Sunday mornings are a stressful time for pastors. My ministry includes interacting with dozens of pastors each week. It appears to me that there are some common experiences on Sunday morning for many of us.
I also know most people who love their church…and love their pastor…want to help any way they can to make the Sunday morning experience the best it can be. That’s what this post is about.
Here are 7 ways you can help your pastor on Sunday:
Pray – Pray for your pastor. Ask God to open the ears of the people, to guide your pastor’s heart and to bless the services with His Spirit.
Don’t critique – Sunday morning is not the best time to bring complaints. It is very distracting when the pastor is about to speak to hear criticism that will have to be dealt with later. It weighs very heavy on the mind and gets in the way of focusing on the message. Hold those until Monday, but even then, ask yourself if sharing it is personal to you or genuinely helpful to the entire body.
Don’t share something you want us to remember – Most likely we will forget what you told us by the time Sunday is done. Send us an email later or call us Monday morning. If it must be shared on Sunday, please write it down for us so we can remember the details. Our minds are so clouded on Sunday thinking about a million different things. And, we try hard to make our focus about a message we hope God will use.
Be Kingdom-minded – Think of others interests even ahead of your own. Keep in mind the temperature in the room may not be your ideal temperature, but it may be exactly the right temperature for someone else. Your song may not be sung today, but it could be the song that leads another to the throne of grace. The message may not address what you’re dealing with right now, but for someone else, it might be life-changing. Be a part of the crowd that says, “I love what helps another” and you’ll help your pastor and the church greatly on Sunday mornings.
Volunteer – The work of the church can’t function with only a few people. I’ve never met the church that had too many people volunteering in preschool ministry, too many greeters, or too many people willing to do whatever it takes.
Introduce us to visitors – We love to meet visitors, especially those seeking a church home. It is comforting when the church is bringing people with them or meeting new visitors as they arrive.
Pray – It really does begin and end with prayer. More than anything, we want your prayer support. The Spirit of God seems to respond when you do.
Pastor, how else can people help you on Sunday?
I’ve posted a similar answer to this before but in my new role some are asking the question again: Pastor, how are you on Facebook so much?
I honestly think the real question is “Why?” and some think it means I don’t work very much, but if only they knew.
Perhaps, if you follow me online, you wonder the same thing. So, let me try to help you understand.
First things first, I’m probably not on as much as you think I am. If you think so, then the strategy is working. I’ve been doing online ministry since 1996. That’s a long time. I started with a daily devotional that quickly turned into a ministry opportunity. Though they are mostly recycled now, that site is still active. (www.mustardseedministry.com) I learned that if I was going to do ministry with the potentials to reach tens of thousands (the Internet makes the world small), I had to be smart about it.
So, I work smart.
Here are four words to describe my Internet strategy.
Since I’m a pastor, and you’d want me to be pastoral, they all begin with the same letter.
Value – I recognize the value of being online. For the past several years, Facebook has been the most prominent way people reach me in my church. It also gives them a sense that they know me. I hear people every week say they feel they can follow me throughout the week, just by reading my status updates. In addition, I have the opportunity to minister to even a larger group, including hundreds of pastors and leaders around the country.
Vision – I have a vision of not only sharing the stuff I write (which I also see as a ministry), but sharing pieces about my life. I’ve learned it makes me seem more real if you see the person behind the thoughts. That’s why you may read something funny, some random thought, even an encouraging word I have for my wife. I want you to know me, so that when I share something serious, you’re more likely to take it serious because you feel you know me and hopefully I’ve become a reliable source. (Just to be clear, I’m capable of being wrong too, and unless I’m posting Scripture itself, it’s an opinion.)
Velocity – Now as for the frequency. There will always be those who think I post too much and those who wish I posted more. If I’m quiet for a couple days, I’ll hear from people who wonder if something is wrong. I’ve learned people depend on a certain amount of frequency. Plus, for those who are only on once or a few times a day, they may miss some of what I post if I don’t post things periodically throughout the day. The pace of doing so is really easy. I usually have my phone with me. If I have a thought, it takes me only a few seconds to put it out there. You’ll notice I don’t respond to a lot of other comments. I’m usually on and off of Twitter, Facebook, Instagram or LinkedIn very quickly. The total time per day is less than it appears. Plus, I can automate many of my posts if I choose to do so. Sometimes I do…sometimes I don’t. I’m not telling which are and which aren’t. The key is consistency and I’ve gotten pretty good at that over the years.
InVestment – (How’d you like the clever use of that V?) I have to believe that online communication is making a difference in people’s lives. I can only judge that based on the feedback I receive, and I receive lots. I’ve been overwhelmed at the responses I have gotten throughout my church and the world. I literally get emails every single day from people saying I was there at just the right time or said just the right thing. I’m not taking credit for that, just pointing out that God uses this avenue in ministry for His glory and I’m thankful to play a part.
Well, that’s my story. Why are you online?
If we aren’t connected online, you can find me here:
As a church leader, I realize the popularity and seemed importance of what I do has declined in recent years. Culture no longer values the voice of a pastor as the history of our nation would record that it once did. Even this week, the news of Louie Giglio’s exit as the pastor to pray at the inauguration of President Obama served as a sobering reminder…things have changed.
This is an interview with John S. Dickerson. Dickerson’s new book The Great Evangelical Recession identifies six factors of decline in the American Church and offers six solutions for leaders. Dickerson is a nationally awarded journalist and Senior Pastor of Cornerstone Church in Prescott, AZ. His work has appeared in The New York Times and The Washington Post.
Q: How would you summarize your book, The Great Evangelical Recession?
A: Culture is changing faster and faster. The conflicts around Louie Giglio, Chic-fil-A and Hobby Lobby demonstrate this. Rapid change in American culture is already shaking evangelicalism, but it’s going to worsen because the rate of change is accelerating.
As shepherds we must identify where the Church is struggling to adapt. Then we must look to God’s Word to find solutions for our day. The Great Evangelical Recession does this by documenting factors of decline—and then by building Scripture-based solutions for each area of decline.
Q: Is the homosexual-evangelical conflict an example of this cultural change? And if so, what sort of solutions does your book suggest?
A: Yes, the conflict between the evangelical and LGBTQ communities is case in point. The book documents that in the last 15 years Americans have entirely reversed their views on homosexuality. Furthermore, each younger generation is radically more pro-homosexual, so this trend will accelerate as older Americans pass away.
My solution chapter argues that we need to start treating non-evangelical “tribes” in America the same way our missionaries treat foreign tribes in Africa or New Guinea, by suspending judgment, serving and modeling unconditional love–so Christ can reach their hearts.
The chapter grows from a word study of the Greek word “good” in the New Testament. “Good” is about deeds. It’s more nuanced than this, but here’s the gist of that solution:
1. Take God’s good deeds directly to the homosexual tribe in your life and community. Don’t wait for them to come to you.
2. Refuse to classify the homosexual tribe as some worse class of people. This is unbiblical and showcases poor theology.
3. As with any tribe, don’t focus on changing behavior. Focus on changing relationship to God through Christ.
4. Don’t be surprised when you are hated and misunderstood about this issue. You will be.
5. When you are hated or misunderstood, don’t defend yourself or other evangelicals with words. Instead, let your quiet good actions eclipse any accusations (1 Peter 2:12).
6. Keep on demonstrating God’s good-ness and unconditional love—to the homosexuals closest to you.
The book includes Scripture and examples, but that overview gives you a taste.
Q: Your book identifies six trends of decline in the American Church. Is every ministry declining in these ways?
A: Typical ministries will find many trends of decline apply to them, while some don’t. Take the funding crisis for example. On average, 76 percent of evangelical gifts come from the oldest two generations. Many ministries are unprepared for the decline of donations in the next 15 years. That trend won’t apply to young-demographic ministries—like Reality LA, but other trends will.
This book is really a tool for ministry leaders. It helps leaders identify which negative trends are at play in their specific ministry. The book then gives practical Biblical solutions to adjust course in any areas of weakness.
What do you think? How have your seen the culture and church change in your lifetime?
(This remains my most requested and read post of all times. Apparently many people “Google” search for the verse that says what they think it says.)
I occasionally like to correct a myth I have heard all my life. How many times has someone said to you, “God will never put more trials on you than you can bear”? I challenge you to show me that in the Bible. The problem I have with this myth is that it keeps so many believers wondering why they can’t handle their problems, falsely believing they should be able to, because someone once told them the lie that God would not put more on them than they could.
Yes, we do have the promise that we will not be “tempted beyond what you can bear” (1 Corinthians 10:13), but we need to understand what that verse is saying. It says that God will not allow Satan to bring temptation, or enticement to sin, into our life that is too much for us to say no to it. When we are tempted to sin, God will make a way for us to resist it. That is because He wants us to live holy, just as Christ who calls us is holy.
Consistently, however, throughout the Bible, I read where at times God allowed more trials, more pressure, than His children could bear. Elijah, the powerful prophet of God who held back the rain had a time when the trial must have been bigger than his ability to handle it. Consider this verse: “The angel of the LORD came back a second time and touched him and said, “Get up and eat, for the journey is too much for you.” (1 Kings 19:7) Once when Paul wrote to the people at Corinth (2 Corinthians 1:8), he told them that he and his followers faced trials “far beyond our ability to endure“. David, the great war hero and man after God’s own heart, told the Lord that “troubles without number surround me” and “and I cannot see”. He couldn’t see clearly, because he was overwhelmed with the storms of life! Another time David said “Save me, O God, for the waters have come up to my neck.”( Oh how I identify with David there!) Jehoshaphat prayed, “We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you.” (2 Chronicles 20:12) It sounds to me like he was facing more than he could handle on his own.
Are there times when God allows more troubles in your life than you can bear?
If you want to say “more than you can bear without Him”…I’m okay with that. If you need to say “more than you can handle alone”…that’s fine. Just make the qualification, because it’s confusing without it.
If you can accept my testimony as an example, let me tell you that sometimes life throws more at me than I can handle, at least more than I can handle alone. The reason God allows you and I to experience times when we are consumed by trials, when they are bigger than our own strength can handle, is so that we have no where else to turn, except towards Him. We are faced with one solution, and that we realize Christ is our only hope!
After Paul wrote that his trial was bigger than his ability to endure, he offers an explanation. “But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead.” (2 Corinthians 1:9) He recognized that this overwhelming time of trouble, that he couldn’t handle alone, had caused him to focus more on the power of God, and allow God to work His perfect will.
Are you being challenged beyond your ability to endure? Don’t believe the lie that you can do it alone! Satan would love you to try to do it without God’s help. But, you can’t! You aren’t able! Jesus said, “apart from me you can do nothing!”
Did you get that point? Nothing!
Don’t try anything today…this year…in your life…without relying on the power of God! He knows you’re weak, but He is available to help, if you will call upon Him! When we are at our weakest, He is strong!
I did a follow up to this post HERE.
(I’m reporting some of the most read posts of this year. Some of them, like this one, are several years old, but are still being read. This one originally had another title.)
I have often chuckled when I’ve read the following verses. I’m not trying to be irreverent and hope this is not offensive, but sometimes I read the stories in the Bible and I see the humanity of people. I can hear myself making some of these statements. It brings a smile to my face and I can’t help but laugh.
Here are 8 of the funniest verses I have read in Scripture:
Matthew 15:12 Then the disciples came to him and asked, “Do you know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this?” (They sounded like a group who didn’t know Jesus very well at this point.)
1 Samuel 1:8 Elkanah her husband would say to her, “Hannah, why are you weeping? Why don’t you eat? Why are you downhearted? Don’t I mean more to you than ten sons?” (I can’t believe he was dumb enough to say it…actually yes I can…but he evidently said it multiple times.)
Luke 12:13 Someone in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.” (Imagine you get an audience with Jesus…you’ve got your one chance…He’s been teaching not to worry…what do you ask Him?)
Mark 9:28 But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him to his feet and he stood up. (The disciples had tried everything they knew how to do…except prayer. Some things are just not possible apart from God’s hand upon the situation.)
Mark 9:34 But they kept quiet because on the way they had argued about who was the greatest. (The humanity…they knew Jesus wouldn’t be pleased, but they couldn’t help but compare.)
Esther 1:20 Then when the king’s edict is proclaimed throughout all his vast realm, all the women will respect their husbands, from the least to the greatest. (How has that law worked so far?)
Exodus 16:14 When the dew was gone, thin flakes like frost on the ground appeared on the desert floor. (And we are told elsewhere they were honey flavored. Frosted Flakes were the first cereal! They’rrre Greeaatt!)
Exodus 16:36 (An omer is one-tenth of an ephah.) (You’ve got to love a clear explanation!)
Which do you think is funny? Can you think of any you would you add to the list?