Four Essential Practices for Any Church Leader


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.

41 Things Married People Ought to Know (Part 3)


The following is part 3 of a series that I have entitled, “41 Things Married People Ought to Know.” (You can find part one here and part two here)

21.  Marriage can be very satisfying and joyful.  Many couples experience great pleasure in their marriages. There is great pleasure to be found in marriage through friendship, emotional connection, emotional intimacy and sexual expression.

22.  Marriage is hard work.  A good marriage takes effort and often requires us to be intentional. As married people, we depend upon the Lord for strength to navigate our marriages well.  A very frustrated married person once asked me, “If marriage is right, why is it so hard?” Yet, simply because something was created by God does not mean it will be easy.

23.  Marriage requires that we be steady and consistent.  After all, the journey is long and requires constancy and faithfulness.  But shouldn’t there be sizzle?  Yes, of course.  However, one would think from watching the way relationships are portrayed on television and in the media that real life is to be found in encounters where there is no commitment to the future, but only an awareness of the moment.

41 Things Married People Ought to Know (Part 2)


Are you married? Would you like to be married one day? The following is Part 2 of this series. (You can find Part 1 here.)

11.  Many women have a low perception of their body image. Television, movies, magazines all portray a certain type of female body to be desired. These women are tan, well endowed, and young. Meanwhile, many women often see such portrayals and perceive themselves as not measuring up. They see these images and conclude that their own body is inadequate.

12.  Wonderful, satisfying sex in marriage is not based on performance.Rather, such a sexual relationship is an outgrowth of an intimate relationship with one another. Far too many married couples put tremendous pressure on one another because of the performance view of sex. Pornography feeds such a view. Beware! When a person is using pornography, he will often see sex as something he “takes” in marriage instead of self-sacrificial intimacy.

13.  Many married couples have no idea how to handle their discretionary spending. Consequently, if the kids want something at the store and the parents know the money is in the bank, the kids get it. Meanwhile, the amount of credit card debt being accumulated by some couples is astounding. Many couples really have no idea how much they are actually spending each month.

41 Things Married People Ought to Know (Part 1)


Several years ago, I posted a list of things I have learned about marriage from my own experience and observation. The following is an updated and edited list. Perhaps one or more of these will be helpful.

The following is Part 1 of a list of 41 things married people ought to know:

1.  Married people are called to move away from self-centeredness and toward selflessness. Self–centeredness creates a person in the marriage who “takes”. Such a person focuses on what he or she is getting out of the marriage instead of loving one another sacrificially.

2.  A couple can’t follow Jesus and at the same time settle for a status quo marriage. Jesus challenges both husband and wife to pursue something larger than oneself. They are called to something greater than their individual happiness. Sometimes, a wife or husband will desire to pursue a larger kingdom vision for marriage while the other person chooses to dig in his heels and remain stagnant.

3.  Married people can become very lazy in their relationship with one another. As a result, the husband and wife may no longer cherish one another. Tenderness slips away. Sarcasm and cynicism may overtake their relationship.

Can Others Tell When You Are Afraid?

fear1.jpgThat afternoon, we drove away from their house. We had been in a difficult conversation.  We met with a woman whom we both liked and admired but found difficult.  She seemed self-assured and almost smug. I told my wife that it seemed as if she perceived herself to be an expert on most subjects.

Yet, Charlotte had a different take on this woman.  “She is actually quite fearful.”

Upon reflection, I think she is correct.

How do you spot a fearful person?  Is this a person who is cowering in the corner with fear?  Not necessarily.  This may be a 30 year old man who, like an insecure boy, is doing his best to appear cool.  Actually, one may be speaking with a fearful person and yet not really be aware of this person’s fearfulness.  This person may actually be dominated by fear. Children are often more obvious in the way they express their fear.  They typically fight or flee when they are afraid.  Adults respond in much the same way, only we try to mask our fear.

Monday Start: Resources for the Week

start (1)The Supremes — Much discussion regarding the Supreme Court decision last week regarding same-sex marriage. I found several posts helpful. See these two posts by John Mark Hicks.  This one was posted Saturday and this posted Sunday.  You might also look at this post by Harding School of Theology professor, Carlus Gupton.  Also from First Things see “After Obergefell: A First Things Symposium.”

Work — See Christine Porath’s piece from The New York Times, It’s Time to Be Nice at Work.” From Business Insider see “9 Things Successful People Do Right Before Bed.”

Leadership — See Jason Garrett’s video  “Jason Garrett Princeton Varsity Club Citizen-Athlete Award Speech.”  A good speech on leadership.

Risk —I love this quote I heard this week from actor Tom Selleck playing his character on a Blue Bloods episode.  At one point he said “Risk is the price you pay for opportunity.”  I really like that!

Not What I Would Expect — You might enjoy this interesting article from the New York Times.  “A Cleaner Fleet Week: What Do You Do With a Cultured Sailor?

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.

Seven Characteristics of a Great Dad

(Just Before Father's Day)

baseballWhat is a great dad?  Maybe he is a dad like the picture to the right.  After all, this is a good scene, isn’t it?  A father and son spend time together playing baseball. Many sons have good memories of their dads teaching them to play catch or how to hit a ball.

Yet, being a great dad is more than this.  Being a great dad is about passing on character and goodness which will bless generations to come.

Some what are some of the qualities of a great dad?

1.  A great dad treats the mother of his children with adoration and respect.  Little children see it all! Nothing gets by them.  They see the contemptuous looks and they hear the words that drip with sarcasm. The way you treat their mother, impacts the way they will treat others later on.

Focus on the Heart (Part 2 of 2)

Choosing Spouses, Ministers, etc.

Mid-Level_Challenges_Poor_Selection_Process2Like choosing a mate, sometimes churches seem to focus on the “outward appearance” when it comes to selecting a minister.  Sometimes it seems that we are preoccupied with finding a minister who like King Saul of Israel will look the part.

Years ago, a church leader called me regarding a reference check of a prospective minister for their congregation. He explained that this person was not one of their “first tier” candidates.  (I had not heard that language before in reference to selecting a minister.)  He explained that they had hoped to get a minister who was widely known and already had a following.  He mentioned several names of people who, at the time, were speaking in a number of workshops, lectureships, and other highly visible events across the country.  What was interesting was their rationale for placing these people on their “first tier” list.

Yet, perhaps we would do well to consider what a focus on the heart (I Samuel 16:7) might look like as we consider a prospective minister for a congregation.

A few questions we might reflect on:

1.  Does this minister seem to hunger for God?  Is this minister’s moral and ethical life congruent with he claims to believe?

Focus on the Heart – (Part 1 of 2)

Choosing Spouses, Ministers, etc.

He sat in my office and looked troubled.  He said, “We are engaged, yet I’m not sure I want to go through with this wedding.  There is physical attraction, but I am troubled about some other matters.”

Far too many people, as they consider a potential spousethink-md, put their priority on physical attraction.  How attractive is she?  How attractive is he? While physical attraction may be a factor, Christ-followers have other concerns which stand first in the priority line.

Remember King Saul of Israel?  Tall.  A military leader. A warrior.  He looked the part.  Today, people today might say regarding a particular person, “He looks presidential.”  King Saul looked like a king.

Yet, even though he looked the part, he didn’t have the heart that God desired. Outwardly he may have appeared to be just right.  Yet, because of his heart, his life did not reflect what God wanted.  As Israel chose the next King of Israel, God desired to see a change.  God said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him.  The Lord does not look at the things people look at.  People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart” (I Samuel 16:7).