The Emotions of Betrayal and How to Process

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I was reading a passage the other day and something struck me…

The emotions of betrayal…

Have you ever experienced them?

It helps to be able to count to twelve…

See what I mean…

And when they had entered, they went up to the upper room, where they were staying, Peter and John and James and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James the son of Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot and Judas the son of James.Acts 1:13

Do you see what I saw?

Count them. There are eleven names. Eleven. Not twelve.

One was missing. For three years there were twelve. They had been Jesus’ disciples. His closest companions. Jesus had invested time, energy and life into them. Now there were eleven. One was missing.

The betrayer…

If you don’t know the story, another named Judas betrayed Jesus. For a hefty sum of money he handed Jesus to the authorities where He was arrested, beaten and crucified. Of course, it was used for a divine purpose, but the fact is one of the disciples betrayed the others and Jesus.

I don’t think I ever considered this before…but what were the emotions of betrayal for the remaining disciples? Did they miss their friend? In spite of his betrayal, he was a close companion on a mission. A team member. There must have been some attachment. Were there moments of bitterness, anger, or rage? Were they sad? Was there one in particular who got hurt most? He was closest to the betrayer, perhaps, (I don’t know…just knowing people and team dynamics I’m asking).

But, that was then and this post is really about you.

Have you ever experienced the emotions of betrayal?

We don’t talk about it much in leadership or ministry, but maybe we should. Those emotions are real. They are heavy. And, they are common.

Have you been hurt by your own betrayer? You trusted him or her. You may have even called them friend. They let you down. Disappointed you. Betrayed you.

Anyone who has served in any leadership position has experienced betrayal at some level. It could have been the gossip started by a supposed friend or a pointed and calculated stab in the back. Either way…it hurts.

Learning to deal with, process, and mature through betrayal may be one of the more important leadership issues, yet we seldom deal with the issue.

How do you handle betrayal?

Here are a few quick suggestions:

Grieve – Give yourself time to process. Be honest about the pain. Don’t pretend it didn’t matter. It does.

Forgive – As much as it hurts, refusing to forgive or holding a grudge will hurt you more than the betrayer. Embrace and extend grace. If there are realistic consequences you can let those occur, but in your heart let it go. It may take time to do this, but the longer you delay the more you are still held captive by the betrayal.

Analyze – It is good at a time of betrayal to consider what went wrong. Was it an error in judgement? Do you need stricter guidelines? Would it have happened regardless? You can’t script morality and shouldn’t attempt to, but you should use this as a chance for a healthy review of the parameters in which the betrayal occurred.

Continue – You can’t allow a betrayal to distract you from the vision you have been called to complete. There will always be betrayers in the mix. They show up unexpectedly. Eventually you will have to take a risk on people again. It’s the only way to lead healthfully.

Have you ever been betrayed?

What would you add? How did you’re forward? Or have you?

The Pastor’s Spouse: Emotions in Times of Transition

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When I’m talking to a pastor who has accepted a new position, after I hear the excitement in his voice of what he sees God doing, I almost always ask the same question:

“How is your wife dealing with the change?”

There is usually a pause, followed by an “umm” of some sort, then a statement such as, “She’s doing okay.”

Push a little more (which I usually do) and I’ll hear something like:

It’s been harder on her than I thought it would be.” or, pushing even further, “I don’t understand why she’s not as excited as I am. She agreed this was what God had for us.”

Many times, when the pastor is honest, the transition hasn’t gone as well for the spouse as for the pastor. It will come in time, but for now, she’s not as excited about the change in positions as he is.

Why is that?

I like to encourage pastors to remember their spouse’s emotions in the process of transition. The new pastor has found his center of gravity and purpose. Most likely the spouse will feel a sense of loss and have to look for hers.

You, the pastor, when you come home at the end of a long day, have something exciting to share every time. Things are moving, changing, challenging you daily. Even on days things aren’t going well…you have drama in your day you can’t wait to share.

Many times, right now, her days look the same.

You come home pumped at what God is doing, so naturally you share your enthusiasm with the one you care to share with the most…your partner in life and ministry.

But, if you’re not conscious of her emotions, depending on her state of mind, she may hear, “My life is exciting. Yours is boring.” Or worse, “My life has meaning. Your life has none.”

Granted, you are not thinking those things and would never want her to think those things, but emotions are high in times of transition. Don’t be surprised if they produce irrational thoughts and actions at times. That’s part of change.

She’s moved from friends and has to learn who to trust again. She is often more relation-centered emotionally, so her heart transitions slower. The roles she held in the church or community haven’t been replaced yet.

You moved forward in your career and passions. Many times hers took a step backward. Or seem to have for now. That will change in time, and she probably knows that intellectually, but emotionally she feels a sense of loss that will take time to replace with a sense of purpose equal to yours.

Granted she is your partner, so she may be excited for you personally as a couple, but remember, she is an individual person, with individual needs for a sense of purpose and accomplishment.

That’s enough encouragement for today. I’ll share more in a future post some thoughts on helping your spouse find her center of gravity and purpose in a time of transition. Stay tuned.

In the meantime, share your stories to help others.

Pastors/Pastor’s spouses, did you have a harder time in a season of transition than your spouse did?

When the Dominant Question is Why

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“All I want is a reasonable answer —– then I will keep quiet.” Job 6:24

Job just wanted to know why.

Has that ever been your question?

If you know the story of Job then you know that he is the “poster child” of suffering in the Bible. Job lost everything; his children, his wealth, his health, and even the support of a loving wife. God allowed the Devil to bring suffering on Job to the severest point of pain, stopping only short of taking Job’s life.

That alone has a series of “Why” questions attached to it.

Job just wanted to know why. He simply wanted a sincere, reasonable answer.

You should know Job had lived a righteous life. He was one of the good guys.

Have you ever heard the question, “Why do bad things happen to good people?” I am not sure that question didn’t originate with Job.

Job didn’t think sin had caused his pain. He didn’t believe that God was a harsh God. He also knew God as a loving God, so Job knew his suffering wasn’t a result of the meanness of God. As hard as he tried to understand and find answers nothing made sense. There appeared to be no reason.

The fact is, Job’s dilemma is often are ours. We can’t always understand the ways of God. We can try, but there will be situations and circumstances in life that simply will not make sense to us. We can know that God will work all things for good. We can know that He will never leave us nor forsake us, because those are promises He has made. We can even know that nothing will ever separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus.

We may never know the answers to our questions of why.

Instead of trying to resolve the unanswered questions, I wonder if our goal should be otherwise. I wonder if our goal should be to trust in the God who does understand.

I wonder if the solution is not to question as much as to simply rest in the sufficiency of God. I know. That is hard to do, but over time, as we experience God more, our resolve through the trials of life should become more of repentance and rest and quietness and trust. This is where our strength will be found. (Isaiah 30:15)

Lord; grow us towards total dependence on You through times of life we cannot understand.

Have you ever been in a place where you had more questions than answers?

When You Allow Others to Help You…

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When you allow someone to help you…

When you are in pain…

When you are in the midst of a trial…

Don’t forget…

It may be therapy for the person who helps you.

We often resist help.

We are too proud. We don’t want to be an inconvenience. We want to appear strong.

But, we ignore the help the helper gains from the helped.

When an injured pastor helps another injured pastor…

It helps him heal.

When a cancer survivor ministers to a cancer patient…

Their heart heals a little.

A parent who lost a child….

Is best equipped to minister to someone who has lost a child.

And, it often gives a slight sense of meaning to their loss.

It doesn’t remove the pain, but it often helps one deal with pain better when they help others in pain.

Those are just a few examples.

You can add many others.

Many times we gain perspective on our pain when we help others deal with their pain.

Don’t be afraid of help.

Opening your life to others…helps.

Sometimes more than you know.

Life Altering Decisions: A and B is NOT an Option

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Then the fire of the Lord fell and burned up the sacrifice, the wood, the stones and the soil, and also licked up the water in the trench. 1 Kings 18:39 NIV

Elijah had placed himself in a delicate situation. He had challenged the people that he could prove who they should follow. He told them if Baal was God, then follow him, but if God, (The Real Thing) was God, then follow Him!

Elijah placed his own life in jeopardy, because they would have surely killed him had his test failed. He was the last remaining prophet of the Lord. This was an important day!

Have you ever been in one of those situations before, where your next actions could alter the course of your life?

I have….numerous times!

In those situations, what you do next will likely have lasting impact on the rest of your life. The next step is a big one…and it is the one you must take! You are in between two opposing outcomes and the future will be determined one way or another, beginning right now!

Have you ever been there?

Talk about pressure!

Elijah responded with strength, with zeal, but most importantly, with faith!

Elijah put everything on the line for God’s glory…even his very life! Rather than depend on his own strength or understanding, Elijah turned his whole being over to God. With confidence, Elijah trusted God completely.

And, guess what?

God came through! BIG TIME!

(Now is where you should say, “Duh”!)

God didn’t mess around! He came through with a God-sized blessing in Elijah’s life. He could have left Elijah standing there, but He answered Elijah’s prayer. Elijah was willing to lay down his life for God’s reputation, and God did not disappoint Elijah!

Not only did God bring forth fire to burn up the bull, but He burned up the wood, the stones, the soil….and the water in the trench! That was some fire!

But then He is an awesome God!

I don’t know what decision you are facing. I recognize that what you do next…the next step is huge. I also know you have a choice…faith in God or relying on your own strength. A and B is not an option.

Which will you choose?

After a great day of teaching…

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Jesus faced the critics…

And when Jesus had finished these parables, he went away from there, and coming to his hometown he taught them in their synagogue, so that they were astonished, and said, “Where did this man get this wisdom and these mighty works? Is not this the carpenter’s son? Is not his mother called Mary? And are not his brothers James and Joseph and Simon and Judas? And are not all his sisters with us? Where then did this man get all these things?” And they took offense at him. But Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his hometown and in his own household.” And he did not do many mighty works there, because of their unbelief. (Matthew 13:53-58 ESV)

It’s interesting to me when this occurred in the life of Jesus. If you read just prior to this passage, the disciples had finally understood something Jesus taught them. It seems that didn’t happen much in their journey with Jesus. On this occasion, Jesus had just taught them a huge principle. They got it. It was a great day. The best of days. The men He was building into, who would launch the church we know today, understood what was being taught.

That’s a great day for any teacher.

Then the critics came out of the closet.

It never seems to fail. I’ve seen it in ministry, leadership and life. The best days are often followed by the darkest days. Deliver your best message and you’ll shortly afterwards find your harshest critics. Hit the home run and you’ll find some people ready to stop the ballgame.

Don’t be surprised on those days. Don’t be dismayed. Don’t get distracted from what you are called to do.

Those days have value, if you allow them to:

  • They keep us humble.
  • They Keep us learning.
  • They keep us on our knees.
  • They keep the glory shining in the rightful place.
  • They keep us appreciative of the good days.

Are you facing the critics…even during the best of days?

Of course you are…you’re trying to be like Jesus…right?

10 Things I’m Learning Leading Church Change

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I am almost 8 months into a new pastorate. I left the church planting world to help revitalize and grow an established church. Many pastor friends questioned me at the time, but now they…and people who follow this blog…consistently ask how the move is going. Thank you. I feel the support.

Honestly, it’s proving to be challenging…maybe slightly more than I thought it would be. But, God is allowing us to experience incredible energy and excitement. I am not big on sharing numbers in this format, but let me simply say…they look good. God is working. Amazingly working. The potential in the days ahead is astounding to me. There are many great people here and we’ve assembled a stellar staff team.

Needless to say, I’m in the midst of change. That’s not unusual. I tend to like change. I think it’s necessary if any organization, church or relationship wants to grow…or even remain alive. But, some change has come fast. It doesn’t necessarily seem fast to me, and certainly not monumental, but I know, in a church that’s over 100 years old…it’s been fast.

For the most part, the reception to change has been good. Still, change, no matter how necessary, is never easy. Along the way, I’m learning a few things. I share this not only as an update, but knowing over fifty percent of the readers of this blog are in ministry, hopefully some of what I’m learning I can share with you.

Here are 10 things I’m learning in leading church change:

Don’t try to be the church down the street. You have to be true to the DNA, heritage and culture of the church you lead. That doesn’t mean don’t change, but does mean change should be relevant to context.

Don’t oppose the old. Encourage the new. The old got you to where you are today. It’s not bad. In fact, at one time it was very good…the best. The old was once new. The new is simply where the most energy is at currently. (Someday it will be old.)

Celebrate history. People were there years ago, building the church where you serve today. My granddaddy would say, “Don’t forget what brung ya!” I especially love hearing the stories of how the church grew through other times of change.

Many times information overcomes objection. Many times. You can’t over-communicate in times of change. The more they know the “why”, the less they will resist the “what”. (By the way, my interview with Zig Ziglar confirmed this principle.)

It sometimes seems easier to let a church slowly die than to try to change things. There. I said it. But, it’s true. Some people are not going to want the church to change. Period. End of story. And, most likely, they will find a way to let you know. (Most likely that will be some way other than telling you…but you’ll hear it.) But, that doesn’t mean the church can’t, won’t and shouldn’t change…and thrive again.

Change is uncomfortable for everyone. It’s just more uncomfortable for some than others. You might read THIS POST about a recent sobering reminder I had about the relativism of objection to change.

Some days all you’ll hear are the critics. That’s true too. I think Satan even has a hand in this one. You’ll think no one is on your side. You’ll think you’re wasting your time. You’ll have a one-day (or multiple day) pity party. On those days, you’ll need to remember the vision God called you to complete. Keep going.

The degree of pain determines the degree of resistance to change. When people are injured…or afraid…or lack trust, they are more likely to cling to what’s comfortable and resist what’s new. That is true in their personal life or their church life. When leading change in a place where injury is present, there will be resistance based solely on that pain.

The best supporters are often silent. I don’t know why. They just are. They are satisfied. Happy. Ecstatic even. They just don’t always tell you they are. But, good news, they are usually telling others. And, that’s fueling more growth.

God is faithful. You knew that one, right? Somehow, just when you need it most, God seems to send an encourager. Awesome.

These are some things I’m learning. I’ll share more in the days to come.

What have you learned in leading change?

Pray and Don’t Give Up

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Then Jesus told His disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up. Luke 18:1

Our example comes from Jesus!

We should pray and not give up!

What are you facing today, which you have been facing for some time?
What in your life needs a touch of God?
For what have you been waiting to hear a word from God?
Is there something you can’t handle on your own?
Is there some special request only God can answer?

Jesus would say, “Pray and don’t give up!”

Now, you need to understand, God is not going to contradict Himself. His character never changes. So, if you are asking God to let you have an affair, or to help you cheat on your taxes, don’t expect to get what you want!

But, if your request doesn’t conflict with Scripture, if it isn’t sinful, and it will give glory to God, go ahead and ask expectantly! Pray, and keep on praying until God gives you an answer. Don’t give up!

In my experience, and with what I read in the Word of God, He will either grant you your request (in His time) or His reason for “No” will be far better than what you could have received by a yes answer. Also, it is important to remember that God deals in terms of eternity, not within our finite world.

If you have started to waver from your request in recent days, Jesus reminds you, “Don’t give up!”

God, the great Father, loves to give good gifts to His people.

What is one prayer you consistently have before God?

(By the way, this is a repost from a few months ago. I sensed it was needed again.)

7 Common Energy and Time Wasters for Leaders

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Wasting time and energy may be one of my biggest pet peeves as a leader. Some days I leave work and feel I never got off the treadmill. It’s physically and mentally draining.

Does that ever happen to you?

I firmly believe if we get rid of common energy wasters we can dramatically improve our performance as leaders. With that in mind, I’ve spent time in my personal development finding ways to eliminate time and energy wasters.

Here are 7 common wastes of energy in leadership:

Focussing attention on the naysayers – I have found that worrying over what the critics are saying, especially the ones I will never make happy, delays progress and takes time from and frustrates the positive people who believe in the vision and are ready to move forward.

Refusing to delegate – When I make every decision, or become too controlling as a leader, I rob myself and the team of valuable energy and talent and I feel overwhelmed more quickly.

Second guessing decisions – I find it is better to work to make better decisions moving forward rather than live in a pity party of bad ones already made.

Trying to have all the ideas – Many leaders feel they have to be the originator of all the creative energy of a team. They waste time brainstorming alone rather than expanding the creative process. Consequently, the best ideas often never surface. Original thoughts, better than ours, are usually in the room or the organization if we will welcome them to the table and it preserves my time for more efficient use.

Living with broken structure – Let’s face reality. Over time, rules take on a life of their own. What was once created to improve structure actually begins to slow progress and waste valuable time. Change the rules…or even drop them… and you often free up valuable space for people to breathe and enjoy their work.

Disorganization – Need I expand? Many leaders feel overwhelmed because they don’t have good organizational skills. Learning how to better handle routine tasks such as processing emails, calendaring, and scheduling work flow each week will drastically improve time efficiency.

Completing tasks not designed for me – This could be any number of things. Even reading a book. For example, perhaps a silly example, but I have discovered that sometimes I read too much. That sounds strange…I know…but really it’s because I read things I didn’t need to read. I start a book and within the first chapter I know it’s not helpful or even enjoyable…my sense of completion wants to finish. but, better is to put it aside and pick up another book. The novel length email…I try to determine first if I’m the one who should respond. Many times I’m not. It could be attending a meeting…or supervising a project. Whatever it is that I am not the best person for the job or it is just a time waster, the sooner I stop it or hand off the task, the more energy I preserve.

What energy wasters have you seen in leadership?

A Word to the Small Town Pastor

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Over the last 10 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.

Recently I had back to back weeks in small cities dealing with, by some standards, smaller churches. They were shy about sharing their success.

I led a leadership retreat for a church with 150 leaders in the room. I was amazed they could attract that size crowd in a small city. But, talking to the pastor, it was as if they had no success at all…at least when compared to my perceived “success”. (I’ve realized, too, that 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”. If only they knew, right?)

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 they don’t know how well they are doing.

It’s true.

Take my good friend Artie Davis as an example. His church is mega impacting 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 when I attend 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 that kind of Kingdom influence in my city. I see the respect they command in their community and know, in my context, they are miles ahead of me.

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

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