Ministry Inside.127

Each Thursday I post “Ministry Inside” specifically for church leaders.

I have been wondering

lately about church leaders who stretch themselves while others basically remain the same. Those who stretch and grow often do so by developing good habits.

Now some of us take a “Eureka!” approach to ministry. That is, we seem to always be looking for the missing ingredient. Someone reads a book and believes he has found it. Still another attends an incredible seminar and now sees this perspective as it. Then someone else visits a congregation on the other side of the country and perceives this church to possess the real deal.
As helpful as a book, seminar, or church visit might be, a church leader’s growth typically is not centered on eureka moments. Yes, there may be some breakthroughs in your thinking or practice. However, the growth that will sustain you over the long run is typically less dramatic.

Below are four actions to take if you want to grow spiritually.

Step forward.

Do something. Reading, thinking, and reflecting are very important even indispensable. However, ministry is not simply a seminar of ideas. At some point it is time to start. Start small, but start. Far too often I have waited until I was fully prepared or knew enough. Preparation and knowledge are important but at some point it is time to move ahead. Remember that the first step is not about trying to get others to do something. The first step is your own.

Step away.

Make sure you take adaquate time for reading and thinking. Don’t worry about reading the latest. Read what matters. Step away and go to a great seminar. Take a class. Audit something. Check out the many opportunities to learn through iTunesU. Talk to people you admire and appreciate and find out what they do for their growth.

Step up.

Some people make excuses (If we only had a better preacher or the right elders.) Others try to make things happen through manipulation instead of doing the hard work of leadership. Church leaders who are maturing step up and deal with their own functioning and their own maturity (or immaturity). People who are maturing focus on how they can take responsibility for their own behavior, words, and actions. Does my functioning reflect that I am maturing or that I am stuck in immaturity?

Step back.

Reflect on what is happening. Seek out a few trusted people with whom you can process what is happening in the life of your congregation and, in particular, your own functioning. Step back and consider your actions in a conversation, a meeting, a sermon, etc. What is the perception of your spouse and other people whose wisdom you trust?

Which one of the above has been particularly helpful to you? Is there one that deserves more attention from you?


5 People I Admire

Microsoft Word - anniversary11. I admire people who are respectful and gracious in their speech. I knew someone who would regularly say, “I’m just being honest.” In his mind, this seemed to excuse his crass, rude, and insulting remarks. Yet, speaking with honesty does not give one the license to put away their sensitivity filter and say whatever might happen to pass through their brain. I know people who are honest and transparent. Yet, they do not speak at the expense of others. They are not condescending or insulting. Rather, these people have a way of communicating in ways that actually invite others to hear.

2. I admire people who are quick to say “I’m sorry.” In a culture that seems to respond to most every problem by blaming others, it is refreshing to have someone say “I’m sorry.” I admire people who are quick to take personal responsibility and slow to blame.

3. I admire people who build up instead of destroy. These people are more focused on the impact they have on others than on what they are able to get out of the relationship. This calls for maturity on the part of a person. I knew a couple who were both attractive and likable. However, shortly after meeting them, I noticed that she walked with her shoulders slumped and would look down and barely make eye contact in a conversation. Then I began to hear about how “heavy-handed” he was toward her. In fact, he was very domineering toward her. Builders do not treat their spouses this way.

4. I admire people who don’t have to be the center of attention. Some people are obviously uncomfortable if they are not the center of a gathering. Yet, the truth is that others have stories that could be told; they have jokes that could be shared, etc. I enjoy being with people who do not feel compelled to dominate a conversation or pull away emotionally if they are not at the center.

5. I admire people who spread joy instead of cynicism. Anyone can be cranky, sour, and bitter. A friend of mine once told me about a preacher who was so negative and bitter that even his sermons on grace were depressing.

Monday Start: Resources for the Week

start_button_gif (1)Christian Education

Don’t miss this very good post by Dr. Harold Shank, President of Ohio Valley University.  See “Why Choose Christian Education?”  Excellent!


See Michael Hyatt’s “99 Resources to Make Your Personal and Business Life Hum.”  Excellent resources.  I don’t know anyone who creates better lists of helpful resources.


Terry Rush has written a great post entitled “Calling for Prayer Expansion.”  Made me think about my own prayer life.


Chris Brogan has written a nice piece “The Single most Effective Change I Made to My Digital Presence.”  Certainly made me think about how to use digital media today.


Leo Babauta has written a post “The Hard Stuff Often Matters Most.”  Could be very helpful in learning to better organize and structure one’s day.


Ministry Inside.145

leanFor many years, I preached almost every Sunday.

Much of my ministry was served in Florence, Alabama; Kansas City, Missouri; and Waco, Texas.  I was engaged in congregational ministry. Now I am at Harding School of Theology.

Working with a church is front line ministry.  There are numerous opportunities to serve, teach, and bless others. Some might imagine a life where once basically preaches on Sunday, spends hours in the church building, and attempts to always be “nice.”

My own experience during these decades was much difference thank this.  In many ways, it was an adventure in which I had to learn to depend on God.

What I experienced included:

1.  Preaching many funerals.  Believers.   Non-believers.  Older people.  Teens.  Babies.  Cancer.  Car crashes.  Suicide.  Long illness.  Sudden death.  Murder.

2.  Conversations with with many people.  Often these conversations were about how to apply the gospel.  At times, they were individuals who wanted to talk about problems with anger, adultery, depression, resentment, financial loss, marital issues, and children who had brought their parents heartbreak.  Some conversations were tender as some talked about very delicate concerns.

3.  Preaching/teaching.  Small groups.  Large groups.  Informal.  Formal.  Sunday mornings/Wednesday evenings.  In a church auditorium.  In a jail and prison.  All of this took much study, reading, thinking, praying.

4.  Spending time with people.  Coffee.  Fishing.  Golf.  Coffee.  Lunches.  Ball games.  So often these moments turned out to be much more than what it might have appeared at first.  So often in the boat, in the golf cart, at coffee or on the way home from a ball game, the person I was with would begin talking about what really mattered.  So often, I had the opportunity to in some way connect this person’s concern to Jesus.

5.  Learning to live the transformed life.  Congregational ministry is much more than doing the kind of work that calls for one to spend a lot of time in church buildings.  Rather, the transformed life is about a person taking seriously Jesus’s call to follow him and to imitate him. Men and women long to see someone who is taking seriously Jesus call upon their lives.

Ministry Inside.144

Life-from-the-Inside-png-300x300Every Thursday, I write this post particularly for church leaders. As church leaders, we strive to lead holy and transparent lives. Yet, some of us do not address certain issues or problems in our lives that may be so apparent to those who know us best.

Remember the first couple, Adam and Eve.

Perhaps you also remember that God once asked them a question. In fact, this is the first time on record of God asking a human being a question.

Where are you?

After all, they were hiding. They were frightened. They did not want him to find them. They had eaten from the forbidden tree. Now God is in the garden and they are hiding. Eventually, they will have a conversation with him and begin blaming others for what they did.

Where are you?

This is still a very important question.

Some of us may hide. We are doing fine. Everything is wonderful.

Some of us may blame. I know this isn’t right, but after what he did . . .

Some of us may become fearful. What will people think if they see that I am inadequate and that I become anxious at times?

Some of us may deny that anything is wrong. I don’t really have a struggle with temptation or sin. I’m no worse than some of the other church leaders I know.

As church leaders, we need to receive this question and let it penetrate our hearts. The evil one has helped to slowly destroy many church leaders who did not take this question seriously. Nothing may be more important than to be honest and humble before the Lord.

Monday Start: Resources for the Week

start (1)Just read

I just read Rick Lytle’s book Abandon the Ordinary: Building a Distinctive Leadership Brand in Business, Family, and Church.  Excellent book!  Helpful.  Inspirational.  Encouraging.

N.T. Wright

See one of N.T. Wright’s recent presentations at Oklahoma Christian.  Wright is always interesting, insightful, and thoughtful.


Joe Lalonde has written a nice post based on the book Leaders Eat Last.

Early morning

You might enjoy this video by Brett McKay “How to Become an Early Riser.”  Couldn’t help but smile all the way through this.


If you preach, don’t miss this outstanding post by Thom Rainer “Seven Habits of Highly Effective Preachers.”  Very good.  Don’t miss this!


Ministry Inside.143

DiscouragedWorkerAre you in the office today feeling down or discouraged?

Maybe you keep thinking about what you did.

  • You said something really stupid in last night’s elders meeting. You wish you could take it back.
  • You told a story in a class you were teaching and it fell flat.
  • You began a sermon series by preaching a sermon that had enough material for three sermons! You feel silly and embarrassed that after preaching for all these years, you would still be making this mistake.
  • You hurt your spouse’s feelings this morning with a remark that you thought would be funny. It wasn’t.
  • You blew up at one of your kids in your frustration over hurting your wife’s feelings.

Now you are trying to get ready for Sunday morning. Maybe you are preparing a sermon. Perhaps you are in another role at your church. You are trying to carry out some of the tasks necessary to get ready for Sunday.

Possibly you are having difficulty concentrating on your task. Your mind wanders. You keep thinking about last night’s meeting or this morning’s conversation with your spouse.

You feel discouraged.

This has been my experience, again and again.

You Can Make a Difference

umakeLast Saturday evening, Harding School of Theology honored Dr. Jack Lewis on his 95th birthday with a wonderful dinner and evening of appreciation. Dr. Lewis was a longtime professor of Bible at HST and is deeply respected by many. I made the following remarks at the dinner. I am sharing these with you as a reminder of the importance of our ministry in the kingdom of God.

What we are doing at Harding School of Theology is participating in a great cause, a work of God. We are investing in the mission of God.

My wife, Charlotte, and I have been in Memphis for about 90 days. Like you, we believe in what this school is doing.

For 20 years, I preached for the Crestview Church in Waco, Texas. As you know, congregational ministry is ministry on the front lines.

We moved to Memphis to begin working with Harding School of Theology. We did this not because I was bitter, burned out or jaded. In fact, I loved the ministry that I was doing. We did this because I am passionate about the impact of the local church. I love the church. I believe that God works through local churches to not only make a difference in our towns and cities today, but to make a difference for eternity.

Some months ago, while we still lived in Texas, I was thinking about the youth group in our church. I thought about how they will grow up and by the grace of God will be a part of churches in various parts of the nation. Their future is impacted by the leadership and other influencers in these churches.

Some of our own children and grandchildren will be a part of churches throughout the nation. We can make a difference in these churches so that our children and grandchildren experience the ways in a church can impact their community by living out the Gospel.

So, I am thrilled to be here. I am thrilled to be a part of a ministry with you where we can work together to make a real kingdom difference. The impact of our graduates in these churches has much to do with how they were equipped, trained, and mentored. It has to do with the kind of models they have. When the churches where they are function well, embody Christ, and are “on mission,” then towns and cities are blessed as well.

We are partnering together to provide the resources to equip our students – men and women – to help others in these churches, by the power of the Spirit, live out the teachings of Jesus. I have joined this wonderful staff and this sterling faculty

Are advertises and more. Yet headbands expire received! Could you’re time this.

because I really see the opportunity to make a difference.

Tonight, I am so thankful for you because together we get to share in this wonderful work. Tonight is a “Thank you.” We celebrate our rich heritage and the contribution of Dr. Lewis.

As kingdom people, we also confidently lean into the future believing that the future is bright and tomorrow is full of hope. We can say this boldly and yet with humility as we trust in the Father of mercies.

Again, thank you for your partnership.

Monday Start: Resources for the Week

Start (1)Ministry

Don’t miss Dr. Harold Shank’s fine post “Growling Over Ministry.” I have great respect for Harold and for his love for Scripture and ministry.  This post is a great reminder of the importance and value of ministry.

Amazing discount!

Did you know you can purchase the Kindle edition of Tim Keller’s Center Church for $2.99?  This is one of the best ministry books I have ever read!


Jonathan Storment has written a very thoughtful and needed post “God Loves Fred.”  (Regarding Fred Phelps.)


Have you seen Putting Jesus in His Place by Robert Bowman, Darrell Bock, and Ed Komoszewski?  Get it while it is free as a Kindle book.


Is Real Life Happening Yet?

reallifelogoFor years, I waited.

My perception of my life was all about circumstances. I saw myself as not being in the ideal circumstances but assured myself that one day things would be different. As I saw it, the present was always lacking in some way. However, things would really be good when, one day, life would be what I wanted it to be.

When I was single, I thought life would really begin when I got married.

When I was in college, I thought life would really begin when I graduated.

When I was in graduate school, I thought life would really begin when I finished the program.

When I was married, I thought life would really begin when we could settle down somewhere.

When we were renting a house, I thought life would really begin when we could own a home.