5 Pieces of Advice for Pastors

A couple of weeks ago 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 30 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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3 Keys to Improved Worship

Have you ever thought about ways to improve worship? Much has been written on the subject recently. Allow me to share a few thoughts I’ve gleaned from my study over the last few years.

3 Keys to Improved Worship

1. God is the audience. When you hear the word audience associated with worship, what comes to mind? Do you picture the preacher, the praise team, the choir, the organist, the pianist, and various soloists on stage at different points with the congregation looking on as the audience? To many this is what comes to mind, but it is not a biblical model.

In biblical worship, the audience is God!

In biblical worship, the audience is God! The person seated on the back row of the balcony is “on stage” in God’s eyes just as much as the soloist and the preacher. God watches all of us as we worship Him. Those in the congregation must understand that those on stage are not there to please them; they are there to please God!

2. Every Christian should prepare for worship. Through the years, I have taught that we should come to the services “prepared” to worship God. We can’t worship if we’re worn out or hung over from a late Saturday night. We can’t place God first on Sunday if we haven’t given Him a second-thought during the week. Worship is a seven-day-a-week proposition and it takes special preparation to be ready for Sunday worship. Many get nothing out of worship because they’ve put nothing into worship during the week.

We can’t place God first on Sunday if we haven’t given Him a second-thought  during the week.

3. Preaching is a two-way street. Every week I look out and see a plethora of reactions to my preaching. I see some people on the edge of their seat, making mental notes and often taking written notes. Often sitting near them I see another person fighting back sleep. Now I realize that some people have medical issues that cause them to sleep any time they get still for a minute or two, but I suspect that some are just dulled to the message because of their lifestyle. My preaching would improve in their eyes if they would improve the way they live.

Challenge:  I challenge you to a little experiment. Spend one entire week preparing for worship on Sunday. Read your Bible and pray every day. Ask the Lord to help your pastor to hear His voice as He shows him what to say. Get to bed early on Saturday and get to church a little early on Sunday so you won’t feel so rushed. During the service, remember that God hears your expressions of praise and knows your heart. I am confident that worship will “come alive” for us like never before when we make it a true priority in our lives.

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3 Ways to IMPACT

Making-Impact-LogoThe Lord wants us to make an impact in life even when life is difficult.  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 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 towel and basin scene that took place in the Upper Room 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.

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.

The Real American Idol

american-idolThe last few seasons, my family and I have watched most episodes of American Idol. Being a musical family, we enjoy the time together listening to some excellent young musicians.

Ultimately, the American viewers determine who will be the “American Idol” by their votes. “Success” is defined as winning the show or at least releasing a hit song as a result of being on the show.

In America, there are many symbols of success. In golf, success is winning one of the major tournaments: The Masters, The U.S. Open, The British Open, or The P.G.A. In baseball, success is winning the World Series. In basketball, success is winning the NBA Championship. Our culture sometimes defines a successful person as the one with the corner office, the one with the good-looking spouse, the one with the expensive sports car, or the one with the huge house.

Have you ever thought about what success looks like in the Bible? In the 13th chapter of John, just hours before His crucifixion, Jesus gave the answer. Wanting to make a lasting impression on His disciples, Jesus provided them with a symbol of success:

The towel.

“….so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him.”  John 13:5-5

The towel represented service and service represented success. Although He was the leader and was in fact God, Jesus washed the feet of His followers. He performed the act of a household servant. Think about it, if HE served, we should serve. In explaining his actions, he told them:
 

“I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. I tell you the truth, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.” John 13:15-17 (NIV) 
 

Late in life, Albert Einstein removed portraits of Newton and Maxwell from his wall and replaced them with portraits of Ghandi and Schweitzer. For Einstein, it was time to replace the image of success with the image of service. But Jesus went further by demonstrating that SUCCESS IS SERVICE! Reacting to the disciple’s obvious misconceptions about success, Jesus clearly told them:

“….whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave–just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Matthew 20:26-28 (NIV)