I’ve written some of my most read posts about a myth. A lie. A misquoted and misapplied Bible verse.
As with most lies the enemy uses, it originates from a misapplied truth in 1 Corinthians 10:13 that talks about temptation and how when we are tempted, God always allows us a way to resist that temptation. We can’t be tempted beyond what He’s equipped us to bear. (But, even that is misapplied if it’s done on our own strength.)
So using that truth, people often stretch it to say to hurting people, “God will not put more on you than you can bear.”
Yea — right!
Tell that to me. Or my friends. Or yourself.
Ever feel defeated? Like you can’t handle what you’ve been asked to “bear”?
Imagine telling a mother of two young children after she suddenly loses her husband and fears being able to raise the children, provide for them, and keep the home in which they live, “Remember, God will not put more on you than you can bear.”
Doesn’t sound very comforting to me — or probably to her. At the time she feels very much like she has more on her than she can bear.
And, she does.
And I’m not suggesting God “put” that on her, but He certainly allowed her to have more on her than SHE can bear.
If you’re like the rest of us you have felt that way also. It’s part of being in the fallen world in which we live.
And yet, for the believer we have an answer.
When we feel out of control — in over our head — afraid of the circumstances of our life — worried — our answer is Jesus.
It’s all grace, and it’s a sufficient grace to help us in our time of need. We are more than conquers — with Jesus
Ironically, however, I believe that truth, combined with the misapplication of the verse above, is where the lie in that familiar saying originates.
We have an answer to the stress of this world — a strength to bear any burden. But, that can make us think we should be able to handle anything.
And, we can — with Jesus.
When the administration of that strength rests on us — on our abilities — IF YOU CAN BEAR IT — it leaves out our need for grace.
And, Jesus made it clear when He said, “Apart from Me you can do nothing.”
This may seem like semantics, and I’m not usually a semantics kind of guy, but when the semantics are wrong here it can produce a terrible theology. One that says you have to make it on your own. That because you are a believer, you suddenly have the power to defeat anything that comes your way. And, you do have power — but it is NOT you — the power is Jesus in you.
The key here is you won’t have more on you than you can bear — IN JESUS. Paul said, “My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me.” (Galatians 2:20)
But without an understanding of “Christ in me” that phrase “God will not put more on you than you can bear” isn’t freeing. It’s burdensome. And — with any misunderstanding of where our true strength resides — that saying becomes a lie.
And, probably no one who uses that statement intends it to harm — they intend it to be helpful. But the enemy would love you to live in that lie, believing that somehow YOU have to get it together — you have to conquer all the ails you — in your strength, because, you know, “God will not put more on you than you can bear”. It’s a dangerous, defeating statement without proper understanding. It’s not helpful in a person’s time of struggle.
It might be easier to say, “You know, God will never allow anything upon you that HE can’t handle.” And, then we can encourage people to “cast their cares upon Him, because He cares.”
And, as strange as it may seem, those times of disparity — when we are overwhelmed with our personal abilities — unable to stand up to the pressures we are facing — have more on us than we can bear — actually have great value within the sovreignty of God. He uses them for our good.
Here are 21 reasons God may allow more than you can bear:
So you will rely on Him. 1 Peter 5:7
So you will call on Him. Acts 17:26-27
So you have no choice but Him. John 15:5
So He can tell us things we wouldn’t know otherwise. Jeremiah 33:3
So He can be gracious to you. Isaiah 30:18
So He can show His kindness and compassion. Lamentations 3:21-24
So He can restore your soul. Psalm 23:3
So He can demonstrate His strength. 2 Corinthians 12:9
So you will trust in Jesus — and the Father. John 14:1.
So you can produce character and hope. Romans 5:3-5
So He can keep us from being self-reliant 2 Corinthians 12:7
So He can discipline His children. Hebrews 12:6-7
So God’s power is revealed. 2 Corinthians 4:7
So He can show our need for salvation. Psalm 119:67
So He can comfort us. 2 Corinthians 1:3-4
So we can learn to comfort others. 2 Corinthians 1:3-4
So He can reveal His unseen workings. Psalm 77:19
So He can demonstrate how all things work for an eventual good. Romans 8:28
So the Gospel might be proclaimed. Philippians 1:12-13
So He can draw prodigals home. Luke 15:17
So He can build character and hope. Romans 5:3-4
Don’t believe the lie. God WILL allow more on you than you can bear — alone. You and I need a Him for our every breath.
If you feel overwhelmed today — defeated — like there is more on you than you can bear – turn to the burden bearer. “Then Jesus said, ‘Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.'” (Matthew 11:28)
In my recent post I contend that…
To be a kingdom building pastor you MUST be a community building pastor.
I admit that “must” is a strong word — and there are few things that I’m emphatic about unless they are Biblical, but I do believe that in order for us to reach people today we have to get outside the walls of our church buildings. And, that means we MUST do something intentional to make that happen. The community has to know — and believe — that we really do care for them. For me, being a community builder makes sense — and seems most effective.
And, we do love our community already, don’t we?
I certainly hope so. We believe we have the hope for the world as our central teaching. The Gospel is not to be a hidden truth but the light in the city on the highest hill. That means we must take our light into the world.
So the fair question to follow a post like that is how do you do it? How can a pastor — or ministry leader — be a community builder?
I don’t have all the ideas, but I have some suggestions.
Here are 7 ways to be a community-minded pastor:
Know key leaders – I think you should know who the leaders in the community are and know as many of them personally as possible. You may not be able to know the mayor of your city, depending on the city’s size, but could you know your local council representative? Could you know a school board member? You’ll be surprised how receptive many politicians are when constituents contact them — especially a leader who has an audience with a significant number of people. (And, anything over an average household can be considered significant.) Let me be clear that I never endorse candidates in my official capacity, but I do vote and it’s amazing when you’re active in the community how many people in your church want to know who you support.
Listen to concerns – Wherever you are, wherever you go, whatever you do in the community — whether at city hall, a school meeting or the grocery store or barbershop, listen to hear the things people are talking about around you. If you hear repeated themes you can almost guess that’s an issue on people’s minds. And, if you aren’t hearing anything — ask. Actually, ask anyway. And, don’t hear for what you want to do or where your church is already serving. Listen with an open mind to the real concerns of people. You may have different answers than they’ve thought of before. You know how to organize people. You represent people you can organize. That’s a powerful combination when addressing community needs.
Love what they love – I’ll get disagreement to this one, but I think it’s one of the more effective ways to be a community builder. I’m specifically talking about loving the culture of the city. I’ve seen pastors bash their community online. That’s foolish in my opinion. You can talk against community concerns in a way to rally support for a cause without bashing the community. People often feel about where they live — especially if they grew up there — the way they feel about their family. They can say bad things about them, but you better not. But, here’s where I’ll get the most disagreement — to me, this also includes loving the traditions they love — including their local sports teams. I was visiting a church recently and the pastor joked about the local college team. He referred to the fans as “sinners”. The crowd gave a rousing disapproval — and they laughed. It was funny. I couldn’t help but wonder, however, how much more effective he could have been endearing people to his leadership if he was “on their side” rather than always blatantly rooting for an opponent. It must be genuine of course, and I’m not suggesting you drop loyalties to other teams, but ask what cause are you more loyal to supporting and how supporting it will be most effective. I’m in the heart of the University of Kentucky Big Blue tradition. I get criticized repeatedly by my Tennessee fans as a “traitor”, but I’m telling you people like me better — and listen more — when I’m wearing Kentucky blue. God has called me to reach people in this community and I’ve discovered they love that I’m learning their unique culture and exploring and enjoying the uniqueness that is Kentucky. When I was in a military town, the more knowledge and support I could demonstrate about military service the more our soldiers and their families seemed to endear themselves to my leadership. And, don’t misunderstand, it is absolutely genuine for me. I am intentionally trying to love the people to whom God has placed me to minister — and part of that — as I would do for any family member — is learning to love the things they love.
Learn the community – One of the best things I did when I moved to Lexington two years ago is go through the Leadership Lexington program. The following year I went through Leadership Central Kentucky. I quickly learned things I might never have known about the community. It’s amazing now how I can answer questions about things we offer in the community that people can’t answer who have lived here for years. Most communities have something like this. Often they are found connected somehow to the local Chamber of Commerce or equivalent. You can also sign up for any local tours that the community offers. If the town is too small for anything like this, make appointments with people who are known in the community for their years of service to the community. Go prepared with questions and pick their brains about the community. Cheryl and I recently started volunteering at the city’s visitor center. We are doing this to give back, but also to get even more familiar with the city and what it has to offer.
Build your community network – You never know when you’re going to need it. Plus, there will always be people you may not know but people in your network will know them. I’m consistently asking people to connect me with people I should know in the community. And, that’s in all sectors of the community. Don’t limit your network to those society considers influential. I recently had one homeless person tell me of another homeless person I needed to know, because he is an influence in that segment of the community.
Serve somewhere in the community, besides your church – I think this is critical in community building, but also simply the right thing to do. As pastors, we expect people from the community to serve in the church. It’s only fair for us to give back to the community that is giving to us. Plus, we need to lead the way so that others in the church will serve in the community also. Finally, it’s the best way to meet people who need the hope that we have to share.
Lead your church to be community builders – This begins with a general desire to see the people of the church investing in the community. But it won’t happen by accident. It takes the intentionality of teaching and serving by example. And, most of all it takes consistency. This isn’t something we do in a campaign once a year. This must be a lifestyle — getting the church into the community — being community builders — so we can eventually be Kingdom builders.
What other suggestions do you have to be a community builder?
I love this picture.
I saw it on Mark Jobe’s Facebook page. Mark is a pastor of a church I greatly admire in Chicago. Actually, as a church planter and revitalizer, I’ve probably referred people to New Life (and a video of their work I keep bookmarked) as much as any other church.
New Life is doing what I believe is some of the best, hardest and most needed work in church growth today. They come along side an older, declining, established church and breathe “new life” into them helping them reach the community again. There are many other churches doing similar work, but I have been to New Life and had the opportunity to talk with Mark a few times, so he’s one doing this type ministry I’m familiar with most. I don’t know Mark well — but we are close enough to be Facebook friends
In this picture, Pastor Mark is walking with Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel. According to the caption, Mark was “Discussing the challenges of providing a safer environment and better role models for Chicago school children with the Mayor”
I love it!
Yea Mark! Yea New Life! Yea God!
The thought that struck me with this picture is that it provides further proof of something I’ve believed for some time. Something I’ve been living and preaching.
It’s how I’m trying to do church growth today.
To be a kingdom building pastor you MUST be a community building pastor.
You simply have to be! I’m convinced.
Okay, maybe must is too strong a word. Sometimes I use titles to get you to read — because I am making a point I believe is important. And, let me be clear there are many other effective models of doing ministry than Mark’s and certainly mine. But, being a community builder seems to be at least one of the more effective ways I’m seeing churches grow these days.
People aren’t coming to our big buildings anymore — or our small buildings. We must go to them.
Shortly after I arrived in Lexington I ran past a historical marker for the oldest home in our city. It was built for a Presbyterian pastor. The marker explains what a difference that pastor had on the city — not just as a pastor — but as a community leader. That’s because — years ago — pastors used to be at the center of everything in a community.
Pastors were community leaders — game changers in the community. They garnered respect through visibility and activity. People listened to them and wanted their opinion — mostly because people knew them well enough to respect them. They weren’t just faces on a raised platform on Sunday — they were faces seen in the community during the week. They were friends. Town folk.
One of my mentors, a pastor now in his mid-90’s, helped start a small business almost 70 years ago that is still thriving today in the community where his first pastorate was located. How? He walked the man desiring to open a business over to the bank and told the community banker to “give this young man a chance”. He got the loan. The pastor got a generous church donor. (Funny how that works.)
He could march over to the bank with a prospective loan because he was respected by the banker.
Now, things have changed. Banks don’t operate like that anymore. I’m not saying they ever will again. Most likely not.
But, not everything has to change.
The fact is, we didn’t just stop influencing the bankers — we stopped influencing our communities. Many times we left public square to hide behind our pulpits. And, I get it. For so long they came to us. We would build it — buildings and parking lots and programs — and they would fill them. We may need to wait for some tragic or life-altering events to occur in thie life, but they’d come.
But it doesn’t always work anymore — at least not as easily.
I’m convinced, many times they don’t trust us as much because they don’t know us as much.
I haven’t been in full-time vocational ministry long. I came out of the business world where I was very involved in community functions. Frankly, in my experience, the pastors who were active in community efforts weren’t respected because of the way they went about trying to make a difference. I know because I heard my friends who weren’t Christians talk about it. (That experience has greatly shaped my approach to doing ministry. Leading in the community — hoping to be a Kingdom builder.)
You knew what they were against, but you didn’t know what they were for. You knew what they didn’t like about the community, but you didn’t know what they liked about the community. You knew they took resources from the community to operate their programs — but you didn’t know how they gave anything back. Honestly, they were seen more as antagonistic than helpful in changing the community for good.
The community won’t stand for it anymore.
And, while much of that is perception more than reality — most pastors and churches do love their community, even if it’s not always visible. If the church does it’s job of making disciples of those who attend it should be helping the community by giving back citizens who have more joy, patience, love, etc. Who doesn’t want that? (I’ll let someone else decide if a particular church is actually producing Christ-like disciples.)
But wasn’t Jesus visible, known and well-liked in the community? Sure, they eventually rejected Him, but that was part of the plan — and He knew it was coming — and that didn’t deter Him from loving the people outside the walls of the synagogue. Jesus proved you could be in the world without being shaped by the world.
And, by being in the world, we stand a far better chance of helping to shape it.
Frankly, if all the community knows is the perceptions they see — and, they are more against a community than for it — I don’t blame them for rejecting our message.
And, so, I contend again…
To be a kingdom building pastor you have to be a community building pastor.
So, we need to be involved in our schools.
We need to be involved in addressing the greatest needs of our community.
We need to know our school and city leaders and help them understand we are here to be part of the solution — not to add to the stress of their jobs.
We need to earn the respect of people in the community — some who will never enter the doors of our churches — so we can help build our communities.
Only then, in my opinion, can we most effectively build the Kingdom today. And, in my honest opinion, it’s the right thing to do even if the church never grows another member from it.
So, let me ask some sobering questions.
Pastor, how are you investing in your community?
How are you becoming a community leader/influencer?
Does the community know you — as more than just a name on a sign outside your building?
If so, do they like who they are getting to know?
Jesus had an inner circle of leadership.
It sounds exclusive. And it was.
But you should have one too.
Matthew 15:32 Then Jesus called his disciples to him and said, “I have compassion on the crowd because they have been with me now three days and have nothing to eat. And I am unwilling to send them away hungry, lest they faint on the way.”
It’s a leadership principle we can learn from and should implement also.
Consistently throughout the ministry of Jesus, we see Him responding to situations in a similar fashion.
Jesus didn’t simply announce His plans.
Instead, He repeatedly called His inner circle together. He prepared His team. Then He announced His plans.
The inner circle of Jesus (His disciples) were continually being shaped for leadership and ministry.
He built loyal followers by personally investing in them.
He gained His team’s confidence by sharing insider information with them.
He expanded His ministry 12-fold by delegating to them.
And, do you think Jesus knew a few things about leading people — people He created?
I think so.
Leader, your largest goal in leadership development should be to develop an inner circle of leaders around you.
When you invest in them — when you allow them to lead — you develop loyal followers who will follow you anywhere and help you accomplish the vision God has given you.
Great leaders — like Jesus — develop their inner circle of leaders first.
I can anticipate the detractors of this post, so let me address you now.
It’s not that you are being exclusive in your leadership development. Everyone can be developed. But rather you are being effective.
It’s impossible to lead too many direct reports in leadership.
That’s why some pastors burn out.
For me, I find I’m less effective when more than 4 or 5 people report directly to me.
Jesus could handle 12 — but He’s Jesus. But even then, it appears Jesus was even more intentional with Peter, James and John. And He consistently tried to slip away from the crowd.
“Follow Me” – Jesus said.
Leaders — do you have an inner circle of leaders you are developing?
Years ago I was serving on a team where there was a consistent idea killer. Whenever anyone on the team presented an idea, regardless of the idea’s merit, this person would shoot it down. He always saw the glass as half empty and was negative about everything. It’s okay to have someone who asks questions to make things better — but this guy was a doomsayer in the room. It wasn’t helpful.
It was annoying, but was allowed to continue by leadership. Everyone talked about it outside of the meetings, no one respected the idea killer, and even the leader admitted it was a problem for the team, but he insisted he had counseled with this person privately, and it never seemed to improve.
It led me to the conclusion:
Sometimes, as a leader, you have to address the “elephant in the room” — in the room.
Everyone knows it’s there.
You can’t miss an elephant.
It keeps being repeated.
You’ve handled it individually.
Nothing has changed.
It may even be getting worse.
At some point, the leaders may have to address the elephant in the room.
You can’t ignore the elephant.
While everyone is in the room, address the elephant.
You may have to call out the person causing the disruption in the presence of everyone else in the room.
Yes, it’s hard, uncomfortable, and you don’t want to do it often, but it may be necessary.
If you don’t:
- Everyone will assume this type performance is tolerated.
- The negative actions will be copied by others.
- Team dynamics will never be healthy.
- Respect for the leader — with this issue and others — will diminish.
Address the elephant!
You must. Everyone already knows it’s there. The best excuses won’t hide an elephant. And, elephants don’t often leave the room on their own.
Have you ever served on a team where the elephant wasn’t addressed and it negatively impacted the team?
Here are 7 ways to make yourself invaluable to a team:
Be a chief encourager. Be one who helps people feel better about themselves and their contribution to the team.
Support the vision and direction. Be honest about it, but be a verbal proponent of the overall objectives of the team and where things are going. Be a known team player.
Respect others. In the way you treat and respond to everyone on the team.
Give more than required. That doesn’t mean you have to work more hours. It might. But it might mean you work smarter than everyone else. Plan your day better. Be better at setting goals and objectives. Hold yourself accountable.
Be an information hub. Be well read and share what you learn. Information is king. Be the king of it. Without being obnoxious — of course.
Celebrate other people’s success. Send notes or encouragement. Brag on someone else. Tell others what you admire about them. Without being creepy — of course.
Be a good listener. Everyone loves the person they can go to and know they won’t just be heard they will be listened to. A good person to bounce ideas off of his invaluable to the team. Then keep every confidence.
What other ways do you know of to make oneself valuable to a team?
After years of leading change I’ve discovered some things about the process. One of those discoveries is that change will face resistance. All change.
Surprised by that revelation? Not if you’ve ever led change.
If the change has any value at all, someone will not agree — at least initially.
There is something in all of us that initially resists change we didn’t initiate.
And, I’ve discovered the absolute most common reason change is resisted. I mean the biggest.
Would that be helpful to know?
I would say it is true the majority of time when change is resisted.
Understanding this reason can help navigate through change. Ignoring it makes the process of change miserable for everyone.
What’s the most common reason change is resisted?
It’s an emotion they feel. They may not even be able to describe it, but it’s more powerful at the time than the excitement the change may bring.
What’s the emotion? You may think anger, or confusion, or fear. And, while those are often true emotions of change, in my observation it isn’t the most common. I recently wrote 7 Emotions of Change — and it isn’t one of them. I was saving the biggie for this post — because all the others are often products of this one.
The most common emotion that causes resistance to change:
A sense of loss
People emotionally feel a sense of loss in the process of change.
Have you ever felt like you were losing or had lost something?
How did you react? Didn’t you try to hold on to whatever you were losing?
It’s not a good feeling emotion.
Loss of power
Loss of comfort
Loss of control
Loss of information
Loss of familiarity
Loss of tradition
Loss of stability
They aren’t always rational emotions. They are often perceived as bigger than they really are.
But, they are real emotions to the person experiencing the emotion of loss.
It doesn’t matter if people know the change is needed. They often feel they may be losing something in the change — and it causes them to resist the change.
And, because change is — well — change — their emotions are based on some truth. Things are changing.
I have found, as a leader, that if I understand what people are struggling with I’m better prepared to lead them through it. Some people are never going to get on board with the change, but many times people just need someone to at least acknowledge their sense of loss. It doesn’t eliminate the emotion, but genuine empathy allows me to keep leading.
When a leader discounts a person’s emotions — or ignores them — the resistance becomes more intense — because the emotions become more intense. That’s when some of those other emotions — like anger — are often added. The process of change is stalled — sometimes even derailed.
Leader, are you paying attention to the emotions of change?
Being in a leadership position is no guarantee we are leading. Holding the title of leader isn’t an indication one actually leads.
Leading by definition is an active term. It means we are taking people somewhere. And, even the best leaders have periods — even if ever so briefly — even if intentional — when they aren’t necessarily leading anything. Obviously, those periods shouldn’t be too long or progress and momentum eventually stalls, but leadership is an exhaustive process. It can be draining. Sometimes we need a break.
For an obvious example, I try to shut down at the end of every day and most Saturdays. I’m not leading anything — but I’m still a leader. And, I periodically stop leading for a more extended period. During those times — I’m intentionally not leading anything. There are other times, such as after we’ve accomplished a major project, where I may intentionally “rest” from leading to catch my breath and rely on our current systems and structures to maintain us.
But, again, those times should be intentional and they should be too extended. In my experience, leaders get frustrated when they aren’t leading for too long a period.
For me personally, I like to evaluate my leadership over seasons, rather than days. Typically, just for simplicity of calendar, I look at things on a quarterly basis and then on an annual basis. How/what am I going to lead this next quarter — next year? How/what did I lead last quarter — last year?
If the past review or the future planning is basically void of any intentional leadership — if all I’m doing is managing current programs and systems during that time frame — if we are in maintenance mode for too long — I know it’s time to intentionally lead something. That’s good for me personally and for the teams I lead.
How do you evaluate if you are leading or simply maintaining? One way is to look for the results of leading. What happens when you do lead? And, ask if those are occurring.
Here are 7 indicators that you’re not leading anymore:
Nothing is being changed. Leadership is about something new. Somewhere you haven’t been. That’s change. If nothing is changing — you can do that without a leader.
No paradigms are being challenged. Many times the best change is a change of mindset — a way we think. Leaders are constantly learning so they can challenge the thinking “inside the box”.
You’re not asking questions. A leader only knows what he or she knows. Nothing more. And, many times the leader is the last to know. A great part of leadership is about discovery. And, you only get answers to questions you ask.
There are competing visions. Leaders point people to a vision. A vision. Not many visions. One of the surest ways to derail progress is to have multiple visions. It divides energy and people. It confuses instead of bringing clarity. When we fail to lead competing visions arise and confusion elevates.
No one is complaining. You can’t lead anything involving worthwhile change where everyone agrees. If no one is complaining someone is settling for less than best.
People aren’t being stretched. There are never moments of confusion. Please understand. A leader should strive for clarity. But, when things are changing and challenging there will always be times of confusion. That’s when good leaders get even better at communicating, listening, vision casting, etc.
People being “happy” has become a goal. Everyone likes to be liked. Might we even say “popular”. In fact, some get into leadership for the notoriety. But, the end goal of leadership should be accomplishing a vision — not making sure everyone loves the leader. Progress hopefully makes most people happy, but when the goal begins with happiness, in my experience, no one is ever really made happy.
Leader, have you been sitting idle for too long? Is it time to lead something again?