Ministry Inside.78

How to Kill Your Ministry

1. Live an insular life. Live as if you were on a remote island. You have probably seen ministers like this. Some live this way within their own congregations. Others exist like this within their fellowship or denomination. They live and function with their lives centered around concerns that are small and unrelated to kingdom issues. Toxic.jpg

As a result, my concerns become either the intramural concerns of a particular group/denomination or the local concerns of my congregation. As a result, I fail to see the larger issues and concerns that impact the world.

An insular ministry can be toxic! It will shrink your thinking and dwarf your faith. This is a slow death which is often painful for the congregation to endure. Unfortunately, its victims are often unaware of its presence until it has become a chronic condition.

Nothing has been more refreshing to me than to explore the issues and concerns of the world through reading, conversations, etc. If I don’t do this on purpose, my thinking will be reduced to the immediate. One way to begin is with drinking coffee and eating lunch with some people who think beyond your immediate context. Start with college students or if you are fairly young with an older, thoughtful person. As they speak about their concerns, listen intently – not to answer but to understand.

What You May Be Missing by Nursing Your Discontentment

I couldn’t believe it.  secret-of-contentment (1).png

The house was huge.  

It seemed like the house covered much of the block.  I was in college working for a company based in the Dallas area. On the instruction sheet were directions to this home located in an exclusive part of Dallas.  I was going to the home of the daughter of the president of this company.   I didn’t know what was in the envelope.  I just knew that I was supposed to have it signed and return it.

I pulled the car in front of the house and walked to the service entrance and rang the bell.  A woman answered the door.  She apparently was a part of the domestic staff.  She told me to follow her.  We walked through a very long room.  I looked through the plate glass window to the outside and couldn’t believe how big the yard was.  Swimming pool, gardens, etc.  It was huge!

A woman was sitting on a couch.  She looked very somber.  She looked as if she had been crying.  I handed the brown envelope to her.  

It was then that I realized I was delivering her divorce papers.  

I thought about how quiet this house was.  It was a big house.  It was a beautiful house.  It was a house like no other I had ever been in.  Yet, here was this woman who was in tears over what was happening.

Monday Start (Resources for the Week)

You May Be Thinking About Technology and Relationships.
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This TED talk made me think. Professor Sherry Turkle speaks about why we seem to expect more from technology and less from each other.

You May Be Thinking About Ministry.

Gene Wilkes (a great guy!) has written an important post: “4 Things I Learned in 25 Years of Ministry.” Ministers really ought to read this post.

Rick McKinley interviews Eugene Peterson (video). “‘Pastor’ is not a job description; it really is a life that is shaped in a certain way.” Eugene Peterson really makes me think about ministry.

You May Be Thinking About Your Faith.

Lanny Davis (attorney and political commentator) has written a fine post. “What Chuck Colson taught me about using the word hate.‘”

Perhaps You Are Thinking About Your Life.

Kara Alexander has written a very thoughtful post about raising small children and the tendency to enroll them in numerous extracurricular activities.

Here are some very practical ideas for living a missional life. Josh Reeves has written: “25 Simple Ways to be Missional in Your Neighborhood.” Be sure to read his second post as well: “25 More Ways to Easily be Missional in Your Neighborhood.”

Are You Under Pressure?


How many times have you said “Right now I am under a lot of pressure.”

Many years ago, the Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey Circus was performing in Detroit’s Kobo Hall.  The key event was the high-wire act performed by the Walenda family. They were probably the greatest high-wire workers of all circus history. The act the Flying Walendas performed in those days was the four-level pyramid: four or five people on bottom, three or four next, then two, and then one little girl on top. Their act was unprecedented.

Night after night the four-level pyramid would make its way from one end of the wire to the other. They had performed this feat all over the world.

As the show came to an end, this particular evening, the Walendas, as usual, got ready for their feat. The lights were turned low, and the people were very quiet in expectation of the moment. This four-level pyramid began to make its way across the wire. About two-thirds of the way across, one man on the bottom, Deter Walenda, felt his knees begin to tremble and then shake.

Ministry Inside.77

Each Thursday, I post something I think might be helpful or encouraging to church leaders. (You might also find it helpful to read an earlier post about some of the real mental and emotional challenges in ministry.)

Habits that will help you keep your sanity as a Christian leader:

1. Have a strong sense of call. Is this your vocation (calling) or is this just a career? Do you have a sense that God has been working in your life all along, preparing you for your ministry? Prayer and a sense of God’s providence are incredibly important.

2. Deal with the elephants in the room. Name them and write them down. What is sucking the life and energy out of our minister group or elder group? What are the elephants in the room? What is an obvious problem among our church leaders and yet we remain silent?


3. Make a decision, no matter how small, and follow through. Indecision is a huge energy drainer. Even decisions that may seem relatively small, but are followed by taking one step forward, can give great encouragement and energy to a congregation.

4. Focus on your own functioning, instead of focusing on everyone else. Move away from “if only” thinking. Instead, focus on what you are going to say, what you are going to do, and how you will choose to spend your time this week. If you will focus on your emotional growth, your spiritual growth, and your growth as a leader, you will experience less stress.

5.  Be a lifelong learner. It may be tempting to rely on your giftedness. You may want to prove to people that you have what it takes. Others rely on their formal education. However, that too can go by the wayside quickly.

Lifelong learners intend to grow, develop, and mature. Much learning is “on purpose.” We are at an advantage when we desire and intend to learn. For example, I have learned much from reading. I can point to several biographies and a few other books as well that have been important in my growth and development. Yet, there are many other ways to be intentional about learning.

Lifelong learners have learned and are learning. There is nothing arrogant about acknowledging that I have learned something. I have lived, thought, and studied for a number of years. I can honestly say I have

Which and. Summer job this? Dry few use review without Then self-conscious the scentless Oops.

learned a few things about life and ministry. At the same time, I continue to learn and have much to learn.

6.   Create an encouraging environment. Commit to create an encouraging environment among the other church leaders in the congregation. It is awfully hard to develop an encouraging environment in the congregation when the leaders don’t have that commitment among themselves. This has implications for how ministers/elders talk about one another in one another’s absence. It also has implications for how we talk to one another.

Monday Start (Resources for the Week)

Each Monday, I post a number of links to articles, posts, etc. I recently read. The ones cited are those which I think may interest you.

Let me encourage you to subscribe to the e-mail updates of the posts on my blog (if you haven’t already. Or, let me encourage you to subscribe to the RSS feed to use in your Google Reader or other device.”

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Thinking About Ministry?

Here is a fine interview with Eugene Peterson on “The Reading and Writing Life of the Pastor.” Don’t miss this.

See this interview with Jimmy Dorrell of Mission Waco “How to Get Middle Class Congregations Involved with the Poor.”

Interview with Mike Cope – “Interview with Mike Cope and His Ministry at What Really Matters.”

Looking for a Good Blog Post?

Don’t miss Matthew Paul Turner’s post “25 Christian Blogs You Should Be Reading.” I discovered a number of blogs here that are new to me.

From Copyblogger note this post: “58 Ways to Create Persuasive Content Your Audience Will Love.”

Looking for Something Interesting?

See this post from Mental Floss: “11 Early Scathing Reviews of Words Now Considered Masterpieces.”

Have you seen Thinkers50?

Josh Graves has written an article which was posted at Fox News Online. “Let’s Make Sunday a Day of Rest, For God’s Sake.”

Ministry Inside.76

Expectations are everything!

So what do you expect?

This is a huge issue for many ministers. Far too many of us have very unrealistic expectations of ourselves, our work, and the congregations we serve.

At this point, someone might want to quickly interject, “But I think we ought to have high standards. Isn’t the bar already very low?” OK. Good point.

Yet, I want to suggest that we make assumptions and then move toward unrealistic expectations. These assumptions and expectations might include:

  • If I work very, very hard, people will appreciate me and know I am competent and worthwhile.
  • If I do a good job with my ministry, the key leaders in my congregation will certainly support and affirm me.
  • If I just explain and prove to my key leaders what we need to do as a church, they will see that this is obviously the approach that ought to be taken.
  • If I am competent and skilled, the congregation I serve will grow and we will experience few problems.

Maybe some of us have expectations of ourselves and others that are far too high, while our expectations of God are far too low.

Does any of this sound familiar? I would love to hear your thoughts.

Ministry Inside.75

Did you know that ministry can make you feel as if you are losing your mind?losemind-thumb.jpg

Ok. Maybe it is not supposed to be that way but I do know many people who have experienced this. I certainly have at times. I am going to list four ways this happens and next week will give four more reasons.

How you can feel like you are losing your mind:

1. You can lead out of your anxiety (“Did anyone complain this morning?”) instead of your conviction (“How did God work in the life of the congregation this morning?”). Anxious leaders live in a constant state of reaction. For them, a good Sunday morning is when no one complains. Yet, is this the way God wants us to evaluate our assemblies? Somehow I can’t imagine Paul evaluating the church based on the reactions of people.

2. You can spend a lot of energy trying to convince people to agree with you. This is quite different than communicating clearly how you arrived at this conclusion yourself. It is one thing for me to tell people what I believe. It is quite another to give a 10-point plan. Far better to calmly take a position or stand and attempt to clearly explain how you arrived at this conclusion, acknowledging that good people may differ.

3. You can be overly focused on what others say or want and lose sight of where you are going. It is one thing to be aware of what people think and feel. It is good to invite input and collaboration. Yet, far too many leaders become frozen in indecision. Somehow we get stuck in the murkiness of the swamp. I learned this years ago as I heard a church leader say, “You know we will do whatever the people want to do.” I remember thinking, “This is why the conflict is so intense at this congregation.” Being stuck in indecision, it heightened the tension in the congregation.

4. You can talk repeatedly about what someone said or did that was wrong, creating a cloud of negativity over the group. Consequently, the group meetings have a very negative emphasis which cause you to feel as if you are losing your encouragement and energy.

(More next Thursday)


Which one of these have you experienced most often? What has been the impact on you?

Ministry Inside.74

I was once at a conference with mostly ministers and other church leaders in attendance. A friend of mine came in late the first evening. The room was full but there was an empty seat on a back row.

The guy took this seat. Meanwhile, the conference began and our host proceeded to welcome us to the campus. I glanced at my friend. He had only been seated for about two minutes when he said “hello” to the person on his left. This guy was a teacher at the institution hosting the seminar. This guy looked at my friend and mumbled something. He then immediately got up from his chair and moved elsewhere in the room.

I witnessed this scene and thought, “Wow, we spend a lot of money to conduct conferences like this one. Guest speakers are here from different parts of the country. The point is to encourage church leaders. Yet, we can’t even say hello and sit with these ministers.”   

Many ministers, preachers, pastors, and elders are very weary.

What creates weariness?

I’m not quite sure. But I do know what contributes to it. For many of us, this is not a weariness that comes from reading a book for hours or having a fascinating discussion into the wee hours of the morning.
Rather, I am referring to the kind of weariness that comes from the work of ministry.

Where does weariness come from?

  • Weariness is to spend hours and hours with a couple about their marriage only to see them divorce.
  • Weariness is to see the church respond so graciously to a family who has been burned out by a fire only to see them place membership at another church three months later.
  • Weariness is to pray for an opportunity to invite your neighbor to church only to see some of your friends walk past her without speaking.
  • Weariness is to be in a church situation characterized by much strife and tension.
  • Weariness is knowing you need to have thick skin, but the insults and rude comments are becoming too much.
  • Weariness is to see the long, slow death of someone in your congregation. Then the funeral. Exhausting.
  • Weariness is to realize that you are deeply disappointed regarding other church leaders who have behaved immaturely in a recent church situation.

Can you relate to any of these?

(You might find encouragement in: Matthew 11:25-30; Psalm 63; and Joshua 1.)

Monday Start (Resources for the Week)

Thinking about your life?start-here-page.png

Gary Thomas is a writer whom I have enjoyed for a number of years. This past weekend, Charlotte and I were a part of a marriage seminar with him. Outstanding! You might enjoy some of these free resources from his website.

I continue to be amazed at how much money Americans are willing to spend on weddings.

Thinking about ministry?

I have read Andy Rowell’s blog for a number of years. Recently I read several posts and caught up with what I’ve missed. Don’t miss these links! Eugene Peterson’s lectures at Seattle Pacific University. Also note his post Theological and Biblical Audio Resources. Some very good resources cited.

Thinking about your walk with God?

During the last week, I have been reading Martin Laird’s Into the Silent Land: A Guide to the Christian Practice of Contemplation. (Thanks to my friend Keith Meyer for the recommendation.)

Do you read Conversations? This is an excellent journal representing various streams of thought. The focus is on “Authentic Transformation.” The most recent issue includes such writers as Ruth Haley Barton and John Ortberg. You might start here.

Mindy Caliguire interviews Dallas Willard. Very good!