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More . . . How to Appreciate Your Pastor

October is pastoral appreciation month. Let me be self-serving for a moment.  Leaders are readers and right here at Truth-Publications.com are readable and practical resources your pastor would probably enjoy. Each book is full of proven tools that can be put to use.  A partial list is at http://truth-publications.com/church-growth/  Thank you for supporting your pastor.

Nurture the pastor and family.  Don’t be one of those folks denoted as a  “grace builder,” (because the only way anybody can abide them is through increasing grace) file9521253072574but be a person who helps him grow in grace. You will become aware of weaknesses – help the pastor be a better person.

Offer to help. The list of things you can do to help your pastor is endless. If your church is young – volunteer to be responsible to setup the chairs before church; get involved in taking responsibility off his shoulders.  Use your imagination.  No person in the body of Christ doesn’t have a place to serve.

Pray for your pastor. Lift up his name to God daily. When Satan intended to sift Peter as wheat, Jesus said, “I’ve prayed for thee . . .” When your pastor is dealing with pressure situations – pray for him!

Quench not. Encourage him to grow and to lead the church to progress.  Don’t be one of the nay-sayers.

Rejoice in him and with him.  In whatever way he excels – celebrate that and honor him for it.

Surprise him – particularly this month. There are so many ways to do this!  All the books from Truth-Publications.com or a gift card for Applebee’s or maybe volunteering to wash the family car.

Trust him. Believe in him.

Understand him. Put yourself in his place.  What we are asking the pastor to do is not easy.  It never was.  These days it is more complicated than ever.

Vacation. He needs time away. Send the first couple for a special holiday, if not for a week or two, then how about a romantic weekend getaway?   For a pastor to have such benefits from their church somebody has to take the lead to make such things happen.  Are you that person?

Welcome him into your life. Don’t wait for the pastor to make the first move. Invite the first family to dinner, or just time to relax and enjoy your company. Don’t allow all your calls to your Pastor to be a call for help.

Yoke  up with him. Help him bear his yoke of responsibility in your church, you, your family, and your church with grace and dignity. Do your best not to embarrass him.

ZAP all gossip. Don’t participate; and don’t allow it! These days a pastor is not easy to come by.  Don’t let him be destroyed by gossip.  If you hear something negative, contact him about the situation. 

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As One Plants Multiple Churches–Is There Room in the Church for Me? Guest Post–Scott Sistrunk

Is There Room in The UPCI for Me?

 

This is a post from a time back on Detroit Career Church Planter Scott Sistrunk’s blog.  It needs a repeated hearing. Have me failed to validate the gift of those who are more gifted to plant churches than to pastor them?  Think about this . . . perhaps God has gifted you as he has Bro. Sistrunk.  If so, I’ll speak for the fellowship I’m part of and say, “We desperately need you.”  I’d love to clone Scott Sistrunk about 100 times over.  Planter Sistrunk’s article is posted with his permission.  I’ll speak for him and actually ask you to pass it on to others.

 

Is there a place for me in United Pentecostal Church?

I am a church planter. I am called to evangelize North America. I have no choice really; it is my calling. If I was a church planter in Africa, I would be called a missionary. I am having difficulty communicating my calling to my ministerial brethren. You see, I really feel called to be a missionary to North America. Of course, most of my friends know what a foreign missionary is. Of 31,966 licensed ministers (worldwide) only 652 are missionaries. Yes, I know, home missionary is a term often used to describe a person who plants a new church in North America. In that sense, the home missionary refers to a minister (usually a novice) who plants a new church in a city in North America and remains there long term, or moves on to other ministerial opportunities eventually, and the home missions ‘phase’ of their ministry becomes part of their history. Even a “Metro Missionary” who is supported by partners much like foreign missionaries has only been supported for 4 years and has been responsible for planting a single church. No, that is not me. I am a home missionary permanently; a career church planter.

Is there room for me in North America?

It is hard to explain, but I can hear a city’s cry. I don’t know exactly when I started being so in tune with cities. I do remember the first time I heard a city cry out to me. I was a youth pastor and I was on a golf outing with friends. I never expected what hit me as I prayed before going to bed. It seemed to me as if I felt the anguish of every lost soul in that city all at once. I doubled over in pain and began to weep. I was embarrassed and didn’t want my roommate to think I was trying to be “super spiritual.” I buried my face in a pillow and lay between the wall and the bed and prayed until the burden lifted. Shortly thereafter, I began to feel a heavy burden for a city that I eventually started a church in. I was so consumed with the need of this city that the Lord rebuked me for neglecting my current duties and told me to spend more time praying for the young people I was responsible for and the time would come for me to give myself to prayer for that city. I can’t go through a town or village without wondering, “Do they have a church?” Many times the tears come so suddenly and unexpectedly that I am embarrassed. I know more than I should about the number of churches in every district and every metro area. I can’t help but gather information on North American cities. My friends look at me weirdly when I start spouting off population numbers and churches per capita of each metropolitan city. I can’t help it; I am driven by a vision and a burden. You see, I know very well that this kind of passion is not understood in our North American ministerial culture.

What do I do with this passion?

This passion feels like destiny. It is unstoppable, irresistible, strong, deep, powerful, controlling, and exhausting. I am not called to pastor long term. My passion burns relentlessly and it is white hot continually. It is a powerful thing when used in the context of founding a work in a city full of strongholds and no church. My calling makes me almost impervious to discouragement. I never lack motivation. I thrive on adversity and challenge. Once a church is firmly established, self-supporting, stable and growing I can feel the restlessness coming on. It is time to go to a new place. Saints cannot live in this heat long. They need someone who is not always looking for the next place. They need someone who burns with a passion for them… not others. They need a pastor long term, I am a missionary. I envy foreign missionaries who only pastor short term if at all and it is what is expected of them. They are expected to be too busy training leaders, gathering resources, opening new areas and building coalitions and networks of preachers to pastor one church. I feel the pressure of the North American culture to pastor long term. But it is not my calling. I long for a structure in North America similar to what exist for overseas missionaries that I can submit to in order to fulfill my calling. I hope there is room for this kind of ministry in North America. It is what God has called me to do. What else can I do?

Is there room in the United Pentecostal Church for me?

I want to live and minister like a foreign missionary, but in the United States. I want to have a set, known, controlled standard of living. I want be accountable to many. I know this is the price of my calling. I know that God has not called me to enjoy the fruits of long term labor in a particular vineyard. This reward is reserved for and earned by pastors. I am a missionary. My reward comes from knowing there is now a church where there was none before. It is the only reward I seek.

Does the United Pentecostal Church know that it needs me?

Why has our growth been so explosive in foreign countries? Missionaries. Why do we struggle to plant churches in North America? A lack of missionaries. We have asked those without the calling, anointing or grace to plant churches. They have answered the call because of the need. But they have struggled terribly. We have asked those who burn with a missionary’s passion to pastor and teach in one location for life. They have struggled terribly.

We, in North America, have left the work of missionaries to pastors and teachers and evangelists. I ask you; doesn’t New York deserve a Bruce Howell? Doesn’t Los Angeles deserve an E. L. Freeman? I ask the United Pentecostal Church to make room in North America for the passion and ministry of a missionary.

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How to Survive the Dark Place! Where is God In My Dark Place? (Part 3)

In equipping yourself to overcome depression, spend time reading about “dark places” in the Bible.  So many things happen in what seems to be a spiritual night.  Nothing is easy.  As I’ve noted in two earlier posts surviving and finding God in your dark place isn’t easy. There are no pat answers. Any who offer such answers don’t know what they are talking about. 

Read part one at:  http://truth-publications.com/how-to-survive-the-dark-place-where-is-god-in-my-dark-place/

Part two is at:  http://truth-publications.com/how-to-survive-the-dark-place-where-is-god-in-my-dark-place-part-2/

Guiding an Unwanted Journey

In seasons of depression, well-meaning people offer advice like, “Pray your way through it,” or the more frustrating, “What is wrong with you? You have a wonderful life – give God praise!”

At one time, I gave similar suggestions; a man presenting travel directions to a place I’d never been. Having been traveled to the dark place, I can now provide a better travel guide. In earlier posts, I’ve mentioned things that helped me survive my dark place . . .

(1) Praying the Psalms aloud.

(2) Doing what God called me to do.

(3) Involvement with people.

(4) Journaling

Additional observations

Become more aware of the presence of Christ’s spirit.

Jesus’ favorite descriptive word for His presence in us was paraclete – “one called alongside.” He has not left you, when you feel wOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA eary and overwhelmed. He is there, know it . . . believe it! This is faith at work. It does not take faith to endure when you can feel His presence. Engrave His words on your mind, “I will never leave thee nor forsake thee.”  Recently, I’ve found myself muttering to myself, “I am not alone in this!”  Being mindful of His presence matters.

Find Help

Elders and advisors bring perspective. If there are spiritual issues in your life, meet with your pastor. In some instances he may suggest an approved counselor or a visit to your physician. Depression may actually be physical – the result of a chemical imbalance in the brain. Mature people seek help when it is needed.

None of what I’ve offered makes the dark place easier; rather it is a lesson in survival. One gets to wondering where God is. I’ve done some inner shouting, “Where are you, God? It’s dark down here.”

That being said, I’ve discovered that dark places are the making of life. A potter does not see his clay take on rich shades of silver, or red, or yellow, until after the darkness and the burning of the furnace. A color is birthed in the dark heat of a gloomy kiln.

Think . . . even in the Dark Place

Oh, remember the 143rd Psalm, “. . . the enemy hath . . . smitten my life down to the ground; he hath made me to dwell in darkness, . . . Therefore is my spirit overwhelmed within me . . ..” These words are David’s personal response to his honest feelings, “I remember the days of old; I meditate (the word David used here means to murmur or to talk to oneself) on all thy works; I muse (ponder) on the work of thy hands. I stretch forth my hands unto thee: my soul thirsteth after thee, as a thirsty land.” (Psalms 143:5-6)

In his dark place, David saturated his thoughts and conversation with remembering and discussing God’s works. He also focused his desires; reaching out for God as a longing child and thirsting after him as a dry land seeking water. My practical observations about finding God in the dark place are a way to carry out what David describes in poem.

A final observation . . . a dark season does not indicate one is carnal, backslidden or unspiritual. Let the psalmist affirm this truth as well:

If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there: if I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there. If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea; . . .. If I say, Surely the darkness shall cover me; even the night shall be light about me. Yea, the darkness hideth not from thee; but the night shineth as the day: the darkness and the light are both alike to thee. (Psalm 139:8-12)

Come on now . . . survive and then thrive – God does not see you as failed; to God the darkness and light are both alike.

 

 

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How to Survive the Dark Place. Where is God In My Dark Place? (Part 2)

Depression is a bear! I’ve endured the challenge. Countless other people have as well. If you are joining the conversation in mid-stride you may want to read the earlier blog post at http://truth-publications.com/how-to-survive-the-dark-place-where-is-god-in-my-dark-place/

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Surviving and finding God in a dark place isn’t glitzy. I have no trite answers. Well-meaning people offer advice like, “Pray your way through it,” or the more frustrating, “What is wrong with you? You have a wonderful life – give God praise!” At one time, I gave similar suggestions; a man presenting travel directions to a place I’d never been. Having been to the dark place, I can now provide a better travel guide. Some things that helped me survive my dark place . . .

My earlier suggestion was to pray the Psalms aloud.  Speaking a thing aloud gives weight beyond silently reading. Some scholars say the Psalms were intended to be read aloud.

Further observations regarding what helped me

Doing what God called me to do.

Depression causes lack of delight in the things a person once relished. An avid fisherman or golfer no longer enjoy their pastime. As a servant of God, some things are non-negotiable even in the darkest hour. I love to preach and teach. It is what God called me to do. One’s golf clubs may get dusty, but there is no withdrawing from that to which God has called. I kept preaching. Of one era of his life, John Bunyan recalled, “I walked around in chains and spoke to people in chains, but in the pulpit, my chains fell off.” My experience was the same.

 

 

Involvement with people.

This is a challenge. Those dealing with depression want to withdraw. Dallas business executive, Fred Smith wrote that he had found a guarantee for depression’s continuation. That guarantee – inaction. By contrast, he saw the sure cure . . . as activity. In the dark season muster the energy to stay involved with people. Of my suggestions, this was personally the most challenging.

Journaling

In the dark, I found the treasure of written prayer. Writing words of adoration, confession, thanksgiving a, d supplication became a life-line. Writing gave my prayer dimension and forced me to think about what I really needed to communicate. As I wrote to Him, Jesus began to write fresh things into my mind and spirit.

In the dark, I found the treasure of written prayer. Writing words of adoration, confession, thanksgiving and supplication became a life-line. Writing gave my prayer dimension and forced me to think about what I really needed to communicate. As I wrote to Him, Jesus began to write fresh things into my mind and spirit.

Early next week I’ll add a final thought.  I’ve received more direct feedback about talking and writing about this life issue than any other.  Add your suggestions if you’d like.

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Thirteen Ways to Honor Pastor in Pastor Appreciation Month

I’m a pastor by calling.  For eight years I’ve been involved in a somewhat different role of ministry, though I still get to do a bit of pastoral work. These days I can speak to the thought of pastoring from a different perspective and my comments not be seen as overly self-serving.

The Greek word for pastor is the same word translated “shepherd.”  According to a recent USA Today article, a keeper of sheep is one of the most under-paid laborers in North America. Unfortunately in today’s cultural climate to have the term “Pastor” attached to your life does not mean one is held in high regard by the community.  That lack of respect only changes with much hard work, showing integrity and being a person who deserves to be respected. 

Church members need to make it their personal responsibility to express appreciation.  file9521253072574This is a great time of the year for you to minister to your pastor.

  • Accept him as a person and not just as a parson.  Let him know you accept him as he is.
  • Build him up. Say "thank you” for some specific thing he or she has done. 
  • Communicate with him.
  • Do all you can to defend him when someone is trying to run him down. I’m not talking about defending the indefensible, but go directly to him to speak of any concern.  Tell others that it is a Biblical requirement for them to do the same.
  • Entertain him. He likes to enjoy life too. For me – banana pudding is a wonderful form of entertainment!  If the pastor is a golfer, buy some golf balls or green fees for him.  Do something similar if he is a hunter or fisherman.
  • See that he has a family life. If he is bi-vocational, he likely has no more than 10-15 hours of each week to devote to the ministry.  Respect his wife and children’s need for him.
  • Be genuine. Be honest with him. Be yourself around him.
  • Honor him. DO not put him on a pedestal, but respect him.   If you are a leader take responsibility for your pastor to be honored one Sunday this month. If you are not a leader, suggest it to someone who is.  Perhaps print this article and highlight relevant portions.
  • Provide him a decent income. Bring your tithes into the storehouse. Ten or fifteen tithe paying families can pay a pastor enough so that money is not  a major concern for him.
  • Don’t be overly judgmental.  The fellow has a stressful job, and won’t always make the right decisions.  Unfortunately, we expect him to never miss.  As a former (and likely future) pastor I’le tell you now that even the best pastor misses on occasion.  Give him grace!
  • Be kind to your pastor.  Kindness is expressed in how you treat all of his family.
  • Love like in 1 Corinthians 13.  The love depicted there is active.  Love is not simply emotion, but it is active. 
  • Maintain the pastor’s family in every way possible.  His family has the same needs as any other family in the Church, but of no other family is as much expected or demanded.

I don’t think we should put the ministry into an unrealistic position of being beyond question and always “up there” somewhere.  Paul spent and entire chapter talking about his accountability regarding money.  I’m not beyond question, nor should any of us be.  However, this person watches for my soul – respect and honor are important. 

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How to Survive the Dark Place! Where is God In My Dark Place?

Some years ago, I was diagnosed with clinical depression. It happened to me – it has happened to others and far too many are ashamed that their prayer meetings and devotion to the Lord Jesus has failed to bring a remedy.  It is debilitating and painful , but with God’s help and some common sense one can survive.

My first segue into discussing this in a public way was in conversation with the church I pastored.  For all of us it was the first journey into the experience of having a pastor who was dealing with a negative situation of this sort, that would be talked about. The wonderful people at Springfield’s Truth Tabernacle, were so very much like Jesus and gave me hope and an opportunity to get better. In 2007, I wrote about it a bit in an article in the Pentecostal  Herald.  The resulting phone calls and continued contacts seemed to indicate a tremendous need for honest conversation and some healing help in the matter of surviving the “dark place.”

Have you ever felt like saying, “Wait a minute, I have some questions!  We need to ask those questions of some Bible heroes.” 

“Elijah . . . what in the world went wrong? I’m disappointed in you. Running from Jezebel? Praying to die? Sitting in anxious frustration under a juniper tree – and so soon after you’d prayed and God’s fire fell?”

“David, . . . hey you King David . . . don’t I remember reading about you being a man after God’s own heart? Were you backslidden when you wrote, ‘. . . the enemy hath . . . smitten my life down to the ground; he hath made me to dwell in darkness, . . . Therefore is my spirit overwhelmed within me . . .. ’” (Psalms 143:3-4).

I know . . . I’ve heard it . . . thought it – probably preached it . . . Christians do not have the feelings expressed in Psalm 143. Well . . . here goes nothing or maybe everything. I’ve actually survived dwelling in the darkness and my spirit being overwhelmed. My story is probably different than David’s, but for me my dark dwelling place was:

  • Unrelated to reality
  • Unimaginable
  • Exhausting
  • Humiliating

You see, it was medically diagnosed as clinical depression. Again . . . I know . . . I know, clinical depression does not happen to saints, and certainly not to preachers. Well it happened anyway . . . it was bad and it was real.

It’s tough to explain. Jack Dreyfus founded the successful Dreyfus Mutual Fund empire. He recalled trying to explain to others about his depression, “It is almost impossible to convey to a person who has not had depression what it’s like. It’s not obvious like a broken arm, or a fever . . . it’s beneath the surface. A depressed person suffers a type of anguish which in its own way can be as painful as anything that can happen to a human being. His brain permits him no rest. His mood is low, he has little energy, and can hardly remember what pleasure means.”[1]

One Sunday, C.H. Spurgeon shocked 5,000 listeners when he said, “I am the subject of depressions of spirit so fearful that I hope none of you ever gets to such extremes of wretchedness as I go to.” Historians think Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, Martin Luther, and Winston Churchill had recurrent bouts with depression. Churchill called it the black dog. A recent book focused on what the author called Lincolns melancholy.

So what is depression like? Someone I can’t properly cite said it well.

Depression is

Debilitating, defeating,

Deepening gloom.

Trudging wearily through

The grocery store,

Unable to make a simple choice,

Or to count out correct change.

Work undone,

And not being able to lift a finger.

Doubting that God cares,

Doubting in my prayers,

Doubting He’s even there.

Sitting, staring wild-eyed into space,

Desperately wanting out of the human race.

Sounds a bit like David in Psalm 143. Actually, I think what is described is rather common – even among those who serve God. So my observations aren’t for the one who has not endured or will never endure the “darkness” David described. The validity of clinical depression as a diagnosis is not my topic. It is rather to say . . . you can survive, prevail and overcome! Your dark personal pain can be the springboard to another dimension in God.

Surviving and finding God in your dark place isn’t glitzy. I have no trite answers. Well-meaning people offered me advice like, “Pray your way through it,” or the more frustrating, “What is wrong with you? You have a wonderful life – give God praise!” At one time, I gave similar suggestions; a man presenting travel directions to a place I’d never been. Having been to the dark place, I can now provide a better travel guide. Several things helped me survive my dark place . . . (More of them later – today only 1.)

A vital remedy:  Praying the Psalms aloud. A depressed person does not feel like praying and almost certainly does not know how to pray. Pray anyway! How? Read Psalms – to yourself and to God; except read them out loud. It works. Actually, Author Eugene Peterson believes this is the way the Psalms were meant to be read. In the dark place, I borrowed from the nakedly honest feelings of the Psalmist and as I read aloud they became my own. Interestingly, every Psalm that begins by expressing dark thoughts closes with praise and worship.

Perhaps my observations about this are not real. Maybe, me, Jonah, David and Elijah are the lone candidates to have an interest in reading this sort of information, but perhaps not.  If you’ve dealt with the ‘dark place’ I’m interested in hearing from you.  What have been your solutions?  What remedies did not work?  What (if anything) precipitated your fall into this swamp? 

 


[1] P. 109 Margin: Restoring Emotional, Physical, Financial, and Time Reserves to Overloaded Lives – By: Richard A. Swenson, M.D.

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Five MUST Buy NEW Books at 2012 General Conference,

The word “new” includes books published in 2011 and 2012.  I’ll explain why each book should be bought and give some strengths and weaknesses.  You then look them over and decide whether the book is for you.

Pull of the Future

  1. The Pull of the Future by J.T. Pugh – We discovered more of the late Bro. Pugh’s writing and also some audio materials.  Warning  – these chapters are compelling and in some ways indicting.  Bro. Pugh lived pursuing the future. He never quite settled down to normal.  This particular book is not filtered as much as The Battered Stake published in 2011.  You can hear his voice and track his wanderings as he flowed toward his destination.  Visit the PPH display at General Conference to buy the book.  It is also available on Kindle.
  2. Among the Reapers by various church planters – This material comes straight from the Church Planters UPCI Facebook group. It has seven chapters gathered according to topic and answers from a 2 hour online “Q & A” with Church Planter David Bernard. Contributors are Apostolic.  It includes material from Scott Phillips, Art Wilson, Lee Stephens, Rex Deckard and dozens more. This is challenging, and practical.  Recommended for current or future church planters and those who’d like a better understanding of the exciting things happening in the world of kingdom growth here in North America. Visit the PPH display.  Available on Kindle
  3. The How and Why Compilation on USB by Carlton L. Coon Sr.  I like a bargain and think you do.  I like practical application and think you do. So I’m free to encourage you to look at this less expensive approach to my three “How and Why” books. The How and Why of New Convert Care, . . . of Follow-up Visitation and .  . . of Hospitality are collected on a cutting edge credit card styled USB drive.  The cost for the USB is 1/3 less in cost than the three books and you have approval to print multiple copies to better train your church and team.  A bargain and a blessing! Available at PPH or Truth-Publications.com.  The books are also in print and available at both sites and will soon be on Kindle.  Recommended to anybody who is interested in church growth.
  4. The Battered Stake by J. T. Pugh – This was printed in 2011.  So far we’ve had three reprints. It has been a best-seller on Kindle.  J.T. Pugh had a unique perspective on the work of the Lord.  He believed and felt to take action for this message to be advanced to the four corners of the earth.  He was particularly focused on expanding the churches in North America.  This one needs to be in your library.  Available on Kindle and at PPH. 
  5. Ostrich for your mamaYou Wouldn’t Want an Ostrich for Your Mama by Carlton L. Coon Sr. – This is about maturing your spiritual young. The Lord spoke to Job about the inadequacies of the maternal instincts of an ostrich. She simply has no interest in caring for her young. This book includes thoughts about how a young man named Mephibosheth was permanently lamed by a nurse’s haste.  Is your church an ostrich church?  It doesn’t have to be!  What percentage of those you convert are around five years later?  How many of them are actively involved in ministry?  We need a “NO MORE OSTRICHES!”  campaign to make sure every church is ready to take care of those who are spiritually new born.  This and my book Master-Full Preaching – restoring the place of good news preaching respond to great needs in the modern church.  You Wouldn’t Want an Ostrich for Your Mama is available at PPH Sales, on Kindle or at Truth-Publications.com
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How to Be A Person of Significant Impact!

What gets pushed off your deck?  Little decisions and attitudes are definitive. What is it that you push as an ideal? What ideas get advanced?  What people get pressed?

  1. As a district leader, is dinner with the district superintendent more important than being with a young person or a newly licensed preacher?
  2. Is the present- “what is”  more important than what “shall be” the future?
  3. Is the program more important than the people?

file7471288042374Suppose you were the captain of a huge aircraft carrier out in the South China Sea. Your crewmen suddenly alert you that a small plane is approaching. The message tells you that it is South Vietnamese, and the plane is running out of fuel. The plane must land on your deck or be lost in the sea. The pilot says aboard are himself, his wife, and their five children. They are escaping from North Vietnam. There is one small problem. There is no room on the deck for the small plane and no time to relocate the other planes to some other place on the carrier.

What would you do?

More important, in the situations listed above what ARE you doing?  Big impact comes from situations that seem insignificant in the moment.  It depends on making room for other people to land!

In the South China Sea, the captain of the aircraft carrier pushed three multi-million-dollar aircraft into the water. He listened to his heart – people mattered more.  Few of us are faced with situations like the captain faced in the South China Sea, but we are faced with opportunities to choose to make an impact.  Some ideas:

  • Pay attention to children.  Listen to them, talk to them, shake hands with them, speak truth to them repetitively. In a few days they will be adults.
  • Invest in those who are starting.  Young people, students, young preachers – I know we who have been alive for over 50 years have most of the leadership slots, but in a few decades someone who is not 18 will be District Superintendent.  You have the opportunity to clear the deck of your life to make room for that person to land their plane.
  • Those who visit your church this weekend are looking for a place to land. Did you push some stuff out of the way to make room for them?  Some of them would love to go to Taco Bell to have lunch with you.
  • College students who are new to your town, and immigrants often love to have someone like you engage with their life.

Perhaps some sitting in an office in Washington criticized the pilot for listening to his heart.  If you do the things described you’ll be misunderstood and likely considered strange.  You are in good company.  Jesus had similar critics.

What are the things and the people who took time, pushing other things aside to influence you?  Who are you taking time and pushing less important things aside to invest in?

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How to Pick YOUR Mentor

The best book I’ve read on the subject of Mentor/Protégé relationships is Mentoring by Bob Biehl.  If you are going to read only one book on the topic – this is the best!

 

Biehl defines mentoring as a lifelong relationship, in which a mentor helps a protege reach her or his God-given potential. bobbbiehl.com/index.html also deserves a visit.

Have you ever walked through an airport terminal and stepped onto a moving sidewalk? Suddenly you are whizzing along at two or three times your normal pace, even though you are keeping the same stride. It’s amazing. Others who choose not to use the moving sidewalk are putting equal energy into moving forward but you are getting there quicker.

 

I know each reader is an extra-ordinary person who doesn’t need much help but that “moving sidewalk” is the perfect analogy of why all can benefit from a mentor.  file000110208443

 

  • It helps pick up the pace of your personal development.
  • A mentor can save time and energy as you reach your goals.
  • Progress accelerates because the mentor knows things you don’t know.
  • A mentor reads and will recommend books and authors that are not familiar to you. 
  • He/she opens doors you could never budge.

Most important a mentor asks you questions and gives perspectives that you may have never considered.

You may be making progress already as you move through life, but when you partner with the mentor, your pace will quicken. Don’t go another day  without getting connected with those you can learn from.

How can this help?  An example of how one’s perspective can be expanded.  A time back I reviewed an article in which church planter/pastor Wayne Huntley was talking about this subject. Wayne Huntley is not a novice.  He has been around a bit.  In the article, he made an interesting observation concerning the changing ministerial realities saying, we need better listening skills. Just as the head of the body has to receive signals from the body . . . the Body of Christ sends signals to the pastor. As ministers we need to be trained to receive information from the congregation. A dictatorial style of pastoring is not going to succeed in the next millennium, because people of this age have been trained to think and to express their ideas. The word from a trusted and proven preacher is like what you’d gain from a mentor.

 

You need voices of that sort speaking into your life.  J. T. Pugh’s book The Pull of the Future has a section about Disciple Abuse, (available at PentecostalPublishingHouse.com and on Kindle) he spoke of those who attempt to make every person just like them.  This is not what your mentor needs to be.  

 

Who do you select to be your mentors:

  1. One who has a track record of being effective.
  2. The person is willing to be an influencer and you have some access and get a response by email or in some other way.  (The closer access the better.)
  3. Someone who can keep your confidences.
  4. A person of whom you can ask questions without that person being judgmental.
  5. One who you anticipate will press you back to the Bible for answers and principles to any question you have.
  6. Someone who is where you want to go.  Planting a church – find a proven church planter to be a mentor. A young preacher who wants to be a better communicator – should find a veteran preacher who communicates well (particularly who communicates well at the local church level), first pastorate – plug into a pastoral veteran, etc.

 

What are some other things you feel important for one who is selecting a mentor?

Now, get the dialogue started.  The scripture has much to say about learning from elders. One resource you may wish to consider to connect to an older preacher is Elder, Tell Me Your Memories.  It helps by giving some questions you can ask and getting the conversation started.

 

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How Many Turtles Have You EVER Seen on a Fence Post?

 

Paul’s “imitate” me as I imitate Christ has helped me to be comfortable finding effective people and imitating productive aspects of their character and behavior.  It may be able to do the same for you.

Here is how real world mentor/protégé relationships worked for me:

Mentored to deal with people situations

One man I chose to “imitate” is a veteran pastor. When I was a young pastor and faced situations came for which I had little frame of reference, I would pray and examine scripture for the principles involved. From these, I’d develop a strategy for responding to this particular dilemma.

At that point, I’d call my elder – in this instance my uncle named Crawford Coon; lay out the situation and ask for his suggestion on how to respond. After he gave his insight we would talk about my planned response. At times my plan was workable; more often, he helped me see it from another perspective. After consulting with him I’d pray and take whatever action was needed.

As the years passed my own bank of experiences increased. I called Crawford less often. Yet, it has not been many years since I again found myself again calling on him for insight about a situation unlike any I’d faced.  The relationship did not eliminate the heavy lifting, but it did make sure I was working as smart as possible.

Mentored to have sustainable revival

Other people helped me focus on revival. Often it was more by observation than from being “bosom buddies.” I’ve been in the home of G.A. Mangun only a few times yet the Mangun family became models to imitate–models of revival living, work ethic, faith and personal growth. Their focus on prayer was applied. Evangelism took root. Much of what I learned was by observation from afar. I’ve already written about some of the things I learned from G. A. Mangun.

Mentored to lead

An effective district superintendent let me (and other younger men) look over his shoulder. What insight we gained from those glances into the experience of leadership. By observation, he taught me how to keep my mouth shut; that there were some battles to fight and some to ignore.

It was not natural or easy to “imitate” any of these men. As the years have passed . . . what was at one point imitation has now become part of my own approach to life and ministry. It could be that eventually someone even imitates me – now, that is something of a scary thought.

Reflfile0001777212593ections on Seeking Mentors

  • Don’t expect your mentor to be perfect or to even agree with your mentor on every topic.
  • Practicing what has been modeled is not natural or easy. It takes a determined and decided effort.  After a time, the material becomes your own.
  • You will need more than one mentor. Every person has strengths and weaknesses. Bring people into your life and learn from their strengths.
  • As time passes, the list of those who influence you will change. As growth comes one needs to find leaders who have traveled the path that now lies immediately ahead. This means reaching out for new voices with fresh perspective.  Some of the influencers of another era will be set aside by circumstances and various situations.  Some will disappoint you. Yet, you have gained from their input.

I’m so grateful for the men who have been part of my life. Men who have allowed me to “tag along” watching what they did. Someone said, “If you ever see a turtle on a fence post . . . you know he didn’t get there by himself.” I’ve never seen a turtle on a fence-post. I don’t know any who have, but I understand that few will rise to what we could be without bringing into life some men we choose to imitate. There are some people around you who know “how” . . . ask them and observe them. They will be your greatest help!file000807924215

 

Now who will you go too?  At some point, I’ve thought of hosting “A Pastor’s School.”  Do you suppose there would be interest in such a thing?

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Flows of Influence–Up, Down and All Around

(This is a continuation of observations about the compelling need for life mentors. It began earlier here http://truth-publications.com/who-are-you-copying-off-of/ a bit earlier.  If nothing else, perhaps I can educate you about some of my own mistakes – as a protégé and as a mentor.)

Mentor was a man who made a long-term impact on Odyssius son Telemachus.  His effort lasted 20 years.  It was a long-term investment. Influence does not happen over a weekend or is the result of a single sermon.  There is investment and observation. Two questions to consider:

  • Who is influencing you?  Should they be in that role? Is their doctrine solid and clear – it not – don’t let that person’s doctrine affect you.  Because one’s doctrinal position on things is so important it might be wise to actually have that person’s influence diminish.  
  • Who are you influencing?  Timothy was only 28 years old when Paul instructed him to take what he’d been given and give it to other faithful men who’d pass it on to other faithful men.  Younger people are to be influencers!

Several things are challenging realities in all this: 

There are no perfect men for mentors Mourning

This pursuit of “mentors” has some challenges for us because we seek perfection. Even turning to the scripture to find real-world help is surprising. It is amazing how non-heroic the characters of scripture are. These guys are not models of virtue: Abraham lied; Jacob cheated; Moses murdered; David committed adultery; Peter blasphemed. There is none good but one! There was only one who was perfect.

We must get beyond “I’m looking for perfection.” If perfection is the prerequisite for mentoring; none qualify. Mentors must be allowed to be recipients of grace.

  • Martin Luther, a powerful influencer of the first step in the reformation, had angry outbursts.
  • John Wesley influenced many men but suffered through an extremely difficult marriage.
  • Charles Spurgeon struggled with such deep depression he would go to a country home for months on end.

Don’t be so idealistic that you seek for mentors without weaknesses. All people have clay feet . . . allow it to be . . . expect it to be.  All have received God’s good grace.  Great strengths are often represented by glaring weaknesses.

Mentors ARE Needed

Someone wrote, “The fathers we choose are more important than the father we are born to.” I’m blessed by my biological heritage, however there were some things I needed to learn from men other than L.C. Coon. I chose some “fathers.” As the years pass – those relationships change. Let me offer some suggestions for selecting mentors – the people from whom we learn “how.”

It is important to ask ourselves:

  • Is what they are doing working to accomplish the Lord Jesus Christ’s purpose in the land?  How so? Can you point to some specific people who have been converted and discipled as a result of their effort?
  • Is what they are doing making a difference? Don’t waste your time with people who can tell you the best fly for a particular stream but the church they lead has no ongoing prayer program . . . or no outreach effort.
  • Do I want to become what that person is?  You become what you spend time with and tend to lean in the direction you look.

If it does not fit or is ineffective, why would I want to repeat someone else’s mistakes?

For me . . . consciously or sub-consciously I sought out men who had not “settled” for average.  Those men became advisors with whom I would consult in various situations.

Don’t try to go this alone.  There are too many people from whom you can learn.  Call, contact and connect – ask questions – apply, try out the deep things these people are doing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Who are You Copying Off Of?

(My ramblings will bounce over to the compelling need for life mentors. If nothing else, perhaps I can educate you about some of my own mistakes – as a protégé and as a mentor.)Man on Stairs

In life and ministry, one can be overwhelmed by the “how” question.

  • We often passionately know “what” to do! An example – “win the lost.”  We know that is what we are to do.
  • We even know “why” we should do a thing! An example – “win the lost because it is the ministry of reconciliation” we are to accomplish.
  • We don’t know “how” to get it done. If we know what and why – how is it that we so often flounder about.

We just don’t know how!

Paul answers the “how” question in this way, “Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ.” (1 Corinthians 11:1) Paul’s word for follow is not to just walk behind; it means to “imitate.” Paul said, “Be ye imitators of me . . ..” Paul was encouraging the people in Corinth to . . . do thing like I do them.  Consider this: 

While imitation means that what one is doing is not natural to you – it is following a pattern that has proven effective for someone else.

file0001913743868Imitation is mimicking what has proven to be effective for another person. If I could swing a golf club like Phil Mickelson (and adhere to his work ethic) . . . might the same results be accomplished?

What about in ministry?  Some of the most effective men you will ever meet observed someone else’s effectiveness and decided to attempt to replicate those efforts.  Derald Weber is building a church in Lafayette, Louisiana. As a teenager, Derald Weber’s model was his pastor, the late G.A. Mangun. Derald will dislike me using his name in the same sentence with G.A. Mangun – but Derald observed “how” and applied “how” until the “how” became his own. Is it wise to be so much an individualist that I am unwilling to apply the wisdom & insight others have gained. 

There are huge implications of being an “imitator” in ministry. I’m aware my use of the words “copy,””mimic” and “imitate” are likely grating on our rugged North American individuality.  America’s national anthem should be changed to Frank Sinatra’s I Did it My Way.  We’d rather be a poor original than to mimic even the great apostle Paul. 

Actually, a word we may be more comfortable with is “mentor.” According to Greek literature, when Odyssius when to fight in the Trojan War, he left his young son, Telemachus, in the care of a guardian named Mentor. The siege of Troy lasted ten years, and then it took Odyssius another ten years to get home. When Odyssisus arrived back in Greece, he found that Telemachus had grow into a mature and productive man–thanks to Mentor’s wise training. Mentor had spent the twenty years of Odyssisus absence showing Telemachus “how” to deal with life’s realities. A mentor – someone from whom we learn “how.” So who functions as a father figure (in the best sense of the term) in your life?  Who is fundamentally influencing you? Whose paper are you copying off of?  Someone who has learned the answers. 

We do need mentors that we can mimic.  Who are the effective people from whom you have learned? Who will you add to the list of those you can learn from? 

 

(An aside – my first published books were on “How and Why.”  The How and Why of New Convert Care, The How and Why of Follow-Up Visitation and The How and Why of Hospitality.  All three have been reformatted and republished and are available here at Truth-Publications.com.  Also, all three books are available on a less expensive USB drive http://truth-publications.com/product/how-and-why-usb-compilation/)

 

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How to Reduce Your Pastoral Counseling Load & Be More Effective

Counseling de-energizes me.  I realize there are times when counseling is necessary, but I didn’t seem to have a great return on the investment of time and energy.  Here are some discoveries I made.

1. Over the pew counseling.  When someone at church said, “I need to set an appointment to get your counsel.”  I’d point to a place away from others and say,  “Let’s sit down right over here and see if this is file0001305006092something we can talk about here.”  Many times the situation was minor and my help could be given in 5 minutes talking across a pew.  When a situation requires an appointment for a  counseling session in the pastor’s office, it being an appointment and in the pastor’s office indicates it is now quite serious – and must take quite a bit of time.

2. Don’t let somebody else’s long-term ongoing mess that suddenly becomes an  emergency mess up your dinner plans. On occasion, long-term problems boil out of control and seem to require immediate attention at the counseling E.R.  Most of these “emergencies” are not emergencies at all. You know the people you serve. Don’t change your plans to be accessible to respond to long-term situations that are not going to be fixed in a few minutes.

3.  Never counsel with anybody who has not gone to prayer about the issue at hand. I had counselees arrive at the church 30 minutes before our meeting.  They were given a simple counseling prayer work sheet with several questions where they were to write their answers during 30 minutes of prayer:

  • What is the issue or challenge that brings you here today.
  • What options do you see to respond to the issue or challenge?
  • After prayer, what do you feel the Bible and Jesus would have you do in response to the situation?
  • What do you plan to do as your next step of action to resolve this problem.

The worksheet then became the guide for our conversation. Often, the person got their answer while in prayer and cancelled their appointment.

If you would like a digital copy of the form I used it can be provided – signup for the Truth Publications mailing list over to the right and it will be sent to you.

4.  Teach practical Bible insight on life. Bible answers are the solution to life’s problems. To give people my insight is to give human wisdom; the Bible is full of the wisdom of God.  Which do you suppose is better?  Jay Adams books on pastoral care give insight on what he calls Nouthetic Counseling.  He observes that pastoral and Christian counseling should give Bible solutions.  For whatever counseling you will do – his approach has my recommendation.  An easy link to look over Jay Adams material on Amazon comes by clicking the picture below.

5.  A five minute rule at the end of church. Every church, no matter how young has someone, (usually several) who immediately stand in line saying, “Pastor, I need to see you for a minute.”  Those people need attention, but the moments right after church are when the pastor needs to be touching the people he wants to touch, instead of the needy few.  Institute a 5 minute rule, “For the first five minutes after church, talk to somebody you do not know, or do not know well.”  This gives you – the pastor – time to get out to the people you really want to connect with.  You will have to remind people of “The Five Minute Rule” almost every service.

I’m sure many of you enjoy the counseling setting.  If so, build ministry around it, others of you have found ways similar to what I’ve described above. I’d like to hear things you have put to work.

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Things Learned from G.A. Mangun

The late G.A. Mangun was my pastor for only a few months. He was our presbyter for over 50 years.  I learned from him – by observation, which led to my poor efforts at duplication.

gamangun

I learned:  get on message and stay on message. At every sectional meeting, G.A. Mangun had a message, “Pray, fast & reach the lost.” This was the message at every meeting! I learned, “Repetition is the mother of learning.”  I later apply the principles of prayer-chains and focused prayer that I learned from him.

In the late 70’s, Sis. Mangun heard me preach a youth rally in Colfax, Louisiana. She suggested to Bro. Mangun that I preach a weekend at Alexandria. I didn’t add anything; but how much I learned that weekend. It was shortly after the Jim Jones debacle in Guyana. The weekend I was there a lady had written a letter to the newspaper likening Bro. Mangun to cult leader Jim Jones. If that were not enough, that week a high profile fellow in the church had abandoned his wife and children.

That Sunday you would not have known there was a letter in the newspaper, and you’d have thought every saint in Alexandria was doing well. No doubt both situations were hurtful, but you would have not known there was a thing wrong.  I learned – don’t let other people’s negative stuff affect your worship or leadership.

That same Sunday, after the evening service Bro. Mangun gave Norma and me to the care of someone in the church. He took a sinner couple who had visited to get a bite at Howard Johnson’s. Whoever hosted us took us to Howard Johnson’s as well. There was Bro. Mangun unabashedly spending his time on reaching for the lost. His behavior matched his message. I learned – that reaching to sinners is more important than any visiting preacher.

G.A. Mangun was never boring. From wildly decorated church buses to his radical focus on reaching people – he did things that pushed the envelope. I’m sure, some things didn’t work but G.A. Mangun did not focus on what did not work. He celebrated what had worked and was working. I learned – it is to have a personality, to try different things and to accept that everybody isn’t going to like it.

I learned that he expected people to be converted EVERY week. Bro. Mangun wasn’t waiting on a special event or evangelist to come to Alexandria. The lost would be preached to every week. It worked for him and later it worked for me. I practice that approach to this day. Masterful Preaching is my book that attempts to reclaim the concept of preaching to the lost. If you are interested in owning the book . . . click here.

We pastored a very young church In Vidalia, LA.  It was a church less than two years-old with a handful of people. Bro. and Sis. Mangun came as “pinch-hitters” for our ill district superintendent. There would have been more in the Youth Sunday School Class in Alexandria than were in that special service in Vidalia, but the Manguns rocked the place. That night we baptized Curtis Thornton’s dad in Jesus Name. Curtis had been our first convert in Vidalia. I learned – don’t let the size of a crowd affect how you minister; every soul counts.

I learned from G.A. Mangun that whatever else you are asked to do, the local church is the main thing. In later years, he and Sis. Mangun would say to me and others, “Don’t do this like we did it.” They didn’t miss Sundays in Alexandria to preach for anybody or do anything. Learning from them, for years our family vacation was Monday through Saturday. Sunday was the main thing, and it was time to be home.

Finally, at the memorial service for a man of huge impact, I noticed people from Central Louisiana walk by in everything from an expensive suits bought at Jerry Lee’s Menswear to their best pair of khakis or jeans.  One gentleman had on his best overalls. To G.A. Mangun – a soul, was a soul, was a soul; every soul was important.  He pastored them all. He loved them all.

I wish I’d pay more attention and that I’d had more time  – there is much more I could have learned. Things I did learn:

GA mangun 21. Get on message – stay on message!

2. Don’t let negative things affect worship or leadership.

3. Reaching sinners is more important than most other things.

4. God’s work doesn’t have to be vanilla.

5.  Plan to see people converted EVERY week. Preach in a way where they can!

6.  Don’t let the size of the audience affect how you minister.

7.  The local church you lead is the main thing.

8.  Love the saints . . . love the people.

Some of you will have learned stuff from G.A. Mangun that I did not have the privilege to learn. You spent more time closer to his fire. Please add to my poor array in the comment section below.

Added note from C. Coon.  I don’t have the insight, focus or sacrificial mindset G.A. Mangun possessed.  I do have a book (written tongue in cheek) that addresses Questions Pentecostal Preachers Ask.

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How to Be a Person AND a Parson

The synthetic pales in comparison to the genuine. Fake people take on the value of costume jewelry. A danger exists for those living on the mountain of ministry. It is the error of acting like one is an actor on a stage . . . publicly playing a role.  Some things to consider

In the book, Mastering Pastoral Care Doug Self observes (by the way – the entire “Mastering” series are a good read):

Confusing one’s personal identity with one’s professional role is a danger . . .. It is possible to “play” the pastoral role too thoroughly. If people in other professions did it, we’d laugh. Imagine the local fire chief shopping at the grocery store. He wears his heavy fireman’s coat and hat with visor, as he pushes his grocery cart around, he encounters neighbors, saying, “Hey George. Keeping that chimney clean?” or , “Hello, Mary, I thought I saw one of your boys playing with matches the other day. You need to keep a closer watch on them . . . don’t you think.”

We would all perceive that man as one-dimensional, always conscious of being the fire chief and focusing all his relationships accordingly. People would soon tire of him. I think they would soon start running when they say him coming.

Our conversations can be such that they never stray from the “churchy. Somehow my prophetic crescendo does not seem to impress my wife or the kids. You see, it is dangerous if I become convinced of the merit of what someone called, “my sanctified baloney.” Perceiving myself as somehow a cut above the rest of God’s humanity is a recipe for alienation.

 

The first rule of care giving is “take care of the care-giver.” Five things warrant consideration:

  1. Understand the nature of your role. Some people are beyond your help. Jesus had a Judas. Put ministry in perspective. You won’t keep them all. People will come . . . and some will go.
  2. Accept outside help for both your physical and emotional needs. Rest, relaxation, laughter and friends are key components to survival. Don’t destroy yourself with overload.
  3. Admit your feelings, including your frustrations. A mother told her crying daughter that God was near and she did not need to be afraid. To which the little girl whimpered out, “Right now, I need God with skin on.” There are times when all of us need “God with skin on.” Telling somebody about your disaster is not lack of faith. Go back and read the Psalms . . . expressing frustration was a major component in David’s writing. (Caveat: For obvious reasons, one needs to be careful about who they share their frustrations with.)
  4. Enjoy the good times and things that are part of what God has called you into. What fills your spirit? Rather than spending all of your time on aspects of ministry that drain . . . spend significant time on the parts of ministry you enjoy.
  5. Know your limits. There is a danger in constantly keeping one’s nose to the grindstone. Jesus invited his disciples to “come apart and to rest.” Vance Havner said, “We either come apart to rest or we just come apart.”

Doing what shepherds do: feeding, leading, seeking the wandering and healing the hurting can be draining. Finally, it has been beneficial to me . . . as both a parent and pastor to call on a wise person outside of my circumstances. The late Robert Trapani was a blessing as we struggled with certain aspects of parenting. He helped us put things in perspective. On other occasions, when the care-giving component of ministry had stretched us to the breaking point . . . it was good to have an elder to unload on.

None of us can afford to be less than real. From time to time to take off the proverbial priests robes . . . and the collar turned backwards. Be real . . . in laughter and in sorrow. Emotion is not above us, nor is it beneath us. Our church and culture cannot afford for us to be a parson and not also be a person.

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Five Steps in a Preacher’s (Anybody’s) Quiet Time. Do Preacher’s Not Pray?

file0001123125139I’m not sure why – but nobody ever taught me to pray. I became a preacher without having much of a prayer life or even prayer understanding.  I heard people pray and my parents had family devotion where we’d gather for prayer.  Dad always started praying with the words, “Our most gracious heavenly father . . . “ So some of it did stick. Perhaps I was daydreaming the days they taught the Sunday School class on “how” to pray. Thankfully, this did change and while today I’d not define myself as a man of prayer, it is better.  Let me share some things that worked for me.

I’d add a caveat.  There is nothing new.  A book that helped me was Bill Hybels Too Busy Not to Pray.  I suggest you pick it up.  Of course you can also order it from Amazon by clicking here somewhere.

Too Busy Not to Pray: Slowing Down to Be with God

What Hybels material really  helped me with was that writing or journaling my prayer was a better place to rather than verbalizing them.

1. Slow down and begin with yesterday –   Psalms often has the word, “Selah” meaning pause and consider this.  Our modern hectic culture allows very few “Selah” moments. To get things stopped in order to prepare to pray I write a single paragraph about yesterday’s events.  It forces some review and thinking about yesterday.  What is there to celebrate?  What came into my world that I need to talk to Jesus about.

2. Adoration – write a single paragraph of adoration to and about Jesus.  Now, this is not as easy as it seems it should be.  It is easy to get into the routine of offering adoration about the same things. To combat this narrow consideration of God and His greatness, I use some sort of devotional book that expresses wonder about who Jesus is.  It may require me reading several devotions before something resonates, but when it does I write a paragraph about this specific aspect of the nature of God.  My favorite books on the nature of God are five volumes by Charles J. Rolls.  These books are out of print, but on occasion can be found at Amazon or American Book Exchange.  I’m including the links for Amazon at the bottom of this post.

After I all Rolls’ stuff I started using G. Campbell Morgan’s Searchlight from the Word.  It takes a bit more daily reading to get to something that is adoration.  Still good stuff though.

3. Confession – no book is needed here. A single paragraph confessing my faults, failings and fears.

4. Thanksgiving – no book needed here either.  A paragraph of gratitude. Doing this each day helps me scratch beneath the surface and to be grateful for His MANY blessings to me.

5.  Supplication – My written petition – “God save our lost son . . . He needs you.  Save him now. Save my grandsons.” Then on to specific needs that I’m aware of.

A.C.T.S. – Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, Supplication

My prayer grew from this foundation to  using Bible to pray God’s will for children.  Again, there are books available to help with this.

The last portion of my prayer time is with my hands lifted.  Paul said he wanted men everywhere to worship (prayer is included in the idea expressed by the Greek word) lifting holy hands without wrath and doubting.  Lifting one’s hands is an act of surrender.  You can’t be in charge and have your hands up at the same time. Paul also indicated this was to be prayer/surrender without wrath.

“Without wrath” – wrath has to do with what has already happened.  With hands lifted I can surrender any and all bad that I’m angry about.  I let go of my anger . . . surrendering it – hands lifted

“Without doubt” has reference to the future. We don’t doubt for yesterday, we doubt for tomorrow. Yesterday is a known, tomorrow is an unknown. With hands lifted I turn loose of the uncertainty of the future.  I’ll walk into it “without doubt.”

You talk about cleansing the spirit and mind – this last bit, built on the foundation of what has preceded – gets one ready to tackle about anything.

Final two components – listening for and to God.  What is the spirit saying to me?  What is the spirit saying to the church? Digging in for some time with the word of God.

Now . . . I’ve shared – how do you pray?  What has worked?  My prayer is relatively structured compared to many.  I’m interested to learn . . .

<a href=”http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B002K7DIU0/ref=as_li_tf_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=B002K7DIU0&linkCode=as2&tag=truthpublicat-20″>The name above every name, (His The names and titles of Jesus Christ) by Rolls</a><img src=”http://www.assoc-amazon.com/e/ir?t=truthpublicat-20&l=as2&o=1&a=B002K7DIU0″ width=”1″ height=”1″ border=”0″ alt=”” style=”border:none !important; margin:0px !important;” />

IS2=1&lt1=_blank&m=amazon&lc1=0000FF&bc1=000000&bg1=FFFFFF&f=ifr’,’frameborder’:’0′,’marginwidth’:’0′,’scrolling’:’no’},’hspace’:null,’vspace’:null,’align’:null,’bgcolor’:null}” />

<a href=”http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B008YKMFOC/ref=as_li_tf_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=B008YKMFOC&linkCode=as2&tag=truthpublicat-20″>Rolls, Charles J.’s Time’s Noblest Name: L, M, N, O (Names and Titles of Jesus Christ) Revised edition by Rolls, Charles J. published by Loizeaux Brothers [Paperback] (1985)</a><img src=”http://www.assoc-amazon.com/e/ir?t=truthpublicat-20&l=as2&o=1&a=B008YKMFOC” width=”1″ height=”1″ border=”0″ alt=”” style=”border:none !important; margin:0px !important;” />

 

<a href=”http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B000K4UN58/ref=as_li_tf_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=B000K4UN58&linkCode=as2&tag=truthpublicat-20″>The Name Above Evry Name: The names and Titles of Jesus Christ P, Q, R, S</a><img src=”http://www.assoc-amazon.com/e/ir?t=truthpublicat-20&l=as2&o=1&a=B000K4UN58″ width=”1″ height=”1″ border=”0″ alt=”” style=”border:none !important; margin:0px !important;” />

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How To Be an Effective Bi-Vocational Pastor

Over half of all pastors are “tent makers.” I’ve been there, done that – and have the t-shirt and sweat shirt from several seasons of bi-vocational ministry. If a full-time pastors thinks life a challenge . . . consider the juggling act of the bi-vocational pastor. Balancing God, family, ministry and the “other job” necessary to keep bills paid is not easy. man digging with shovel

Bi-vocational challenges are real . . .. Things like:

 

  • Feeling less significant than someone who is a full-time pastor.
  • Feeling “less accomplished” because of limited hours for ministry.
  • Not being able to attend sectional, district or national meetings. “Seasons of refreshing” are not readily available.
  • Time-management is a challenge. The public presentation is part of it  but what about the unseen: particularly the time needed to marinate one’s brain in God’s word.

Let me give you several observations.

  1. No stigma is EVER to be attached to being bi-vocational. Amos and Paul were bi-vocational. Many faithful men of God drive a truck or handle a nail-gun forty hours a week.
  2. Never discount “real” world living. Much I know about leadership and dealing with people was learned from a corporate setting. All work is “as unto the Lord.” Christianity is lived in the market place of life!
  3. Any who “rank” pastors based on whether they are “full time” need to read Jesus’ teaching regarding “true greatness” (Luke 9:46-48). For 38 years my late Grandfather was a pastor . . . at the same time driving a school bus. He is a hero. I’ll never be the shepherd H.B. Frazier was. In spite of being a working pastor, he served people well.

Two decades ago, Focus on the Family’s, The Parsonage had “Tips From Bi-Vocational Pastors.” These still work.

Prioritize — “Decide what are  high priority tasks.” Pastoring with limited time and energy means you must identify the greatest needs of the congregation and minister to them. Bi-vocational pastors should beware of trying to have a “full-service” ministry. You cannot do everything, so you must have a clear focus on what you will do.

parent playing with kidCalendar family time — Don’t just schedule it – calendar it.  If something is on the calendar it is less likely to get written out. Intentionally set aside time for your spouse and kids. Families can suffer when a pastor has two jobs.

Fellowship with other preachers — Many times, bi-vocational pastors are “out of the loop.” Full-time pastors, please be mindful of this. Pass on cds, dvds, book and other materials . . . and invite a bi-vocational pastor to lunch. 

 

Additional insight about bi-vocational ministry is from Pastor Donald Bryant (Slidell, Louisiana):

1. Guard your attitude. It can be hard for those “called into ministry” to accept the fact that they must work a “secular” job. It  can lead to bitterness; crippling one’s ministry.

2. Don’t neglect your physical, emotional, spiritual and mental health. Those who burn the candle at both ends are likely to run out of wick!

3. Develop a realistic plan. Unless you prefer (and some do) to be bi-vocational, you need a realistic plan for how you transition to full-time ministry. This includes minimize your debt and standard of living. If you spend all your cash flow you will never be able to leave the secular job.

 

Some thoughts from my own experience:

 

Use series for preaching and teaching. Any service where you know your direction is one less decision to mull over. Going through a book of the Bible expositionally served me well.

Stay full. CD, mp3, audio-books,  and archived online preaching are readily available. We all need to be preached too and to add additional resources. Don’t “spend” time – “use” time in the car or elsewhere to keep yourself fresh. Unfocused time is not productive.

If you are full-time working for Jesus – don’t just increase your “play” time.  Establish office hours, punch the clock literally or figuratively.  Plan to give Jesus’ 50 – 60 hours of each week. 

 

Final note from research funded by a Nazarene group: Churches pastored by bi-vocational pastors are neither more nor less likely to grow than those pastored by full time pastors.

Those who work to fulfill God’s call and at the same time work to provide for a family (and often a significant part of the church’s expense) deserve double honor. I commend you . . . keep fighting the good . . . and wise fight.  You are making a difference.

 

Many of you serve as bi-vocational pastors – what has been your greatest challenge?  What has been your solution?  Your sharing your challenge and solution will help others.

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5 Steps to a Memorable Baby Dedication

Man on StairsReaching people is all about seizing opportunity. An easily overlooked opportunity is the occasion to dedicate babies. Baby dedications do not have to be a “blah” service. Give it some spice and a life beyond the event itself. I’m sure there are many good ideas I’ve never heard of. Please share your additional thoughts and give us as many practical ideas as you can. I’m a great proponent of Tom Peters concept, “Not Invented Here, but Stolen With Pride!” Any place there is a good idea that fits for me – I put the idea to work. Here are some things that worked for me.

1. As much as possible, proactively schedule the baby dedication on a Sunday that is good for getting additional people (grandparents, aunts, uncles, etc.) to attend. I tried to steer away from Easter, Mother’s Day , Father’s Day, Memorial and Labor Day. Those days either already had a focus or a significant travel weekend. Schedule the baby dedication at least three weeks in the future. These three weeks allows the parents time to invite their family members to attend. Announce the baby dedication early and often. Usually, there will be someone in the church, even the youngest of churches, who have a co-worker, neighbor or friend who is interested in “dedicating” their baby to the Lord. Cast a wide net. I did not worry about whether these parents are saved or lost – use the baby dedication as a chance to connect with the parents and to underline their parental responsibility toward their child. On an occasion or two we gave the parents cards to invite their family and friends. baby holding finger

2. Use the baby dedication to prepare to preach constructively and evangelistically to parents. Potential topics include – A. Impacting generations to come – Example: Abraham, Isaac, Jacob B. Faith Transition – Example: Timothy influenced by the unfeigned faith that was in those before him. C. Moments of decision – Example: the responsibility to parent is a hinge moment for a person to have faith, and obey the instruction to repent, be baptized in Jesus name and to be filled with the spirit.

3. Make the baby dedication personal – involve family members even if they are not part of the church. In dealing with new people, be ready for all sorts of attire, and all sorts of situations. Unwed moms, unwed dads, grandmothers who want their baby dedicated to Jesus. Remember what your goal is. It was my practice to make the baby dedication as individual as possible. I’d take the baby from parents, comment on his or her clothes, name, etc. Holding the baby I’d pray over him/her, then returning the child to parents – and would then lay hands on them. If the parents did not have their own family present I’d have someone from the church family come and stand alongside them. Make time for pictures.

4. Gifts – Norma would have a flower for Mom . . . and I’d have a “Baby’s first Bible” for Dad. A relatively inexpensive Bible we used for the gift was “Baby’s First Bible.” When I gave the fellow the Bible, I’d always instruct him to read the Bible stories to their children. I’d kid the fathers that I’d eventually be asking their kids if they’d read to them.   Try to have fun with the event.

Parents holding baby5. A personalized letter to the child, for the parents to give the child when he/she turns 16. The letter was always sealed in an envelope and on church letterhead. Parents would often ask what the letter said. My response: You’ll find out on their 16th birthday. The letters had the same basic premises, but always included a personalized paragraph or two and in some instances a hand-written note. These letters were a huge hit. A rough-up of the letter is at:  http://truth-publications.com/?p=956

If you’ve found this beneficial, or will at some point in the future pass it on to a friend. Now . . . what are you doing with baby dedications? Like you, I’m looking for new ideas to add to my tool box.

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Something More than REVIVAL!

This is a recent review of something drafted 12 years ago as the opening chapter of Master-Full Preaching – Restoring the Place of Good News Preaching. It is a bit longer than my preferred communication on the blog. However , I’m committed to the idea, “As much as we need revival, we need to consistently preach to the lost! http://truth-publications.com/product/master-full-preaching/

Does it seem that we are sometime locked in a dance of two steps forward and two steps back. Motion, without progress.

North America certainly needs revival! Revival restores, returning things to the way they were, as resuscitation revives one who is without breath. A person is back where he started. Grateful to be alive . . . but any pre-existing condition . . . still exists! Diabetes remains . . . cancer is unrelieved. General health issues are unaffected by the “revival.” They are “revived” to their former condition.

Certainly that principle is applicable to the church. Sounds great, doesn’t it? Yet, revival alone is not the answer! Revival is like a sale at a department store. Customers line up before the doors open. There is an unusual level of advertising, but the main business profit is gained by year-round daily merchandising. Around church, too many people are, “waiting on the sale.” In the New Testament church, the day of Pentecost was great, but the steady growth came as the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.

Special events make headlines, but when the last day tally is figured, it will be found that the main work was done by the faithful preaching of ordinary pastors on ordinary Sundays. It will be the lifestyle of ordinary Christians, and their ordinary soul‑winning that will have been the most effective.

Imagine being part of a church making daily impact. Not just on the occasion, but every month, every week and every day. One key to what you have imagined being a reality is found . . . in preaching! Although not just “preaching,” in the sense of a rousing sermon that cheers believers to another week of survival. It is “good news preaching.” Targeting a single soul sitting in the audience. How easy to overlook opportunity!

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Jack Hyles told about his father:

My father was an alcoholic. He died a drunkard’s death in 1950. My mother was a sweet Christian lady and I’m a product of the Sunday School. I never tasted beer, never smoked a cigarette, never said a curse word. I wanted my Dad saved and as a kid I talked to him about being saved. One night, my Dad said he would go to church. I called the pastor and said, “Would you preach on the second coming; my Dad’s coming to church?” (That was always what moved me and I thought it would move my Dad.) When we got to church, they had a choir cantata. I cried all the way through. Daddy wouldn’t come back. That was the only church service my Daddy ever attended.

The tragedy of missed opportunity.

“Pogo” is a comic strip about a delightful little creature living in a Florida swamp. Some time back Pogo was sitting with his back propped against a fallen log. An animal new to Pogo came along the trail and Pogo stopped him. He demanded the animal give his name and tell what kind of animal he was. As polite as could be, the traveler explained that he was a carrier pigeon.

Pogo was not acquainted with the species, so he asked his new acquaintance what he carried. The pigeon explained that he carried messages. Still somewhat skeptical, Pogo insisted on proof. Nothing would satisfy him but seeing a message. Confronted by Pogo’s demand, the pigeon hung his head. He explained, “I had a message, but I put it in my shoe. Done walked so long I wore a hole in my shoe, an’ lost the message through the hole.”

A messenger without a message. Is this not the plight of the preacher who proclaims no  message of hope for even a single hurting heart; a carrier pigeon who has lost his message. Revival needed, but the world “out there” needs more than revival. There needs to be a  shift from “event” and “special speaker” evangelism to the consistency of a man with a simple message.  Evangelistic preaching . . . consistent evangelistic preaching is vital.  If something of significance is to be accomplished, one cannot be as a carrier pigeon who has no message.

Exercise for application

1. Interview several pastors. Ask them about their training and preparation in studying the scripture. Find out if they think their preparation is adequate and what they would like to do to improve this aspect of their ministry.

2. Write out a paragraph expressing your ideas concerning the purpose and place of evangelistic preaching

http://truth-publications.com/product/master-full-preaching/

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If It Were Up to Me, What Would Be?

large; background-color: #ffff00;”>This is an excerpt and expansion of a chapter in If Everybody Here Were Just Like Me available at http://truth-publications.com/product/if-everybody-here-were-just-like-me/. The original series of lessons were named “The Measure of a Great Church.”

We tend to like some things in abstract. Talk about “we”, but not about “me.” My response can be, “I’d like to be part of a great church – one where Jesus would mark us a ‘10’ on things that matter to Him.” So…what must the pastor, choir and Sunday School teachers do to make our church a good church?

What is just described won’t work.

  • Good Saints Make for a Good Church
  • Great Saints Make for a Great Church
  • Mediocre Saint Make for a Mediocre Church

A great local church does not happen without people being personally committed to the behavior which makes for a great church. You have heard it:

  • Some wonder what is going on.
  • Others watch what is going on.
  • Great churches are built by people who make it happen.

Committed and faithful people are the strong, solid foundation of a great church.

A great preacher does not necessarily make for a great church – there must be great saints.  A great music program does not necessarily make for a great church – there have to be some great saints in the church.  A remarkable church building does not necessarily make for a great church – there have to be some great saints in the church. Creativity does not make a great church – there have to be some great saints in the church.

Possessing the “cool” factor does not build a great church. There must be some great believers!

Now, think about this:

 

If everybody here, were just like me . . .

What kind of church, would this church be?

Would there be any prayer going on? 

Would any Home Bible Studies be being taught?

Would our church be known as a church of praise and worship?

What are you willing to do to make your church a great church?  This is an excerpt and expansion of a chapter in If Everybody Here Were Just Like Me available at http://truth-publications.com/product/if-everybody-here-were-just-like-me/.  The original series of lessons were named “The Measure of a Great Church.”

 

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Pastor Roy Barnhill Guest Blog – “Down But I Can’t Quit”

“Down But I Can’t Quit”

 The date and place is forever etched in my memory. It was June 1985 and I was sitting alone in our 72 seating capacity sanctuary. Alone and I felt the dark depths of loneliness. I had friends but I couldn’t let down my guard and open my heart to them. I was a struggling pastor desperately trying to grow a struggling church. My wife and I were both working to keep ourselves afloat. When my pastoral friends would call to ask how my weekend went, I would tell them that I just made the weekend church deposit at the first stop light on the way home from Sunday night service. I was down – way down, but something inside me wouldn’t let me quit.

One summer my wife’s parents and her Aunt and Uncle, who pastored good churches in Missouri, came to North Carolina to visit us. As the Sunday morning service progressed, they were weeping and worshipping. Later they told us they were not crying because they were feeling the presence of the Lord but they were crying because they felt sorry for us. Now that is real encouragement!!

As I sat all alone in the sanctuary, I said, “Lord, I have heard other preachers tell about going to a camp or conference and someone came to them with a word from you. Lord, I desperately need that to happen this week at Camp Meeting”. Monday my wife, 10 year old son and I loaded up and left for camp meeting. A hand shake and back slap was the normal greeting. When ask, “how’s things going in Lumberton”, my answer was what I had learned to say. “Great Bro. Things are going great”. The smile lasted until they would turn and move on to ask somebody else the same question. Have you ever wondered, “do those who ask those questions really care how it’s going”?

Camp meeting was explosive. Gordon Mallory was the evening evangelist and a tremendous anointing was on him for the entire week. I went to camp hoping – hoping this would be my time to receive a word from the Lord. As Bro. Mallory was preaching, the Lord spoke to me and said, “will you believe what Bro. Mallory is getting ready to tell you”? At first, I thought I was just overwhelmed with my own emotions and my mind was playing a game. Again, the Lord spoke to me and said, ” will you believe what Bro. Mallory is getting ready to tell you”. I said, “Lord if this is really you, I will believe anything”. What I am about to tell you is without exaggeration. It happened just as I tell it.

At that very moment, Bro. Mallory, about halfway through his message, closed his Bible and said, “I cannot go any further”. God just spoke to me for one pastor in this place tonight”. I must be honest, it was hard to wrap my mind around what I was hearing. He had everyone stand and asked for the ministry to come and stand at the altar area. There were about 65 preachers there that night. Sweat broke out all over me. My insides were like jello and then it happened. Out of 65 preachers Bro. Mallory walked directly to me and said, “Brother, I don’t know you and have never seen you, but GOD just gave me a word for you. Will you believe it? I said, “Bro. Mallory, I will believe God for anything right now”. The prophetic word that came forth was like a bolt of lightning that surged through me. I knew at that moment, God knew where I was, what I had been going through and He let me know I was not by myself. He was going to dispatch angels all around me and nothing by any means would hurt me. I didn’t shout, talk in tongues or run the isles. I just stood there, somewhat stunned that God really did have a word for me. I cannot tell you that in the next 30 days revival surged and we filled all 72 seats. I cannot tell you that money start coming in the mail and that our financial hard times came to a screeching halt. However, I can tell you that I walked out of that camp with my head high, my heart fixed and I never doubted who I was and what God had for me.

The breakthrough that was prophesied did not come until about 4 years later. When it broke it was like a tsunami. In one year our attendance doubled as entire families were coming to God. In less than a month, 5 families came into the church and 22 years later those 5 families are still in the church along with their children and grandchildren. The weekends were now nothing to dread and we couldn’t wait for the next weekend. People kept coming and 22 years later they are still coming. I no longer do the bank deposit at the first stop light but have a full time secretary to deposit the blessings. I know the question you are wanting to ask, so I will go ahead and answer it. Yes there have been some disappointing moments since that time, however, I had a sure word of prophecy, “Nothing by any means would hurt me”. Back then when I was down, I just wouldn’t quit. Now, when family visits, their tears are tears of rejoicing with us for the blessings of God. Winners don’t Whine and only Quitters Quit!!
Roy Barnhill lives and leads in North Carolina.  He is the Southeast Regional North American Missions Director and serves as liaison to our team of North American Missions Sectional Directors.

You can email him at revrbarnhill@aol.com

 

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The Power of Imitation

To imitate another is viewed as a weakness of creativity. What an unfortunate thing that is. Paul said, “Follow me as I follow Christ,” actually Paul said, “Mimic (or imitate) me as I imitate Christ. Those who will be effective in the future find the effective and imitate their priorities, focus and traits.  My golf swing is rather a mess compared to that of professional golfers.  To improve, I’d need to imitate that golfers swing – even though it was not particularly comforatble to me – at least at first.

G.A. Mangun led his church to consistent prayer – I knew little about how to lead a church to prayer, so I just imitated G.A. Mangun.

Murrel Cornwell effectively taught Home Bible studies – I was not very good, so I imitated Murrel Cornwell.

Jerusalem’s children worshiped and praised Jesus because they had seen their parents lay coats before the colt on which he rode; they’d seen the palm branches wave – so the children imitated their parents in praise.

William Didway was a young man whose rocky life eventually brought him to our church. He told me how much he liked to get near me during our church prayer meetings. William said, “Pastor, listening to you, has given me to the words to say when I pray.”

Imitation . . . imitation – it is the way to “answer the how question.” Many Christians know what they should be doing and why they should be doing it – they simply don’t know “how.”

You can learn “how” to be hospitable and entertain strangers.
You can learn “how” to make sure new people are followed-up on in a memorable way.
You can learn “how” to preach to reach the lost.
You can learn “how” to make disciples out of some of the rawest converts imaginable.
This is serious. We need to ask and answer the “how” questions that deal with building effective churches. Who is someone you learned “how” from? What did you learn? Now – how will you pass it on to someone else?