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?

Monday Start: Resources for the Week

start_button_greenSin and Evil

See this outstanding post by Rachel Held Evans which appeared on

Paying Attention

Don’t miss this outstanding review of the book On Looking: Eleven Walks with Expert Eyes.  The review is by Maria Popova of Brain Pickings. (You might also enjoy this excellent interview with Maria Popova regarding how she writes.)

Global Leadership Summit

Michele Cushatt has some very good notes from the most recent summit.


You might enjoy the post I wrote last week entitled “Sometimes Life is Overwhelming.”  You might be encouraged by this post.  If so, consider sending it to a friend who might be also be encouraged by this.




Ministry Inside.127

Listening-Ear1Do you listen well?

One of the most important tasks for any church leader is listening.  Listening can be incredibly difficult.  In fact, most of us have had far more training in speaking than in listening.

A few suggestions:

Listen intently.

This means eye contact.  This means paying attention to body language.  This means asking clarifying questions such as, “How did you feel when the change was made?” or “What were you thinking when he said that?”

Listen to understand.

Don’t assume you understand.  A church leader should not say, “Oh yeah I know exactly how you feel.”  At that point church leaders sometimes take over the conversation and begin talking about their own experience.  Far better to say something like: “I really want to understand what you are saying.  Could I express to you what I think I heard?”  After all, I want that person to leave this conversation feeling as if she has really been heard.

Listen without trying to fix the person’s problem.

A person may come to you and talk to you about several issues in his/her life.  Far too often, church leaders will follow by saying, “I know what you need or ought to do.”  Yet, often that person hasn’t asked for advice.  Rather, the person just wants you to listen.

Of course, don’t check your texts or e-mail while someone is talking with you.  Talking with someone who keeps looking at his screen can be very irritating.

Seek to become an excellent listener.  You will bless the person you are talking with.


What are some characteristics of some of the good listeners whom you know?


Monday Start: Resources for the Week


Charlotte and I both have read Josh Ross’s book Scarred Faith.  This is an outstanding book!  Also, don’t miss his interview with Jonathan MerrittFollowing God when it doesn’t make sense: An interview with Josh Ross.”  By the way, this video (which includes pictures of Memphis) is powerful.


Check out Michael Hyatt’s tools!  (Anytime he posts something like this, I generally discover a gem.)


You might find this helpful: “6 Simple Rituals to Reach Your Potential Every Day.”

Tim Keller

See Tim Keller’s first Twitter Q&A.


When Your Marriage is Hard

MarriageSometimes, marriage is very hard.

Yet, it can become especially difficult when we take on responsibilities that are not ours.

For example:

You are not responsible for your spouse’s moods.

Some men and women are very immature. Some are moody and emotionally manipulative. They demand that their spouse do what they want them to do or else. They may say to their husbands/wives: “I was in a great mood until you spoiled it.” Yet, you are responsible for your own mood and your own attitude, not that of your spouse.

You are not responsible for keeping your spouse from getting upset.

Some people punish their spouses when they are upset. For example, a husband and wife are selling their car. She makes a comment to a prospective buyer that they have had some trouble with the air-conditioning. She does so as a matter of integrity and a desire to be honest. Her husband is angry at her now and expresses this through passive aggressive behaviors for the rest of the day. Later she says, “I have to be so careful about what I say to my husband. He will get angry, and I will be in trouble.” Furthermore, some people may shortchange their children by tiptoeing around a spouse’s feelings and immaturity.

You are not responsible for making sure that your spouse has a good day.

In some marriages, one spouse attempts to manipulate the emotions of the other by communicating that in some way the spouse is responsible for making sure that he[/she] has a good day. Consequently, when something displeasing happens, the response may be: “I was having a good day until you ruined it.”

You are not responsible for making your spouse look good.

This happens far too frequently. A husband or wife expects their spouse to cover for them. Instead of behaving well, they focus on looking good in front of particular people. Perhaps a wife expects her husband to make her look good in front of her mother. Or, perhaps a husband expects his wife to make him look good in front of his parents. (He doesn’t want them to know about his language, his online gambling, or the way he behaves toward his teenage son when no one else is around.)

You are not responsible for trying to manage what other people think about your spouse or for trying to create false impressions before significant people.

You are responsible for managing yourself. You are responsible for managing how you function, how you react, and how you choose to relate to your spouse.


From your experience, what happens to a family when creating the right impression becomes more important than dealing with reality?


Monday Start: Resources for the Week

Quick-StartReading list

Bill Gates has shared his summer reading list.  Gates is a lifelong learner and reads widely.  You may find this interesting.  Also note his website


Don’t miss this wonderful story about former President George H. W. Bush who, along with his security detail, shaved his head in honor of a little boy with cancer.  In this videoJenna Bush Hager, his granddaughter, interviews him regarding this gesture.  Bush experienced the death of a daughter at age three to leukemia many years ago.


Be sure to check out the online version of Flipboard, the wonderful resource that has been available via iPhone and iPad.  This is one of my favorite tools.


You might enjoy “A Harvard Economist’s Surprisingly Simple Productivity Secret.”


Thom Rainer did a survey that revealed some interesting expectations, with implications for anyone serving in a ministry role in a congregation.  See “How Many Hours Must a Pastor Work?”


Don’t miss these pictures: “62 of the World’s Most Beautiful Libraries.”

Monday Start: Resources for the Week

start 1Have you seen this resource?

I recently came across issuu.  Are you familiar with this tool?  One place for many publications.

Excellent address

See this presentation by  David Brooks from the 2013 Aspen Ideas Institute, “The Inverse Logic of Life.”  Brooks is not only an excellent writer but a good speaker as well.  This presentation caused me to think.

Bob Buford writes.

Bob Buford is the founder of Leadership Network  I pay attention to his blog. Buford has a good understanding of culture and is attuned to very good resources.]

A simple explanation of systems theory (thanks to Lynn Anderson).

See this excellent video!


Ministry Inside.126

habits(During July, I am reposting a series regarding healthy habits for believers and church leaders in particular.)

Habit #6. Adjust your expectations.

When I first began preaching, my expectations of people were way too high! I was constantly disappointed in others. My assumptions on the front end were skewed. For example, I thought that everyone who was connected in some way with our church was trying to live right. It wasn’t everyone’s personal weakness that was the surprise but that we were not even united in our intentions.

Meanwhile, my expectations of God were far too small. I didn’t really believe that he might do amazing things through prayer. I didn’t expect God to do anything in my life. Consequently, I lived with a strange set of expectations for both the church and for God.

I began to grapple with this and lowered my expectations of people so that anything that a person did that was good was an act of grace. Meanwhile, I began to raise my expectations of God, thanking him for the grace that I experienced in him whether I witnessed his power or not.

Habit #7. Pay attention to people.

This particular habit is so important. It is a gift we can give to one another that can add energy. Basically, you follow two practices:

  • You attempt to catch people doing what is right.
  • You ask about what is very important to another person.

Habit #8. Empty your mind regularly.

In David Allen’s book Getting Things Done, I have learned the importance of emptying one’s mind (or doing a “mind sweep”). Basically, one takes everything that is going on in the mind and lists it on paper.

In his workshop, one of the exercises involved writing everything we were thinking about. I thought, “This won’t take long, I am only thinking about a couple of things right now.” We took about ten minutes for this exercise. I began my list and could not believe all that I wrote down. I wrote everything from “Get the tire fixed” to “Got to call Steve on the way home.” Each time I wrote something down, I then seemed to recall one more thing that I had stored in my mind.

Allen believes if we do not regularly empty our minds, then stress is the result. You must have a system in place by which you can empty your mind and know that you will come back to the things you have written down and deal with them. 

What habits would you add to this list?