For Pastors & Normal People

You are currently browsing the archive for the For Pastors & Normal People category.

For the last 10 years I have had a policy of not speaking publicly about my personal opinions in regards to controversial topics that Christians and churches disagree on. The reason I have held this policy is that I believe God has called me to be a peacemaker. I have never wanted to alienate myself from others because of our differences but rather join together around those things that we have in common and do my small part in attempting to unite the divided church. My approach has worked well for me over the last decade but I’ve had a growing sense that the Lord wants me to be more open and transparent.


Not too long ago someone left my Small Church Pastor group page on Facebook that Ellen and I moderate, and private messaged me saying the reason he was leaving is because our group is “obviously a welcoming and affirming group” in regards to LGBTQ+ Christians. I have previously had some people leave the group because of this assumption. I tried to assure this pastor that our group page is neither affirming or non-affirming. The purpose of this group is to be a place where these differences are not discussed, but our similarities in Christ are what unite us. To my dismay, the pastor still left the group solely because he believed I might welcome and affirm LGBTQ+ Christians. My public position on this subject has been intentionally vague, because the issue is so polarizing and divisive within my group. I feel God is asking me to stop being vague about it.


In my thirty years of pastoring (I retired from pastoring in 2006), I have always held the traditional Evangelical non-affirming position. However, after many years of studying the scriptures and listening to both sides of the same sex marriage debate and LGBTQ+ issues, if I were pastoring a church today, it would be a welcoming and affirming church with no restrictions for gay Christians’ involvement in the life and ministry of the church. I came to this position many years ago. This is not a recent development.

  
Recently, I had the opportunity to appear on the 200churches podcast to share the story of changing my position. If you want to know more details of my journey and how I, as an Evangelical pastor changed my mind, go to, https://www.200churches.com/podcast.html and look for: Season 2 Episode 01 – Deep Love In Spite Of Differing Doctrine with Dave Jacobs.

Your friend, Dave.

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 and that might get you into trouble with the close-minded.

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 that you will slip.

Do you know anyone who you would describe as close-minded? Do you know anyone who you would describe as open-minded? Are you more open-minded than closed-minded? Is it clear to you what you need to be close-minded about and what you need to be open-minded about?

by dave jacobs

The temptation in pastoral work is to react instead of reflect.

Suddenly there is a fire to put out, a problem to solve, a person who needs correction. The urgency of the situation fires like a starting pistol and we leap from the block rushing towards the finish line. 

Sometimes the situation is not so urgent as it is familiar. We’ve been there before and assume that our response in the past will work in the present. 

Francois Fenelon, in a letter to his nephew, had this wise word of advice for those who lead others.

“Do not be over-hasty, but learn from God, in peace and silence, what it is He wishes you to do and then, in all simplicity, do it. You will then see that things which appear to be of momentous importance will diminish in size and those of little or no importance will be recognizable as such and thus you will be, by God’s grace, enabled to achieve without hesitation a balanced outlook.”

Some things demand immediate action but most are not as urgent as we might think. The cautious seldom make mistakes while the over-hasty often do. Learn to reflect before you react. 

The other morning I was meditating on Matthew 16:1-12 and stopped after Jesus said, “…beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” It’s not unusual for my scripture reading to lead me into journaling. My entry for that day was:

“You have to be careful, or purposeful, as to who you listen to and allow to influence you. Pay attention to a person’s tone, their focus, their emphasis. Do you want to be like that? Maybe you do, maybe not. This does not mean we shelter ourselves from those we disagree with, everyone can teach us something. But if I listen too much to those who are angry, judgemental, legalistic, or prejudiced…there is a good chance that I will become that way. What type of person was Jesus? What type of person does my Jesus want me to be? Find people like that. Read people like that. Listen to people like that. Expose yourself to the rest, but only listen to, really listen to, only allow yourself to be influenced by those who you want to be like. And it is probably helpful to once in a while ask Jesus, “What kind of person do you want me to be?“

I have some Facebook friends, well to be honest, most of them are more acquaintances than actual friends. Ellen and I moderate a rather large Facebook group page made up of pastors, so we have many friends, semi-friends, and absolute strangers. Some are ‘stranger’ than others. There is one who stands out, I will call him…Pastor Bummer. I have called him other things but I don’t want to give you a heart-attack so let’s just leave it at Pastor Bummer.

Pastor Bummer is always correcting others, challenging others, irritated with those he disagrees with. Pastor Bummer, or so it seems, feels he alone knows what is orthodoxy and what is heresy. I know far more about what Pastor Bummer is against than I do what he is for. If someone in my group posts something that PB disagrees with it is impossible for him to ignore it and move on. Nope…PB has to try and set the person straight. PB has no respect for or patience with anyone who thinks differently than he does. Unfortunately, Pastor Bummer is not alone.

I don’t want to be that kind of Christian. Do you? I bet not. If so, then be careful about all the PBs out there because they can rub off on you.

What kind of person do you want to be? What kind of person do you think Jesus wants you to be? Hang out with those types, read those types, listen to those types, be influenced by those types.

Sometimes our leaders fail us and sometimes we fail our leaders. In Matt.10 and Lk.10 I discovered five common ways some pastors fail their leaders.

(Matt.10:1) Jesus gave his leaders authority. We fail our leaders when we don’t give them authority. It can be disheartening when a leader feels that their pastor is constantly looking over their shoulder and puts them on a really short leash rather than a long one. Sometimes it’s hard for pastors to let go, especially if they are delegating a responsibility they have been doing. Sure, when leaders start out they will make mistakes, they probably will not do as good a job as the pastor would. But think about it, none of us started out as good as we are now.

(Matt.10:5) Jesus instructed his leaders. We fail our leaders when we don’t instruct and train them. Recently on my group page a pastor was frustrated with some leaders who weren’t doing a good job. The first thing that popped into my mind was “What training and equipping did they receive before being released into leadership?” In my experience of working with pastors, leadership training and on-going leadership training is often absent.

(Matt. 10:5-6) Jesus prioritized their mission. We fail our leaders when we don’t help them prioritize. First, they were to go to “…the lost sheep of Israel.” The Gentiles would get their chance, but first things first. A common weakness I run into with pastors is a failure to prioritize, and when this is the case it is no wonder that they will not pass this skill on to their leaders. Knowing what is the most important task of their ministry, and then the second most important, and then the third, is not something that comes naturally for all leaders.

(Matt.10:16-23) Jesus prepared his leaders for hardship. We fail our leaders when we don’t prepare them for hardship and disappointment. It’s not unusual for new leaders to be all excited about their new assignment but it doesn’t take long for reality to beat that positive attitude down. The ministry would be great if it wasn’t for people, but being a leader means being with people and people mean disappointment.

(Luke 10:17-24) Jesus took the time to debrief and celebrate. We fail our leaders when we don’t check-in, follow up, debrief…and rejoice together around the small and large victories they’ve experienced while carrying out their ministries. Leaders need to hear from us, “What worked well? What didn’t work well? How could I have been a better help to you? Is there anything you might do differently the next time?” And remember, there is always something to celebrate, when you find what it is…celebrate it!

“Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart.” Psalms 37:4

Well, not exactly, sorry David.

I think He will give you what you want (pray for) as long as He wants the same thing. I have discovered that God sometimes disguises what we want to make it look like something else. We think He said no to our request when in fact He said yes it just looks different than we expected. And have you noticed that He often doesn’t give us what we ask for when we ask for it? We can mistake wait for no.

All that to say, the more you want something the greater risk there is that you will fool yourself into thinking that what you want is what God wants.

I belong to what some would call the Charismatic stream of Christianity. My problem (it’s only a problem based on who you talk to) is that I don’t wade too deep into that stream. You see, I’m a poor excuse for a Charismatic. There are things I care more about than tongues, prophesy, casting out demons, physical healing, etc. I believe in all those things but I’m more interested in other things. I’m not going to tell you what those other things are because as soon as I do some of you will set me straight saying, “Hey…not fair. I believe in all those things and I’m a Charismatic.” I believe you, I really do. 

But I start with Charismatics because we believe God speaks directly to us, kind of like whispering in our ear. Not an audible voice, although many would claim this and I’m not going to challenge their experience, but an inner voice, a thought that pops into our mind. It’s pretty much the same as how other thoughts come to us but with these thoughts we have the conviction that they are from God. So we say, “God told me…” Or, “Jesus said to me…” I’m probably over concerned that my membership in the Charismatic-club might be revoked so I want to say again that I believe this way of communication can happen but with this belief comes a certain risk. The risk is that you can mistake what you want for what God wants, or confuse getting an answer to prayer that agrees with your real, deep down desire for what God actually said, or didn’t say. 

This isn’t only a potential problem with Charismatic theology. One could be a Cessationist and fall into the same error. You might believe that God only speaks today through the Bible. You might want a new car and turn to your Bible for guidance. You flip through the pages and randomly let your eyes fall where they may.

“…and with one accord they came to him…” (Acts 12:20) 

There you have it! Off to the Honda dealership. 

Sorry.

The point is, which ever stream your standing in, never underestimate your ability to mistake what you want for what God wants. What you’re sensing might be wishful thinking, your imagination, poor hermeneutics, or…it could be God.

Sometimes I wish the Father would illumine my ‘next steps’ better than He does. His guidance can often be more flicker than flame. I feel most comfortable when I can see the big picture, the whole journey spelled out from beginning to end. Instead, at least for me, God often only grants enough light for the first step. I cautiously take that step and then have to wait for the next step to be revealed, and then the next, and the next. There is always a purpose to the delays in God’s guidance and a reason for His little light. But, if things only start with a little light…at least it is a start. Take that step, then wait.

PAUSE AND THINK:

1. Are you currently seeking clarity from God about something important?

2. Are some steps clear and others have yet to be revealed? 

3. What is preventing you from taking that first step?

4. What emotions do you experience when you have to wait?

5. What might the Father be trying to accomplish during your time of waiting?

by dave jacobs

Etymologists tell us that the word ‘minimize’ first appeared in literature in 1802 in the writings of British philosopher Jeremy Bentham. There’s a good chance you’ve never heard of Mr. Bentham before but he is regarded as the founder of ‘utilitarianism.’ Utilitarianism is the doctrine that says actions are right if they are useful or for the benefit of a majority. At first read this doesn’t sound too bad but I’m sure if you think about it more Utilitarianism seems like a scary foundation to build a society on. 

Not only does Utilitarianism scare me, my ability to minimize things that shouldn’t be minimized scares me. Often times our failures with plans and people can be traced back to something we minimized.

If something isn’t important to us we tend to minimize it. If something doesn’t directly affect us we tend to minimize it. If something doesn’t make sense to us we tend to minimize it. If we don’t agree with something we tend to minimize it. This is how we get into trouble. This is how we hurt people. When we make something small that is big to someone else we become small in their eyes. 

It’s not always our fault when we minimize. 

It’s hard, if not impossible, to read someone else’s mind. Something could be a big deal to a person and we’re completely unaware of it. This is especially true when a relationship is new and you are still getting to know each other. Think of it as unintentional minimization. The best response at a time like this is to simply apologize. 

Another reason why we can minimize and it not really be our fault is that it is impossible to predict the future. If you are a leader or a pastor you are constantly planning and preparing for something. When ideas fail, many times it’s because we minimized something or underestimated how important something was to the overall process but didn’t see this until it was too late. This is inevitable. We’d all make better decisions if we had better information and were able to discern correctly those aspects of the plan which were truly important and those that were not. 

***

So we’ve seen that sometimes it’s our fault when we minimize and sometimes it’s not. Regardless, when we minimize things that should not be minimized we get into trouble and hurt others. 

Here are some questions that might help minimize minimizing. 

In any planning process, whether it be just you or with a group, before you announce or implement your plan ask:

  1. If there were any components to this plan that we might be minimizing what would they be?
  2. Who will this be a ‘big deal’ to?
  3. Do we know anyone who might be more objective and able to help us see things we might be minimizing?
  4. In our personal relationships we might ask, assuming we are smart enough to think before we speak:
  5. In what ways might I be minimizing this?
  6. Can I recognize any self-serving reasons I might have for conscientiously or unconscientiously minimizing this?

Never underestimate you’re ability to minimize. 

The dictionary on my phone tells me that ‘fatigue’ is an “extreme tiredness resulting from mental or physical exertion or illness.  A lessoning of one’s response to or enthusiasm for something, typically as a result of over exposure to it.”

When I was journaling I identified three areas that I recognize fatigue in my life. Ready for some honesty?

I have Trump-Fatigue. It doesn’t keep me up at night but it does poke at me, especially when I watch or read the news. Sometimes it’s best not to watch the news.

I have Corona/Shelter at Home-Fatigue. It’s not too bad because I’ve always worked from home. I’m an introvert so I like staying home and being with Ellen all the time. I’m not sure Ellen likes being with me all the time. Kidding…kind of. But more so my fatigue is over the deaths, unemployment, suffering and the division this is causing in our country.

I have Aging-Fatigue. I turn 62 this year. I often am reminded that my road ahead is much shorter than the road behind me. Death is coming and there is nothing I can do about it. How’s that for a bright and positive attitude?

Is stress the same as fatigue? Maybe, but stress seems to me more temporary while fatigue lingers. Both can change you for the worse, or the better. One must be aware of, and on the lookout for them both because they can bully us into becoming who we don’t want to be and into thinking in ways we don’t want to think, and saying things we don’t want to say.

On my Small Church Pastor group page on Facebook I have seen the fatigue building among the pastors who make up this group.

For some pastors, preaching to a camera week after week is fatiguing. Preparing an online service week after week is fatiguing. Not being able to visit people in the hospital, or home visits is fatiguing. The church struggling with finances because of the virus is fatiguing. Staying on top of needed phone calls week after week is fatiguing.

If you are a pastor you probably could add to this list.

Here are some suggestions for reducing fatigue:

  • If this season of life has brought you stress or fatigue, admit it. Name it for what it is. Be able to say, “I’m fatigued.” There is something helpful in honestly calling it what it is. 
  • Identify exactly what fatigue looks like or feels like for you.
  • Bring these things to the Lord asking Him to reduce fatigue in your life.
  • Talk to a trusted friend about your feelings for support and prayer.
  • Identify fatigue-reducing practices that you have benefited from in the past. These might be things like going on a walk, scripture meditation, sitting out in the sun, talking to a trusted friend, taking a nap, or taking a nap. Did I mention taking a nap?

****

When I was journaling about fatigue in my life I felt the Lord remind me of these two verses: 

“Come to Me, all you who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.” 

“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

Hang in there. This won’t last forever.

by dave jacobs

Has this ever happened to you? You come away from a meeting (either with a group or an individual) feeling that things went pretty well only to later find out that you were misunderstood? You think to yourself, “I don’t know how I could have been more clear.” 

Communication is risky. Every time we talk or write there is a chance that we will not be as clear as we think we’re being, and that point of vagueness can result in a false or incomplete impression that can frustrate our relationships and ministry. 

Every time we preach we run the risk of being vague and all the while thinking we’re being clear. Every time we lead people we run the risk of being vague and all the while thinking we’re being clear. Every time we write we run the risk of being vague and all the while thinking we’re being clear. Be careful when you preach, when you lead, and when you write.

The longer we have to mull something over the greater a chance there is that when it comes time to communicate we will leave something out. Have you ever proof-read something you wrote and discovered that you left a word out of a sentence? How does that happen? I think that in your brain you know what you’re going to say (it is clear to you) but your writing gets ahead of your brain and you leave something out.

When Ellen was proof reading my first book (Mile Wide, Inch Deep), more than once we had a conversation that went something like this:

“This doesn’t make sense.” “What doesn’t make sense?” “Chapter seven, paragraph five. It doesn’t make sense. I know what you’re trying to say but I’m not sure your readers will.”

(Me hastily reading chapter seven, paragraph five with slight irritation)

“How is that unclear?” “It is. You need to rewrite that.” “Well, it’s clear to me.” “Well…if you’re going to be the only person that reads the book then leave it alone.”

(At which point I return to my office, look more objectively at chapter seven, paragraph five, admit that Ellen was correct, and rewrite the paragraph.)

Finally, be careful when you’re leading a meeting, especially if in that meeting you will be explaining or promoting new direction for your church. In my coaching practice I help pastors to identifying goals and strategies that help them fulfill the mission God has given their church. It’s not unusual for us to work for a whole month, sometimes longer, on certain plans and the means by which they will communicate the plan and generate ‘buy in’ or ‘get everyone on board.’ Some call this ‘vision casting.’ I call it a great opportunity to be vague and all the while think you are being clear. 

Vision casting is risky because the one doing the casting has usually spent a long, long time developing the vision. This goes back to what I said earlier; the longer you have to mull something over, the longer you have to think about something, the greater chance there is that when it comes time to explain the idea to others you will leave something out. It’s all clear to you but something breaks down when it travels those few inches from your brain to your mouth. 

Speaking, writing, and leading…these are the most common times when we can be vague. To minimize vagueness ask yourself questions such as these:

– What point(s) of mine really needs to be clear? – If there is anything in what I’m about to communicate that could be vague, what is it? – Would it be helpful if I used notes? – Am I prepared to ask those I’m communicating with for feedback on areas where I may have been vague? – How helpful would it be if I rehearsed my talk or presentation? – Have I prayed for God to help me be clear rather than vague? – Does my audience contain some who have misunderstood me or found me to be vague in the past? Should that affect my approach? – What can I learn from past vagueness that will help reduce future vagueness?

************************************************************************

Dave’s Latest Book:

« Older entries