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!

What Got Us Here Won’t Get Us There, Part 2

May 31, 2011

In my last post (too long ago), I mentioned I would be writing more on the issue of insecurity, especially within pastors and leaders. Today, I introduce you to Scott Couchenour. You can get to know him here. I encourage you to get to know him better by following him at his blog, Twitter, and wherever else you can. He’s got some really good ministry leadership stuff going!

I’ve asked Scott to give us some of his thoughts on insecurity….enjoy! Then again, maybe that’s the wrong word? Or is that my insecurity talking? Whatever. Here you go!


Insecure. That’s me. I bet it’s you too. I bet all God’s children are insecure. I trip on the sidewalk and look back to see what to blame it on. I look around to see if anyone saw me stumble. Why do I do this? Why do I care? We were born for community and yet that very community makes me… well, insecure.

I believe the human condition of insecurity is a blessing. Insecurity. Any dictionary will tell you it’s synonymous with fear, doubt, lack of confidence, lack of assurance. “How can this be a blessing?”, you ask. Here’s what I’m thinking. If I wake up confident, assured, full of “bring-it-on” mentality, I run the eventual risk of becoming just like Adam as he bit into the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. I run the risk of becoming my own god. No fear. No doubt. Confident in my abilities. Assured of my planned outcomes. Living under the influence of the intoxication of success. I develop my plan and, to “sanctify” it, ask God to bless my efforts.

I believe insecurity grows out of failure. We can all point to a failure in our past. We remember it. For some, this failure haunts like an illusive thorn in the flesh. But here’s the good news. Failure-to-insecurity. Insecurity-to-rock-bottom. Rock-bottom-to-ready. Ready for what? Ready for being used by God to bring about Kingdom business. King Jehoshaphat knew what it was like to be insecure in his army’s ability when he said, “We do not know what to do, but our eyes are upon you.” (2 Chronicles 20.12, bold mine). “But”. Now that’s a big but!

God leads me best when I stop leading myself. When I reach the bottom where I have no more confidence in me and my abilities, I become a well-tilled plot of rich soil for God to work His plan. I have no agenda. I have no conditions. I have no proviso’s. Just me. Ready for God to use as He sees appropriate. And God says, “Yes! NOW, here we go…”

Are you insecure?

How are you turning your insecurity into your greatest asset for God?


Scott Couchenour

Life Coach at ServingStrong.com

VP Operations at Cogun.com

Resources and coaching for the ministry leader to avoid burnout.

What Got Us Here Won’t Get Us There

March 22, 2011

A few recent conversations with a pastor friend of mine have raised an issue that I’ve found true for my life. Maybe you can relate to it as well.

My friend has been in full-time ministry as a Senior Pastor for over 30 years. He’s served in his current assignment for about 25 of those years. He faithfully served this congregation and city for the first 13 years whittling away with a few handfuls of people that quickly became dozens of families.

Over the past 12 years, he’s been privileged to see numerical breakthrough happen, so that now the Church he serves is averaging almost 1,000 people every weekend.

Not that numbers are everything. They aren’t. Matter of fact, this friend of mine will gladly tell you that numbers come with their own burdens.

Anyway, he’s been conversing with a few other pastors of similar size churches and larger. These guys are coming to a painful, but truthful, conclusion. They’ve been honest enough with each other to admit that much of their pursuit to this point of their lives has been rooted in validating their own insecurities.

Imagine that! Pastors being honest with each other! Go figure!

It’s NOT that everything they’ve done has been selfish or egocentric or for their own personal gain. It hasn’t. I know these men. They follow hard after God and want the best for people and for God’s Kingdom.

It IS that as they are growing personally and maturing as men, they are learning that everyone is insecure! Did you hear that? We are ALL insecure.

We are all humans who battle with our insecurities on a daily basis, whether we recognize it or not. The only difference between these guys and others is that they are starting to recognize it while others aren’t.

Those unaware busily go about their lives spinning their wheels for one supposed reason, when all the while, the truth is that the wheels spin to make them feel better about themselves and what they are doing (whatever it is they are doing, ministry or not). And the numbers validate their worth and busy-ness.

What is also true for my friend and the group he is talking with is that they are fatigued and spent. They’re not burned out, just uncertain that what they’ve “achieved” to this point has been worth the cost and energy. They know that they must change the way they do life and ministry in order to get where God wants them to go from here. So, their learnings don’t stop here.

They are boiling down their lesson to this: what got us here won’t get us there!

Here is this current place of recognized achievement and supposed success shown in an ever-increased followership. There is the future place that they know God is calling them to go that is beyond the current place they now find themselves in.

They know without a doubt that what got us here (insecurity) won’t get us there (God’s intended future). So, what are they doing about it? That’s for another post.

For now, your thoughts on what they’re learning?

Another Pastor Down

June 9, 2009

The news has sadly been circulating the internet over the last couple days regarding the confession of Pastor Gary Lamb at his blog of an affair with his assistant. There’s already enough opinion flying around about who is for who, who hasn’t said what and what ought to have been said, and more. I don’t have anything to add to that. Don’t really want to even be a part of all that.

I will only mention that probably the healthiest two places I have read response to Gary’s situation have been from Geoff Surratt and Ron Edmonson. They are certainly not the only two who are speaking painfully well of the circumstance, but they’re at the top.

Since the launch of Pastor For Life last Summer, I have endeavored to keep any commentary or review of stories like Gary’s to a minimum, just trying to bring about anything factual and pointing out what we can learn to keep such stories from becoming mine or yours. Frankly, sometimes you can and sometimes you can’t.

I’ll never forget being at Mountain Learning Center in June Lake, CA in May of 2001. I was 3-1/2 years into a Senior Pastorate at a church I had served for 12 years before being appointed as the Sernior Pastor. In those first 12 years, I had worked with the three previous Senior Pastors. All three pastoral transitions were painful for the previous Pastor’s family and the congregation. The last two had pains of immorality and both Pastor’s marriages ended in divorce.

When I became the Senior Pastor, I was sure of two things:

  1. I was nothing like my predecessors (watch out for that pride, folks!)
  2. The one thing that would never happen to me was “burnout”.

Yet there I was, deep in burnout, wondering how in the world I got there. My wife was with me, there had been no immorality or “sinful” mess that had been made of my marriage or ministry. But my foundation of inner life was in shambles and I was depressed and spent.

What I will never forget is my counselor at MLC, Dr. Russ Veenker, having no idea of my two certainties above, hearing my story and saying to me:

“Paul, you are just like your predecessors. I can guarantee you that before they messed up their marriage and ministry, they were in burnout. The only difference between you and them is that you sought help before doing something stupid.”

The advice to Pastors that I’ve scanned today on all the blogs in response to Gary’s situation has been good stuff for the most part.

  • “Don’t counsel alone with the opposite sex.”
  • “Have an accountability structure in place.”
  • “Don’t spend time at the church office with staff of the opposite sex.”

All of it is good advice. It’s good stuff to have in place. Bottom line, however, is that most people close to me were able to see my slow descent into burnout way before I ever saw it coming. And they were saying things. And I was giving blank stares. And before I knew it, when the pressure became too much, my inner life crumbled.

Thing is, at some point, we ALL crumble. Um, yes, ALL of us. I’ve seen it happen time after time, and so have you. If you can’t say that, you haven’t been around ministry long enough. Just wait.

So, what does it take to last? My belief …. do whatever it takes to monitor your heart regularly and keep it at Jesus’ feet. This requires that you adjust your pace to your current life and ministry circumstance, and “ruthlessly eliminate hurry” (from John Ortberg’s “The Life You’ve Always Wanted”).

Most of us Pastors, I find, are unwilling to do that. I was. That’s how I ended up where I was. I am convinced I was headed for a major life adjustment no matter what, even because of age. But it could have been experienced much differently had I been less “Superman” and more hu-man.

I realize, too, that for many Pastors, you serve in a system (church body) that doesn’t allow for much adjustment in these areas for you. That’s a whole other story of change and transformation that must take place for real health to occur, both for you and your congregation.

How about you? Your thoughts?

Holding Fast

February 4, 2009

Holding FastOne of my practices while I am on a Study & Planning Break is to read at least one book that doesn’t have anything to do with ministry or leadership. I will read a few books while I am on this kind of retreat that are “work” oriented, but reading something “non-work” just stretches and renews me. I just finished this one today and wanted to post a review:

It’s not often a book grabs me by the collar and doesn’t let go until the very end. Nor does one often go past the collar to grab my heart, but Holding Fast by Karen James did just that!

In this true account of three very experienced mountain climbers who lost their lives on Mt. Hood in December of 2006, Karen starts by holding your hand through the beginning of her courtship with Kelly James, her husband, and one of those on that fateful trip.

From the time Karen and Kelly meet until the day she gets the call that Kelly is in trouble on the mountain, I felt like I had become friends with the James’. When that call came in, and when she recounts the last six minute call between she and Kelly (a miraculous connection in that Kelly is stuck injured in a snow cave over two miles in the sky on Mt. Hood), I felt like I was in the story!

What I loved about this book is that Karen is quite vulnerable about her grief over the loss of the love of her life. She takes you into her grief, but doesn’t just leave you there. She also recounts the many ways God met her and their family as they have processed this tragedy.

I highly recommend this book for anyone of any age!

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?

Leading On Empty

November 12, 2008

If you’re following Pastor For Life, you know we’ve been somewhat chronicling the story of Pastor Wayne Cordeiro through his recent heart surgery and his return to the pulpit following this encounter. I am a regular reader of his blog …. MentoringLeaders.com.

I was quite surprised and blessed when my original article here was used in its entirety to report Wayne’s surgery to the MentoringLeaders.com family. In the process, I’ve been able to contact Wayne, and he has agreed to do an interview with PastorForLife.org regarding his recent crisis and return to ministry.

However, I am very excited to also lead you to a couple of recent posts at MentoringLeaders.com that give a sneak peek of his soon-to-be-released book titled, “Leading On Empty”. He writes it out of his personal experience with burnout a few years ago.

Having survived burnout myself as a Pastor, it’s not often that we who go through this crisis end up with the privilege of continuing to serve the same congregation. Often, that’s because the burnout ended up leading to a moral failure of some sort that disqualified a Pastor’s ministry.

I have come to learn that there are MANY of us whose burnout does not lead to any kind of moral failure. Yet still, church leaders often assume that if the Pastor is experiencing burnout, there must be SOMEthing that’s not right that would damage the trust of the leaders or congregation in that Pastor to regain health and lead again. Most often, nothing could be further from the truth.

Wayne is one of the few who is opening his life and his story so that other Pastors might find help and wholeness on the road to healing. I encourage you to check out the Sneak Peek 1 and Sneak Peek 2 of “Leading On Empty”.

AND, stay tuned here at PastorForLife.org for our upcoming interview to learn more from Wayne’s story.

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.

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.
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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!
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