Survey: Pastor / Minister’s Health

I deal with dozens of pastors and ministers each month through my blog and consulting ministry. It seems to me that many are drowning in their ministry, are in unhealthy church cultures, and many are wondering if God will ever use them again.

I know from my recent blog reader survey that nearly 60% of my readership is in some form of professional ministry, so I thought I’d do a survey on the health of pastors and ministers who read my blog (and others I can get to take the survey).

Would you help me?

If you are in vocational ministry, either full-time or part-time, please take this quick, 22 question survey by clicking:

HERE

You can help even more if you can encourage others in your network, through Facebook, Twitter, or blog to take the survey. Again, I am really asking this to be filled out by those in vocational ministry. I appreciate you honoring that request.

I’ll post results in the weeks to come.

Thanks!

Playing it Safe…Not My Style

I’m 48 years old. I’m just old enough to have wisdom about a few things I should and shouldn’t do, but not yet old enough to always follow my own wisdom. Recently I observed a characteristic in me that I hope is not permanent.

We recently moved to a downtown condo. I wrote about why we did that HERE. The condo sits on a hill, overlooking the river district of our community. We love the view, but it presents a problem on windy days. We have to weatherize our front porch every time we suspect a storm, turning over the furniture and making sure everything is secure.

On one recent night, Cheryl heard the wind picking up and asked if we should prepare the porch. That really meant I should get up and prepare the porch, but I love the gentle way she “suggests” such things. :) Getting up at 1:30 AM to step onto my front porch in my boxers has never been my idea of fun, but I do like a happy wife, so I headed out to do my job. When I got back into bed she thanked me to which I replied:

“Better safe than sorry.”

Instantly the thought occurred to me. I would have never used that phrase a few years ago. “Better safe than sorry” has never appealed to me before. Sounds like something my mother would have said to me. I like risk-taking. I embrace change. I run to things others say can’t be done or aren’t willing to try. I’ve made a commitment to walk by faith.

I’m scared of “better safe than sorry”. What happened to me? Am I that old? :)

Here’s my plan to counter my recent tendency to lean to the comfortable side of life:

I own a couple Groupons for skydiving. My oldest son and I have wanted to do this for several years. It’s a risk worth taking I think, especially in light of my recent playing it safe tendency.

I think very soon I’ll go jump out of a “perfectly good plane”.

I must. I can’t stand the thought of resting on the safe side.

What’s the purpose of this post?
Well, if God is calling you to something bigger than your ability to understand…

Don’t play it safe! Play it by faith!

Be honest: Are you more likely to prefer a risk or the safe side?

Leader, You’ll Never Be 100% Certain

I’ve heard many well-meaning, potentially great leaders who never achieve all they could, because their fears and doubts keep them from making hard decisions.

Let me tell you from experience:

You’ll never be 100% certain about a leadership decision.

Okay, maybe “never” is too far a stretch, but it’s at least 99% certain you’ll never be 100% certain. :)

The best leadership decisions are the hardest to make. You won’t have all the answers yet. You’ll still have some doubts. You may likely have a few (sometimes many) naysayers around saying it can’t be done, it won’t work, or they don’t want to change.

That’s what leadership does. It leads people where they need to go, but may not want to go. That’s hard. All of us like approval. Sometimes leadership doesn’t receive immediate approval. You often have to make decisions before you have complete certainty, even when you believe you’re following God’s will. Doubt and fears affect us all. We can question our own ability to hear from God. Others cloud our ability to discern. At some point, leaders lead in the direction they feel God is leading them to go, regardless of the other voices around them.

I have a friend who says, “If life takes you to a fork in the road, choose the hardest route. It’s often the one where God most wants to shape you.” The point of his saying is that faith is built by resistance to our doubts and fears. If it doesn’t stretch you, it’s probably not much of a worthy goal. The path of least resistance usually produces the least desirable results.

Leader, don’t be afraid to make the hard decisions. Seek wise counsel, follow God’s heart as closely as you can, answer all the questions you can, even try to kill your own ideas (Read about that HERE). At some point, leaders pull the trigger to do the best they know how to do for the people they lead.

Don’t be gun shy! Pull!

Be honest, do you struggle making decisions when you’re not 100% certain?

Have you ever followed a leader who couldn’t make the difficult decisions?

Exponential: Stories of Sifted

As a part of the Exponential Conference in April, I was recently asked to share a time I’ve been “sifted” in ministry. You can read that story HERE. It was part of a larger body of work, getting to hear from other pastors also.

Here is an explanation of this project:

Join us for 20 days as we hear from 20 Bible Leaders we’ve come to know and love. They’ll tell a sifted story from their ‘own’ perspective, like you’ve never heard it before! You can receive daily posts via RSS Exponential feed, at http://feeds.feedburner.com/exponential OR via the Sifted feed, http://feeds.feedburner.com/sifting.

20 Leaders in 20 Days includes a daily devotional featuring the story of sifting from a Bible leader. Devotionals challenge you as a church leader to a single question each day helping you pursue and embrace the stories of sifting that God is writing in your life.

Click here to learn more about these unique daily devotions.

3 Ways To Remove The Pain From Preparing A Weekly Sermon

This is a guest post by my friend Casey Graham. Casey is one of the most innovative church leaders I know. He is passionate about Kingdom building and helping those who desire to Kingdom build. I haven’t seen any project of Casey’s yet I can’t support.

Here’s a word from Casey about a new project to help pastors:

After talking to hundreds of preachers, we’ve found most preachers love preaching, but the grind of preparation can often become a pain. Here are three things we’ve seen.

Here are 3 Ways To Remove The Pain From Preparing A Weekly Sermon:

1. Great preaching comes from a great preparation system. Perry Noble doesn’t prepare in a vacuum. He has a team at NewSpring Church that helps him prepare. Perry will talk about how this works at the PreachBetterSermons.com FREE online event on March 15th.

2. A Preparation day is better than feeling like you have to prepare all the time. Andy Stanley sets aside every Wednesday to prepare messages, and his team helps him keep this time guarded. While Andy is gifted, his commitment to preparation helps make his messages memorable. Andy will talk about the structure of his preparation day on the Preach Better Sermons online event.

3. Developing a sermon planning system takes the pain out of preparation. There are things you can do on a daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly and annual basis that will dramatically improve your preparation time and help you deliver better messages. Helping you put something like this into place will be a part of the free online event.

Make a commitment to be a better preacher. Sign up for the free online conference. Here are the details.

Date: March 15, 2012
Time: 1pm – 4pm EST
Speakers: Andy Stanley, Perry Noble, Louie Giglio, Dr. Charles Stanley, Vanable Moody, Jeff Foxworthy. The event is being hosted by Jeff Henderson.
Registration: Free sign up at preachbettersermons.com

Are you there? I am. Thanks Casey!

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?

Dreams, Goals and Plans

Dream

Far reaching, seemingly impossible, worthwhile, dependent on faith and huge personal risk, with no guarantee of success.

Goals

Defined aspects of realizing the dream. Attainable, stretching and measurable.

Plans

Action steps written to systematically complete goals. Assigned, scheduled and accountable.

It won’t be easy, there may be moments of despair, disappointments and setbacks along the way…you’ll need to learn prayer and patience like never before…but sometimes breaking down the terms makes the path seem clearer. Perhaps that dream is possible after all.

What’s the dream God is birthing in your heart?

You may now want to read 7 Steps to Achieving Your Goals or 7 Reasons You May not be Achieving Your Goals.

One sign you’re doing effective work…

People oppose you!

“But I will stay on at Ephesus until Pentecost, because a great door of effective work has opened to me, and there are many who oppose me.” 1 Corinthians 16:8-9

Few people worry about the people doing nothing.

Have you noticed the more you do for good the more opposition you receive? 

10 Random Thoughts about Following God

For the last 25 years or so, I’ve attempted to listen to, obey and follow the voice of God. It’s been a long road, and I’m still a pilgrim in the process, but I’ve learned a few things.

Based totally on my personal experience…

Here are 10 random thoughts on following God:

  • I’ve never been able to see very far down the road.
  • Sometimes I get a clear vision of a big goal God has for me, but I usually have no clue at the time how to get there.
  • The road to following God has never seemed to be easily paved. (This requires faith.)
  • There are often several options available of “how” to proceed towards what God is calling me.
  • I am often tempted to quit.
  • God doesn’t give up…people do.
  • The greatest obstacles, all of which God can overcome, are usually other people, resources and the battle within my own mind.
  • Satan is the great disrupter.
  • The more I know God and the closer our relationship, the clearer I hear His voice.
  • God calls people to impossible tasks.

Have you had similar experiences? I’d love to learn from and be encouraged by you.

What have you learned or experience about following God?

7 Things I Wouldn’t Do Again if Planting Another Church

I’m a church planter. I love the process of planting. I love the energy and the enthusiasm a new church brings to a community.

Having planted two church, I’ve learned a few things. Some of the things I’ve learned are things I wouldn’t do again if were were planting another church.

Here are 7 things I wouldn’t do again if planting a church:

Limit God’s vision – We started as a church to reach one section of town. Now we are in two locations, reaching two entirely different segments of our community. God has continued to refine and shape our path as a church.

Fail to challenge people to grow in their walk with Christ – I don’t know that I shied away from this; it certainly was my heart and our vision, but in the early days, I was very conscious of reaching the lost, so I may not have been as bold as I wish I had been in saying what needed to be said.  I wrote more about this HERE.

Shy away from money talk – So many people think all a church does is talk about money. We avoided this stigma from day one. In the process, we neglected to develop our core givers, we put ministries on hold we should be pursuing, and we robbed people of the opportunity to become generous givers and consequently to feel the reward of trusting God completely.

Resist leaders from other churches – We wanted to plant a church for non-believers, but we needed leadership to do that. When leaders from other churches came, however, we were hesitant to plug them in for fear we’d be seen negatively by other churches. In the process, we missed out on quality leadership and we denied people the right to follow their heart.

Expect everyone to be as excited a few years in – The fact is, life changes. Some are starters and some are finishers. Some of the original people grew bored with things as they were. They had a great impact in our beginning, but sought opportunities elsewhere in later years…and that’s okay.

Assume everyone is “happy” – I love what God is doing. I love watching lives change. God is doing something amazing among us. Some people just don’t get that excited. It’s not that they don’t care or love our church, they just haven’t received the same call on their lives I have.

Wait long to reproduce – We were 5 years old when we launched our second campus. I see churches do this in their second full year. There are so many in our city who need hope. Taking a risk on my own comes easy. Sometimes I’m too careful when representing God…as if He can’t handle something so large. When God leads, I want to move.

And the bonus…very practical one…

Wait too long to hire a business administrator – With a background in business I was a natural to do this, but I hated it and didn’t do it as well as it could be done. If a church is 400 or 500 hundred in attendance this becomes a full-time job. We were running well over 1,000 before we hired someone to do this and it crippled me in leadership. (Thanks Dennis for making my life better!)

WANT MORE? I wrote similar thoughts about what I’ve learned as a church planter in THIS POST. I also wrote a shorter post on what I would and wouldn’t do in a church plant HERE. Finally, HERE is a post on planting in a new community.

Have you ever been part of a church plant? Anything you could share with us?