We don’t talk about it much. But we all know that a life of ministry can be really hard at times and that it can have serious effects on us. Right now I’m thinking of five great guys who are presently dealing with possible borderline clinical depression. But they wouldn’t tell you that. They know how to “do ministry.” They know how to throw on the smile and turn the attention to others. They really want to help others know Jesus better. But deep inside, they hurt, possibly even to the level of their brain chemistry being affected. Sometimes the answer is just some serious time off from literal 24/7 schedules. Sometimes a temporary prescription of something like Zoloft or Paxil can clear things up. At times they just need a half dozen or more visits with a Biblical counselor. But whatever they do, they know they can’t quit because they know that deep inside this is the life God has called them to in the same way that Peter responded to Jesus in John 6:68, “Lord, to whom shall we go?” This is the life of their calling and existence and they know they could not in good conscience do anything else. So they press on. Continue reading
Well I wasn’t too happy this past week with my cholesterol check. Apparently the number 196 is not too good. At least my Dr. friend didn’t like it. He said that 200 is the beginning of the danger zone and obviously I’m not too far removed from that number. So I took my beating and was told that my exercise routine needs to get longer and my diet needs to get smaller. No, I was not thrilled at the results. Beyond just not liking the idea of having a growing gut I recognized that if my cholesterol grows there can be health risks which will hold ramifications for my family. In short, I need to get healthier not just for me, but for them. After ruminating a bit it became clear that there are also spiritual implications to this bodily discussion. Continue reading
I have to give my wife credit for this one. But I remember her reading an autobiography by Colin Powell a number of years ago. Deep within the text from this great leader he shared some of his life principles. One of those simply stated that he would: “Get mad and then get over it!” I’ve thought about that statement over the years. If we’re honest we can admit that most if not all of us have gotten really mad in ministry. In those occasions there can be a dangerous tendency to think that because we’re ministers or pastors we should be in better control of our emotions. Sometimes we think that if we’re really mature we would be beyond that. But on the other hand, when we allow those emotions to fester deep within our souls they can become septic and actually destroy not only our witness as leaders, but our own souls as well. Powell’s point is that if we quickly deal with the emotion and whatever issue is driving it, we can once and for all settle it. Too many times Christ followers and even pastors have been slowed down in the race with weights of bitterness and un-forgiveness around their ankles. These unresolved emotions can also turn into depression with physical side effects if not dealt with. But when the issues are resolved and buried, we can go forward unencumbered. Continue reading
I’m safely back in America now. My own body-clock is just about readjusted. But something of my heart is still in Africa.
Do you remember the older movie, “Chariots of Fire”? Runner (future missionary) Eric Liddell says, “When I run, I feel God’s pleasure.” Well, when I train poorly educated, disadvantaged African pastors, without resources, I feel the pleasure of God. It’s what He told me to do, and I really felt His pleasure on this trip.
We were in the Eastern Province of Rwanda. My fourth trip to that country—my first time in that province. I think it’s safe to say, not too many white folks get out that way. It’s more rugged, with more dirt roads heading off to (where?) than other areas. My organization, Barnabas Africa, got connected to pastors in very remote spots. In one of our seminars, we actually created the unity; we brought the pastors together for the first time. We did three seminars, training a total of 150 pastors. To get to our second site, we took a dirt road (in the rain, a MUD ROAD) for ten miles to a village. It reminded me of some 4WD roads up in the Sierras! Rugged! The host pastor later told my representative, Pastor Dominic, that we were the first Muzungu Pastors (white pastors) to EVER visit his village! We recorded several pastors in interviews, and one of them said it was the first training OF ANY KIND he had ever been to! And remember, many of these pastors have the equivalent of a grammar school education. We hit the basic subjects: Old and New Testaments (each book); Preaching, Unity, Counseling Traumatized People, Hermeneutics. Each pastor received in their own Kinyarwandan language, an 85 page syllabus, with complete notes. I found out that there is NO Bible Concordance in Kinyarwandan! I hope to do something about that before next year.
When we are discontented, even discouraged, or worse—bored, I hope that we (as American pastors) will realize how blessed we are! If you would like to consider training pastors in a developing country, hit me up. I’d love to chat with you about it.
I’ve been amazed over the years how words trip in and out of vogue in certain communities. When I was a graduate student, the journals, magazine articles, and study carrel conversations were filled with the phrase “paradigm shift”, referring to change in the assumptions of many Western Christians. Less formally, “shucks” became “stink” became “snap”. Leadership writing today prolifically promulgates the term “metrics”, as in, “Your process is deficient. It has no metric. How can you evaluate production?”
Enter your average pastor or missionary. You want to keep it moving on all fronts. You value learning. You desire to see God’s Kingdom gain influence far and wide. Perhaps in your reading you discover “metrics” and, as so often happens, it becomes the fascinating new concept that will revolutionize your ministry. Everything then becomes wrapped around measurability. While this concept or technique is useful, it can also derail the truly important. How do you measure the value of a casual conversation? Can you remember a conversation that changed the course of your life? How can you measure the value of faithful, consistent prayer? Can you graph the empirical changes in someone’s attitude or spiritual condition by creating a new “metric”?
What do you pray about on Sunday mornings? Do you pray for lost souls? We all do that at times. But what about the times when you don’t feel like a “healthy pastor” and you’d rather stay in bed? Do you pray that you’ll just be able to make it through the morning? Do you pray that no one will notice how unprepared you are or how beat up you feel? I’ve been there when the well is dry and I have nothing to give. It’s at those times that I’m thankful that this preaching business is not all about me, my skills, or even my passion. It’s about what the Holy Spirit can do in the lives of people even when my preaching is poor. I’m thankful for that.
I’m also thankful for prayer. Continue reading
I have a dilemma. Both Steve and I come from theological backgrounds where most of “our” churches have “Elder-run Boards”. We can always debate the soundness of that. And there are days when I totally wish I served on a “Pastor-run Board.” OK—whatever your conviction: different strokes for different folks. But now I am in a situation where our church is grooming a young man who will become the permanent Sr. Pastor. (For the record, my only title at the church where I’ve served for about three years now, is “Interim Pastor). My slogan—which I’ve used before the congregation is: “He must increase; I must decrease”. I can now only say “Easier said than done!” In reality it is very difficult to turn loose of power and authority. Continue reading