Monday Start

start 1Check out these top suggestions

Some of the best book suggestions that I come across are often in the end of the year lists. Jonathan Storment (Abilene, Texas) has published his Top Reads from 2012.  Good list.

You might be interested in this list of Top 10 Work Life Balance Books that Every Professional Should Read.

Also, don’t miss Frank Bellizzi’s My 12 Best Books of 2012.

 

A wonderful story

Don’t miss this very moving story about NFL All Pro Scott Wells who plays center for the St. Louis Rams.  Scott is the son of Wayne and Cindy Wells, who I have known for many years.  Wayne is a Church of Christ minister in Gainesboro, Tennessee.  The video is the moving story of Scott and his wife’s decision to adopt children from Uganda.

 

Top blog posts

John Mark Hicks, a theologian who teaches at Lipscomb University, has listed his top five blog posts of 2012.  John Mark’s writing is always very thoughtful and grounded in the Christian story.

 

New Year

Joe Lalonde wrote a nice piece on negativity.  I like to read these kinds of reflections at the first of each year.

Recently Michael Hyatt recommended a book entitled 20,000 Days and Counting by Robert D. Smith. I read it this weekend and now will skim through it again.  I find benefit in reading these kinds of books at the first of the year.  Helps me examine my thinking, life, work habits, etc.

 

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I watch “It’s a Wonderful Life” every December. George Bailey had many dreams but they were put on hold for the sake of others. He lives in Bedford Falls with his family, trying to keep the Building and Loan afloat.

At one point, he realizes that he is in serious trouble.  He wishes he had never been born. He is given the opportunity to see what his community would have been like if he had never existed.

He is able to see how much his life has impacted some many people in his family, his town, and beyond.  He really has lived a wonderful life.

Many, many Christian leaders vastly underestimate how God is using them.  So often we think about what we are lacking.  We focus on the deficiencies in our churches and in our own lives.

Monday Start (Resources for the Week)

From some of the classics

In the UK’s The Guardian see “Writers’ favourite classic book illustrations.”

The importance of practice

Harvey Schachter has written a good piece in The Globe and Mail entitled “Be like an NFL player and practice your job.”

Tim Keller 

A great interview with Tim Keller on the set of Morning Joe regarding his book Every Good Endeavor.

Classy

Victor Cruz of the New York Giants dedicates game to young boy killed in shooting.

Great to read before 2013

LaRae Quy, former FBI agent, has written a great piece:  ”Complacency — How to Avoid the Silent Killer.”

Ministry

Thom Rainer has written a blog post well worth reading, “Eight Negative Reasons Pastors Leave a Church.”

 

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Stress2Under Stress?

Sometimes ministry can be very stressful.  It may be conflict with a staff member or a few of the elders. Or, perhaps you are under stress due to the church’s financial problems.  Maybe there has been an incident in the church that has become very, very draining.

Sometimes when we become stressed, we either over-function or under-function.  If I over-function, I may begin to feel like the solution to this problem is entirely up to me.  There is a sense in which I feel like I am carrying the weight of this problem on my shoulders.

That can be a real problem, especially when I begin taking responsibility for the behavior of others.  It is like a parent who feels guilty because her college student son (who is away from home studying at the university) makes poor grades.  The college student is responsible for these grades, yet his mother is shouldering the anxiety for those grades herself.  The mother seems to want good grades more than her son does.

Ministers and other church leaders who over-function often bear stress and anxiety that others ought to be carrying.  Consequently, if someone drops the ball and does not follow through on their responsibility, these over-functioners will quickly fix the problem themselves (sometimes through clenched teeth).  In times of great stress, the over-functioners often become incredibly exhausted and anxious.

Or, perhaps a person in the elder group over-functions.  When members of the congregation come to that elder with their anxiety, he takes on the anxiety and they walk away.

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top 10Top 10 Suggestions for Beginning the New Year           

The following are 10 suggestions for the upcoming new year.  While I am writing these with church leaders in mind, some of these may be applicable to most anyone.  (These are not listed in order of importance.) 

1.  Pay attention to the basics.  Walking with Jesus takes place during the ordinariness of life.  Loving God and loving others are huge.  Read Scripture.  Pray daily.  Be a godly person.

2.  Love the congregation.  If you don’t, it really won’t matter what else you do.

3.  Stop waiting to be appreciated.  Probably some people in your church really appreciate you but rarely, if ever, express it.  On the other hand, other people in your church may have little appreciation for you.  Yet, they too may rarely, if ever, express it.  Don’t let your sense of well-being come from others.

4.  If you feel isolated and alone, recognize that such feelings over a long period of time can make you vulnerable to temptations that seem to provide an escape.  There are tragic stories of people who have sought refuge through pornography, gambling, drugs/alcohol, and adultery.

5.  Be real.  Realness is not using a public platform to express every doubt, feeling, or anxiety. Rather, it is endeavoring to be an authentic person both publicly and privately.

6.  Guard your heart.  Remember that life’s train wrecks don’t begin with someone doing something stupid.  They usually begin long before that.  They begin with what is happening in that person’s heart.

7.  Pay attention to what you are feeling.  Many people pay no attention to their feelings.  (I didn’t for many years.)  Are you feeling angry?  Sad?  Depressed?  Discouraged?  Betrayed?  When these persistent feelings are not acknowledged and dealt with, they can surface and express themselves in ways that are negative and even destructive.

8.  Check your attitude.  Listen, attitude is everything!  You can be gifted, intelligent, and skillful. However, your attitude can sink you!  Years ago, I had a conversation with a minister regarding his frustration with his life and ministry.  He was frustrated because other congregations who were looking for a minister seemed to have no interest in talking with him.  Later on, after reflecting on the conversation, I am convinced that what probably hurt him the most with these possibilities was his negative attitude.  Perhaps his regular use of biting sarcasm was getting in the way.

9.  Evaluate the gap between what you are privately and what you are publicly.  This is huge.  Far too many people (including church leaders) worry more about their image than their character.  That is, they are more concerned about how they are perceived by others than what they are when no one is looking.  Address the gap and refuse to rationalize.

10. Claim God’s forgiving and sustaining grace.  2013 can be a fresh beginning.  Thank God for his gracious forgiveness.  Believe that his grace is sufficient for you as you begin a new year.

2012 Mentoring Group

2012 1This year’s mentoring group was outstanding.  Thanks to Shane, Benjamin, Shannon, Doug, Scott, Jason, and Ernie for blessing me with a great year in 2012.  Am I ever impressed with these guys!  All of them are ministers and are blessing churches.

This group met one full day per month for the last 12 months.  During these times together, we talked about life, Jesus, ministry, and the church.  Of course, as a part of any discussion regarding life, we talked about our relationships, including our spouses, children, and friends.  We remembered our calling and the meaning of our vocation.

Much of our time was spent focusing on building our interior lives.  We also talked about skills and good practices for doing our work and functioning better in our congregations.

A group such as this provides a safe environment, an atmosphere of encouragement and affirmation.  Last evening, hours after this group came to a close, I thought about the following:

1.  We are blessed when we are surrounded with encouragers.  One way this happens is to be a part of a group, like this one, of mutual encouragers.

2.  We are blessed when we are a part of a group of people who are committed to growing and learning.  Far too many people are content to lower the bar and just get by.  I loved being around a group of people for a year who were not afraid to raise the bar.

3.  We are blessed when we meet regularly with a group of people to talk honestly about our lives. Far too many people feel isolated and cut off, in part because they have no one with whom they can talk openly and candidly.

Question:

What do you believe contributes to the isolation and sense of aloneness that so many people feel?

 

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quitEver been tempted to quit?

I have.

At times, the temptation to quit was buried deep inside. Nevertheless, it was there.

Maybe you’ve been tempted to quit as a church leader.  Perhaps you’ve been tempted to quit “full-time” ministry.  Or, perhaps the temptation to quit has become even more intense.  You feel discouraged in your role as husband/wife or dad/mom.  Maybe you’ve been tempted to quit any sense of church life.

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Seven-BallThe posts this week have focused on lifelong learning.

(Find the previous posts here and here.)  Far too many people shut down long before they die.  Long ago they quit growing, stretching, and learning. In many instances, they have lost the joy in their lives.

Your life doesn’t have to be like this.

Consider these seven suggestions.

Some Leaders Never Stop Learning

button LearnNo doubt you have known some people like them.  They diligently prepare, study, and do their best to equip themselves with the best tools available.  Then they begin the ministry for which they have been preparing themselves.

For some reason, some of these leaders stop growing and learning. They no longer read and no longer engage themselves in serious thinking.

Contrast these leaders, however, with those who continue to grow and learn throughout their lives.  For example:

A 90-year-old man and former college president continued to take notes of various talks and classes at our church.  He often approached me with a pen in hand, wanting to know the name of a book that I recommended earlier.

Each summer, a 70-year-old minister spent one month at a seminary auditing classes.  He had been doing this for a number of years.  Both he and his wife traveled to the city, stayed in a dorm, and spent the month learning.  At one point, he told me that it had also been an important time for marriage renewal.

A minister in his late 60′s worked with a church in an urban center.  The predominant age groups in this church were the 20s and 30s.  I told him one day how impressed I was that he could continue to relate to such diverse age groups.  He told me that he had simply tried to continue growing and learning.

The leader who is a lifelong learner will bless his/her church or organization.  Think of your learning as an investment in your mind, your family, and in those whom you have the opportunity to serve.

Tomorrow, I will offer seven suggestions to anyone (and particularly a leader) who wants to be a lifelong learner.

Question:

Have you known people who impressed you as lifelong learners?  What were some of their practices?

 

 

Leaders are Lifelong Learners

He sat in the large auditorium on the campus of a small Christian college. Chapel would begin soon. Students began to fill the auditorium.

LearningHe was a longtime professor at the college. For many years he taught undergraduate Bible classes. He was a student and a scholar. Long ago, he had earned a Ph. D. in New Testament and continued to learn and grow for many, many years. Today was no exception.

As the chapel program began, a young undergraduate walked to the lectern to “make a talk.” The old professor did what was his custom each day in chapel. He opened his notebook and, with pen in hand, began to take notes of the young man’s talk.

One day, a colleague asked him about this habit. The old professor explained that he wanted to learn and grow. He said, “I never know when I might learn something. So I

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want to be ready to write it down.”

This gentleman had never stopped learning. He had never stopped growing.

So what are some characteristics of people who are lifelong learners?