Monday Start: Resources for the Week

Start1The morning and learning languages

Watch Miles Van Pent’s video (3:54) in which he reflects on learning languages. Van Pent is the co-author of Basics of Biblical Hebrew.  See “My Advice to Students — Van Pelt Shares Solid Languages Advice He Got and Wished He Got.”  Note that he advises that students “Get up early and do this before anyone wants your time.”  I find this to be useful advice not only for learning languages but for doing many things that are priorities.

Creativity

Maria Popova has written a good post “Creativity, the Gift of Failure, and the Crucial Difference Between Success and Mastery” in which she reviews The Rise by Sarah Lewis.  Very interesting read!

Reading

Jason English has compiled these numbers in this piece from Mental Floss.  See “Which Country Reads the Most?”

Getting your rhythm back

Ann Voscamp has written an excellent post entitled “What to do to Get Your Rhythm Back.”  Glad I read this today!

 

Monday Start: Resources for the Week

The following are a number of resources that you may find interesting and even helpful.  I became aware of each of these within the past week.

Ministry

Don’t miss this!  “Eight of the Most Significant Struggles Pastors Face” by Thom Rainer.

Teenagers

See Laurence Steinberg’s “What’s Holding Back American Teenagers?” (Slate).  Very interesting.

Self

Charles Degroat has written an article “Becoming Ourselves: Anthropological Musings for Christian Psychologists.” (religions).  Particularly relevant as a common discussion in this culture seems to center around the question “What does it mean to be human?”

Reading

See Teddy Roosevelt’s “Ten Rules for Reading” (farnam street blog).  I have never regretted reading too much or too often.  However, I have sometimes wished I had read more.

Running

Here is a great story about a young runner from North Carolina with M.S.  (New York Times)

 

 

 

Monday Start: Resources for the Week

start (1)Habits

Leo Babauta has written an excellent post “36 Lessons I’ve Learned About Habits.”  Babauta offers some great suggestions!

Great Quotes

Klick Health has written a good piece “What Your Business Can Learn from a Legendary Basketball Coach.

Personal Organization

See Michael Hyatt’s “The Beginner’s Guide to Task Management.”  Whether you deal with your own task management the way he does, you are still way ahead by looking at the way he manages his own life.

Ministry

Terry Rush has written a good post entitled “Just what does a minister do anyway?”

Ministry Inside.141

IN67_cover_tweet_BWMy friend stood before a group of seminary students and said, “Ninety-nine percent of the fire that you will face as ministers and church leaders will be friendly fire.”

I suspect that for most of us, my friend is right.

Friendly fire is the term we use to describe the threats that originate from one’s own group. Most ministers in America are probably not going to undergo persecution from the outside. Most are not going to be arrested for the cause of Christ. Probably, we will not be stoned or beaten to death.

However,

We may undergo friendly fire.

1. A person you trusted is sabotaging an effort that you have put much time and energy into . . . friendly fire.

2. An elder talks with you as if you can’t be trusted . . . friendly fire.

3. A person attempts to embarrass you with a loaded question in a class . . . friendly fire.

4. A co-worker in whom you confide is sharing matters with the church that you shared with him in confidence . . . friendly fire.

5. A woman in your church has been slandering your spouse . . . friendly fire.

Friendly fire hurts.

What makes this even more difficult is that churches are often unwilling to hold these people accountable for their actions.

I know of a person who did great damage in a church. He manipulated the fears of others and took advantage of friendships. When the minister of the church suggested a particular initiative to the elders, this man played on the fears of others through phone calls and private meetings. In more public settings, he remained in the background, having manipulated others into speaking out against the effort.

Although he was never vocal or confrontational with those whom he opposed, his behavior nevertheless hurt.  Friendly fire can do great damage.

A young preacher was just starting his ministry in a congregation. An older gentleman who had been in higher education for many years openly communicated his displeasure at the young man. This young preacher was just beginning his ministry. He had little confidence and just enough formal training to get by. He told me one day that an older man was taking detailed notes of each sermon that he preached.  I assumed the man was trying to encourage this young minister.

I was wrong.

His notes highlighted every grammatical error and disagreement. This preacher said that after each sermon, the man would give him these notes with a disapproving frown. The young preacher felt condemned as the man critiqued and criticized his sermons. More than the notes, it was the man’s attitude that discouraged this young man. Instead of trying to help him in his effort to preach, the older man seemed bent on shaming him each week.

Questions: 

Does any of this sound familiar?  How have you handled friendly fire?

 

Monday Start: Resources for the Week

start-here_400wDo one thing really well.

Read John Stackhouse’s fine piece “What Can You Do?” He describes the experience of a public school teacher as she attempts to manage her large and complex class.  His advice to teachers is useful for the rest of us.  “Do one thing really well.”

On growing older and doing it well.

John Willis (in his 80s) has written a fine post “Bearing Fruit in Old Age” in which he states that people were always meant to continue growing.

“God’s true people NEVER ARRIVE BECAUSE God, the great farmer, causes us to keep GROWING throughout life. If I am the same person today I was ten years ago, I have stagnated. GROWTH demands CHANGE by definition.”

Philemon

I watched this outstanding performance of Philemon by Dr. David Rhoads this morning.  This is outstanding.  (2013 SBL pre-conference Performance Criticism event in Baltimore, MD.)

Beauty

As the father of two daughters, I am especially sensitive to a post like this.  Andrea Lucado has written a good post “Beauty: The Race We’re All Losing.”

Burnout

Anne Miller interviews Thom Rainer regarding burnout and ministry.  There are five videos in this series.  Each of them is between 3-6 minutes long.   In this post, you can find links for each of the five. This is excellent!

 

Do You Know a Happy Preacher?

Unhappy manThe following are ten characteristics of happy preachers. Do you know a happy preacher?  Are you this kind of preacher?

1.  Happy preachers manage themselves.  Too many people are preoccupied with what others might think, how others might act, and what others might do.  It is far better to learn to manage yourself.

2.  Happy preachers are intentional about who they choose to be with.  No matter what the vocation, you can find plenty of miserable people.  If you spend most of your time sharing stories of gloom with unhappy, miserable preachers, don’t be surprised if your own attitude becomes soured.

3.  Happy preachers understand that being human is more than what they accomplish or what they produce.  Being human also includes our relationships, our feelings, and matters of the soul.

4.  Happy preachers pay attention to time.  They schedule time to do the tasks of their ministry but also take time to laugh, enjoy life, rest, and experience friendships.

5.  Happy preachers find their happiness in the Lord and not the visible, tangible results of their ministry.  Ministry can be painful, hard, and at times excruciatingly difficult.  Yet, our happiness is in Jesus, not in finding the right circumstances for ministry.

6.  Happy preachers choose to be happy now instead of waiting for things to get better.  I once spent several years thinking that the next thing (whatever that might be) would make me happy.  Wrong.

7.  Happy preachers pay attention to the narrative they are living out.  For example, if I believe the biblical story, that the best is yet to come, this will impact how I feel and what I do.  On the other hand, if the narrative is “Ministry and the church are awful and will only get worse,” this will certainly impact how I live.

8.  Happy preachers get the focus off themselves.  Sometimes we are too focused on how we feel, how we look, how we compare, and how we are perceived.  This kind of self-preoccupation is a dead-end street.  Far better to focus on whom I am serving and how I might contribute.

9.  Happy preachers get out of the shame business.  I’m not talking about sin or guilt.  Rather, I am talking about the subtle ways some ministers shame other ministers.

“Wow, you still have one worship service?  We moved on from that a long time ago.”

“You are in a building program?  Oh, I thought your church cared about the poor.”

“You aren’t going to build an addition to your building?  Hey, I thought your church really wanted to reach out to the community.”

“You are playing golf today?  That must be nice.  I haven’t had a day off in weeks.”

10.  Happy preachers may complain but their complaint is not about their lot in life.  Rather their complaint is over the mistreatment or abuse of others whom the Lord has created.

Question:

What else would you add to this list?  Are there any other characteristics of happy preachers?

 

Are You Destroying Your Own Marriage?

Learn-How-to-Heal-Your-Broken-Marriage1Many men and women have sabotaged their own marriages.

Of course you may say, like many, “This will never happen to me.”

Perhaps.

Yet, there are ways that destructive seeds can be planted in one’s marriage.

1.  Whisper words of criticism and insults in your spouse’s ear.  Doing this will eventually destroy his or her confidence.  If you whisper these words, then you can save face with your friends.  After all, you know that if they were to hear what you just whispered in your partner’s ear they would think you were rude and childish.  Consequently, you can quietly tear down your spouse while pretending you are supportive before friends and family.

2.  Let your eyes wander toward another person of the opposite sex.  If you are caught gazing at another, be sure to blame your spouse.  “Well, what am I supposed to do?  It’s nice to get some attention!   Maybe if you would be a better husband (or wife), I wouldn’t find this person so attractive.”

3.  Look for every opportunity to speak a rude, barbed word toward your spouse.  You can always claim that you were just joking.  Do you know someone like this?  Perhaps this person uses every occasion to put down his wife.  If she objects, then her husband says, “I was just joking.”  The idea seems to be that if one claims to be joking, responsibility for any hurt can be denied.

Such behavior is beneath a Christ follower   After all, marriage is for grown-ups.  Furthermore, when married people are Christ followers, we follow an even higher standard.

Unfortunately, some people have spouses who refuse to grow up.  The behavior of the immature spouse is not just a nuisance.  This behavior can chip away at the marriage.

Does it make any sense to get married and then participate in the very destruction of your marriage?  I don’t think so.

I think this is worth some thought – and prayer.

 

 

Ministry Inside.140

broken-clockSome ministers abuse time.

I admire those who serve in a full-time ministry role with a church.  I did so for many years.  In fact, I deeply respect these people.

Yet this ministry is a role that can be dangerous to one’s soul and integrity.  The danger that I have in mind relates to time.

Most ministers I know work hard – very hard.  They understand that their work is a calling, not a career. Consequently, they do the work of ministry without watching the clock or thinking about overtime.

Years ago, I interviewed with a fine church.  Apparently this church had questioned the work ethic of one of its ministers.  I asked the search committee what the minister said when confronted with this problem.  They said that no one, including the elders, had ever talked with him about his behavior.

Instead they made rules to somehow control this and the other ministers’ behavior.

  • Ministers must work at least a 40-hour week.
  • Ministers may not go to the store between the hours of 8AM and 5PM.
  • Ministers may not leave the church building between the same hours unless it is for tasks related to their job descriptions.

I then asked, “Why doesn’t someone just talk with the problem minister?”

Monday Start: Resources for the Week

startnow8norWriting

Jeff Goins has written a fine post “How to Stop Sounding Stupid and Write Like a Pro.”  I read Jeff’s blog regularly and find him very helpful and inspirational.

Stewardship

Jeremy Bouma has reviewed Craig Blomberg’s book “Christians in an Age of Wealth.”  This looks to be an interesting book by this well respected New Testament scholar.

Jonah

Kevin Youngblood’s (Harding University Bible professor – Searcy) commentary on Jonah is reviewed in Koinonia.  Also included is a video clip of Youngblood.

Preaching

Don’t miss this essay by John Stackhouse (Regent College, Vancouver, B.C.) in which he challenges all of us to reflect on what we are preaching.  See “Preaching that Avoids the Scandal…and the Centre.”

Ministry Inside.139

600px-six-svg11(The following post is adapted from a chapel talk given at Harding School of Theology last week.)

Six Suggestions for Getting More Out of Your Life and Ministry

It doesn’t matter what you plan to do.  It doesn’t matter how you plan to serve.  The following are six suggestions for making the most of your life and ministry.

1. Pay attention to your spiritual formation.  Recently, in chapel at Harding School of Theology, I quoted my friend Barry, a longtime minister in Waco, Texas.  Barry once heard a seminary president say to students, “Some students begin seminary with an empty head and a full heart.  Some leave seminary with a full head and empty heart.”  I believe it is possible to leave with a full heart and full head.  However, you must be intentional in this pursuit.  Unless you are intentional, you are likely to ignore your heart.

This means paying attention to the way Christ is being formed in your life.  Start with what you are putting on and what you are putting off. (Col 3:1ff)

*Your practices.  (prayer/scripture/journaling/service)
*Your rest/restoration.  Care for the body and emotions is a godly move, not a sign of weakness.
*Your work.  Are you being shaped and formed into a Christ-like person even while you work?

2. Pay attention to your habits. What is a habit in your life that really needs to be addressed?  This is the time to give attention to habits that need to be addressed.  These habits may include the expression of your temper, the use of porn, your language and materialism.  Be willing to seek help.  Some believe that one day they will have to change this habit but not yet.
  
3. Pay attention to your relationships.  The temptation while in school is to focus your complete attention on your studies and put your marriage on hold.  However, it is important not to neglect your spouse.

Howard Hendricks said, “Your marriage can make or mar your ministry.”

Years ago, when I was in seminary, I felt behind and inadequate.  Consequently, I was relentless about studying, day and night.  Unfortunately, I also neglected my marriage as I felt compelled to spend most of my time studying.  Finally, Charlotte told me, “I know this is difficult and that you have a lot to do. However, it would help so much if I just had something to look forward to.”  I realized at that point that I had misplaced my priorities.

There are numerous examples of couples who impacted a lot of people because of their marriage. On the other hand there are plenty of preachers/elders who lost their influence because of their marriage.  Beware of neglecting your marriage while you serve in a role with your church.

4.  Pay attention to your own emotional functioning.  Charles Blair in The Man Who Could Do No Wrong tells the story of growing up in the Great Depression and having to ride his bike to the firehouse to get government issued milk.  He said it was humiliating to carry this pail and he felt as if everyone was watching him.  Apparently, some kids saw him and laughed.  He decided that one day, no one was going to laugh at him again.  His image became more important than anything else.  Perhaps you can relate.  What people think of you can become more important than who you really are.

5. Pay attention to how you handle stress and loneliness.  Stress and loneliness are natural at various times of life but can be very difficult to manage.  What do you do with stress and loneliness?  Some people eat, spend money, go out with someone they shouldn’t be with or participate in any number of unwise behaviors.   When you feel stressed and lonely, you can make some very foolish decisions.

6. Know that God loves you regardless of what you do in your ministry.  What God thinks of you is not dependent on whether or not you had a good day.  The same is true regarding your life, and your ministry.  God loves and adores you– period.  His love is unconditional.

(You can read notes from my first chapel talk, “Ministry is a Calling”, here.)