12 Random Things I Learned from My Time with Rick Warren

I had an awesome opportunity a few weeks ago to spend a couple hours with Rick Warren and a dozen or so other pastors. Rick was in town to speak to a conference and Ed Stetzer arranged for him to meet with us. Obviously, this man is a mega-influencer just because of the book, the publicity he has received, and the impact he has in the church world and society. He is becoming a statesman for the church around the world.

It was a humbling experience. I didn’t choose the seat of honor (I promise), but I ended up sitting next to him in the meeting. Rick talked randomly and conversationally with us and I took notes as fast as I could. There are so many principles I took from our time, but here are 12 random things I gleaned from him: (Some are quotes…I put them in quotation marks…some are random points of information I heard from Rick’s talk.)

“We need to be reproducing churches. We need to reward multiplication of churches, not size of churches.”

“The model of Saddleback is to take people from “come and see” to “come and die”…as Jesus modeled.”

“You only listen to people you like. Be likable.”

Rick has the gift of faith. He sees things God wants to do that others can’t and has faith that it can happen. (That’s what leaders do!)

Until a few years ago, Rick read a book a day. He is a consummate learner.

Rick Warren is passionate about equipping pastors and leaders for the next generation and wants to spend the rest of his life equipping pastors.

“The ministry is not hills and valleys, but like a railroad passing through two extremes all the time.”

When he wrote “Purpose Driven Life” God told him “It’s not about you”. He never knew how many times he would be tested by that word from God.

Rick’s prayer every Saturday and Sunday before he preaches is, “Remind me that I belong to you…not this church…and this church does not belong to me”

“Jesus hung out with lepers…today that would be people with full blown AIDS”

“If you want your ministry to last, pastors need integrity, humility, and generosity.”

“Satan tempts us to use the strengths and gifts we have in a way that gives us glory instead of God.”

I realize Rick has his critics. Honestly, until you’ve sat where I sit and had a chance to hear his heart, I wouldn’t judge his ministry. He has some incredible plans for the next phase of his ministry and the influence of Saddleback Church in the years to come. I left more impressed than before I arrived. He’s the real deal.

Has the ministry of Rick Warren had an impact on you, your ministry or church?

Friday Discussion: Is Fear an Appropriate Motivator for the Church?

Is fear an appropriate tool for motivation?

We see it in many segments of society.

Rental car companies use it to sell extras to a rental contract. The skilled agent can make me doubt my insurance. The risk isn’t any larger than when I normally drive, but I sure feel that way after their spill.

We do it to help people lose weight or live healthier. When I see the effects of obesity on the body I’m more inclined to want to stay in shape.

We use fear to get people to wear seat belts, slow down and to deter drinking and driving. The crash dummy has been made famous saving lives by inducing fear.

So, I have a fair question:

Is fear an appropriate motivation tactic for the church?

I would love your thoughts and opinions. I’m a proponent of the “kindness of God leads to repentance” approach to witnessing, but if fear is such a great motivator should we literally be scaring the Hell out of people?

I love a good discussion…so what do you think?

7 Qualities to Look for in a Pastor’s Wife

I receive dozens of emails from pastors each week. This one caught my attention and I asked permission to use it here.  Hopefully others will benefit from my response and weigh in with their own thoughts. I have changed his name.

Ron,

I hope all is well with you. I frequent your blogs ever so often via twitter, which I do enjoy. the reason for this email is for some direction. It is my belief that the Lord has called me to be a pastor, however I am presently single. I wanted to find out what are some of the qualities one should look for and how should I go about finding a wife as a future pastor. I have been keeping the issue in prayer.

I would love to hear your thoughts.

Sincerely,

Mike

Dear Mike,

Most likely you will not be able to pick every expectation or qualification you have for a spouse.  I think is is wise, however, to have a goal. You are more likely to reach a target for which you aim.  With that in mind,

Here are 7 qualities I believe make up the ideal pastor’s wife:

Your biggest supporter. You should be hers too, but as a man in your position it is critical.  People will be less likely to support you if your wife doesn’t. Is she able to respect you in public enough not to criticize you in front of others?  Nothing would be more damaging to your ministry.  Ministry is hard on a marriage. Some days are harder than others. You’ll need to know there is one person always in your corner.

Obedient to the call of God regardless of the costs. Is she willing to walk by faith?  It will be required many times.

Visible and active in the ministry and/or church and looking to partner with you in ministry. I don’t believe the pastor’s wife should be everywhere, especially at the expense of her family, but the church should know she is a real person facing life’s struggles like the rest of the church.  Serving together because of a common love for Christ and a combined vision for ministry will help protect your marriage during difficult days.

Friendly and welcoming personality. Do people like her?  Does she have a genuine love for people, even those who at the time are harder to love?  This will be tested.

Completes you by filling in your weaknesses. Your ministry will be strengthened as “the two become one” and God uses each of your strengths to  blend a stronger team. Do your strengths compliment each other?

Less concerned about the material things of the world and more concerned about things eternal. This is a critical test for the life of a pastor’s wife. It is many times a life of sacrifice. This does not mean you can’t have or even enjoy nice things, but the source of real joy should come from the things money can never buy. There may be seasons of ministry where God calls you to real faith-testing and strengthening experiences with your finances. Will she remain faithful and committed during these times?

Loves Jesus more than you. If you need this one explained you may be in the wrong profession.

The easiest way for me to put this is that you should pick one like mine.  Cheryl is the perfect pastor’s wife. Of course, she is not available, but at least you have my standard for which you can set your ambitions. Praying for you as you have spiritual eyes and discernment.

As to where, that’s a tough one.  I don’t think location is as important as the heart with which you approach the search. When that is right it seems God will be much more willing to be in tune with the process and give you eyes to see. Perhaps my readers will have some suggestions.

Where’s the best place for singles (especially single pastors) to meet people today?

And, do you have any qualities you would add to my list for “Mike”?

Ted Video: Billy Graham on Technology and Faith

Just discovered this Ted video with Billy Graham talking about technology and faith. He’s humorous, engaging, and shares an interesting perspective about how to deal with technology in the future. He’s talking to a secular audience in 1998, but his words are still practical and helpful. The most encouraging part to me was to see the boldness of his talk in the midst of such a crowd.

Enjoy some time listening to this honored man:

Do you have a story or favorite memory of Billy Graham?

Pastor Burnout…What Now?

Pastor burnout is a common problem in the church today.  I hear from pastors everyday facing the stress of ministry.

Here’s a common scenario that can cause that to happen…or pieces of this scenario…these may be the most common one I hear…perhaps this is your story:

  • The church gets to a certain level
  • Things start to slow down
  • The church stops growing
  • Maybe even slides backwards for a while…
  • Money becomes tighter…
  • People are complaining more it seems…
  • Everyone is asking the pastor “What’s next?”  “What do we do now?”
  • You’ve done everything you know how to do…
  • You feel stuck…trapped…afraid…paralyzed…confused…overwhelmed…

If not careful, the stress will quickly cause the pastor to:

  • Stop reading and learning techniques and strategies
  • Stop trying anything new
  • Quit taking risks
  • Quit expecting God to move
  • Become protective…maybe even isolated..
  • Become more sensitive to criticism and stress…

If this is your story, I have a few words of encouragement:

  • Get help now…That may be professional or not, but ask for help today!  You wouldn’t encourage the people you lead to do life alone…so why is it a good idea for you?
  • Surround yourself with people...not the opposite, which is the usual response to times like this…especially it seems by pastors.  Find people who love you…they are there if you look.
  • Find your center of gravity again…(Most likely that is Christ…right?)
  • Get back to the truth you already know...  You may start by reading 1 Kings 19 for another time one of God’s servants fell on difficult times.
  • Renew the passion for your vision… God called you to something.  He never said it would be easy.  God-given dreams rarely are.
  • Start doing something towards a goal...  Inactivity never solved anything. Waiting doesn’t mean doing nothing (Read another post with that thought HERE.)
  • Look for some small wins…  It will help rebuild your confidence.  (Read another post with that thought HERE.)
  • Stay faithful in the small things… and God will once again bring the bigger victories.  (Read Matthew 25:21)

I’d love to hear from you if this is your story.  You can comment here (which will encourage others also) or you can send me an email to ron.edmondson@gmail.com

Thanks for serving…even when the serving gets difficult.

For more encouragement, read THIS POST, and THIS POST and perhaps the suggested posts below this one.

Changing a Heart versus Adding a Rule

I am often confronted with issues where one person has wronged another person.  At times people expect me, as the pastor, to enforce morals on people in order to change them.  Some how they believe if I talk to them, I can “force” them to change their ways.

I have learned one principle well.  Rules never change people.

It doesn’t matter how many you have, how strictly you enforce them, or even how loyal people are to obey them.  Rules alone never change a person.  Rules are often necessary to protect and bring order to chaos, but for people to change a heart has to change.

Heart changes change people, not rules.  Jesus working in a person’s life changes people, not more rules.

You may even be able to force someone to obey the rules…for a time, but compliance alone never indicates a true change of heart.

If you want me to speak to someone’s heart, I will.  If you want me to introduce them to Jesus, I would love to, but please don’t expect me to place rules on them that they will most likely not obey and that certainly will never truly change them.

Have you tried to change people with rules?  Did it work?

7 Actions for the Times God is Silent

Elijah had been used of God to hold back rain from the people for over 3 years, because of their sins. Obviously, he was not well liked as a preacher. I can only imagine the stress he experienced during those years. Something struck me recently, however, that seemed to further complicate Elijah’s situation.

Consider 1 Kings 18:1 “After a long time, in the third year, the word of the LORD came to Elijah: “Go and present yourself to Ahab, and I will send rain on the land.”

According to a couple NT passages, this “After a long time” was actually 3 ½ years. The famine was 3 ½ years long. For 3 ½ years, the people apparently continued to sin, Elijah continued to hold on by faith, but God said nothing. God was apparently inactive, not speaking, even to His great servant Elijah.

Have you ever been there? Has the silence of God in your life ever been eerily strong?

Imagine you had been faithfully serving…God is using you…you are in constant communication with Him…and then suddenly…everything is quiet.

The separation must have seemed unbearable. Elijah is un-liked and unpopular; he’s an outcast from the people and the One he trusted most was seemingly absent. God would soon do a miracle through Elijah, but during this period, all Elijah could do was wait.

If you have been believer for very long at all, you have had periods where it seems God is nowhere to be found. We often call them periods of spiritual dryness. Sometimes I refer to it as being in a spiritual funk.

What should we do during the times of silence, before the miracles of God come through for us?

If you are like me, you can figure out how to celebrate a miracle. You don’t need much help doing that. The tough part of life is figuring out what to do during the years of silence; during the years when miracles are nowhere to be found.

What do we do during the spiritual dry periods of life when we don’t hear clearly the voice of God?

Here are 7 actions I encourage you to consider:

Don’t ignore the silence…
Some of the biggest moves God has made in my life have come after a period of spiritual dryness; when it seemed like God was doing nothing in my life. Stay very close to God and watch for His power to be displayed.

Confront known sin in your life
This wasn’t the problem of silence for Elijah, but the problem for the Israelites was that they were chasing after other gods and living lives in total disobedience to God. Sin may not be the reason you don’t sense closeness to God right now, but if you have known sin in your life it will affect your intimacy with God.

Go back to what you know
Get back to the basics of the faith that saved you. You’ll do it 100’s of times in your life, but you must remind yourselves of the basis of faith. God is in control. He really is…even when it doesn’t seem that He is anywhere to be found.

Make a decision…Choose sides
You can’t adequately serve God and the world. Something happens in life, often sin, or busyness, or boredom, or a tragedy…but if we are normal, we have periods where we grow away from our close relationship with God. God hasn’t moved, but if you’ve shifted in your obedience, get back securely on the right side.

Trust More…Not less
Times of silence may be filled with fear, but these times will definitely require more faith. Times come in our spiritual life when our enthusiasm isn’t as real as when we began our walk with God. That’s not an indication to quit…it may be that God is using that time for something bigger than you could have imagined, but it will require a deeper level of trust.

Listen and Watch Closely
Some day God is going to make His plans known to you. Don’t miss them. He may come to your personally, through His Word, circumstances or another person. You’ll need to be in a position to know that God is moving. (Read THIS POST if you need help discerning God’s will.)

Get ready to receive
God will break the silence some day…and when He does….it WILL be good. If you mope around in your sorrows, you’ll be less prepared to receive the good things to come. Not because of your circumstances, but because of your faith, clothe yourself in joy as you wait for God to bless you after the period of silence.

Are you in one of those periods of silence today? How do you handle these periods of time?

The No Guarantee Principle

Someone recently pointed out to me a principle they had always believed, until it didn’t come true for them. They were disappointed in the principle. I had to remind myself of yet another principle. Principles are great, but they aren’t promises; they are principles.

I love principles. I believe in them. I write about them. I even attempt to live my life by some of them.

But principles of men aren’t guaranteed to come true.

You can count on the promises of God, but don’t expect the principles of men to work every time. The truth is that life happens…and sometimes life is more powerful than a principle.

Take one famous John Maxwell principle (I know…how dare I pick on one of his principles…and he’s one of my heroes of leadership…but just for example…please don’t tell him)

Principle: No one cares how much you know until they know how much you care.

That is true…unless you are a detective on a murder crime investigation. If you find a witness, you don’t care how much they care…you just want to know how much they know.

Principles are excellent. I love them. I write about them. I practice them. As I observe life, I even write some of them.

But real life can overpower principles. Principles can’t always overcome reality. The environment, other people, and circumstances will play a part in writing your end story, in spite of the principle you live by.

Don’t base your life on principles of man. Base your life on the promises of God. In them, you’ll never be disappointed.

Can you think of other principles of men that may not always be true?

Soles4Souls Loves Haiti: Sustainable Housing Project

I love the ministry of Soles4Souls.  Their success in doing their mission has been a phenomenal achievement.  In fact, I understand a book is being released soon that chronicles their journey over the last five years.  I interviewed Soles4Souls founder and CEO Wayne Elsey previously. You can read that interview post HERE.  

Wayne has taken a personal interest in Haiti.  He’s crying out for Americans to see the need.  He’s going to Haiti monthly.  Recently Wayne shared a plan he has to help with the tremendous housing problem they have.  I thought it was worth sharing here.  See this powerpoint presentation on Soles4Souls Haiti project.  For more information, contact Soles4Souls through their website.


Soles4Souls Project Haiti

If you can’t see this, you may need to open it in another browser type, or click on the link. http://www.docstoc.com/docs/47961120/Soles4Souls-Project-Haiti

Have you heard of Soles4Souls?

Amazing Grace: A Story from Sierra Leone


Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me… I have always loved that song. As one who has experienced so much grace in my life, no other song better captures my heart when I think of God’s love for me.

Chances are good you know the song and love it equally. Did you know it originated in Sierra Leone?

I learned during our time in Sierra Leone that the song was written in this country, actually on an island called Plantin Island. If you are familiar with Ellis Island near NewYork City, where immigrants were processed upon entry into the United States years ago, Plantin Island was apparently the equivalent in reverse. Slaves were kept there while they waited for extradition to other countries where they had been sold.

If you have heard the story of the song, Amazing Grace was written by John Newton, once a sailor working on a ship participating in the slave trade. He fell in love with Sierra Leone, was later converted and became a pastor, and wrote the familiar song, understanding personally the amazing grace of God displayed in his life.

The people of Sierra Leone are proud of this part of their history, in spite of the tragedy of slavery it represents. They recognize the importance and popularity of the song and embrace its origins in their country.

Considering the atrocities of slavery that I know from our country’s history, Amazing Grace has even a richer meaning to me than before I came to Sierra Leone. I’m praying the people of the great continent of Africa more and more understand the true meaning of the song and receive the grace of Jesus Christ, which is truly amazing.

The older i get, the more depth of understanding i have that God’s grace is amazing.

Are you still amazed at God’s grace?