If you’re going to roast your pastor…here are a few tips

Golden roast chicken

I was talking to a young pastor recently. He’s been called to a church in steep decline and asked to salvage and, hopefully, even grow the church again. It’s hard work changing a church. (I know this firsthand.) He knew immediately he would have to do some things differently to achieve different results. (You understand that…don’t you?) So far, in the six months he’s been there, the church has stopped declining. That’s a good start. He’s lost a few families, but gained others to replace them. He believes they are being positioned for growth and believes that’s why God called him to the church.

The hardest part on him, and even more so on his family, has been the conversations being had about him that he hears about second hand. There have been times he thought things were going great, only to hear of the small coup forming behind his back. Sometimes his wife hears about it before he does. He’s naturally hurt knowing how some are responding to his leadership in this way. He is trying to be open to input and humble in his approach, but he wants to lead where he feels God has wired and called him. The behind the back network of talk is threatening the work the church is doing.

I wish I could say this was church specific, but I hear it (and see it) frequently. Hearing this pastor’s heart reminded me what someone said to me recently. She said, “I don’t know why, but people feel they can say anything about a pastor they want and there’s no accountability for it.” It’s true. It’s not fair or even Biblical the way some pastors are gossiped about in churches, but it’s a reality in ministry.

By the way, it has to be very unattractive for those outside the church.

That’s why I’m writing this post. It’s intended to be a lighthearted approach to a very serious issue. If you are active in a local church, please consider how you can encourage your pastor and pastor’s family today. One way you can do this is to monitor your conversation about the pastor when the pastor is nowhere around. (Do to others as you would want them to do to you…that should include pastors.)

Now, again, in an attempt to be humorous, let me also stretch your mind around this idea. (To understand this post, you should know that I’m a cook. My mom raised me to be. So I can not only pastor a church…I can roast a mean chicken or a smokin’ piece of roast beef.)

If you’re going to roast your pastor…here are a few things to consider:

Temperature – I play with temperatures when I’m cooking a roast. 325. 350. 375. It depends on how fast or slow I want to cook it. When you choose to roast your pastor, consider your own temperature. Are you angry? Are you really at a good temperature personally to be roasting? With the temperature of the church right now, am I helping or hurting the mission of the church by roasting the pastor? This is a good time to check your heart and motivation.

Time – I’ve cooked a roast as long as 8 hours. I can sometimes accomplish it in 2 hours, but it isn’t as good. Consider the timing of your roast. Have you thought through what you are upset about? Is it valid in a context beyond your personal preference? Is it valid within the context of the vision your pastor has been called to lead? Have you given adequate time to think through how you’re responding, or is this only a gut reaction…or even a selfish or angry reaction?

Seasoning – I typically flavor my roast beef with garlic, salt, pepper and Worcestershire sauce. I usually put a few beef bouillon cubes in the water. When you’re roasting your pastor, remember you are to be the “salt of the earth”. Are you seasoning your conversation with love? Would you be okay with others, even your pastor, hearing what you are saying right now? What if it were being recorded and played before the church…or the unchurched? Is it seasoned well? Does it represent the church and Christ’s love well?

Veggies – Momma always said “eat your veggies”. I cook potatoes, carrots, and onions on my roast. I often alternate between green beans,  cabbage and mushrooms as an addition. You’d be amazed how good those can taste in the roast. My family doesn’t always agree on what veggies I put in the roast, so I go back and forth between their favorites. When you roast your pastor, consider the issues besides the issue you’re roasting. A pastor juggles many hats. Where two or more are gathered in Jesus name, He will be there, but also will be two or more opinions on how things should be done. At least one opinion for every person in the room. Most of the time, multiple opinions for each person. Do the math on that for your church. As you continue your roast, consider the veggies in your roaster. (You do realize the church can’t operate effectively if it only pleases you….right?)

Quality – When I’m buying a roast, I realize already that I “get what I pay for”. I can’t expect a less expensive cut of meat to be as tender as a more expensive cut of meat. I can’t expect a grass fed beef and a grain fed beef to taste the same. As you roast your pastor, remember he isn’t a god. He can’t do everything. Don’t hold him to a standard he could never meet. Don’t expect his sermon to be the quality of an Andy Stanley sermon when he may not be Andy Stanley, and when the church doesn’t afford him the staff to lead that Andy has to prepare to preach. I was talking to someone recently who told me of a large megachurch pastor who has a paid research team helping with his sermon. You think he has a well researched message? Of course he does. Realize that the more you pull your pastor in dozens of different directions, and the more expectations you place on him personally, the less time he will have to concentrate on his message. Also realize that God didn’t wire everyone the same in communication or leadership styles. And, God may not place on your pastors heart what you hope He will.

So there. You have some tips for your next roasting time. Happy roasting.

Roast any preachers lately ? What tips do you have?

(This is intended to be a satirical post. I’ve been writing quite a few of these lately. In spite of my disclaimer, someone will misinterpret my poor attempt at humor. For those who do, simply add me to your next roast, but my goal is to help the local church and its pastor better achieve their Kingdom mission. We are losing hundreds and thousands of pastors to the ministry. I see this issue playing a part in that exodus.)

12 Random Pieces of Life I Love

Grandmother with grandson having fun at home - whispering secret

Sometimes it’s the little things.

A lazy Sunday afternoon nap after a great morning at church.

Picking raspberries in Michigan and “testing” them along the way.

Inside jokes with friends.

A song that brings back a nearly forgotten memory.

Sitting on a porch swing listening to a gentle rain.

Laughing as a puppy plays.

Discovering a “hidden gem” of a restaurant when not even looking.

Wrestling with a two year old boy.

Sharing a smile with someone you love.

Waking up at Grandma’s to the smell of fresh coffee and breakfast.

A small child whispering in your ear.

Saturday mornings with no agenda.

That’s 12 of mine. Add one, two or twelve of yours.

Take time today to reflect on the moments that make memories.

And don’t forget…

Sometimes it’s the little things.

7 Most Exciting Things a Pastor Experiences

Winning young man

Yesterday I shared the post 7 Most Frustrating Things Pastors Experience. I promised then that a post was due on the most exciting things a pastor experiences. There are many. Pastors get to see the best and worst of life it seems, but there are many positives.

Obviously, seeing someone become a follower of Christ or baptism of a believer, has to rank as a highlight of the pastor’s experience. That’s 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. That’s the call of the church; not only pastors.

So, my list is beyond those experiences to things that may be somewhat unique to pastors. I’m not saying only pastors get excited about these experiences, but to pastors, these are especially exciting. Also, different pastors will have different answers. That’s where the comments section makes this post even better.

Here are 7 most exciting things pastors experience:

A child who loves church – They are our future. And, we know it. Jesus loves the little children. And so do we. I love when a little child leads “them” to church. When a child loves church, I know the parent is sure to be excited also.

Note takers – Seeing someone following a message closely. Hearing pages of the Bible turn. Priceless. Seeing people actually live the truths taught…don’t even get me started.

Sacrificial givers – The church is built on people willing to invest in her work. The generous giver…who gives with no strings attached…way to make a pastor smile. Maybe even dance.

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 knew opportunity to add someone to our discipleship efforts starts with a visit. I love people who invite. I love those who come when invited. I just want to hug them all. (But, I promise not to hug you on your first visit…or ever if you prefer, because I want you to visit. Visit. Visit. Visit.)

Servant hearts – 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.

New people joining the church – 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, because 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. I get excited when I hear of needs…that have already been met. 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?

5 Clever Ways I Find Time to Exercise

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I’ve written before about my discipline of exercise. Honestly, it has to be one of the keys to me being effective in life and leadership. I can tell the difference in productivity when I exercise and when I don’t.

I talk to busy, stressed pastors every week and frequently I ask them how they are staying physically fit. Most have been trained and are more disciplined in their spiritual life, but the reality is their physical life is impacting their health…and…if its not now, it will someday impact every other part of their life.

As much as it depends on me, I think it is important to take care of our health. But, I’ll admit, working 50 or even 70 hour weeks at times makes it difficult to fit exercise into a packed schedule.

I’m purposeful enough though that I’ll find a way.

Here are 5 clever ways I find time to exercise:

Work on the elliptical. A few times a week I go over my notes for Sunday. Why not do it while I exercise? I sometimes write blog posts while dancing, I mean moving, on the elliptical. (Posts like this one.) It takes practice to balance, but now it’s a great way for me to kill two birds. One stone. What do you have to do that is a routine for you, but you could do while exercising? Anything? Be creative.

Exercise on lunch break. One problem for me is eating three full meals a day. I can’t do it these days and maintain my weight. Sometimes my schedule dictates three meals, because many of my meetings are done at these times. I’m bad at resisting food when I have it in front of me. On days I can, I try to grab something light, fast and healthy and hit the road or gym.

Walk to talk. Weather permitting, Cheryl and I take walks together almost daily. It allows us to catch up on the day, debrief the week ahead and enjoy exercising together. I’ve done this with staff members too. If you have an extended talk…walk.

Mental breaks. If I’m stuck in my thoughts, I can almost always spur myself if I exercise. The break in schedule always pays back dividends beyond the apparent loss of time. This is especially true during the most stressful weeks. (By the way, this means I’m always ready with clothes at the office or in my car.)

Prayer time is a sweating opportunity. I can pray when I run. Some can and some can’t. But if you can. Why not?

Again, I realize the value of exercise for my life…for the quality of my life…and so I’ll make time for it. You can find time if you are creative and disciplined with your time.

(By the way. This principle works for anything you value. Prayer. Bible reading. Relationships. We find time for that which we value most.)

Have you found any clever ways to work exercise into your schedule?

I’m open to learning new ones.

When You Can’t Seem to Find Your Purpose

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The other day someone said to me, “Pastor, Sorry I haven’t gotten involved in the church yet, but I don’t know what I’m supposed to be doing right now. I can’t seem to find my purpose.”

I hear that kind of thing often. In this case, it’s been five years and the person is still waiting. Doing nothing. Inactive. Waiting for that “purpose” which may never arrive with this manner of search.

Here’s a good principle when seeking purpose in life.

Sometimes you have to work a purpose to find a purpose.

I hear from people all the time who can’t seem to find their place.

In church. In work. In life.

They want to know their purpose. Their unique role. Their calling.

But they never seem to find it.

So they wait on the sidelines. They make excuses.

Never seeming to find their purpose in life. What they do best. What they were meant to do.

My advice.

Try something new.

Do things. Explore. Test. Experiment.

Do honorable, good, helpful things.

But just do something. Try lots of different things. But do something.

You’ll do some things well. Some not so well. You’ll fail. You’ll succeed. You’ll have fun. Some not so fun.

Along the way you may just find a purpose.

Life purposes seldom fall from the sky. Mostly they are discovered in the process of discovery. How you are wired. How you are gifted. Where you have passion. Where God wants to use you most.

Sometimes you have to work a purpose to find a purpose.

5 Reasons We Attend Church While on Vacation

destin beach

As you consider your vacation this year, I want to encourage you to find a church wherever you are and visit.

One of the first things Cheryl and I do when we go out of town is look for a place to attend church on Sunday. We’ve had some incredible experiences attending other churches and its one of our favorite parts about vacation.

I know many pastors who look forward to some weeks they don’t have to attend church. I have often been asked if we are legalistic because we don’t take a vacation from church while on vacation. Do we feel we “must” attend church in vacation? Is it because I’m a pastor?

Absolutely not. We feel no obligation. It’s what we want to do.

Here are 5 reasons we attend church on vacation:

We love church. Church is the best part of our week. We don’t view church as an obligation. It is a privilege. We believe the church is God’s plan to make disciples. It’s our community. It’s where we find our best friends in life. It is a large part of what fuels us for the week ahead. Why would we take a vacation from that?

We get to worship without distraction. Honestly, Sunday can be a very distracting day for Cheryl and me. We are both busy with ministry obligations. On vacation we are freed to worship.

We get to sit together. Cheryl is beside me during the worship portion of the service, but she has never stood beside me while I preach…even as many times as I’ve asked her to. :) Actually, we did dance together on stage in one service. On vacation we enjoy being together for an entire service.

We learn from others. I love sitting under the teaching of other pastors. Cheryl never admits to anyone preaching better than me, but she seems to take plenty of notes when we are out of town. :) We also always go home with new ideas and renewed energy from attending other churches.

We get to encourage another pastor. We know how much we love visitors. On vacation, we get to attend another church, pray for the pastor, and many times meet and pray for the pastor and pastor’s spouse. Those have been awesome experiences over the years.

Please understand. I’m not saying you have to attend church when you’re on vacation, but don’t dismiss it too quickly either. It could be one of the greater parts of your vacation. (And if you’re ever in Lexington for vacation, come see us. Did you read my post about vacationing here?)

Do you ever attend church when you’re on vacation?

How to Follow My Blog After Google Reader

If you haven’t heard, Google Reader is going away. Quickly. It was announced a couple months ago, but it ends July 1, 2013. I was bummed, because I use Google Reader to follow most of the blogs I follow.

Many people follow this blog through Google Reader.

What to do?

Well, short answer…it’s easy. Case solved.

Sign up to have this blog emailed. Do that at the top right of my home page HERE. Just enter your email address and follow the instructions.

Sign up for Feedly. Do that HERE.

Feedly is a quick, couple minute transfer of your Google Reader blogs to follow them on Feedly. And, it’s free. I actually enjoy the layout better than I did Google Reader. My friend Michael Hyatt, whom you can trust much more than me on things like this, shares 7 reasons he’s using Feedly to replace Google Reader HERE.

Don’t miss the content you’ve relied upon. Act today.

Do All Dogs Go To Heaven?

Naje.couch

Do all dogs go to Heaven?

It took me a while to write this post. We lost our sweet NaJe…our Yorkie…our overweight, 12 and a half year Yorkie…last summer. She was doing great, although she had slowed somewhat in the later years. We had just moved to our new city, and she loved it for the walking. One morning I was at work and Cheryl went to lunch. When Cheryl came home NaJe was not the same. She became paralyzed immediately…within the hour Cheryl was gone to lunch. We took her to the veterinarian as soon as we could. The Vet said it was a brain tumor. There was nothing we could do for her. It was one of the hardest decisions we’ve ever made and being with her at the end one of the hardest things I’ve personally ever done.

I know…it’s a dog, right? But she was our dog. She was part of the family. She was named for our two boys…Na…Nathaniel…Je…Jeremy. (Jeremy is the oldest, but NaJe sounded better to us than JeNa.)

So the question…

Do all dogs go to Heaven?

Believe it or not, I get asked that question. Very seriously. And, I understand.

Unfortunately, the answer is one that I can’t solve that for you. Not definitively.

I wish I could, but I am a Bible teacher. I read and believe the Bible as truth. I can’t make it fit my needs or desires. I have to take it for what it says. I can’t add to or take away from it. I know mankind is His highest creation. The Bible makes clear provision for mankind and Heaven. (If you confess with your mouth and believe in your hear that God raised Jesus from the dead you shall be saved.)

The problem is, I can’t definitively assure myself of any eternity for my dog or any dog. Or cat. Or hamster. Although I would think my dog would likely to get in if any animal did :).

I know this though. My viewpoint has changed in light of NaJe. I now recognize I can’t say dogs “don’t” go to Heaven. Can you?

All creation waits. “All creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed.” The Bible says that. Revelation also says “every creature” pays reverence to the glory of God. Every creature. But, is that creatures created now or then. I can’t say. Will there be dogs in Heaven. I don’t know? For sure.

But, I do know NaJe was God’s creation. She did exactly what she was created to do while she was alive on earth. Everything. She loved. She loved greatly. She loved passionately. She was a most loyal man’s best friend. I can’t imagine God wasn’t pleased with the example of unconditional love NaJe proved to be.

If any dogs went to Heaven…NaJe would be one. Probably you feel that way about yours too.

And, though I can’t solve the question for you, not definitively, I can’t imagine a perfect place without a dog like NaJe. But, then no eye has seen or imagined what God has created for us. Heaven will be perfect. I’m not sure I have really ever seen perfect as God intended perfect to be. Some day I will.

I also know this, as much as I entertain this question, I’m most concerned about your eternity. I am confident God will take care of His creation, but He’s given you and me the option to choose to be obedient or to rebel. Will you be in Heaven? Have you surrendered your life to Christ’s life? Do you believe that Jesus died on a cross, rose from the grave, and that by your faith in Him you shall be saved?

What do you think? Do all dogs go to Heaven?

(Opinions are welcome…I honestly don’t believe we know definitively, but please don’t write me your “theological” understanding based on what you “think”.).

7 Things I’ve Learned or am Learning About God

7 things I’ve learned or am learning about God:

Sometimes God opens doors simply to show me that He can. I’ve seen it many times. God seemed to provide an opportunity, only to later make it clear that’s not the right one for this time. It’s always though an encouragement than when He is ready He can and will make a way.

God’s plan for my life is always bigger than mine. Every. Single. Time. I have underestimated Him all my life. You’d think I’d learn.

When God stretches us we are never the same. God style elastic never goes back completely in place. He has stretched me so many times and each time I was forever changed. I’ve learned the places He stretches He also longs to fill with Himself if I will fully submit to His plan.

God has ways I have never even thought about. You don’t learn this one until after the fact, because you couldn’t script it if you tried. Hollywood couldn’t. But God’s ways are not our ways. Period.

God uses people I wouldn’t have expected. (People like me) It always bothers me when people dismiss others because of their past, apparent inabilities or even their current condition. God tends to make me eat my words when I do that kind of thing. God uses whom God chooses.

God allows the darkest periods of my life to produce the greatest light. Every major breakthrough in my life has come after a period of profound darkness. I’ve learned the best things I know about life and God through the most difficult seasons of my life.

God never gives up on me. In some ways, I feel like Jonah. I’ve never felt called to go to Nineveh, but I’ve resisted going where God called me to go or do at times. Sometimes for a season and sometimes only briefly, but I’ve run. I’ve stalled. In the end, God always has the final word. Imagine that. I end up obeying or my life is a mess until I do.

What’s God taught or teaching you?