Your Personal Pace, Part 3

July 30, 2008

In considering living at the pace of life God has given you, I believe it’s important to include your spiritual disciplines as well. Not in the “make sure you are disciplined spiritually” kind of “including”, but the “find your pace of spiritual disciplines” kind of “including”.

In other words, I think it’s a mistake to assume that because Korean Christians developed a habit of praying at 5:00 am for several hours, you ought to do that too. Brian Jones has a really, ummmm …. actually, I don’t know the right adjective to put on it, but he has a (let’s say) very interesting post here about the issue of how much we pray.

If a leader you admire and respect finds great success and deepening of relationship with God through journaling (ala Wayne Cordeiro), and if it helps you too, then great. Go for it! Just be careful about making it an “ought to” for the people around you.

If what works for you is to find several times a day for at least a few minutes each time to be with God like the ancient Christians did …. “Daily Offices” …. then by all means, have at it! Pete Scazzero believes this is a primary path to slowing down enough to truly connect with God. I personally find great merit in it. But I realize it doesn’t work for everyone.

What’s important for you as a Pastor is not that you spend hours a day reading your Bible, praying, fasting, and parsing the Greek. What is important is that you find the pace that works for you to truly connect with Jesus and His heart.

How many of us (too many, in truth) have “done the duties and disciplines” for the sake of saying we have done them, and yet still find ourselves falling to temptation and lacking transforming connection with our Creator?

What works for you? Be honest with all of us here. The pace you’re living your spiritual disciplines, is it REALLY working for you? Are you living it for Jesus, or for what others expect of you?

Pastor Greg Laurie’s Son Killed

July 25, 2008

My heart is aching tonight, as I am sure yours is if you are reading this, for Greg Laurie’s family. Greg is the Pastor of Harvest Christian Fellowship in Riverside, CA, and the heartbeat behind Harvest Crusades.

His 33 year old son, Christopher, was killed in a car accident today in Riverside. You can read the official statement and even leave condolences here.

This, friends, is the heart and soul of the Christian life …. not how well someone as strong or “stand up” as Greg Laurie and his family will endure through such a tragic loss, but how we grieve through it. I am not sure how much it is really our strength that defines us, but even more so how we grieve and live through mourning that does so.

There is so much more to Jesus’ precious words in Matthew 5, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted,” than we can imagine. Something deep and more alive than any of us can comprehend about how the Holy Spirit, the Comforter Himself, comes to bring life to us in the midst of death all around.

I encourage you to pray for the Laurie’s and for Harvest Christian Fellowship family as they mourn in a season nobody wanted or could have anticipated.

Living “Off Peak”

July 22, 2008

At first glance, one might think the title of this post a bit odd, and wonder what it has to do with living a fulfilling life as a Pastor. Well, one advantage of what we do is that our schedules are more flexible than the Monday-Friday, 9-5, clock-in, clock-out, desk routine.

That gives you and I the ability to live “off peak”. My friend, Nelson Searcy, who lives in probably the busiest city in America (read on to see), has some great insights on how to maximize this advantage. Click here to read more.

HT: Nelson Searcy

“Regular” Weekend

July 21, 2008

I am a firm believer that every Pastor should have a “regular” weekend. A weekend like “regular” folk, especially if you’re married and have kids.

I experienced one this weekend. It was precipitated by my son having surgery last week (the story and result is here if you’re interested). We knew it was coming for a month, so it was easy to arrange my preaching schedule so that this would be one of my “regular” weekends. I try to schedule one about every 6 weeks or so. On most of them (not all), I am at church, but someone else is preaching. I find that it’s good for the church and good for my family as well.

A Pastors weekend (Saturday) is usually filled with ministry activity of some sort. At the least, you end up having to work hard to distract yourself from thinking about Sunday. Many Pastors today have Saturday services as well as Sunday, adding to the IRregularity of weekend life.

I’ve become a believer in “regular” weekends, taken regularly. The demands and constant, 24/7 communication connections take a toll in today’s Pastoral life and vocation.

  • I believe in the Sabbath, and practice it.
  • I believe in “office hours” for the Pastor. Yet, illnesses happen, accidents occur and people die…..um, I’ve found that those kind of Pastoral emergencies almost always happen OUTSIDE of “office hours”.
  • I believe in vacations, and actually taking them; doing whatever you can as a Pastor to disconnect and “let the Church be the Church” when you’re gone.
  • Matter of fact, I even believe in Sabbaticals – extended times away from the congregation every few years for the purpose of rest, reflection and refreshing of life and vocational call.

However, especially if you have kids, a Pastor’s schedule rarely fits theirs. I believe every once in a while it ought to. I believe our kids will remember being a “PK” with a more abundant joy and satisfaction.

Now, admittedly, I don’t know this to be true. My kids are right now only 12 and 13. But I know I have lots of conversations with Pastors and their kids (my own kids included), and the pace of life most of us live in regard to our weekends could use a rest.

Jesus will still build His Church. The Kingdom will still expand. God will still be on the throne.

I know, much easier said than done for lots of reasons, but nonetheless worthy. Your thoughts?

Your Personal Pace, Part 2

July 17, 2008

In this post, I’d like to chat a bit about the different components and stages of your life that ought to play into the determination of what your pace is. By the way, I am not a proponent of breaking this thing down so far or so “catchy” that we come up with a handful of different paces.

John the Baptist put it this way in John 3: “A man can only receive what is given him from heaven.” He was being told by his followers that Jesus was kind of the guy in town these days.

You know, that church down the street that’s just started, but is already bigger than yours (did I just say that?). We’re talking about the Pastor across town that’s a couple decades younger than you and has already written 3 books in comparison your nasty, ol’ goose egg of a library.

Well, John’s answer? “I am John, not Jesus. I will always be John and I will never be Jesus. He’s gonna WALK on water; I’m gonna swim. A man can only receive what is given him from heaven.”

I think you have to start with this one supposition – God has given us all everything we need to accomplish for Him. What we don’t already have, He will give when we need it. Some of those things He will give us as lifelong abilities. Other of those things He will give us just when we need them, and only for a specific time or season.

My experience is, if we don’t start here, we get lost. Fast. Before you know it. Good intentions and all, but lost is lost, isn’t it?

It begs the question …. what are you doing right now that is spinning your wheels for your own cause instead of His? What are you doing or who are you now that He never gave you to do or to be?

Your Personal Pace, Part 1

July 16, 2008

I recently started driving a new car. It’s a 2001 black Ford Crown Victoria with the Police Interceptor package. It started its life as a Detective car with the Beverly Hills Police Department. Especially as a Chaplain, it’s a really fun car to drive!

The story of how I got it is fun in and of itself, but it’s not the point here. The Crown Vic replaces a 1989 Honda Prelude I had been driving for the last two years. It too was a really fun car. Sunroof and four-wheel steering. Forget the dime, this thing turned on a pinhead!

There are practical reasons for the change. Primarily, the Prelude was a two-door with not much of a back seat. Just not a family car. My 13 and 12 year old sons could no longer fit in the back seat. The Crown Vic is much more spacious and four doors work well for the family.

The biggest downside is the gas mileage, particularly in this economy! The Prelude was a sipper, where the Crown Vic is a guzzler.

Why upsize from a sipper to a guzzler? Well, bottom line is that the Crown Vic was given to me. So was the Prelude, but when the Crown Vic was offered, I knew I had to receive it. The fact that it’s a guzzler is a limit that I trade off for the family space.

It’s an analogy to me of how God gives each of us not just our spiritual gifts and abilities, but our personalities and physical bodies. When you mix all those things together, they come out with a design that includes your own personal pace of life.

I am a believer in Pastors discovering what their pace of life is and then living in that. The fact that most of us Pastors look at the pace of life of other Pastors and believe we must live at their pace rather than our own is a real problem. Too often, it leads to burnout, dissatisfaction, disillusionment and sometimes even more deeply staggering consequences.

What would happen if someone REALLY freed you to discover the pace that God has given you and then freed you to live by it? I want to round table that with you this week. Let’s talk some about what elements of life impact or help define what your pace of life is. Any initial thoughts?

Mad Church Disease

July 11, 2008

Enjoy this excerpt from Mad Church Disease and read on after it…

As much as we may want to, we can never rid ourselves from our past – the good or the bad. And regardless of how normal or even how terrible your past might be, you have experienced those things for a reason. The successes, the failures, the joy and the pain are all beautifully woven together to make you who you are at this moment.

We should look at our past like a gift and not a burden. And as such, we should steward it like any other gift we have been given. We need to be grateful for our unique circumstances, not resentful. Once we accept our God given past, we can find out what about it makes us extraordinary.

By taking our focus off of the dysfunctions of our past, and changing it to how God can work through us using our journey as a whole – our history, our present, and our future – we are less likely to burn out. Any time we become less and He becomes more, it’s His power being perfected in us.

You can now preorder the book from Amazon here.

**A Few Facts About the Book**

So all that AND more for $16.99!

Just a little over a year ago, the website for Mad Church Disease launched and people began sharing their stories..thousands of people!

If you preorder Mad Church Disease now, with Amazon, if the price goes any lower after you order it today, you will lock in the lower price (because…correct me if I’m wrong…but I don’t think it charges you until it ships, which will be February 1, 2009).

The Mad Church Disease website will be completely relaunched later this year, and will include a forum for pastors, church leaders, their families, and volunteers to dialogue and encourage each other to pursue a holy, healthy ministry.

**CASE ORDERS**

If you would like to purchase a case (40 or more books) there is a 30% discount! Please email Anne and she will get you hooked up.

Giddy up!

Leadership In Its Right Place

July 11, 2008

I want to introduce you to a friend of mine, Russ Veenker. He and his wife, Kandy, are the DIrectors of Mountain Learning Center. I am NOT exaggerating when I say that God used this couple to help save my life, marriage and ministry!

It was in June Lake, CA, at Mountain Learning Center, where I began a special journey to the center of myself. It was there that God met me in a special way and began to show me how much He loves me in spite of myself.

Russ has agreed to contribute to the Pastor For Life blog, so you’ll be hearing from him regularly. As with ALL posts, please feel free to comment or discuss what he has to say!

Leadership

For the past 25-30 years our culture has been engaging in a crisis of leadership. Whether in government, business, or church, the topic of leadership has been the mainstay of reading, study, seminars, and academia. It is a multi-billion dollar industry. One doesn’t have to look very far to grasp this: my internet search engine listed over 35 million items/topics/references/books/seminars when I typed “leadership into the little search engine box – lots of good stuff for sale. My library bookshelf is filled with books on the topic of leadership. A recent issue of Leadership Journal had sixteen new books on te topic of leadership advertised; five of the furteen Bible Colleges and Seminaries who advertised had something to say about preparing church leaders. We are consumed and obsessed with leadership theories, models and practices.

In the not-so-distant past when I was an “Operations Leader” in Search and Rescue, I had a baseball cap with two bills sewed on to each side of the hat. For comic relief I would wear the cap to the monthly team meetings that I presided over as president. On the front of the cap it said, “I’m their leader…which way did they go?”

The humor releases a certain underlying anxiety tha comes with the role of being a leader. And all the talk about “leadership” does reveal certain anxiety – particularly in the church. Sometimes I get the feeling there’s a mythical ghost in the shadows of our churches whispering weird messages when it comes to all this leadership stuff. It goes something like this: if we get our leadership RIGHT (whatever THAT means), the church will be “right” …. or “OK” …. or “fixed” …. or “on track” …. or __________________ (you fill in the blank). Leadership is often touted (or blamed) as the answer to what lacks in the church today. And yes, leaders have been and are the easy targets – they’re easily spotted on our radars!

I believe the anxiety with regad to leadership issues runs very deep into the fabric of our souls. The church (along with government and family) for many centuries in western civilization was a central pillar to our modern society (1500-2000 A.D.). However, we are laving modernity and its philosophical presuppositions behind, and as a consequence, the church has been displaced and marginalized. Simply put, for most of the populace in our culture, nobody cares about who the church is and what it does. FOr those of us in the church, particularly those of us in leadership, that experience of being marginalized by culture at large creates a lot of anxiety. Why? Because we are no longer significant (as a central or important and valued part of culture). So perhaps all the hub-bub about leadership is really about us attempting to move back into the mainstream of culture – to have value and significance, to re-capture our special place we’ve had in the past. And we all know that repeating the past usually doesn’t work too well in living out the future.

Now I realize I’v made some sweeping generalizations with the above assertions. However, if you are, or have been in a leadership role in the last twenty years of the church, what I’ve written will make a great deal amount of sense. And that prompts an old, modern question: So what do we do now? Well, because I’m a romantic, modern, “old-fashioned” kind of guy, I think the ancient writings of God are a great place for wisdom. And a great verse to deal with anxiety is Philippians 4:6-7:

“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, shall guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”

Maybe leadership in the Church is more about praying for healthy anxiety management than technique. Perhaps it’s more about humility before God than knowing the right direction to take. May prayer be the central hallmark of leadership in Jesus’ Church.

© 2008 Dr. Russ Veenker

Dr. Russ Veenker has over thirty years of formal ministry experience having served as a youth minister, interim pastor, church-planting pastor, chaplain, church and para-church consultant, and conference speaker. Some of these ministry positions have been concurrent with his work at the Mountain Learning Center.

He is a graduate of both Dallas Theological Seminary and Fuller Theological Seminary where the special emphasis of his doctoral studies has been the care of clergy. Russ’s academic and clinical expertise is comprehensive to theological anthropology: balancing the human condition midst the stresses and hazards of vocational ministry is his passon. He is a frequent speaker at clergy gatherings and is known for his competency discussing and equipping ministry leaders in addressing areas of personal health with such topics as stress and burnout; depression; anxiety; sexuality; psycho-social developmental transitions; marriage/family development; and ministering to troubled individuals with personality disorders.

Loose Ends

July 9, 2008

Tonight, I am working on my notes for a memorial service I will officiate in the morning for a man I have never had the pleasure to meet. Maybe you feel like I do about what we Pastors get to do: it is a deep and awesome privilege to be invited into some of life’s most sacred moments because of Who and what we represent.

I’ll talk about that more here someday …. but for now, ….

You’ve met with families like this. They’re one of those that I rarely come by, in terms of this man (again, I never knew him) and his legacy truly oozing out of his wife and daughter.

While I am putting my notes together, a friend (who is also a Pastor) calls me. He says, “I couldn’t sleep tonight until I called to say I’ve been thinking about you all day. I couldn’t live with myself until you knew that not only was I thinking about you, but that God’s heart smiles when He thinks of you, and you are a real asset to the Kingdom of God.”

I was blown away! The man whose memorial service I will lead …. he died on the 4th of July of a sudden heart attack, leaving too many things undone and unspoken. A good man with too many loose ends.

My friend didn’t want to leave any loose ends, and reminded me that neither do I. What are the loose ends for you?

Bad end to a difficult conversation with a loved one? Unfinished business between you and a friend? Unresolved conflict between you and a neighbor? Words you know ought to be spoken or written before it’s too late?

I got ’em, you got ’em, we all got ’em. Dare to say what some of yours are?

I Might As Well Admit It ….

July 8, 2008

I am not nearly as put together as I may seem. My penchant for being articulate in my speech often covers over my insecurity about being thought of as slow or stupid.

Whenever someone asks me if we can get together sometime soon to talk about “something”, I struggle with wonder about if “something” is me. Or something I did. Or something I said. Or didn’t say.

I want everyone to like me …. no, if I am going to demand honesty here, I want everyone to love me. Accept me. Approve of me. I am not always convinced that happens on the basis of who I AM instead of what I DO.

It’s true. I am a broken, messed up person. At the bottom of my heart is a real desire to serve Jesus with all I am, but too often, the crud above what’s at the bottom of my heart gets in the way. I have to work to push past all that so I can focus on Jesus and what He really wanst to do in and through me.

I love the way my wife succinctly states this truth …. “We’re all so twisted, it’s a wonder any of us can get out of bed in the morning!”

Anyone else? How do you state it?

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