7 Of My Favorite Compliments I Receive as a Pastor

Everyone loves compliments – me included. I received a compliment recently from someone who met me for the first time and it was so encouraging.

I met some visitors in the hall at church one Sunday. It was their first time and they didn’t know where the preschool area was, so I walked them there. (I actually took them in the preschool wing through the wrong doors, as I found out later, but I got them there. What do I know, right?) They didn’t realize until I got up to preach I was the pastor. The lady sent me an email the next week and apologized for inconveniencing me. I had actually told them that morning it was not a problem – I actually enjoyed helping them. Then she wrote, “I felt like you were just a nice person. I didn’t know you were a pastor!” She meant it – and I took it – as a compliment.

It reminded me of some of my favorite compliments I have received as a pastor.

Pastors, do any of these make you smile when you receive them?

Here are my 7 favorite compliments to receive as a pastor:

“You hang out just like a regular guy.” or “You seem pretty normal for a pastor.”

Well, thank you. It may be because I pretty much am a regular guy. I am full of mistakes, fears, frustrations and heartache. I’m called to be holy – “set apart” – but, so are you. This doesn’t mean, however, I don’t know how to have fun, can’t laugh, or talk about things you talk about – such as sports, families, current events, or life struggeles – which I have too.

By the way, as a normal, regular guy, I’m also capable of disappointing you. I hope I never do, but I am. It comes with being normal.

“I can understand you when you preach.”

Well, good I’ve succeeded. Of course, you could be saying I’m simple-minded, but I’d own that statement too. “Jesus loves me” still blows my mind. But, one of the things I strive to do is take a more complex truth and make it simple and easier to apply to someone’s life. When I hear a 6th grader takes notes in my messages and then I hear a person in their 80’s say I challenged them  – I know God is using me most effectively. 

“I liked your speech today.”

This is always said by a visitor who has seldom – if ever – been in church. I hear it frequently from internationals, but also from people who simply don’t know church language. I love it. It shows we are reaching people far from God.

“You were speaking just to me today.”

It may appear this way and I’m glad you took it personal. Sometimes I’m staring into the crowd – and, because my eyes aren’t as good as they used to be – I can’t see anyone well. It always amazes me though how God can take one truth and apply it to a dozen different people in their individual circumstances. So, if the shoe fits with today’s message, please wear it. Probably, however, it is God’s Spirit trying to speak to you. My question – will you obey what God’s Spirit says to do?

“Thank you for being transparent about your mistakes.”

Seriously, I try. Honestly, I don’t have a choice. When you’ve found yourself on the bottom so many times you certainly aren’t comfortable trying to be someone you’re not. To me, the real test of integrity, is living Monday through Saturday the life I claim behind the podium on Sunday. So, to do that means you’re going to hear evidence of how I’m not perfect when I preach. 

“Thanks for what your church does to help the community.”

Wow! Thanks! I hear this frequently when I attend community functions. This is certainly our goal. Thank you for recognizing one of our values is actually being accomplished. We love our community and we are here to serve! 

(Side note – Jeremiah 29:7 is a verse which challenged me years ago for how we do ministry. “Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the LORD for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.”)

“Where’s Cheryl?”

People are always looking for my wife on Sunday – mostly to give her a hug or a prayer request. I love knowing our church loves my wife as much – okay, being honest – more than me. I know so many pastors who wish their wives were more active in their ministry. I’m blessed. Also, if you do get mad at me, since I’m just a regular and normal guy, at least you’ll keep coming because you love my wife. She never makes anyone mad. (Not even me.)

What’s a favorite compliment you receive, pastor?

7 Suggestions for a Leader to have a Better Weekend

Hint: It takes intentionality

If you are like me you love your weekends. T.G.I.F., right? In fairness, my weekends are shorter than some. My busiest day is usually Sunday. But, I love the weekend I have.

In my experience, however, if we are not careful the weekend passes so quickly we begin another work week feeling we wasted the weekend we had. Or we are so stressed by the week behind or the week ahead that all we do is catch our breath and we can’t fully enjoy the weekend.

This is true for everyone, but from my perspective as a leader this is especially a problem. For most leaders, we never feel our work is done. What we are leading – and even more who we are leaving – always weighs heavily on our mind. This makes enjoying our weekend even more important, though – so we can be prepared for the week ahead. We need quality down time to experience the best quality “up” time.

So, how can we help guarantee better weekends? Every weekend – or at least most. I have learned the more intentional Cheryl and I are about planning for it, the better weekends we had as a family when our boys are home and now as empty-nesters.

Here are 7 suggestions for leader:

Plan well on Monday

Set your week up for success. Plan what you can realistically do in a week and end the week with a sense of accomplishment. I use checklists every day and every week. I try to end my Friday being as “done” as possible.

Do hard things now

Handle the hard stuff as they arise. Try not to carry it into the weekend. Obviously this is not always possible, but many times it is. For example, don’t put off a difficult conversation you know you have to have until Monday if you can and should do it today. It will haunt you all weekend. Whatever the issue, bite the bullet and handle the tough issue, as soon as effectively possible.

Be honest with others and your schedule

Don’t feel bad about declining activities on the weekend. If you want to go somewhere then go, but if you’d rather relax – don’t feel guilty saying so. The quality of and your ability to say no always determines the quality of your life and ultimately your leadership. Say yes sparingly when accepting weekend appointments. Invitations sometimes sound good on Monday, but are less exciting on Saturday morning.

Attend church

This is an appointment I think you should keep. Obviously this one doesn’t apply to my pastor friends (except when you’re on vacation and then I do think it applies – I wrote about that in another post), and I know it seems self-serving to suggest it. You should know I’m certainly not being legalistic. This is not my nature or theology. It’s just that I’ve hardly ever heard someone say they wish they’d skipped church. But I’ve heard many who believe it gave them a better weekend. We tend to think the opposite, especially on a busy weekend, but God always seems to bless the time we give Him.

Do things during the week so you can have a true Sabbath

Even though it makes for slightly longer weekdays, try to accomplish many of the “chores” you have to do before the weekend. Try to have some unplanned time simply to do what you enjoy. Sometimes I have no choice. Some projects require my Saturday, but if possible, I’m going to worker longer weekdays to enjoy a lighter Saturday.

Keep a fairly normal sleep schedule all week

If you always have to “catch up” on your sleep on the weekends, or you spend your week tired because of the late nights on the weekend, you never gain a healthy rhythm for life. Be reasonably consistent in your bedtime and waking up time and you’ll feel better and enjoy a more productive awake time.

Share time with people you love

And, doing the things you love. The best memories center around time with people we love and things we enjoy doing. We certainly have to balance the two. When the family is running in many different directions you end the weekend feeling like you “missed” the weekend. This means you may have to limit activities you or your family commits to or do things your family can do together. This takes prior thought and coordination, but makes for a more enjoyable weekend.

Pastors, this list includes you, too. I originally wrote it for you and decided to expand it to a more general audience. Your weekend may look different, as it may for other leaders, but you need to protect it. I wrote THIS POST on how I protect my Sabbath.

What tips do you have for a better weekend?

12 Game-Changing and Tweetable Proverbs

Here’s a challenge you’ve likely heard before, but may need to practice again. For a month, read a Proverbs everyday. There are 31 Proverbs – enough to fill the longest months. If you’re reading this mid-month, start with the day of the month where you are at the moment.

Proverbs are filled with wisdom. They are practical – even if you are not a follower of God, but especially for those of us who claim to be.

Let me get you started.

<h3>Here are 12 Proverbs, which if applied to your life, could actually change the quality of your life.</h3>

A gentle answer deflects anger, but harsh words make tempers flare. – Proverbs 15:1

A wise person is hungry for knowledge, while the fool feeds on trash. – Proverbs 15:14

Plans go wrong for lack of advice; many advisers bring success. – Proverbs 15:22

Greed brings grief to the whole family – Proverbs 15:27

Pride goes before destruction – Proverbs 16:18

Discretion is a life-giving fountain to those who possess it – Proverbs 16:22

Kind words are like honey— – Proverbs 16:24

Better to be patient than powerful – Proverbs 16:32

Love prospers when a fault is forgiven. – Proverbs 17:9

A cheerful heart is good medicine. – Proverbs 17:22

Spouting off before listening to the facts is both shameful and foolish. – Proverbs 18:13

Enthusiasm without knowledge is no good; haste makes mistakes. – Proverbs 19:2

How could the relationships in your life, and your life, change if you placed a few of these nuggets into practice more often? Don’t we tend to perform opposite of these many times? How does that work for you?

Which of these most speak to you? 

Five Personal Reflection Questions to Evaluate Your Year and Start the New Year Right

I’m a reflective person. This time of year, when we start to see all the “best of” reflections online and in the news, I like to do my own personal reflection. How was the year? What can we learn from it? How can I do better next year?

I think its a great exercise.

Perhaps you need a little help getting started. Take a couple hours over the next week or so – get alone – and reflect.

Here are five questions to get you started:

What was great?

List some of the highlights of your year. What gave you the most pleasure in life? Make sure they merit repeating – sin can have an immediate pleasure – but plan ways to rekindle those emotions in the new year. Most likely they involve relationships. The new year is a great time to plan some intentional efforts to strengthen relationships – spend more time with family and friends. Maybe you enjoyed the times you spent writing. Take some intentional steps to discipline yourself to do that more. Remember how good it felt that day you served people less fortunate than yourself? Well, now you know something you need to do more of in the new year.

What wasn’t great?

Think of some things that are draining to you personally. Again, it may be some relationship in your life. It could be a job or a physical ailment. It could also be that whatever it is that isn’t great has been around for more than a single year. But, chances are you’ve never taken the hard steps to do something about it. Sometimes recognizing those things is the first step to doing something about them. (Your answer may be that a relationship has ended – and there’s nothing you can do about it. Maybe this is your year to move forward again – even in spite of the pain.) Could this be the year?

What can be improved?

Sometimes it isn’t about quitting, but working to make something better that makes all the difference. Intentionality can sometimes take something you dread and make it something you enjoy. I’ve seen couples who appeared destined for divorce court turn into a thriving marriage when two willing spouses commit to working harder (and getting outside help if needed). I was out of shape in my mid-thirties. I’m healthier today in my 50’s than I was then. The change began in one year – one decision – one intentional effort. Conventional wisdom says a new habit begins in 21 days, but some now believe it may take as long as 66 days to really get a habit to stick. But, would it be worth it if you really began a daily Bible reading habit? Or the gym really was a part of your life more than just the first couple weeks in January? Maybe this is your year to get serious about improving some area of your life.

What do I need to stop?

Maybe you need to stop caring so much what other people think. Maybe you need to stop overeating. Maybe you need to stop worrying far more than you pray. Maybe you need to stop believing the lies the enemy tries to place in your mind. Maybe you need to stop living someone else’s life – and start living the life God has called you to. Maybe you need to stop delaying the risk – and go for it! Maybe you need to stop procrastinating. Do you get the idea? Sometimes one good stop can make all the difference. What do you need to stop doing this year, so you can reflect on this year as your best year ever? Start stopping today!

What do I need to start? 

Think of something you know you need to do, but so far you’ve only thought about it. Maybe you started before but never committed long enough to see it become reality. Often, in my experience, we quit just before the turn comes that would have seen us to victory. Is this the year you write the book? Is this the year you pursue the dream? Is this the year you mend the broken relationship? Is the year you finish the degree? Is this the year you get serious about your financial well-being – planning for the future? Is this the year you surrender your will to God’s will – and follow through on what you know He’s been asking you to do? Maybe getting active in church is your needed start this year. Start starting today!

Five questions. When I’m answering questions like this, I like to apply them to each area of my life – spiritual, physical, relational, personal, financial, etc. Reflect on your life with God, with others, and with yourself. This can be a powerful exercise.

Try answering some of these questions and see how they help you start your best year ever!

7 Tips to Read the Bible Through in One Year

Are you up for a challenge?

How about reading the Bible through this coming new year?

I’ve heard so many people who would love to read the Bible through in a year, but never completed the task. It’s nearly impossible for the pastor to preach through all of it, so you are going to miss something unless you study on your own. Sadly, most believers haven’t read all the Bible. Some of the best nuggets of truth I discovered on my own, reading through the Bible in a year.

For several decades, I have practiced an every other year read through of the Bible. On even number years, I read through the Bible as part of my daily devotion time. On the other years, I read the Bible more thematically or spend more time in certain books. I believe both are important in our spiritual formation.

Here are 7 tips for reading the Bible through in a year:

Pray

Ask God to give you the motivation and strength to accomplish this goal. You can’t read the Bible effectively like any other book. You need God’s Spirit to help you.

Pick an easy to read version

This past year I used the Holman Christian Standard, since this was the version I was primarily using in my preaching. You can use any version you wish, but I would choose one which most appeals to you – whether you want an easier-to-read or a more literal translation. I previously wrote a post about versions. You can read that HERE.

Find a plan to help you discipline

You could simply read three chapters a day and do fine, but I have found having a printed checklist helps keep me disciplined. It may seem mechanical to some, but it will keep you on task. YouVersion has many plans to follow. There are more than you can imagine. The key is to find one. I like the balance of reading some Old and New Testament each day. There are even chronological versions of how we believe the events of the Bible happened. The key is to choose one which works for you. Here’s a LINK to other options.

Find a place

Choose the time and place which works best and you will most likely stick with through the year. I find mornings work best for me. I travel frequently, so I can’t have just one place, but when I’m home, I have a certain chair. I have often used the dining room table, because I know I’ll be less distracted. For me, I need to turn off everything else and simply concentrate on the Bible reading to be most effective.

Document your reading

I’ve found I get more out of my reading if I journal along the way what it’s saying to me. Even if I don’t understand it completely, writing the questions I have down helps me process them later and eventually something else I read seems to help answer my questions. This is another benefit to the YouVersion app. It allows you to highlight and comment on verses which stand out to you.

Discipline yourself

It will likely take you on average about 15 minutes per day to complete this. Once you’ve done it consistently for 30 days or so, you’ll be well on your way to having a habit formed.

Catch up when needed

If you miss a day, don’t sweat it – and don’t quit. Spend a little extra time and play catch up on what you missed. Of course, if you do this too many times you’ll eventually give up, so the key is discipline, but extend grace to yourself as you move through the year. Also, if you didn’t start on the first, start on the 2nd, or the 22nd, and go through the same time next year. You can begin today. There’s no legalism here – just encouragement! You can do this!

Keep the goal in front of you and follow through. A year from now you’ll be glad you accomplished your goal.

Who’s with me?

5 Criteria for Making New Year’s Resolutions You Will Actually Keep

I love a fresh start.

Perhaps it’s because grace is the doctrine I’ve needed so much, but there’s something about a clean slate, which motivates me towards achievement.

I’m like this with my desk at the office. I create stacks. Magazines to be read. Notes to be written. Lists to be completed. Bulletins from other churches. (I am always looking for better ideas.) Stacks, stacks, and more stacks. When the stacks are at capacity – I call it organized chaos.

But, then one day I’ve had enough of the stacks and I go on a cleaning spree. I sort. I file. I trash until the top of my desk shows far more wood than paper. Ahhh… Finally, I’m inspired to work again.

I love a fresh start.

I think this may be why I’m one of the people who appreciates New Year’s resolutions. It’s like a line on the calendar, which screams to me: FRESH START!

But, as much as I appreciate the value in them – beginning new things, stretching myself, making my life better – I’m like everyone else. I find it easier to make resolutions than to keep them.

How do we make resolutions we will actually keep? 

Because resolutions – even the strongest ones – aren’t going to improve anything if you don’t follow through with them. And, they probably just make you more frustrated than before you made them. Who needs more frustration?

So, what can you do? Let me try to help. 

First, write them down. This is huge. I’ve heard people say you are twice as likely to keep a written resolution than one you simply state in your mind. 

Second, try not to have too many. You will be overwhelmed and give up before you start. 
And, then, here are some suggestions for the type of resolutions which seem to work. This help me. 

5 criteria for making resolutions you can actually keep:

Reasonable

Another word might be attainable. The resolution must make sense for you to actually be able to do this year. Saying you want to read 50 books in a year – because you heard someone else does it – and, yet you didn’t read any this past year is probably going to be a stretch. You might be able to do it, but it likely isn’t a reasonable goal. Don’t be afraid of small beginnings (Zechariah 4:10). The key is you’re trying to achieve something, which makes your life better. If you’re successful this year you can set a higher goal next year.

Measurable

To be successful in keeping a resolution you need some way to monitor success towards it – certainly a way to know when you’ve achieved it. If your resolution is simply to lose weight you won’t be as motivated as if you say you want to lose a pound a week. You can track that goal and see your progress. Obviously it will still require discipline, but there is something about a measurable goal which – for most of us – drives us to meet it.

Sustainable

This one doesn’t apply for every resolution, but does in many. Ultimately I have found I’m more motivated to reach goals, which change my life for the better over a longer period of time. It’s great to meet those milestone, once in a lifetime type of achievements – such as running a marathon, or writing a book. And, we should have those type goals in our life – and maybe a milestone resolution is reasonable for you this year. The problem I have seen is if we get off track on reaching them it’s easy to simply give up – maybe even write it off as an unreasonable goal. We feel defeated and so we quit making any resolutions. In making New Year’s resolutions, I find I’m more successful if it’s something which I possibly adopt as a new lifestyle. Some examples would be changing my eating habits, beginning to exercise more often, Bible-reading, journaling, etc – again reasonable and measurable – but something I will sustain beyond the New Year.

Accountable

This is key. Weight Watchers is a great example here of this principle. There is something about their system, which works, and part of it is the reporting portion – where you have to be accountable to others for your progress. If you don’t build in a system of accountability – whether it’s with other people or some visible reminder of your resolution and progress – it’s easy to give up when the New Year euphoria begins to fade.

Reward-able

And, this may be the most important and the least practiced. One secret to actually achieving your resolution may be to find the “carrot”, which will continually motivate you to stretch for the finish line. If losing weight is a goal it could be a new suit or dress when you reach a pre-determined number. If it’s running a marathon (and if this is a reasonable resolution for you this year) it could be you run the marathon in some destination city you can’t wait to visit. If it’s reading your Bible through in a year – promise yourself a new Bible at the end of the year. The reward should fit the degree of stretching and effort it took to accomplish the resolution, but this often serves as a good incentive to helping you reach your goals – especially during the times you are tempting to quit trying.

I hope this will help. It does for me. I have some daily disciplines in my life now, which started as New Year’s resolutions. It doesn’t work for everyone, but I’ve found resolutions can help me start the year with fresh goals, and the discipline towards achieving them helps me have more discipline in other areas of my life.

Here’s to a great New Year! God bless!

The Best Christmas Present You Can Ever Give

Give words...

What’s the best Christmas present you can ever give?

Give words. Give the gift of written words.

Years ago, when I was almost 18, and just about to graduate from high school, my grandmother gave me a Bible for Christmas.

It’s a great Bible. In fact, it was my first study Bible – a New American Standard, Ryrie Study Bible. I still have it and occasionally use it today. It was a quite expensive gift for her at the time.

But, the greater part of the gift was a supplement to the book inside the Bible.

Inside she included these handwritten notes. Please understand, I know the words of the Bible are eternally more important than the words of my grandmother, but I have lots of Bibles. These words cannot be duplicated by anyone else.

She shared her heart. She wrote Scripture which was important to her. She encouraged me to live a life of value. She expressed her joy in being my grandmother.

It was the greatest part of the gift. The most valuable.

It was then and it is now. I’m 52 years old – almost 53 – and this is still one of the best gifts I’ve ever received. 

I still have the Bible – and, like I said, it sits tighter with many other Bibles on my shelf. I could replace the Bible. I can’t replace these notes.

My grandmother died in 2013, a few months after my grandfather. She was my last remaining grandparent. As soon as I heard of her death, I went to that Bible – to read the notes she had written. I have read these notes 100’s of times since she first wrote them. I’m positive – Lord willing – I’ll read them 100 more.

The best Christmas gift ever- at least that a human can give – is to give the gift of words.

Who needs a letter from you this Christmas?

Maybe a child, a grandchild, a parent, a spouse, a friend. Write! Give. Bless.

5 Suggestions for Finding More Joy at Christmas

But the angel said to them, “Don’t be afraid, for look, I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people: Today a Savior, who is Messiah the Lord, was born for you in the city of David. Luke 2:10-11

As I read the Scriptures, the ability to have joy is a gift. We may not always be “happy” with our circumstances, but we can have joy. Joy is a condition of our heart beyond the situations life may bring. It was “good news of great joy” the angels announced at the birth of Christ.

For many, however, living in the reality of joy at Christmas is harder than other times of the year. Memories of loved ones, financial struggles, health issues, and relationship woes often make for a very difficult celebration. And, have you spent much time watching the news recently? It’s enough to depress anyone.

Do you ever wonder why everyone else seems to find it, but you’ve been “left out” when it comes to “good news of great joy”?

How do we find the joy of Chrismas? (You may want to read my previous post 10 Ways to Overcome a Sense of Christmas Loss. This post comes from another angle.

Here are five suggestions to greater joy at Christmas:

Lower expectations of others

We falsely expect others to respond as we want them to respond – or thin we would. We expect them to react to our gift as we felt when we bought it for them. We thought they’d remember us and they didn’t. We sent a card – they didn’t. We tried to be nice – and they weren’t so nice. We shouldn’t hold others to an expectation we set for them. People, even the best of people, will disappoint us. And, people are different from us. We aren’t responsible for the reactions of others. We are only responsible for our actions.

Increase your investment in others 

If we aren’t careful, Christmas can become so commercialized, even within our own families, we unintentionally become selfish towards others. Something supernatural happens when we share with people. Giving has an intrinsic value, which can’t be duplicated in any other way. This includes extending grace, as it was given to us – this includes granting forgiveness to those who disappointed us. Giving frees our heart of selfishness and self-centered tendencies we all have at times.

Examine your life and address sin

You can’t experience complete joy with a holy God if you are living contrary to His desires for your life. Where does your life need a realignment with God’s purposes and plan for you? Chances are good you already know. Is it an unforgiving spirit? Are you holding on to anger? Do you have continued, repetitive sin in your life? Christmas is a great time to make new commitments, and re-dedicate your life to Christ. Then you have a whole year to strive in this area of personal growth. Could a revival of soul be what’s missing for you to have a merrier Christmas?

Change your perspective

Choosing to be joyful is not based on circumstances, but often comes by perspective. Where we stand always determines what we see. Stand in faith and we will see the world from a different and more positive viewpoint. The Apostle Paul wrote one of his most joy-filled letters – Philippians- while chained in a jail cell. (Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. Philippians 4:8) The fact is – joy is a gift. It’s not based on what we have done or could do, but on His grace towards us. It’s based on the hope of the righteous, not the reality of the moment. We can choose joy. And, then choose it again. And again. And again.

Set your eyes on the prize

If you’re struggling to find joy in life, set your eyes on Jesus – the author and perfecter of your faith. (If indeed He is your Savior – if not choose His grace by faith now.) Set your sight on the glory to be revealed through your trials and circumstances. God will write the final chapter of your story – and He’s not finished yet! You can trust Him. Look again at the manger – Jesus, the One who existed before time began, set the stars in place, lowered Himself in the form of a baby and was placed on a feeding trough, so He may give us access (through the Cross and resurrection) to a Holy God! I can find joy in this fact! Can you?

What suggestions do you have for finding more joy at Christmas?

7 of the Most Exciting Things a Pastor Experiences

There are many common factors pastors seem to get excited about in their work. Pastors get to see the best and worst of life, but there are so many positive things we get to experience.

Obviously, seeing someone become a follower of Christ or baptism of a believer, has to rank as a highlight of the pastor’s experience. This is what we are called to do. But, that experience isn’t unique to pastors. Every believer, hopefully, gets excited about seeing people’s entry into faith. This is the call of the church – not only pastors.

So, my list of the most exciting things a pastor experiences consists of things which may be more unique to the work of pastors. I’m not saying only pastors get excited about these experiences, but to pastors, these are especially exciting. I am certain different pastors will have different answers, which is where the comments section can make this post even better.

Here are 7 of the most exciting things pastors experience:

A child who loves church.

Children are the future of the church! Jesus loves the little children – and so should we. I love when a little child leads “them” to church – when I hear from a parent, “They woke up this morning excited it is Sunday!” That thrills me! I have little to do with the experience our children have a church – this is driven by other staff and volunteers (for whom I am eternally grateful), but when a child loves church, I know the parent is sure to be excited also. And, our future as an individual church is brighter.

Note takers and truth-livers.

Seeing someone follow a message closely gives me goosebumps of humility. Hearing pages of the Bible turn – that’s priceless. Even better, seeing people actually live the truths they are learning – don’t even get me started. When people start to understand the principles of grace and live out their faith individually, I feel we truly are living our mission of making disciples.

Sacrificial givers.

Whether in time, resources or talents, the church is built on people willing to invest in her work. The generous giver – who gives with no strings attached, and especially not seeking personal recognition – is a sure way to make a pastor smile – maybe even dance. And, honestly, there are always a minority who really learn and practice the principle and joy of giving, which may be what makes it so exciting when it happens. When I see a man or woman in the parking lot or a baby rocker in preschool, or someone who says “Pastor, I’m here to help you any way I can”, I am encouraged to keep going. Their enthusiasm for serving others encourages me.

Visitors and people who invite them

Visitors – could we grow the church and sustain it long-term without them? Of course not. Every person in the church today, unless they were born into it, started as a visitor. Every new church member and every new opportunity to add someone to our discipleship efforts starts with a single visit. I love people who invite. I love those who come when invited (and statistics are in our favor they will come if they are invited). I just want to hug them all. (I promise though not to hug you on your first visit – or ever if you prefer, because I want you to visit. Visit. Visit. Visit.) But, one of my favorite things on Sunday is meeting visitors and on Mondays following up on visitors.

True disciple-making.

Those who invest in others, to genuinely help them grow in their faith – and those who are truly becoming disciples – thrills me! Those who help people understand the principles of grace and truth – whether through individual mentoring or leading Bible studies – helps me know we are doing more than going through the motions. We are living the mission of the church.

New people joining the church

It’s not just because I like church growth, which I do. It’s because I know the church is a family and every pastor loves when the family grows. When people who have been visiting start coming more often, and eventually decide this is the church family – WOW! Exciting! I may try to look like it’s a normal day – I don’t want you to think we are desperate for new members, or scare you as I shout real loud, but inside, I’m bursting with joy.

When the church is the church!

I am encouraged when I hear someone is in the hospital and a church member has already made a visit, without being asked. I get excited when I hear needs within the church have already been met, because someone took it upon themselves to help. When individual church members are concerned more about those outside the church coming to faith than their personal comfort inside the church – I know we are being the church! When the church behaves like we were called to behave, without a staff member or me having to lead the effort, I’m energized. Elated. Blessed.

There is my list.

Pastors, what would you add?

In my next post I will share 7 of the Most Frustrating Things Pastors Experience.

A Word of Encouragement to the Small Town Pastor

Over the last dozen years or so I’ve had the privilege of ministering with dozens of pastors in other churches. Many of these were in person. Others were virtual. I’ve been in large and small churches. I’ve been to big cities and small towns with only one stop light. (Or none at all.).

In the process, I’ve learned a few things about pastors and churches. In fact, much of what I write this blog about comes from those experiences.

A couple years ago I had back to back weeks in small cities dealing with, by some standards, smaller churches. I realized quickly, probably because I was coming from a larger city and a larger church, they were going to be shy about sharing their success.

I led a leadership retreat for a church with 150 leaders from different churches in the room. I was amazed they could attract that size crowd in a small city – and actually bring people from different churches together. But, talking to the host pastor, it was as if they had no success at all – at least when compared to my perceived “success”. (I’ve realized, too, if you have a decently read blog and you’re from out of town – people credit you with more success than you deserve. I’m sometimes seen as the “expert”. Just please don’t ask our staff about that one.)

It wasn’t humility on this pastor’s part. I’m not saying he wasn’t a humble person, but I don’t think that was keeping him from talking about the good things God was doing through his church. It was more. I think it almost always is.

That’s when it occurred to me something I’ve observed numerous times, but never put into words.

Sometimes people don’t know how well they are doing.

It’s true.

Take my good friend Artie Davis as an example. His church is a mega impact on the small town of Orangeburg, SC. I would love to see the church I pastor have half the influence in the community where I live. Artie also leads The Sticks Network of churches ministering in small towns. The impact of those church is amazing every year I attended their conference.

Many times the small city pastors compare themselves to the big city churches. They compare numbers rather than progress. They compare size rather than context. They compare notoriety rather than influence.

And, because of that, many times, they don’t know how well they are really doing.

I see the connections, networking and influence the small town pastor has and I wish I could have this kind of Kingdom influence in my city. I see the respect they command in their community and know, in my context, in many ways they are miles ahead of me.

Small city pastor. God is using you. You are making a Kingdom difference. You just sometimes don’t know how well you are doing.

Do you know a small town pastor doing great Kingdom work?