Tag: pastors

“Filled Up, Poured Out” Overflows with Stories and Insights

I have waited far too long to spotlight Mark O. Wilson’s new book, Filled Up, Poured Out: How God’s Spirit Can Revive Your Passion and Purpose.  Mark and I met as fellow-bloggers, and I have followed his blog, Revitalize Your Church for several years now. Mark is a warm-hearted, spirit-filled pastor who encourages and challenges all of us to be all that God has called us to be.

That’s exactly what Mark’s book does, too. In 13 concise chapters, Mark identifies for his readers the persistent problem that plagues ministry and ministers — running on empty, which Mark characterizes as “vacuus=empty, devoid of, free from.” He writes about empty pastors (chapter 1); empty churches (chapter 2); and, the solution to both (chapter 3).

In the next section of the book, headlined “repleo,” Mark talks about how to replenish the power of God in your life through “immersion, faith, contentment, enduement, and confluence.” In the final third of the book, Mark reveals how the filled up pastor allows God’s grace to flow out in compassion, blessing, righteousness, influence, and saturation.

Each chapter in the book overflows with stories, scripture, insights, and mind-pegs to get you thinking, praying, and dreaming about what God has for your ministry. With 13 chapters, the book’s format is perfect for small group Bible studies. Although the initial audience for the book is pastors, church leaders and members will benefit from Mark’s easy style, and memorable insights. Pastors, this book contains more sermon illustrations than you could come up with in hours of searching. Many of the stories are from Mark’s own ministry experiences.

I especially love the story about his trip to Africa. Asked to preach at a local village church on a Sunday morning, Mark was amazed to see over 3,000 people gathered for worship at 7:30 AM. The frame structure only held 1,000, but the other 2,000 worshippers surrounded the building, responding to every line in his sermon. After he preached, Mark recalls that the congregation began to sing. The local missionary explained to Mark that they were making up a new song from the points in his sermon, which was their way of remembering what they had learned that Sunday. A new song, Mark noted, flowed from their hearts. That story would resonate with any congregation which was seeking God. And, there are more just like that in Mark’s book.

Get this book. As you read, you’ll be blessed and encouraged, perhaps to the point of being “filled up” yourself, so you can be “poured out” for others. After all, that’s what pastors do, and Mark helps us remember that with joy and wonder.

What Energizes You?

What energizes you?

One of the things I like about ministry is that a pastor gets to do a variety of different things.  In one day you can spend time alone studying and praying for your next Sunday’s sermon; then visit the hospital to celebrate the birth of a new baby with a family in your church; after lunch stop by the local nursing home to chat for a few minutes with a dear senior adult member; in the afternoon counsel a young couple who are planning their wedding; and,  finish the day at a committee meeting where you deal with the realities of the economy and budgets.

But in the mix of all the things that pastors do, there are some things that energize me more than others.  I enjoy most of the work a pastor does, but I’m energized by some of it more than others.

I believe those aspects of ministry that energize you are God’s great gift to you.  Those energizing areas are different for different pastors.  Some love to spend lots of time pouring over Greek texts, and exegeting scripture passages.  Others believe their ministry in face-to-face settings is vital.  Still others find fulfillment in hanging at the local coffee shop making friends with total strangers.

Whatever your passion, God gives you those special, energizing moments.  God doesn’t give them to you so you can spend all your time doing just one thing.  After all, pastors are generalists, not specialists.  But God gives you the energizing moments to keep you going through the times that drain you.

In Psalm 23, God leads the sheep to the green pastures and still waters before the valley of the shadow of death.  The times of energy and refreshment are to get us through the times of difficulty and despair.

Ministry has to be balanced.  We do some things because we have to.  Whether you’re a pastor or a postal worker, some things are have-tos.  But we do a few things because we want to.   For our lives to have meaning and purpose, we need those energizing moments.  Those are God’s gifts to you.  Enjoy them when they come.

Don’t Confuse Authority With Power

The church growth movement helped foster the idea of the pastor as the authoritative leader of the congregation.  I know because I studied church growth at its height at Fuller Seminary.  The premise of the theory of “pastoral authority” was that churches grew faster and larger when the pastor asserted his authority as the leader of the congregation.  The numbers seemed to verify the idea of absolute pastoral authority.

Of course, the idea of pastoral authority also appealed to the egos of lots of pastors.  “I can make it happen” pastors thought, “if only the deacons, or committees will give me the authority to take charge.”  The ecclesiastical landscape is littered with the train wrecks of that kind of thinking.   What some pastors really wanted was power, not authority, and therein lies the problem.  Power is not what we as pastors are called to exercise, but too often we confuse authority with power.

“Authority in the church is never the monopoly of the ordained few — whether bishops or clergy” writes John Chryssavgis in his helpful book, Soul Mending: The Art of Spiritual Direction.  Chryssavgis, an Orthodox priest and professor of theology, corrects the notion that spiritual authority belongs exclusively to the professionals.  Rather, Fr. John argues, “All too often authority is confused with power, meaning the ability to compel others to do something.”  He continues, “It is not control over others, but commitment to them, even to ‘the least of one’s brethren’.”

Although his book focuses on the ancient art of spiritual direction, much of what Chryssavgis says applies to pastors in general.  Our ministry, he says, is built upon the tradition of obedience and authority of those who have gone before us.  Only those who have submitted to the spiritual direction from others, can assume the responsibility to offer spiritual direction to others.

We also are called to mutual submission with our congregation before God.  Granted, pastors have special responsibilities, but our authority is, to paraphrase Rush Limbaugh, “on loan from God.”  It is an authority not inherent in any human being, but an authority that resides in the truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  This is similar to what Alan Roxburgh says about finding God’s direction for a congregation.  It doesn’t lie solely with the pastor, but Roxburgh believes that “the future of God is found among the people of God.”

Finally, Chryssavgis says, “Ecclesiastical authority must be seen in terms of service and not rule; in relation to ‘diakonia’ and dialogue, not domination.”  Good direction from one who knows what it means to be under authority.  I recommend the book.

I’m at The Cove this week

photo1I’m back at The Cove this week leading conferences for the Billy Graham School of Evangelism.  Yesterday we covered “Keys to Thriving in the Smaller Church.”  About 150 pastors, spouses, and church leaders attended the back-t0-back sessions and offered great stories from their own small churches.

Today I’m leading a second session on “Using Social Media in Outreach” at 11:45 am.  The first one went well yesterday, and all the techie stuff worked, unlike last May when we had “technical difficulties beyond our control.”

This afternoon, I’ll wrap-up with two more back-to-back sessions on “Outreach Ideas to Help Your Church Change Your Community.”  I’ll tell the story of what our church has been doing, plus the stories of other smaller congregations that are doing some amazing things in ministry. Later this week I’ll post the powerpoints to both the church seminars.

The Cove nestles into the unspoiled vistas of the Blue Ridge Mountains near Asheville, NC.  The Billy Graham School of Evangelism offers pastors and church leaders inspiration, information, and lots of free resources.  If you haven’t been, check out the Schools for next year.  You’ll be glad you came!

Ministry Pornography Is Not What You Think

Ed Stetzer coins the phrase “ministry pornography” to describe a new kind of lust in the hearts of pastors and staff members, and it’s not what you think! This 3-minute video is worth watching.

13 Triggers for Anxiety in Churches

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Peter Steinke has written a helpful book, Congregational Leadership In Anxious Times.  Steinke subtitled his book, Being Calm and Courageous No Matter What.  Good advice for these anxious times.  In my presentation to small church pastors at The Cove last week, I borrowed Steinke’s “13 Triggers for Anxiety” in churches.  Here’s his take on what causes the panic meter to go up in congregations.  The categories are Steinke’s, the comments are mine:

  1. Money. We have lots of financial anxiety now, including at our own church.
  2. Sex/Sexuality. Does this really need explanation?
  3. Pastor’s Leadership Style. Whatever yours is, it’s not like the previous pastor’s and that can be good or bad, but in any event it’s different.
  4. Lay Leadership Style. Either doing too little or doing too much, or acting out in other ways, lay leaders can create anxiety in a church by their actions and reactions.
  5. Growth/Survival. Fears of survival, or anxiety about “all these new people” — either way growth or the lack of it can create tension in a congregation.  After a church I pastored had grown from 400 to 600, and had baptized 40 people in less than one year, the main concern of one deacon was that “we don’t have as much money in the bank as we used to.”  Growth is not the end of all your problems, it may be the beginning.
  6. Boundaries. Folks who cross them, intrude on the turf of others, or act inappropriately can cause lots of social anxiety.
  7. Trauma or transition. Changing pastors, relocating, natural disasters, community tragedy — all can take their toll on a church.  Just ask the churches in New Orleans and the Gulf Coast.
  8. Staff Conflict. Self-explanatory.  If God’s leaders can’t get along, who can?
  9. Harm Done To A Child, Death of a Child. Churches want to believe that they are safe places for children, but when a child is harmed or dies in the church’s care anxiety levels rise dramatically.
  10. Old and New. I’m sure you wondered when Steinke would mention this conflict.  Ever try to change anything in a church.  You know what this means.
  11. Contemporary vs. Traditional Worship. They don’t call it the “worship wars” for nothing.
  12. Gap between the Ideal and the Real. “We should give more to missions, but we can’t make the building payment.”
  13. Building, Construction, Space, and Territory. Having been through several remodeling and building programs, this is an anxiety creator for everyone involved — pastor and people.

Steinke says these are listed in no particular order, but any one can create anxiety in a congregation.  Mix two or three together — pastor’s style, growth, money, and a building program — and you have a recipe for high anxiety goes to church.  What anxiety triggers would you add to Steinke’s list?  I notice he doesn’t have any references to pastoral care or preaching, which would make my list if either is done poorly.  What would you add?   Tomorrow, How Not To Behave Like a Cat in a  Roomful of Rocking Chairs.

Disclaimer: I purchased this book from Amazon and did not receive any consideration from anyone for this post.

Cliff Barrows, A Living Legend

BarrowsCTonight Cliff Barrows concluded the Billy Graham School of Evangelism at The Cove.  In the auditorium filled with pastors and their spouses, Cliff Barrows spoke from the heart.  He has to speak from the heart these days because macular degeneration is robbing him of his eyesight.  His hair is white, and he walks with a cane, but his heart is as strong for the Lord as it has ever been.

His memory is keen, and for half an hour he told stories about the Billy Graham team, and shared the commitment they made to God and each other as team members.  It was 1948, and the team was leading a crusade in California, near Modesto, Cliff Barrows hometown.  Even then evangelists were not immune from public and moral failure.  Billy Graham asked each member of the team to come up with a list of things that might threaten their ministry, and what they could do about each one.

Cliff Barrows recalled they each listed the same concerns: integrity, accountability, purity of life, and humility.  Together the team prayed and committed to living according to those four principles.

They agreed to live lives of integrity being truthful in their speech and conduct; being consistent at home and on the crusade platform.  They agreed to be accountable to God and to each other, and to those overseeing the ministry, particularly in finances.  They each agreed to maintain personal calendars of where they were going, the purpose for their trip or activity, and who they were with.  They also agreed to lives of purity, vowing never to be alone with a woman and to have the company of others in the presence of women not their wives.  Finally, they agreed to act in humility, to speak carefully about the success of their meetings, and to be careful to give God the glory. They called this agreement the Modesto Manifesto, and it has guided their lives and ministry since that day.

With 419 worldwide crusades, hundreds of evangelistic meetings, countless media appearances, and impeccable financial and moral accountability, the Billy Graham team and ministry has seen over 210-million people attend crusades and over 2-million profess faith in Christ.

To see Cliff Barrows tonight was to see a living legend whose heart still beats for God, and whose life is a continuing example of how ministers should live before God, each other, and the world.  Cliff Barrows is 86; Billy Graham, 90; George Beverly Shea is 100; we shall not see their like again.  This week has been a blessing to us, and we thought we were here to minister to others.