7 Ways I Want to Improve as a Pastor

This week I start a new journey. You can read about it HERE.

I’m in a good place in life for this change. I’m old enough to have learned a few things, but also old enough to know I have so much I need to learn. As I do with the start of a new year, only on a larger scale, I view transitions as an opportunity to make significant improvements in how I lead. I get a fresh start. There are a few things I want to do differently.

Here are 7 areas I want to improve in my new ministry position:

Celebrate more – I believe in celebrating. I would advise other leaders to do so. Occasionally, I take my own advice. Sometimes, however, I get distracted by the next opportunity and fail to adequately celebrate along the way. I want to do better.

Pray more fervently – I believe in prayer. I want to be a person of prayer. I surround myself with prayer warriors. (I wrote about that HERE.) This time, I want to discipline myself to pray even more and see my ministry defined my prayers and the prayers of the church I’ve been asked to lead.

Stress less – Some would say I don’t stress at all. I tend to be fairly even-tempered. But, that false appearance is only because I’m good at hiding my impatience at times. (Cheryl sees it unfortunately.) This time, I want to trust more and stress less. After all, God is in charge; not me.

Be more disciplined – Again, people would think I’m fairly disciplined, and in many ways I am. I’m not sure, however, if I’m always disciplined in the right areas. Maybe I should have titled this one “prioritize better”. Either way, I want my life defined more by where I want to end up someday. The best way to do that is to live that way now.

Take bigger risks – That seems strange coming from a church planter, former small business owner, entrepreneur and in light of the risk some believe I’m taking now. Looking back, however, over business ventures, and the last two plants, which were both phenomenally successful, there were a few things I wish I’d done differently. I wish I’d acted sooner when I sensed God leading. I wished I would have waited longer, when I didn’t necessarily sense God leading. It would have required acting contrary to popular opinion more than I did, but, as I’ll continue to believe and teach, God’s way isn’t always easiest, but it’s always best.

Satisfy fewer – I’m actually pretty good at this. It’s one of the signatures of my ministry and people continually say it’s what attracts them to my leadership. I am who I am. I don’t usually try to pretend otherwise. People typically say I’m “real”. It’s not that I don’t want to be liked. I feel the pressure to please everyone that all pastors feel. Ultimately, I want to honor Christ and keep the respect of my family. Beyond that, it’s okay if I’m not popular, as long as I’m being obedient. When I try to “satisfy” people, I only make less of the will of God and more of the will of man. That seems counterproductive to my calling.

Rest better – Perhaps my biggest weakness is that I’m always doing something. I do protect my Sabbath, but I don’t always take time during the week or for periodic seasons to simply rest. I’m a doer. I want to be productive. I’m usually busy from early morning until late at night. I will probably never rest by doing nothing. The sound of that drives me crazy, but I do want to take more time to do what I want to do to rest. Read a book. Take a long walk. Maybe even play a round of golf. (Oh no, let’s not get crazy. :) )

I realize I could have changed all of these without changing churches, but I’m simply being obedient today…and it affords me a unique opportunity. I can change some things about who I am and how I lead.

Let’s do it!

If you could do things differently in your ministry, what is one thing you would improve upon?

Perhaps you can do that now…with or without a change of position.

Coveting the Wrong Mansion

I was running recently in Asheville, NC. Have you ever been there? What a beautiful city! The area where I was running is full of big houses. Mansions galore. Not Biltmore big, but bigger than my house big. Lots bigger. I was running part of the time with my mouth open. I couldn’t believe the enormity.

I kept thinking:

Wow! Who lives in those houses? What would it be like to have a house like that? How cool is that house?

Then the thought occurred to me…

It felt convicting at first, then comforting.

In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. (John 14:2)

(I love having Scripture hidden in my heart!)

I was instantly reminded that I have treasure in God that no one could afford. No one in Asheville or anywhere in the world. Bill Gates, or the new richest man in the world (I hear Bill’s not the richest anymore) couldn’t afford the treasure I’ve been afforded by my God.

Next time you run (or walk or drive) past a mansion, remember where your real treasure is.

Instead of being overwhelmed by the things of this world…be overwhelmed by the glories of His world. My richness is in Christ. How rich am I?

Are you ever like me? Do your thoughts ever get side-tracked?

Perhaps you are coveting the wrong mansion.

Often we focus on the wrong treasure. The cheaper treasure. The one that won’t last.

When is the last time God redirected your thoughts towards Him?

The Pressure of Easter Preaching

Pastor do you feel a pressure on Easter unlike other Sundays?

It seems there is an internal pressure to:

  • Find an obscure verse.
  • Address the story from a new angle
  • Reveal new insight in applying the story
  • Develop a character like no one else has
  • Tell the story in a fresh way

I feel the pressure. Am I alone?

What if we simply preach that Christ was crucified, buried and rose again?

What if we let the Gospel be the Gospel? What if we let truth prevail and the Holy Spirit be the teacher?

What if we drop the pressure and share the truth that God still loves sinners, that the Cross is still enough and that He is calling people to repentance and restoration?

What if we share the glory of the resurrection, not in a way that brings attention to our creativity in preparing a message, but in His humility and grace on the cross?

What if we decrease so the light of the world might increase?

That’s my aim this Easter. Who’s with me?

Five Minute Challenge: Persecuted Church

This week I’m at Moody Founder’s Week. It’s a Bible conference put on by Moody Bible Institute that I’ve come to for several years, especially since my son Nate is a student here. One of the underlying themes this year has the persecution of Christians around the world. I’ve read recently that Christians are under more persecution today than any time in church history.

Then, my friend Tami Heim tweeted that she was praying for the Christians of Uzbekistan. I’ll be honest, I don’t know that I ever prayed for anyone in Uzbekistan. Then I followed the link she provided and realized it’s part of an initiative called the Five Minute Challenge. I signed up. You can too. In fact, I think you should.

HERE is a list of the 50 most-watched countries for church persecution.

Watch this video and then go HERE.

Do you ever pray for persecuted Christians?

7 Ways Satan Tries to Destroy a Church

church crowd

Be serious! Be alert! Your adversary the Devil is prowling around like a roaring lion, looking for anyone he can devour. 1 Peter 5:8

I’m not a pastor who is constantly looking for Satan behind everything that goes wrong. I concentrate my attention on Jesus and encouraging others to follow Jesus and not to focus on the defeated one. Yet, I’m fully aware that Satan loves to destroy…or attempt to destroy…a church. Obviously Satan is a limited being and God’s church is secure. The gates of hell shall never overcome what God started, but Satan certainly loves to disrupt what God’s church is doing.

Here are 7 way Satan tries to destroy a church:

Church conflict – Satan loves business meetings that get out of hand or when two church members have disagreements outside of church. He loves when church members argue about trivial things, such as colors of the carpet or big things, such as whether to add another service. Doesn’t matter to him. Show him a good argument potential and he’s willing to stir the fire.

Burnout – Satan loves to burn out a church volunteer, staff member, or pastor. If he can make them feel they are no longer needed, their work is not appreciated, or that they no longer have anything to offer…he feels he’s winning part of the battle.

Rumors – Satan is the stirrer of dissension. He likes to plant little seeds of a juicy story, about someone in the church or community…sometimes even the pastor or staff…and watch them quickly spread through a church congregation or community. The version, of course, usually grows to a larger portion than reality. Satan likes that too.

Busyness – Satan loves to distract church goers with a plethora of activity that produces little results in Kingdom-building.

Lies – Satan attempts to interject what he calls a “half-truth”; just a hint of false doctrine and then watch it disrupt or divide a body. Of course, we all know that half-truth is really just a cleaned up version of a bold face lie, but Satan is clever enough to disguise a lie in a way where false teachers gain entry and do damage before being discovered.

Scandal – Satan loves a good, juicy, gossipy news headline in the local paper. If it will split, divide or destroy a church body…even better. If it will destroy someone’s Kingdom calling or work…he’ll take that too.

Marriage and family disruptions – Satan loves to destroy any relationship, but he also goes after key leader’s marriages; even the pastor’s marriage. He likes to encourage prodigal children. He wants to cause families to fight within the church and fight with the church. Satan knows if he can destroy a home, he has a better chance of destroying a church.

Thankfully, there is good news:

You are from God, little children, and you have conquered them, because the One who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world. 1 John 4:4

What other ways have you seen Satan try to destroy a church?

Moody Bible’s Culby X: Free Christmas Album

Introducing…from the men of Culby X

A Christmas Album.

It’s free, it’s inspiring, and it’s good.

Forgive me, but this is a personal privilege post. My son Nate, a pastoral student at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago, released his first Christmas album today. This was his brainchild. He recruited the guys on his dorm floor, Culby 10th floor, to help. Nate coordinated the electronic music, another guy sang, and the guys on the floor participated with Scripture input, marketing, and general morale support.

Most amazing to me is that this project was completed in a dorm room. I don’t recall that insanity in dorm rooms from my days in college. Don’t let anyone tell you this generation can’t make a difference. The guys of Culby X, and so many others, will prove you wrong.

Do me a favor and be encouraged:

Download the album:

HERE

Like their Facebook page:

HERE

And have yourself a Merry Christmas!