Strange Things We Do When God Moves

December 16, 2008

I was initially going to title this post “Lakeland Revival Learnings”, based on the recent revival/renewal/spiritual stirring that took place earlier this year in Lakeland, Florida. The meetings took place under the leadership of evangelist Todd Bentley. They ended when Bentley (who was the primary speaker at the revival meetings) left back in August and the meetings have since fizzled.

Just this week comes further revelation about why the revival meetings ended and what was happening behind the scenes. You can read the story here.

Sadly, stories like this are not limited to Lakeland’s Outpouring. All too often, sticky issues such as pride, arrogance, and self-aggrandization come into play for those leading such a move of God.

I write about this not for sensational purposes, but for educational reasons. As Pastors and Church Leaders, we have got to figure out how to set ourselves up for long term effectiveness even when the Spirit of God is moving in His power and force.

For some reason, when the supernatural occurs, we think it makes US supernatural too. In truth, the supernatural is ALWAYS about Jesus, not us. We do not all of a sudden have a life that is without its limits.

Bob Pierce, founder of World Vision, had a famous phrase that as he traveled the world while his family was at home, he believed God would answer his prayer. That prayer was, “God, I’ll take care of your little ones around the world if You’ll take care of my little ones at home.”  Somewhere, Bob got his roles mixed up. He wasn’t God, and his kids needed him at home.

You can say all you want about the massive and great work that World Vision does today and I wouldn’t slight you one bit. But Bob’s kids missed their father, and one of his daughters ended up committing suicide.

If God used you for such a move of the supernatural, what would you do to make sure that self-care was a high standard for your life?

A Video Tell-All On Us Pastors?

November 29, 2008

ht: Anne Jackson

It’s The Little Things

October 30, 2008

For the last couple of years, I’ve been dreading a purchase that I knew was coming at our church. Every Sunday that I walked into the Sanctuary, I would look at the big projection screen, convinced that the resolution was slowly but surely on the fritz. We would soon need to replace the projector for a sharper image.

After an eye checkup with an opthamologist a few months ago, I just didn’t want to break down and spend the money on suggested prescription glasses. The doctor even said himself that my prescription was even less than reading glasses you would buy off a shelf in a pharmacy. But the recurrent headaches weren’t decreasing. So glasses it was.

The first Sunday I walked into the Sanctuary wearing my new glasses, I was amazed; almost convinced that someone had installed a brand new projector for us! The screen was so clear that it stunned me for a few moments. I had no idea what a big difference something so small could make.

Solomon wrote about how small things can make a big difference, even devastating the fruit of your life if you’re not careful. ” Catch for us the foxes, the little foxes that ruin the vineyards, our vineyards that are in bloom.” (Song of Solomon 2.15)

My recurrent headaches? The more I wear the glasses (hard as they’ve been to get used to), the fewer and less intense the recurrent headaches. Amazing. “Smaller prescription than off the shelf reading glasses.” Who would’ve thought?

What are “the little foxes” that have stolen your fruit, threatening to ruin your vineyards lately?

Adrenal Letdown

October 27, 2008

I’ve heard it said that preaching for an hour can equal the energy output of 3-4 hours worth of work. Multiply that for Pastors who preach at multiple services by the number of services they preach at each weekend.

Arch Hart, in his book, “Adrenaline & Stress”, lays out his study on the impact of adrenaline on a person’s body. He emphasizes the impact it has on Pastors in the book, as well as in many of his talks to groups of Pastors.

Over the last few years, with Arch’s help, I’ve grown to identify much of the awful after-effects of preaching as adrenal letdown. Preaching demands the use of adrenaline and I find that many Pastors either have no idea, or they completely deny, its impact. You know, we’re Superman/women/people, right? What might impact others negatively, God will protect us from! (In case you’re wondering, yes, my tongue is in my cheek as I write that!)

Arch contends that when you expend an inordinate amount of adrenaline, like we Pastors do when we preach, you are bound to experience a letdown of the adrenaline so that the system, the body, can recover and restore itself back to a normal state. There are various brain chemicals involved in the cycle, including serotonin, which can drop low as adrenaline restores, resulting in a feeling of depression at different levels.

How much time it takes to recover and what the symptoms of the recovery are can be different for everyone. For me, I find that on Monday, it’s common for me to develop a low grade headache right behind my eyes. I call it my “serotonin-low” headache. And there’s a general malaise that I often experience.

Have you identified the impact of adrenaline recovery after you preach? What are your common signs?

Connect To Pastor For Life Regularly!

October 11, 2008

Want to save a lot of time on your computer every day? Let me introduce you to Google Reader. I use it to track updates on a number of websites each day. I get to choose what sites I subscribe to, and Google Reader lets me know whenever any of those sites has new content. No more surfing from site to site. All the content comes automatically to me.

Ever wondered what this orange icon with the white radio wave-like symbol was all about? That’s an indication that the site you are visiting has an RSS (Really Simple Syndication) feed available. If you have signed up to use Google Reader, you can just click on that button anywhere on the Web and you’ll have the opportunity to subscribe to the content. It’s simple…really simple.

Now, are you ready to give it a test-drive? Let me give you two easy steps to get started.

1. Register for a Google Reader account.

2. Come back to my site and click the “subscribe to RSS” icon.

That’s it. Now you know why they call it “really simple syndication.” Here’s the best part, you can also subscribe to other websites using your same Google Reader account. Let me recommend these RSS feeds (clicking on them here will subscribe you if you have your Google Reader account set up already):

Well, you get the picture. You can subscribe to just about anything you’d like to know about using Google Reader and RSS feeds. The best part? It’s all FREE! I just saved you time and money.

There are other tools that do the same thing; however, Google Reader is a great place to start. Let me know how it works.

Another easy way to connect regularly is to subscribe by email. When you do that, every time Pastor For Life has a new post, you get it delivered in your email inbox. While I personally use Google Reader to follow my feeds, if you’re only following a few, this might be your preferred method of staying connected with us.

For you RSS veterans, what’s your favorite feed aggregator? And, more importantly, what’s your favorite feed?

HT: Tony Morgan

Distractions Extraordinaire

October 1, 2008

You don’t have to be in ministry to know both the rush and frustration of distractions. We want to know how we can avoid them, when the truth is that we can’t. Tasks we haven’t thought of, crises that we didn’t anticipate and disasters that no one could ever predict come upon us. They just do. Let alone the distractions we allow for one reason or another.

I am an email fiend if there ever was one, love Twitter, and think you should follow me for the fun of it. At the same time, I try to have some semblance of availability as a Pastor that doesn’t border on or cross the line of neuroticism. There are some distractions that are controllable, if we so choose. I know I must work at limiting them for the good of my own soul.

Thanks to my friend, Bob Hyatt, I quote Ruth Haley Barton, from her book, Sacred Rhythms, as follows:

“It’s not that I am averse to technology; I too have a cell phone, an office phone, a home phone and an email address, and they are much needed. However, I am aware of longings that run much deeper than what technology can address. I am noticing that the more I fill my life with the convenience of technology, the emptier I become in the places of my deepest longing. I long for the beauty and substance of being in the presence of those I love, even though it is less convenient. I long for spacious, thoughtful conversation even though it is less efficient. I long to be connected with my authentic self, even though it means being inaccessible to others at time. I long to be one who waits and listens deeply for the still, small voice of God, even if it means I must unplug from technology in order to become quiet enough to hear.

Constant noise, interruption and drivenness to be more productive cut us off from or at least interrupt the direct experience of God and other human beings, and this is more isolating than we realize. Because we are experiencing less meaningful and divine connection, we are emptier relationally, and we try harder and harder to fill that loneliness with even more noise and stimulation. In so doing we lose touch with the quieter and more subtler experiences of God within.

This is a vicious cycle indeed.”

Well said, don’t you think? If you’re NOT thinking about it or can’t grasp it, therein may lie the problem of which we speak. Just a thought!

Do You Need A Nap?

September 9, 2008

Think what you will, but everyBODY needs a nap, at least once in a while, if not almost every day. In reality, this post should probably stand on its own in the “Your Personal Pace” series. The topic is sleep, and you may think it a luxury. It may be a necessity.

Justify it to your heart’s delight. Actually, it’s probably to your heart’s terror and dread. I went for years bragging on how I could live on 4-5 hours of sleep a night. Until my body said, “No more!”

Read about any sleep study you can get your hands on. You need AT LEAST 6-8 hours of sleep every night. We all have to go without some of what we need, but we want that to be the exception, not the norm. If you lose some of it tonight, studies will also tell you that we can’t “catch up” on it.

However, we CAN follow our bodies. They’re usually smarter than we are and tell us what we need when we need it. The problem is we think we are smarter than the body God created us in. He uses MANY avenues to speak to us … how about our body? When we need rest/sleep, it is sure to tell us.

So, if you’re reading this with toothpicks in your eyes to keep them open, go take a nap. You want to find out how it feels to “Pastor FOR Life” and “Pastor WITH Life”, go take yourself a nap!

When I encountered burnout several years ago, one of the symptoms was insomnia. My adrenal glands, according to my doctor, were exhausted. They no longer knew when to spurt adrenaline into my system and when not to. So they did whenever they felt like it, and sometimes wouldn’t when I really needed it.

Over the years, I’ve used a number of sleep aids. Even to this day, I currently use Lunesta on a regular basis. (NOTE: Only use sleep medications with a doctor’s prescription. That’s not legalese, it’s common sense!) I also use an eye cover, as I’ve discovered that even a little light can wake me or keep me awake. When I travel, I use ear plugs.

If you’re looking for some good napping help, here’s a little primer from the Boston Globe:

Feast or Famine

September 1, 2008

I’m one of those Pastors who happens to live on “church property”. We live in the parsonage right next door to the church. Fortunately, the front of my house faces AWAY from the church, and my leadership at the church saw the wisdom a few years ago of adding a couple layers of block on top of the back wall. Now, I don’t have to observe and wonder about work every time I’m in my back yard.

For us, it’s been by and large a good experience to live where we do. However, that hasn’t always been true, nor is it always true today.

Reflecting on my calendar this Summer, I realized some circumstances kept me from taking the kind of time away that I am used to. My oldest son, now 13, had some surgery on a leg that was necessary and very successful, but resulted in the need for lots of down time. He’s our :komebody”, so he felt most comfortable just staying home.

My wife, Colleen, begins a new job this week as a Teacher at our local Adult school. She has been feverishly preparing for this new role, and didn’t feel free to take much time away over the last couple months.

We finally got away for almost a week just a couple of weeks ago. It was wonderful, refreshing, and caused me to once again see the need for regular time away. Not just vacation time, but time to get away to be with Jesus, letting Him quiet my soul and lead me to His rest.

The last couple of days, Colleen and I have been working out our Fall calendar. I saw a window of opportunity to get away with her and the boys, but didn’t say anything. However, then I read a friend’s blog post.

I want to share it with you, and by doing so, introduce you to Jan Owens. Read her blog post on getting away here, click here to read her story, and click here to subscribe to her blog in a reader. You will be glad you did! We have not met personally, but I really appreciate her vulnerability and perspective on life in God as a Church Leader.

If it’s been a while since you’ve gotten away to refocus and be refreshed, I know Jan would join me in encouraging you to get your calendar out right now. Look over the next weeks and months. DO NOT CLOSE THAT CALENDAR until you’ve pencilied in at least a time or two away from the grind before the holidays hit!

“Healer” Author Confesses His Real Need For Healing

August 29, 2008

In no way do I mean for this post to be a judgment or condemnation, nor a condoning, of the sorrowful circumstances that surround the story of Michael Guglielmucci.

He is the author of a song very recently released on the latest Hillsong Worship DVD album, “Hillsong Live: This Is Our God”. There is apparently a documentary on the DVD of how Michael wrote this song right after a diagnosis of aggressive cancer. A popular video on YouTube has now been removed that showed him telling the story at a worship concert just before he would lead the song with an oxygen tank by his side and the tube on his face.

Turns out that he confessed just a couple weeks ago that he was never diagnosed with cancer. He was able to deceive his wife and family as he was apparently suffering physical manifestations of his inner battle with pornography. His father is a Pastor in Australia. You can read his initial statement here.

I do not pretend to know Michael’s torment or make claims of superiority. While my heart is very sad for him and his family, and for the Church at large, I do not pretend to know his torment or make any claims of superiority. But for the grace of God, his story is ours … ALL of ours.

This is another in a long line of stories of lives torn apart by the temptation to live one life in private and another in public. This is not the first and it will not be the last.

There are a couple of keys here about what it takes to be a Pastor For Life.

One is the deep need for safe places to be able to be truly who you are, including the inner battles and struggles we all face. The sooner we get out into the light, the less the damage and the stronger the ability to resist temptation.

Another is the need for us to live in brokenness and vulnerability. The foundation of this relies on us. We must allow for the transparency and consistency in how we live.

Many we lead cannot handle an ounce of weakness we may show as leaders. That’s part of what keeps us from vulnerability. But somewhere, somehow, those who cannot handle our weakness will have to find their strength in Jesus. They may find it in our transparency, but our fear is that they may not. We must become OK with that.

I commit myself, and encourage you, to pray for Michael. While his confession shocks many, it’s actually the first painful step of real freedom for him, and for his family. While the road to recovery will be long and grinding, he is in the best place he can be, or maybe even has ever been.

When Ministry Is Killing You

August 18, 2008

Who said it? What was meant by it? Did they really even know what they were saying?

Somewhere, somehow, we ‘ve lost sight of the things that truly matter and set our sights on some things that don’t. As a result, the very thing we got into this line of “work” for is the very thing that is sucking the life out of us ….. “reaching people”.

At least that’s what we want to believe. That we are in it to reach people. Somewhere, deep down inside, it really is true. But somewhere, even deeper down inside, it’s also true that the definition of whether or not people are being reached (“How’s the Church? Is it growing? Are people getting saved? Are you building? What’s your budget?”) has side tracked us. It’s putting us in danger of losing who God really has made and is making us to BE for the sake of how much we can DO for Him.

I don’t know about you, but my heart resonates with this article from Out of Ur….

Great is Thy Effectiveness?

There’s danger in rooting our identity in ministry rather than in Christ.

Something’s wrong. We pastors are the stewards, the spokespeople, the advocates of a message of hope, life, and peace. And yet so few of us seem to be experiencing these qualities in our own lives. Something’s wrong. In a world saturated with fear, insecurity, and stress, we are to show a different way. And yet those at the center of the church are burning out and leaving ministry at a rate of 1,500 per month. If that’s what’s occurring at the heart of the church, why would anyone on the fringe want to move in closer?

I’ve just read an article by two Christian counselors about the soul-killing impact of church ministry on leaders. (The statistic above comes from them.) They note that the pressure to grow the church is a significant factor leading to pastoral burn out. And some pastors “admitted they promoted growth models that were incongruent with their values because of a desperate need to validate their pastoral leadership.” It seems too many of us have our identities wrapped up in the measurable outcomes of our work rather than in the life-giving love of the Christ we proclaim. Something’s wrong.

I spent last week in western Iowa and met many wonderful pastors and church leaders. These men and women don’t lead megachurches. They’re not in chic urban or suburban communities where new cultural trends are born. In other words, they’re not the people you’re likely to see on the platform at a ministry conference. More than one church leader approached me during the week holding back tears. Each confessed he was on the verge of mental/spiritual/emotional collapse. The cause sited by all: the pressure to perform.

Some might say these leaders have failed to nurture their souls sufficiently. We usually want to blame leaders for their own burn out, but when I see the pervasiveness of this problem I wonder if there isn’t also a systemic factor. Could contemporary church ministry itself be the problem?

When I peruse ministry books, websites, magazines, and attend conferences I’m bombarded with one overwhelming message: great ministry results are the product of great ministry leadership. If a church is growing, if lives are changing, if budgets are burgeoning—it must be because the leader is doing something right. Conversely, if the church is shrinking, if lives are struggling, if budgets are busting—it must be because the leader is inept. As a result, a pastor’s success and self-worth is inexorably linked to his/her measurable performance. Stewing in this toxic brew is it any wonder why pastors’ souls are shriveling. Something’s wrong.

Consider a chapter titled “Bigger is Better” from a popular ministry book. The authors write, “A church should always be bigger than it was. It should be constantly growing.” Talk about pressure. The problem is this standard doesn’t hold water when applied to Jesus himself. John 6 describes the scene where “many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him.” After teaching some weird stuff about drinking his blood and eating his flesh, the crowds who were drawn by Jesus’ miracles decided they had had enough. Did Jesus’ shrinking ministry mean he was an ineffective leader? Why do we hold ourselves to a standard that Jesus’ doesn’t apply to himself?

Or consider one of my favorite stories from the Old Testament. In Numbers 20, Moses performs a miracle by drawing water from a rock to nourish the Israelites. By any human measure Moses’ ministry was a success. It was God-empowered (he performed a miracle), and it was relevant (the people were thirsty). If Moses lived today, we’d all be reading his ministry book titled, “How to Draw Water from Rocks: Effective Strategies to Refresh Arid Churches.” There was just one problem—Moses’ effective ministry was rejected by God. Moses had disobeyed the Lord’s command by striking the rock rather than speaking to it. For this sin he was forbidden from entering the Promised Land. It turns out God performed a miracle in spite of Moses, not because of him.

Might God be doing the same thing today? Is God allowing some powerful, effective, and relevant ministries to grow in spite of leaders rather than because of them? If Scripture shows that faithful and godly leaders can have shrinking ministries (Jesus in John 6), and sinful leaders can have successful ministries (Moses in Numbers 20), then why do we persist in measuring our success simply on the measurable outcomes of our work?

Brothers and sisters, you are more than the measurable outcomes of your work. I’ve come back from my time in Iowa with a renewed commitment to help us all understand the mysterious calling we have in Christ. I want to be at least one voice countering the soul-killing noise surrounding church leaders today—noise that tries to convince us to ground our identities in effectiveness rather than faithfulness. Yes, we need to work diligently and serve Christ with our very best—this is our worship to God. But how we define success should look very different in the economy of God’s kingdom from the tangible stats the world celebrates.

I hope this is what distinguishes Leadership as a resource for you. Leadership is about skill, but it’s also about the soul. Some of us are called to plant, some of us are called to water. At Leadership we want to help pastors become better planters and better irrigators; but in the end, we also want to help you release the outcomes to God who causes the growth. Unlike contemporary business, ministry involves the baffling interplay of the human and the divine, the spiritual and the material. There is a mystery to what we are called to do. Embracing this mystery and releasing the outcomes of our work to God is what we must do if our lives, and not just our ministries, are to be filled with his grace.


Skye Jethani is the managing editor of Leadership and a teaching pastor at Blanchard Alliance Church in Wheaton, Illinois.

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