Ministry Inside.89

button Learn(The following post is written with church leaders in mind.  However, others might find this useful as well.)

Have you noticed that some people love to learn?

Last night, a wonderful young guy in our church shared a part of his life/faith story. Part of his talk included his work life as a firefighter and the many classes and special training he has undertaken.  Throughout his career, he has been devoted to learning and growing.  Not surprisingly, he has continued to advance in the fire department in which he serves.  He is now a fire marshall.  I suspect he will be intentional about learning and growing for the rest of his life.

Have you noticed that some people continue to grow and develop as ministers, pastors, elders, etc. while others put very little energy into learning?

Madeleine L’Engle, in her book Two-Part Invention, speaks of her early years in the 1920s when she was single and working in the theater.  She writes:

One of our roommates came because of the piano.  She was a budding musician and filled the apartment with Beethoven, Brahms, and Bach, though after she came I played only when she was around.  She grew as she played, not only in technique but in maturity.  The great masters pushed her as she tried faithfully to go where they led.   We do learn and develop when we are exposed to those who are greater than we are.  Perhaps this is the chief way we mature.

I love these lines.

We do learn and develop when we are exposed to those who are greater than we are.

Ministry Inside.87

puzzled“One of the biggest problems with pastors is their lack of self-awareness and inadequate relational abilities.”

This quote caught my attention.

I was reading a transcript of a presentation given by Dr. Rod Wilson, president of Regent College. The presentation was entitled “Why Emotional Intelligence Is Missing in So Many Churches and Christian Institutions.” In the message Wilson quotes a pastor who is on his denomination’s ordination board. Wilson says that if a person is intellectually bright, we often conclude that such intelligence will lead to a certain kind of behavior.

Of course, “We all know that intelligence, in the traditional sense of the word, is no guarantee of emotional strength and appropriate behavior.” Churches and ministers have seen this again and again. A person may be highly intelligent but particularly inept in relating to people.

Good leaders need what Daniel Goleman refers to as “emotional intelligence.” Consider the two categories often used to describe emotional intelligence.

Personal competence – This involves self-awareness and self-managment. Do I have a sense of who I am? Do I have an awareness of my wounds or vulnerabilities? Am I aware when I am lonely or angry? Do I have a sense for my patterns of behavior when I am tempted to make poor, unethical or immoral decisions?

Social competence – This involves an awareness of what is happening in relationships. It is social awareness. Do I have a sense for how I am coming across to people in a one-on-one setting or in a group meeting? Do I tend to say what is appropriate? Am I often surprised by how others perceive me in conversations?

Far too many ministers pay little attention to their emotional intelligence.

4 Critical Areas that Need Your Investment

attentionOne of the greatest resources that you and I have at our disposal is our attention.  There are many demands for our attention.  Yet, every day far too many of us squander this valuable resource due to our own distraction.

We have difficulty giving our full attention to what really matters and being fully present in the moment.  Many of us skim along the surface of most any experience, like a bass boat speeding down a river.  We are in perpetual motion but our lives never get beyond the surface of the moment.

Consider what clamors for our attention:

  • A text appears on your phone.
  • You have a new e-mail message.
  • The phone rings.
  • Someone wants to Skype.
  • You are invited to be a member of a committee.
  • Your child is invited to be on a team.
  • You see a new Tweet from someone who interests you.
  • Your friend updates her Facebook status and you want to respond.
  • You watch television and are bombarded with advertisements.

Each day, somebody somewhere wants your attention.  If you are not intentional about where you direct your attention, others will likely get your attention simply because you are living passively instead of proactively.

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YouTube Preview Image

Recently, I was at Regent College and had the opportunity to hear Dr. Rod Wilson one evening.  Rod Wilson serves as the President of Regent and is also Professor of Counseling and Psychology.  His talk was helpful, informative, and encouraging.

The video is from another talk in which he discusses humility and leadership.  His words are helpful in thinking about what it means to have a healthy sense of self in a Christian context.

Ministry Inside.86

YouTube Preview Image

Recently, I was at Regent College and had the opportunity to hear Dr. Rod Wilson one evening.  Rod Wilson serves as the President of Regent and is also Professor of Counseling and Psychology.  His talk was helpful, informative, and encouraging.

The video is from another talk in which he discusses humility and leadership.  His words are helpful in thinking about what it means to have a healthy sense of self in a Christian context.

Five Suggestions for Cultivating Freshness

5Some of you may find this post particularly helpful.

I am going to share five practices that have been helpful to me in cultivating freshness. Hopefully, at least one of these might be helpful to you as you prepare your mind and heart for a new school year.

Each July, for the past nineteen years, I have stepped away from my daily ministry/work duties for the month.  Two weeks are vacation and two weeks are devoted to study.  I do no public preaching or teaching during this month.  The congregation that I serve has graciously supported this rhythm.

This month not only allows me the opportunity to rest and enjoy vacation, but has enabled me to spend focused time reading, praying, and thinking.

I want to share with you several practices that you might find valuable as well.

If You Could Change One Thing About Your Church

(I am away on a vacation/study break during the month of July. The posts that appear during the month are from the archives.)

What is it that would help your church be more effective in its ministry?

I suspect that the answers to such a question might be varied. For example, some might say they wish that someone would give more attention to what actually happens during a Sunday morning worship service. Others might say that they wish their church offered more for children or teenagers. Still others might suggest that the preaching could be more engaging, challenging, or relevant.

What about your congregation? What would help your congregation in its practices?

Maybe you see room for improvement in a certain area. In seeing such a need and acknowledging it, you are not discounting your church. Nor are you suggesting that the leaders of your church are not making an effort and working hard. (You may be one of those leaders!) No, you are simply paying attention to the effectiveness of your church and acknowledging what you see.

I Have Heard So Many Secrets

(I am away on a vacation/study break during the month of July. The posts that appear during the month are from the archives.)

Through the years, as a minister, I have sat with person after person and listened to sad, difficult stories.

I have heard so many secrets.

The alcoholic father who told me of his affair with his high school daughter’s friend.The foster children who told me of a cruel woman who isolated them in a basement each evening, while the rest of the family ate dinner together. Later, they were brought the family’s leftovers.The mother who grew up constantly hearing critical, demeaning words from her mother.

The man, who as a child, had lived with a brutal, bullying father. Yet at church, his father was perceived to be very godly.

The young woman who told me of the abortion she had while in college and how she had lived with this secret for several decades.

I am reading Joe Queenan’s memoir,

It is the story of a boy who grew up in a Philadelphia housing project. He and his three sisters are forced to make do. They live with their father and mother in an atmosphere that does not feel emotionally or physically safe. Their mother repeatedly said to her children that she wished she had never had children. Their mother seemed emotionally disconnected from the family. Meanwhile, their father was a violent man — especially when he drank:

My father got broke when he was young, and he never got fixed. He may have wanted to be a good father, a good husband, a good man, but he was not cut out for that job. He liked to drink, and unlike some men who like to drink, it was the only thing he liked to do. Among our relatives, he had a reputation as a happy-go-lucky fellow who, once he got a few beers in him, would turn into the life of the party. He was not the life of our party. Most of the time he was already dead drunk when he came home from work, spoiling for a fight with whoever crossed him first. (p. 7)

His father, when he was drunk, beat his children, quite often. The rest of the family, instead of condemning such behavior, seemed more interested in providing excuses for such behavior. Queenan says that, “Manufacturing excuses for my father’s behavior was a family industry.” (p. 9)

Ministry Inside.85

Some ministers are perceived to be important.servant-leader-570x311.jpg

When I first began preaching and serving as a “full-time minister,” I soon realized that some preachers were considered to be important people.

That struck me as interesting and even a bit odd.

After all, I was a business major in college. It wasn’t until after I had graduated from college that I began to think about the possibility of becoming better equipped to serve God. I wasn’t going back to school for a new career. In fact, to this day I have never referred to my work as a minister as a career. Instead, I tend to think of my work as a calling that I am doing as long as I think this is what God wants me to do.

I do remember, however, when it occurred to me that some ministers were perceived to be important people.

  • They were invited to speak at large gatherings of Christians.
  • They were described as having “preached in some of our most influential pulpits.
  • They were characterized as “highly sought after” ministers.

For a while, I thought that I should pursue importance. (Yes, this is embarrassing to admit. I know that is not a good thing. I know that idea reeks of pride. I’m just telling you what went through my head.) After thinking about this (way too long), I began to wonder if I was losing my mind. I do remember, after all, the times when Jesus was approached by people either perceiving their own greatness or wanting to be great.

“I Shouldn’t Say This, But . . .”

You’ve heard these before haven’t you?Mouth.jpeg

“This may not be right, but . . .”

“I don’t want to gossip, but . . .”

“Maybe I shouldn’t say this, but . . .”

Why would we say something like this? Why would we acknowledge what is wrong and then proceed to do exactly what we want to do?

“Look, this really isn’t a big lie. This is what you have to do in this business if you don’t want to lose an account.”

“No, I didn’t tell them what was wrong with this car before I sold it to them. It’s up to them to figure it out. I’m not about to lose any more money on this car.”

“OK, I’m not proud of what I had to do to pass the test this morning. You don’t understand; if I don’t do well on this class, I won’t get into graduate school.

“Maybe my resume isn’t exactly accurate. Look, I need to make this look as good as possible. This is what everyone else is doing. There are a lot of people wanting this job and I need any advantage I can get.

“Plagiarism? No, you don’t understand. Everybody has to use someone else’s material now and then. It’s just a part of it.”

“I know you are over twelve, but tickets are so much cheaper for children under twelve. I told the ticket lady you were under twelve. It’s no big deal.”

“Yea, I was up late last night. My child had a paper due that I had to write. No, she had not even started. If I had not written it for her, she would have gotten a bad grade.”

“Hey, if my wife asks where we went, tell her that our golf game lasted longer than normal. I don’t want her to know where we went.”

Some people rationalize and justify behavior if it seems to give them an advantage.

Meanwhile, as followers of Christ, we are invited to do what may seem irrational. We are invited to trust God with our lives. We are asked to turn the management of our lives and future over to him.

So often, we don’t trust God. We like the idea of trusting God. We do not like the notion of trusting God with the details in the practical areas of our lives. We do not know if he will take care of us even if we do the right thing. We do not trust him with our future. So, we take over and “do what it takes” in our feeble attempt to manage our lives.

Do you feel this tension in your life? Do you feel the tension between wanting whatever might give you an advantage (though it might involve dishonesty) and knowing you have been called to trust God?

I have found it to be fairly easy to say, “I want to trust God.” I have found it more difficult to trust God with a particular decision or issue when a lot might be at stake. Yet, I know that God wants me to learn to trust him with the details and the outcome.


Have you felt this same tension in your own life at times?