• Are You a Frustrated Church Leader?

    One of the things that comes up from time to time in pastoral ministry is frustration with people. This is especially true when we have put a lot of time, thought, prayer and effort into something and no one rocks up to it or people are late or drop the ball etc.
    One of the things that I want to do when this happens is challenge the person who I am frustrated with. I want to say things to them about letting the team down and not being committed enough. Now these things may be true, the person we are frustrated with might not be committed enough and they may be letting the team down. But will having this conversation achieve what you and I want it to achieve?
    I have been reading a book called Eleven Rings: The Soul of Success by Phil Jackson who was a coach in the NBA who coached guys like Michael Jordan, Shaq and Kobe Bryant.  He tells a story where Jordan is getting frustrated with the players on his team because they were letting the team down and they weren’t being committed enough. In true Jordan fashion he would try harder showing them what he expected of them and willing them to do it. He would scowl at them and tell them what they were doing wrong. But it wasn’t working.
    A trainer named George Mumford said this to Jordan:“It’s all about being present and taking responsibility for how you relate to yourself and others,” says George. “And that means being willing to adjust so that you can meet people where they are. Instead of expecting them to be somewhere else and getting angry and trying to will them to that place, you try to meet them where they are and lead them where you want them to go.”

    When I read this quote I had a aha moment because I realised I expect the people whom I am frustrated with to be where I think they should be, I get angry and I try to will them to be where I think the should be instead of trying to meet them where they are at and lead them slowly where they should be.
    When I am frustrated with people I forget two things:
    1. How patient and gracious God is with me
    2. That ministry is measured in years and decades and not days and weeks.
    Paul says to Timothy in 1 Timothy 4:
    In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge: 2 Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction. 3 For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.4 They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. 5 But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry.

    There are four things from this passage that guard against frustration in ministry.
    Firstly, when we preach. We preach in season and out of season. We preach when  things are going great and when things aren’t. We preach when fruit is coming and when it isn’t. There are going to be times of fruitfulness in ministry and times where we will see hardly any fruit. This is to be expected but we preach knowing that God gives the growth.
    Secondly, we are to preach with great patience. We preach knowing that spiritual growth takes place over long periods of time and therefore we don’t get frustrated if we don’t see instant spiritual results. Ministry is not an instant thing. In ministry we see growth not over days and weeks but over years and decades. Therefore we know God is working if we are proclaiming his word and so we are not frustrated but patient.
    Thirdly, we see the tragedy of people turning away from the truth. This passage reminds us that people want to believe things other than the gospel so when we are ministering to people and they are turning away from the gospel we are not surprised but we carefully and lovingly instruct and remind them of the gospel over many conversations hoping to win them back to the gospel and sound doctrine.
    Fourth, Paul is real about ministry. He says we endure hardship. The hardship we endure is not through long hours, although there may be long hours. Nor it is from tiring work, although the work is tiring. I think the main hardship in ministry is a broken heart. We see people come close to Jesus and reject him, we see people fall away, we see people do stupid things, we get hurt by people, people don’t grow like we want them to. All these, and many more, break our hearts. But Paul says we endure through this. How can we endure though all this? We endure through all this not because we are strong and tough but it is God who is strong for us.  He is the one who energizes us and gives us strength.  He is the one who reminds us that he loves us no matter how great or how poorly our ministries are doing. We endure hardship because he first endured the cross for us.
    Brothers and sisters, ministry is tough and hard work and we need to remember that the course is long and the cost sometimes is high but the reward is eternal! So let us not get frustrated. Let us love the people that God has given us to lead and let us encourage them in the gospel and wait for God to give the growth.
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  • Why Pastors Must Cultivate A Passionate Love For Jesus

    Pastoral ministry is hard work. It is hard work because there is always more going than merely the here and now. One of the hardest things to do in pastoral ministry is to work out of a love for Jesus and the gospel.  Paul Tripp in his book  Dangerous Calling says this about the the shaping of ministry by the heart of the Pastor:

    You see, it is absolutely vital to remember that a pastor’s ministry is never just shaped by his knowledge, experience, and skill. It is always also shaped by the true condition of his heart. In fact, if his heart is not in the right place, all of the knowledge and skill can actually function to make him dangerous.

    What should a pastor’s like look like? Tripp says this:

    The pastor must be enthralled by, in awe of—can I say it: in love with—his Redeemer so that everything he thinks, desires, chooses, decides, says, and does is propelled by love for Christ and the security of rest in the love of Christ. He must be regularly exposed, humbled, assured, and given rest by the grace of his Redeemer. His heart needs to be tenderized day after day by his communion with Christ so that he becomes a tender, loving, patient, forgiving, encouraging, and giving servant leader. His meditation on Christ—his presence, his promises, and his provisions—must not be overwhelmed by his meditation on how to make his ministry work.

    But why is it vital for a pastor’s heart to be filled with the love of Jesus? Tripp explains:

    You see, it is only love for Christ that can defend the heart of the pastor against all the other loves that have the potential to kidnap his ministry. It is only worship of Christ that has the power to protect him from all the seductive idols of ministry that will whisper in his ear. It is only the glory of the risen Christ that will guard him against the self-glory that is a temptation to all who are in ministry and that destroys the ministry of so many. Only Christ can turn an arrogant, “bring on the world” seminary graduate into a patient, humble giver of grace. Only deep gratitude for a suffering Savior can make a man willing to suffer in ministry. It is only a heart that is satisfied in Christ that can be spiritually content in the hardships of ministry. It is only in your brokenness in the face of your sin that you can give grace to the fellow rebels to whom God has called you to minister. It’s only when your identity is firmly rooted in Christ that you are free from seeking to get your identity out of your ministry.

    What are you doing to cultivate a passionate love for Jesus?

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  • Pastors You Must Fight For Your Time to Read

    Reading is essential for pastoral ministry. It is where we are refreshed, it is where our ideas and theology are honed. It helps us think more deeply about scripture, theology and our work.

    My great hero Charles Spurgeon was a great reader and a great preacher. When he preached on  2 Timothy 4:13  (“When you come, bring the cloak that I left with Carpus at Troas, also the books, and above all the parchments”) Spurgeon said this:

    We do not know what the books were about, and we can only form some guess as to what the parchments were. Paul had a few books which were left, perhaps wrapped up in the cloak, and Timothy was to be careful to bring them.

    Even an apostle must read.

     

    Some of our very ultra-Calvinistic brethren think that a minister who reads books and studies his sermon must be a very deplorable specimen of a preacher. A man who comes up into the pulpit, professes to take his text on the spot and talks any quantity of nonsense is the idol of many. If he will speak without premeditation, or pretend to do so, and never produce what they call a dish of dead men’s brains—oh, that is the preacher!

     

    How rebuked they are by the apostle!

    He is inspired, and yet he wants books!

    He has been preaching for at least thirty years, and yet he wants books!

    He had seen the Lord, and yet he wants books!

    He had had a wider experience than most men, and yet wants books!

    He had been caught up into the Third Heaven and had heard things which it was unlawful for a man to utter, yet he wants books!

    He had written the major part of the New Testament, and yet he wants books!

     

    The apostle says to Timothy, and so he says to every preacher, “Give attendance to reading” (1 Tim. 4:13).

    The man who never reads will never be read.

    He who never quotes will never be quoted.

    He who will not use the thoughts of other men’s brains proves that he has no brains of his own.

    Brothers and sisters, if great men like Paul and Spurgeon took time to read ordinary men like the rest of us must make time for it too.

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  • What’s Wrong With Our Young Men?

    There is something wrong with a lot of young guys today. A lot of young guys don’t seem to have drive, enthusiasm, commitment or courage. And these are the things that older generations prized in men. I have been reading a brilliant book that everyone should read (no that is not hyperbole) it is called The Demise of Guys: Why Boys Are Struggling and What We Can Do About It by Philip Zimbardo and Nikita Duncan. They say this about guys today:

    Consequently, many guys lack purposeful direction and basic social skills. They’re living off, and often with, their parents well into their 20s and even 30s, expanding their childhood into an age once reserved for starting a family and making a career. Many young men who do manage to find a mate feel entitled to do nothing to add substance to that relationship beyond just showing up. New emasculating terms such as “man-child” and “moodle” (man-poodle) have emerged to describe men who haven’t matured emotionally or are otherwise incapable of taking care of themselves. Hollywood has caught on, too, to this awkward bunch of dudes, who appear to be tragically hopeless. Recent films such as Knocked Up, Failure to Launch, the Jackass series and Hall Pass present men as expendable commodities, living only for mindless fun and intricate but never-realized plans to get laid. Their female co-stars, meanwhile, are often attractive, focused and mature, with success-oriented agendas guiding their lives. The sense of being entitled to have things without having to work hard for them — attributed to one’s male nature — runs counter to the Protestant work ethic, as well as to the Vince Lombardi victory creed (“Winning isn’t everything. It’s the only thing.”) These guys aren’t interested in maintaining long-term romantic relationships, marriage, fatherhood and being the head of their own family. Many have come to prefer the company of men over women, and they live to escape the so-called real world and readily slip into alternative worlds for stimulation. More and more they’re living in other worlds that exclude girls — or any direct social interaction, for that matter. Over the past decade, this pattern has escalated into adulthood where grown men remain like little boys, having difficulty relating to women as equals, friends, partners, intimates or even as cherished wives.

    Guys are pushing their adolescence into their retirement but what is the cause of this? The cause is, understandably, porn and technology:

    We believe this demise can be traced to the rise of technology enchantment. From the earliest ages, guys are seduced into excessive and mostly isolated viewing and involvement with texting, tweeting, blogging, online chatting, emailing, and watching sports on TV or laptops. Most of all, though, they’re burying themselves in video games and in getting off on all-pervasive online pornography.

     

    The authors quote some disturbing statistics about guys and pornography:

    One in three boys is now considered a “heavy” porn user, with the average boy watching nearly two hours of porn every week, according to University of Alberta (Canada) researcher Sonya Thompson.15 And that’s the average; just imagine what the outliers are doing! Add to the mix older guys watching adult videos online, at work, at home or in hotels across the country and around the world.

     

    As they go on to state that guys have become addicted to games and porn and this is changing their brains and ruining their lives:

    This new kind of addictive arousal traps users into an expanded present hedonistic time zone. Past and future are distant and remote, as the present moment expands to dominate everything. And that present is totally dynamic, with images changing constantly. Boys’ brains are being digitally rewired in a totally new way to demand change, novelty, excitement and constant stimulation. And their brains are being catered to by porn on demand and by video games at a flick of the switch or a click of the mouse. That means they are becoming totally out of sync in traditional school classes, which are analog, static and interactively passive. Academics are based on applying past lessons to future problems, on planning, on delaying gratifications, on work coming before play, on long-term goal setting.

    The church needs to step in and teach young men what it is to be a man again today. Young men need to be taught that being a man is not about sex, violence and getting drunk.  What is a man? 1 Corinthians 16:13-14 are great verses on this issue:

    Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. Let all that you do be done in love.

    From this verse we see a man stands firm in his faith. He is not swayed by the winds of teaching. He knows and loves his Bible. Act like men can be translated be courageous like a man. So a man has courage, he may be sacred but he does the right thing despite his fear. Strength doesn’t refer to physical strength but it refers to strength of character, a man does what he says he will do. And finally a man loves selflessly and sacrificially.

    Let’s teach our young men to be men like this.

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  • The Secrets to Having a Good Confrontational Conversation

    From time to time we all have to have them and most of us don’t like them. You know those conversations where you have to confront someone because they hurt you or someone else or they let the team down. If you don’t have this conversation the pattern of behavior may cause more damage and may never be fixed.

    But these kind of conversations make most of us quite nervous. How do you have these conversations well?
    I was bad at having these conversations because I either didn’t have them or I blew up when I did have them. So I spent a lot of time researching how to have a good confrontational conversation. One where the truth is explored and there is a way forward with as little emotional turmoil as possible.
    Here is the method I use to having these hard and yet necessary conversations:
    Mindset
    Firstly you have to change your mindset about the behavior and the conversation. Instead of justifying the behavior you need to imagine the consequences of this behavior keeping on going. What would happen if this behavior kept on going? What date would it do to you or your organisation? This will give you the motivation for having the conversation. Secondly, think of the conversation not as a confrontational one but one where you are both going to explore truth and find a way forward. If you think about the conversation in this frame of mind it is far less nerve wracking. And thirdly, pray thanking God for the person. In the first chapter of 1 Corinthians Paul gives great thanks to God for the people he is about to rebuke. He has a divine perspective on these people. If you and the person you need to have this conversation with are Christians you have to realize that God is working through and in this person by his spirit. Thanking God for the person helps us remind us of what God is doing and it will help is see the person in a balanced frame of mind.
    Now onto the conversation.
    I think a conversation like we are talking about has four elements
    1. Firstly you as the person to explain their side of the story. This helps you hear the person out and they don’t feel like they are being attacked
    2. Talk about the facts. Now these are the facts that you can both agree on. For example “You said x and why to this person” or “You said you would do this and you didn’t”
    3. Talk about your feelings. Without being overly emotional describe the way the issue made you feel. For example “When you said this I felt hurt.”
    4. Talk about the way forward. You have to define the way forward and make it very clear. For example “If this happens again we will have to put you on probation and if it happens again after that we will have to fire you.” Be as clear as you can in this step.
    A few days later make sure you follow the person up. Especially if you are their leader. If you are their leader they need to know that you are in their corner and you want them to flourish. Make sure you tell them this!
    And finally here are two books that I found of great use to me in this area are:
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  • 6 Books That Will Grow You As A Leader

    Leadership books are extremely hit or miss. I love to read books that help me with my leadership but it seems like for every book I read on leadership there is another book I read that is a waste of time.
    With that in mind I thought I would compile my list of leadership books that I have read that I highly recommend. Buy them, read them and change your leadership because of what you learn!

    Conviction to Lead, The: 25 Principles for Leadership That Matters – Albert Mohler. Mohler is the President of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. The big idea of this book is that all leaders lead out of their convictions and that a Christian leader leads out of convictions borne out of the gospel. This book is a very refreshing take on leadership!

    Fierce Conversations: Achieving Success at Work and in Life One Conversation at a Time – Susan Scott. Do you find it hard to confront someone when you need to? Then buy this book and read it! Scott’s book teaches you to have Fierce Conversations that help you and the other party explore truth in a way that is not emotionally charged. This book was revolutionary for me. Yes it is that good!
    Necessary Endings: The Employees, Businesses, and Relationships That All of Us Have to Give Up in Order to Move Forward – Henry Cloud. Pruning needs to happen in churches, lives and organisations for them to flourish. Cloud shows you how to to know if a necessary ending is required and how to bring relationships, employment, businesses etc. to a necessary ending well when needed
    Replenish: Leading from a Healthy Soul– Lance Witt. All pastors have a danger of burning out because they aren’t taking care of themselves. In this book Lance Witt does some real work on our souls and lives. It can be a painful read but it is a necessary one.
    Take the Lid Off Your Church: 6 Steps to Building a Healthy Senior Leadership Team – Tony Morgan. Tony Morgan has written a very short e book on senior leadership teams. He says that the senior leadership team is the determining factor whether the church is healthy or not. In the book Tony gives us hard questions to ask about our current senior leadership teams and helps us think about who should be on them in the future.
    Dangerous Calling: Confronting the Unique Challenges of Pastoral Ministry– Paul Tripp. Paul Tripp has written a book that all pastors should read. Reading Dangerous calling  is like having someone open up your soul and making you assess where you are at emotionally, spiritually and physically. This should be required reading for every pastor, bible college student and ministry apprentice/ intern
    What leadership books have you found helpful lately?
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  • Five reasons why you should go to the In The Chute Conference

    I love being a Geneva Church planter. In fact if anyone tells me they are even thinking about planting a church the first thing I say is “You gotta get in touch with the Geneva guys!” Every year The Geneva Push puts on it’s yearly conference called In The Chute. It is always an amazing time. So in light of the upcoming conference I want to give you my five reasons why you should go to In The Chute.

    1. It is a refreshing time. As church leaders we need to get away and be taught ourselves so we are refreshed by God and his word. The teaching at Geneva events is always top notch and is always encouraging and refreshing.
    2. Don Carson will be speaking. If you have never heard of Don Carson he (along with Tim Keller) runs The Gospel Coalition and is one of the most influential men in Evangelicalism. Don is an amazing speaker who will stretch, rebuke
      and encourage you as he preaches and teaches.
    3. The topic for this years conference is The Church. I have written on the mission of the church here. I think what the church is and does is one of the most important topics for contemporary Christianity. It is going to be amazing hearing from Don Carson on this topic.
    4. You learn from other church leaders about what is working for them. It is great to get together with other planters and church leaders and compare notes on what is and isn’t working for them.
    5. You get to listen and learn from older more experienced guys. I love hearing from a guy 1, 5 , 10 or 20 years down the track because I hear that what I am going through is pretty standard. I also get to reap the wisdom that God has given them through the years. At In The Chute I always get time with older more experienced pastors and try to learn everything I can from them.

    There you have it. There are my five reasons why you should go to the In The Chute this year. If you want to sign up for it go here.

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  • A prayer that all Christian leaders need to pray

    I have been reading Replenish by Lance Witt and on page after page it has been cutting to the core of me and doing significant heart work. Today, I have been reading about the desire pastors have to be significant in people’s eyes which is a significant struggle I have. Here is a prayer that I am going to pray daily which Lance has in his book. I think it is  a prayer that all Christian leaders should pray:

    Today I still long for so much honour, I am so pleased with myself, so rooted in my nature. I am pleased when others as for my opinion, when I am made to feel I am needed, when people know that I am clever, talented and popular. I am glad when I am friends with everyone, when I can share what is in my heart, when I can shine.
    But Lord Jesus, you were servant of all. Today I surrender all desire to be great; I renounce all pleasure I take in being important.
    (From Baselia Schlink’s book I found the Key to the Heart of God: My Personal Story, 47-48 as quoted in Lance Witt Replenish)
    Is this a prayer you need to pray too?
  • Pastors who do you perform for?

    As pastors we have so many people looking at what we do and making judgments about it. What many people don’t realize is that we are our worst critics and so when we get an outside critique it can hurt and wound. But the other side is when we get praised. Getting praised feels so good, maybe a little too good. With all this in mind I read this quote this morning in a book called Replenish by Lance Witt:

    “A reporter once asked an insightful question when interviewing a woman from the Boston Philharmonic Orchestra: “How does it feel to get a standing ovation from the crowd at the end of your performance and then wake up in the morning to a negative review from the newspaper?: He response was even more insightful. She said over time she has learned not to pay attention to the applause of the crowd or the disapproval of the critics. She was only after the approval of her conductor. After all, he was the only person who really knew how she was supposed to perform.”

    I wonder what would happen to our inner voices if we were only concerned about what God thought of us?

    How would we preach if we were only concerned about what God thought of us?

    How would we lead if we were only concerned about what God thought of us?

    What conversations would we have if we were only concerned about what God thought of us?

    It is my prayer that we would perform for one and one only!

  • How should Christians respond to sin in their own life?

    When we sin in our own lives how should we respond? Jesus’ answer to this question in Matthew 5:29 are very graphic and confronting:

    “If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away; it is better for you to lose one of your members than for your whole body to be thrown into hell.” 

    But what does that mean? What does it mean to tear out your eye and throw it away? Read the sane application of these verses by John Stott:

    “What does this involve in practice? Let me elaborate and so interpret Jesus’ teaching: ‘If your eyes cause you to sin because temptation comes to you through your eyes (objects you see), then pluck out your eyes. That is, don’t look! Behave as if you had actually plucked out your eyes and flung them away, and were now blind and so couldnot see the objects which previously caused you to sin. Again, if your hand or foot causes you to sin, because temptation come to you through your hands (things you do) or your feet (places you visit), then cut them off. That is: don’t do it! Don’t go! Behave as if you had actually cut off your hands and feet, and had flung them away, and were now crippled and socould not do the things or visit the places which previously cause you to sin.’ This is the meaning of ‘mortification’.”

    John R.W. Stott, The Message of The Sermon on the Mount: Matthew 5-7 pgs.89-90