Ministry Inside.127

Each Thursday I post “Ministry Inside” specifically for church leaders.

I have been wondering

lately about church leaders who stretch themselves while others basically remain the same. Those who stretch and grow often do so by developing good habits.

Now some of us take a “Eureka!” approach to ministry. That is, we seem to always be looking for the missing ingredient. Someone reads a book and believes he has found it. Still another attends an incredible seminar and now sees this perspective as it. Then someone else visits a congregation on the other side of the country and perceives this church to possess the real deal.
As helpful as a book, seminar, or church visit might be, a church leader’s growth typically is not centered on eureka moments. Yes, there may be some breakthroughs in your thinking or practice. However, the growth that will sustain you over the long run is typically less dramatic.

Below are four actions to take if you want to grow spiritually.

Step forward.

Do something. Reading, thinking, and reflecting are very important even indispensable. However, ministry is not simply a seminar of ideas. At some point it is time to start. Start small, but start. Far too often I have waited until I was fully prepared or knew enough. Preparation and knowledge are important but at some point it is time to move ahead. Remember that the first step is not about trying to get others to do something. The first step is your own.

Step away.

Make sure you take adaquate time for reading and thinking. Don’t worry about reading the latest. Read what matters. Step away and go to a great seminar. Take a class. Audit something. Check out the many opportunities to learn through iTunesU. Talk to people you admire and appreciate and find out what they do for their growth.

Step up.

Some people make excuses (If we only had a better preacher or the right elders.) Others try to make things happen through manipulation instead of doing the hard work of leadership. Church leaders who are maturing step up and deal with their own functioning and their own maturity (or immaturity). People who are maturing focus on how they can take responsibility for their own behavior, words, and actions. Does my functioning reflect that I am maturing or that I am stuck in immaturity?

Step back.

Reflect on what is happening. Seek out a few trusted people with whom you can process what is happening in the life of your congregation and, in particular, your own functioning. Step back and consider your actions in a conversation, a meeting, a sermon, etc. What is the perception of your spouse and other people whose wisdom you trust?

Question:
Which one of the above has been particularly helpful to you? Is there one that deserves more attention from you?

 

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.

Monday Start: Resources for the Week

start_button_gif (1)Christian Education

Don’t miss this very good post by Dr. Harold Shank, President of Ohio Valley University.  See “Why Choose Christian Education?”  Excellent!

Resources

See Michael Hyatt’s “99 Resources to Make Your Personal and Business Life Hum.”  Excellent resources.  I don’t know anyone who creates better lists of helpful resources.

Prayer

Terry Rush has written a great post entitled “Calling for Prayer Expansion.”  Made me think about my own prayer life.

Digital

Chris Brogan has written a nice piece “The Single most Effective Change I Made to My Digital Presence.”  Certainly made me think about how to use digital media today.

Productivity

Leo Babauta has written a post “The Hard Stuff Often Matters Most.”  Could be very helpful in learning to better organize and structure one’s day.

 

Ministry Inside.144

Life-from-the-Inside-png-300x300Every Thursday, I write this post particularly for church leaders. As church leaders, we strive to lead holy and transparent lives. Yet, some of us do not address certain issues or problems in our lives that may be so apparent to those who know us best.

Remember the first couple, Adam and Eve.

Perhaps you also remember that God once asked them a question. In fact, this is the first time on record of God asking a human being a question.

Where are you?

After all, they were hiding. They were frightened. They did not want him to find them. They had eaten from the forbidden tree. Now God is in the garden and they are hiding. Eventually, they will have a conversation with him and begin blaming others for what they did.

Where are you?

This is still a very important question.

Some of us may hide. We are doing fine. Everything is wonderful.

Some of us may blame. I know this isn’t right, but after what he did . . .

Some of us may become fearful. What will people think if they see that I am inadequate and that I become anxious at times?

Some of us may deny that anything is wrong. I don’t really have a struggle with temptation or sin. I’m no worse than some of the other church leaders I know.

As church leaders, we need to receive this question and let it penetrate our hearts. The evil one has helped to slowly destroy many church leaders who did not take this question seriously. Nothing may be more important than to be honest and humble before the Lord.

Monday Start: Resources for the Week

start (1)Just read

I just read Rick Lytle’s book Abandon the Ordinary: Building a Distinctive Leadership Brand in Business, Family, and Church.  Excellent book!  Helpful.  Inspirational.  Encouraging.

N.T. Wright

See one of N.T. Wright’s recent presentations at Oklahoma Christian.  Wright is always interesting, insightful, and thoughtful.

Leadership

Joe Lalonde has written a nice post based on the book Leaders Eat Last.

Early morning

You might enjoy this video by Brett McKay “How to Become an Early Riser.”  Couldn’t help but smile all the way through this.

Preaching

If you preach, don’t miss this outstanding post by Thom Rainer “Seven Habits of Highly Effective Preachers.”  Very good.  Don’t miss this!

 

Monday Start: Resources for the Week

Start (1)Ministry

Don’t miss Dr. Harold Shank’s fine post “Growling Over Ministry.” I have great respect for Harold and for his love for Scripture and ministry.  This post is a great reminder of the importance and value of ministry.

Amazing discount!

Did you know you can purchase the Kindle edition of Tim Keller’s Center Church for $2.99?  This is one of the best ministry books I have ever read!

Fred

Jonathan Storment has written a very thoughtful and needed post “God Loves Fred.”  (Regarding Fred Phelps.)

Free

Have you seen Putting Jesus in His Place by Robert Bowman, Darrell Bock, and Ed Komoszewski?  Get it while it is free as a Kindle book.

 

Is Real Life Happening Yet?

reallifelogoFor years, I waited.

My perception of my life was all about circumstances. I saw myself as not being in the ideal circumstances but assured myself that one day things would be different. As I saw it, the present was always lacking in some way. However, things would really be good when, one day, life would be what I wanted it to be.

When I was single, I thought life would really begin when I got married.

When I was in college, I thought life would really begin when I graduated.

When I was in graduate school, I thought life would really begin when I finished the program.

When I was married, I thought life would really begin when we could settle down somewhere.

When we were renting a house, I thought life would really begin when we could own a home.

Ministry Inside: 142

blah-blah-blahHe talked on and on.  People gathered around.  He clearly was the center of attention.  As people begin to gather around this church leader, he became more animated and loud.  Onlookers were laughing as he told the story. Finally, everyone disbursed.

Later, this same church leader walked into a meeting where another was talking to a group and seemed to be the center of the conversation. The church leader who earlier was energetic and intense when he was telling the story, now seemed uncomfortable and ill at ease.

As the conversation in the room prolonged, the church leader silently began scrolling through his iPad.  He made eye contact with no one and seemed disconnected.

Finally, the conversation in the room ended.  At that point, this church leader began telling a story to the group, once again becoming loud and animated, while everyone laughed.   He seemed to come alive again.

His behavior did not go unnoticed.

Some people seem to function most confidently when they are the center of attention.  However, these same people may be very uncomfortable when another receives the attention of a group.

Why mention this?

A church leader perceived to be an obnoxious bore who constantly demands the attention in the room can drain the energy out of a group. The default of the rest of the group is often silence while they defer to the one who will gladly talk on and on. One minister was described as “loving to hear himself talk.”  Not good.

It is true that some church leaders run into difficulties because of theological differences. Others, however, hurt their influence within a congregation by making relational mistakes. After awhile, a church can become weary of too many thoughtless, unnecessary relational blunders.  These blunders have a way of costing a church leader needed goodwill.

My Most Important Hour

Of all the hours in the day, the hour after I get up in the morning is probably the most important.

For many years, I have practiced an early morning discipline of preparing for my day.  This takes place before anyone else in my family awakens.

I am convinced that this hour helped me to become a better man, husband, and father. At times the hour helped me thrive in my growth and development. At other times, the hour simply helped me survive the turmoil.

I generally get up about 5:00 AM. For years, this worked because I knew our children would not be up at that hour. Long after our children have grown up and married, I continue the same general schedule now.

What I do each morning is not magic, unique, or a secret known only by a few. The power of this practice is that it is a daily discipline that I usually practice the five days each week.

What I do during this hour varies, but I have continued the same basic practice for many years.

w-Giant-Coffee-Cup75917What I do during the first hour of the day:

1. Emptying my mind. Generally, I sit in silence for a few minutes. I keep a notepad nearby and often begin making a list of whatever occurs to me. Quite often things come to mind that I need to do that day or have been trying to remember. I have found that writing down these thoughts frees my mind. This may take only a few minutes but is very helpful. I keep the pad in front of me during the hour in case anything else randomly comes to mind.

2. Practicing spiritual disciplines.  I read Scripture, pray, and read anything else that feeds my soul. Most recently, I have been reading through the Psalms in The Renovaré Spiritual Formation Bible. At other times I might use Phyllis Tickle’s, The Divine Hours. During this time I will often practice some of the ancient spiritual disciplines. Basically, I try to vary what I do during this time.

I write in my journal during this time. I might reflect upon a scripture I just read or something that happened the previous day. At other times, I might write a prayer in my journal. There are also days when I write nothing.

3. Planning my day. I think about my goals and priorities. I consider the progress that I would like to make on two or three projects. (The tool I am currently using is Donald Miller’s Storyline Productivity Schedule. These are available here.)

Remember, the point is not that you need to get up at 5:00 AM or that you need to do exactly what I do. The point is that a habit/practice such as this can be very useful regardless of your age or circumstance in life. Many mornings I will spend about an hour with this. Most mornings, it will be about an hour and a half. Again, the time is not the point. Find what works for you.

 

Monday Start: Resources for the Week

Start1The morning and learning languages

Watch Miles Van Pent’s video (3:54) in which he reflects on learning languages. Van Pent is the co-author of Basics of Biblical Hebrew.  See “My Advice to Students — Van Pelt Shares Solid Languages Advice He Got and Wished He Got.”  Note that he advises that students “Get up early and do this before anyone wants your time.”  I find this to be useful advice not only for learning languages but for doing many things that are priorities.

Creativity

Maria Popova has written a good post “Creativity, the Gift of Failure, and the Crucial Difference Between Success and Mastery” in which she reviews The Rise by Sarah Lewis.  Very interesting read!

Reading

Jason English has compiled these numbers in this piece from Mental Floss.  See “Which Country Reads the Most?”

Getting your rhythm back

Ann Voscamp has written an excellent post entitled “What to do to Get Your Rhythm Back.”  Glad I read this today!