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When You are Weary With Your Work

Nehemiah’s trouble with his workmen was not that they wanted higher wages. As a matter of fact, they didn’t get any wages. His trouble was that they grew weary, and lost both their interest and their vision, as though their labor was being done in vain. Do you ever feel like one of Nehemiah’s workmen? It’s not the wages or the pay – instead, it’s that dread sense of incompleteness. The work is never done.

Perhaps there is no better test of one’s courage than how they act when enthusiasm vanishes. No sea is always at full tide; in every ocean, there is an ebb. I’ve had to remind myself that, how I act in the ebb-tide of life, and when life is bounded by swampy uncertainty, is one of the surest marks of character. We have to adjust to the reality of ministry under pressure and with a tangling web of weariness. It has been accurately said, “The world is run by tired men.”

Whence the Weariness

Aloneness

Dr. David G. Congo surveyed ministers in thirty-two denominations in thirty-eight states to discover the significant factors involved in ministry burnout. His study isolated a number of significant factors involved in burnout. Of the pastors surveyed:

● 70% worked more than sixty hours per week.
● 85% spent two or less evenings per week at home.
● 75% spent less than one evening a month purely for social time with their wives and other couples.

His pastoral burnout survey also showed that 61% of pastors spend less than one hour a week talking with other pastors. A key factor can be noted from Congo’s survey. Beside becoming burned out because they “grow weary in well-doing,” many pastors receive little support from their peers.

Wrong Motivation

In Galatians 6, Paul warns of “sowing to the flesh” saying it only reaps corruption. It is in that setting that we are warned to not be weary in well-doing. Perhaps it is possible for those in a noble work to “sow to the flesh.” In Mastering Personal Growth, part of the Leadership Mastering Ministry series Gordon MacDonald notes that some motives tend to result in weariness. Specifically:

● The need for approval.
● A need for validation by achievement.
● The longing for intimacy.
● Idealism.

Such motives seek their satisfaction in the “here and now.” It may be found in a position . . . or the size of a congregation one pastors . . . or the pulpit one is invited to fill. Those motives are ever unsatisfied and become the source of weariness.

Remedies for Weariness

An Adequate God

Historians note that Charles Spurgeon struggled with deep depression. One time as, Spurgeon was riding home after a difficult day at the church, feeling “weary in well doing” a scripture came to his mind: “My grace is sufficient for you.” Spurgeon began imagining he was a little fish in the Thames River, fearful lest by drinking so many pints of water each day he might drink the Thames dry. The Thames said to him, “Drink away, little fish. My stream is sufficient for you.”

Spurgeon’s mind then took him to the granaries of ancient Egypt, where he was a little mouse, afraid lest his nibbles would drain the supplies of the Pharaoh and cause him to starve. Then Joseph came by and said, “Cheer-up, little mouse. My granaries are sufficient for you.”

Finally, Spurgeon imagined himself a mountain climber, ascending to some lofty summit. Once there, he feared his breathing might exhaust all the oxygen in the atmosphere. The Creator then boomed from the heavens and said, “Breathe away, oh human, and fill your lungs. My atmosphere is sufficient for you.”

It is easy in the hectic pace of ministry to “forget with whom we have to do.” Your God is adequate. Be encouraged as you know His grace is sufficient. His faithfulness is not exhausted. In my weariness, He is not weary! Any spiritual work depends on Him. He is more than capable.

Change Gears for a Bit

If one follows the movement within the gospels Jesus and His disciples are in an almost constantly changing scenario. It was never the “same old, same old.” Repetition is often the foundation of weariness. Winston Churchill wrote an essay titled “Painting As a Pastime” in which he revealed his secret of maintaining a peaceful mindset.

Many remedies are suggested for the avoidance of worry and mental overstrain by persons who, over prolonged periods, have to bear exceptional responsibilities and discharge duties upon a very large scale. Some advise exercise, and others, repose . . . some travel, and others retreat. Some praise solitude, and others, gaiety. No doubt all these may play their part according to the individual temperament. But the element which is constant and common in all of them is change.

Change is the master key. A man can wear out a particular part of his mind by continually using it and tiring it, just in the same way as he can wear out the elbows of his coat. There is, however, this difference between the living cells of the brain and inanimate articles: one cannot mend the frayed elbows of a coat by rubbing the sleeves or shoulders; but the tired parts of the mind can be rested and strengthened, not merely by rest, but by using other parts.

It is not enough merely to switch off the lights which play upon the main and ordinary field of interest; a new field of interest must be illuminated. It is no use saying to the tired mental muscles if one may coin such an expression — “I will give you a good rest.” “I will go for a long walk,” or “I will lie down and think of nothing.” The mind keeps busy just the same. If it has been weighing and measuring, it goes on worrying. It is only when new cells are called into action. . . that relief, repose, refreshment are afforded.

Churchill made a valid point. More modern research has indicated that this works. Take a bit of time to read about the Pomodoro Technique. The Pomodoro Technique suggests changing what you are doing every 25 minutes. There are apps to assist in doing this. I’m to go do something else for 5 minutes before returning to the project. After three such cycles, I’m to spend an extended period of time doing something different. The Pomodoro Technique works when I work it. 

Do Something Different

Shifting gears and doing something different is clearly seen in the life and ministry of Christ. How often He must have been weary. We must learn that like long distance Airforce bombers, we can’t land every time we are out of gas. You have to learn to refuel in midair. Another of the Leadership books, Growing Your Church Through Training and Motivation talks about the need to refuel by:

  1. Divert daily – do something that’s fun.
  2. Withdraw weekly – take a day off every week.
  3. Abandon annually – get away from the church to vacation and don’t call in.

What is being communicated is that rest comes by moving away from the problem at hand . . . dealing with another issue, making a call to a peer or mentor, visiting a church a few cities away, reading a good book . . . or the Wall Street Journal. Just doing something different.

Your different can be horseback riding or a golf course. What you do is not as important as to do something different. Simply put – change! In practical life, there will be times of exhaustion and weariness. There is nothing wrong with feeling weary, but there is everything wrong with abandoning ship in the midst of the fight.

If the world is actually run by tired people, and I think it is,  then some tired people are reading this. My reading audience is made up of “impact making” men and women. I’ve looked at one facet of the challenge of staying fresh for the sake of life. I’m interested in learning what has worked for you. Please share in the comment section.

I recently published a book on encountering depression.  You know someone who needs to read, Light in a Dark Place – Encountering Depression. To read a sample chapter click here.

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Identifying Disrespect

The ability to identify and minimize connection with those who are patently disrespectful is important. Disrespect affects revival, destroys unity and limits a group’s ability to function effectively. This post is part of a semi-regular series of “Spotlight on the Scripture” writings posted directly to the Facebook page of  Calvary – Springfield, Missouri.  Springfieldcalvary 

Matthew 27:5 And he (Judas) cast down the pieces of silver in the temple . . . 

The late Billy Cole would often speak of the importance of respect. Respect validates others. Respect sets boundaries for our behavior. Those who respect, seek a way showcase other people in a positive light.

Recognizing Judas Disrespect

Because Judas may have supported a revolt against Rome, he has been called, “Judas the zealot.” He could also be labeled, “Judas the disrespectful.”

  • Judas disrespected Mary’s worship. He said her offering could have been used in a better way.
  • A kiss of betrayal disrespected Jesus. It also disrespected the significance of a kiss.

Did Judas respect anything or anyone? Probably not. When disrespect is a person’s norm, nothing is off limits.

Judas’ behavior at the temple was disrespectful. Every Jew was taught the sanctity of the temple. The temple had several sections. The Holy of Holies was where the High Priest entered on the Day of Atonement. Nobody else went there.

A second section was the Holy Place. It contained the table of shewbread, altar of incense and golden candlestick. The Holy Place was busier than the Holy of Holies. Priests were constantly serving in the Holy Place. Again, there were constraints. Nobody but a priest was to be in the Holy Place. Judas knew all of this.

The Source of Disrespect

When Judas returned the thirty pieces of silver, the English translation reads, “He cast down the pieces of silver in the temple.” The Greek word translated temple is naos. Naos referred to the “Holy Place.”  The area of the temple where a sign might have read, “Priests Only!”  Judas was not a priest. He was not even from the tribe of Levi.

What was Judas doing in the holy place?

  1. Perhaps Judas presumed that his business relationship with the priests allowed him access.
  2. Judas could no longer respect anything. Not only did Judas not respect Jesus, but Judas also did not respect the constraints of Judaism.

How to Know Those Who Disrespect

Mark those who disrespect and carefully watch for such behavior in yourself. Be careful of a “disrespector.” Several characteristics you will see in those who lack respect:

  • They never say a good thing about any other person.
  • When anyone comments on the positive qualities of someone else, a “disrespector” rolls their eyes or something similar. . .
  • The word “I” will be one the person uses often. Those who have a bold “I” in their vocabulary are never a team-player.
  • They say or do things at the most inappropriate times. An example:  confronting one of your failures or some area of conflict in front of other people. The intent is to bully and humiliate.
  • They have no sense of boundaries. You can hear Judas saying, “If I want to go in the Holy Place, bless God I’ll go to the Holy Place.”

In our age of social media dumping those who respect others will become people we prize. What about you?  Do you respect or disrespect?

My latest resource for evangelism – “What the Bible Says . . . “ a seven lesson topical Home Bible Study is available. It provides student handouts and worksheet for perpetual reuse. A pdf of the student handout material is made available to you.  The seven lessons in What the Bible Says . . . :

  • The Word of God
  • Salvation
  • Repentance
  • Baptism
  • The Holy Ghost
  • Speaking in Tongues
  • The Nature of God
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How Leaders Correctly Respond to Criticism

In modern ministry, experiencing criticism is a norm. Unfortunately, my peers tell me that such criticism is increasing. Perhaps there should be, but there is not a class at Bible College or seminary titled, “How to Respond to Criticism.” Few preachers are prepared to deal with it. Criticism is often mishandled.
Expect criticism! Some people are never criticized. It is the people who do nothing, make no changes and do not press for progress. Such people are non-entities in shaping the future. They will never be criticized!  
My readers are different. You are world changers.  Expect to be criticized!

Critical Realities

  1. Accept that criticism is part of the job description of ministry. No meaningful Bible character was not criticized. Roman numeral II of the pastor’s job description should read:  “You will be criticized. Sometimes the criticism is fair. Often it is not.”  Of course, the job description I refer to is imaginary.
  2. These days, criticism is over rather trivial things. A leader needs to keep that in mind. If you don’t keep it in perspective, you can turn something minor into a “big deal.” Rarely will doctrinal matters, or some grand philosophy of evangelism or disciple-making be challenged. Criticism will be about a perceived mistreatment or even something as inane as the color of the usher’s badges.
  3. Unanticipated criticism will come your way. A now retired heavy-weight boxer said, “It’s the shot you don’t see coming that knocks you out.” The unexpected criticism is what gets you. This will likely come from people you have treated with kindness.

More important is how to deal with criticism.

Explain but Don’t Defend

As a pastor, you cannot defend yourself. Adopt Jesus’ model. At Pilate’s hall, “He opened not his mouth.” A leader may attempt to rationally explain a decision. However, you cannot defend your decisions. The challenge is this:  some people don’t want to understand, they want to gripe. Logic and rational explanation will never satisfy such people.
It is tragic but true, much criticism is fueled by emotion. Any time a leader responds to criticism in an emotional way that leader begins to be sullied by the process. As a leader, leave the anger, hyperbole, over-statements and long-standing feud to others. Effective leaders rise above the criticism.

Add no fuel to the Fire

For some years, I led North American Missions for a major religious organization. Early in my administration, an email came criticizing a decision our board had made. I was angry. The email was filled with innuendo, inaccuracies and had the tone of intimidation. I was loading the cannons to fire back.
Before I did, thankfully, I reached out to Mike Williams, a friend who pastors in the Orlando area. Mike’s advice was simple, “Carlton, don’t escalate the problem. Don’t add fuel to that fire. Let the fire die.
Wisdom: if you don’t add fuel to a fire, it will die.
  • A pastor who addresses a parishioner’s complaint from the pulpit adds fuel to the fire. Actually, that pastor just poured gas on the fire!
  • Seeking support from others in the church body in hopes of getting them on “your side” does not work either. This creates division, unlikely to be healed.

In my experience, if a criticism has little merit and the leader has been gracious in dealing with people – others will become defenders. Mike had it right, “Don’t add fuel to the fire.”

Turn it Over to Jesus

Really! At least talk to Him about it. This is His church you know. Pray and surrender the criticism to the Lord. In many instances, you will have to give it to Him more than one time. Either the criticism will continue or the echoes of the criticism will resonate in your mind.
I’ve offered some suggestions on how a preacher can approach prayer in an earlier blog:  Five Steps in a Preacher’s Quiet Time

Lessons that Come from Criticism

The corporate world teaches leaders to look for a lesson in a customer’s complaint. It helps to be able to learn from criticism, even criticism that is intended to be destructive. To learn from criticism requires three things:
  • Step back from the heat of the moment. Look at the situation as though these events were happening to someone else. Are there things you could have done better?
  • Stop being defensive.
  • Get over the “papal” inspired idea that we preachers never make a mistake. We can and do make wrong decisions. When we get it wrong . . . learn and if necessary do everything possible to correct the mistake.

Leaders do not please everybody. While in an executive role and as a pastor, I knew decisions would come under close scrutiny. Decisions were made knowing that someone would be disappointed with the decision. Count the cost of the decisions you make. Three questions may help:

  1. Will the decision stand up under the weight of Biblical scrutiny?
  2. Is the decision the ethical thing to do?
  3. Does the decision make good business sense?

Consider the Source of Criticism and the Method of the Criticism

When criticism comes, consider the source of the criticism. One of my most vehement critics was a person who would not be considered a saint anywhere. My response was to basically ignore the person. That person was not going to help pay the church bills or grow the church. Why be concerned about the opinion of someone who is playing for the other team.
Second, if a mature person has come directly to you the person has handled the issue correctly. Hear them out. Such a person usually has your best interest in mind. Faithful are the wounds of a friend. (Proverbs 27:6) 
Daily Unity is the goal for the entire body. The friend who speaks to you, expressing wise and valid concerns is not seeking to divide. That person can often be your best help.
Will you ever get beyond being criticized?
Simple answer, “No!” The later James Kilgore told one of my peers, “As a pastor, no matter how long you have pastored, you must always sit easy in the saddle.” The elder was referring to a horseman never being complacent in the saddle. Even the best-trained horse can be startled by a snake or rabbit. A good horseman is alert. A pastor needs to be similarly alert.
No matter how long you have been in ministry or how long you have pastored in a particular location – don’t imagine yourself to be beyond criticism. You aren’t. You never will be!
So wrapping it up. Criticism – it is going to happen. It is happening, whether you hear it or not. Being forewarned that criticism will happen is the first step in preparation.
Decide now how you will handle the whispers, rumors and occasional character assassinations. As you do – keep an “old rugged cross” on the horizon to help guide your response. Some years ago, a mentor, directed me to Marshall Shelley’s book that further addresses these issues. It was helpful. I recommend it. His title is fitting:  Well Intentioned Dragons
What has been the most unfair criticism that has been sent your direction? How did you respond and how did it work out?
A final note of interest to some:  My book Questions Pentecostal Preachers Ask is available to you for free. You pay the shipping and handling.
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Six Ways to Keep Your Preaching Cupboard Full

You can stay powerful, relevant, eternal and interesting with your preaching. Bruce Mawhinney’s book Preaching With Freshness is recommended for anyone serious about being consistent in the pulpit.
This topic is important. A pastor, evangelist or anyone who fills the pulpit must offer quality in feeding Jesus’ flock. Having one “A+” sermon or Bible Study per month and everything else grading a “D” or “F” won’t do.

An Attitude for Consistency

How does a “man of God” have a consistent “word?”  Part of this comes with being mindful that another time to preach or teach is ahead of you. Even for someone who occasionally fills a pulpit, preparation does not start when you are asked to speak. This is, even more, the case when someone is in the role of a pastor or evangelist. Good preaching and teaching is the result of good work.
You are never not getting ready. It does not work out well if the preacher is always a last-minute chef. Having a “meal plan” is better.  Preaching or teaching in series will make your preparation easier. My observation is that at times, a pastor has the foundational concept of a 4 or 6-week series, but tries to get all of it into one message. This is often a misuse of resources. It also over-estimates the average person’s ability to receive.
Take the same material and use your outline to develop four sermon/lessons instead of a single forty minute discourse. Then spend some time each week reviewing the prior week’s material. People will respond. People will retain more of what you are sharing. Repetition is the mother of learning.  Beyond that, here are some things that work for me.

Be always gathering material.

Be like the ant rather than the sluggard. Never stop gathering resources. Every thing you might ever use, about any thing you may ever teach or preach about should be drawn into your net. This is not material you will use this week, or even this year. Today, I use material brought into my net 30 years ago. For years, this looked like 8-12 file drawers full of “stuff.” Today most of the “stuff” is digitized.
To be sure, some will never be used. However, you never know where life will take you. The resources you put in the cupboard today may well benefit you in situations you cannot currently imagine.

Read, read and read some more!

In addition, read! Leaders are readers.  I collect and read sermon books. I don’t read them for sermons. Such books help me provoke thought. I don’t think I’ve ever “cut and pasted” someone else’s sermon. However, the sermons I read are the source of seed thoughts and illustrations. Treasures can be found in sermons preached by C.E. McCartney, G. Campbell Morgan, Vance Havner, C. M. Ward and dozens of others.
Incredible nuggets are found in the old journals from events such as the Keswick Convention in England and Founder’s Week at Moody Bible Institute. My preference for both, are the journals more than 50 years old.
Books I read are well-used.  Where I see a thought that is preachable the initials “ST” for “Sermon Thought” are placed in the margin. Any quotation or illustration that resonates with me is put in parenthesis and a letter “Q” for “Quote” is put in the margin. These “ST” and “Q” items get copied or typed and saved. Use my pattern or create your own. Do something to retain access to these resources.

Listen, Listen, Listen Some More

Through the years, any inexpensive audio material available became part of my resource library. Cassettes by the thousands are stored away. I’ve listened to 99% of them. While driving, constantly listen to something enriching.
My listening is not limited to my own organization. The flow of communication from fellows like Jack Hayford, Warren Wiersbe and leadership resources from the corporate world have helped me. These days, podcasts including TED Talks help keep me thinking.

Systematic Study

Do some study “the book” for a sermon instead of in order to get to know the author of “the book?” Good preaching and teaching should flow from a constancy of study, rather than study being based on needing a sermon.
There are many ways to study. Read and apply Tim LaHaye’s book, How to Study the Bible for Yourself. The What the Bible Says Home Bible Study that I teach the unconverted is based on a topical study. Other forms of systematic study can include the study of a particular book of the Bible, the study of a person of the Bible, the study of a particular epoch of history – such as the life of Christ or the early church.
In my approach, the systematic study is usually moving toward teaching. But, it becomes the source of my evangelistic preaching. It has been said:  study yourself full, pray yourself anointed and preach yourself empty.
Anointing on an empty head is not as effective as an anointing on a head that is full of the good word of God.

Stay Focused

Furthermore, work with a limited number of topics in mind for your preaching and teaching. My Twenty Topics to Preach About Two Times Each Year keeps me focused on thinking about relevant truth.
It is easy to get lost studying and teaching the typology of the Old Testament and miss the fact that marriages are struggling because they don’t know how to budget their money. Irrelevant truth seldom benefits. Stay focused and simple. My twenty topics help keep me on point.

Take Notes

Take notes as you listen to other people preach or teach. I’ll never totally make the digital transition, so I’ll continue carrying my legal pad or journal to any meeting I attend. Pen and paper have a much better memory than I do.
When I listen to others preach or teach, good preaching ideas come to me. Often the ideas have little to do with that preacher’s topic. However, that idea won’t stay with me if I don’t write it down. If I want to keep it – I write it down.

Freeze and label your “stuff”

My parents had a garden. A benefit of the garden is the produce frozen to be used later. In preparing these things for future use my mom would label the freezer bags then freeze it. The garden produce was collected, identified and preserved.

A good preacher is almost always intent on collecting, preserving and labeling material for future use. From whatever source(s) you gain good material, the best way to “label it” and “freeze it” is a program or app called Evernote.
Evernote is a program that saves ANYTHING and EVERYTHING. Handwritten notes can be scanned or a picture taken. Audio files. Adobe PDF Files, Files imported from Word or Wordperfect, pictures, emails or through direct input.
Evernote allows “tags” the equal of the freezer bag labels. You can find your “stuff.” So get the material off your notepad into Evernote.
This can be done by something as simple as taking a picture of your handwritten note using an Evernote companion called Scannable. Evernote for the Preacher is a good resource to learn about how one church planter is using Evernote. With Evernote, you can tag what you save. It is also easy to search for the material you have saved. For most people, the free level of Evernote is adequate.
I’m sure some others have even better ideas for staying fresh. Please share them. If you have a question, please ask it as a comment. I may not be able to answer it. More than likely one of my readers will.
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Systems for Church Growth

Systems are the making of effective life. The Bible says, “Jotham prospered.” The Bible says, “Jotham ordered his ways.” (2 Chronicles 26:7 RV) Jotham’s prosperity and the ordering of his ways are connected. The two things are always connected. People who establish no order for their life will not prosper. I cannot think of one person in my life experience or any person in history who is an exception. Can you?

You see the value of order everywhere.

  • Nature follows a system.
  • Jesus had the crowd sit down in orderly rank before he multiplied the loaves and fish.
  • When Jesus abandoned the tomb, He folded the grave-clothes.

Whether with spiritual gifts or elsewhere in life, “Let things be done decently and in order.”                              (1 Corinthians 14:40)

Systems work for the ministry. Some of the value of this is addressed in last year’s book “The Details Matter”.

Essential Systems For a Church To Grow

  • Systematic Evangelism
  • Disciple-making Systems
  • A System for Involving People

There are other areas of ministry like pastoral care, study, counseling and preaching/teaching where order helps. These will be a later topic.

The systems you put in place depend on you, the congregation and the resources available. Resources, as used here are money, people, energy and available time.  Do not feel guilty for not being able to do something when the resources are not available. However, regardless of limits these three things evangelism, disciple-making, and involvement should be approached systematically.

Systems will help a church grow. Systems will help you be effective in ministry.

Systematic Evangelism

In the Apostolic Continuum, there is no impact without evangelism. Our local congregation is just a bit above average in size. Currently, our evangelism is not as systematic as it will be. There are some things we do right. Each guest gets a personal hand-written card. Where the guest if receptive, they get a text message.

When we get an email address the person begins receives a battery of emails about the church. At Calvary,   AWeber manages our email list. I don’t know that AWeber is the best. It was not the most expensive and came highly recommended. A caveat:  I also use AWeber for carltoncoonsr.com. If you are interested in information about Aweber for church or some other effort take a look here:   Aweber

The email letters we use in followup also follow a system. A copy of the letters is in my book “The How and Why of Follow Up Visitation.” Hint:  This week the e-book with all those letters is available for $2.99.  It is normally $9.99.

The second system for evangelism is a process to get newcomers in the door. Until a church has a consistent flow of guests resulting from lifestyle evangelism, “big events” are required. Last Veteran’s Day weekend we had a “big event.” Several newcomers attended. “Big events” include experiences like All Nations Sunday, Friend Day and Pentecost Sunday.

Big events are not my preferred approach to evangelism. In my opinion, it is better to have a steady flow of visitors. However, at times events are needed to increase the visitor flow.

What are you doing for systematic evangelism? I’d like to learn from your best practices.

Disciple-making Systems

The church is not called to make converts. The commission is to make disciples. How does a disciple-making system look?  Again, this will vary from one church to another. At the least, there should be some classes designed to orient newcomers to the church.

There should also be a time to officially welcome spiritual babies.  Below are some links to my YouTube Channel and some online teaching I’ve provided on the topic of disciple-making.

An overview of New Convert Care

Overcoming Sociological Issues for the sake of Disciple Making

Don’t Drop Your Spiritual Baby

There is more on the topic of Disciple-making at my YouTube channel. If you decide to visit, I’d appreciate an honest comment or two in the review section. (Hopefully positive, but I’ll take them all.)  While on the Youtube channel do not forget to hit the “Subscribe” button.

Retaining converts will depend on how strong and consistent your system is. A sporadic system will produce an inconsistent outcome. My little book “The How and Why of New Convert Care”  provides the skeleton of a system that can be established and sustained.  To get you headed in the right direction, with your own effort for Disciple making the job description for our church’s current Director of Disciple-making can be downloaded here. Discipleship Director

At Calvary we use the ten lessons of “Take Root” to give basic concepts about Christian life. This includes prayer and how to read the Bible. Then there are eleven lessons of “Bear Fruit” to develop concepts of Christian responsibility. Then the seven lessons of “Fitly Framed” help a person find a place of ministry in the church. In this process, we do our best to “Velcro” newcomers into the church.

What I’m describing reflects an ongoing system. Just as the sun will come up tomorrow, the things I’m talking about happening unceasingly. The consistency is what makes it a system. 

Involvement

A church seems to naturally grow if people are involved in meaningful roles of ministry. However, getting people involved requires a system.

I’ve done this the wrong way and I’ve done it the right way. The wrong way was for me to simply teach my series on motivational gifts. The seven lesson series is the aforementioned “Fitly Framed”. It is good stuff. It helps every person find their unique gifting.  Thousands of pastors have a copy of Fitly Framed.

The material is good. But, like most teaching Fitly Framed does not give the structured system to engage people in ministry. Thus, the wrong way was to just dump the information out before the audience hoping it would somehow bring them to engagement. My audience found it interesting, but it did not significantly change people’s involvement in ministry. I’d given information but had not established a system.

The Correct Approach to Getting People Involved

  1. Have ministry leaders think of ways to involve people in the ministry they lead.
  2. Ministry leaders draft a simple job description for those roles.
  3. The church has a “Personnel Director” in place. Initially, this will be the pastor.
  4. Fitly Framed or something similar is taught to the entire church. This same material then is taught as a third level of caring for converts. Going forward every convert or transfer into the church is taught Fitly Framed.
  5. During the class, people take a gift test and discover their various gifting.
  6. The “Personnel Director” works with the students and ministry leaders to connect each person with an opportunity for meaningful ministry. Some ministry opportunities do need the pastor to sign off on a person’s involvement.

Best Practice for Involving People

What I’ve described is the way to get started. But, an order is only sustained with constant effort. How did my best constant effort look?

  1. I”d annually teach/preach a series about Christian Service. This teaching involved at least three weeks of consistently aiming at the target of involving people.
  2. On the last Sunday of this series, the various ministries of the church set up booths presenting their ministry and asking for volunteers.

It works! The first time we did this, our system was overwhelmed. We had far more volunteers wanting to serve than places to put them to work. We learned and did not make that mistake again.

Notice, everything I’m describing happens systematically and repetitively. Neither evangelism, disciple-making nor involving people should be a “one-off.” These are things you should be doing over and over.

System! Remember Jotham prospered. Jotham ordered his ways. The two are connected.

I’m interested in your experience in establishing sustainable systems in these three areas of ministry. This week, my reading has reminded me of the importance of learning from people who are following what the business world would call “best practices.”

What have been your best practice for evangelism, disciple-making and involving people?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Daily Evangelism

The apostles stayed busy evangelizing. They had been imprisoned, intimidated, physically beaten, and warned to stop, yet they returned daily to teach and preach. They practiced daily evangelism. A story is told of Jesus Christ returning to heaven after His resurrection. All the angels gathered for a gala celebration. During the festivities, as the story goes, the angels gathered around the Son of God to hear about His many experiences on earth. Christ told the angels of His many miracles. Then, He told them the story of His death on the cross and how he had risen from the dead on the third day. As Jesus finished His account, all heaven was silent. Suddenly one of the angels declared, “Lord, it’s our turn to participate. We will go to earth and tell the masses of all you’ve done for them.”

The Lord quietly shook His head and answered, “No, that will not be possible.” All the angels were puzzled and another asked, “How, then, are you going to send this message to everyone on earth?” In a confident tone the Master answered, “I have left this responsibility in the hands of eleven fishermen.” With a questioning look another angel quickly responded, “But, Lord, what if they fail?” Jesus answered, “I have no other plan.”

The story illustrates the magnitude of the responsibility to evangelize. The apostles understood the significance of evangelism. God’s only method is men, men devoted to the task of evangelism.white-male-1834099_960_720

Wrong Attitudes Toward Daily Evangelism

Unfortunately, evangelism has mistakenly become the labor of the “super-christian” and not a normal function of Christian living. Music, singing, and sermonizing do not fulfill the Christian’s mission.

Miscomprehension of the Task

Furthermore, let’s consider our attitude toward evangelism. Most Christians do not relish going door to door. Yet there are many other opportunities to evangelize. Christian giants are not needed to evangelize, Christian friends are. Our first error is misunderstanding who we are to evangelize. The mission field starts outside your door. Your co-workers and neighbors are the first candidates.

Wrong Focus

How do we feel about evangelism? We know we should evangelize, so why don’t we do more of it? The answer could be fear, laziness, lack of knowledge, or thinking we are too busy. Usually most of us would simply rather be doing something else. We have no ambition to share the good news.

Irrelevance

Additionally, we lack relevant compassion. Kindness and caring are in shortage. If we do not care, the church should close her doors. We must feel people’s pain. Jess Moody said, “A church, like a newspaper, can soon be out-of-date. When that happens, like the newspaper, it becomes good for nothing but wrapping fish that someone else has caught.”

Bible Instruction to Evangelismstudy-862994_960_720

Jesus distinctly commissioned evangelism:

Matthew, 28:19

There are three instructions given.

First (go, teach)

  • “Go ye therefore and teach all nations.”

Second {convert}

  • “baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son and the Holy Ghost.”

Third (teach, disciple)

  • “teaching them, observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you”

It is the three-step process from sin to becoming a fruitful member of the body evangelism, conversion, and discipleship.

“But ye shalt receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.” (Acts 1:8)

You shall receive power! What is the power for? To be witnesses! We can do all things through Christ which strengthens us. Power is given to evangelize.

While evangelizing and discipleship are not hard concepts, they can become complicated if the church does not have an open-door policy. If you find yourself in this position, please read my other blog on “Closed to New Disciples”.

Jesus’ Example of Evangelism

A very important principle of evangelizing is getting acquainted with people. Reaching out to people and involving them in your life, leads to bonding. Many Christians are isolationist, preserving their smiles and friendliness for other Christians. It is also important to keep in mind the way to which we speak to them. Our role is to convey the truth so that they can understand it. We must be bridge builders from our world to the world of the unsaved.

What are some ways that you have had success with evangelizing? What you have done may be exactly what someone else is looking for so please share your examples with us!

Additional resources are available on this topic from my book titled “Daily Things of Christian Living”, please visit carltoncoonsr.com.

daily

 
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Thoughts from a New Pastorate

I find myself in an interesting place.  I’m a new pastor – the last time that happened was 23 years ago.  Two observations from these few months:

  • A lot has changed . . .

  • Not much has changed . . .

People are the same, but the world is different. People’s commitment to church attendance is not as it was – but I plan to experiment with marketing Sunday evening and midweek just as aggressively as Sunday morning.  I’ll keep you posted on how it works.

 I’m not comfortable with less church – not if one is going to grow people and the church.  The schedule of teaching/preaching 3-4 times every Sunday is more wearying than I remember. My own approach Sunday morning we do education and evangelism, Sunday afternoon is a disciple-making class; Sunday evening is for edification of the saints and mid-week is to equip saints to be effective.

It does seem Jesus has blessed me with some neat ideas that are actually working to take advantage of the changes that have happened.

 Updated Guest Cards

 As I developed Calvary’s guest cards (http://SpringfieldCalvary.church) it occurred to experiment with how open guestsguests would be to receiving a “text message from the pastor.”  Alongside the line for the guest’s phone number, the question is asked, “Can Calvary’s pastor contact you via text message? Y N”  The response has been amazing. Of the guest cards returned well over 1/2 of them are open to communication via text message.

 Text messaging is quick and effective. This past Sunday a family of three were back at Calvary for a second visit. They had received a text message and hand-written card during the prior week.  Sunday afternoon I sent a text to a fellow who had visited Sunday morning with his two kids. He responded to my text  – requesting a Bible Study and volunteering to do any electrical and plumbing work around the church. Maybe I’m on to something?

 Facebook Marketing is Cheap and Works

 facebQuite often Calvary does a two day “boosted” ad on Facebook. The most we spend is $10 per day, usually only $5. The ad is focused on my Sunday evangelistic message. (Side-note:  The most vital church growth concept is to preach to sinners every single week – whether there is one sinner in attendance or a dozen.) My marketing target is not church attendees (though some do get gathered into the mix), but non church members. In targeting my ads about the “Blessing and Benefit of the Holy Ghost” I targeted words and phrases like:  Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, depression, loneliness, etc.

 When a user of Facebook responds with a “Like” we then try to transition that to a like of Calvary’s FB page.  It does not always work, but quite often it does.  This expands the part of the community who are connected with Calvary.

I also ask our church members to “share” the Facebook ads we post. The shares end up on that person’s Facebook page and reaches people the ad would not otherwise get too.

 Preaching to Those I Have Not Yet Seen

 The ability to post Calvary’s preaching/teaching on the church website using Soundcloud is an easy win.  I’m grateful for Ashley Townsend, one of Calvary’s teens who volunteers to clean up the sound, post the audio to Soundcloud and make the appropriate link on the website. One of the most important concepts of any pastorate is involving people in meaningful ministry.  What Ashley does means a lot to her and perhaps more to me.  She accomplishes things I simply could not accomplish.

I’m convinced that the gospel works; that doctrinal teaching/preaching works – if we can only gain a hearing. Posting online allows people to hear me without having to risk walking in the doors of the church. It is amazing the number of listens one gets. Eventually, Calvary may use video and even be live with the preaching/teaching; for this moment and our current setting this works and it works inexpensively.

 I’m enjoying the journey!  Oh, I have a new book out just now:  Healthy Church – Start Here!  addresses the 18 reasons churches are not healthy and do not grow.  Common sense and proven solutions to get the church on-track and growing.  Take a look at Healthy Church – Start Here! The book can also be purchased at Amazon or for your Kindle.

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Do You Make These Mistakes in Evangelizing Your Community?

Do You Make These Mistakes in Evangelizing Your Community?

Finding what God is blessing and doing it, is more effective than praying, “God bless what I’m doing.” To do meaningful things in the harvest of the Lord ask:

What’s the current crop . . .

growing here in this field . . .

at our specific season?

Be wrong about your response to any of the next three questions and you are making a mistake in evangelizing your city.

  1. What is the current crop? The current crop in a retirement village in Florida is different than the current crop in Toronto.
  2. What is the available harvest in this specific town, city, village or community? The available harvest is unique to every locale.
  3. What is ripe right now? Is is backsliders, an influx of African immigrants or an arriving group of college students. Harvest does not all come ripe at the same time.

Think about this: across North America two interesting phenomena are taking place.

· Our skins are getting darker as a result of Hispanic, Asian and African immigrant.

· America is getting older. Many churches have youth ministry but few have an intentional ministry to elders in the church or outside the church.

In ignoring current reality, we can be like the disciples who visited the Samaritan village of Sychar (John 4). Jesus most intimate followers did not see the residents of the village before them as an evangelistic opportunity. James, John, Simon Peter and the others bought groceries but impacted no person with what they knew about Jesus. Eventually Jesus encouraged them to lift their eyes in order to see the harvest.

Responses to your moment:

1. Ask questions. Expand your vision to include people who are not like you. It was what Jesus did with the woman at the Samaritan well. Immigrants love to talk about their home. We all do. When I’m asked about my home state of Louisiana I’m almost always ready to talk.

2. Launch a Spanish speaking service. Bill Harden in Little Rock, Arkansas could not speak Spanish but he could hire a translator. He did! Today, a thriving Spanish speaking congregation is in Little Rock resulting from a non-Spanish speaking man’s vision.

3. Reach out to elders. Churches with an eye for effective ministry are launching outreaches for those near retirement age. The Tennessee district of the UPCI has a “Senior Camp Meeting.” For several years, Pastor Rudy Thiessen in Hillsboro, Missouri has had a Wednesday morning service oriented to elders.

Keep your focus on your field – this field . . . now . . . this crop . . . at this moment in time!

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Who Else Wants to Focus on the Field?

Who Else Wants to Keep the Focus on the Field?

No farmer ever assesses the value of property by the condition of the barn. Oh . . . he may notice, but what he gives more attention to is the blackness of the dirt. pasture.jpg

Does the soil look fertile?

How prevalent are weeds?

Is the corn growing tall in the rows?

The focus is “on the field.” The new paint job on the barn is irrelevant if fields lie unplanted or the harvest not gathered. Two things seem to impact a church leaders’s focus on the field.

Distractions

A farmer got up in the morning to go gather his corn. As he started to the barn to get a sack he remembered that the tractor needed to be fixed. So . . . the farmer went to get tools to fix his tractor. Then he saw that the wood needed to be chopped. As he headed toward the wood pile the farmer noticed the horses were out of the corral . . . so he ran to catch the horses. While rounding them up, he heard his wife yell that the stove was not working. He started the day with the field on his mind but got distracted.

One can get so busy with “other” things that there isn’t time to focus on the field. Crisis evolves into crisis and at the end of a day little of worth is done.

Life can be action without accomplishment.

Remedy: Step away from life’s hectic pace and consider what is important for truly impacting the field.

Sloth

Solomon said sloth the rationale for a property owner not planting in spring-time. There is no harvest in unplanted fields. Where did you plant the seed of God’s word today? It has been said, “God’s greatest problem with laborers in his vineyard is absenteeism.”Church Planter Jimmy Toney told a fellow who was expressing a call to preach, “God hasn’t called you to preach. You don’t hold a job while your wife works. You laze around all day playing video games. God hasn’t called you because you’d be the first lazy person He ever called.”

Remedy: Laziness can be repented of. If you are lazy or trying to develop someone who is lazy it may be time to talk straight to them. To change may require asking someone to keep you accountable and to challenge the way you live life. Nothing of significance has been accomplished by a lazy person.

My book – Questions Pentecostal Preachers Ask is a resource to benefit all aspects of ministerial development including maintaining focus.

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Five Steps to Teaching Effectively–Guest Post Arlo Moehlenpah

About Arlo and Jane Moehlenpah – they authored a book Teaching with Variety and provide teacher training classes at a number of Bible Colleges and seminars. Bro. Moehlenpah is Mr. Creative! Arlo Moehlenpah He has created a number of Bible games and quizzes, some of which can be viewed on www.DoingGood.org.  The Moehlenpah’s are experts on addressing evolution issues.  They teach in churches beyond their own denomination and have been excellent ambassadors for the United Pentecostal Church. He feels called of God to teach!

 

1. The teacher must know that which he would teach. This is the first law of teaching according to John Milton Gregory. No other qualification is so fundamental. Someone has said “You can’t anymore teach what you don’t know then you can come back from where you ain’t been.” The teacher must study diligently to see how it fits in the overall picture and also be able to answer questions from students.

2. Before lesson preparation there must be heart preparation. Ezra prepared his heart to seek the law of the Lord, and to do it, and to teach. Ezra 7:10. If the lesson has not helped you it probably will not help your students. Lesson preparation is hard work. In the teaching of every lesson someone will suffer. If the teacher suffers in preparation then the students won’t suffer in presentation. If the teacher doesn’t suffer in preparation then the students will suffer in presentation. It’s better for the teacher to suffer in preparation.

3. The teacher must write down what he wants the students to know, feel, do and become. It is impossible to hit a target if you don’t know what the target is. Even if you know the target you won’t hit it unless you aim. It is impossible to measure progress if you don’t know what the goals are. A teaching aim is a clear statement of what we hope to accomplish as a result of the lesson. Everything in the lesson should be planned to accomplish the aims. Omit activities or materials that do not help you accomplish your aim.

Man on Stairs4. The teacher must use different methods . People learn more if they can see and do than if they just hear. Jesus, the greatest of teachers, used a variety of teaching methods. He used objects like birds, lilies, and a door to visually teach truths. He told many stories to affect their emotions and asked and answered questions to engage his audience. He used a flat visual when he wrote on the sand. Visual methods, such as PowerPoint, are available to add variety to your lesson. Student Centered teaching methods, which involve the audience, are also available. However the greatest teaching method of all is teaching by example.

5. The teacher must determine the results of the lessons. How much did the students understand, what did they feel, what did they do with the knowledge and have they been changed? Oral questions are not adequate in that many do not participate. What they know can be determined by proper testing. You want to know what they actually know and not just what they guess. True-false and multiple choice questions allow students to score well by careful reading and by guessing. The best way to reduce guessing on factual quizzes is to use matching questions where there are more choices than questions, where one choice is “none of the above,” where choices can be used more that once or not at all and where some questions can have multiple answers. Although essay tests take time to read they are good to find out what the students can express. Another way to determine what students know is to observe them play Bible Games. The students will have fun while you discover what they know. To find out what they feel, do and become takes much time to listen and observe. However, in doing this you may also discover some aims and objectives for future lessons regarding speech and behavior.

 

CLC Note:  People are built through teaching. Churches grow as they are taught in a particular direction.  Use Bro. Mohlenpah’s observations to launch yourself further into being an effective teacher. 

 

Question:  What resources have you found to be effective in helping you be a more effective teacher of the Bible?  Who are some of the most outstanding teachers you have heard?

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Five Mud-holes a Church Service Gets Stuck and How to Unstick It

  It is a delight when a service flows that moves toward the objective of worshipping Jesus and the fulfillment of the intent of the Holy Ghost. 

   Several places often gum up a church service(Coaching Tip:  Don’t throw a lot of change on people at one time. Leaders find a way for a new thing to be someone else’s idea – experiment with their idea, give them credit, and if it works keep using it.)

   r12_mudhole

  Mud-hole #1 –  “Whosoever will” testimony time.  Testimonies celebrating Jesus never detract; it is NOT edifying when one windily talks of life difficulties eventually expressing, “somehow I know Jesus is going to  bring me through.”  Multiply such testimonies a few times and the service is stuck.    How to fix it:

 

Select testifiers and know what you are getting.  When you become aware of something God has done in someone’s life make note. Prep the person that you are going to have them share the testimony. To make it even more effective during a service, interrupt singing to hear the testimony or perhaps use the testimony as part of your preaching. 

Videotape testimonies. With an IPad and simple editing software a good quick hitting testimony can be offered.  Art Hodges uses this with having new converts tell their story in about two minutes.  You never know what a new convert is going to say!  It’s better that it be said to a camera than to the entire audience.

Use a microphone to manage testimonies.  The strategy here is to keep the microphone in your hand for those you call on.  If one waxes on, and on, and on, find a high spot or create one (clap your hands . . . give praise, “Everybody join this brother in praising the Lord”) and move on.  If the microphone is in someone else’s hand you can’t ease out of the testimony.

 

Mud-hole #2 – Unplanned Offerings – Some people are gifted at receiving an offering.  It was not my strength so my response was to rush through the offering.  At best, I’d limit the time given to what was a disjointed experience.  Late in our last pastorate, I learned a bit more about making an offering a form of “praise.”  The solution here is to PLAN AHEAD and lead people to take time to think about what they are doing as they brought their offering.

 

Mud-hole #3 – Announcements – “On the third Friday in February, there will be a baby shower for Sis. Hazel’s granddaughter Susan.  It will be at . . . selections for the baby can be made at . . ..”  The announcement begins being made the third weekend of December and is repeated for the next 9 weeks. So much is said that nothing is heard! Options (the first two take a  bit of time to train people):

A weekly bulletin

Monthly calendar that lists events happening in the next two months. 

Screen it!   If you screen it, don’t say it.

Have someone other than a preacher do the announcements at the end of service. You can use a lady, we did.  Missionary,  this is a place to involve a newer person because announcements don’t have to  be made from a platform. I used a different person (more often than not a lady) each month.  People liked it and Susan’s baby shower didn’t get in the way of a move of God.

Mud-hole #4 – Talking before each song and singers not being in place.  A time ago, between Alaska and the Gulf of Mexico the praise leader felt it necessary to talk A LOT between each song. It was so bad I began timing how much we sang compared to how much the person talked.  He talked much more than we praised Jesus. If there was ever a flow of the spirit it didn’t last long.

Pastor this is where you “Coach” and tell the person, “Let me show you a way to do this a little better.  I want you to try it this way next service.  Don’t talk any, but addGreenbay packers cap two more songs.  We will have time for the songs.”  After that service tell the person how wonderful it was and to try it again the next service.  

Best general rule:  no talking between songs & no talking before singing a solo.  In neither case is the person there to talk, they are there to sing praises to our Lord.

Meet before every service and have a plan. A person must be in place BEFORE it is time to sing. A person coming from the back after being called on is disruptive.  My principle was, “if you were not in place we just went on to the next thing.” 

 

Mud-hole #5– Using too many different voices in a service, particularly too many preachers.  One church used 7 different preachers to take care of a part of the service.  Each gave a mini-sermon and none connected.  It was a muddy mess.

Don’t feel guilty for not putting people up front who do not edify.  You are responsible to the Lord Jesus for a service that flows. 

Coach those you do use, to do what they are on the schedule to do.  It is not time for their latest revelation about one of Ezekiel’s prophecies. 

 

By the way, if someone is called of God to preach, they need to be sent to preach. 

God has not called them to take the offering or lead in taking prayer requests. 

Get preachers preaching – a jail service, nursing home or better yet a preaching point 20 minutes away. 

Services will flow better and those called to preach will fulfill their call.

Before Christmas sale:  A super packet for one who has to teach the Bible and develop people – Five sets of lessons, three sets of student handouts – “INSTANT KNOWLEDGE”  http://truth-publications.com/?p=943

 

 

 

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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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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.