Tag Archives: pastoral helps

Must Reads for Monday!

Here’s some great articles to browse through as you start your week.

The theme I picked for this week is 5:

5 Ways to Pray for Persecuted Christians

Top 5 Studies for the Fall

5 Mistakes Most Preachers Make

5 Things You Want Said About You At Your Funeral

5 Ways to Battle Anxiety in the Pulpit

Enjoy!

Fran

Spiritual but not Religious…5 Reasons Not to Write off the Church

We’ve all heard it: “Yeah, uh, I’m spiritual, but you know, um, I’m just not religious, know what I mean?”
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Uh, no. Not really.

When we hear this sort of talk, it might seem somewhat profound. But first of all, let me be clear that being spiritual means to be at one with the Spirit of God, not some far off, nebulous mystical concept of self-defined happiness. Yet even assuming that the Holy Spirit is the context, with all this talk now and in the past about bad church experiences, the idea of giving up on the church might even seem an attractive thought. I mean, can’t you be Spiritual without being religious?

Well, yes and no. If you mean be in tune with the Spirit of Christ and reject hypocrisy in the church while staying in the church, well sure. I’m right there with you. As a pastor who has been in ministry for over two decades now, I’ve seen my share of ugly. And ugly is, well, sinful and shameful. Hey, there’s plenty of comfort loving, sin dwelling, pride filling, molehill making people who call themselves Christians to make grown men cry in a business meeting…and sometimes they do!

But if being Spiritual without being religious means to stay away from the church, then you are missing the mark on this one. Here’s a few reasons why we need not write off the church:

  1. We are all sinners. Hypocrisy in the church has and always will be, simply because sin will be until the Day of Christ. In fact, anyone who claims to be free of the struggle with sin is being dishonest. 1 John 1:8 says, “If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us.” There. We’re all hypocrites in some way.
  2. We are the Bride of Christ. Yep, sometimes an ugly bride, but the bride nonetheless. Jesus died for this bride! And as the bride, we are called to grow to be more like Christ, both individually and corporately. One day, all this will come to pass and we as believers will be invited to the Bridegroom’s wedding feast (Rev 19:7).
  3. We are One in Christ. I pastor a multiethnic, multigenerational church, a people who put away the labels of Black, White, Democrat, Republican, Rich, Poor, Young, Old, etc. We might have come from different cultures, but in Christ we are one new humanity (Eph 2:15).
  4. We are all partakers of grace. Christ in His death on the cross was an act of grace. Salvation is a gift of grace (Eph 2:8-9). Our sanctification is through God’s grace (Rom 8:29). And our love for one another must abound in grace and love (1 Pt 4:10). In fact, the church is at its finest when it is a beacon of grace to the world.
  5. We are better together. Ministry is given to, partaken in, and poured out through the church. God’s plans are realized through the church. He commended and corrected the church (see Rev 1-3). Though the church (the people) are far from perfect, the bible is clear: we are all pilgrims in this journey, and as we serve one another (Phil 2:2), we are better together!

Obviously, these are some reasons to still love the church and I’d love to hear more from you. The point is, I’m not writing off the church, and I pray that you won’t either.

My point: love the Bride of Christ as Jesus does!

What Pastors can learn from Brian Williams

The whole Brian Williams fib-telling fiasco is really, really sad to me. He seemed human, even a likeable guy, and it was tough to hear the whole story play out. Williams claimed that he misremembered traumatic events while on assignment, and the one most discussed is the one that got him suspended: his claim that he was on a helicopter that was shot at and forced down. Well, we all now know that he was not in the helicopter that was shot down, but instead was in another helicopter far 14236788114686_700behind- like 45 minutes behind. In other words, he was literally barely on the radar. No doubt, Brian Williams was caught and called out on a lie, and in the process, became an instant celebrity in some very funny internet memes.

Williams was at the top of his game: he had the coveted anchor chair, the role of managing editor, and nationwide fame as one of the most trusted in the country. Now, his endless retelling of a false story over a period of several years has caused him to sink to the 835th position, according to a recent poll by the NY Times. Actually, I am surprised that he didn’t fall even further down the list.

All in all, I hate this for Brian Williams and I hope that he is indeed repentant as some have reported. Even more, I’m not sure of his spiritual condition, but I hope that the gospel of Christ is eminent in his life.  Yet there is always something that we can learn from these sort of events. Specifically, what can pastors learn from this? Let me give a few thoughts:

  • Credibility matters. Communicators of a message must be credible. For pastors, the communication of the true Truth of God’s Word is horribly tainted when exaggerations and even lies spew from the pulpit. This means that the preaching of truth mixed with the telling of fake stories or personal exaggerations does a severe disservice to the advancement of the gospel. Preachers who use unverifiable illustrations found on the internet or in books need to stop. 
  • Humanity matters. I believe that personal stories that make you seem almost superhuman to your church hurts your message too. Please don’t read this wrong: absolutely be the example of how others should walk, yet have a healthy realization that you are not a “Super Christian.” Hopefully your church knows that, and appreciates even more the grace that is displayed when God uses an imperfect messenger such as yourself. In other words, be human.
  • Humility matters. This relates to the first two thoughts above. The issue with lying is that it is always about the self. A person usually lies to puff themselves up before others. Apparently, it was almost a joke in the NBC Newsroom that William’s continued his lie-telling to beef up his bio. This Hemmingwayesque attempt to look tough seemed ridiculous, but this is what an egotistical narrative does: it lifts up the self and pride runs rampant. Pastors especially have to watch for this issue, and pride unchecked is a disastrous thing.
  • Repentance matters. One of the worst parts of the Williams saga is his non-apology apology. He took out time to make an apology that to many didn’t seem to own up to that fact that he lied. Not misremembered, but lied. Okay, we have all lied, yet, nothing changes the course of things like repentance. True repentance from the heart to a God who forgives all sins begins the process of healing. Pastors who blow it (whether it’s a lie or anything else) need to quickly repent, apologize, and move on to restoration.
  • Christ matters. The truth of the gospel is not about you. The truth of the gospel is about Jesus. As John the Baptist famously said in John 3:30, “He must increase, but I must decrease.” When Christ is elevated and you are lowered, He is presented as who He should be: the Savior of the world, who is coming again to redeem His creation in glory. Remember that as you conduct yourself.

There’s some of my thoughts. Are there any other principles that you might add?

Ten Things a Pastor Should Do: #5- Exercise three times a week.

Over 18 months ago, my wife found a Groupon deal for this crazy sounding idea- we could go to a thing called “Boot Camp” and pay only $35 for twenty sessions. When she told me about it, my ears perked up- it was cheap, yes, but it sounded, well scary. Memories of my young adulthood and Army basic training immediately sprang up: frightening men in brown hats with deep yet shrill voices growling in my face as I “pushed the earth” countless times all day, every day. Reluctantly, I told her that I would do it and we bought the Groupon deal for the two of us.

Fran T3_
https://www.facebook.com/T3FitnessAndTraining

A short time later we did our first Boot Camp. I looked around and saw no big, ugly drill sergeants, no brown hats, no yelling, not even intimidation. Nope, none of that. I saw instead support, encouragement, and even (gulp!) smiles on the faces of the trainers. The one hour session was rough (real rough) but the supportive atmosphere helped me to want to come back. 18 months later, I am still going to Boot Camp. My Groupon deal has long since been used up, and I have gladly paid the regular price for exercising at T3 Fitness. While my wife also enjoyed her experience there, my son has grabbed on to it most of all, being greatly been changed in losing 62+ pounds and counting!

It is true that we should all stay in shape, but for pastors who often care about other areas of their lives but neglect the physical, exercise should be a priority. In 3 John 2, the Apostle John encouraged his readers when he wrote, “I pray that all may go well with you and that you may be in good health, as it goes well with your soul.” Paul wrote to “glorify God in your body” (1 Cor 6:20). Many a pastor (this guy included) has spent hours of sitting, studying, visiting, and inactivity. Oftentimes, meals are quickly gulped down in the car while heading to another appointment. This lifestyle is obviously stressful, but add to this routine a lack of a dedicated time of exercise and disaster is bound to happen.

Ultimately, I was convicted to lose weight and get healthy as a testimony to others of discipline. It was my conviction that I was hypocritical in preaching discipline (of all sorts) when I wasn’t being disciplined myself. I could barely go up the steps to my office without being winded. I was out of shape, overweight, and had begun feeling a lack of energy. Once I began exercising regularly, my energy increased and I became more effective. I try to exercise at least three times a week, sometimes more, and I purposely schedule the time to do this along with my other appointments. It’s a physical life changer, as I have maintained a nearly 50 lb weight loss for over six months now and I can go up steps with no issues. Most of all, I feel as if I am being a good steward of the body that God has given me, and because of this care, I hope to enjoy a longer, healthier life of service to Him while here on His earth. 🙂

I’m not quite there yet, but I’m a work in progress. However, let me ask: How are you exercising on a regular basis? What has worked for you? 

Pastor Fran

Ten Things a Pastor Should Do: #3 Take one or two days off a week, and be sure to take vacations.

When I was younger and new in ministry, I used to brag to myself (and others) that I would work constantly without vacations, days off, or breaks. My goal then was that no one would outwork me in ministry- now I can see that this was such a fleshly, prideful mindset!

Truth is, ministry is hard work. The demands of ministry do not end at 5 pm and then begin again at 9 am. Often, the burdens of ministry are with you all of the time, hanging on your shoulders day and night, weekdays and weekends, during and outside of shadow walkingyour family “time.” There are late night phone calls, as well as emails, Facebook messages, text messages, and visits. The clock never stops for sermon and bible study preparations, and the constant dripping of the C.A.V.E. Dwellers can get on your nerves as well. There’s no surprise that statistics show the average tenure of a pastor to be three to four years. It’s true that there’s a high burn out rate in the ministry.

All that said, let me now be Captain Obvious for a minute: you can’t work all the time and not have time for rest. Rest is very important, even vital for the long term work of ministry. Rest is built into God’s creation, when He rested on the 7th day. Jesus often took time away from the crowds to rest and pray in quiet places (see Mark 6:30-31). We are likewise called to the Sabbath principle, a time of rest from life itself and to time with the Lord (Lev 23:3). Basically put, rest is important to God and it should be important to you.

So take that day off (or sometimes even two). Take that vacation with your family, even being willing to miss two Sundays in a row. Date your wife regularly. Break away from the cell phone, your witty Twitter posts, your snarky Facebook comments. Disconnect from the current routine and reconnect with God and your family. Remember that your relationships with God, your spouse, and your family are your prime importance and calling. After all, once you refresh yourself, you will be much more healthy and ready for the demands of your call to ministry. Now go rest!

Pastor Fran

Ten Things a Pastor Should Do: #2- Read God’s Word devotionally

When I was in seminary, I often heard the mantra, “Don’t just read the Bible for the purpose of studying, but instead, read it devotionally.” These words, which were seemingly repeated class after class, stuck into my heart and brain. Can’t say I followed this advice every day, because there have been times when I would inadvertently turn my devotion time into a study time- only to later realize what I had done!

That said, it is vital that a Christian take in the Word of God to speak to his or her heart. Pastors even more so. Reading the Word of God cuts through all the white noise that is around in the world today- the noise of pop culture, the noise of sinful pride, the noise of busyness, even the noise of ministry. When you read the Word devotionally, it is just God, His Word, and you. Devotional ReadingGod is speaking to you through words that flowed from His Spirit, living and active (Heb 4:12), cutting into your heart (Acts 2:37), piercing through your hard shell of your ego (Ps 11:4-5), and refining you as silver is refined in fire (Ps 66:10).

Time with God in the Word is time well spent. While schedules, appointments, meetings, and blocked off time for studying will always be on the calendar, setting aside time each day (even multiple times each day) will help a Christian go through the demands of life and ministry.

There are many examples of great preachers who were devoted to the Word of God. One example is John Wesley, the great preacher and theologian of the 18th century and founder of Methodism, who was certainly no stranger to busyness. In his Preface to Standard Sermons, Wesley wrote this wonderful statement concerning his dedication to the Word of God:

I have thought, I am a creature of a day, passing through life as an arrow through the air. I am a spirit come from God, and returning to God: just hovering over the great gulf; till, a few moments hence, I am no more seen; I drop into an unchangeable eternity! I want to know one thing,—the way to heaven; how to land safe on that happy shore. God himself has condescended to teach me the way. For this very end He came from heaven. He hath written it down in a book. O give me that book! At any price, give me the book of God! I have it: here is knowledge enough for me. Let me be homo unius libri (a man of one book). Here then I am, far from the busy ways of men. I sit down alone; only God is here. In His presence I open, I read His book; for this end, to find the way to heaven. Is there a doubt concerning the meaning of what I read? Does anything appear dark or intricate? I lift up my heart to the Father of Lights:—“Lord, is it not Thy word, ‘if any man lack wisdom, let him ask of God?’ Thou givest liberally, and upbraidest not. Thou hast said, ‘if any be willing to do Thy will, he shall know.’ I am willing to do, let me know Thy will.

May it be an example to us all as we read God’s Word with hearts ready to be in tune with God and His Spirit. Set aside time to read, take it in, and let God speak to your heart as you seek to do His will.

Pastor Fran

Ten Things a Pastor Should Do to Stay Healthy and Effective

fran and teresaI have been in ministry for twenty plus years (yikes!), either serving on staff or as a senior pastor, and I will admit that through this journey, I have blown it many times. However, I am thrilled that God has given me grace over the years. One of my main struggles has been to manage myself and to avoid burnout. Boy, have I learned! That said, I thought that I would put together a top ten list of things a pastor should and could do to stay healthy and effective, listed in no particular order. I hope it helps:

  1. Pray fervently– never underestimate the need to pray and the power of prayer.
  2. Read God’s Word devotionally– don’t just read for studying purposes, read to take in the Word of God to speak to your heart.
  3. Take one or two days off a week, and be sure to take vacations. And don’t apologize for it, you need time away.
  4. Set healthy boundaries. Cell phones should go off at a certain time. Email and texts can wait. Your kids and spouse should not see your face in front of an electronic device more than they see your face in front of them.
  5. Exercise three times a week, at least. It keeps you in shape and lowers stress.
  6. Eat healthy. Fast food meals catch up to you fast.
  7. Get in a Bible study in which you are not the teacher. You need to learn and grow from a small group, too. I go to a community men’s study and go out of my way to be “one of the guys.”
  8. Date. I mean your spouse. Do it monthly.
  9. Go to special events. If you have kids or grandkids, go to their games, plays, etc. And don’t go as a pastor and talk to others- focus on them as a parent or grandparent.
  10. Have an accountability partner. Find another pastor, preferably outside of your denomination. I have had men in my past who I had as confidants, and it was so rich- and by the way, we never spoke about the nonessentials of theology.

I will be commenting over the next few weeks on each point, but in the meantime, I’d love to hear your comments on all of this, and if you think that there are other things I didn’t write about…

Thoughts?

Fran

One way to stay encouraged: an encouragement drawer!

Everyone goes through ups and downs in life. Sometimes we feel like we’re on a mountain top, looking around in seeing that everything is going right. However, there’s also times when we feel like we are in the lowest of the lows, the valleys, and in those times it seems like nothing can go right!

We can all identify with both perspectives in various degrees, but for now I’d like to speak to the second situation, the valleys of life. No one is immune from being down about our circumstances. When we look at Scripture, we can see many examples of God’s people getting discouraged about things going on around them. Elijah is one example that comes to mind, when he felt as if no one was following God and instead was following the false god, Baal. The Apostle Paul at one point in his ministry was deserted by everyone, and in spite of all of the work that he had done, he felt as if he had almost no one that he could turn to for support in time of need (see 2 Timothy). The point is, that no matter how you serve the Lord, He has called you to ministry. However, sometimes ministry and life’s struggles can be discouraging. So how do we stay encouraged and focused on the Lord?

Of course, we know the need to be in the Word and in prayer. Here’s an additional help: as a pastor, I got some good advice from a member a few years ago to keep an encouragement drawer. An encouragement drawer is just that- a place to store notes, cards, drawings, and other forms of encouragement from some of God’s people. When I get down or discouraged, I open up my encouragement drawer and remind myself that first, God is always with me, and second, God’s people love and appreciate me. Having an encouragement drawer is a visual reminder of the love that God has for me.

Today, my drawer has encouragement from people who have served together with me over the years. Some of these people are now with the Lord. Others have moved away to other places. But one thing is sure, their encouragement still lives on today. Fellow Christian and especially pastors, let me wholeheartedly urge you to you get an encouragement drawer. I pray that it will help you as God has allowed it to help me!

Romans 15:5-6, “May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you a spirit of unity among yourselves as you follow Christ Jesus, so that with one heart and mouth you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.”