A Prayer For Leaders in light of MLK Day

January 22, 2013

In an email from Ruth Haley Barton‘s Transforming Center, this piece resonated deeply with me.

As yesterday’s US Presidential Inauguration fell on the observance of the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King, I thought I would share it here:

This journey to the mountaintop is the ultimate antidote to our grandiosity, if we will let be. It helps us find our place in the scheme of things lest we become overly inflated in our view of ourselves and our role in kingdom work. It puts everything in perspective and it is a perspective we need. A prayer written in memory of Oscar Romero, archbishop of San Salvador who was martyred for his outspoken advocacy for the poor, articulates the power of this perspective:

“It helps, now and then, to step back and take a long view.
The kingdom [of God] is not only beyond our efforts,
it is even beyond our vision.
We accomplish in our lifetime only a tiny fraction
of the magnificent enterprise that is God’s work.
We cannot do everything, and there is a sense of
liberation in realizing this.
This enables us to do something, and to do it very well.
It may be incomplete, but it is a beginning,
a step along the way, an opportunity for the Lord’s grace
to enter and do the rest.

We may never see the end results, but that is the difference
between the master builder and the worker.

We are workers, not master builders; ministers, not messiahs.
We are prophets of a future not our own.”

For a leader, the promised land is something you see and know that can’t be beaten out of you even when other people don’t see it yet—even when they say it is impossible, unrealistic, idealistic. It is the phoenix that keeps rising out of the ashes of every failure. It can never fully die.

But paradoxically, by the time a leader gets to this promised land, it has usually been stripped down to its barest essence. By the time you get there, maybe you can still see it—as Moses did and as Martin Luther King, Jr. did—but it doesn’t matter nearly as much. What matters is the presence of God right there with you on the mountainside and being able to say yes to God in the deepest way because you are not clinging to or grasping at anything.

Read full article here…

What Bill Hybels Wants Every Pastor To Know

June 24, 2012

…. how he got into counseling. Yes, you read that right! Bill Hybels really wants you to know that he’s in counseling, and he believes you should be too. I happen to agree with Bill.

Did you know they actually require counselors to be in therapy in order to become a counselor, because you can’t give away what you don’t have? Seems to make sense.

How much more important for pastors! We’re dealing with people’s eternity! And often the way we get there is helping them deal emotionally in healthy ways. Yet, most of us don’t know how either, and need just as much help as our people do.

I encourage you to watch, listen, pray, discern. Enjoy!

Looking For Your Next Place Of Ministry?

April 20, 2010

DJ Chuang has an awesome list of ministries that re helping pastors match churches they can serve and churches find their right pastor as well. While I copy the entire post here for convenience, I encourage you to check out DJ’s blog for other awesome material!

Churches are searching for pastors. Pastors are looking for churches. Making the connection can be quite challenging for many on both sides of the equation. Sure there’s a spiritual dimension to all of this– being a pastor is a “calling,” (whatever that might mean in a particular faith tradition) layered with much prayer for discernment and provision. Yet in the real-world concrete and tangible reality, there is that job component, when a church pastor is a paid religious professional.

There are a bunch of search engines / directories/ listings working to make this connection, for pastors looking for a ministry opportunity, and for churches looking for a pastor to fill a staff position, along with other church staff jobs. I’ll update this list as I find ‘em — (note: listing does not connote endorsement) ::

And, there are professional services that help make the connection for churches and staff. HelpStaff.me is run by Justin Lathrop (one of my pastor friends), who can put together a professional nationwide search for church staff positions. Another one is MinisterSearch.com, a full-service consulting firm for church staffing.

Aside: this ehow.com article, How to Work for a MegaChurch, gives sobering advice about working in a church setting. Set your idealism aside — “If you think working for a church will be peaceful and idyllic, you’re deluding yourself. Pastors and church staff members are as inherently flawed as the rest of the world. If your desire to work for a MegaChurch stems from the belief that you’ll be in a conflict free office environment, think again.

Francis Chan Resigns Cornerstone

April 19, 2010

Popular pastor, conference speaker, and author, Francis Chan, has resigned the pastorate of the church he started 16 years ago, Cornerstone Community Church. Francis pastors in the same city I do (Simi Valley, CA), and Cornerstone is located just a mile down the street from where I pastor at NewHeart.

I’ve watched Francis grow from being a local Youth Pastor in our city to a Lead Pastor of a very large and influential church. Cornerstone is our city’s only mega-church, technically speaking.

While Francis and I have not been close, we’ve know each other, have collaborated on a couple of city-wide projects and I will always appreciate his forthright manner, laid-back style and the way he fights for what he believes is right and scriptural.

Our city has been one of those unfortunately fraught with negative pastoral transitions in our history (I pastor one of them, that has had multiple pastoral failures over the years), especially from churches that have been popular and grown to significant sizes. I am excited to see a transition take place that is NOT filled with negativity, division, pain and decline.

I applaud Francis for stepping out in faith into an unknown future for himself and his family. If you listen to the video interview at CatalystSpace.com and the message he delivered to his church on Sunday, you’ll hear a good part of his heart and the plan ahead.

Interestingly, he is going to be offering some forums in May and June for Cornerstone folks to be able to ask questions about how and why things are panning out the way they are. He foresees speaking there through the end of May to re-iterate what he believes God has laid on his heart, then fulfilling a pretty heavy speaking schedule through the Summer and Fall before he takes his family on some third world missions adventures later in the year.

What are your thoughts about such a big step of faith?

UPDATE: the below is the letter sent from Francis to Cornerstone:

Dear Friends,

For those who have not heard, this past Sunday I announced to Cornerstone Church that I will be transitioning out of my ministry in Simi Valley. It was a rough Sunday as there were many different emotions floating around the room. In short, Lisa and I believe God is calling us to take a step of faith. We believe we are supposed to move into a major city such as LA, San Francisco, or New York. Every time I fly into a large city, I am struck by the sheer numbers and feel pulled to try ministering in that environment. I encourage you to listen to the podcast from this past weekend to hear more details. If for no other reason, my wife spoke some very powerful words that every believer needs to hear.

It has been an amazing 16 years as pastor of Cornerstone Church. When we started gathering, I doubt that any of us dared to dream that God would use this church to have such an impact on Simi Valley and the rest of the world. I think most of us were just hoping it would survive. God had bigger plans than we did. The Lord has truly shown us His grace, that we could be used as His instruments to bring glory to the name of Jesus.

The plan is that I would teach at Cornerstone through the end of May. During this time, I will be sharing the lessons most important to me. I have taught thousands of times over these years, and now I hope to re-emphasize what I see as most important. I will also be at our prayer meetings to beg our God to do even greater things in Simi after I leave. For those who have questions or just want to talk, you can catch me at the prayer meetings.

I’ll continue to write and give you more information as the Lord continues to guide the elders and me. Like I said at our services, I’m still not completely sure of everything, but it feels great to be living by faith.

Once again, here is my family’s rough plan for our future

April/May = speaking at Cornerstone
June/July = speaking around the U.S.
August/Sept = Praying and walking large cities to seek God’s leading.
Oct-Dec = Serving in a third world country
Jan 2011 = launch a new ministry as an extension of Cornerstone

Thanks to everyone who was a part of this amazing journey in Simi. Thanks for all the love and encouragement my family and I have received over the years.

Francis

The Dark Side of Ministry

November 11, 2009

Milfred Minitrea of the Missional Church Center, wrote a powerful post on his blog that I think deals with the dark side of ministry and how Pastors are constantly dealing with the issue of congregational change management and ministry effectiveness.

In His post called, “Depression: Pastors In Pain”, he writes:

David Treadway, pastor of Sandy Ridge Baptist Church in Hickory, North Carolina committed suicide in September. His tragic death is the fourth pastor suicide in the Carolinas during the past four years. Pastor Treadway was undergoing treatment for depression. In a USA Today article published October 29, 2009, Greg Warner addressed depression among pastors. He wrote, “Most depression does not lead to suicide, but almost all suicides begin with depression.”

The article identified impossible role expectations often placed upon pastors, together with their innate resistance to seek help when they become depressed. They fear, too often appropriately, that congregational leaders would understand their depression to be a failure of faith rather than an illness to be treated. So, pastors suffer alone while trying to care for others.

Matthew Stanford, a professor of psychology and neuroscience at Baylor University in Waco, Texas said “The likelihood is that one out of every four pastors is depressed.” Further, “Anxiety and depression in the pulpit are “markedly higher” in the last five years…The current economic crisis has caused many of our pastors to go into depression.”

The author clearly cited the economic environment as a primary cause. Then he added, “Besides the recession’s strain on church budgets, depressed pastors increasingly report frustration over their congregations’ resistance to cultural change. When I read those words, a passing comment on a secondary cause of depression in the article, my heart leaped. For that is precisely what I repeatedly hear from pastors across North America.

“My congregation wants to return to the way things used to be. They are unwilling to accept the reality of cultural changes in our world. Further, they perceive culture, “the way we do things” as sacred. Even when those things are no longer working, they say we should just try to do them better. And when those old methods are not successful, the failure is perceived as being the fault of the pastoral staff. They are unwilling to allow our congregational culture to change so that we can be more relevant among a changing population.” This resistance to change is sometimes public. At other times it skims just beneath the surface like a private torpedo locked on target, ready to do massive destruction.

As pastors understand the marginalization of Christianity in contemporary culture, consequently perceiving the requisite adaptation of the church toward an incarnational missionary posture, their passion to lead toward such culture shifts is often met with resistance. Leading a conventional congregation to perceive the need for change is a massive undertaking, a challenge that will often result in things getting worse before they get better. Those who cannot accept the need for internal congregational change will voice opposition. Those who support internal change will then find themselves defending the need for change. Repeatedly I have seen the dialogue move from the issue of “changing the way we do things” to challenges of personal loyalty within the congregation. Instead of conflict about process, the conflict becomes personal.

In those moments, pastors are caught in the untenable position of loving, serving, and leading a flock that has become divided. I can recall the deep pain of having a man whom I loved dearly, but who did not agree with new directions in ministry, unleash a barrage of vindictive verbal assaults. He was mad. Plain and simple. And his words were not filled with grace in that instance. His words were fiery darts. I felt the darts tear through my heart, a heart that had given eight years of pastoral care to our flock. In my own immaturity I tried to reason with him while he was still angry. I so wanted to please. To make it all right. And when I could not, I walked away wounded. When I was alone, I wept bitterly. Over the next weeks, I was too bruised and weak to continue to lead toward the kind of changes that needed to be made in order for effective ministry to continue. And I walked into a dark night that lasted for months.

Ultimately I found solace through the counsel of Ken Sharp, the tallest Christian counselor I have ever known, who became a dear friend in ministry. Further, I warmed to my own condition as I read Don Baker and Emery Nester’s, Depression: Finding Hope and Meaning in Life’s Darkest Shadow, a wonderful treatment published by Multnomah Press. Not nearly every pastor is blessed with an understanding friend and counselor. Many do not find voices to accompany them through their pain.

As North American churches struggle in a changed and changing culture, the role of pastoral leadership is challenging. We constantly encounter brothers and sisters in ministry who are walking a tightrope as they lead. It is highly improbable that they will be able to walk the tightrope, lead toward a new way of being church in a changing culture, and keep everybody happy in the process. I pray that we can be fellow pilgrims on their journey offering support and encouragement where we can. And sometimes, our greatest help may be simply to walk with them through the darkness.

One thing I know. We must not let those who are suffering walk the path alone.

Having been diagnosed myself with clinical depression myself, and continuing to struggle through its seasonal ups and downs, I know some of what Milfred speaks. I particularly appreciate his perspective on how Pastors are impacted by leading a congregation toward effective ministry in cultural seas change.

Change is an interesting animal, and when a Pastor sees it occurring and senses God-given vision to lead the church to be more effective in it, the opposition that sometimes comes from the most well-meaning people can be overwhelming. Thus, our need to be in continual fellowship and receiving encouragement from fellow Pastors walking through change as well.

Thoughts? Whether about depression, leading through change, or both?

Help When You Hurt

Who ministers to the Minister when you're hurting? Many do, and they can be found on this listing. Please find a friend in your area and seek the help you need today.
Continue reading »

A Place For You

Many Pastors are not aware that all over the country are a number of places you can retreat to for a number of given reasons or purposes. Find some of them here, get there, and find your pace!
Continue reading »