Tag: ministry

Sabbatical: On the flip side

It is weird to be on the other side of the sabbatical. Loads of planning and coordination to pull the venture off, the actual sabbatical, and now back to grind and figuring out what a new normal will be. Here are some random thoughts, and again another push why pastors should take a sabbatical.

You’re more tired than you think
In interviewing people who went on a sabbatical, this was a common phrase stated. So, I wasn’t too surprised when I realized I was more tired and fried than I thought I was. We need rest, and sometimes we need TONS of rest. Be tired is often a good sign that we hopefully worked hard.

You’re more broken than you hoped
Sabbatical is that wonderful time in the mirror when all your brokenness jumps out at out. This can happen in many forms. But the cessation of activity allows you to evaluate deeply where you’re struggling and need to change. Often this isn’t because of some volitional sin. We wear out and can slowly get off track.

You’re better than you realized
This may sound like a contradiction, but there are moments when you look back and realize that you handled things better than you thought you did. You accept the outcome, and you realized you did all you could do. This allows you to see strengths, and it gives you confidence to move forward.

You’re not as essential as you think, and more important than you realized
Life truly can go on without you. At the same time, people realize the void that you fill. This builds appreciation on all sides. It’s healthy to see a church work hard on mission without you. It’s also important to help people see what you do. It’s better together, but a brief season apart helps all.

You’re a big deal to God
This is truly the bottom line. All this combined leaves you with an incredible appreciation for the grace God grants you to pastor, despite the errors and exhaustion. But that’s not the point. You get to spend more time just being with the one you work hard for. It allows you to see that “God has this, you’ll be ok.” This isn’t because you’re superman. It is because God chose to be your friend, and despite who you are and because of who you are, God loves and uses you. Time with God is THE reward of sabbatical.

The bottom line:
Pastors, going on a sabbatical is essential for your ministry. Not because you’re tired, broke, need to see strengths, or help appreciate your role. You need to go on sabbatical because you need to trust God and be with him. To draw deeply from his grace. A layman, who was initially a skeptic or critic of sabbaticals, said this: “Then I realized, do we really want a climate of pastoral ministry where we don’t help pastors meet with God.” No conference or course can take the place of our ultimate source. Pastor, you need God.

Forgotten Gifts of the Spirit

Church is team. It takes diversity for a unified church body to work, both within the local church as well as the universal church. Smoldering in the back of my head is the issue of Seminary, thanks in part to Pastor Tim Raymond. Back in May, Pastor Tim, a peer in seminary and a man of God I had the privilege to growing up with, wrote a series on the importance of seminary (Part one Part Two Part Three Part Four). Here is the opening to the series:

“For decades, seminary education has endured the slings and arrows of bad jokes, unkind mockery, and downright slander.  If I had a quarter for every time I’ve heard a disillusioned preacher intentionally misspeak, recalling his years in “cemetery, I mean seminary,” I might be able to buy something edible.  It would be easy for the average Christian to think wrongly, like Nathaniel did with Nazareth, that nothing good can come out of seminary.”

Wisdom & Knowledge
Wisdom & knowledge seem to be neglected gifts. Bill Hybels mentions often how leadership is often not developed or neglected in churches. For a long time, I believe that to be true. As I look over the course of my lifetime, it seems wisdom and knowledge are largely neglected. Churches rarely promote the life of the mind. Wisdom and knowledge feeds solid leadership and solid pastoring. It gives tools to evangelism and mercy. In the fear of heresy, apathy and/or elitism, we’ve neglected two vital gifts.

Seminary is vital
The church both local and universal need places of scholarship where those gifted with wisdom and knowledge can develop and build the body of Christ. I believe it is a duty of a pastor to be a theologian. Having the gift of leadership or shepherding doesn’t give us an excuse to be lax in our theology. It does mean we need to lean on those gifted in ways we are not. I’d be lost preaching through Romans if it were not for those gifted with wisdom and knowledge. While true knowledge can puff up and love edifies, Paul also argues for the importance of the mind in 1 Corinthians 14.

Disciples were diverse
Often the argument against scholarship, like seminary, is the disciples were average men. This is partly true. They were also men who went through a rigorous three-year training program by a master teacher, Jesus. Afterwards the Holy Spirit instructed them. While peter was “blue collar” Paul was clearly an intellectual. While John spoke profound truths simply, Luke and the writer of Hebrews were academically astute. We need all gifts. The formation of God’s Word illustrates this.

The Bible
Biblical and theological literacy are at an all time low. The need for biblical counseling stands at an all time high. There is a relationship between these two things. Perhaps the church is reaping the costs of neglecting the gifts of wisdom and knowledge. What good is leadership or shepherding if it’s not on the firm foundation of God’s Word? Confusion on the Gospel, in worship and the church relationship to culture flow from not heeding wisdom and knowledge. We need to heed Hebrews 5:11-14.

The bottom line:
We need seminary and seminaries don’t need to be places where people lose their faith or passion. Like Tim, I found this to be quite the opposite. I’m immensely grateful for the discipleship Baptist Bible Seminary provided. While I understand that not all will or can attend seminary, I do think one should if at all possible. We need places where we can benefit from those gifted with wisdom and knowledge.

Prayer Mentoring: Your role in church

Praying through your ministry at a church is an important aspect of prayer. I read this poem my senior year in college and it always stood out in how I pray over my service at a church. Use it in your own prayer life as you fulfill your ministry.

“This is my church…”
It is composed of people just like me.
It will be friendly if I am.
It will do a great work if I work.
It will make generous gifts to many causes if I am generous.
It will bring others into its fellowship if I bring them.
Its seats will be filled if I fill them.
It will be a church of loyalty and love, of faith and service.
If I who make it what it is, am filled with these.
Therefore, with God’s help,
I dedicate myself to the task of being all these things
I want my church to be.

Book Review: Dream House by Barry Bandara

“In many ways, our families are in a battle- a battle of priorities. If we don’t take the time to account for all the movement of our family now and then, we can easily become overwhelmed with all that we have to do.” p. 70

Pastor Barry Bandara gives us an excellent blueprint for developing our own “Dream House.” The book is humorous, insightful and usable. Often books on parenting place a massive guilt burden on parents. Make no mistake about it, there are times when you will say ouch. Overwhelming, you’ll walk away saying “I can do this!” We need more resources that are refreshingly humorous while also giving clearly communicated wisdom.

Taking from the three best sources possible: God’s Word, wisdom from others and his own failures & success, Barry takes us through the various “rooms” of our dream house and how it relates to family. Along with each chapter and at the end, Barry also shares resources he and his wife found helpful. The metaphor and the warmth of his writing keep the principles understandable and approachable. (Some books I’ve read you almost need a PhD to understand them!)

The big win
Dream House is written by a man who practices what he preaches. I’ve had the privilege to serve with Pastor Barry and to see him as a father. He practices what he preaches. I’m a better husband and father because of his ministry. Often with family resources we ask: will this work? The answer is yes.

The book
What is helpful is the book gives us principles and not programs to add in our homes. Dream House gives you what needs to be done, how it can be done, as well as other resources to do it. This leaves the book highly adaptable for different family contexts. The questions at the end of each chapter are also helpful to figure out how to apply what was said in your own family.

Marriage counseling
Pastor Barry presents a 10 year rule in his book. The idea is to think 10 years down the road. If your child is 2 how do I want them to act when they are 12, and so on. Dream House is a book I’d highly recommend for marriage counseling. It gives a blue print of raising a healthy family and many of the needed principles need to start before kids. You may think “we’re just getting married,” but kids are not that far off.

The bottom line:
Dream House is an excellent resource on leading your family well. It’s written with a warmth and practicality often lacking. I’m looking forward to using Dream House in my own ministry and my own family.

How long would you wait?

14 years is a long time. I can’t imagine being told I was to do something and then have to wait 14 years to make it happen. Paul waited 14 years or more before he engaged in aggressive evangelism. I define aggressive evangelism as church planting. No doubt Paul was sharing the good news and establishing himself. But 14 years is a long time.

Paul was well trained, he was smart, he was one fine-looking Jew. He waited. Out of the gate he could defined the Gospel and his teacher was Jesus Himself. He still waited. Paul likely started his church planting efforts as an old man.

So, why bring this up? Too often we’re impatient. Here is the take away:

1) Paul remained faithful and continued to pursue doing ministry where he was at.

2) Being established does mean something in a church. There is often a gap between being called and serving, and the gap is important.

3) Humility is a key theme in Paul’s writings. It’s possible it was a key thing God was working on before sending Paul.

4) Even after a long wait, God did some incredible things through Paul in God’s timing.

Ministry is a marathon. Don’t be afraid of a gap in time. Be faithful and God in His timing will send you on mission.

One more thing… Just cause you’re nearing “retirement age” doesn’t mean God is done with you!

The Devil is in the tech -or- why you need books & original Languages…

Today is one of those days!

Both of my computer programs are not working and websites I use are not working as well. Even on other devices/confusers! Yep, weird. Sermon preparation is part of spiritual warfare just as preaching the Word is. Here’s the thing…

Books don’t crash… Minds do…

I’ve always used original languages as much as possible in my teaching preparation. As I stepped into a lead pastoral role, the urgency to keep my mind sharp on Greek increased. Before I relied on technology. Take your mentor’s words of wisdom and use technology as a back up or resource, not as a main stay! Some, like myself, are not adept at language. Still push yourself and don’t quit. God called us to be ourselves, but there is no replacement for original languages. When technology fails, you’ll be thankful.

Build a solid library of books as well. Granted that technology will increase in our lives. But, the Devil is in tech and while skeptics may say coincidence, coincidence happens A LOT during sermon prep. (Also true of church copiers on Sunday mornings!)

The bottom line: Build a solid library. Keep your mind sharp. I’m glad I have other resources to prepare when other things fail.

Oh, one more thing… Be grateful to those mentors who push you to excel! It’s for days like mine when things just don’t come together but you’re still confident in preparing to preach the Word. Training for ministry is a sacred trust. Be a good steward of that trust and be thankful when a professor pushes you hard. I had a great team of mentors. I’m glad they pushed hard.

Why not Wednesday? Going retro

Let’s face it, tradition for a long time got a bad rap. Often hailed as the opposition to change, tradition has an aspect of humanity we cannot run from. It grounds us. Allusions to the past, or retro, shows up everywhere and for quite a while. Going retro demonstrates some cool things.

There is no school like old school. Often the old school has the art and delight for something we now take for granted.

Mimicking is the highest form of flattery. The quest to allude to things past celebrates the work and efforts of those in generations past.

Things of old contain value. Retro understands this but adds to it a flare of modernity. In a real sense, it is our contribution. Appreciation is the parent, depth is the new birth.

Tradition grounds us in a way that helps us navigate life and understand the world. It gives us perspective and stability in an (overly) fast paced world.

Ministry context
In a church context, the retro movement can be seen as a rediscovery of what church is. There is a sense that many churches have lost who they are in running from tradition. There is movement to have a more classic approach to church, but not stodgy. In large measure it comes from a realization that church is unique and it has a rich history. Tradition wasn’t the enemy, and each generation must add its nuance.

The bottom line:
Culture wide there is a reach for all things past. In one sense, perhaps this is a realization that we’re a unique culture. (America is still very young.) But, in another sense I think people are seeking stability. Connecting with the past gives a sense of calmness. After all, we’ve been here before.

Loved God, Loved People

C. James Pasma was my first Pastor. When attending seminary my parents let me tag along with them to a party in his honor. An impromptu conversation started about ministry and how he lead the church I grew up in.

Thoughts from my last conversation with Pastor C. James Pasma (1922-2010)

“Biggest advice? Learn to listen to the Spirit. It’s hard, it varies, but learn to listen to the Spirit… If many things come together at the same time, chances are God is telling you something. Listen to Him.”

“I staffed to meet essentials and worked to free people to serve. The best ideas didn’t come from me… They don’t have to come from you. Your job is to feed them, and set them free to serve… Our biggest ministries didn’t originate from me.”

“I looked at the divorced and single statistics in our area and asked who was reaching out to them. Over a quarter of the population was single or divorced. They’re people, and people need to be reached… We studied the Scriptures, prayed about it, and we acted…”

“Treasure seminary. I was not able to go, but if I could go back, I would. The better you know your Bible, the better you can teach it. There is no replacement for knowing the Bible.”