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Let me confess something to you, something that even Ellen might not be aware of. I’m in a bromance with Richard Rohr. I might have to read everything he’s ever written. To be really open and vulnerable to you, I’ve been in such a relationship two times before. The first was with Thomas Merton, and the second with Henri Nouwen. Merton, Nouwen, and now Rohr. All Catholics. Can anything good come from Rome…apparently so.

In chapter two of Falling Upward A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life, Rohr is tracing the pattern of heroes in classic literature, defines a hero according to classic literature, and then contrasts that definition to how we currently define a hero in our western culture. Interesting stuff. Rohr says,

“This classic tradition of a true “hero” is not our present understanding at all. The classic hero is one who “goes the distance,” whatever that takes, and then has plenty left over for others. To seek one’s own American Idol fame, power, salary, or talent might historically have made one famous, or even infamous, but not a hero or heroine.” p. 20

This made me think of you the pastor, or anyone else for that matter, but mostly you the pastor. You want to go the distance. You are going the distance. Whatever it takes. And it can take a lot.

The great Desmond Tutu once said, “We are just light bulbs and our only job is to stay plugged in.”

As you and I strive to make our personal intimacy with Jesus the main thing in our lives we will not only find ourselves filled, but also have plenty left over for others.

Be a classic hero.

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In December 2008, LifeWay Research conducted a survey of 15,000 adults for the North American Mission Board to try to determine which of 13 approaches is the best-received when a church wants to be heard.

The best-received means of “marketing” one’s church is the personal invitation. The survey found that 67 percent of Americans thought a personal invitation from a family member would be at least somewhat effective in getting them to visit a church. Additionally, 63 percent said they would respond favorably to an invitation from a friend or neighbor.

Nearly two-thirds would be willing to receive information about a local congregation or faith community from a family member, while 56 percent would be willing to receive similar information from a neighbor or friend.

Although the LifeWay study is a bit dated it’s findings still seem to be true. What are you doing to cultivate an atmosphere of ‘inviters’ in your church?

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Recently a ‘friend’ of mine on Facebook shared a meme that said, “Liberals and Progressives are the new Communists and Socialists.

I don’t know if he was referring to Liberal and Progressive as a Christian ideology or Liberal and Progressive as a political ideology. I would guess both but I might be wrong. I don’t want to claim to know what this person meant when using the words liberal and progressive.

I wanted to comment and say something like, “Some people might label me a ‘progressive’ (since if you read books by progressives you automatically are a progressive), so are you calling me a Communist and Liberal?” But I didn’t. People who feel so strongly about such things that they are willing to plaster their contempt all over Facebook are unlikely to engage in a meaningful and respectful conversation, so I concluded I would be wasting my time and moved on to something else.

But did you notice that I just did the same thing? I assumed that if someone was against liberals and progressives that they also were incapable of dialoging with those they disagreed with in a meaningful and respectful way. But I was probably right. ;-)

A popular blogger and author just PM’d me and said, “I’m not progressive enough for some progressives and not evangelical enough for some evangelicals.” Believe it or not…I like that.

I commented to my blogger/author friend, not my anti-communist/progressive friend, “You are a man without a country (the title of a short story by American writer Edward Everett Hale, 1863).

I want to be a “man without a country” in the sense that titles really don’t fit me. I want to be allowed by others to be a “man without a country” without being judged or labeled liberal or progressive, or ‘evangelical’ for that matter. And, as hard as it might be, I don’t want to label others or think I know what’s going on in their heads when i don’t.

Labels are seldom a 100% accurate way of describing someone. I know of only one person who was 100% accurate when he labeled people and that was Jesus.

Do what you should do and could do. Don’t worry about what you shouldn’t do and can’t do.

The sermon preparation time is as holy as the sermon delivery time.

It’s hard to say ‘no’ to people in crisis, but sometimes you must.

Many times the things we think are so urgent are not as urgent as we think.

Someone once said, “I’ll have plenty of time to rest when I get to heaven.” That might be true and not resting just might get you there quicker.

Vision and provision go together. If you have vision but no provision wait until the provision comes. Unless, of course, God tells you to do otherwise.

As a pastor don’t ask your leaders to conform to your leadership style. Ask your leaders what style of leadership they will flourish under and you do the conforming.

Feed what you want, starve what you don’t. (I’ll leave the application up to you.)

You get what you tolerate.

There’s very few things wrong with a shorter sermon but there can be very many things wrong with a sermon that is too long.

Passion + skill + need = fruit.

You might be running fast but if you’re headed in the wrong direction you’ll only arrive where you don’t want to be sooner.

It’s amazing how quickly some Christians can get mean and nasty. If you are right, but mean and nasty, you are wrong.

Sometimes you just have to go through the motions until the motions go through you and stick and become genuine change.

Discouragement occurs when you focus more on what God isn’t doing instead of what God is doing.

What do you need to forget? What do you need to remember?

Each time we respond to the still small voice of God our spirituality advances. Be listening.

Don’t let applause go to your head nor criticism go to your heart.

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tolerate |ˈtäləˌrāt| verb [ with obj. ] to allow the existence, occurrence, or practice of (something that one does not necessarily like or agree with) without interference.

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A basic rule in life and ministry is this: You get what you tolerate.

Sometimes to tolerate something or someone is a sign of wisdom. You have to choose your battles and choose the best time to go to battle. In situations like this to tolerate means to wait. Sometimes we can jump prematurely into the battle.

But sometimes we tolerate not out of wisdom but out of fear, blindness, or laziness.

Fear. As pastors we often tolerate behavior from individuals in our church because we’re afraid of what might happen if we stop tolerating said behavior. We’re afraid of confrontation. We’re afraid that the person might cause a stink in the church (as if the stink wasn’t already there). We’re afraid we might not be liked by the person we’re tolerating. We’re afraid we might lose our jobs if the person/people hold the power and the money in the church.

(Side note: I am more and more convinced that in some situations the pastor will never be able to lead the way God wants him/her to lead, or will not be able to have a good shot at turning his/her church around until the pastor is willing to be disliked and possibly lose his/her job.)

Blindness. Sometimes the pastor just can’t see how serious a situation is. One time a pastor was telling me about a man in his church that was causing disunity. At one point the pastor said, “But Bob is basically a good guy. He really loves the Lord.”

At that point I said, “Really? It doesn’t sound to me like Bob is a good guy. It sounds to me like Bob is rebellious, prideful, and a slanderer.” After a pause the pastor said, “I guess you’re right.” It was only after the pastor was able to see the situation for what it was that we were able to develop a plan to address Bob.

Laziness. Sometimes we just don’t have the energy or drive to address things that need addressing. Maybe it’s not fair to use the word lazy. I don’t personally know any lazy pastors. Perhaps it’s more procrastination. We tend to put off the things we don’t like to do. Is it laziness or procrastination? I’ll let you decide.

Let me ask you, is there something or someone you are tolerating? You get what you tolerate. Don’t let fear, or blindness, or laziness keep you from don’t what you need to do. Put your trust in the Lord. Seek Him out for a wise plan. Be brave. Don’t tolerate what shouldn’t be tolerated.

I can help.

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Someone once said, “I’ll have plenty of time to rest when I get to heaven.” That might be true and not resting just might get you there quicker.

When one pastor was challenged about his sixty-hour work week he said, “Well I’d rather burn out than rust out.”

Me? I’d rather do neither.

Let me ask you a few questions.

  • Do you have more than one day off a week?
  • Do you work more than forty hours a week?
  • Are you out of the house at ministry related things more than two nights a week?
  • How many hours of sleep do you get each night?
  • Do you observe a personal Sabbath?
  • How many weeks a year do you take off for vacation?
  • Do you have a consistent and meaningful devotional life?
  • How often do you get away along with your spouse?
  • On a scale of 1 to 10 (1 = lowest) how stressed do you feel?
  • On a scale of 1 to 10 how busy do you feel?
  • Does your spouse feel you are working too little, too much, just right?
  • On a scale of 1 to 10 how much margin is there in your week, your month, your life?

I hope you do get to rest once you get to heaven, but your loved ones don’t want you to get there prematurely. It’s better to neither burn out or rust out. What adjustments could you make in your life to move you towards greater rest? What small thing could you start with?

I can help you become a better pastor in less time.

 

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If I saw you as God sees you what would I see? If you saw me as God sees me what would you see? If you saw that person in your church that is causing you grief as God sees them what would you see?

Is there someone in your church that is hurting you, resisting your leadership, opposing you, saying bad things about you? If not presently certainly there has been such a person in your past and there will certainly be one in your future. One of the frustrating things about Jesus is that he asks us to do the seemingly impossible. Want an example? How about, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”

It’s hard to lead without love. It’s hard to love someone who is acting in an unlovable way towards you, your spouse, your family, or your church. How then can we do what Christ has asked of us? Where can we start?

I’m not going to pretend that this will be easy but if we can see that person as God sees them we will (or God will) have something to build upon. Ask yourself, “If I saw _____ as God sees him how would I see him?” Ask God, “Father, how do you see _____?”

What do you see, what do you hear the Father saying to you?

God is love. God loves that person who is causing trouble for you. This does not justify their behavior or minimize how they are making you feel but it is a Divine perspective that we can forget and one we will need to remember if we are going to move towards love rather than away. Seeing people as God sees them is the first step towards love.

Are you willing to take that first step? There will be other steps, you might need to confront and correct that person, but don’t worry about those steps yet. Just take the first step.

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Both the ‘open-minded’ and ‘close-minded’ demonize one another. This represents a closed-mind no matter which group is doing the demonizing.

Being ‘close-minded’ does not mean you will never change, it just means you will be less receptive to change than the one who is open-minded.

It’s dangerous to be open-minded because if you are you might change your mind. (I’m being sarcastic.)

Being ‘open-minded’ does not mean you don’t have strong convictions. It means you are willing to challenge those convictions and listen objectively and respectively to those who do not share your convictions.

Close-minded people don’t think they are close-minded, they think they are right. Open-minded people do think they are open-minded and they think they are right. This can indicate a closed-mind regardless of who is doing the thinking.

Being ‘open-minded’ can be a slippery-slope…but that’s no guarantee.

How would you describe yourself?

 

 

 

 

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Recently a friend pointed me in the direction of the Pray-as-you-go website. Below you find a description from their site of what they are providing. I’ve been using this for almost a week and I’ve got to tell you…I love it! If you have 10-13 minutes you can get in a very meaningful mini-session with God.

This would be ideal for a brief mid-day quiet time, while driving to work, or while on a walk or run. It could also be used in a small group setting. I’ve actually been incorporating it in my normal quiet times along with the other practices I use.

Although they do have an app, I recommend, if you intend to use it on your phone, to go directly to the website from the browser on your phone and bookmark it. The app is a bit quirky but the mobile version of the site works perfectly.

Here’s their description:

Pray as you go is a daily prayer session, designed for use on portable MP3 players, to help you pray whenever you find time, but particularly whilst travelling to and from work, study, etc.

A new prayer session is produced every day of the working week and one session for the weekend. It is not a ‘Thought for the Day’, a sermon or a bible-study, but rather a framework for your own prayer.

Lasting between ten and thirteen minutes, it combines music, scripture and some questions for reflection.

Our aim is to help you to:

  • become more aware of God’s presence in your life
  • listen to and reflect on God’s word
  • grow in your relationship with God

It is produced by Jesuit Media Initiatives, with material written by a number of Jesuits, both in Britain and further afield, and other experts in the spirituality of St Ignatius of Loyola. Although the content is different every day, it keeps to the same basic format.

Let me know what you think.

Keith

My good friend Keith Seckel recently gave a Tedx talk entitled: Life and Death Matters. Keith was a worship pastor at a Vineyard church on the west coast before moving to Oregon about eight years ago to begin a house church. The house church has since disbanded but Keith’s pastoral skills are still alive and well as you will see.

As a preaching coach I was impressed that this is a perfect presentation. But what really stood out to me, as do all Ted talks, is how the speakers can dish out the meat in such a short period of time. Many Ted talks are under ten minutes.

As a preacher, could you do that? Could you hit the ball out of the park, like Keith, if you only had ten or fifteen minutes? You should be able to. I dare you to experiment with fifteen minute sermons for a month and then ask yourself…has the impact of my teaching/preaching ministry been better, the same, or worse? Adjust accordingly.

Now take 16 minutes and watch Keith show us how it’s done.

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