Ministry Inside.90

to-do-listDo you ever find yourself putting off a task and as a result, it remains on your to-do list day after day?

I am thinking of a particular task that stayed on my to-do list for three weeks.  Every single day, I looked at that entry.  I needed to take action regarding a particular situation.  Instead, I let it linger.

I was procrastinating.  I put off doing what I knew needed to be done.

For awhile, every time I looked at that entry on that to-do list, I felt guilty and frustrated.  Finally, I felt nothing.  Day after day that item remained on my list and I no longer saw it.

I am not sure why I did this.  I suspect that one factor was fear.

Can you relate to this?

A few suggestions:

1.  Make sure that everything on your to-do list is actionable.  “Prepare sermon series” really doesn’t say much.  It is vague and has no specific action.  Better to say, “Write titles and purpose statements for six possible sermons for new series.”

2.  If an item seems big and overwhelming, break it down into step you need to take and then work on one of these tasks.  For example, instead of “Work on Bible class,” you might break this down into steps:

*   Create handout

*   Verify the details of the opening story

*   Review film clip

*   Read article regarding background information

A list of specific actions is much easier to address than a vague statement.

3.  Make a list of any actions you are avoiding.  Consider the emotional reaction you have to seeing a particular item on the list.  Is it fear?  Do you feel overwhelmed?  Do you feel a sense of dread?  Pray regarding these feelings.

4.  Take action on one of these tasks during your peak time of the day.  In other words, instead of using your peak energy time to look at Facebook or comment on someone’s blog, you might take action toward something that you’ve been avoiding.  Don’t wait until you have an energy lull to then look at what you want to avoid.


10 Ways to Murder a Marriage

marriage-broken-eggThe following is part 1 of a two part post in which I reflect on how to destroy a marriage. We have been married for 34 years and have had a front row seat to many, many other marriages.

1.  Create an atmosphere that no one would want to come home to in the evening. Do nothing but stare at your television night after night.  Complain.  Gripe at her or him for mistakes.  Go to bed angry and resentful.  Repeat the next day.

Constant carping, complaining and whining can destroy the atmosphere of a marriage. 

2.  Use pornography.  This is an ever increasing temptation not only for men, but women as well. You can lose yourself in a make believe world.  Pornography creates the illusion that sex is basically about the enjoyment of one person, instead of the mutual service of two people.  You don’t have to grow.  You don’t have to mature.  You don’t have to work at the give and take of relationship.

Pornography can destroy intimacy in marriage.

Monday Start (Resources for the Week)

The following are some resources for the week that you might enjoy.  These are links to posts, articles, etc. that in some way caused me to think.  Maybe you will find some of these useful as well.


A Tiny Life Ends in South Sudan.  I read this piece in the New York Times recently.  Very sobering. This a stark reminder of the impact of disease and poverty on families in South Sudan (and so many other places).  Periodically, I have to read articles like this to bring perspective to my life and work.


Peter Scazzero has written a good post.  Summer Reading Picks 2012.  I appreciate lists like this.


What a great piece!  How to Miss the Point: A Guide to Dimwitted Discourse. (Originally seen on Scot McKnight’s blog.)


Have you ever worked with someone who constantly attempted to micromanage you?  You might find Michael Hyatt’s post “How to Manage a Micromanager” useful.


Paul Tripp has written a new book entitled Dangerous Calling: Confronting the Unique Challenges of Pastoral Ministry.  I have not read the book but did enjoy the brief video promo that you can find here.  This sounds very interesting.

Ministry Inside.89

button Learn(The following post is written with church leaders in mind.  However, others might find this useful as well.)

Have you noticed that some people love to learn?

Last night, a wonderful young guy in our church shared a part of his life/faith story. Part of his talk included his work life as a firefighter and the many classes and special training he has undertaken.  Throughout his career, he has been devoted to learning and growing.  Not surprisingly, he has continued to advance in the fire department in which he serves.  He is now a fire marshall.  I suspect he will be intentional about learning and growing for the rest of his life.

Have you noticed that some people continue to grow and develop as ministers, pastors, elders, etc. while others put very little energy into learning?

Madeleine L’Engle, in her book Two-Part Invention, speaks of her early years in the 1920s when she was single and working in the theater.  She writes:

One of our roommates came because of the piano.  She was a budding musician and filled the apartment with Beethoven, Brahms, and Bach, though after she came I played only when she was around.  She grew as she played, not only in technique but in maturity.  The great masters pushed her as she tried faithfully to go where they led.   We do learn and develop when we are exposed to those who are greater than we are.  Perhaps this is the chief way we mature.

I love these lines.

We do learn and develop when we are exposed to those who are greater than we are.

Refuse to Settle for Being Half-Alive

alive_bigI came across this powerful line in Patrick Morley’s newest book Man Alive (p. 13)

You don’t have to settle for being half-alive.

I thought about this for several days.  I think it stayed with me because I’ve seen so many men and women who shut down long before they actually died.

  • The man who sits in his recliner at 40 years of age and complains about being old.
  • The woman who seems to have shut down once her children left home.
  • The man in his 50s who constantly talks about the years in which he played high school football.
  • The minister who sounds bland and bored as he speaks to the congregation.

So what do half-alive people look like?

Monday Start (Resources for the Week)

The following are some of the posts that I read within the past week.  Hopefully you will find a post or two in this list that you find useful.

Working in coffee shops

Wade Hodges recently moved from Austin to Dallas.  He has written three fine posts on his experiences in working in a coffee shop.  These are great!  See: “In Search of a Good Coffee Shop,” “Five Lessons I’ve Learned from Working in Coffee Houses” and “My Coffee Shop Nemesis“.

Learning to face fear

Former FBI agent, LaRae Quy reflects on learning to face your fears.  It was helpful to read through her steps.

For parents

You might find “Supernatural Parenting” encouraging.  Wisdom from a pediatrician (Thanks to Scot McKnight)

For church leaders

John Frye’s recent posts regarding pastoral ministry have been outstanding!  Don’t miss John’s most recent post which was posted on Jesus Creed, Scot McKnight’s blog.  You can find John’s blog here.

Don’t miss Andy Rowell’s post on the practical nature of ecclesiology.

Thinking about God

See this excellent post by Jeff Cook, “Could Believing in God Harm Your Soul“?

Ministry Inside.88

CoffeeBar_rephotography_011Each Thursday, I write a post that is designed with church leaders in mind. Many of these Thursday posts, however, are applicable to those who are not church leaders.  Church leaders and lay people both may find today’s post useful.

During July, I sat in a restaurant with a wonderful man in his 80s.  He is a former college professor, administrator, and minister.  He continues to think, grow, and make a difference.  I asked him to lunch because of particular questions I had about life as well as ministry.  I have always valued his wisdom from a distance.  This conversation, however, would be in person and last about an hour and a half.

My friend was generous with his time, his insight, and his wisdom.  After the conclusion of the lunch, I wrote several pages in my journal, carefully recording his answers to my questions.  I have read through these notes several times.  The conversation was one of the most valuable experiences I had in July.

One of the most important practices of my ministry has been creating the opportunities to learn from various people by simply asking questions.  I will ask someone to coffee or lunch and then ask questions about life, ministry, or leadership.  I have learned so much from these conversations.

I continue to seek out people whom I can learn from.  Let me encourage you to do the same.

How to Pay More Attention to Character than Image

woodenmirrormuseumThe Penn State scandal has underscored a fundamental issue that is present in far too many of us:

Some of us are more concerned about the image we project than the kind of person we really are.

I once heard the story of a couple that purchased a house in an exclusive neighborhood north of Dallas.  They moved into the house and immediately put up coverings over each window.  Months later this couple was arrested and indicted for their participation in some fraudulent scheme.  Authorities came to their home and discovered that the house was basically empty.  They had a cardboard table, a couple of folding chairs, a television, and a single mattress.

The story revealed that the couple had sold their previous home and belongings.  They moved into this exclusive neighborhood to create the impression that they were doing quite well financially.  This home was way beyond their means, and they were able to live there only after selling all their belongings.  Neighbors noticed they never opened their blinds or curtains.  That was because they didn’t want anyone to see that the house was practically empty.

Some people are willing to do most anything to create a particular kind of image.  Image, however, is not a substitute for character.

Image people want to appear cool wherever they are.  If they are on the road traveling with business associates, they want to appear totally with whatever is happening.  If they are at church, they want to appear to be the devoted family person.  Image wants others to know they are “in.”

Image people want others to think they are not lacking in any way.  They may make statements to their family members such as:

  • You don’t want people to think we can’t afford to buy nice things.
  • You don’t want people to think we buy cheap clothes.
  • You don’t want people to think we can’t go on great trips.
  • You don’t want people to think we don’t get invited to nice parties.
  • You don’t want people to think we live in an old neighborhood.
  • You don’t want people to think our kids are not as good as theirs.

Image people are far more concerned with the way they appear than the way they are.  Their Facebook status always communicates that they live one awesome, glorious life every moment of the day.  Really?

They are more concerned about the way others perceive them than the reality of their lives.  This is one reason why a person’s public and private persona can be so different.

Focusing on our image while we neglect our character is like having a manicured lawn around our home while we neglect the cracking foundation.  The house may look appealing at first glance but may be in serious trouble due to a neglected foundation.

Monday Start

You might be interested in one or more of the following links.  Most of these resources surfaced within the last four weeks.

If you feel overwhelmed

This is a great article, by Peter Bregman, that appeared in The Harvard Business Review: “Two Lists You Should Look at Every Morning.”

For an interesting read

You might consider looking at The Browser: Writing Worth Reading.  This is an interesting website that features “Today on FiveBooks Interviews” in which various people suggest the best reading on any subject.

On writing

You might enjoy these two interviews with Ian Morgan Cron on the life of a writer.  See part 1 here and part 2 here.  Be sure to see the notes on each page.  Cron is the author of Jesus, My Father, The CIA, and Me, which is an excellent book that explores in particular the relationship between a boy and his father.

Thinking about ministry

John Fry has written two good posts in which he offers some very insightful comments regarding pastoral ministry.  See “Are ‘Pastors’ The Problem?” and “Is ‘Pastor’ a Volatile Word?

Critical situations in the world

While I was away, I read Jeffrey Gettleman’s startling piece in The New York Times on the thousands of children who are fleeing Sudan.  Oh my goodness.

I also read this sobering piece about a 13-year-old Afghan girl who was forced to marry and then was tortured.  Fortunately, some sought justice.