Ministry Inside.81

Each Thursday, I write a post focused on the needs of church leaders. The following is the first in a series of habits for church leaders (in particular) who wish to grow and develop.

Habit #1 Practice self-awareness.

With whom am I spending time? I have to monitor just how much time I spend with negative, critical people. Too much time spent with others who are constantly griping and complaining will sure enough drain me of energy. I have a friend who described one preacher as so negative that his sermons on grace had a negative edge. Yet, I can’t listen to (what seems like) an endless stream of negative talk because it really does impact me.

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What am I putting into my mind? On a typical day, I talk (email, phone call, personal conversation) with people about matters that are very serious. Someone has learned that they have cancer. Someone else is deeply concerned about personal financial debt. Still another is wrestling with marriage issues. At the end of the day, it is easy to go home and immerse myself in the national news, which much of the time is going to be very negative. As a result, I have to be very intentional about what I put into my mind. I can’t think about sad and tragic situations all of the time.

Often I make sure I watch something funny on television. I might watch a good ball game. I might read a biography, especially one that is not filled with tragedy. What I put into my mind really does matter.

Whom am I resenting? Unresolved conflict and resentments can be such energy drainers! It is amazing how much energy I can spend thinking about a person I am frustrated or angry with. Occasionally I need to ask myself, “How much time do I spend thinking about old resentments or things that long ago should have been forgiven?”

When do I re-create my body? I generally work out at the gym four times a week. My motivation for doing this is not my weight nor is it because I am a health nut. My motivation is rooted in the way it makes me feel when I am regularly working out versus how I feel when I am not. If I am not getting some kind of exercise, it really does impact how I feel. Not only do I feel sluggish, but I also tend to have less energy and motivation, particularly in the afternoons.

Some ministers get their emotional strokes by talking about how hard they work. They go on and on about what everyone has asked them to do and how busy they are. There are ministers who do not even take a day off. Not taking time to rest, to get away, and to recharge will eventually catch up with a person.

Thanks for Your Patience

My blog has experienced technical difficulties lately. Hopefully, these problems have been worked out now. Thanks for your patience with this. Please let me know if you experience difficulty with the blog in any wayThank_you_small.jpg

I am really indebted to all of you who read this blog, some for a very long time.

Book Review: The God Box

I just ordered a copy of this book for both of my daughters.God_Box_book_cover.JPG

No, I don’t do this on a regular basis.  However, after reading this book, I wanted them to each be able to hear this story.

The book is The God Box. The author is Mary Lou Quinlan.

Mary Lou Quinlan has written a fine book. On one level, the book is about Quinlan’s mother, Mary Finlayson, and her relationship with her daughter, Mary Lou. Yet, on another level, the thread that runs throughout the book is the prayers of Quinlan’s mother.

Her mother regularly prayed for others. Many of these prayers came after others poured out their hearts to Mary Finlayson regarding their problems, worries, and fears. For twenty years, she would write down these concerns on random pieces of paper and slip them inside her “God box.” This was a box in her home in which she placed her petitions to God.

The book is well written and attractive.  Not only does it contain numerous pictures of the family, but there are many photocopies of her mother’s prayer requests.  To see these prayer requests handwritten on pieces of paper is very moving.

There is much to be said for the book. I especially appreciated the portrait of this mother who, in the course of her life, prayed to God regarding her husband, her children, her friends, and many other people.

“She inhaled a worry. She exhaled a prayer.”

Mary Finlayson connected with many other people in a compassionate and caring way.  Family members, friends, and people she had just met poured out their problems and difficulties to her. She in turn took these petitions to God.

Learning to Finish What You Start

Many people start. Fewer finish.finish.jpg

Consider what we begin:

  • A marriage begins with a wedding.
  • A student begins an academic program.
  • A homeowner begins a do-it-yourself project remodeling the family’s kitchen.
  • A person begins a blog.
  • A church member takes on and begins a project for the congregation.

Many people begin. Fewer finish.

This past weekend, our family and some friends gathered in the Lloyd Noble Arena at the University of Oklahoma to support our daughter Jamie, as she received her Master of Social Work degree after several hard years of study and work. As you might imagine, I was a very proud father.

I was especially proud that she had finished.

Years ago, I received a Doctor of Ministry degree from Harding Graduate School of Theology. Shortly after graduation, Ken Dye, a longtime friend, said to me:

“You finished! A lot of people start things, but you finished!”

I especially appreciated this because I once came very close to dropping out of college as an undergraduate at the University of North Texas.

I was a first semester junior and was very discouraged. I was struggling in several of my classes. One day, I decided to quit. I cut my classes that day and went to Dallas in search of another direction. I first went to an electronics school and talked with them. Then I went to a school that trained radio announcers. Finally, I went to the Dallas Police Department.

At the police department, I talked with a person about the application process. Then at the end of the conversation, another officer joined us. This officer was an African-American gentleman in his late 40s. He was dressed in plain clothes, a sportcoat and slacks. He sat across the table from me and smoked his pipe. At one point he said,

“Son, if you are interested in this, we will be glad to talk with you. My suggestion to you, however, would be to finish college. Don’t quit now.”

Monday Start (Resources for the Week)

Do you have a dream?

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This may be one of the best posts Jeff Goins has written: “When You’re Scared to Death, Do Something Anyway.” I really enjoy reading Jeff’s posts. You might enjoy this great interview with Jeff Goins.


Pictures of the day

You might enjoy these pictures from The Telegraph (UK). I especially like the first one.


Do you read fiction?

I confess. I read very little fiction. I am wondering if I should not be reading more. See this post from Scot McKnight.


What they are thinking

You might be interested in this chart from Scot McKnight’s blog entitled “What Young Adults Care About.”


What Do You Wish You Had Done that You Didn’t Do?

In Mentor Like Jesus, Regi Campbell writes about some people in their 90s who were surveyed a few years ago and asked this question:

“What are three things you wish you had done that you didn’t do?”

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These people responded with a number of answers. The three most prevalent responses were:

“Take more risk.”

“Reflect more.”

“Focus more on things that will live beyond me.”

I have thought about how I might answer this question. I probably would say, “Focus more on what I desire to do and not allow fear to hold me back.”

How would you answer this question?

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.

3 Suggestions for Becoming Self-forgetful

We live in a culture in which many think it is perfectly normal to pursue whatever is in your self-interest — even if it means breaking your prior commitments. The thinking goes something like this:

You may be married.Self-Forgetfulness.jpg

You may have a good job.

You may be a part of a church.

However (the thinking goes), these should not come at your expense. As a result, many men and women make decisions they never dreamed they would make.

A man leaves his young wife and small child for another woman.

A middle-aged woman leaves her husband who has just learned he has cancer. She doesn’t want to have to take care of him.

Far too many people conclude that if something appears to be a “better offer” it is only reasonable to abandon one’s commitments so that one doesn’t miss this new opportunity.

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.”