Ministry Inside.63

1. What is your point of view? Very often ministers/preachers/pastors see their church from only their perspective without making the effort to see another’s point of view. I have found it very helpful to listen to others so that I can learn what people in these situations really are experiencing.

For example, I might seek to answer these questions.

  • What is it like to be single in this congregation?
  • What is it like to be married but to have no children?
  • What is it like to be a widow or widower here?
  • What is it like to be new in this congregation? How does one get in? (Yes, there is a formal way of entering a congregation but how does one break into friendship circles?)
  • What is it like to have a son or father in jail and live as a part of this church family?
  • What is it like to have questions and even doubts and still be a part of this congregation?
  • What is it like to be struggling financially in our church family?   

I first learned of this practice from John Killinger from an early book on preaching. I still think the practice can be very helpful.

2. The best thing that I can bring to my congregation is a healthy self. That is, I can be a man who is godly, who loves people (beginning with my spouse and children), and who leads an ethical/moral life. Don’t underestimate the importance of these three. Yes, I know there are other important factors; however, my intellect, my creativity, and my leadership will never trump my own life before God. As a minister, I really need to start with the basics.

  • How is my relationship with God?
  • What is the state of my marriage? If my wife were to describe our marriage to people whom I admire, how would I feel?
  • Are there “demons” in my closet that I am not dealing with (perhaps a tendency toward rage, a battle with pornography, or some other addictive behavior)?

3. Did you see this post about Fred Craddock on CNN online this week? Don’t miss this fine article.

Be Decisive About 2012

I am thinking about my life in 2012.2012.jpg


Have you given any thought regarding the upcoming year? Have you thought about the kind of person you want to be?

A few suggestions:

  1. Live as one who is blessed by God with the abundant riches that have been given in Christ. In fact, he has lavished his spiritual blessings on you.
  2. Live out of your abundance in Jesus instead of your perception of scarcity. Such a perspective will lessen the temptation to think that “if only” something could happen your life would be grand.
  3. Cease any unnecessary hesitation or procrastination. Some things need to be done or said now.
  4. Make the most of what time you have on this earth. Make the most of your time when you are with people. Be with them.
  5. Be deliberate. No one can do everything. Be intentional about your time. Aimlessly killing two hours surfing the Internet means you are saying “no” to other things.


Consider what you might do if you had just one more year to live.


  • I think I would express my love to my wife and children more often.
  • I would say “no” to some things in my life that do not really contribute to who I am as a person but are taking away time.
  • I would like to think that I would savor each day.
  • I would deepen my prayer life along with the other spiritual disciplines as I get ready to be with the Lord.
  • I would conserve my energy and passion for things that matter. Why get bent out of shape over things that really don’t matter?
  • I wonder if my preaching/teaching would be different? Would knowing that the end is near impact these messages? Would I speak and live with more passion, boldness, and authenticity?
  • I would like to think that I would communicate my love and affection for other family members and special friends.
  • I would probably have an increasing clarity about what is really important in life.

Many of us tend to rock along as if we had all the time in the world to live. Maybe it’s time to give this some thought and prayer.


Question:

What is one intentional, decisive step that you plan to take in 2012?

Is it Obvious that I’m Growing Up?

Peter Scazzero’s The Emotionally Healthy Church is a very good book. This particular paragraph in the Introduction caught my attention:

The sad truth is that too little difference exists, in terms of emotional and relational maturity, between God’s people Emotion.jpeg inside the church and those outside

who claim no relationship to Jesus Christ. Even more alarming, when you go beyond the praise and worship of our large meetings and conventions and into the homes and small-group meetings of God’s people, you often find a valley littered by broken and failed relationships.

He argues that emotional health and spiritual maturity are a large, unexplored area of discipleship. What we have done instead is to give emotional issues to the therapist while the church takes care of the “spiritual” issues. These, as Scazzero argues, are actually linked and are a part of a fully biblical discipleship.

Discipleship not only engages my mind and emotions but my body as well. Rodney Clapp, in his book Tortured Wonders, makes the case for Christ-following that involves the whole person, including the body.

Why is this important? It is important because Jesus has called us to a life of surrender, dependency on him, and service.


This is also important because separating the emotional/relational self (or even the body) from the “spiritual” has created some troubling and even bizarre situations among Christians.

The following are examples of such troubling situations. (Some of these are Sazzero’s and some are mine.)

The man who has taught for years in adult Bible classes and yet his adult children resent him and his wife smolders with anger over years of neglect.

The woman who volunteers for most everything at church while neglecting her health thinking that she is doing what God wants.

The church leader who can never say “I was wrong” or “I don’t know what to do.”

The high control kind of person who has a way of wearing people out as he persists in trying to get others to share his opinions.

The ministry leader who sees any difference of opinion as a personal attack.

The man or woman who continues pushing people away and at the same time can’t understand why he/she doesn’t have friends.

Following Jesus (or growing spiritually) means that my entire life, heart, mind, emotions, and body come under his Lordship. Unfortunately, many of us are ready to give our “spiritual” selves to Jesus while we hold back emotionally or in other areas. Jesus is very clear. He wants the whole self.

Question:

What happens to a person when they remain emotionally immature even though they have been Christians for a decade or more? What kind of inconsistencies begin to emerge from one’s life?

4 Helpful Questions as You Consider Your Future

Sometimes, what makes a difference regarding the fruitfulness of our lives may not be a matter of having the right answers, but asking the right questions.

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About 20 years ago, I interviewed with a congregation that graciously expressed interest in the possibility of our family moving to their city and beginning my ministry with them. I knew their former preacher, a good friend who spoke highly of this congregation.

As a part of this process, they invited me to come to their city and begin a conversation with them. At this point, we were getting acquainted. They were interested in finding out more about Charlotte and me. I was interested in finding out more about them. So one day, I went to this city for a series of meetings with various people (other ministers, assistants, ministry leaders, a few elders, etc.).

One of these meetings was with two deacons who had spearheaded an effort to write a thick policy manual. This manual covered every imaginable situation. They seemed especially concerned about the habits of their ministers. What time does a person come into the office? How long does a minister take for lunch? What time does a minister leave the office in the afternoon?

I immediately felt very uncomfortable.

  • I thought of those mornings when I awaken very early to read my Bible, read a classic book of Christian devotion, and pray. This takes place long before I ever walk into my office.
  • I thought of those long lunches as a father poured out his heartbreak over a rebellious daughter or son.
  • I thought of those nights sitting in the emergency room waiting area after someone had been involved in a wreck. I am not thinking about whether or not I am “off” or “on.” This is just life — and ministry.


Ministry is not a life that can be reduced to the hours between 8 and 5 o’clock. While I do keep regular office hours, I also realize that one can’t turn on ministry at 8 and turn it off at 5.

The same principle is true for anyone who is a parent, a married person, or anyone for that matter, who walks with God. Life cannot be reduced to what happens at the hour of my choosing. No, being a parent or being a married person happens at some of the most unexpected moments.

The same is true regarding my walk with God. A person’s most productive years may come in his/her 30s, 50s, or 70s.


Perhaps the most important concern ought to be: “What kind of man or woman am I becoming?”

1. Am I gaining the kind of wisdom that will help me know how to be a parent even at the odd, unexpected moments?

2. Am I growing in the virtues of Christ, so that I

Works women For caveat of clumping Royale.

am responding to my wife in a godly manner, even when I am tired and exhausted from the day?

3. Am I developing as a Christ-follower so that I am following Jesus into the will of God, no matter what stage of life I am in?

4. Am I maturing as a minister so that my words and actions are appropriate and godly?

How to Build Trust With the People in Your Life

Trust is incredibly important in any relationship.trust1.jpg

In fact, it would be difficult to overemphasize its importance. If trust is high in a marriage, friendship, church, or business, the atmosphere that permeates those relationships is often one of peace, harmony, and mutual respect. Have you given thought about just how important it is to be intentional about building trust?

Trust is critical in a ministry and congregation. Yet, many ministers/elders underestimate the importance and value of trust building.

Of course, building trust is not just a work for ministers and elders but all Christian men and women. (Taking questions such as these seriously would have a profound impact on our children and grandchildren, not to mention our friends and co-workers.)

Trust is built in a number of ways in a marriage, friendship, church, or between co-workers:

  • Do you do what you say you are going to do?
  • Do you speak truth and can people depend on your word?
  • Do you behave in ways that are consistent with your commitment to Jesus? Or, are godly people surprised when they get up close to your life?
  • Do you desire to close the gap between others’ public perception of you and the private reality of your life?
  • Do you behave in a way that is honorable and right with the opposite sex?
  • Do you handle yourself with integrity in the “little” things? Do you tell the truth when you are purchasing amusement park tickets at Six Flags regarding the ages of your children? Do you tell the truth about the product you sell? Do you return what you have borrowed from your neighbors? Do you refuse to take advantage of the cashier at Wal-Mart when she gives you too much change back?
  • Do others have confidence in your judgment?

Let me suggest to you that there are a number of ways that, over time, you can increase the level of trust that others have in you.

1. Pay attention to your character. Trust from others increases as they see that you are the “real deal.” Over time, these people see that your life reflects the virtues of Christ. They can see your genuine intent to live a godly, virtuous, authentic life.

2. Pay attention to your relationships. Nothing destroys a relationship more quickly than self-centeredness and dishonesty. One way this occurs in some relationships is through manipulation. A manipulator cannot be trusted because she speaks words and uses people in order to get what she wants. You don’t have to go far to see the fallout of someone who has been burned by a manipulator.

3. Pay attention to your thinking. After all, one reason people trust another is because again and again he demonstrates good judgment. A person who lacks poor judgment will often make a snap, uninformed decision or will let his emotions take over in the heat of the moment.

I hope you find this helpful. These are three areas of my life that I pay close attention to.

Question:

Which one of these areas do you often find most challenging? What else would you add to this list of three?

Ministry Inside.62

Recently, I read Lance Witt’s Replenish: Leading From a Healthy Soul. The following are quotes from the book that I particularly liked:


(Regarding a conversation with a mentor.) I asked what I needed to do to help our church be effective at spiritual transformation, and this was his immediate response: ‘You must live with deep contentment, joy, and confidence in your experience of everyday life with God’ (p. 10).


But what doesn’t get talked about as much is the importance of healthy leaders. We will never grow healthy churches with unhealthy leaders (pp. 11-12)



.…in trying to fill the gap with leadership resources, inadvertently we have marginalized the soul side of leadership. The result is a crisis — one of spiritual healthy among pastors (p. 18).


We have neglected the fact that a pastor’s greatest leadership tool is a healthy soul (p. 19).


We’ve all witnessed the carnage of leaders who’ve had to leave ministry (at least for now) because of moral failure. The headlines are always about the scandalous and shocking behavior, but rarely mentioned is the back-story.

It is the story of a neglected soul and mismanaged character. Of a slow drift into relational isolation. Of being seduced by ambition. These leaders didn’t intend for it to happen, but somewhere along the journey they stopped paying attention to what was going on inside of them. The shift was incremental and at times imperceptible.

Having talked to some whose ministry has come crashing down around them, I can tell you the convergence of outward success, self-deception, soul neglect, and relational isolation creates the perfect storm for disaster (p. 19).


We may be better leaders than we used to be, but the evidence seems to say we are not better pastors or husbands or Christ followers (p. 20).


Godly leadership is always inside out (p. 20).

10 Behaviors that Will Gain the Respect of Others

Many people want to be liked. There is no shortage of people who would like to be popular. Yet, it is much more important to live in such a way as to gain the respect of others.

Respect is not something that you acquire by going after it or trying to achieve it. Rather, respect comes when your life begins to reflect particular qualities. The following are ten behaviors that will often lead a person to the place where he/she is respected by others.


1. Listen. Really listen to what others say. Seek to understand what others are thinking and feeling. Attempt to put yourself in their place.

respect-10-1.jpg2. Show others respect, particularly those who are wiser and ahead of you on the journey.

3. Be a learner. I once knew a young mother who told her minister that she wasn’t interested in the new class at church for young parents. Why? She had recently read a particular book and would not be making the same mistakes with her children that others in the church had made. Hmm. There are no shortcuts to learning. We all have a lot to learn.

4. Be gracious. The way to respect is not through being sharp tongued and smart aleck. Rather, be gracious to people. Some years ago, I overheard author Max Lucado in a conversation with a very fine scholar. They were meeting one another for the first time. The scholar asked Lucado what he did for a living. (Max Lucado was already a best selling Christian author.) Lucado graciously responded by saying that he was an author and wrote books for ordinary Christians. The man then asked him to name the titles of a few of his books. Lucado responded by naming a few titles. He did not seem frustrated that the man did not know that he was a best selling Christian author. After overhearing that conversation, I came away with a whole new respect for Max Lucado.

5. Engage in wise, godly behavior whether anyone is looking or not. How tragic that someone would walk with Jesus for decades and then throw away their credibility by engaging in immorality.

6. Go beyond what is expected. Some people are forever taking short cuts. They do the bare minimum. Go beyond the minimum. Do what is expected and then some.

7. Do the right thing, even when it is very hard. Start with the seemingly insignificant decisions. One good decision will build on another.

8. Guard your mouth. How sad when a person opens his mouth and as a result destroys the respect that others previously had for him.

9. Be genuine. Don’t act one way in a meeting and then talk about the group members behind their back in a private conversation on the parking lot.

10. Demonstrate that you are worthy of another’s trust. Pay your debts, no matter how small. Keep your word. Do what you say you will do. You will gain the respect of others when they learn they can count on you.


Question:

What are other behaviors that tend to eventually create respect?



Take the Opportunity to Laugh at Yourself


I need to laugh! Do you?


I grew up watching re-runs of “I Love Lucy”. Some of my earliest memories include evenings when I sat in front of our television watching this show. I laughed and laughed. I could turn this post into a list of the comedians and actors who I have enjoyed because they were funny.

I have a friend named, Mike, who is an exceptional storyteller. I can think of numerous lunches and dinners when I laughed and laughed at one of Mike’s stories. Mike not only is a great storyteller but he seems to genuinely enjoy telling these stories.

Some people seem to think that it is more spiritual to be grim faced, stoic, and deadly serious at all times. Yet, Jesus spoke about some people who would strain a gnat out of their soup while a camel had its hoof in their soup (Mt. 23:24). I can see Jesus grin as he used that image. He spoke of attempting to get a speck out of someone’s eye while having a beam rammed into your own eye socket (Mt. 7:3-5). This is a funny image.

Yes, I know that much of life is anything but humorous. There is so much pain and heartache in the world. Quite often, we have a front row seat as we watch our loved ones experience the pain of some kind of brokenness. With such people, we weep and mourn expressing our love to them.

On the other hand, I want to relish moments that invite laughter and joy. There is nothing spiritual about being dour, highly sensitive and easily offended.


So here is a suggestions: Learn to laugh at yourself.


We all make funny mistakes. We do things that are silly. Sometimes, we may be absentminded and do something ridiculous. Again, and again I do these things. Why not laugh at yourself? Genuine self-depricating humor will only endear others to you.

I love this story that my friend tells about a moment in a funeral home that he would probably like to do again. An older man in his congregation had recently died. He was a farmer, who had been married for many years. He was a simple man. He never wore a suit to church or a coat and tie of any kind. He simply wore his overalls.

On the night of the visitation at the funeral home, my friend went to express his support and care to the widow. My friend and this couple had been good friends for many years. At the funeral home, people were coming and going as they hugged the man’s wife and expressed their love.

My friend stepped into the visitation room and together with the widow, walked over to the casket. My friend looked at the old gentleman, dressed in a suit and tie. He then remarked to the widow, “You know, he wouldn’t have been caught dead in a suit.” My friend said that moments after those words left his mouth, it dawned on him what he had just said. For a moment, he froze, cringing with embarrassment. Finally, he looked up only to catch the eyes of this woman. She laughed and laughed! (Much to his relief!) He then laughed with her. Whew!

My friend told this story on himself. We laughed as he told it.


Question:

What does laughter do for you as a person? What happens to you when you are only rarely laughing?

Ministry Inside.61

Much talk, ink, and thought have been focused on leadership. That is good. Christian people look at leadership through a primary lens — the life and teachings of Jesus and his person and character as revealed in the Bible.

1. Godly leaders ought to have a clear understanding that this mysterious God has been at work throughout history leading up to his/her life. What matters did not begin when I showed up on the scene. Rather, God has been at work all along through a variety of people.

2. Godly leaders understand that pragmatism, effectiveness, and efficiency do not trump the place of Jesus in a life. Simply because something works does not mean that it is appropriate for a leader who aspires to follow Jesus.

3. Godly leaders place becoming before doing. Far too many leaders have done “church work” to the neglect of their marriages, their children, and their own souls. In ministry, doing needs to flow out of what we are becoming.

4. Godly leaders are called to model the values they articulate. Yes, this adds credibility to one’s message. Even more importantly, however, this is an authentic way to live.

5. Godly leaders pay attention to their own souls. They understand that the longevity and health of their ministry is very much connected to the condition of their own souls.

6. Godly leaders inspire and stimulate the imagination. The source of this imaginative stimulation is the story of the kingdom of God as proclaimed by Jesus.

There is No Substitute for Paying Attention to the Soul

In the introduction to his book Building Below the Waterline, Gordon MacDonald tells the following story about the construction of the Brooklyn Bridge.


David McCullough’s book The Great Bridge tells a fascinating story about the building of the Brooklyn Bridge, which arches the East River and joins Manhattan to Brooklyn.

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In June 1872, the chief engineer of the project wrote: “To such of the general public as might imagine that no work had been done on the New York tower, because they see no evidence of it above the water, I should simply remark that the amount of the masonry and concrete laid on that foundation, under water, is equal to the entire masonry of the Brooklyn tower visible today above the waterline.”

The Brooklyn Bridge remains a major transportation artery in New York City today because 135 years ago the chief engineer and his construction team did their most patient and daring work where no one could see it: on the foundations of the towers below the waterline. It is one more illustration of an ageless principle in leadership: the work done below the waterline (in a leader’s soul) that determines whether he or she will stand the test of time and challenge.


Far Too Many People Pay No Attention to What is Beneath

Far too many families come apart.

Far too many men and women become angry and cynical and live this way for the rest of their lives.

Far too many church leaders crash and burn due to some poor, sinful decision.

Far too many people are not prepared for some of the difficult challenges they eventually face.


Pay Attention to the Soul

I have learned just how much I must pay attention to what is “beneath” in my own life. Everything on the surface clamors for my attention. Appointments. Sermons. Meetings. Projects. Finances. Yet, the best thing I have to offer others, whether it be my wife, my children, my church, or my friends, is a man who pays attention to his soul.


Question

What have you experienced in your life when you are taking care of your soul? What have you experienced when you neglect what is “beneath”?