their exact location (omniscient) or He knew their various locations and called them into the net (omnipotence). He was never wrong!
That thought got me to thinking about my ministry in this rural area. For the most part, I minister in an obscure location. Neighbors are measured by miles, not feet. Farms are located in quarter sections of 160 acres, not city blocks or subdivisions. One of the hazards of rural ministry is that you start to wonder if you are forgotten in the kingdom. This week I will be attending a worldwide leadership seminar and the focus will be on the great things happening in the kingdom of God. The problem is that most of these things will be large and involve hundreds and even thousands of people. It is easy to start to fall into the trap of comparisons and that is never wise.
This passage reminded me of the fact that God knew where the fish where. He was aware of every fish and its location. He either put them together or called them into the one place. Either way, God knew. In a rural ministry, this should be a tremendous encouragement. What you are going through, where you are, matters to God . These things are of importance to God. He has placed us in these places to effectively minister and nothing we are experiencing is taking Him by surprise. If He knows the location of fish and tracks the birds, then the things that happen in our world is also vitally important to Him.
THOT – Have you fallen into the trap of comparing yourself with others? Have you forgotten that God is aware of your situation and has not forgotten you? If He knows where the fish are, then I can guarantee that He knows what you are going through in ministry as well.
Posted in Uncategorized |