Ministry Inside.107

impression logo2Why did she say that?

Why would he post that picture on Facebook?

Why is he so insulting?

What Christian leaders say and do really does form an impression. In fact, you cannot keep from creating some kind of impression.

Consider for a moment what contributes to another’s impression of you.

This is important because we – due to our own behavior – either enhance or diminish our credibility in the eyes of others.

Consider the following.

  • My attitude. Am I pleasant to be with? Or, is my attitude negative, whiny, and sarcastic?
  • My attention. Do I give my spouse, my friends, and others my undivided attention? Or, am I constantly staring at my iPhone or iPad screen in their presence?
  • My presence. Do I communicate to others that I am glad to be with them? Or, do I sigh deeply and communicate in passive-aggressive ways that I really don’t want to be with these people?
  • My decisions. Do my decisions suggest that I am a very different kind of person when I am not in front of people in my ministry? Or, do my decisions reflect that I want to live a consistent life in every way?
  • My online presence. Do my words and pictures online reflect that I follow Christ?  Or, do my Facebook posts and pictures cause others to wonder?

So, who am I? I can tell you what I value and what is important to me; however, what these five reveal may be much closer to reality.


What has been helpful to you as you consider your own influence and credibility before others?

Question: What Kind of Wisdom is Needed to be a Good Parent?

c1The following question is one that I have been asked on a number of occasions.  Maybe this will be helpful to you or someone you might send it to.

My husband and I have three children. My question is, ‘How do you raise children when you didn’t have good role models growing up?’ My mother did the best she could but really didn’t have a good role model herself. My husband came from a severely dysfunctional family. What kind of wisdom do we need in order to raise our children well?

Congratulations on desiring to raise your children well and to do this with wisdom.  Parenting is difficult work but can ultimately be so rewarding.  In the meantime, know that we are all learning (or should be learning).  The following are some reflections regarding wisdom and parenting.

Wise Parents Teach Their Children to Accept Responsibility.

They don’t spend a lot of time blaming other people. It is easy to get into the habit of blaming others for the behavior of your children. It’s the coach’s fault. It’s the teacher’s fault. It’s the youth minister’s fault. The larger issue is if I am teaching my child to accept responsibility or to blame others when things go wrong.

Wise Parents Allow Their Children to Experience the Consequences of Behavior.

You’ve seen this person. This parent will not allow his child to experience pain as the natural consequence of the child’s behavior. If he throws a toy out the window of a moving car, the toy is gone! If she throws a tantrum in Toys-R-Us, we leave the store – without a toy. Far too many parents verbally fuss at their children but instill no real consequences.

Wise Parents Look Down the Road.

What is the future going to be like if things continue the way they are now? You either pay now or you pay later. Parenting is hard work. If you refuse to address misbehavior when children are young, you (and they) will ultimately pay for it. For instance, if your child fusses and whines, you may be able to stop this by going to McDonald’s for a treat. When she gets ice cream, she may stop fussing for a while, but think about what this child is learning: “If I want something or if I am disagreeable, mom and dad will buy me something to make me feel better.” I once overheard a parent requesting that others let his child win at a game so that he would feel good. What?

Wise Parents Love Their Children for Who They Are. 

You may have a child who has special needs. Your child may have physical or emotional issues that need to be addressed. Perhaps your child has great difficulty reading, doing math, or just keeping up. Sometimes parents will get caught up in wanting to create a good impression before friends or in what their friends say regarding their children. We may constantly talk about how incredibly amazing and wonderful our children are. One parent is talking about their gifted and talented son. The other parent is talking about their daughter who was chosen for this or that award. Meanwhile, many, many parents are silent as they wonder why their children struggle so much. Don’t get caught up in your child’s feeling inferior or different. Your child needs to be loved just as she is.

Wise Parents Don’t Try to Fill Their Own Emptiness by Using Their Children. 

You’ve seen him. He’s the dad who is almost living vicariously through his son. He goes ballistic with the coaches. He never stops talking about his son’s athletic performance. In fact, all he ever says about his son is what he did in the last game. As one young man said, “My dad only sees me as a football player. That is all he talks about with me. Maybe it is the mother who pushes her daughter to date the quarterback. She pushes her teenage daughter to run with a popular crowd and date popular people. She lives vicariously through her daughter. Wise parents don’t use a child to somehow satisfy their own emptiness.


I will post more later regarding the importance of seeking wisdom and being a parent.


What else would you add to this list regarding seeking wisdom and being a parent?

Monday Start

start (1)Leadership Resources

One of the best and most comprehensive sites for finding good Christian leadership resources is Carlus Gupton‘s  Check out this resource guide index to see how comprehensive this site really is.  (I recently heard two days of excellent presentations by Carlus at the Christian Education Conference.)

Churches and Polarization

Margaret Marcuson does outstanding work in the area of systems theory and leadership.  Be sure to read her post “Is Your Church Polarized?”  Very good!

Wrong Way

Great story.  The woman who went 900 miles out of her way as she followed her GPS.  (Thanks to Scott Meyer/Jordan Hubbard for this one.)


See Rory Noland‘s post “5 Reasons Why Intergenerational Worship Works Today.”  Very interesting!  Rory is the director of Heart of the Artist Ministries and was Music Director at Willow Creek Community Church for 20 years.


I found this interesting – especially his resources.  David Brooks’ syllabus for his “Humility” course at Yale.  (See also the Atlantic-wire article.)


What a great moment!  Lebron James tackles fan who wins $75,000 after making a half-court shot.


Ministry Inside.106

generosity3 (2)How generous are you?

I was once in a conversation with a minister I admired.  He worked hard, loved his congregation, and was seemingly very productive.  One day he and I were discussing a sermon I was preparing to preach.  He made a suggestion and then offered a particular perspective on the subject of my sermon.  I asked him where I could read more about this perspective.  He said, “I could tell you but then I would be revealing my sources and I can’t do that.”

To the contrary, I believe that Christian leaders would do well to be generous.  In fact, I believe there is nothing to be lost by being generous.  The result is that you get to participate in adding value to others’ lives.

Four suggestions.

1.  Be generous with your friends.

If you are a Christian leader and you are at a gathering of some kind, why not introduce your friends to one another.  This can be particularly helpful to younger ministers or ministers who have not had the opportunity to get acquainted with other Christian leaders.

I will always remember a moment with my friend Ken Dye.  Ken and I were talking at a function at ACU when he then greeted Dan Anders who preached for the University Church of Christ that met on the campus of Pepperdine University.  Ken then introduced me to Dan.  Dan and I went to lunch and began a friendship that lasted for the rest of his life.

2.  Be generous with your resources.

Share what you have!  That is the least I can do.  After all, so many ministers have shared books, articles, website addresses, etc. with me.  I am willing to share what I have.  If this allows me to add value to someone’s ministry, that is wonderful.

3.  Be generous with your praise and affirmation.

Pay attention and catch people doing things that are good, right, and noble.  Look for opportunities to praise and affirm another.  I especially want to do this for those I suspect receive very little praise or affirmation.  I have found that with most people, if you will look long enough, you will see something that you can affirm.

4.  Be generous with your attention.

This means that I need to put some energy into listening to others.  Suppose for example that you have the opportunity to get together with another minister over coffee.  What do you talk about?  Are you prepared to ask good questions?  Too many people use such a situation to go on and on about themselves.

I recall once having coffee with an older minister.  I was a young minister and had hoped to ask him some questions about ministry.  We got our coffee and then he began to talk.  He talked and talked about himself.  He talked about his church, the book he was writing, and where he was going to speak.  I think he may have asked me one question the entire time we were together.


How has someone else’s generosity blessed you?


Today, Wake Up to More

fluoride_toothpasteWhat do you expect when you wake up each day?

For some people, waking up to another day is no big deal.

  • Same paralyzing problems.
  • Same bad habits.
  • Same negative attitude.
  • Same procrastination.

What if you woke up to more?

What if you believed that the living God was active and moving right in the middle of the ordinary moments of your day?

In David Rohrer’s fine book The Sacred Wilderness of Pastoral Ministry (p. 41), he discusses the ministry of John the Baptist and has some very fine comments about a person’s calling.  The context here is congregational ministry, but I think his point might be helpful to most anyone who is a Jesus-follower.

The prophetic tradition points us in a direction where we see our call not in terms of running the institutions we lead but in terms of inviting people to wake up to God.  If we look at the call narratives for Isaiah and Jeremiah, it doesn’t take long to see that institutional reform is not the thing that is primarily on God’s mind.  What is on God’s mind is that the people who have fallen asleep might have a messenger who would invite them to wake up out of their religious slumber and pay attention to the truth that the living God was in their midst. 

In order for me to practice this, I have to intentionally begin my day remembering this reality.  Otherwise, I simply wake up to another ordinary day and allow it to be shaped by my attitude, my habits, and my anxiety.

So here is how I would like to live today.  Perhaps this will be helpful to you as well.

  • Today, I want to move through my day believing that God is living and active in the ordinary moments.
  • Today, I want to stay awake.  I don’t want to doze off in my religious slumber and totally miss what God will be doing today.
  • Today, I want to pay attention.  I want to look for the gracious hand of God instead focusing on what is lacking, what is wrong, and what is inadequate. 

Maybe you would like to join me in this pursuit.  Don’t worry about having it all together.  Don’t worry about whether or not you will maintain this perspective throughout the day.

Just start!


Which one of these three challenges, each of which begins with the word “Today,” do you need to remember today?


Jim Martin: An Interview about Life and Work

9407_0009_webI’ve been thinking lately about some Christian leaders I would like to interview on this blog.  I have learned so much through the years by overhearing others reflect on particular questions.  I decided to  do a test run by conducting a self-interview.  (Yes, I know.  It feels a little odd!)

Perhaps the following six questions and the replies will interest you.

Who are the people who have influenced you in the way you both do and think about ministry?

I have had many people contribute to my life in some way.  Two people who have been important influencers are Charles Coil and Lynn Anderson.  Charles Coil was a longtime minister and preacher, as well as my father-in-law.  I had the opportunity to hear him preach, go to him for counsel, and witness his life before his family.  I was deeply impressed by his integrity, sincerity, and passion for God.  Lynn Anderson has taught me much through his preaching and numerous conversations over the years.  In his preaching and teaching, Lynn has taught me much about God’s love and his grace. Through his life and conversations, I have learned much about keeping my soul alive in the middle of ministry. 

Welcome to A Place for the God-Hungry

EveryGoodI am giving away a copy of Tim Keller’s new book, Every Good Endeavor to the 50th person (beginning today) who subscribes to receive my blogposts by e-mail (free).

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Thanks for reading this blog!

Ministry Inside.104

dangerAs a young man, he was a gifted and popular minister. I had seen pictures of this man when he was a younger minister. He looked handsome and confident in those early years.

He preached for a large congregation and became quite popular as a minister. Then there was an affair, followed by a second affair. He and his wife divorced. He moved away and began working in a business. For many years, subsequent chapters to this story only seemed to get worse. Eventually, however, this man’s life completely turned around and his walk with God was alive and fresh again.

Now, several decades later, I was having lunch with this man. I was a young minister and was eager to learn what I could. He told me that his mistakes and sins were rooted in his own ego.

“People were telling me how great I was. The church was growing and good things were happening. Yet, that also meant that I had to work even harder to keep up the pace. I began to feel entitled.”

Mark of Dysfunction: Keep this Deadly Secret

shhhOne mark of a dysfunctional marriage, family, or church is that others within the system are not supposed reveal the secret.

What is the secret?

You are not to tell anyone about the way things really are in this marriage, this family, or this church.  After all, what would people think?

Of course, I do appreciate husbands and wives who obviously love one another.  It is really nice to see husbands and wives who still have much affection for one another after many years.

I do remember seeing an interesting Facebook status one day.  It said something like this:

Twenty-five years ago I met the man of my dreams.  We have loved together, laughed together, and dreamed together.  I am so fortunate to be this man’s wife.  Looking forward to the next 25 years.

Now many people enter a status like this one on their anniversary or spouse’s birthday.  What struck me as odd about this particular post is that it never occurred to me (and I suspect many of their other friends) that she in any way adored or treasured this man.  In fact, it really didn’t appear that they valued each other very much at all.  The way they treated one another each day made such a post on their anniversary seem odd.

It was almost like she was trying to sell something to the rest of us.

Monday Start

start 1Check out these top suggestions

Some of the best book suggestions that I come across are often in the end of the year lists. Jonathan Storment (Abilene, Texas) has published his Top Reads from 2012.  Good list.

You might be interested in this list of Top 10 Work Life Balance Books that Every Professional Should Read.

Also, don’t miss Frank Bellizzi’s My 12 Best Books of 2012.


A wonderful story

Don’t miss this very moving story about NFL All Pro Scott Wells who plays center for the St. Louis Rams.  Scott is the son of Wayne and Cindy Wells, who I have known for many years.  Wayne is a Church of Christ minister in Gainesboro, Tennessee.  The video is the moving story of Scott and his wife’s decision to adopt children from Uganda.


Top blog posts

John Mark Hicks, a theologian who teaches at Lipscomb University, has listed his top five blog posts of 2012.  John Mark’s writing is always very thoughtful and grounded in the Christian story.


New Year

Joe Lalonde wrote a nice piece on negativity.  I like to read these kinds of reflections at the first of each year.

Recently Michael Hyatt recommended a book entitled 20,000 Days and Counting by Robert D. Smith. I read it this weekend and now will skim through it again.  I find benefit in reading these kinds of books at the first of the year.  Helps me examine my thinking, life, work habits, etc.