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Posts tagged ‘Church.’

12 Things Every Young Pastor Should Hear.


Young pastors
Young pastors need encouragement to continue their godly journey, (Lightstock)

I work with a lot of young pastors, and I’m really passionate about helping them thrive in their first years of ministry.

If I could sit down with each of them and give 12 brief words of encouragement and direction, it would look like this:

1. You can try to do everything, but you will fail. The biggest and most prevalent mistake I see in young pastors is their tendency to overcommit, overwork and overestimate how long they can push themselves to physical and emotional limits. If this is you, I admire your passion and want to support the continued development of that passion by urging you to slow down, delegate tasks and not to stretch yourself too thin in the beginning.

I’ve watched too many young pastors crash and burn.

2. Your ministry starts at home. If you have a family, this means before you are a pastor, you are a husband and a father. If you are not leading your family well, there is no way you will be able to lead a congregation, a creative team or anyone outside of your immediate circle. It starts at home and grows from there.

If you’re still single, ministry “at home” involves preparing yourself spiritually to be a leader. Are you reading and studying and spending daily time in prayer?

3. Jesus doesn’t need you. I don’t mean for this to sound too harsh. I just mean it to say you are not the center of attention here. I say this for your good. If you see yourself as the center of attention, you will put way too much pressure on yourself to perform perfectly. You aren’t perfect, and you don’t need to be.

Instead, give yourself permission to fail and learn from your failures. Be humble.

4. Relationships are everything. The best thing you can do for yourself—and for the kingdom—is to build positive relationship wherever you go. You may change ministry positions or locations, but learn what it looks like to build bridges rather than burn them.

Be likeable. Be kind. Be like Jesus. And always focus on people over projects.

5. A little respect goes a long way. If you learn to treat people like they matter, they will treat you like you matter. What you say becomes more important. You win the attention and affection of those around you. Leadership is earned when you learn to treat everyone—from the janitor to the senior pastor—with the utmost respect and dignity.

Isn’t that what Jesus would do?

6. If people aren’t following your leadership, ask yourself why. The answer probably isn’t “Because they’re all jerks.” So many young leaders want people to follow their leadership, but they don’t see the connection between their actions and the response of those following.

Notice how people respond to you, and use it as your real-life classroom. What can you do to motivate, inspire, encourage, lift up and influence?

7. Give yourself time and space to grow. You don’t have to have it all figured out right away. Truly. Be humble and teachable, and you will go a long way.

8. Seek mentorship. Speaking of being teachable, always seek to mentor and be mentored. If you don’t have a mentor, don’t wait for someone you respect or admire to offer. Instead, go seek them out. Ask, and you shall receive. Knock, and I bet the door will open.

In the same way, if you aren’t mentoring someone younger than you, be open to the idea. Look for opportunities. Invite someone to lunch or coffee. Pour out what you know.

9. Your Bible should be your lifeline. One surefire sign you’re coming up against burnout is that you’ve lost the joy of reading the Scriptures and spending time alone with God. Stay in the Word. This will be your lifeline in your most difficult and most exciting years of ministry.

10. Don’t get too caught up in numbers. It’s hard (and maybe impossible) to ignore them altogether, but Jesus warned His disciples not to rejoice in their accomplishments (Luke 10:20) in light of their salvation in Christ. The most important thing is that lives are being saved and the kingdom of heaven is brought to earth.

Everything else is secondary.

11. Stay young, but grow in wisdom. Don’t ever stop learning. Grow in wisdom. But keep your childlike sense of faith and wonder. Ask questions always. When we stop growing, we start dying.

12. Great character trumps great ability. I save this for last because I think it’s most important. I want you to know that it doesn’t matter where you’ve come from, what school you’ve been to, what you’ve read or haven’t read. Skill and ability are useful. But more powerful is a man or woman who follows after the character traits of Jesus. Focus on your character.

When it comes to greatness, character trumps ability every time.

With over a dozen years of local church ministry, Justin Lathrop has spent the last several years starting businesses and ministries that partner with pastors and churches to advance the kingdom. He is the founder of Helpstaff.me (now Vanderbloemen Search), Oaks School of Leadership and MinistryCoach.tv all while staying involved in the local church.

For the original article, visit pastors.com.

Written by Justin Lathrop

Pastor, You Might Be Sitting on the Solution.


Dan Reiland

Dan Reiland

I was returning from San Diego to Atlanta after attending the memorial service of a friend who lost his wife to a long battle with cancer. Having arrived at the airport early, I decided to get some work done. I was in search of two things.

First, I looked for a wall socket to plug into so I didn’t drain the battery in my laptop and end up unable to work on the four-hour flight home. I was willing to sit anywhere if I could have an outlet, including the floor. The second thing I was in search of was a chocolate chip cookie. The cookie I quickly found. However, I made the mistake of reading the label of ingredients. It contained 38 grams of sugar! What? I’m proud to tell you that I ate less than half! But I couldn’t find a wall outlet anywhere.

A seat was open near the gate, facing out toward the planes, so I grabbed it. I like those “window” seats best because I enjoy watching the planes come and go, along with all the activity on the runways.

A young guy was sitting next to me with his Mac open too. Then I noticed it. He was plugged in! I couldn’t believe it, his seat had a plug right in the arm of the chair! I wished I had HIS seat! Then in a moment, I was overcome by the simultaneous emotions of happiness and embarrassment. Yes, my seat had a plug too. In fact, it had TWO plugs. I was thrilled. So I grabbed my cord and plugged in.  Two minutes later the gate attendant announced that it was time to board the plane.

Have you ever had a problem and found that you were sitting right on top of the solution? Sometimes the most unseen answers are in the most obvious places.

The following are few “simple” thoughts to help us all find the solutions we seek, especially because they might be right before us. These thoughts are simple to understand, but not so easy to consistently practice. Are you up for the challenge?

1. Slow down. When I’m in an airport, I’m usually moving fast. Actually, that’s how I operate all too often, moving fast with little margin. I’ve learned that if I don’t slow down at least for a short while each day I will lose my bearings and miss the obvious.  I may miss an important moment with a staff person or miss my sense of intuition in a meeting. Slowing down is vital, even if it doesn’t feel like you have time to slow down. Slowing down allows you to see, sense, and experience so much that you would otherwise miss.

2. Pay attention. Paying attention seems basic, but it actually requires a great deal of discipline especially when you are in very familiar territory. It’s easy to take things for granted and assume that you know all you need to know. Take a familiar Bible verse for example, like John 3:16, it’s easy to assume that you “know that one.”  When in fact, few verses contain more depth and richness that can be reflected on for a lifetime.

What do you take for granted that you need to take a closer look at?  Perhaps it’s your parking ministry? How about your ushers or greeters? Maybe it’s your nursery. When you consistently pay close attention you are likely to see solutions for improvement that you didn’t know existed.

3. Focus. It’s been said that the church never sleeps. Well, I say that even if no one else does. It’s also true that the church can lead you in a hundred different directions if you let it. Without focus you will spin your wheels and get little more than exhausted. Speed and pressure are important components of momentum but they also create problems. One of your primary responsibilities as a leader is to anticipate and solve problems. You can’t do your best problem solving without a laser focus on the issues at hand. Distraction is a great enemy of any leader.

You can see the progression so far.  Slow down, pay attention and focus. It’s a sequence. Let’s keep going.

4. Don’t make it more complicated than it really is. As leaders, we all have flaws. One of mine is that I can, on occasion, make something more complicated than it really is. That’s a little ironic because the staff I work with most closely tend to believe I can over-simplify what a task actually requires! Which do you tend to do? Over-complicate or over-simplify? We all lean in one direction, and being self-aware helps you lead better. Neither extreme is good, but I think that if you tend to over-complicate things, in general, you will get stuck in the details of the problem and miss the solutions that are often right in front of you. The remedy? Look up! Take a quick break. Slow down. Pay attention to the big picture and focus on what really matters.

5. Consider alternative possibilities. One of the practices the team does well at 12Stone is to consider more than one option. It’s never a good idea to latch on to the first idea and believe it’s the best solution. It might be, but more than likely there is another solution, perhaps even a better one. You can’t know the best solution until you’ve compared it to a couple other ideas. While at the airport, I could have worked on something different that didn’t require my laptop in order to save my battery for the flight. I could have asked to share a plug someone else was using. There are always alternative possibilities and they are often right in front of us.

6. Ask others who have found success with a similar problem. This is a great example of looking for my glasses when they are on my head. I was sitting next to a guy who was plugged in. Why didn’t I ask him about it or make a comment of some kind? Why did I let my mind think, even for just a few minutes, that it was just his seat, or end isle seats only, or every other seat only? I don’t know what thought was rattling around in my mind, but it wasn’t creative or productive. It was simply… “Hey, HE has a plug.”

Candidly, I’ve heard leaders respond like that hundreds of times. It’s that kind of thinking that will cause you and me to miss a solution, even the one we may be sitting on. Just ask. The amazing thing is that when we do ask, the answer is usually not some exotic kind of secret that we respond to with an “Oh my gosh, that blows my mind.”  It’s usually more like, “Oh, I can do that.”

The important thing is not only the solution in the moment; it’s also what you learned about finding solutions, especially the ones that you may be “sitting on.”

Written by Dan Reiland

Dan Reiland is Executive Pastor at 12Stone Church in Lawrenceville, Ga. He previously partnered with John Maxwell for 20 years, first as Executive Pastor at Skyline Wesleyan Church in San Diego, then as Vice President of Leadership and Church Development at INJOY.

For the original article, visit danreiland.com.

8 Resolutions Every Pastor Should Have for 2014.


Happy New Year

Many people make—and break—New Year’s resolutions. Here are eight possible ones that pastors should consider for the upcoming year:

1. Let influence be the theme of your leadership. I often hear pastors complaining (especially young pastors) about their frustration when they don’t have control over a particular situation. My advice would be this: When you don’t have control, don’t worry. You still have influence.

Influence is built when you have great character, follow-through on what you say you’re going to do, and genuinely love people. Allow influence to be the theme of your leadership.

2. Don’t bend to critics. The critics can be so loud at times; it feels overwhelming. No matter the season of the year, there are disappointed expectations, and therefore people from all over the map who want you to do things their way.

This year, don’t bend to the critics. Listen to the spirit. Don’t allow the critics to define you, or what you do. Let Jesus do that.

3. Be transparentBeing transparent doesn’t mean you push your problems or your emotions onto other people. It simply means being honest and inviting others into your space in an appropriate way.

This year, be transparent with your staff, with your congregation, with those you lead, and with your family. When we are humbly transparent we invite the Holy Spirit in to do his transforming work.

4. Speak with your actions. You’ve heard it said that actions speak louder than words. Nowhere is that more true than in church leadership. If you say one thing, and do another, people will lose respect for you. Worse than that, they’ll actually start doing as you do, rather than as you say.

Don’t forget. Actions speak louder than words. Let your actions speak loud in 2014.

5. Choose people over performance. As a pastor, it’s easy to get caught up in the frenzy of performance. There’s so much to do, and the work feels important. You want to do as much as possible in as little time as possible. The pressure continues to grow and grow.

But this year, and always, choose people over performance. Those who have been entrusted to your care need love far more than they need a perfect Easter service.

6. Don’t neglect vision. Proverbs 29:18 says, “Where there is no vision, the people perish” and I’ve seen this to be true in my many years ministry. When you take the time to create a vision that is both simple and meaningful, it is truly life-giving to your staff and congregation.

Don’t neglect creating a vision in pursuit of “getting started” with this next year. A little planning goes a long way.

7. Take care of yourself. This is one of the hardest things for pastors to do. Often we work ourselves to the point of exhaustion, telling ourselves it’s “for the Kingdom,” and justifying our sin. God doesn’t need you to kill yourself. He already died. It is already finished.

If you find yourself losing your temper, losing touch with your family, suffering in your marriage, or growing an addiction to certain foods or coffee—chances are you aren’t resting enough. Take these as a warning sign.

8.  Seek balance. God doesn’t need you to kill yourself, but He does want you to bring your whole self to the table. I don’t believe God is pleased when we play games on our smartphones, or check our Facebook status a million times, when we could be working.

It’s important to seek balance in all areas of your life—work, family, friendships, social life, health, etc. Finding this balance is a lifelong journey, but it’s more than worth it.

What are your resolutions for 2014?

Written by Justin Lathrop

With more than a dozen years of local church ministry, Justin Lathrop has spent the last several years starting businesses and ministries that partner with pastors and churches to advance the kingdom. He is the founder of Helpstaff.me (now Vanderbloemen Search), Oaks School of Leadership, and MinistryCoach.tv all while staying involved in the local church. He blogs regularly about what he has learned from making connection at justinlathrop.com.

For the original article, visit justinlathrop.com.

10 Things A Children’s Pastor Must Do For Church Families.


 

1. Make it simple for families at home by offering resources for them to buy

Compile a list of recommended parenting books, kids devotionals, and workbooks for kids to equip them at home where most faith learning takes place. Even have some on hand that you can sell to them right at church.

2. Busyness does not equal effective ministry. Make events meaningful and less often.

Do not create too many programs that only further pull families away from their already busy schedules. You are not a social club, but a support for faith learning. Make any programs you do offer meaningful; don’t give in to the pressure to fill a calendar with busyness. Don’t feel the pressure to do what another church is doing; consider the unique make up of your church and prayerfully plan what suits the needs of your specific congregation. What is suitable for one congregation might miss the mark for another.

3. Spend money and resources on making your rooms kid-friendly

Your kids classrooms and nursery should be the cleanest, most organized, and the best decorated parts of your church. It’s an outward display of an inward commitment to excellence for the most vulnerable of our church. Cut down the clutter, and go through areas regularly to see them with eyes of a newcomer.

4. Please do not make a desperate request for teachers

Do not allow just anybody to serve. Keep high standards for who works with the most vulnerable of our congregation. Ask people you want directly. Go for the best. Parents will notice. It shows priority to those who we should be taking the best care of. I love having youth helpers and think it is vital for them to learn to serve. However, they are not to be relied upon. Adults are. Adults who typically are parents, involved in teaching, and who have a solid faith.

5. Set high standards, not low, for volunteers if you want to keep them.

Set a standard of commitment for those who volunteer. The least I allow for volunteer teachers is 4 weeks on 4 weeks off. Less than that and the person does not take ownership for their ministry. More than half of my teachers have asked if they can teach every Sunday because then it gives them full control over the run of the class. They take personal ownership and invest themselves in those kids’ lives. If volunteers only teach occasionally, there is no ownership taken and the kids suffer. The volunteers burn out because they have no attachment to the kids or ministry.

6. You are not the source of the children’s spiritual formation

Do not give parents the idea that the church does everything for their child’s spiritual development. Stress that you are only a support for what they are doing at home. A good portion of your time should be giving them resources and equipping them to lead their own children at home. Bring the ministry to homes, not just within your church.

7.  Stop creating an environment where parents feel like the church needs them to be perfect

Provide a way that they can submit prayer requests to the church staff so they can be prayed for and problems can be dealt with together. They need to know they are not judged, but welcomed and loved in the mess of life.

8. Kids need God’s Word taught simply, and to be loved by an adult who listens

Stop thinking that the next best thing is always happening. It’ll be exhausting if you’re always looking to order the new curriculum based on that season’s new hit TV show. God’s word is life changing and captivating as it is. What kids need to know about God and the Bible has not changed. Don’t sacrifice this for trying to stay current. If it works, great, but stop searching and searching for what just came out. Kids need what they have always needed: to know his Word, taught straight up. This is what changes their hearts. They also need to know that they have a space to be listened to and loved by a real person who takes the time to be in their classroom every week.

9.  Give kids a family atmosphere at church; your goal isn’t entertainment atmosphere.

We are a body of believers. Brothers and sisters in Christ. Our ties together have to do with him alone. With encouraging one another and building one another up in our faith. Kids need this too. God’s Word changes lives. The love of his people showing his love to others is what lonely hearts need. It’s what your heart needs. It’s what our kids’ hearts need.

Valerie Ackermann is the Director of Children’s Ministries at Parkway Community Church where she is involved with overseeing volunteers, planning and developing programs, and facilitating the classes for Sunday school. She also teaches her own class every Sunday and loves staying in the classroom and on the front line with the kids.www.leadmetoGod.com

Publication date: December 31, 2013

Church Matters

4 Vital Parts to Reproducing Great Leaders.


Church leadership meeting

“It’s time to make time count.”

That’s the place we’re in as a church. I’m not getting any younger, and it seems we are losing Kingdom ground on a national and international level. The only answer to reversing that is building and growing Kingdom and mission minded leaders who will do the same.

I feel a great sense of urgency that we have to equip and empower an entire new army of leaders, younger leaders that have incredible passion for the mission of the church to multiply. In response to that, we have revamped our leadership development process.

At its core our new process has four parts:

1. A pre-process. It’s important that potential leaders know you are serious about multiplying leaders. That it’s not just another “program” they can sign up for. Make your leadership process by invitation only, and where some pretty high standards must be met prior to being allowed in.

2. A basic beginning. Start all at the same point. It’s important that all those with you know the vision, passion and direction of your church. Don’t make any assumptions! Remember what they used to say, “Assumption is the mother of all _________.”

It will be difficult to build on a foundation if you didn’t lay it from the beginning.

3. A measurable middle. You can’t manage what you can’t measure. You will never know where people are in their abilities if you don’t measure their progress.

Some will complete a portion of your process, and not have the gift set to continue to the next level. It’s better to know that in the middle, and release them to use what they have learned, than to frustrate them and waste unproductive resources and time.

We can’t nor should we expect that all those in our process will become level-five leaders. We have a tremendous deficit of level three leaders as well.

4. A clear call. Leaders that complete all parts of your leadership process should be equipped and have a clear call to go and multiply themselves into others. Your leadership culture must be one of calling leaders to multiply.

The end of all can’t be just completion, but one of a deep sense of call. Empower and equip your leaders to reproduce themselves. If this last step is neglected you will have only succeeded in producing a tribe of new Pharisees that will guard their territory rather than seeking to enlarge it.

It’s time to make time count.If you don’t have a leadership process, start one, a simple one. Change it as you go, but have a process! You have no right to complain about loyalty, the lack of volunteers, that no one is giving or no one is “stepping up” if aren’t imparting that to potential leaders.

Written by Artie Davis

Artie Davis wears a lot of hats and leads a lot of people. He’s a pastor at Cornerstone Community Church in Orangeburg, S.C. He heads the Comb Network and the Sticks Conference. He speaks and writes about leadership, ministry, church planting, and cultural diversity in the church. You can find his blog at ArtieDavis.com or catch him on Twitter @artiedavis.

For the original article, visit pastors.com.

Greg Stier: Foyer Secrets Revealed.


Flatirons Community Church in Lafayette, Colo.

What I’m about to tell you could put me on some ministry hit lists. I could get beaten with hymnals, immersed in the baptismal (for a little too long) or Bible-whipped across my jaw.

I’m about to share with you a few of the subtle “tricks” some pastors use in the foyer on their church members. These highly guarded ministry secrets could get me taken out by some rogue pastoral network. So if this is the last blog you see me post, you’ll know what happened.

How do I know some pastors use these tricks? Because, having gone to church for the last 40 years or so, I have personally been on the receiving end of some of them. And, sadly, having been a preaching pastor for a decade, I used some of them to ward off close-talking congregants or church members with the “best” idea yet.

So, without further adieu, here they are …

1. “Let me pray about that.”

2. The shoulder pause/play button. Okay, I’m super-guilty of this one. When I was a pastor I could work the foyer like nobody’s business. I would talk to anyone and everyone I could. I figured this was the one time a week I could literally rub shoulders with everyone at our church.

If I was talking to someone and saw somebody that I desperately needed to talk to I would put my hand on the shoulder of the person I was talking to and say, “excuse me for a moment.” I’d then tell the other person what I needed to tell them as quickly as possible and then take my hand off the shoulder of the person I was talking to and finish the conversation.

I forget where I heard it but someone once said that shoulder is like a pause/play button on a TV remote control. Put your hand on the shoulder and you’re pressing pause on the conversation. Take it off and and you’re pressing play.

Maybe this is bad but I still find myself using the pause/play button even though I’m no longer a pastor.

3. “How long have you been attending here?” When I was a pastor and saw someone I didn’t recognize walking up to the church building I would ask, “Is this your first time here at Grace?” It only took one, “No I’ve been going here for four years now” for me to stop asking that question.

“How long have you been attending here?” is a far less dangerous question because, whether it’s their first or 50th time attending, you’re pretty safe in not offending them.

BTW, if you ask them this question every week sooner or later they’ll be on to you.

4. “Well let’s pray right now!” Sometimes after preaching two or three times on a Sunday morning a preacher gets exhausted. Inevitably it’s that one person at the church who, if he/she got paid by the word would be filthy rich, approaches the pastor and begins a 30 minute diatribe about their situation.

“Well let’s pray right now” is a way some pastors bring a period to a comma in the conversation. It’s a pastors way of saying, “Dude, I’m tired. Let’s land the plane and quit circling the airport!” And, as long as the pastor genuinely prays, it’s an effective way to wrap up a potentially endless conversation.

5. Protect the quarterback. Okay I have a problem with prolonged huggers and close talkers. With these people I play the role of the offensive lineman. I put my hand on their non-pause/play shoulder and I protect the quarterback (aka “my personal space.”)

When someone gets past my guard and goes in for a hug I turn my body to the side, and my hand on their back then, after a second or two, I pat four times which is pastor-speak for Let my people go.”

6. “Walk with me to my car.” It’s interesting how much can be accomplished in 60 seconds.

7. The handoff. Like I said these secrets could get me taken out. Pastors could conspire against me for spilling their ministerial secrets.

By the way if you took this tongue-in-cheek blogpost too seriously and want to give me a suggestion I guarantee you one thing … I’ll pray about it.

Written by Greg Stier

Greg Stier is a husband, a father, a preacher, an author, a twitchy revolutionary and a fanatic for Jesus. He’s the President of Dare 2 Share Ministries which has led thousands of students to Jesus and equipped thousands more to reach their world with the gospel. He blogs at GregStier.org.

For the original article, visit pastors.com.

Five Biggest Things We Did Right Early On by Dr. James Emery White.


One of the biggest questions I get from pastors is what we did in the early years that now, looking back with hindsight, we feel made the most difference.

It’s a good question.

Most churches make it or break it in the first five years of their existence.  Numerous church growth studies have shown that if you don’t break 200 in average attendance in the first two years, you never will.  If you don’t break 500 in five, you never will, and so on.

I don’t understand all of this in terms of the work of the Holy Spirit.  All I know is that it is the consensus observation from those who watch how the Holy Spirit tends to work.

So…

What did we do in those early, formative years that we now feel set us free to break through the 200, 500, 700, 1200, 1800, 2500, and more barrier?

(Meck now has over 8,000 active attenders, and over 25,000 in its data base.)

In no particular order (actually, that’s not true – the fifth may be the most important), here are the five most decisive:

1. In terms of ministry programs/activity, we focused on two main things:  weekend services and children’s ministry.  Not small groups, or student ministry, or missions.  We built from the ground up, and these two are the foundation for everything.

2. We waited to build a building, using rented facilities for as long as possible.  But we didn’t wait to buy land.  This is a crucial interplay.  Get your land/campus as quickly as you can, and buy as much as you can.  This is a decision you will NEVER regret.  Parcels of land get “land-locked,” particularly in fast-growing areas, and you can’t buy more.  And you can always sell it later if need be.  But make no mistake, the “shoe” can tell the “foot” how big it gets.  The mistake that many make is to focus on the building instead, buying a small plot of land in view of building quickly.  Don’t.  We started in the fall of 1992, raised money for land in a campaign in 1995, bought the land in 1996, and didn’t build until 1998.  And even then, this was earlier than we had anticipated or wanted when the high school we were in could not accommodate our size anymore.

3. We put all of our resources and effort into outreach.  I know, you’re thinking, “So do we!”, but make sure.  Lots of churches say they do, but then they build their staffs large and quick (instead of using volunteers), have super nice office space in an executive park, and…well, you get my point.  For the first year-and-a-half, Meck’s office was my home.  Yep, the church’s phone was our home phone.  It would ring, I would tell all the kids to be quiet, and then try and answer in the most generic and professional voice possible.  It was hilarious.  But the point is that we funneled what little money we have into things that would reach people, not serve us.  Still do.

4. We were tenacious in holding to the mission/vision/values, conveying the mission/vision/values, making decisions by the mission/vision/values, and judging everything we did by the mission/vision/values.  Mission is the target on the wall in terms of what you are trying to do, vision is what it all is going to look like if you succeed, and values are who you want to be and how you want to live along the way.

5. Finally, we had a big-church mentality.  I know that’s crass, and might invite all kinds of “value the small church” comments, but let me unpack it.

Tom Watson was the leader responsible for putting IBM on the map during its heyday.  When asked why the company had become so successful, he said:

IBM is what it is today for three special reasons.  The first reason is that, at the very beginning, I had a clear picture of what the company would look like when it was finally done.

The second reason was that once I had that picture, I then asked myself how a company which looked like that would have to act.

The third reason IBM has been so successful was that once I had a picture of how IBM would look when the dream was in place and how such a company would have to act, I then realized that, unless we began to act that way from the very beginning, we would never get there.

In other words, I realized that for IBM to become a great company it would have to act like a great company long before it ever became one.

One of the most important things you can do as a church leader is establish a preferred vision of the future firmly in your mind and spirit, act on it, and then make decisions based on it.  And most important of all, let people know your thinking.

In the early days at Meck, we used to say that we were “a small church with a big church mentality.”  We saw ourselves, from the beginning, as a church of thousands.  So we acted like one.  When we were running less than a hundred people, we would prepare for each service as if hundreds would come in terms of quality, effort, attention to detail.  And that’s one of the reasons hundreds did.

And then thousands.

It’s very easy for a church to act in accordance with its current status.  You prepare a service for 250 because that’s what you tend to have in attendance.  As a result, everything is done with that level of quality, that level of decorum, that level of expectation.

It becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

For a church running 250 to become a church of 500, it has to begin to act like a church of 500 long before it actually is one.

Again, I don’t know why these five matter as much as they do, I just know that they do.  It isn’t meant to diminish the power of prayer, biblical fidelity, and such.  There just seems to be a “street smart” element to things that counts.

And these are five things we would say fall into that category.

7 of the Greatest Stressors on Pastors.


Wounded leader

What are some other stressors for pastors you can think of? (Stock Free Images)

Most pastors love their calling. Most pastors could not imagine doing anything else. Most pastors have joy in their ministries.

I want to be clear that I don’t view pastors as a depressed, melancholy and forlorn lot.  Most pastors would not come close to fitting that description.

But every pastor has points of stress. Indeed, everyone has points of stress, including leaders of churches, organizations and families. Pastors are not immune from stressors in life and ministry.

I hear from pastors almost every day. Indeed, I can’t remember a day since the advent of social media that I have not heard from a pastor. Some of these ministers gladly share their struggles with me. I am grateful. That means that these pastors trust me and view me as one who cares for them. They are right.

And though I did not do a formal tabulation of all the pieces of correspondence I’ve received from pastors, I can share with you, with some level of confidence, seven of the greatest stressors on pastors. Indeed, I share them in the order of frequency I have heard them.

1. Giving their families deserved time. In reality, no pastor has a day off. It is a 24/7 call, where the next phone call or email means a dramatic change in their priorities. Deaths, accidents and emergencies know no clock or holidays or vacation. Pastors are often required to leave their families to meet those needs. And pastors worry about their families and their needs.

2. An unhappy spouse. No one can serve in a church or do any job with joy if their spouse is unhappy. The pastor is certainly not exempt from that stressor. Some of the unhappiness of pastors’ spouses is related to the first stressor noted. Some of it is related to the next stressor on the list. And still other times, spouses are expected to fill roles in the church because of who they married, not because they are equipped or desirous to do so.

3. The glass house. One pastor wrote me that he struggles greatly because several church members have clear expectations about what clothes his wife and children wear, how the kids behave and even what school they should attend. Other pastors have less severe cases of the glass house, but any level of this syndrome is uncomfortable.

4. Lacking competencies in key areas. The ideal pastor is a great leader, psychologist, counselor, financial manager, orator, teacher, conflict manager, human resources professional and strategist. No pastor is great in every area. Many pastors feel stress because they know more is expected of them in areas where they are not very strong.

5. Personal financial needs. Many pastors feel financial stress because they do not make sufficient income to meet their family’s needs. The pastor who worries about paying the bills is the pastor who cannot focus on the ministry and the people of the church.

6. Responding to criticisms. All leaders are and will be criticized. Pastors are no exception. The challenge that pastors and other leaders have is how to respond appropriately to criticism. Some critics should be heard. Some should be heeded. Others need to be ignored. It is often difficult to know which approach to take.

7. Lack of a confidantPastors need a pastor. Pastors need someone who can be their confidant. Pastors need someone who will not judge them when they let off steam or complain about unhealthy situations and people. Very few pastors have such a friend or confidant. All of them need one.

Everyone has stressors. Everyone has problems of some magnitude. The pastor is no exception. And during holiday seasons, stress is often magnified and multiplied. Stress will not go away. But maybe those of us who truly love and care for our pastors can do something this season to help make the stress less of a burden for these who have been called by God.

It may be the best Christmas gift you give this season.

Thom S. Rainer is president of LifeWay Christian Resources. For the original article, visit thomrainer.com.

Written by Thom S. Rainer

5 Uncomfortable Issues The Church Needs to Start Talking About.


Debbie Holloway

Remember Jesus’ words, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick”? Many have looked at that verse and proclaimed that the Church is like a hospital. But doesn’t it sometimes feel more like a museum?

According to Zach Perkins at Relevant Magazine, there are 5 Uncomfortable Issues The Church Needs to Start Talking About. 

“Paul urged the Church to ‘Bear each other’s burdens,’ so maybe with more grace and love we can turn on the light in the darkened rooms of each other’s hearts and let our churches become safe havens for the uncomfortable things we have to deal with.”

First Perkins cites Addiction and Sexuality as taboo topics that need to be more honestly and openly addressed, writing,

“…yes, in many churches, a person’s addictions can become fodder for gossip. However, if the Church were to first approach one another as family, then addicts in the Church might feel safer to be vulnerable about their struggles. Often, they just need to be loved and feel safe enough to know they can expose this part of themselves in a community where the addiction isn’t crushing them every second.”

He also notes that Church conversations about sex rarely move beyond, “don’t have sex until you’re married.”

“There are strong believers struggling with their sexual identity, brokenness and frustration in churches across the world, and among their Christian friends and families, they don’t dare say a word about it.”

Next on his list is Sincere Doubt. In March 2013, “Is Doubting a Sin?” was featured byCrosswalk the Devotional.

“Jesus’ response to doubt was often, why? He proposed neither a condemnation nor an accolade, but a dialogue. Jesus cared about the hearts, motives, and fears of those who questioned him, who struggled with unbelief. Practically everyone to whom Jesus ministered expressed genuine doubt or asked provoking questions. But Jesus healed them anyway. Jesus answered their questions (John 3). Jesus told them things about themselves, causing them to look at life in a new way (John 4). When extraordinary faith was shown (Luke 7) Jesus was astounded and overjoyed. But he certainly did not condemn all others of lesser faith. He knew that it takes time for people to overcome cultures of fear and questions.”

In Ray Pritchard’s piece, “Faith and Doubt at Christmastime” he writes,

“Faith and doubt always go together. There is no such thing as 100% faith. After all, if you had certainty, you wouldn’t need faith at all. In heaven we will not need faith because we will experience ultimate reality. But between now and then, our doubts spur us on to greater spiritual growth. Doubt can be a good thing if it moves you to study, to think, to investigate, and to ask hard questions.”

Perkins’ list wraps up with the topics of Mental Illness and Loneliness. The Evangelical community recently faced a major reminder of mental illness when Pastor Rick Warren’s son Matthew took his own life after a lifetime of struggling with depression and mental illness. In the aftermath, Warren shared,

“It’s amazing to me that any other organ in your body can break down and there’s no shame and stigma to it…But if your brain breaks down, you’re supposed to keep it a secret… If your brain doesn’t work right, why should you be ashamed of that?”

Two additional issues that Churches rarely address with grace are those of Miscarriage andAbortion – specifically healing and recovery for women who have already had them (as many as 1 in 4 women have dealt with one or the other, or both).

Teske Drake and Kim Ketola have written several pieces for Crosswalk on this subject, including Carry Each Other’s Burdens: Ministering to those Enduring MiscarriageHope and Healing After Childbearing Loss, and Healing Abortion’s Guilt and Grief. In her piece Pregnancy and Infant Loss: A Biblical Stance for Support, Teske Drake wrote about National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month, saying,

“Despite the prevalence of loss and the progress made in terms of awareness and support, isolation –feeling as though ‘I’m the only one’ – is a key characteristic of women’s experiences with miscarriage and infant loss. Today, families throughout the world will publicly acknowledge the lives of their little ones who were gone too soon in honor of National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day. Communities will rally support and for a brief moment families will experience a sense of solidarity in the midst of their unique, yet often disenfranchised, grief. As Christ followers, shouldn’t our support extend beyond a designated month? How can we incorporate an awareness and sensitivity to this very real and prevalent issue?”

What do you think? Has your Church found ways to deal with these hard topics with grace and wisdom? What other issues would you say the Church needs to address more openly?

Debbie Holloway is the Family Life Editor for Crosswalk.com

Publication date: December 10, 2013

Prominent Gay Rights Magazine Names Pope ‘Person of the Year’.


Image: Prominent Gay Rights Magazine Names Pope 'Person of the Year'

The oldest gay rights magazine in the United States named Pope Francis its “Person of the Year” as the pontiff marked his 77th birthday on Tuesday by inviting homeless people to join him for breakfast in the Vatican.The Advocate magazine said it gave Francis the honor because, although he is still against homosexual marriage, his pontificate so far had shown “a stark change in (anti-gay) rhetoric from his two predecessors”.

It hailed as a landmark his famous response last July to a reporter who asked about gay people in the Church: “If a person is gay and seeks God and has good will, who am I to judge?”

The Advocate noted that the Catholic gay organization “Equally Blessed” called the phrase “some of the most encouraging words a pontiff has ever spoken about gay and lesbian people”.

Francis: A Pope for Our Time, The Definitive Biography 
The Vatican has stressed the pope’s words did not change Church teachings that homosexual tendencies are not sinful but homosexual acts are.

Still, the gay community and many heterosexuals in the Church have welcomed what they see as a shift in emphasis and a call for the Church to be more compassionate and less condemning.

The Advocate said no-one should “underestimate any pope’s capacity for persuading hearts and minds in opening to LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transsexual) people”.

Last week, Time magazine gave Francis the same honor, crediting him with shifting the message of the Catholic Church towards mercy and away from condemnation while capturing the imagination of millions.The Vatican said the pope, the former Cardinal Jorge Mario of Argentina, marked his 77th birthday with his customary morning Mass in the guest house where he has opted to live instead of spacious papal apartments used by his predecessors.

Four homeless people who live on the streets near the Vatican were invited to take part by a Vatican official who administers the pope’s charity and stayed for breakfast with the pope and his aides, the Vatican said.

© 2013 Thomson/Reuters. All rights reserved.

Source: Newsmax.com

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