Ministry Inside.132

marriageministry-1024x359The following are ten possible marriage pitfalls.  Ignore these and put your marriage at risk.

1.  Beware of ignoring your wife’s spiritual development while you focus on feeding yourself and the congregation.  A ministry couple can easily drift apart spiritually.

2.  Beware of assuming that because you read and talk theology that your work with Jesus is more authentic than that of your spouse.

3.  Beware of dabbling in discipleship while you major in public events.  The first step in ministry is following Jesus.

4.  Beware of demanding that your spouse make you look good even when you behave immaturely or like a jerk at home.

5.  Beware of discouraging your spouse from seeing a counselor or therapist because you are concerned that you might look bad.

6.  Beware of thinking that your role or hard work gives you permission to slack off when you are home.

7.  Beware of expecting your spouse will deal with the kids, bills, the maintenance of the house, and your social life so that you can focus on more “important” matters.

8.  Beware of supposedly innocent flirting with a certain person in your church arrogantly thinking that you are way too smart or moral to do something stupid.

9.  Beware of using your mind as a playground where you can run wild with fantasies and various temptations.  Our thinking really does shape who we are.

10. Beware of speaking to your spouse in ways that are demeaning, childish, and disrespectful.  This does nothing for your marriage but reveals your immaturity.


What would you add to this list?

Monday Start: Resources for the Week


See the piece on Kevin Allocca from Life HackerHow I Work.”


See J.R. Daniel KirkMe and Jesus Too Much of a Good Thing?

The Merchants of Average.

Seth Godin has a written a very good post.  “The Merchants of Average.”


How to Find Time for That Important Project” (Michael Hyatt)


Why Tough Teachers Get Good Results.” (Joanne Lipman)


Monday Start: Resources for the Week

start (1)Personal Organization

You might enjoy “12 Habits of Perfectly Organized People.”  By no means am I “perfectly organized.”  However, I did find this article thought provoking as I thought about my own productivity.


From Harvard Business School, “Why Leaders Need Great Books.”  Also see “Truth in Fiction” regarding the usefulness of fiction for leaders.

Spiritual Formation

See Pete Scazzero’s post “Leading Out of Learned Silence.”  Helpful.  This means a lot as the author is engaged in congregational ministry.


See “20% of Non-Christians Do Not Know a Christian!”  by Mark Woodward.

Great Story

This a great story that went viral recently:  “Dairy Queen worker’s good deed goes viral.”  This is refreshing.


Two weeks ago, I went to Croatia for the funeral of Mladen Jovanovic.  Croatian state television did this story on his funeral.

Ministry Inside.130

Carolina Panthers v San Diego ChargersThe other day I watched a program, from the fall series A Football Life, featuring Waco’s own LaDainian Tomlinson.

Tomlinson was a student at University High (Waco) before he went on to TCU.  He played pro-football for 11 years – nine of those with the San Diego Chargers.  He turned out to be an extraordinary player – a finalist for the Heisman in college and the NFL’s MVP in 2007.
This program was about his life – where he grew up, his parents, his high school games.  At one point, there was a brief clip of Tomlinson playing against Midway High School at Midway.

I can remember sitting in the stands at Midway (1995/1996) watching him.  At the time, I remember that he had an incredible game.  What I didn’t realize is that that night would one day be televised throughout the nation as a part of a much larger story – a biography of one of the greatest running backs ever.

Years ago, when we sat in the stands at Midway High School, we had no idea that we were watching a future Hall of Fame athlete.  Instead, we just knew that Midway was playing University High School and that they had a running back that was very fast.  Other than that, it seemed like an ordinary Central Texas night in a football stadium.

While one doesn’t usually get the opportunity to get a front row seat to watch an exceptional athlete, we do have the opportunity to watch an extraordinary God at work.

1.  Consider your everyday ministry.  You never, ever know the good that you are doing by the grace of God in what might seem to be an ordinary congregation in an ordinary town.

2.  Know that the story of what God is doing on this earth through the lives of his people is much larger than the way things seem to be at the moment.  Who knows what God will make of your service during one hour, one day or one week of your life?  Never take these moments for granted.

3.  The extent to which God may use someone is not always obvious.  Sometimes the people that we least suspect are used by God in mighty ways. With others we are not surprised that God used them, we are surprised at the way God used them.  Sometimes it may be obvious but not always. Make the most of your opportunities to do good regardless of how old or how young you may be.

Question: What is it that may be happening right in front of you that is obviously a work of God?


What We Learn From Diana Nyad


On Monday, 64-year-old Diana Nyad became the first person to swim the 110-mile route from Cuba to Florida without a shark cage. She swam for 53 hours with 35 people accompanying her in boats.

Nyad first attempted this feat in 1978.  She then attempted it again three times in 2011 and 2012.  Each time she was unsuccessful in completing the swim.  On Monday, she finished and was greeted by numerous well-wishers on shore.

As she stood on dry land, she spoke to reporters saying:
“I have three messages. One is we should never, ever give up. Two is you never are too old to chase your dreams. Three is it looks like a solitary sport, but it takes a team.”

I love what she said.

Never, ever give up.

So many people live in resignation.  They consider going back to school, changing jobs, moving to a new place, or learning a new skill.  They step out and find that taking that next step is hard.  In fact, they might experience failure in their first attempt.  I am impressed that Diana Nyad failed to finish four times and then tried one more time.

Life often requires resilience, tenacity and grit.  Taking the next step will often be “easier said than done.”  OK.  Most things worth doing are difficult.  Yes, I pray and I prepare.  However, there are times when you attempt to take on a task and it just doesn’t go well.  Do I have the resilience to push through even when I want to quit?

You never are too old to chase your dreams.

Think about this one.  We hear so many negative messages regarding age.  Some people go on and on about being old.  No, I am not talking about people in their 90s but people who are decades younger.  Yes, I realize that some people have physical limitations related to aging that might prevent them from certain sports or other activities.  However, some people talk about age as if there was little to look forward to.  Yet, I think we were meant for more than to sit in a recliner for the remainder of our lives.

Nyad is right.  One never is too old to chase one’s dreams.  Far too many people shut down way too early.

It looks like a solitary sport, but it takes a team.

She is speaking about swimming, but this is also true about life in general.  We need others!  We need the prayers of one another.  We need the input and counsel of others.  We need to learn from others.

Far too many of us get to a point in life where we think we have got it down.  We stop growing, learning, and developing.  We become stuck in what we have learned in the past and stop stretching.

We need others!  We need others who will come alongside us, as well as people who are somewhat ahead of us.  Of course, we also need those who may find their encouragement through us.

I don’t plan to swim great lengths.  However, I do plan to think more about these three statements.  Right now, I find them very encouraging.


Which one of Diana Nyad’s three statements means the most to you?

Monday Start: Resources for the Week

startnow8norAre you part of a difficult church?

How Pastors Survive a Difficult Church.”  Thom Rainer interviews Chris Bonts.  This is an insightful interview that many people who have served in congregational ministry will identify with.


Suggestions for long-term travel” from Lonely Planet.  I found several of these suggestions particularly helpful.


Very interesting piece by Malcolm Gladwell.  “Complexity and the Ten-Thousand-Hour Rule.”


Scot McKnight posted this fine article on my former professor, Dr. Everett Ferguson.  Ferguson is an outstanding scholar and a fine man.


Anderson Cooper’s outstanding interview with Antoinette Tuff concerning her interaction with a shooter in an elementary school.


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.

Ministry Inside.129

Life-from-the-Inside-pngWhat I have learned about long-term ministry.

This month marks the 20th year I’ve served the Crestview Church of Christ in Waco. Yesterday, I saw a picture of our family 20 years ago when we moved here.  Since then, I have learned a lot.  This post will list some of the lessons learned about congregational ministry while serving this church in this city.

1.  Ministry is much like marriage.  Trust is everything.  If you are trustworthy, you are continually making deposits.  If not, you may lose the trust that it took you decades to build.

2.  Preaching and pastoral work cannot be separated.  In fact, much of the conversation after church, in your office, and over a cup of coffee may be an extension of your preaching.

3.  The best ministers never stop growing.  Yet, they understand that their growth is not only cognitive but also includes emotional maturity as well.  It is sad when a minister just won’t grow up.

4.  If you are not committed to growing and developing, you can eventually become stuck in your thinking and functioning (not to mention the example you are setting).

5.  Ministry with a church over a long period of time enables you to learn whom you can really trust. Be careful about a person who consistently bad-mouths various people in your congregation (in their absence) only to speak in a very different tone when they are present.

6.   A church needs to know that you are with them.  Some ministers are adamant about how different they are from their congregation.  Congregations need to know that you see yourself as one of them.  Otherwise, they may be left with uncertainty about your motives.

7.  Know the DNA of the congregation.  It is important to recognize and appreciate the distinctive characteristics of the congregation in which you serve.  Its members are likely to be more open to fresh ideas for ministry if they know that you deeply respect the ways God worked through the church in the years before you came.

8.  Be a person worthy of their trust.  Public speaking ability, ministry skill, and new ideas are no substitute for integrity and character.


Monday Start: Resources for the Week

start_button_gifOn Telling the Truth

You might look at this article by Rachel GardnerAre You Afraid to Tell the Truth?”  A great question whether one writes, speaks, preaches, etc.

Do You Have a Teenager?

Susie Boyt has written an interesting article “Terrifying Teenagers” in Financial Times.


From Mashable see “Get Lost in These 19 Fascinating Maps.”

Best Notebooks

Alan Henry has written a piece called “Five Best Paper Notebooks.”


Here is an interesting article from Marc and Angel Hack Life “7 Questions You Are Too Scared to Ask.”


Your Marriage Can Be Better Than This

unhappy-couple-computer-325I once read the story of a man who spent his childhood living through the Great Depression.  He told that one of his chores as a young boy was to ride his bike to the local fire station where he would receive government-issue milk in the bucket he carried with him.  He spoke of the humiliation of riding home carrying the bucket of milk because all the other kids from school could see that his family was poor and had to receive government assistance.

He decided that he would one day have money and that no one would ever look down on him again.

He spent much of his adult life protecting his image and surrounding himself with symbols of success to ensure that others would see him as successful.

Yet, is this really living?

Sometimes, married people become lazy.

They focus more on how they appear than what they are.  They become more concerned about their image than their character.

Sometimes, married people become obsessed.

She is determined that he is going to be a spiritual leader in their home.  He is determined that she is going to become more outgoing and sociable with people from his work.

Sometimes, married people settle.

She sits in her recliner.  He sits in his recliner.  Night after night the television blares.  These people have settled for a passive existence instead of a life.

Sometimes, married people disconnect.

He goes his way.  She goes her way.  Perhaps their lives are centered on their children or grandchildren.  Sex, intimacy, and tenderness are all but gone.  There is little or no conflict.  They are actually at a point at which they don’t care enough about one another to have conflict.

Is this really living?

Is this really marriage?

Maybe the first step is to decide that you want something very different and that you are willing to do what it takes to stop this dead-end street.


Why do some married people seem to get into destructive ruts?