Four Essential Practices for Any Church Leader

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The following are four essential practices for any church leader.  In fact, these might be helpful to any Christ-follower.

1.  Take care of your mind.  Too many ministers do not read widely and consequently get stuck in a mental rut. Some read only the latest books from well-known preachers.  The mind, however, needs exercise.  For many years I have read widely. This started many years ago when I would spend one afternoon every two weeks in the local university library.  There I would survey national news magazines along with material that provided commentary from various perspectives.  I skimmed the New York Times (Sunday Edition) regularly along with the Wall Street Journal.  I also read book reviews and journal articles.

Of course, this is so much easier now!  Online access allows you and I to do this kind of reading in the privacy our homes.  Such practices have sharpened my thinking for years.

2.  Take care of your soul.  Ministry is a calling born out of one’s experience with Christ.  Yet one must be intentional about cultivating a heart that is available for what God wishes to do in that person’s life.

Most mornings, I begin the day reading my Bible, praying, and writing in my journal.  These disciplines and others have been important for cultivating my heart.  Prayer books, biographies, and classical devotional literature have all been helpful to me.

3.  Take care of your emotions.  So many ministers have neglected this one!  Perhaps a person has never dealt with the pain and hurt in his or her life.  Meanwhile, others are confused by this person’s intense anger and on-going depression. Often such unchecked emotions spill over into the church and other relationships.

Frankly, having a few healthy friendships can help a person with emotional care.  Yet, many ministers speak of the loneliness and lack of intimacy that characterizes their lives.  Unfortunately, when a person lacks appropriate intimate relationships, that person will often seek intimacy in inappropriate ways such as pornography, emotional affairs, or even sexual affairs.

How do such authentic relationships happen?  Generally speaking, one has to take initiative instead of passively waiting for a friendship to form.  Some of the most unlikely people may turn out to become wonderful friends.  In my experience, these friends have included people both inside and outside the congregation.

4.  Take care of your body.  Far too many ministers practice the spiritual disciplines and nurture their intellectual life but then completely neglect their physical health.  When I was a young minister, several older ministers warned me about this. One person told me that as a young man, he didn’t exercise, rested very little, and neglected his body.  As a result, he faced serious health issues some years later.  Sleep, nutrition, and physical exercise are very important particularly for a lifestyle that is often stressful.

Taking a day off is very important.  Play, relaxation, and living a balanced life are essential to living as a healthy, whole person.  Such self-care is not a luxury but a God-honoring investment in long-term ministry.

Five Qualities of People You Can Trust

trust puzzleSeveral years ago, Charlotte and I were at dinner with several friends.  I realized at the end of our evening together that I had felt very relaxed throughout this dinner.  We talked, laughed, and told stories.  There was a certain ease about the evening.  It dawned on me later how special the evening really was.  I realized that I had been with people who I trusted.

I value friendships where deep trust exists.  This kind of trust does not typically happen overnight.  It can take months and even years to develop.  When deep trust exists in friendships, it is very special.

Of course, I want to be in the presence of people who are trustworthy.  The place to begin, however, is by making sure that I am a trustworthy person myself.

So what are some qualities of people you can trust?

1.  A trustworthy person is genuine.  When you get to know this person, you realize they have no hidden agenda.  This person is not trying to use you or manipulate you.  Rather, this person has a certain authenticity about her.

10 Qualities of a Good Dad

Ten(1)The other day, I was on Facebook and saw a picture of “Will” with his daughter.  I felt so proud!  Will is a good husband and dad.  I have great respect for him.

Being a dad may be one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. Yes, it has been joyful. However, it has been difficult at times.  I had (and have) a lot to learn.

Even as I write these words, I can envision a number of guys in the Central Texas area who are doing such a good job as “daddy.”  The guys I have in mind are in their 30s and 40s.  They continue to grow and learn.  Some had good models growing up and some didn’t.  Regardless, these guys have worked hard toward becoming good dads.

The following are some qualities of a good daddy:

1.  A good daddy is consistent.  Children get confused when a certain behavior causes dad to laugh one moment only to cause him to become angry thirty minutes later.

2.  A good daddy models good character.  Teaching a child is important.  Good character that is modeled is powerful. However, bad character on display can make a lasting impression as well. When we lived in Kansas City many years ago, I heard our neighbor scream at his daughter one day.  (She was about about six years old.)  What he called his daughter was awful!  I have wondered what this child, now 26 or 27 years of age, must remember about her home life.

3.  A good daddy teaches his children by his example.  Some fathers do far too much telling and too little showing.  A mountain of good words does not compensate for a regular bad example. However, when a father models integrity, respect, and kindness before his children, they are blessed.

4.  A good daddy allows his children the opportunity to see his faith.  For example, when you are faced with a decision, it can be a real teachable moment for that son or daughter to hear you explain why you made the decision you did and how that decision flowed out of your faith.

5.  A good daddy understands that “fussing” at a child, naming calling, or threatening is not discipline.  Such behaviors may be more about a father’s own frustration and anger than serious, intentional discipline.

10 Traits of a Great Dad

DadFor a number of years, I’ve had a front row seat to witness first hand some great fathers as they’ve interacted with their children.  Most of these dads also modeled what it means to love their wives with an unconditional love.

The guys who I have in mind are in their 30s and 40s.  They are normal men who have a mortgage and go to work each day.  Yet, they have allowed Christ to deeply impact their lives as fathers.

Here are ten traits of a great dad:

1.  The best kind of dad first models faithfulness and loyalty to his wife.  His children witness this. While many men behave in ways that are small and childish, this man is real grownup.  This mans wife married a real man who refuses let his immaturity dominate the relationship.  This kind of man also blesses his children as he relates to them as a real father.

2.  The best kind of dad is more concerned about being what his kids need instead of being focused on his own ego.  Some boy-men are so insecure they must have their fragile ego massaged each evening when they are home.  Such ego needs doesn’t leave much time or energy for being attentive to their children.

5 People I Admire

Microsoft Word - anniversary11. I admire people who are respectful and gracious in their speech. I knew someone who would regularly say, “I’m just being honest.” In his mind, this seemed to excuse his crass, rude, and insulting remarks. Yet, speaking with honesty does not give one the license to put away their sensitivity filter and say whatever might happen to pass through their brain. I know people who are honest and transparent. Yet, they do not speak at the expense of others. They are not condescending or insulting. Rather, these people have a way of communicating in ways that actually invite others to hear.

2. I admire people who are quick to say “I’m sorry.” In a culture that seems to respond to most every problem by blaming others, it is refreshing to have someone say “I’m sorry.” I admire people who are quick to take personal responsibility and slow to blame.

3. I admire people who build up instead of destroy. These people are more focused on the impact they have on others than on what they are able to get out of the relationship. This calls for maturity on the part of a person. I knew a couple who were both attractive and likable. However, shortly after meeting them, I noticed that she walked with her shoulders slumped and would look down and barely make eye contact in a conversation. Then I began to hear about how “heavy-handed” he was toward her. In fact, he was very domineering toward her. Builders do not treat their spouses this way.

4. I admire people who don’t have to be the center of attention. Some people are obviously uncomfortable if they are not the center of a gathering. Yet, the truth is that others have stories that could be told; they have jokes that could be shared, etc. I enjoy being with people who do not feel compelled to dominate a conversation or pull away emotionally if they are not at the center.

5. I admire people who spread joy instead of cynicism. Anyone can be cranky, sour, and bitter. A friend of mine once told me about a preacher who was so negative and bitter that even his sermons on grace were depressing.

Can I Trust This Person?

trust_meter2-450x300Good question!  This is a question that many of us ask regularly.

Not long ago, a friend expressed his appreciation for our relationship.  He spoke of how often he had confided in me through the years.  I came away from that conversation not only appreciating our friendship more but with greater resolve to always be a trustworthy friend to him.

Far too often we learn that some people are just not trustworthy.

  • A person sabotages an initiative of a co-worker behind her back while being nice to when she is present.
  • You learn that a man in your community apparently has been living a double life that totally violates the convictions he claims to hold.
  • A student plagiarizes material that she used for a research paper.
  • A friend tells someone else some information that you shared with him in confidence.

In friendships, in a church, or in a working relationship, it is especially important to know that you can trust another with what you say and what is said to you.

There is absolutely no substitute for being trustworthy.

Three suggestions:

1.  Consider a person’s manner.  If he regularly gossips, breaks the confidence of others, and bad-mouths people, do not expect him to speak differently regarding you in your absence.

2.  At the very least, consider the reputation of another.  A person once said to me regarding a mutual acquaintance, “Do not tell him anything that you do not want repeated to others.”  That turned out to be very wise counsel.  On the other hand, I was recently advised regarding a mutual friend, “You know that you can confide in him.  So many of us do.”  He had earned a very good reputation.

3.  Express appreciation to those you have found to be trustworthy.  Such relationships are not to be taken for granted.  In a culture where trust is often broken, others might be encouraged to occasionally hear you express your appreciation for their trustworthiness.

When You Realize You are Out of Control

outofcontrolOne night I was driving home from my job at UPS.  It was about midnight and was raining. I was in college and was driving my father’s car, which I rarely drove.  As I recall, my car was in the shop being repaired.  I was on Stemmons Expressway (I-35) and going much too fast considering the rain.  At one point, the car began to hydroplane on the water surface.  I remember wondering how I would stop.  The car began to do a 360 on the expressway.  I wondered if I was going to get hit from behind.  Finally after turning around completely, the car came to a stop. I then slowly began to drive ahead again.

I had been totally out of control.

Reynolds Price, novelist and longtime English professor at Duke, spoke at the 1992 Founder’s Day at Duke and challenged his audience with some observations regarding many students.

But you’ll find other sights that breed concern. . . . walk your attentive self through the quads.  Stand at a bus stop at noon rush-hour; roam the reading rooms of the libraries in the midst of term and the panic of exams.  Lastly, eat lunch in a dining hall and note the subjects of conversation and the words employed in student discussion.  (I’m speaking mostly of undergraduates, but not exclusively.) 

Try to conceal your consternation at what is often the main theme of discourse — something less interesting than sex and God, the topics of my time.  If for instance you can eat a whole meal in a moderately occupied Duke dining hall without transcribing a certain sentence at least once, I’ll treat you to the legal pain reliever of your choice.  The sentence runs more or less like this, in male or female voice – – “I can’t believe how drunk I was last night.” 

Considering that the social weekends of many students now begin – – indeed are licensed by us to begin – – at midday on Thursday and continue through the morning hours of Monday (as they never did in the old days of “country club” Duke), maybe the sentence is inevitable – – at least in the bankrupt America we’re conspiring to nurture so lovingly and toward which we blindly, or passively anyhow, wave our students.  

“I can’t believe how drunk I was last night.”

Totally out of control.

What Has Helped You Feel Less Self-Conscious?

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

I never intended to be a minister.

Never.

I grew up in a church. Over the years, there were probably a half-dozen ministers who preached at this church. As a child, I really didn’t know much about them. I only saw them from a distance. Yet, most of them seemed “different.” Not different in a Christian sort of way. Just different in terms of manner. I remember dark suits, pulpit voices, and distance. I don’t say this to be critical. I am just expressing what I sensed as a child.

So, I never intended to be a minister.

Yet, I am a minister. I have been in this role for 30 years. I mean the kind who preaches each Sunday and does various kinds of ministry “full-time.” (Whatever that means!)

How did I end up in this role? How did I come to believe that God wanted me to do this for a portion of my life? That is a long story. Yet, I can honestly tell you that during my younger years, I never gave a thought to wanting to be a minister.

If You Are Not Praying for Your Children

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

If you as a parent are not praying for your children, then who is?

This occurred to me a few years ago as I thought about my prayer life and my own children. If I am not praying for my own children, then who is? Perhaps one of the greatest gifts that I can give to my children is faithful prayer.

Our children, whether small children or adults, live in a very difficult world. How important and encouraging for mom and dad to lift them up in prayer every single day of their lives.

 

My two children are now adults. Both are married. They each live a great distance from Charlotte and me. In some ways, we have little influence over what they do each day.

Yet, we lift them up in prayer each day, believing God will work intimately and powerfully in their lives wherever they are. We believe that God loves them, cares for them, and calls them to live under his rule. It is important that we pray for them.