Monday Start: Resources for the Week

startnow8norWriting

Jeff Goins has written a fine post “How to Stop Sounding Stupid and Write Like a Pro.”  I read Jeff’s blog regularly and find him very helpful and inspirational.

Stewardship

Jeremy Bouma has reviewed Craig Blomberg’s book “Christians in an Age of Wealth.”  This looks to be an interesting book by this well respected New Testament scholar.

Jonah

Kevin Youngblood’s (Harding University Bible professor – Searcy) commentary on Jonah is reviewed in Koinonia.  Also included is a video clip of Youngblood.

Preaching

Don’t miss this essay by John Stackhouse (Regent College, Vancouver, B.C.) in which he challenges all of us to reflect on what we are preaching.  See “Preaching that Avoids the Scandal…and the Centre.”

Ministry Inside.139

600px-six-svg11(The following post is adapted from a chapel talk given at Harding School of Theology last week.)

Six Suggestions for Getting More Out of Your Life and Ministry

It doesn’t matter what you plan to do.  It doesn’t matter how you plan to serve.  The following are six suggestions for making the most of your life and ministry.

1. Pay attention to your spiritual formation.  Recently, in chapel at Harding School of Theology, I quoted my friend Barry, a longtime minister in Waco, Texas.  Barry once heard a seminary president say to students, “Some students begin seminary with an empty head and a full heart.  Some leave seminary with a full head and empty heart.”  I believe it is possible to leave with a full heart and full head.  However, you must be intentional in this pursuit.  Unless you are intentional, you are likely to ignore your heart.

This means paying attention to the way Christ is being formed in your life.  Start with what you are putting on and what you are putting off. (Col 3:1ff)

*Your practices.  (prayer/scripture/journaling/service)
*Your rest/restoration.  Care for the body and emotions is a godly move, not a sign of weakness.
*Your work.  Are you being shaped and formed into a Christ-like person even while you work?

2. Pay attention to your habits. What is a habit in your life that really needs to be addressed?  This is the time to give attention to habits that need to be addressed.  These habits may include the expression of your temper, the use of porn, your language and materialism.  Be willing to seek help.  Some believe that one day they will have to change this habit but not yet.
  
3. Pay attention to your relationships.  The temptation while in school is to focus your complete attention on your studies and put your marriage on hold.  However, it is important not to neglect your spouse.

Howard Hendricks said, “Your marriage can make or mar your ministry.”

Years ago, when I was in seminary, I felt behind and inadequate.  Consequently, I was relentless about studying, day and night.  Unfortunately, I also neglected my marriage as I felt compelled to spend most of my time studying.  Finally, Charlotte told me, “I know this is difficult and that you have a lot to do. However, it would help so much if I just had something to look forward to.”  I realized at that point that I had misplaced my priorities.

There are numerous examples of couples who impacted a lot of people because of their marriage. On the other hand there are plenty of preachers/elders who lost their influence because of their marriage.  Beware of neglecting your marriage while you serve in a role with your church.

4.  Pay attention to your own emotional functioning.  Charles Blair in The Man Who Could Do No Wrong tells the story of growing up in the Great Depression and having to ride his bike to the firehouse to get government issued milk.  He said it was humiliating to carry this pail and he felt as if everyone was watching him.  Apparently, some kids saw him and laughed.  He decided that one day, no one was going to laugh at him again.  His image became more important than anything else.  Perhaps you can relate.  What people think of you can become more important than who you really are.

5. Pay attention to how you handle stress and loneliness.  Stress and loneliness are natural at various times of life but can be very difficult to manage.  What do you do with stress and loneliness?  Some people eat, spend money, go out with someone they shouldn’t be with or participate in any number of unwise behaviors.   When you feel stressed and lonely, you can make some very foolish decisions.

6. Know that God loves you regardless of what you do in your ministry.  What God thinks of you is not dependent on whether or not you had a good day.  The same is true regarding your life, and your ministry.  God loves and adores you– period.  His love is unconditional.

(You can read notes from my first chapel talk, “Ministry is a Calling”, here.)

 

Monday Start: Resources for the Week

start_button_gifFear

Be sure to read Jeff Goin’s post “Stop Being Afraid.” Something I need to read occasionally.

Better

Erika Andersen has written a good post entitled “7 Steps To Make Your Life Better.”  Some practical, and helpful suggestions.

Paperless

From Time magazine, “How to Go Paperless” written by Kristy Holch.

N.T. Wright

Great quote by N.T. Wright on the church.

 

Ministry Inside.138

HST1The following are the notes from the chapel presentation I gave on Tuesday morning, January 21, at Harding School of Theology (Memphis, Tennessee).  Perhaps you will find this encouraging and a good reminder. 

This is the first chapel of 2014 at Harding School of Theology.  This is the first day of classes.

No doubt as you meet with your class, there will be a syllabus.  There will be books to read.  There will be papers to write.  There will be lectures.

There is also a call.

We have a purpose and mission that is larger than ourselves.

Monday Start: Resources for the Week

Creativity

This is an interesting piece by Shane Parrish at Farnam Street.  See “Why creative people tend to be eccentric.”

Preaching

My friend Wade Hodges (Preston Road Church of Christ — Dallas) has written a post on preaching. Chasing The Short Sermon is worth some thought and reflection.  

Children

This post by Thom Rainer is worth reading by any minister or church leader.  See “Seven Things We Learned From Pastor’s Kids.”

Sports

Terry Mattingly has written a fascinating post in Get Religion entitled Concerning that strange, lost Sports Illustrated Tebow epic.

New Year

Alece Ronzino has written a guest post on Jeff Goins’ blog that is worth reading.  Don’t miss The New Year’s Resolution You’ve Already Broken.

 

Ministry Inside.137

(Each Thursday, I write particularly for church leaders.  If you are a church leader, hopefully this post will connect with you.  However, the post may be relevant regardless of ministry role.)

I knew a man who was a good preacher and overall minister.  He was well-read and had a good seminary education. He continued to grow in his ministry skills and in his knowledge.  Various congregations perceived him to be a valuable resource in their region.

There was one problem.

He didn’t always tell the truth.

I don’t think he perceived himself as one who lied or was untruthful.  Yet, I remember the evening, years ago, when he and his wife had dinner with us.  We ate and had an enjoyable meal together.  After dinner, we went to an ice cream place for dessert.

He told a story about a sermon that he had preached one Sunday.  As a part of the message, he used an illustration that seemed fitting.  After sharing that illustration with us, he said, “Of course this is one of those stories that you tell as if it really happened to you.”

I was a young minister and shocked by what he admitted to practicing.  Surely he did not say what I think he just said. Did he really say that he told the story as if it happened to him but it didn’t?  Yes, I had heard him correctly.

This was sad.

It was also unethical and even unnecessary.  Not only was this wrong but he could have easily used the story ethically by saying:

“I heard the story about a couple who one day . . .”

“I have a friend who tells the story about a couple who one day. . .”

“William Willimon tells the story of a couple who one day . . .”

Truth telling includes paying attention to the little things.  Accuracy and speaking truth really do matter.

 

Monday Start: Resources for the Week

start (1)We have moved to Memphis.   As of January 2, I work at Harding School of Theology.  This week I resume writing this blog.  Each Monday I will post a feature entitled “Monday Start: Resources for the Week.”  This post will consist of links to articles, books, etc. that might be of interest to you.

Mental illness

Don’t miss this post by Karen Spears Zacharias.  The post “Mothers and Mental Illness” is a good reminder of what some mothers struggle with.

Free

You might be interested in “Plan Your Free Online Education at Lifehacker U: Spring Semester 2014.”

Writing

From The Chronicle of Higher Education, Michael C. Munger writes “10 Tips on How to Write Less Badly.”

Asking in faith

John T. Willis has written a brief but encouraging post entitled “Ask in Faith – James 1:5-8.”

“No”

Some people believe that one overcomes another’s objections by presenting arguments and answers.  However, the “no” one receives may be rooted in something deeper.   See Seth Godin’s post “Coming from ‘no’.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

Update

I guess you’ve noticed

I haven’t posted on the blog during December.  We are in the middle of the move to Memphis, Tn.  I will be working with Harding School of Theology.  In January, I will begin to post regularly again.  Thanks for your patience.

Monday Start: Resources for the Week

Start (1)Writing

The Letter is Dead, Long Live the Letter” by Maria Popova in Brain Pickings.

Criticism

Thom Rainer has an excellent podcast “How to Respond to Criticism – Rainer on Leadership #031.”

Creativity

40 Inspiring Workspaces of the Famously Creative” by Summer Anne Burton.

Presentations

Always helpful.  See Victoria Labalme’sPresentation Skills – Animating Experiences, Adjectives and Emotions.”

Advice

Bill Mounce’s advice on what to remember regarding seminary or graduate studies.

 

Ministry Inside.136

ImageAfter 20 years of ministry in one congregation, I am about to leave.  (My last Sunday here is November 24.)  Charlotte and I will move to Memphis, Tennessee, to begin working with Harding School of Theology.

Twenty years is a long time.  That is 20 years of sermons, conversations, and cups of coffee. That is 20 years of waiting in emergency rooms with families and well as celebrating with families.

Leaving and transition bring grief.  Charlotte and I certainly feel it.  I know many in our congregation feel this as well.  It is simply a part of transition.

I have been thinking about these 20 years.

I am so thankful …

… for the trust of this church.

Preaching to the same group of people week after week requires trust.  They must recognize that you are attempting to live out the Gospel in your daily life.  Trust either emerges or it remains a questionable issue in a congregation.

As I look back upon these years, I think of the many conversations with people — deeply personal conversations — about life, sin, failure, and grace.  I don’t take this for granted.  After all, a person believes their minister will handle this conversation with maturity and respect.  I am moved as I think about conversations in my office, in living rooms, and over cups of coffee about life.

… for the love of this church.

The people in our congregation have communicated to me how much they love Charlotte, me, and our two daughters, Christine and Jamie.  I am so grateful for this.

At the same time, I love our congregation.  Recently, our children’s ministry reserved the local skating rink for our church.  I was there for about 45 minutes and enjoyed watching the children of our congregation (and some of their parents) have so much fun.  I want to see them do well and grow up loving Jesus.  Because I love our congregation, it is very important how I leave.  When a minister abruptly leaves a church and gives the church little or no time to process what is happening, damage can be done that can have ramifications for the future.  It is very important to me to leave well.

… for the faithfulness of God.

Life as a congregation is something we do together.  That means that we experience not only joy but also pain.  Yes, pain takes place in every congregation.  Most of the time, ministry involves some sort of pain.  Divorce.  Death.  Sickness.  Unfaithfulness.  Sin.  These all take place in the life of a congregation.  Yet, as I look back, I see how the faithfulness of God gave us, as a congregation, the power to persevere even in difficult times.

More later.