Friday, December 28, 2012

Great Wisdom in Tension - Seven Regrets of Pastors

One of my online mentors and a great author of many books that I have read, Thom Rainer posted this a few weeks ago.

I would love to hear your thoughts on this as well.  Especially if you have been a pastor for any length of time.

Personally, I have promised myself several years ago that I would personally not fall into any of these regrets. I am going to post some of my personal commentaries with each regret.

I have many friends, who are in ministry that have shared some of these regrets with me.  I believe this is GREAT WISDOM even in the TENSION of doing pastoral ministry.

This was originally posted here -

I recently interviewed more than twenty pastors who had been in ministry for at least 25 years. All of these men were over 55 years old.  A few of them were retired, but most of them were still active in fulltime vocational ministry.
The interview was simple. I asked one open-ended question: “What regrets do you have about the years you have served as a pastor?” Each of the men could provide as many responses as they desired. They could make the answers succinct, or they could elaborate upon them.

Three pastors had as few as two responses; one pastor had nine. Most of the pastors noted three or four regrets. As a researcher, I typically see patterns develop in this type of subjective research. When it concluded, I was able to see seven definitive patterns, and I was able to see the frequency they occurred.
Below are the top seven regrets noted in order of frequency. I received a total of 17 different responses, but only these seven occurred with any degree of repetition. After each regret, I provide a representative direct quote from one of the interviewees.
  1. Lack of practical training for local church ministry. “I was not prepared for 80 percent of my day-to-day ministry after I graduated from seminary. I wish I had taken time to find some resources or places where I could get practical training. I had to learn in the school of hard knocks, and it was very painful at times.”   (Over my 19 years of ministry I have been given some amazing hands on practical experience.  Experience I know that I would have never had in Bible College.  Personally, I learn more through hands on experiences.  Full time ministry is not easy, it is not for the faint of heart.)
  2. Overly concerned about critics. “I had this naïve view that a bunch of Christians in a church would always show love toward each other. Boy was I wrong! There are some mean church members out there. My regret is that I spent way too much time and emotional energy dealing with the critics. I think of the hundreds of hours I lost focusing on critics, and it grieves me to this day.” (If you are in full time ministry as a pastor, you need to be SECURE in your own skin.  INSECURITY is cancer for a pastor.  My friend and mentor Mark Batterson posted about how to deal with Criticism...
    Thought I’d share a few thoughts on the topic of criticism. I’m honestly surprised I don’t have more critics than I do, but I have my fair share. Here is a simple rule of thumb: if you are a leader you will be criticized. Period. If you’re not being criticized you might not be a leader! But how you handle it is so critical.
    A few months ago I heard Brian Houston say something so good and so true: “I’d rather be a film maker than a film critic.” His point? There are those who do and those who criticize those who do. I’d rather be a doer than a critic. And I’ve learned that the more critical a person is the less they’ve probably done. Just shooting straight.
    In the words of Teddy Roosevelt: “It is not the critic who counts, not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or the where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood.”
    Life is too short and the message is too important to spend our energies criticizing each other. Infighting must break the Heavenly Father’s heart. It’s self-righteous. It’s sideways energy. And when we take pot shots at each other we’re just playing into the enemy’s hands. We need to be about the Father’s business!
    Let me share a few lessons I’ve learned about criticism:
    1) Thou Shalt Offend Pharisees. Jesus didn’t have the time of day for the self-appointed critics who formed the religious establishment. He didn’t back down. He confronted their hypocrisy. If you follow in Jesus’ footsteps, you’ll offend some pharisees along the way!
    2) Don’t play defense. Life is too short to get defensive. Celebrate your weaknesses and failures. That’ll defuse criticism quicker than anything else. Keep a humble spirit but keep playing offense for the kingdom!
    3) Consider the source! An insult from a fool is actually a compliment and a compliment from a fool is actually an insult.
    4) Preach for an audience of one. The only person you’re accountable to as a preacher is the One who called you in the first place. Never forget it. And for the record, critics will also be held accountable for the criticisms they wield so easily and so quickly.
    5) Don’t get into an argument! I love Proverbs 26:4, “When arguing with fools, don’t answer their foolish arguments, or you will become as foolish as they are.” The very next verse says, “When arguing with fools, be sure to answer their foolish arguments, or they will become wise in their own estimation.” Those back-to-back verse seem to contradict each other but I think they reveal a deeper truth: if you’re arguing with a fool you can’t win.
    6) Make sure criticism passes the filter test. I love the way Erwin McManus says this: “Don’t let an arrow of criticism pierce your heart unless it passes through the filter of Scripture.” If criticism passes the biblical filter, then you better repent. If it doesn’t pass the filter test, then rebuke it. Either way, make sure your heart stays soft.
    One last thing. A leader is never beyond rebuke, correction or exhortation. But I would advise that you listen to the people who know you and love you. In fact, make sure you have people in your life that can speak truth and hold you accountable.
    The bottom line? Don’t be a critic. Be a doer of deeds.)
  3. Failure to exercise faith. “At some point in my ministry, I started playing defense and let the status quo become my way of doing church. I was fearful of taking steps of faith, and my leadership and churches suffered as a result. Not only was I too cautious in the churches I served, I was too cautious in my own ministry. I really felt God calling me to plant a church at one point, but I was just too fearful to take that step.”  (I have learned over my time in ministry to operate in faith.  My faith in constant and consistent prayer.  We need to keep seeking God for God-sized ideas.)
  4. Not enough time with family. “I can’t say that people didn’t warn me. One wise pastor told me I had a mistress. When he saw my anger rising, he told me that my mistress was busyness in my church, and that my family was suffering from neglect. It hurts me to say this, but one of my adult sons is still in rebellion, and I know it is a direct result of my neglect of him when he was young.”  (It is important to set boundaries!  You need to set healthy boundaries between ministry and family. This is non negotiable.  Your FAMILY is your FIRST MINISTRY.  Family is priority for me.  I rather lose "my pastoring job" than lose my family. )
  5. Failure to understand basic business and finance issues. “The first time I saw my church’s budget, I thought I was looking at a foreign language. Greek is a lot easier than finance. They sure don’t teach you basic church finance and business at seminary, and I didn’t take the initiative to educate myself. I really felt stupid in so many of the discussions about the budget or other church business issues.”  (This is probably my weakest area, but as a Pastor, you have to know something about everything.  You need to continue to stretch yourself and grow in this area.)
  6. Failure to share ministry. “Let me shoot straight. I had two complexes. The first was the Superman complex. I felt like if ministry was going to be done well, I had to do it. I couldn’t ask or equip someone else to do it. My second complex was the conflict avoider complex. I was so afraid that I would get criticized if I didn’t visit Aunt Susie personally when she had an outpatient procedure that I ran myself ragged. In my second church I suffered burnout and ended up resigning.”  (I have learned overtime to equip, enable and empower others.  Ministry is NOT meant to be done alone.)
  7. Failure to make friends. “I know it’s cliché, but being a pastor can be lonely. I think many pastors get in trouble because we can get so lonely. I wish I had done a better job of seeking out true friends. I know if I had made the effort, there would have been a number of pastors in town that I could have befriended. Sometimes I got so busy doing ‘stuff’ that I didn’t have time to do the things that really matter.”  (I have learned the hard way not to get too close to people you lead in ministry.  I have amazing friends both inside ministry and outside of ministry.  Lora and I both have friends that we trust with everything, where we can be totally vulnerable with them.  Yes, ministry is lonely and you need to have healthy friendships.)
So what do you think of these top seven regrets? What would you add?

Let me know what you think.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

20 Traits of Creative Leaders via Stephen Brewster

This is not my list, however this would be my list if I would create one.  Stephen Brewster nailed it!    

I underlined and bolded my favorites!  Definitely all of them would be on my list.  One I would add to the list...a creative leader is secure in his own skin.  Insecurity is cancerous in leadership.  Are you a secure Creative Leader? 

Pastors we must be creative leaders in our churches and in our communities.  That means we may need to go against the flow at times.
Check it out and tell me your thoughts.
Leadership is intangible, and therefore no weapon ever designed can replace it. – Omar N. Bradley
Here are a few traits I have learned working for and with some amazing leaders. (with the obvious Christian focus removed):
1. Set the tone and set it with passion and audacity.
2. Avoid drama and create peace.
3. Think positive, but realistic.
4. Lead by serving.
5. Act as much as they talk.
6. Ensure that their words and actions align; own and correct it when they don’t.
7. Plan.
8. Know they don’t have all the answers all the time.
9. Ask questions more than you make statements.
10. Trust their team to do their jobs.
11. Set and articulate expectations.
12. Insist on results.
13. Delegate. Then, delegate more.
14. Give others credit.
15. Listen. Listen. Listen. Then respond.
16. Have compassion, but don’t be fooled.
17. Respond instead of react.
18. Hire talented, young, future leaders and trust them even when they fail…and never stop investing in them.
19. Know their idea is not always the best idea.
20. Never stop learning.

What are traits you look for in a leader? What traits are you attempting to model?

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

The Christmas Story from Luke's Gospel and Prophicies of His birth

This morning before we opened up any gifts, we read the Gospel of Luke account of the Christmas story 
At that time the Roman emperor, Augustus, decreed that a census should be taken throughout the Roman Empire. (This was the first census taken when Quirinius was governor of Syria.) All returned to their own ancestral towns to register for this census. And because Joseph was a descendant of King David, he had to go to Bethlehem in Judea, David’s ancient home. He traveled there from the village of Nazareth in Galilee. He took with him Mary, his fiancée, who was now obviously pregnant.
And while they were there, the time came for her baby to be born. She gave birth to her first child, a son. She wrapped him snugly in strips of cloth and laid him in a manger, because there was no lodging available for them.
That night there were shepherds staying in the fields nearby, guarding their flocks of sheep. Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them, and the radiance of the Lord’s glory surrounded them. They were terrified, 10 but the angel reassured them. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. 11 The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David! 12 And you will recognize him by this sign: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger.”
13 Suddenly, the angel was joined by a vast host of others—the armies of heaven—praising God and saying,
14 “Glory to God in highest heaven,
    and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.”
15 When the angels had returned to heaven, the shepherds said to each other, “Let’s go to Bethlehem! Let’s see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”
16 They hurried to the village and found Mary and Joseph. And there was the baby, lying in the manger. 17 After seeing him, the shepherds told everyone what had happened and what the angel had said to them about this child. 18 All who heard the shepherds’ story were astonished, 19 but Mary kept all these things in her heart and thought about them often. 20 The shepherds went back to their flocks, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen. It was just as the angel had told them.
I am fascinated about the prophetic account of the birth of Jesus long before He was born and seeing the fulfillment of the prophecies. 

Prophecy of Jesus Birth was spoken long before He was born...

The Messiah will be born in Bethlehem.
In the 8th Century B.C., the prophet Micah prophesied that the small village of Bethlehem would give birth to the Messiah:

“But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, are only a small village in Judah. Yet a ruler of Israel will come from you, one whose origins are from the distant past.” Micah 5:2

Over 700 years later, Jesus of Nazareth was born:
“Jesus was born in the town of Bethlehem in Judea, during the reign of King Herod.” Matthew 2:1

Great kings will pay homage and tribute to the Messiah.
The Psalm 72, recorded approximately 1,000 years before the birth of Jesus, foreshadowed a time when foreign kings would travel from distant lands to pay tribute to the Messiah:

“The western kings of Tarshish and the islands will bring him tribute. The eastern kings of Sheba and Seba will bring him gifts.” Psalm 72:10-11

Years later, the baby Jesus became the object of worship for wise men from distant lands:

“About that time, some wise men from eastern lands arrived in Jerusalem, asking, ‘Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We have seen his star as it arose, and we have come to worship him.” Matthew 2:1-2

“They entered the house where the child and his mother, Mary, were, and they fell down before him and worshiped him.”

The Messiah will be a descendant of David.

The Psalm 132, recorded approximately 1,000 years before Jesus, prophesied the Messiah would be a descendant of King David:

“The Lord swore to David a promise he will never take back: ‘I will place one of your descendants on your throne. If your descendants obey the terms of my covenant and follow the decrees that I teach them, then your royal line will never end.” Psalm 132:11

The prophet Jeremiah, writing approximately 600 years before the birth of Jesus, twice declared that the Messiah would be a descendant of King David:

“‘For the time is coming,’ says the Lord, ‘when I will place a righteous Branch on King David’s throne. He will be a King who rules with wisdom. He will do what is just and right through the land.” Jeremiah 23:5-6

“At that time I will bring to the throne of David a righteous descendant, and he will do what is just and right throughout the land.” Jeremiah 33:15
Following the birth of Jesus, the angel Gabriel declared:

“He will be very great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give him the throne of his ancestor David. And he will reign over Israel forever; his Kingdom will never end!” Luke 1:32-33

The Messiah will be born of a virgin.

More than 650 years before the birth of Jesus of Nazareth, the prophet Isaiah relayed the Lord’s promise that the Messiah would be born of a virgin:

“All right then, the Lord himself will choose the sign. Look! The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son and will call him Immanuel – ‘God is with us.’” Isaiah 7:14
This prophecy was fulfilled approximately 700 years later, when the virgin Mary, engaged to Joseph, gave birth to Jesus of Nazareth:

“But while she was still a virgin, she became pregnant by the Holy Spirit. Joseph, her fiancé, being a just man, decided to break the engagement quietly, so as not to disgrace her publicly. As he considered this, he fell asleep, and an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream. ‘Joseph, son of David,’ the angel said, ‘do not be afraid to go ahead with your marriage to Mary. For the child within her has been conceived by the Holy Spirit. And she will have a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.’” Matthew 1:18-21

The Messiah will be the Son of God.

The second psalm, recorded approximately 1,000 years before Jesus, prophesied that the Messiah would be the Son of God:

“The king proclaims the Lord’s decree: ‘The Lord said to me, ‘You are my son. Today, I have become your Father. Only ask, and I will give you the nations as your inheritance, the ends of the earth as your possession.” Psalm 2:7-8

Following the Baptism of Jesus of Nazareth, a voice from heaven testified that Jesus is the fulfillment of Psalm 2:
“And a voice from heaven said, ‘This is my beloved Son, and I am fully pleased with him.’” Matthew 3:17

Monday, December 24, 2012

Great Wisdom in the Tension - Vision and Finance

I have learned so many great lessons in my 19 years of ministry.  Many of these lessons weren't learned from books but from experiences.  Through learning these lesson, I have had the opportunity to gain some great wisdom.

I have also learned many of these lessons the hard way, but some of the lessons I learned through very positive experiences.  I have seen what God can do through His people especially when there is vision.

I am a visionary leader.  I am a leader who has a great deal of faith, because I have seen what our AWESOME God Can do when we trust Him.

And He said to them, "When I sent you without money bag, knapsack and sandals, did you lack any thing?" so they said "nothing". (LK 22:35)


Which will it be?  According to church offerings and worship attendance actually increased in 2012 inspite of the nation's economic landscape. research indicates that 73% of churches surveyed, expect to meet or exceed their 2012 budgets in 2013.  Church leadership must decide for their congregations "financial cliff or financial lift?"


 "We want to give a gift, and there are no strings attached, but before I tell you how much we're going to give, I want to tell you why we're giving it.  We're giving the gift because you have a vision beyond your resources - we want to give the church three million dollars." Mark Batterson, The Circle Maker

Most churches don't have a money problem, they have a vision problem.  MONEY FOLLOWS VISION.  Here are a couple principles that I know:  God will bless your church and you individually in proportion to how you give to the poor in your area and how you give to missions.  WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON THIS STATEMENT?

The other principle I find to be true:  Finances follow vision!  WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON THIS STATEMENT?

Here are a few thoughts about finances and vision.  Can you embrace wisdom in the tension?

"People give to causes that flow out of vision, I don't articulate a vision for the sole purpose of raising money, but if I cast vision well, I see money raised." Gary Fenton, Mastering Church Finances

"The silver is mine, and the gold is mine, says the Lord of hosts." (Haggi 2:8)

David had a vision for the building of a temple to house the ark of the covenant.  He purchased the land and began to amass the resources to be used in the construction of the temple.  He said to his son Solomon:

"I have worked hard to provide material for building the temple of the Lord - nearly 4,000 tons of gold,  40,000 tons of silver, and so much iron and bronze it cannot be weighed.  I have gathered timber and stone for the walls, though you may need to add more." (1Chronicles 22:14 NLT)

At todays prices, the value of 4,000 tons of gold is approximately 217,600,000 dollars.  The silver is worth approximately 448,000,000 dollars.  This massive amount doesn't include what David and the leaders contributed in silver, gold, iron and bronze.  They gave an additional 308 tons of gold, 10,000 gold coins, 640 tons of silver, 675 tons of bronze and 3,750 tons of iron. (1Chronicles 29:4-8)

"The people rejoiced over the offerings, for they had given freely and whole- heartedly to the Lord, and King David was filled with joy." (1Chronicles 29:9)

The point of the story - MONEY FOLLOWS VISION.  Current resources should not be allowed to determine the size of your vision.  Let your vision determine the size of your resources.  In other word, DON'T LET YOUR BUDGET DETERMINE YOUR VISION; LET YOUR VISION DETERMINE YOUR BUDGET. Finances will follow vision.  You need to steward those finances well and above reproach.

"If God be your partner - plan BIG" says D.L. Moody.  God's vision will have God's provision. TONS OF IT!

Love what a good friend of mine Joshua Symonette said recently on Twitter, "I love to set my bar in unrealistic territory. And it may actually be unrealistic, who knows. But the pursuit is a lot more interesting."  That to me is having God sized vision.

Here are some great budgeting/stewarding tips for you to consider from my pastor, mentor and friend Mark Batterson:

And whether it’s been a good year or tough year financially, it’s so important that you have solid stewardship practices in place. Here are a few of ours.

1) Make sure you put missions first. It seems disingenuous to me to ask people to tithe if you aren’t tithing to missions as a church. I honestly believe God will bless us in proportion to how we’re giving to missions. It’s the one budget category that we always want to be over!

2) Don’t overestimate your income. If you do, you’ll feel the pressure each week. Our YTD giving is up 40% in 2010, but we won’t budget for a 40% increase next year. It’s not a lack of faith. We’ll budget a 10% increase, hoping we have a 40% increase, but it’ll force us to budget the expense side better!

3) Your greatest resource is your people. No one goes into ministry to “get rich quick.” But I also think that staff shouldn’t be underpaid. There is obviously lots of tension in this area. We spend less than 40% of our overall budget on staff. And I’d honestly like to be closer to 33%. Here’s one rule of thumb: don’t hire so many staff that you can’t pay them all what they are worth. I’d rather have fewer staff that are well-paid than lots of staff that are poorly paid.

4) Don’t let your budget determine your vision. Let your vision determine your budget. This doesn’t mean you budget unobtainable income numbers, but it does mean that you put money into those ministries that have the greatest evangelistic impact. Spend less on low-return ministries and more on high-return ministries.

5) One mechanism that has helped us immeasurably is something we call our wish list. It’s really a faith list. These are ministries, projects, visions we need money for, but we don’t put them into our regular budget. We believe that God will provide above and beyond our budget to help make these things happen. Our launches, for example, are on our wish list. We believe God will provide the $100,000 to make it happen if He’s in it. God always makes provision when a vision is from Him!

Would love to hear your thoughts on this?  What tensions do you face when it comes to vision and finances?  How can you grow through the process?  How can your faith be stretched in a greater way?

Sunday, December 23, 2012

A Letter For My Lakeside Community Church Family

Dear Lakeside Church Family,

I believe that hope in Jesus Christ is the seed, the beginning of every good thing in our lives. Hope gives birth to a new way of living. It always believes for the best, even in the face of the worst circumstances.

You can have hope today -- no matter what surrounds you -- because you serve a mighty God who cares, who knows you by name (Isaiah 45:3), who understands the desires of your heart (1 Chronicles 28:9), who knew you even before you were formed in your mother's womb (Jeremiah 1:5).

Let me encourage you this Christmas, it's time to look up and keep hope alive in your life! If you are facing setbacks that are simply overwhelming, you can have hope! God is for you, not against you. His resources are endless, and His love knows no bounds.

You can never buy hope in a time of crisis, but I am positive of this . . . you can give it away.

Thank you for being a part of Lakeside Community Church. I'm so glad you are here. The best is still to come! 

Every weekend, we GIFT the message of hope in Christ to those who need it most. In fact, that's what we get to do every day. And, I'm so grateful for you and all you do to spread the one true hope alongside us.

Please share with me a situation in your life that seems hopeless. Through prayer, God can take any circumstance and transform it for His glory.

Thank you for allowing me to lead and serve you as your pastor.

Many Blessings To You,

Pastor Chris

P.S. Remember, I'm thankful for who you are and the hope we share in Jesus Christ. Merry Christmas!

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Great Wisdom in the Tension - Pastoral Leadership

One things of the many, many, many things I have learned over the 19 years of ministry is that there is amazing wisdom and growth in tension. 

If you are comfortable with how things are or the way they have have always been, you will get stuck in rut and in the status quo.  What I have found to be true, it is important that we constantly evaluate and be willing to shift the paradigm of how we think and how we do ministry or what we are "used'.  This can be a NEW NORMAL!  Where we embrace uncertainty, we take great risks.

If you ever feel like you have to manage or supervise a staff member or a pastor, you have hired a "hireling" and not a leader.  Do you allow your leaders to lead?  Do you allow them to lead with their God ordained vision?

If you look at growing and healthy churches, you have strong leaders as pastors, who are able to lead without consensus, but they are able to build great teams around them. 

When pastors are able to operate out of their God ordained and Spirit led passions, visions and unique style.  You will begin to see God use the one He has called to operate in freedom. They become a leader who is not perfect, but a leader is operating out of the overflow of what God is doing through him.

This is a mind set.  We need to get micro management out of the church!  We need to get rid of the idea that the pastor works for me...the pastor works ultimately for God, he works for the whole church and he works for the community.

The pastor must also have the mindset, that this is a calling way before it is a job or career.  If you reduce what you do to a job or career, then will come to a place where it is all about working 40 hours a week and you will just be doing it for a paycheck.

Pastors you need to do ministry because it is a CALLING!  A high calling!  You are on the front lines, you are involved in the day to day operation of life and ministry with those that you are called to serve.

Pastors you need to have the freedom to make Spirit led decision and have teams around you to carry out vision, to lift up your arms, to be your armor bearers and to fill the voids where you aren't as strong.

Those who have made decisions to hire a pastor, you need to trust in the process, but you need to trust in how God has led you and the church as a whole and allow the man of God to lead out his calling and vision.

I think honor and respect is a lost art for the pastor in the church.  Being hired, by several amazing men of God, who invited me to be a part of their teams and made the decision to hire me not as a "hireling" but as someone who was called to help carry their vision to fill in as a part of their team they were forming, I have so much honor and respect for them, not because of their position but they LEAD, they LEAD well.

So my exortation, it may not be what you are used to, but allow the person you have hired, pastor or staff member to lead out of their calling and not trying to control, micro manage or supervise.  Give them the freedom, to have vision and experiment with what God has led them to do.  Pastors lead out of your calling and the overflow of what God is doing in and through you.

This is a great formula for growth and health.  We are giving great examples in the Scriptures of men who led and the teams who surrounded them.


Still Processing after 24 hours of a Horrible Event

Yesterday, a horrible act of evil occurred.  Myself along with many Americans are saddened, heartbroken and feeling helpless.   Many of us are angry, many of us are shaking our heads in disgust or simply questioning...Why?  How?

With any events that involve the murder of innocent children, my righteous anger wells up?

I try to stay in these places personally, because things like this breaks my heart deeply.  I also believe these break the heart of God.  When his creation, the very ones that He created have fallen so deeply in this sin sick world and because of their sin act out on others.

Sin separates us ALL from God's perfect will.  Sin destroys and kills!  When we as a society excuse sin as this will only effect me...that is a myth and lie.  Sin harms others.  We see that the issues the person who committed this horrendous act has do with mental, nevertheless, that is not excuse, when we need to leave a life of self-control and I believe every heart and every life can be redeem for a greater purpose.

I will be honest with you I wrestle with the tension why things like this happen.  But here what I do know - "The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit" Psalm 34:18.  I also know that can deal with our pain and be confronted with our questions and doubtsI also know that the Savior of the world, Jesus Christ, not empathizes with us but he truly understands what it is like to live in our sin sick world.

As I began praying yesterday about this tragedy, the Holy Spirit prompted me to go to Psalm 61
1 O God, listen to my cry!
Hear my prayer!
2 From the ends of the earth,
I cry to you for help
when my heart is overwhelmed.
Lead me to the towering rock of safety,
3 for you are my safe refuge,
a fortress where my enemies cannot reach me.
4 Let me live forever in your sanctuary,
safe beneath the shelter of your wings!

Another passage, I started praying through for those who are weak and feel like they have no strength to cope at this time is Isaiah 40:29 - "He gives strength to the weary, And to him who lacks might He increases power." 

I know these passages can't erase the loss, the pain, and the events of yesterday.  I do know God can give us the strength that we all need.  Even in the most hopeless of times and circumstances, He can restore hope.  

As Christ followers, we have to rebel against repeating cliche lines or saying this is God's will or even quoting Scriptures that have been taken out of context to satisfy questions.  I would say we need to stop talking and start listening.  We need to simply be present with others. 

What happened yesterday is evil!  It sucks! We should be upset!  We must be in prayer and fasting for our nation.   

I love the advise given here -

We often have no idea what to say in the face of senseless loss. That is especially true when children are the victims of tragedy. Today's shooting in Connecticut is heartbreaking in so many ways, not the least of which is the staggering loss of children.
My first two years in ministry were spent as a chaplain assigned to the emergency department of a children's hospital with a level one trauma center. During that ministry I saw so many senseless tragedies. I also heard some of the worst theology of my life coming from people who thought they were bringing comfort to the parents. More often than not, they weren't. And often, they made the situation worse.
Here are five things not to say to grieving family and friends:
1. "God just needed another angel."
Portraying God as someone who arbitrarily kills kids to fill celestial openings is neither faithful to God, nor helpful to grieving parents.
2. "Thank goodness you have other children," or, "You're young. You can have more kids."
Children are not interchangeable or replaceable. The loss of a child will always be a loss, no matter how many other children a parent has or will have.
3. He/she was just on loan to you from God.
The message is that God is so capricious that God will break parents' hearts at will just because God can. It also communicates to parents and loved ones that they are not really entitled to their grief.
4. God doesn't give you more than you can handle.
Actually, some people do get a lot more than any one person should ever have to handle. And it doesn't come from God. Don't trivialize someone's grief with a "what doesn't kill you makes you stronger" mentality.
5. We may not understand it, but this was God's will.
Unless you are God, don't use this line.
And here are five things to say:
1. I don't believe God wanted this or willed it.
A grieving friend or family member is likely hearing that this is God's will from a number of other people. Affirm the idea that it may very well not be.
2. It's okay to be angry, and I'm a safe person for you express that anger to if you need it.
Anger is an essential part of the grieving process, but many don't know where to talk about it because they are often silenced by others when they express their feelings. (For instance, they may be told they have no right to be angry at God.) By saying you are a safe person to share all feelings, including anger, with, you help the grieving person know where they can turn.
3. It's not okay.
It seems so obvious, but sometimes this doesn't get said. Sometimes the pieces don't fit. Sometimes nothing works out right. And sometimes there is no way to fix it. Naming it can be helpful for some because it lets them know you won't sugarcoat their grief.
4. I don't know why this happened.
When trauma happens, the shock and emotion comes first. But not long after comes our human need to try to explain "why?" The reality is that often we cannot. The grieving person will likely have heard a lot of theories about why a trauma occurred. Sometimes it's best not to add to the chorus, but to just acknowledge what you do not know.
5. I can't imagine what you are going through, but I am here to support you in whatever way feels best.
Even if you have faced a similar loss, remember that each loss is different. Saying "I know how you're feeling" is often untrue. Instead, ask how the grieving person is feeling. And then ask what you can do to help. Then, do it and respect the boundaries around what they don't want help with at this point. You will be putting some control back into the hands of the grieving person, who often feels like they have lost so much of it.

I also have an amazing friend who is a mental health professional who also ays this...Years after every horrific national event, I have young people sitting in my office with PTSD like symptoms. These young people did not experience the tragedy first hand. They all, however, were subjected to hours of media footage. I keep waiting for an expert psychologist or counselor to say this on the news. To all my fb friends with children: PARENTS PLEASE DON'T WATCH COVERAGE OF THE SHOOTING ON THE TV WITH YOUR CHILDREN PRESENT. Turn it off or turn the channel.  I would take it a step further, for us as adults as well.

Please continue to pray!  This is a spiritual issue and NOT a political!  Please keep politics and opinions out of this. 

Friday, December 14, 2012

Great Post by Pastor Steven Furtick

This is not original content. 

But I wanted to repost this because I love the idea of Leaders taking great risk (counting the costs).  The calling of a pastor.  Pastor are given Scriptural and spiritual authority to lead, to be the undershepherd to the Great Shepherd.  Being in full-time occupational ministry is not for the faint of heart.  Ministry can be very lonely and comes with a great price.

Love this post by Steven Furtick -

Great Calling, Great Cost
But the Lord said to Ananias, “Go! This man is my chosen instrument to carry my name before the Gentiles and their kings and before the people of Israel. I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.”
Acts 9:15-16

Most of us focus on the incredible accomplishments of Paul.
How he wrote 2/3 of the New Testament.
Took the gospel to the ends of the earth.
Became the greatest missionary and one of the greatest preachers ever.
Sometimes we’ll point out his suffering. But it’s usually isolated. We use it to talk about pain and trials and how to get through them. Or how God’s power is made perfect in our weakness. All of that is true, but I think we often miss a crucial point.

Paul’s accomplishments and his suffering went together.
And there’s a reason for that.
It’s not because God had some kind of a secret vendetta against Paul. He had killed Christians, so why not make him drink a little of his own medicine while using him to spread the gospel.
As others have pointed out before, it’s because for Paul to be used greatly, he had to be wounded deeply. The greater the calling, the greater the cost. Making a difference in the world means absorbing substantial pain. For the sake of God, and for the sake of the people you’re making a difference for.
That was true for Paul.
And it will be true for you, too.
Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying you’ve got flogging to look forward to. But I am saying that most of us want to do the kinds of things Paul did without having to go through the kinds of things Paul went through. And it doesn’t work like that.
God has to bruise you before He can use you. So you’ll be sensitive to His touch. So you won’t have an ounce of self-reliance in you. So you’ll be able to relate to the people you’re ministering to. So when everything is dark around you, your light within you will actually have a chance to shine.

If you really want to be used greatly by God, accept this now:
You’re going to be tired.
You’re going to be betrayed.
You’re going to suffer.

Like Paul, your great calling will exact a great cost. You’ll be able to say, “For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may be revealed in our mortal body” (2 Corinthians 4:11).

But also like Paul, that won’t be the final word for you. You’ll be able to say, “Our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all” (2 Corinthians 4:17).

What do you think?  Is you are a pastor what are some of the costs that you had to count?  What risks do you take?

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Pastors are you a leader or "hireling"?

I posted this on Facebook but wanted to expand on this some:

Through my reading, development and reflections of what it means to be a pastor that is called and living in that calling:

Question that every pastors needs to ask themselves and be able to answer with holy confidence and not with arrogance:  Are you a "hireling" or a visionary leader?  This may create tension...but you have to navigate through that tension and figure this out for yourself.  

As I have been reading about great Biblical leaders and knowing great church leaders: Here are the things that I respect & honor about those leaders, they are examples & models to me:
While not perfect they lead with godly character
The are secure in their calling (by the way insecurity for a pastor will destroy your ministry)
They are called and anointed by God
They seek to live a life of transparency and above reproach
They have GREAT faith
They are all visionaries - they lead with Holy Spirit led vision
They are all people who empower
They lead with a humility as well as with holy boldness and confidence
They are willing to make tough decisions
The individuals have teams around them to help them: carry their vision (Moses), to help be builders (Nehemiah), to give counsel (David), entrusted to carry the mission of the church (Jesus and Paul)
They take great risks
They are healthy and growing
They minister out of the overflow of what God does in them
They don't pass the buck but accepts full responsibility
They create culture
They lead for the audience of One and not for man
They have favor with God and man
They serve and love others
They know how to say "I am sorry" or "I was wrong"
They strive for excellence not perfection
They do not compromise their convictions
They are just and not always fair
They live with high level of gratitude 
They operate out of their strengths and gifts
They know their weaknesses and find others to compliment them
They look to the Scripture and direction of the Holy Spirit for their guidance
They have amazing people mentoring them and speaking into their life (Again, so grateful for my mentors who have spoken into me with Great Wisdom)

While this list is not exhaustive, it is a great foundation.  So grateful for these values and examples.

A man that has influenced me and inspired me over the last few years Dick Hardy writes a challenging article for pastors...I believe this is a great read for those who are lead pastors.  

5 Reasons Why Senior Pastors Don't Lead Their Churches

Who are some great Biblical and Spiritual leaders that you know?  What areas have they displayed the things from the list above.

The 3 books that I am reading right now

Simple and true statement, LEADERS if you are not reading you're not GROWING. If you're not willing to change you're not HEALTHY. GROWTH=HEALTH HEALTH=GROWTH.

Do you believe this statement to be true?  I hope so...

I know for me personally if I am not reading, I am not developing myself and sharpening myself in various areas of my life.

I am currently reading three books that is shaping me and are sharpening me.  

First, book is Axiom by Bill Hybels, Bill Hybels is the Lead pastor in the suburbs of Chicago at Willow Creek Community Church.  He has written over twenty books.  He knows what he is talking about and he is amazing leader and pastor.

He shares 76 Portable Proverbs, wisdom from his years of experience as a pastor, visionary, and leader.

He talks about God given convictions that has directed his leadership strategy for more than three decades of as a lead pastor.

Great book!  I have been doing ministry over nineteen years, I have serve with three amazing pastors, visionaries, and leaders who all took a chance and made the decision to hire me and bring me on their teams.  Throughout these nineteen years of ministry God has given me some amazing convictions for my leadership strategies.  I have learned to never compromise on these God given convictions. All of these convictions are what God has developed in me from experiences and examples.

In Axiom, I love the story he shares about Paul in Acts 20 and 21, This is Paul's new calling from God.  I feel like I am currently there now.  :-)  Paul, a Biblical example of a great leader, received a vision from God, and Paul's reply, "I have to carry it out." 

Paul then got extreme, when the prophet questioned Paul's judgement, and even tells him flat out "that you have no idea what awaits you there, Paul".  Then Paul standing by his convictions says, "I think you're the one who does not get it!  The God of heaven and earth has entrusted a vision to me.  I am ready not only to be bound and beaten, but to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, should it come to that!"  - LOVE IT!  Paul was willing to stand by his God given conviction.

"Leaders have to contend with this idea of how seriously we will pursue our God-given visions."  It is about owning our vision and people will see it, they will see if you're a hireling or someone who owns your vision.   

 Great stuff!  If you have not read Axiom you need to.

Two other books I am currently reading are Transforming Church by Kevin Ford & 27 Tough Questions that Pastors Ask by Dick Hardy, I will share some thoughts from these amazing books over the next week.

Revamping this Blog

I am committing myself to relaunching my blog.  The purpose of this blog is to share my heart, mind and soul - basically to share out of the overflow of what God is doing in and through me.

I also want to be a resource to others, pastors, leaders and those who need encouragement.  I simply want to add value into someone else and make an eternal impact.

You may agree with my thought or you may not agree.  The key is that we need to be thinking critically about various things within and outside the church community.  If you are critical, please don't criticize without a creative solution or idea.  Use your energy wisely and scripturally. 

Some of these thoughts may create tension.  TENSION IS GOOD!  We are stretched and grow through tension.  I may ask questions that aren't just for a response on this blog, but they might need to be questions that we all need to wrestle with and allow God to grow.

Did you know Jesus 95% of the time respond to questions with a QUESTION.  What that tells me, that he was trying to get people to think.

Ultimately, these ideas and thoughts are what I feel like God is doing in me through prayer, meditation of His Holy Word, and reading.  These things aren't reflective of any organization that I am connected to.

Follow along this journey with me.  Use this blog to help you to grow.  If you have everything figured out in faith and leadership you are in very dangerous territory and you will not grow as a Christ follower and a leader.  You aren't healthy.

Coming up I will be talking through various books, articles, blogs that I am reading.

Some these books, I will talk through is Circle Maker, The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, Axiom, Next Generation Leader, Drive, Purple Cow, Articles by Dick Hardy, Catalyst blog posts and podcasts, and various other things I processing as man of God, pastor and leader.

Thanks for tuning in and following along.