Charles Siburt

Charles Siburt has been a friend and mentor to me for almost 25 years. I have learned so much from him. I am a much better man and minister for having known him.

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For many years he taught ministry at Abilene Christian University. His teaching went way beyond the classroom. Charles spent time and energy helping ministers and other church leaders all over the country.

He is very sick and is not expected to live on this earth much longer. He has recently been transported from a hospital in Dallas to a hospital in Abilene. Soon he will be with the Lord.

My friend, Dan Bouchelle, wrote the following:On behalf of all of us who love Charlie, I invite you to join several of us who love the Siburts by setting aside this Friday, February 3, as a special day of prayer with fasting if you choose. Please lift up Charlie’s body, his spirit, and his family to the Father of all compassion. Judy and his sons have sacrificed time with Charlie for the sake of the church for many years. Pray that their final days with him in this age will be enriching. Pray that God will give Charlie courage for his final days and a peaceful trip home. Pray that he will be able to leave the hospital for his final days. Most of all, give thanks for all that God has given us all through Charlie. Pray that God will raise up an Elisha or twelve to pick up Charlie’s mantle. What will we do without him?

Charles and Judy have blessed so many men and women. Charles served as a consultant and friend to the congregations I worked with in Florence, Alabama, Kansas City, Missouri, and Waco, Texas. Each time he helped our leaders become more effective and at times work through knotty problems. I have called him at all hours of the day and evening to talk through frustrations, disappointments and new possibilities. Again and again, Charles helped me become better.

The following are a few of the ways he helped me:

1. He was one of the first ministers to introduce me to serious, thoughtful ministry resources. At one of the very first Austin Graduate School Sermon Seminars, I heard him share resources with the group. (I was in graduate school at ACU.) I was furiously taking notes as he mentioned authors, commentaries, journals, and training opportunities – related to ministry. I went back to ACU and followed up on as many resources as I could.

2. He taught me about the importance of managing myself well. I have spent the last three decades learning about the implications of this. It was Charles Siburt who instilled in me the importance of self-care and being intentional about how I handle myself as a leader.

3. He helped me in each congregation I have served. Each time he came, he helped our church and blessed Charlotte and me.

4.   He told me again and again, in a variety of way is how much he believed in me. I can’t begin to tell you how much his confidence in me has meant. He recommended me to churches and universities and gave me other opportunities to serve. There were times when I called him when I felt discouraged and devalued. He always communicated value, encouragement, and hope.

5. He made himself available and accessible to me. He returned my calls from airports, his office, hotel rooms, and during breaks at out of town conferences. We shared lunches and met in his office on various occasions. The time and energy he invested in me made a difference. So often his words gave me fresh options and a new perspective. What I experienced with him, I now practice with younger ministers.

6. He helped me see the importance of paying attention to the details of others’ lives. So often, I came away from conversations with him amazed at how well he remembered details – children’s names, where they went to college – where an elder worked, on and on. I saw how that practice communicated much to others.

7. He modeled for me a way of being a father. Year ago, I was in his office when he received a call from Judy. He asked about one of the boys and a situation at school (high school, I think). He asked about the situation and mentioned a variety of details related to it. He talked for a moment about how their son was handling it. I came away thinking about how I wanted to be involved and aware like that still when my daughters were that age.

Please especially pray for Charles and Judy on Friday, February 3. For more information, please see this fine post by Dan Bouchelle here. Read Jordan Hubbard’s tribute here. Also note this special Facebook page for Charles and Judy here.

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Does something need to be done? Write it down. Put it on paper, your iPhone, or your iPad. But write it down.

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That may seem obvious, but many people don’t do this.

Most Thursdays I write this post for church leaders. I am amazed at how many church leaders do not write things down. Think about what happens on a typical Sunday. I learned a long time ago that I need to write this information down or I will not remember half of what was said to me.

  • You meet a new family.
  • Someone asks you to pray for their dad.
  • A person recommends a book.
  • Someone else asks if you can meet for coffee.
  • A woman introduces you to her co-worker.

This is a lot of information to attempt to remember without writing it down.

For years, I used a form of Franklin-Covey to help me keep track of tasks, etc. This particular system helped remind me that much of life involved a number of different roles (father, husband, minister, friend, community member, etc.). Not only did I need some sort of “to do” list for work but for the other roles in my life as well.

For the last few years, I have been using a form of David Allen’s Getting Things Done. I am not going to attempt to explain this system in a post. However, I do want to mention a few principles that have been helpful to me.

1. Write down whatever tasks need to be done. (See Michael Hyatt’s excellent post, “When You Feel Overwhelmed By Your Workload.” He has excellent thoughts concerning priorities.)

2. If a task actually has several steps, see it as a project. For example, if you are helping put together an event at your church or in your community, think of all the tasks involved in pulling off that event. (I have a list of each project I am working on and the key tasks involved in making that project a reality.)

3. Beside my list of projects is a list of broken down into specific categories (e-mails, notes, calls, errands, etc.). In other words, all of the phone calls I need to make are under the “Calls” heading. Right now, I have a list of about 15 e-mails that need to be sent. I will probably do most of these in one block of time. This may sound obvious, but it can keep you from bouncing from one task to another throughout the day.

4. While all of this is online (I use Google Calendar, Things, and Evernote primarily), I keep a paper copy of each day’s to do list, as well as my weekly priorities, on my desk in front of me.

5. At the end of the week, I review all of my projects and the list of tasks. What has been done this week? What have I missed? What needs to be done next week? Does this ever help! This helps prevent things from “slipping up” on me. It also prevents other things from slipping through the cracks.

(Those of you familiar with David Allen’s Getting Things Done know I have not done it justice. You can read more about this at David Allen’s website.)

Bottom line: Use what works for you. There is no perfect system. However, an imperfect system is usually better than no system at all.

You Can’t Make These Stories Up (Race, Jesus, and Our Identity)

They were an African-American family who visited our congregation one morning in the early 1980s. Race.jpg

Ordinary folks.

I remember them as being a pleasant family that included dad, mother, and four children.

Yet, this would not be an ordinary day for our congregation located in a small town an hour south of Nashville. For the most part, our congregation was made up of wonderful people including: Dennon, Joy, J.W., Jimmy, Charlie, Ted and Brenda, Byron and Brenda, and Mary. Yet, the day was overshadowed by one man who became angry that these people would visit our congregation. After our worship services concluded that morning, one man demanded that our men have a “business meeting” that afternoon.

This was a new situation for me. I was a young minister, newly married, and preaching at this small congregation. This middle Tennessee church situation seemed like a another world for me. Less than three years earlier, I had graduated from the University of North Texas and was working full time at United Parcel Service.

Here we were, a group of men sitting in a small room in our rented storefront. Less than two hours earlier, we were partaking of the Lord’s Supper. Now this man, flanked by his two teenage sons, was ranting about this family visiting that morning.

“My boys may have to go to school with them, but we don’t have to go to church with them!”

I was stunned. I felt as if I had stepped back in time. Some looked at the guy in amazement. Some of the other guys starred at the floor. Finally, I said:

“I don’t know if these people will ever return to our church after this morning’s visit. However, we need to decide whether we intend to obey Scripture or not.”

The man and his sons abruptly left a few minutes later. Several of the guys shook their heads in disbelief.

It was a disappointing day and a disheartening meeting. It was also a reality check. While most people in that small congregation were not like this man, I learned that I would have to be clear about my own identity as a Christian and as a Christian minister. There was going to be some form of pressure in every church in which I would minister. Typically, this would be a subtle pressure to choose comfort over truth and being “liked” over discipleship.

Question:

Can you recall a situation in which you felt pressure to ignore the words of Jesus? Do you remember a time when one person attempted to sway a group toward a behavior that did not represent Jesus?

  

10 Kinds of Amazing People

Jamie and Cal told us about it and a few weeks ago we finally went to Mutts Amazing Hot Dogs in Oklahoma City. The menu is incredible.   

(My hot dog, “The Windy City Dog,” is on the far right.)

The sign is right; these hot dogs are amazing.

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Yet, I am even more grateful to be able to witness some amazing people.

1. Husbands and wives who are committed to one another and Jesus and who find joy even as they work through their marital issues.

2. People who are generous with their money, supporting good works and ministries that bless people on the margin.

3. Ministers who are relentless about growing and learning though they have served in their roles for many years.

4. Men and women who keep abreast of the important political issues of the day yet temper their conversations regarding these issues with wisdom and grace.

5. Couples in their 20s who are getting serious about Jesus, serving him through their work and mission trips and volunteering with ministries that serve disadvantaged neighborhoods.

6. Teenagers who spend their spring break serving the poor and giving their time to others instead of going where they could relax and do what they wanted for fun.

7. Men who grow up, refusing to remain little boys, and model kingdom living before their families.

8. People who are incredibly grateful to God though life has been rough and extraordinarily painful at times.

9. Family members who care for chronically or even terminally ill loved ones, often foregoing their own plans and preferences.

10. Mothers and dads who care for their special needs children with grace though it is exhausting and often incredibly difficult.

Five Suggestions for Staying Alive and Vibrant

If you want to grow old in a hurry, just keep talking about growing old. aging.jpg

Have you ever noticed?

  • Some people seem young at 70 while others appear to get old at 50. Much of this has its roots in attitude.
  • Some people are always talking about being old. This probably says more about that person’s attitude than age.
  • Some people act as if life is over once their kids are out of college. They seem to no longer have any purpose.
  • Some people never seem to grow up. Their immaturity prevents them from becoming a person who could contribute so much more to their families and others.

A number of years ago, Charlotte and I were guests in a home of some very fine people. This man had experienced a good career and was now retired. We walked into the house and immediately noticed that everything was dated–very dated. I felt like we had gone back in time at least fifteen years. Their children were now grown, yet, there were no recent pictures of them. Instead, the pictures on the wall appeared to have been taken when they were in college.

It was as if time had stood still for these parents.

This same dynamic sometimes occurs with people who are much younger. For example, a guy can sometimes get stuck in his high school years when he played football. He continues to bring up his glory years on the field. No problem with reminiscing. However, he talks as if those years were when he experienced real life.

So how does a person move through life?

1. Be fully present in whatever age you are. Live in the moment. Be careful about focusing on the “good old days” while you miss the joy of being present in this moment.

2. Stop talking about your age as if it were a liability. Many people get tired of hearing others go on and on about their age. Instead, be thankful that you are alive.

3. See aging as the opportunity to grow in wisdom instead of a downhill slide into irrelevancy. Don’t buy the cultural myths.

4. Choose to grow, learn, develop, and try new things for the rest of your life. Such intentional living will keep you more alive and vibrant than spending years passively sitting in a recliner.

5. As a Christ-follower, believe that the best is yet to come. Savor those wonderful past experiences but know that what is to come far outweighs what you have already experienced.

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What I read each day: Each day I skim the front pages of The New York Times, The Washington Post, CNN, The Financial Times, USA Today, The Economist, and The Globe and Mail. Again, I mainly skim the front pages of these publications. Each day, I read Scot McKnight’s Jesus Creed and Michael Hyatt’s blog. When I see something that interests me, I typically put it in Evernote to read later.

What I read each week: Several times each week I skim through my Google Reader in order to keep up with several hundred blogs. These blogs are categorized under headings such as: ministry, biblical/theology, culture, leadership, writing, preaching, technology, etc.

Each Thursday, I write a post especially for ministers, pastors, and other church leaders. Some of you may be interested in this information.

What I read regularly: Leadership; Christianity Today; Books and Culture; Christian Century; Conversations, The New York Times Book Review, etc.

Where I go for encouragement: I usually go to the Pepperdine Lectures and to ACU’s Summit. At other times I go to events hosted by Regent College (Vancouver B.C.). I regularly attend the Sermon Seminar hosted buy the Austin Graduate School of Theology. I also attend numerous events (preaching workshops and lectures) hosted by Truett Theological Seminary (Baylor University).

What I do for my learning: I initiate lunches with interesting people in order to learn. (I buy the lunch and then ask these people questions.) I listen to podcasts. Sometimes I listen to a few classes from a university that has posted them on iTunes University. I read widely, both theological books and those not theological. Most of the time, I purchase from Amazon. If I anticipate only reading the book once, I will probably order it for my Kindle. If I anticipate using the book repeatedly, or if it is written by one of my favorite authors, I usually order it in book form.

Bottom line: I often focus on a few authors who I find thoughtful, resourceful, or inspiring. I like authors such as N.T. Wright, David Allen, James Bryan Smith, Peter Scazzero, Eugene Peterson, Scot McKnight, Tim Keller, Ruth Haley Barton, etc. I read authors for different purposes. One author may help me understand the Bible while another might help me with personal organization. One author might help me with understanding the essence of ministry while another might help me learn to communicate better.

5 Ways to Build a Solid Foundation for Marriage

Are you young and newly married? Or, have you been married for a few years?stk142184rke

Regardless, the attention you give to the foundation of your marriage is important. In fact, it is critical. How you build your married life together right now will impact you for many years to come.

When Charlotte and I got married, we loved each other and wanted our marriage to be good. However, I don’t think I had any idea about the kind of behaviors and habits needed to build a solid foundation. About all I knew was make an effort to be a good husband. Looking back, I think I missed some opportunities that might have helped us begin our marriage well.

Unfortunately, many couples begin their marriages by paying little attention to what makes their foundation strong. As a result, they miss opportunities to build a solid foundation.

The following five suggestions can help you begin to build a great foundation. If you have been married for a while, these might be reminders of what will help keep your foundation strong.

1. Pay attention to one another now. Yes, a husband and wife may be in the same room. However, they may actually pay little attention to one another. Instead, night after night the television blares while they each focus on their phones. Far too many couples communicate with others (texts, Facebook messages, tweets) but spend little energy connecting with each another.

2. Set up protective boundaries now. Talk with one another about appropriate boundaries with persons of the opposite sex. Talk about appropriate boundaries for conflict. (For example, a couple should not use demeaning language or dredge up old wounds.) Couples need to talk about boundaries with their families of origin and how they will relate to them.

3. Commit yourselves to an encouraging Christian community now. Far too many Christian couples are only nominally connected to a church during their first few years of marriage. Listen, the time to connect with a church is immediately. Find a Christian community that will support and encourage your marriage. Find a church where there are not only others your age who are married but older believers who have invested their lives building good marriages.

4. Take the initiative to build your friendship now. Unfortunately, the expectations for marriage are often so high and unrealistic that couples remain continually frustrated and disappointed. Far better to simply focus on building a loyal, life-giving friendship with your spouse. Focusing on your friendship can heighten the joy you experience in your marriage. (By the way, it will also bless your sexual relationship with one another.)   

5. Talk through your frustrations with one another now. Do not let the frustration build up inside you. Do not assume that it will just work itself out. Talk through your frustrations. Be the first to admit wrong. Make the first move to change your own behavior. Step up.

Question:

Which one of these five especially connected with you? What else might you include in this list of foundation building behaviors?

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(The following post is written with church leaders, preachers, pastors, and other ministers in mind. However, many of these comments will be useful to others.)

1. Pay attention to the basics. Well-meaning church leaders will sometimes expend great energy and other resources in order to attract guests to their assemblies. Yet, churches sometimes ignore the basics. Recently a young couple visited a church located in a large city. They had never been to an assembly in this church before. The couple came in just as the service was beginning. They found a pew and sat down. Then they heard a loud voice: “Well, there goes the view!” Meanwhile, the person at the microphone in the front proceeded to welcome “all of our guests today. “The couple said, “We won’t be going back. This is probably not the church for us.”

2. I just received my order from Amazon. As I looked through the books that had arrived, I thought about how many of them were purchased after I first read reviews or read them on Scot McKnight’s blog, Jesus Creed. What a wonderful ministry to church leaders.

3. I really enjoy the Journal of Spiritual Formation and Soul Care. It is published by the Talbot School of Theology, Biola University. The articles not only deal with individual spiritual formation but the church collectively as well.

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4. “We want to get better.” This is exactly what my friend said the other day. I had driven to his home a few weeks ago. He preaches in a city a few hours from Waco. I was there to spend the morning with him. As we talked, he shared with me a conversation that he and his wife heard just a few weeks earlier. My friend and his wife are in their early 60s. He said, “We talked about the next ten years and how we want to get better.”

I like that. So I am beginning this year with the desire to get better in 2012. I do not want to be stuck in status quo. What about you? What would it take for you to get better this year?

5. Don’t miss Michael Hyatt’s post “Are You Operating in Your Strengths Zone? This is a fine post and would be helpful for ministers and any other Christian leader to consider. (By the way, as of January 1, I began working with a team of nine others as one of Michael Hyatt’s “Community Leaders” to help manage comments on his blog. I am enjoying the interaction with those who respond.)

When My New Year Was Changed By Christmas

I won’t forget that Christmas.

I was a junior in college and working nights at UPS. That Christmas my family was going to Arkansas to see my grandparents and other relatives. For some reason, which I do not remember, I decided to stay home and not go with them. They left several days before Christmas. I worked all night at UPS each night while they were gone until Christmas Eve. I was off both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. I was home alone both days. I soon realized what a big mistake I had made. I could not believe I had not gone with my family to Arkansas. I was aggravated that I had made such a decision. I also felt silly. This was another decision I had made without thinking through the consequences. In those years, I seemed to make such decisions far too often.

While I was home that Christmas, I thought about my life, my decisions, and my future. Those two days turned out to be a milestone for me. I wrote my thoughts in a notebook. Years later, I still have this notebook.

Some of the conclusions I reached:

1. No one was holding their breath waiting to see what I was going to do with my life. Most people had enough of their own problems to worry about.

2. I could continue to not put forth my best effort in some of my classes at the university but I was only hurting myself.

3. I could learn from some of the frustrations I had experienced or I could let these frustrations become excuses.

4. My future could be better but I would need to make better decisions.

5. Much of the work I needed to do in my life was relational. I needed to learn how to invest in people and get my focus off myself.

In many ways, those two days were decisive.

I came away from those two days more focused on the future than I had been. Consequently, I began to make better decisions in the present. What about you? Can you point to a time when you thought through the direction of your life and as a result found much clarity?   

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Each Thursday, the post is especially for ministers, preachers, pastors, and other church leaders. Whether you identify with any of these roles or not, perhaps you will find the following interesting.coffeeA.jpg

1. Appreciation. I can’t tell you how many ministers are starved to hear a “thank you” or just a genuine word of appreciation from their church or elder groups. In some churches, it has been a long, long time since they said “thanks” to any of their ministers. I really don’t think most ministers believe the church owes them a word of thanks. It’s not that at all. Some ministers even feel embarrassed that they want to hear this so badly.

Unfortunately, many ministers feel taken for granted. They preach sermon after sermon and serve in numerous ways, often in obscurity. Many ministers are very conscientious. Consequently, they work very hard to get a certain project just right. Unfortunately, what some of these hear is not a word of gratitude but a critique. “Why didn’t you do it this way instead of the way you did it?” They hear no gratitude but instead hear from a person whose only comment is, “I think you can do better.”

Far too many ministers feel as if the church takes them for granted. Unfortunately, far too many elder groups (both individually and as a group) fail to express to these people gratitude, affirmation and any recognition of a job well done to these people. When churches fail to do this, it is ultimately the people in the congregation who lose.

Maybe one of the most significant gifts that we can give another this Christmas is the affirmation and encouragement that may be long overdue.

2. Healthy Self-Definition. Today, I read a portion of an excellent article that appeared in Clergy Journal in August 1994. The article is “Clergy Self-Care: Defining and Valuing the Self” by Myron and Jan Chartier.   

The Chartiers describe self-definition as being linked to one’s personal differentiation. That is, one has a strong sense of self. A person with a good sense of self-defintion takes responsibility for his own well being (instead of blaming others) and emotional health. This enables one to relate to a variety of people in a church.

For example, a person with a good sense of self-defintion is not focused on making others happy. Rather this person has learned to have a strong sense of self and relates to others who have different views without trying to say what makes them happy. On the other hand, this person does not feel the need to have everyone agree with him in order to have a sense of personal value in a church.


They list eight barriers that can get in the way of healthy self-definition:

  • Shaky self-worth that is easily threatened can undermine a sense of self.
  • Unresolved issues from one’s family of upbringing and previous life history can sabotage attempts at self-defintion.
  • Unreasonable drives to succeed can foil being self-defined as a minister.
  • Heightened perfectionism can turn the minister into a workaholic.
  • Over commitment, allowing little or no time for self-reflection, undermines in a corrosive manner any self-defintion work that a person may have done.
  • Overwhelming needs for inclusion, acceptance and love are a major barrier to self-defintion.
  • Health issues of various kinds can block the process of self-defintion.
  • Fragile spiritual life and faith can undermine one’s sense of self.