Monday, April 30, 2012

I Want To Be Around Happy People

"Oh be careful little mouth what you say...oh be careful little mouth what you say.  For the Father up above is looking down in love so be careful little mouth what you say."

I learned this song in children's church, as a child. 

Not long ago, I attended a gathering and ended up talking to a leader who ended up complaining about all the incompetent people in his life.  He grumbled about everyone.  No one, it seems, measured up to his standards.  I attempted to change the subject, but he persisted. 

To be honest, it made me feel uncomfortable.  After getting an earful I finally had enough and excused myself.  :-)  Although I felt a little rude I didn't want to drown in his sea of negativity.

Complaining is DESTRUCTIVE.  Complaining about others is DOUBLE DESTRUCTIVE.  The person I was talking with didn't make me think less of the people he was grumbling about but it did make me think less of him.

Complaining about people has the potential of hurting you...

  1. You see more of what your notice.  I remember when I bought my truck.  I never really noticed other people's trucks.  But suddenly, they seemed to be everywhere.  If you focus on people's faults, you will find even more of them.
  2. You are a bear to be around.  My friend was not very happy.  He had a hitch in his get-along and a bur in his saddle. He was sarcastic and seemed entitled and discontent.  I felt like I needed to fast and pray for 30 days to get his spirit off of me. :-)
  3. You repel instead of compel.  Healthy people will avoid you if you're constantly complaining.  As a result, you miss lots of opportunities to connect with people.
  4. You cause a lack of trust.  When you listen to others complain about other people it will make you wonder, "what do they say about me when I am not around."  Thus, complaining incites a lack of trust. 
On the other side of the coin...there are POSITIVE people.  These people are the BEST!  They are encourager's and speak faith.  When you're around them you'll hear them ooze with encouragement and gratitude.

When you find these don't want to leave their presence.  It's like gasoline in your engine.

The difference between the two people I've mentioned is their mindset and approach to life.  The good news is that even though we may have picked up negative ways we don't have to stay that way. 
  1. Check yourself.  Are you a negative person? If you don't know...ask your spouse or a close friend, they'll let you know. :-)  We use mouthwash to keep our breath from being offensive - check your negativity level to see if you're putting off an offensive odor.
  2. Why are you really complaining? Perhaps you feel you're getting the attention you crave when you complain.  Maybe its the need to be recognized?  Are there better, more healthy ways to meet those needs?
  3. Commit to change. Just like most things...complaining can become a habit.  The first thing we have to do is OWN our behavior and a make a decision to change.  It may take you a minute but if you are really will become automatic over time.
  4. You will have what you say.  Life and death are in the power of the tongue.  If you begin to proclaim that you are a positive person it will be easier to commit to speaking positive.
  5. Smile more than you frown. Smiling not only has an impact on you it has an impact on others.  This is one reason that people unconsciously want to be around you. :-)
  6. Determine to give compliments to everyone!  If it's true that you see more of what you notice than the same is true YOU GET MORE OF WHAT YOU NOTICE.  If you catch people doing what is right and compliment them for it...guess what happens?  They start doing more of it!  This is not's influence.  And by the's contagious.
  7. Speak well of others. We will always have to deal with bad behavior by confronting it.  We should deal with the people who are directly involved rather than complaining about it to those are neither part of the problem nor part of the solution.  Remember what your mom said? "If you don't have anything positive to say, don't say anything at all."
Ultimately, complaining hurts us more than it hurts others.  By becoming more aware and more intentional, you can become a person others seek out and want to be around.

Thursday, April 26, 2012


I was introduced to this group a few years ago - the song that really struck a chord with me then was "Yes You Have."  I just couldn't get it out of my head.  I'm not sure if you've heard them or not...but take a listen.  Their new project "The Great Awakening" is the real deal!

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Press Past Your Mess

I've discovered that in order to achieve success or attain a goal...I must have a FIXED mind.  There are many potholes and pitfalls on the road of life.  I've also learned that anything worthwhile is bound to be a bitter battle.  

If I'm going to make it to the top of the EYES and my MIND must be focused on the same thing!  A focused individual is someone who aims well at the target and pulls his bow of opportunity to the final stretch before letting his arrow of destiny fly.

When God attempts to lead us assured the enemy of our soul will do everything he can to get us to RETURN to our old ways.  Israel is a prime example of this.  They had just left Egypt - headed toward the promised land (Exodus 16) when the ghosts of hunger and thirst raised their heads and frightened them.  They had only been on the road for a few days and were only a few miles from Sinai...but because they had missed a meal or two...they wanted to go back to the SLAVE CAMPS of Egypt!

Even though God had proven Himself strong on their behalf them a dry path through the Red Sea...they wanted to go back to making brick and mud balls in Pharaoh's brickyard.  They kept remembering the flesh pots of Egypt and were willing to SELL THEIR FUTURE for a bite to eat.  They had their eyes on Canaan but their minds were on Egypt!

They talked about freedom...but they thought about slavery.
They looked one way and thought another.

To even think about Egypt...they had to think about crossing burning desert sands where slime and slavery holds sway.  BUT to think about Canaan their minds would have to lift a midst the hills...the cedars and the whispering pines.

It was up to them.  

These were two great places of affection for the people of was the cradle of their race and the other was the hope of their future.  One meant shackles...the other meant a song of deliverance.  One meant freedom...the other meant slavery.

They were halted between the call of CHAINS and the call of WINGS!  Chains to hold them to their past but wings to lift them to new heights.  Chains of SLAVERY or wings of FREEDOM!  Both places pointed in different directions - they were at opposite ends of the journey!

How about you?  
  • Would you rather go back into bondage than to pay the price of victory?  
  • How do we get off the treadmill of life and move forward in the things of God?
  • How can we focus our minds as well as our eyes on the "Canaan" experience of our lives?
  • How do we reach our promise land without being detoured by the enemy?
There are three things we must do...
  1. Change our FOCUS...
  2. Have FAITH in those appointed over us...
  3. Move and operate in the FAVOR of the Lord...
Check out Sunday's message "Press Past Your Mess!"

Press Past Your Mess 4-22-12

Monday, April 23, 2012

Swallow Your Pride

Charles Spurgeon called pride "a groundless thing" and "a brainless thing" as well as "the maddest thing that can exist."

Andrew Murray said, “pride is the root of every sin and evil.”

It is also concealed and covered up in many of churches.  I pray that is not the case in our church.  We seek to cultivate humility by being diligent in crucifying sin and this includes pride.  

Pride is blinding but the Holy Spirit can open our eyes to it so we can repent and continue following Christ.

Let this list humble us so we can honor Christ in all we do.

Manifestations of Pride 
  1. Complaining against or passing judgement on God.  
    • A proud person in a difficult situation thinks, “Look what God has done to me after all I have done for Him” (Numbers 14:1-4,9-11;Romans 9:20).
  2. A Lack of Gratitude in general.Proud people usually think they deserve what is good. 
    • The result is this, they see no reason to be thankful for what they receive. As a matter of fact, they may even complain because they think they deserve better. They tend to be critical, complaining and discontent. The proud person is not in practice of being thankful toward God or others (2 Chronicles 32:25).
  3. Anger
    • A proud person is often an angry person. One’s anger can include outbursts of anger, withdrawing, pouting, or frustration. A person most often becomes angry because his “rights” or expectations are not being met (Matthew 20:1-16).
  4. Seeing Yourself as better than others.
    • A proud person is usually on top looking down on others. He gets easily disgusted and has little tolerance for differences ( Luke 7:36-50).
  5. Having an inflated view of your importance, gifts and abilities.
    • Many proud people have a very strong perception of themselves. They need a loving dose of reality. They need to hear, “What do you have that God did not give you?” (1 Corinthians 4:7).
  6. Being focused on the lack of your gifts and abilities.
    • Some proud people may not come across proud at all, because they are always down on themselves. This is still evidence of pride because one is focused on self and wants self to be elevated. Having a “woe is me” attitude is self-pity which is pride (1 Corinthians 12:14-25).
  7. Perfectionism.
    • People who strive for everything to be perfect often do so for recognition. They may do it so that they can feel good about themselves. Whatever the reason, this behavior is very self-serving and proud. The basic problem is making things that are less important, more important (Matthew 23:24-28).
  8. Talking too much.
    • Proud people who talk too much often do it because they think that what they say is more important than what anyone else has to say. When there are many words, sin is generally unavoidable (Proverbs 10:19).
  9. Talking too much about yourself.
    • A person who is proud may center on themselves in conversation. Sharing personal accomplishments and good personal qualities with others can be bragging or boasting (Proverbs 27:2Galatians 6:3).
  10. Seeking Independence or Control.
    • Some proud people find it extremely difficult to work under someone else or to submit to an authority. They have to be their own boss. They might say, “I don’t need anyone,” or “I don’t need accountability for my faith and doctrine.” They are often rigid, stubborn, headstrong, and intimidating. They may also say, “It’s my way or no way” (1 Corinthians 1:10-13Ephesians 5:21).
  11. Being consumed with what others think.
    • Some proud people are too concerned about the opinion of others. Many of their decisions are based on what others might think. Many of their decisions are based on what others might think. Some are in a continual pursuit of gaining the approval and esteem of others. Focusing on what others think of you or trying to impress others is being a man-pleaser rather than a God pleaser (Galatians1:10).
  12. Being devastated or angered by criticism.
    • Proud people usually struggle a great deal with criticism. Such people cannot bear that they are not perfect or have weaknesses because they cannot accept who they really are (Proverbs 13:1).
  13. Being unteachable.
    • Many proud people know it all. They’re superior. They can’t seem to learn anything from someone else. They respect no one (Proverbs 19:20John 9:13-34).
  14. Being sarcastic, hurtful, or degrading.
    • Proud people can be very unkind people. Those who belittle other people usually want to raise themselves up above others. Very often this can be quite cleverly done through jesting. Thy may excuse themselves by saying, “That’s just the way I am. That’s my personality” (Proverbs 12:18,23).
  15. A lack of service.
    • Proud people may not serve because they are not thinking of others, or because they want to be coaxed to serve and don’t want to continue if there is no praise. Needing recognition is a sure sign of the wrong motive in service (Galatians 5:13Ephesians 2:10).
  16. A lack of compassion.
    • A person who is proud is rarely concerned for others and their concerns. They cannot see beyond their own desires (Matthew 5:7;18:23-35).
  17. Being defensive or blame-shifting.
    • You would often hear a proud person say, “Are you saying its my fault?” or “Well, what about you?” (Genesis 3:12-13Proverbs 12:1).
  18. A lack of admitting when you are wrong.
    • A proud person would make a great many excuses such as, “I was tired,” or “I was having a bad day” (Proverbs 10:17).
  19. A lack of asking forgiveness.
    • Proud people rarely admit their sins or ask for forgiveness of other. They either cannot see their sin because they are blinded by their pride, or they just can’t seem to humble themselves before someone else and ask for forgiveness (Matthew 5:23-24).
  20. A lack of biblical prayer.
    • Most proud people pray very little, if at all. Proud people who do pray usually center their prayers on themselves and their desires, rather than God and others (Luke 1:10-14).
  21. Resisting Authority or being disrespectful.
    • A proud person may detest being told what to do. We might say he or she has a submission problem. What they actually have, however, is a pride problem. It is simply displaying itself in a lack of submission (1 Peter 2:13-17).
  22. Voicing preferences and opinions when not asked.
    • A proud person might not be able to keep his preferences or opinions to himself. He will offer it when it is not asked for. These preferences are usually voiced without consideration for others (Philippians 2:1-4).
  23. Minimizing your own sin and shortcomings.
    • A proud person typically believes that their own sin is no big deal. They think they have little sin and others have a great deal of it. (Matthew 7:3-5).
  24. Maximizing other’s sin and shortcomings.
    • To the proud person, other people are the problem. They may magnify or bring attention to the sin of others by gossiping about the other’s sin (Matthew 7:3-5Luke 18:9-14).
  25. Being impatient or irritable with others.
    • A proud person might be angry with other people because they are concerned that their own schedule or plans are being ruined. They are often inflexible on preference issues (Ephesians 4:31-32).
  26. Being jealous or envious.
    • Often when they do not enjoy the same benefits, proud people have a hard time being glad for other’s successes or blessings (1 Corinthians 13:4).
  27. Using others.
    • The proud person usually views others in terms of what those people can do for them and their interests. Their focus is not on ministering to others. Everything is for them and about them (Matthew 7:12;Philippians 2:3-4).
  28. Being deceitful by covering up sins, faults and mistakes.
    • Some proud people will do just about anything in order for others not to find out negative things about them.
  29. Using attention-getting tactics.
    • A proud person may try to draw attention to themselves through dress, bizarre behavior, being rebellious, always talking about their problems, etc. (1 Peter 3:3-4).
  30. Not having close relationships. 
    • Proud people often have no use for close relationships, thinking that the trouble outweighs the benefits. They may see themselves as so self-sufficient that they do not need other people (Proverbs 188:1-2;Hebrews 10:24-25).

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Eight Things I Want To Share

1. The number one reason people come to church for the first time is because someone personally took the time to invite them.  We met a couple last night for the first time who came because a member of our church had been inviting them. They were so excited to be here! I love seeing people get ENERGIZED about His Kindgom!

2. Shook hands with a young couple last night who were married this past Saturday! They've been attending our Marriage On The Rock class and even went to the Marriage Conference on Sunday (the day after their wedding!)  Hats off to this young couple!

3. Church in REVERSE...seemed to go exceptionally well...minus a few glitches.  We've gotten so much positive feedback.  WOW!  It's fun to see how people get excited when we mix things up.  I remember 13 years ago...we started with 22 people and didn't have any ruts to avoid.  In fact, it was refreshing to say, "we're going to just mix things up and see what works."  We're still mixing things up! 

4. Punctuality is the courtesy of princes!  Suppose you're the big cheese - King, CEO or guest of honor.  If someone else comes late to dinner, his dinner is cold.  But the dinner can't start without you, so if you come late to dinner, everyone else's dinner is cold too.  Lack of punctuality by the prince imposes a cost on everyone else.  Showing up on time is courteous to others...and it actually is a way of showing that the welfare of other people...matters to you. 

5. The spirit of truth and the spirit of error.  Believers in Jesus have learned to overcome seducers of the flesh, because greater is the Spirit of Christ that is in us than the spirit of antichrist that is in the world.  Anyone that attempts to convince you to live your life according to the definitely not the voice you should be listening to.  In fact, all you have to do is watch their life and listen to what they're saying and you'll hear the language of the world resonating out of them.  1 John 4:5-6 "They are of the world; therefore speak they of the world, and the world heareth them.  We are of God: he that knoweth God heareth us; he that is not of God heareth not us.  Hereby know we the spirit of TRUTH, and the spirit of ERROR."

6. The story in John 4 messes me up!  Jesus goes through Samaria and stops at a well.  His disciples go into town to get some food.  He winds up having a conversation with a Samaritan woman.

  • That's huge!  Not only did Jews not associate with Samaritans...but men didn't associate (publicly) with women right off the bat Jesus breaks two man made rules in even striking up a conversation with her.
  • We also find out that this lady...well...let's just say....she has a colorful past. (She's had five husbands...and is living with another man)
  • What gets me about this story is the way the disciples acted when they came back from town and saw Jesus talking with this woman.  They were SHOCKED (John 4:27)
  • Jesus didn't just SHOCK the religious leaders by demolishing their ridiculous man made rules...but He shocked those who thought they knew Him best by...
    • #1 Going to where no one else was willing to go!  Everyone ignored Samaria...Jesus went right into the middle of it!  If we are going to honor God with our lives we've GOT to be willing to go where others are not willing to go!  AND we KNOW we are becoming more like Jesus when even those closest to us say, "Whoa, hold up...I didn't see that coming!"
    • #2 Loving those no one else loved!  Jesus went to Samaria to reach this lady that society had pretty much written off as trash.  They looked at her and saw a prostitute...Jesus looked at her and saw POTENTIAL...and the Scripture says in John 4:28-30 that because of her testimony that people came out to see Jesus!
      • If we are going to get out of a safe mode as a church we HAVE to begin to reach out to people who are different than us... meaning...
        • A different color
        • A different political background
        • A different view on life
      • Christians, for far too long, have retreated to their holy cocoon and loved those who were just like them...which is the most blatant form of idolatry there has ever been.  We've GOT to reach this world for Christ!
    • #3 Having an "I don't care" attitude about what others thought.  Seriously...the Scriptures are full of illustration where Jesus INTENTIONALLY healed someone on the Sabbath!  He didn't HAVE to do it then...He could have don it on a Tuesday or something.  But NO...He wanted to clearly communicate to the religious professionals, "I am not here to win your approval!"
      • Not only were the religious leaders...but even the disciples were shocked!
7. The more time a leader spends with Jesus...and the more of His fire that gets in their  belly...from time to time, he or she will cast a vision that is so bold that everyone in the room becomes UNCOMFORTABLY EXCITED!

8. I don't want to live an INACTIVE life - I want to live an AUDACIOUS one!  I want my generation and those coming behind me to say, "I can't believe Russell had the audacity to do that on our watch!"  Nothing is far more risky than being audacious.  What I have found out over the years is that my desire to accomplish something great will always be left wanting if it is not exceeded by a desire to PREPARE to do something great.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

They are not visitors...they are GUESTS!

It is a privilege to have guests visit our church.  We are honored every time a guest makes a decision to walk onto our campus and attend a service.  We have a small window of opportunity to make sure we're connecting with each guest in a positive way.

Every person who attends our church has the responsibility of making sure each guest is made to feel welcome and to experience a sense of belonging.

We have no less than 2 types of guests:
  1. External guests - people who visit our website in search of information about our church.
  2. Internal guests - people who show up and take the risk of getting to know us by walking through the door.
Bottom line:  Show me a church that doesn't have first time guests or returning guests and I'll show you a church that is soon to fail in fulfilling Jesus' command of Matthew 28:19-20.

Churches have to be CREATIVE in their efforts to get people to walk through their doors.  Honestly, the very thought of having to MARKET the Gospel message to get people to do what they should already be doing is work! (it is worth every effort) I don't mind being creative to reach the LOST...but it's a sad day when we have to do multi-media campaigns to SELL THE SAINTS - just to get them to do what they should already be doing.  (Sad day...I tell you!)

If we have to CONVINCE the ALREADY CONVINCED - then their passion for JESUS is not near where it should be...and quite honestly, they need to fall on their face in the altar and cry out to God for MERCY

How do we get GUESTS to stay and keep coming?
  1. Make them our biggest fan!  This should be the goal from the time they walk through the door till the time they pull out of the parking lot.  We have to create guest relationships that make them want to immediately "shout it from the mountaintop" or in today's it on facebook or twitter about how great our church is!
  2. Give them multiple ways to connect with us.  Communication is vital - especially within the first 48 hours.  Our goal is that every guest should be able to reach us by phone, email, social media, etc.
  3. Fix what needs fixed...ASAP!  When a guest notifies of us an issue we have to get the right people involved immediately to deal with the issue...whether it's an issue in the parking lot, the restroom, the church nursery, etc.  There's no need to have an internal meeting at a later time...just get the right people involved and come up with a WIN-WIN solution. 
  4. Provide alternative solutions.  Our guest's perceptions are our reality.  Whether they are right or wrong, whatever they think is the reality we have to work with. Take the time to listen to what guests are saying and read between the lines.
  5. Don't assume they read the bulletin. We can put information in the bulletin 10 weeks in a row and I guarantee you that someone will not get the memo!  In spite of that, we must be willing to refresh their memory on the happenings of the church and decisions that will affect them. 
  6. We don't know more than everyone else!  The second we assume we know more than everyone else, everything changes:  our tone, our patience, our propensity to ask questions and our openness to new ideas.  Being a "know it all" is a sure turn off for guests!
  7. Look for ways to improve.  Even if things seem like they might be going well, they might not be.  What we don't do in a guest relationship defines us just as much as what we do.  Our guests have more to do than simply tell us when we are not doing well or when we are not meeting their expectations.  For this matter, asking for evaluations will ensure we are meeting their needs. 
  8. Say THANK YOU often.  I think we should surprise our guests with gratitude!  Every time we send an email, deliver a loaf of bread, make a visit or hit a milestone together, we have an opportunity to say thank you!
  9. Don't over commit.  Only make promises we can keep.  Although it's sometimes hard to do this, set expectations low but always exceed them.  Deliver on what we say we will do, and we will build trust with guests.  Fail to deliver, and compound that failure with excuses, and the trust our guests have in us will evaporate. 
  10. Bend the rules when you have to.  We set guidelines in our church for the purpose of order and smooth sailing...however, our established ways of dealing with problems are rarely customized for a particular guest's situation. Be willing to adjust when needed.  Guests don't know what the rules are...learn to make exceptions to the rules when the situation calls for it.
  11. Don't assume the question is the question.  In other words, sometimes the question being asked has another layer beneath it (the root).  Listen to what the question is and then listen to see if there's something else underlying that's not being said.  We must listen more than we talk.  Doing this will help us to know our guests better, and help us recommend alternative or complimentary solutions. 

Monday, April 16, 2012

It's All About Rapport

Some of the most important relationships you will develop in your ministry are with your leaders.  (i.e., your pastors, mentors, spiritual fathers, teachers, etc.)

Every relationship is important - you never know when you might run into someone again.  However, to get things done effectively and to be growing as a leader, you have to know how to work with your leaders.

There's an interesting word called RAPPORT...a close and harmonious relationship in which the people or groups concerned understand each others feelings or ideas and communicate well.

Building rapport with your leader is essential...especially if that leader is your boss, supervisor, etc.

Four ways to build Rapport:

1. Find out what your leader is trying to accomplish

  • You have to put your focus on your leader, not yourself, and ALWAYS start with their goals.  What are they trying to accomplish?  Do my goals help or conflict with my leaders goals? Understanding your leader's motivations is the first step to delivering on their expectations.
  • We are to be a "company of one" for our leader.  We are to make sure we're doing everything within our power to help them achieve their goal.  A major part of that is LISTENING.  Most of us have heard of the 80/20 rule - when it comes to listening we understand it to mean that our leader speaks 80% of the time and we speak 20% of the time.  The more the leader can talk and express themselves, the more we are drawn closer to our leader's heart.
2. Prove to your leader that they can trust you
  • Any relationship that works is based on trust.  In order to build an effective relationship with our leaders, they have to trust us completely...including our motivations and our ideas.
  • Building trust starts with RAPPORT 101.  We must approach the relationship in a positive direction assuming that WE WILL have a good connection with our matter what.
  • If your leader knows that your interactions with them will be positive and truthful - trust will begin to develop.  This is ESSENTIAL especially when we may have different viewpoints, beliefs, etc. than our leader.
  • You'll truly prove your trustworthiness with your leader if you "keep the lines of communication open" at ALL TIMES.  In other words...there's nothing we should know that our leader can't know.  We must make sure information is FLOWING in to our leader.  If we can know it...they certainly SHOULD know it to.  
  • If your leader feels that you're keeping information from them and it ends up surfacing (and believe me it will) from another source - then our trustworthiness will be questioned and our ability to advance forward will be stifled. 
3. Give your leader new & fresh ideas
  • Again, focus on the goals of your leader.  If you sense that there is a moving away from those goals, discuss it privately with your leader.  Don't just bring issues...BRING SOLUTIONS!
  • When gathering new ideas - keep your leader informed...they have may have some information that will save everyone time based on their knowledge about a situation, etc.
  • Stay up-to-date with blogs, trends, conferences, etc., that apply to your leader's goals.  When you find ideas of interest, share them with your leader.
4. Communicate
  • Learn your leader's communication style and don't deviate from it.  It will require some sacrifice on your part but it will be worth it!  (i.e., do they prefer phone calls, emails, texts, etc...also discover when the best time to communicate with them is.)  If uncertain...ask.
  • Whatever their preference is...match them with your communications. 
Your relationship with Jesus will show up in your relationship with others.  Build rapport and you'll build the relationship.  Building requires work, understanding, patience and consistency. 

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Sometimes It's Heavy But It's Worth It!

The load that many people carry in ministry can be very heavy.  Ministry is tough on every level...period!  I spoke with a pastor not long ago who was ready to quit. He was tired, weary and aggravated with the way things were going in his church.   

Friends, the pain and burden that a pastor has to deal with is unlike any area I've ever experienced.  I worked in the banking industry for eight years and was in their management training program...that pales in comparison to the burden, stress load and weight of serving as a pastor today.

I'm not complaining.  I asked to be here.  I enlisted.  I signed up.  I prayed this through.  However, learning how to navigate through the rigors of personalities, problems, politics, people etc. can sometimes leave you asking, "Did I sign up for this?" (SMILE)

In any given week I may deal with: marriages on the verge of divorce; people who are struggling financially and are at their wits end; parents who are dealing with rebellious kids; infidelity; sickness; death; terminal diagnosis; suicide tendencies; addiction to prescription pills, alcohol; drugs; runaway children; home foreclosures; hunger/no food; homelessness; depression; etc.

I served on staff as a youth pastor for many years as well as a district youth director before becoming a senior pastor...and there isn't a class in the universe that can prepare you for what is coming your way...both good and bad.

It's sometimes difficult to get pastors to open up about their pain or struggle.  Some refuse to for fear of being viewed as weak or unstable.  The very thought of telling their congregation "this job is tough" is petrifying!

I've come to this understanding with myself.  I don't care what other people think about me being transparent and open about my struggles, feelings or pain.  Of course, I don't get up in the pulpit every week and tell all my business...but I do find people of good reputation, of whom I respect highly, to share my burdens with.  I'm OK with being REAL.

Being real comes with a price tag.  You will be complimented and criticized for your willingness to be vulnerable and honest especially amongst your peers.  By the way, BFWC, this isn't necessarily a blog just for you...but it's for all those servants of Christ out there who may be hurting.

There are several areas we could easily address....

1. Loneliness - If you're a staff member at a church...I can identify with you.  I have served other leaders for many years.  If you're not careful, you'll find yourself thinking, "I do just as much as they do, and I don't think they deal with any more junk than I have to deal with."  Friend...that is a WRONG ASSUMPTION based on arrogance.  Trust me when I say that only a pastor can understand the pain of another pastor. (SPOUSES INCLUDED!)

Believe me - your family won't understand the weight of your calling either...especially those who've never been raised in a pastor's preacher's home.  They may have an inkling of the burden you carry but they'll never understand the load, demand, weight or the burden you carry.  You really can't expect them to.  But whatever you do...DO NOT unload on them!  They are not equipped to carry your calling...if so, they'd be carrying it to.  If you make the mistake of unloading on them, you'll be planting a seed in their heart  that can easily manifest as disgruntledness for the church, the pastor you serve or others in the ministry. 

Ministry has been described as lonely. need another pastor to talk to, to vent with, to pour out your heart to...they can understand you better than anyone else...because they too, have experienced loneliness at your level.

2. Criticism - this just comes with the territory.  Sometimes it's justified and other times it's not...but  the thing most people don't realize is that IT ALWAYS HURTS.  Especially when someone begins by saying, "Now don't take this personally, but..."

People will criticize you for the silliest things...the car you drive, the house you live in, the shoes you wear, how much you sweat, how you preach, your waist name it.  You seem to receive criticism better from the people who know and love you better than the people who feel called to the ministry of interference.  Wounds from a friend can be trusted...but...

Why is it that people who don't even know you think they have some God called ministry to attack you via Facebook, anonymous emails, etc.?  They haven't even had a conversation with you.  By the way...I've said this before and I'll say it again...I HAVE ZERO RESPECT FOR SOMEONE WHO LEAVES A CHURCH VIA EMAIL.  I don't even waste my time responding such immaturity.  If you don't have the decency to look your pastor in the eye...the same pastor who has prayed and fasted for you, spent time shepherding you, counseling you, loving you...etc. - then that speaks volumes about where you are in your faith.  JESUS teaches us better than that.

I've even had people take a portion of my sermon and twist it completely out of context and then have the nerve to misquote me all over town.  LOL Sometimes all you can do is laugh.  

Pastors, you will be misquoted and misrepresented by those who lack the courage to take the time to get to know you...or MAYBE even hit their knees for you if they are so convinced that you are wrong.

Friends, someone who continually attacks you and /or your ministry just isn't normal.  Who has time to go around trying to tear other people down?  Not me!  I refuse to waste my time on them. There are too many people that need me to stay focused on the vision.  Those are the people I'm going to give my time to.

3. Unrealistic Expectations - No matter how hard you try, you'll never be able to get everything right.  You'll forget people's names; forget they were in the hospital; you'll preach too deep for some and too shallow for others;  you'll miss their calls taking other people's calls; your every move will be scrutinized.  Honestly, some people will place expectations on you that they would never be willing to live up to themselves.

This can be the reason that many pastors families fall apart - they cave to the expectations placed on them by selfish, self-seeking church members who expect them to do everything - but never lift a finger to help...and forgetting something that most people never actually stop think about - pastors are human beings with real feelings and a real heart.

Truth is truth...and it doesn't really matter what anyone thinks.  PERIOD.  Church member, staff member, volunteer, etc...PRAY FOR YOUR PASTOR!  Believe me, he/she goes through it.

Let me be VERY CLEAR - I am blessed to serve at BFWC!  God has called me here and He has called me to pastor.  But I'd say what has probably shaped Beverly and I the most is PAIN.  Pain is not avoidable as a pastor - it's real.  Anytime I fall into thinking that my life should somehow be easy all I have to do is read 2 Corinthians 11:22-29.

I love what I do!  I love what God has called me to do!  There is nothing I'd rather be doing!  BUT...with the calling comes a cross to carry.  BUT IT IS WORTH IT!

  • It is worth it to be faithful.
  • It is worth it when we see people come to Christ.
  • It is worth it when we see marriages restored.
  • It is worth it when we see the excluded included.
  • It is worth it when we see people receive hope!
  • It is worth it when we see addicts set free!
  • It is SO WORTH IT!
Jesus didn't quit and neither should we!  He has given us this assignment!  Pain may be part of the process but it can shape us to be more effective for His glory!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

I Love CAN DO People!

It is so refreshing to be around POSITIVE people.  They lift you up and keep you focused on what's really important.

I believe each of us should be held accountable for our attitude.  Besides, Philippians 2:5 says we are to have the attitude of Christ.

"Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus:"

Sure, we've all had bad days - days where we had less than the best attitude...we all have them.  We're not perfect and we certainly live in a less than perfect world.

Knowing that we all have a bad day from time to one thing.  But what about the person who treats everyone around them like their inferior?  Ever been around this kind of person?  I have little tolerance for someone who treats people like this.  Why do we tolerate this attitude?

If we are going to live a positive life...then we need positive people around us.  People who have a "CAN DO" attitude. 

Pastors need positive people around them as well.  There's nothing worse than when you're casting vision and someone's rolling their eyes, yawning, making groaning noises, checking their phone & doodling - as if they're bored out of their mind.

Keeping a positive attitude is infectious. Even if faced with a challenge, positive people will speak in honest faith and look for solutions.

One of the things we say around BFWC is "don't bring a problem without a solution."  In other words, even if you have a tough issue that needs to be dealt with, before you walk into the office please bring a solution as well.

Are you a "Can Do" person?  Do you see solutions when faced with difficulties?  We cannot avoid problems or less than perfect scenarios, but we can choose to see the positive in everything.
  • Choose to be a positive person. 
  • Choose to light up the room with your contagious smile. 
  • Choose to give honest, yet positive input even in the midst of less than positive circumstances.
  • Choose to lift the arms of your leaders.
  • Choose to think positive.

Monday, April 2, 2012

You Are Already A Success!

Our culture craves the idea of being successful.  For many, the thought of success is viewed as having "made it."  However, success is not something you can have or possess.  True success is a state of being not having.

Unfortunately, the wrong view of what success is has infiltrated the church world.  Success is measured by how many people attend your church, the amount of square footage your campus has, the number of staff members you have, the number of ministries you offer and the size of your budget.

If you need those things to feel successful or validate yourself - then you'll be driven to acquire it at any cost. Even after you acquire it you won't be satisfied and you'll move on to something else in search of personal validation and self-worth.

Personal ambition is great.  However, if personal ambition is masked with Christian cliche's and spiritual language you can end up with dysfunctional behavior that goes undetected until it's too late.  Who suffers as a result of this?  Everyone.

My hope is that we can produce a culture in our leadership that resists the urge of measuring success in terms of having as opposed to being.  Sadly, this view isn't accepted in secular culture nor in most Christian environments. 

Who said you have to "have" something to be successful?  If you don't have anything...does that make you a nobody or unsuccessful?   Well, according to today's culture (and many people I've met in ministry along the way) there's this underlying current that tends to base success on how many books you've written, how many people attend your church, what conference you've been invited to speak at or how expensive the cuff links are you're wearing on your embroidered shirt. 

Jesus said this..."Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.  Whoever becomes humble like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven." (Matthew 18:3-4)

Jesus also said..."The greatest among you will be your servant.  All who exalt themselves will be humbled, and all who humble themselves will be exalted." (Matthew 23:11-12)

Jesus saw success (Kingdom success) in terms of BEING not in terms of HAVING or even DOING.

This is directly opposite to the consumer-oriented culture which many in ministry today are determined in possessing just so that they can prove to everyone that they are "somebody."

Apostle Paul summed it up best in Philippians 4 "...I have learned to be content with whatever I have."

Friends, if we can turn the thinking from HAVING or even DOING to simply BEING...imagine how many leadership failures we could prevent.

God is not opposed to us having things.  However, He is opposed to those things...having us!  Friend, your success is not tied to all the STUFF you can acquire or the name you can make for yourself!  Be yourself.  Be comfortable in your own skin.  Refuse to compare yourself to others. 

Rest assured in the fact that God validates you.  He affirms you.  He'll give you what you need.  

Strive for excellence...push for it!  Give 110% in everything you do! Don't settle for mediocrity!  However, don't feel you have to have more than someone else in order to be considered successful!