Ministry Inside.138

Every Thursday, I write with church leaders in mind.  Yet, this particular post probably speaks to many of us, regardless of how we serve.

Let’s think for a moment about self-consciousness.  

Man-Looking-in-MirrorWhen I was in high school (yes, this was a long time ago) a photographer came to our campus to take picture of our football and basketball teams.

There was a guy who was a receiver on our team who really seemed concerned about how he might look in a picture.  The photographer was going to take action shots. At one point, just before he began taking pictures of the receivers catching footballs, this particular receiver wanted to practice.  The quarterback threw him a pass (which he caught) and he immediately yelled to one of his friends, “How did I look?”

Many of us spend much time and energy preoccupied with ourselves.  We want to look good and can become more preoccupied with our image than the reality of our lives.  This self-consciousness comes out in interesting ways:

1.  A young father may spend much time and energy wanting to appear to be cool.  Consequently, his appearance receives more attention than his character.

Monday Start: Resources for the Week

start (1)The following are resources which I have read in the past week and found interesting.


Don’t miss this!  Kristi Hedges “Why Leaders are Poor Communicators.”  This is so true. Sometimes the worst communicators are leaders.


In the New York Times Pranay Sinha has written an opinion piece entitled “Why Do Doctors Commit Suicide?”


See Tierney Sneed’s article in US News and World Report “The ‘Leave it to Beaver’ Family Has Been Left Behind.”


See Lolly Daskal’s article “Accomplish Great Things at Any Age.”


Jane Scearce has posted these great tools!  “21 Simple Online Tools for Everyday Needs.”




How You Can Take Pressure Off Your Marriage

imsotiredYou are not responsible another’s behavior.

Yet, far too many Christian men and women believe they are responsible for the behavior of their spouse.

  • A young wife and mother regularly makes hurtful, cutting remarks to her in-laws.  Her husband defends her vigorously by talking on and on about what an amazing person she really is.
  • A man continues to have have problems with his employer.  He has had a variety of jobs in the last fifteen years.  Each one of these have ended in a clash with management. Meanwhile, his spouse tells their friends that he is so talented and smart but just can’t find an employer who will appreciate him.
  • A father repeatedly breaks promises to his children while he pursues his own pleasures and interests.  Meanwhile, his wife defends him to these children, telling them what an awesome father he really is.  Yes, these kids are confused.

Marriage can be difficult.  Yet, what heightens the difficulty for some is the belief that you must constantly defend, excuse, or justify your spouse’s behavior.

Here is the good news.  You are responsible for your own behavior.  Your are not, however, responsible for the behavior of your spouse.  Nor, are you responsible for explaining or justifying his or her behavior to others.

Ministry Inside.137

ENERGETIC1Most church leaders I know work hard.  You may serve as a preacher, elder, or some other kind of role as a Christian servant.  I suspect you want to be effective, you want to make a difference, and you are trying to carry out your ministry in the best way you know how.

Yet, you may have found that ministry can take a great amount of energy.

For example:

1.  One older woman met her new preacher.  She then boasted regarding their former preacher, “Oh we ran him off!”  She said much in that one statement.

2.  A well educated couple took notes during most every sermon.  Their notes?  These were actually critiques of their young  minister’s grammatical errors.  After each sermon they presented him with the list as they communicated their displeasure.

3.  In one congregation, an office assistant made life very difficult for a new minister at the church. This was allowed to continue for several years.  Why?  She was related to one of the elders.

4.  Two long-time ministers in a congregation conspired to make life very challenging for a new preacher, their co-worker.  He knew that if he stayed with that congregation, he would continue to feel very much alone in his relationships with the other ministers.

These kinds of situations take a lot of energy.  You may be in a difficult situation in your congregation.

It is critical that you create energy producing habits and practices. Energy has to come in and not just flow out or else we can pay a severe price.

For example, the following are some of the practices which give me energy.

Monday Start: Resources for the Week

Start (1)Presentations

I enjoy reading and listening to Nancy Duarte. I have learned much from her work on presentations.  See “Nancy Duarte|Expert on Telling Stories Visually.”

What We’ve Lost

See this thoughtful article by Shane Parish “The End of Absence: Reclaiming What We’ve Lost in a World of Constant Connection.”


See “The Twelve Most Magnificent Bookstores in the World.”  I would like to visit each one.

Marriage Statistics Reconsidered  

On the blog Thoughtful Women, I read this very interesting post about statistics that are generally accepted regarding marriage.”


Lifehacker recently had a post discussing “13 Tricks to Help You Remember What You’ve Learned.”



Monday Start: Resources for the Week

start (1)Church

See Terry Rush’s post “Why Christians Struggle With the Church.”

Relationships and church

See Allan Stanglin’s excellent piece “Surprise” regarding Euodia and Syntyche.   How early believers dealt with their differences.


Don’t miss this powerful post by Michele Cushatt “When It’s Time to Say Goodbye.”


Don’t miss this excellent podcast by Michael Hyatt and Michele Cushatt.  See “Why Doing Less Is the Best Way to Do More.”

Also, be sure to consider Greg McKeown’s new book Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less. This is such a good book!  I found it very helpful in reflecting on my use of time.

The Real Me (and perhaps the real you)

fear.jpgThe real me is a guy who sometimes spends too much time wrestling with fear and worry.

Does this sound familiar?  If not, you may want to skip the rest of this post.

Like you, the real me is more than fear.  There are other qualities that I hope I’ve grown and matured in over the years.  I hope I reflect more of Jesus’ character.  I would like to think that my life displays the fruit of God’s Spirit (however imperfectly).

Yet, I sometimes spend too much time with fear and worry.  These can be middle of the night visitors that keep me awake as they remind me of the bad things that could happen in my life.

A few weeks ago I was in conversation with a friend of mine who preaches for a very large community church.  He has served this church for many years.  He is handsome, articulate, and has numerous gifts.  Yet, at one point in the conversation, he made the following comment regarding my ministry and role at Harding School of Theology.

“Jim, I don’t see how you do this work.  Wow.  I would have a lot of fear about doing something like this.”

Ministry Inside.136

QuietA number of years ago, I spent three days and two nights at “The Quiet House.” This is a retreat cottage hidden away in the Texas Hill Country on the Laity Lodge property. This little cottage is secluded. It is surrounded by live oaks, cedar trees, and deer that come and go.

I went there thinking it would be great to spend time alone in a place that is undisturbed. After all, there are no neighbors or cars nearby. No television, radio, wifi, e-mail, or texting. My phone hardly got a signal.

I spent much of my time reading, hiking, and writing in my journal. While I was there I read a moving book about a father/son relationship.

Yet, it was difficult. The first two days were especially challenging. It was hard to be quiet. It was difficult to be surrounded by quiet.

Are You Tired?

TiredI am tired tonight.

No nothing is wrong.  However, this has been a long week.  School is about to begin.  I have several projects in the mix in which I would like to make progress.  Tomorrow, I am speaking at a one day school retreat.  Then, there were a few unexpected issues today.

Yet, it is ok to be tired.

  • It feels ok to be tired when you know that your work is making a difference.
  • It feels ok to be tired when you know your co-workers are working hard with you.
  • It feels ok to be tired when you believe you are making progress.
  • It feels ok to be tired when you like the people with whom you work.
  • It feels ok to be tired when you know you’ve given your best that day.
  • It feels ok to be tired when you’ve served the Lord and you know that in some way you brought him delight.

Monday Start: Resources for the Week

start (1)The following is the weekly “Monday Start.” (Ok, I know it is Tuesday but here it is anyway.)

For Students

Scott Rae (Biola University) encourages students (seminary students in particular) to see their study as a part of their calling and discipleship.  See this excellent two and a half minute video.


From Inc magazine “9 Ways to Become More Creative in the Next Ten Minutes.” Some helpful suggestions.

A new word

Harold Shank has written a nice post which many will relate to.  See the “counterparts.”


Wow.  This is a memorable video from Victoria Labalme on the “Power of Brevity.”  She makes her point.


I am reading David Benner’s Desiring God’s Will.  The Preface and the first chapter have me hooked.  Also, I recently read Paul David Tripp’s Dangerous Calling.  A great book that deals with real-world ministry issues.