5 Words of Advice for Pastors

One of the members of my team asked the question, “If you could offer advice to a pastor and his family, what 5 things would you offer?” I quickly sent him the following list based on 36 years of ministry:

5 Pieces of Advice for Pastors

1.  Love God. Regardless of what or how much you do as a pastor, nothing will substitute for loving God. According to Jesus, this is the highest commandment on which all the other commandments stand (Matthew 22:37). Just like in marriage, loving God requires discipline and focus. Practicing spiritual disciplines like Bible intake and prayer help to fan the flame in our relationship with God. We will have ups and downs along the way, but we should work hard to keep our relationship with the Lord fresh and strong.

2.  Love your family. God created the family before He created the church. Pastors often neglect their family in order to serve the church, but that does not please the Lord. I’ve certainly been guilty of this. It’s challenging at times to have the proper balance in this area, but it’s vital that we do. In all honesty, our church assignments will change from time to time, but our family remains the same.

3.  Love your people. No, they’re not perfect. Yes, they will disappoint you. Yes, you will disappoint them! But, make your mind up to love the people that the Lord calls you to serve. Pray that you will love them like Jesus. Love those who agree with you and those who don’t. Love those you enjoy being around and those you do not like. God will bless a pastor who loves His church–the church He calls you to pastor.

4.  Love the Bible. Many of us say we have a “high view of Scripture,” but we do not give the Scriptures a high priority in our lives. We don’t read the Bible regularly and we don’t preach the Bible accurately. We should make this one of the marks of our ministry. When people look back on my ministry, I want them to say “he always preached God’s Word with passion and accuracy! He was committed to the Word of God!”

5.  Love yourself. I’m not suggesting that we become weak in the knees when we look at ourselves in the mirror. I’m simply suggesting that we take care of ourselves spiritually, emotionally, and physically. Not only should we practice spiritual disciplines, we should practice physical and emotional disciplines as well. We should eat right, exercise, sleep, rest, recharge, etc. It’s so easy to neglect this area of life, but we will not be fully effective in the other areas if we do. Truthfully, we may inadvertently shorten our life as a result which also shortens the years we have to serve the Lord here on this earth! That would be a tragedy because it would mean that we were bad stewards of the life God gave us.

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Influence and Impact

Leaders want to have influence and make an impact!

Almost everyone wants their life to count! It is Scriptural to want to have influence and make an impact for the Lord! The Apostle Peter understood that, so he wrote about it in his letter to the believers in northern Asia Minor.  Some of them were present in Jerusalem on the Day of Pentecost and heard Peter preach, but now they were suffering greatly from intense persecution.  In his letter, he encourages them to continue impacting others for the Lord during days of great difficulty.

3 Ways to Have Influence and Make An Impact

1.  Start serving.  To the elders among you, I [Peter] appeal as a fellow elder, a witness of Christ’s sufferings and one who also will share in the glory to be revealed:  Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, serving as overseers—not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be….” (1 Peter 5:1-2a).  Peter saw Jesus serve others through suffering.  When we take our eyes off our own struggles and focus on others, we imitate Jesus and we make an impact.

2.  Be humble.  “Young men, in the same way be submissive to those who are older. All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, ‘God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble'”  (1 Peter 5:5).  Surely Peter had the Upper Room towel and basin scene in mind as he wrote these words.  God uses those with a humble heart and He gives them grace.  I have noticed that all my “heroes” in the faith are men and women marked by humility.  Most Christians admire and respect those who have a humble spirit.

…all my “heroes” in the faith are men and women marked by humility.

3.  Trust God.  “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7).  God is in control.  Even when we cannot see or sense Him, He is there.  Not only is He there, He CARES!  HE is the key!  Knowing He is in control during difficult moments should free us to focus on others and to continue to faithfully serve Him.

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2 Ways to Eliminate Hurry

Speed Limit.25One of the great books on spiritual disciplines is John Ortberg’s book, The Life You’ve Always Wanted:  Spiritual Disciplines for Ordinary People.  You can read my review of the book by clicking here.

One of the spiritual disciplines he talks about in the book is the practice of “slowing.”  Have you ever thought about “slowing” as a spiritual practice?  One of his mentors told him that if he wanted to grow spiritually that he must ruthlessly eliminate hurry from his life.  Listen to a great quote from his book:

Hurry is the great enemy of spiritual life in our day.  Hurry can destroy our souls.  Hurry can keep us from living well….Again and again, as we pursue spiritual life, we must do battle with hurry.  For many of us the great danger is not that we renounce our faith.  It is that we will become so distracted and rushed and preoccupied that we will settle for a mediocre version of it.  We will just skim our lives instead of actually living them.

Most of us battle the hurry sickness, but how can we treat it–how can we cure it?  There are two main practices that can help us swim against our culture’s current of hurry.

2 Ways to Eliminate Hurry from Our Lives

1.  Slowing.  Slowing involves cultivating patience by deliberately choosing to place ourselves in positions where we simply have to wait.  Slowing will seem like such a “waste of time,” but it is invaluable.  Here are some examples.  Deliberately drive in the slow lane.  Chew your food slowly.  Get in the longest check-out line at the grocery store.  Go through an entire week without wearing a watch.  Read each sentence slowly–then read it again even more slowly.

2.  Solitude.  Solitude is a more traditional spiritual practice.  I’m not saying that we should take it to the extreme and join a monastery.  I’m just saying that solitude is the one place where we can gain freedom from the forces of society that will otherwise relentlessly mold us.  When we’re “alone” with God–He molds us!

We need some small measures of solitude every day.  A walk, a run, a short drive, working in the yard, sitting in the car before going into the office, a quiet time–all these serve as moments of solitude.  On occasion, we need longer periods of solitude.  Take an afternoon to yourself or even an entire day.  Go to a place where you will be uninterrupted and alone.  Spend the day relaxing, reading, walking, napping, etc.

Both of these practices have been vital to my spiritual growth and to my ability to hear from God.  By the way, if you haven’t read John Ortberg’s book on spiritual disciplines, you must do so.  Here’s a link to Amazon where you can purchase the book and get started.  I wish I had read this book as a new Christian and learned about the practice of “slowing” and many of the other spiritual disciplines that have helped me to grow in recent years.

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4 Steps Churches & Pastors Should Take Now

Like me, you may be asking, “What steps should we take as a church and what steps should I take as a pastor in light of the Supreme Court’s ruling legalizing same-sex marriage?” Here are four steps every church should take to safeguard the church and the pastor.

  1. Update church wedding policy documents. It is very important for the church to develop a document that addresses the issues of marriage, human sexuality, & gender. Here is a Church Wedding Policy sample that you can use as a starting point.
  2. Update facility use policy. It is equally important for the church to develop a comprehensive policy that addresses the use of church facilities. It is not necessary for the church to eliminate all facility use by non-members, but it is important that a governing policy is in place. Even if the church eliminates facility use by non-members and only allows facility use by members, a policy is still needed. Some of the challenges in the area of facility use may come from those who are members or from family members of those who are members. Here’s a facility use sample.
  3. Update membership policies. It is important to have a document that clearly defines how a person becomes a church member; what the expectations are for a person to maintain church membership; and specific circumstances that lead to membership discipline and/or dismissal. Here’s a Church Membership Policy sample.
  4. Update Pastor’s Personal Wedding Policy. For added clarification and protection, it would be wise for every pastor to develop and adopt a personal pastoral wedding policy. In this policy the pastor should share his Biblical views on marriage giving Scriptural support, personal requirements for officiating a wedding, pre-marital counseling expectations, and a fee schedule. Here is a Pastor Wedding Policy sample.

For more information and help, please check out our Kentucky Baptist Convention resource page. Also, feel free to contact me personally at [email protected] or at 502-489-3434.

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A Legal Guide for Protecting Your Church & Ministry

Gavel.2I recently wrote a blog that detailed 4 steps that every church should take to safeguard the church and the pastor in light of the Supreme Court’s ruling legalizing same-sex marriage in all 50 states. I’m sure I will be updating that blog many times as new information and resources come forward.

Two organizations that can be extremely helpful as you wrestle through issues related to this topic are the Alliance Defending Freedom and the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention. They recently teamed together to produce an extremely helpful document entitled, “Protecting Your Ministry from Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Lawsuits.” Dr. Russell Moore, President of the ERLC stated:

Considering just how fast culture is shifting on its views of sexuality and religious liberty, I am thrilled that the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission is partnering with our friends at Alliance Defending Freedom to produce a trusted resource sure to help equip Christians and churches. In it, you’ll find trusted resources on how churches, Christian schools, and Christian ministries should navigate and prepare themselves for the changing culture and all the attendant legal challenges that come with it.

The document includes three key checklists–a checklist for churches, a checklist Christian schools, and a checklist for Christian Ministries. For example, the church checklist provides help in the following areas:

  • Statement of Faith
  • Religious Employment Criteria
  • Facility Use Policy
  • Formal Membership Policy
  • Marriage Policy

One of the most helpful features of this document is the Appendix which includes numerous sample documents. You can download this document for free on the ELRC website.

For more information and help, please check out our Kentucky Baptist Convention resource page. Also, feel free to contact me personally at [email protected] or at 502-489-3434.

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Ordering Your Private World

iPhone.Calendar“Don’t let the world around you squeeze you into its own mold, but let God re-make you so that your whole attitude of mind is changed.”  Romans 12:2 (Phillips)

Gordon MacDonald’s book, Ordering Your Private World, is one of the most helpful books I have ever read.  I highly commend this Thomas Nelson Publishers’ book to you. Listen to what MacDonald writes about this passage:

The apostle set forth an ageless truth. He was directing that a right choice be made. Are we going to order our inner worlds so that they will create influence on the outer world? Or will we neglect our private worlds and thus permit the outer sphere to shape us? This is a choice we have to make every day of our lives. (Page 24)

This is the absolute key to being used by God! If we want to change our outer world, we have to change our private world. If we want to make a difference we have to be different. If we want to leave a mark we have to mark some boundaries. We must schedule our priorities, and our number one priority MUST be God!

Where are you in this? How is your private world? Mary Slessor was a young single woman who left Scotland at the turn of the century to go to a part of Africa that was infested with disease and indescribable danger. But she had an indomitable spirit and kept going when lesser men and women broke down, ran, and never came back. Once, after a particularly draining day, she found herself trying to sleep in a crude jungle hut. Of that night she wrote:

I am not very particular about my bed these days, but as I lay on a few dirty sticks laid across and covered with a litter of dirty corn-shells, with plenty of rats and insects, three women and an infant three days old alongside, and over a dozen sheep and goats and cows outside, you don’t wonder that I slept little. But I had such a comfortable quiet night in my own heart.

That’s the sort of thing I’m talking about when I address the question of order in our private world. There must be a quiet place where all is in order, a place from which comes the energy that overcomes turbulence and is not intimidated by it. Don’t let the world fit you into its mold! Instead, mold your world for the glory of God!

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5 Mistakes During Conflict

A couple of years ago I read a good book entitled Redeeming Church Conflicts: Turning Crisis into Compassion and CareTara Klena Barthel and David V. Edling did a great job in the book defining conflict and uncovering what the Bible says we should do when conflict arises.

In the first chapter, they shared five mistakes that most people make when conflict happens. These mistakes are the beginning of a tragic downward spiral.

5 Mistakes People Make During Conflict

1. We think our evaluation of the situation is always right. I’ve made this mistake and you have as well. It’s easy and natural to do, but it’s not best to do. In order to resolve conflict, we must be open to listen to the “other side” and be willing to consider that we are not totally right on the issue.

2. We treat people differently than God treats us. God treats us with love and grace. He forgives us when we don’t deserve it. During conflict, we often treat the other person with contempt and disrespect which leads us to disdain their perspective.

3. We assume that God is on our side. Although we may accept that those on the other side of the conflict are believers, we believe that we uniquely have God’s attention, care, and blessing more than our opponents do.

4. We become defensive. As soon as we become defensive, we become closed and narrow. We believe that God takes our side on the issue and condemns those on the other side of the conflict in the same way that we do.

5. We are marked by pride and selfishness. These characteristics are not from the Lord. Instead, Christ wants us to be marked by humility and love which leads toward reconciliation.

Conflict is a normal part of life. No one is exempt! But, as believers, God calls us to respond differently than the world and to DO OUR BEST to resolve the conflict.

If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men. Romans 12:18 (NKJV)

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