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Get Out of Your Office!

Do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry”, 2 Timothy 4:5.

How are you intentionally building relationships with non-believers?  Can you readily name non-believing friends you are burdened for?  I think one of the greatest dangers for the pastor is losing touch with the world and to isolate themselves in a Christian bubble.  This is easy to do.  I love my study.  I can get lost in here digging, researching, preparing for my next sermon or speaking engagement, planning out the church calendar, and dealing with church people.  It’s easy to end up in a place where you have no meaningful relationships with those who are apart from Christ.

It seems the further we disconnect with the nonbelieving world the harder time we have proclaiming the Gospel in a relevant manner.  Let me clarify this point.  I believe the gospel is relevant.  I actually abstain from worldly activities more than the average pastor–I don’t have cable, I don’t drink, I rarely go to the movies, etc, etc.  That being said, I find it critical to be out establishing relationships and engaging people who are not a part of the church.  Failing to do so ultimately diminish your sharpness, passion, and zeal as the Lord uses you to engage a lost world.  Your teaching will become dry.

Since I have been the pastor of Valley Baptist Church, I have been very convicted that it is paramount for me to be involved in the community.  Whether it’s Kiwanis, the local cemetery board, or serving as a law enforcement chaplain I have been compelled to be out amongst the nonbelieving world.  As I have done this, I have established genuine friendships.  I have been questioned about my faith.  I have been called to help in crisis.  I have seen God work through me and it is exciting!  These events shape my preaching and pastoring in a good way.

God has not called us to be taskmasters telling the people what to do, but to lead with our lives and to teach out of the outflow.  As you engage with people who are not Christians, you are reminded

 

 

 

Right Direction

On Course as an Acts Church

Last week in our elder’s meeting one of our pastors posed the question, “Do you think all the churches in our area are dealing with the same kinds of opposition and crazy issues we are?” He was referencing the intense nature of both the blessings and buffetings our church and pastoral team seem to be receiving these days. We know that the spiritual war is always real, but there truly are seasons in which it feels more tangible and fierce. In some ways we feel like we are in that kind of season right now.

But as we thought about my friend’s question we believe the Holy Spirit reminded us that whether or not our experience as a church parallels the experience of other Christ-professing churches in the area isn’t what’s important to discern. The important thing to discern is whether or not our experience as a church parallels the experiences of the church in the book of Acts. The important thing to discern is whether or not the ministry dynamics displayed in Christ’s life in the gospels continues on in the body life of our local church. Only when those things are true can we be sure that we’re pursuing what God actually has for us as believers.

I believe we can discern a three-fold pattern  that unfolds when Jesus is at work in our midst by looking at the gospels and Acts. You could call these “The Three O’s of the Acts Church” if you’re a cool seeker pastor, but I’m not, so I won’t. :)

But here’s what I want to see in our church because I see it in the life of Christ in the gospels and continuing in the life of the early church in Acts:

1. Outpouring of the Holy Spirit

The first part of the process is the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Jesus heals, saves, and transforms somebody physically or spiritually by His grace and power. This often occurs both in the gospels through Christ directly, and in Acts through Christ indirectly through the agents of His people. People get set free from the power or sin, satan, demons, death and hell.

2. Opposition from the Enemy

The second part of the process is reactionary to the first. In it, the spiritual enemies of God and His people bring opposition to the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. One example of this is depicted in Acts 3 and 4. In Acts 3 Peter and John experience an outpouring of the Spirit as God heals a lame man through them and gives Peter a subsequent opportunity to preach the gospel in light of the miracle. And while some worshiped God in light of the miracle and the gospel, the sadducees and religious people didn’t. They threw them in jail, persecuted them, and put them on trial (4:1-22).

3. Opportunity for Redemption

And yet, God didn’t let that bring discouragement to His people or thwart the work of the gospel. Instead, He used the opposition they faced due to the outpouring of the Holy Spirit and seized it as an opportunity for redemption. He used the testimony of the apostles and God’s work of salvation, preservation, and healing accomplished through and in spite of the opposition to produce worship, unity, compassion, and boldness amongst His people (4:23-37).

So these are the three things we’re looking for at Refuge to make sure the life of Jesus and ministry of the early church is continuing in our midst. Are we experiencing the outpouring of the Holy Spirit? Is that outpouring being met with opposition from the enemy? Is that opposition being hijacked by God and transformed into an opportunity for redemption? If so, we’re content we’re on the right track no matter what’s going on in the midst of other Christ-professing churches around us.

Sound Off

What would you add or take away from the things noted above that demonstrate the work, power, and presence of Jesus in a local church?

 

 

A “goer” or a “sender”? Part 3

In my previous two posts, I’ve introduced the idea that because the God of the bible has made clear what His end game is, (Rev. 5:7 7:9), and has commissioned His church to participate with Him in making that a reality, “missions” really should matter to us.  And that basically, everyone of His followers is called to be a “goer” or to “send” those that He has called to go.

In this post I’d like to share some of my experience and my perspective regarding the path to becoming a church that “sends them forward on their journey in a manner worthy of God”. (3 John 6)  If a church begins to take “sending” seriously, there’s something crucial that needs to be constructed to facilitate that happening.

Are there any ways to determine which ministries are really important to the pastor and leaders of a local church?  I believe there are.  Here are a few:

1.  How often is that ministry referenced in the announcement or bulletin portion of the church service?

2.  How often is that ministry or an aspect of that ministry made reference to by the pastor in his messages?

3.  How prominent is that ministry in the foyer or the public area of the church office or the public gathering areas of the church?

4.  What percentage of the church budget is expended for that ministry?

5.  If a person wants to become a part of a specific ministry, has a policy or “process” already been developed that they will need to follow in order to be a part of that ministry?

Whether church leaders realize it or not, the ministries in their church that are closest to their hearts are revealed by these things.

Although it’s always interesting to ask the above 5 questions in regards to “missions”, I’d like to zero in on question number 5 alone.

To set the context for the points I’m going to make based on question 5,  I should say that my perspective is the result of meetings I’ve had with the pastors and leaders of more than 50 churches over the past 15 years.  In most of those meetings, “missions” was the reason for my being there and interacting with them.  And even when “missions” wasn’t the primary reason for my meeting with them I always probed around and tried to get a feel for where “missions” fit in their overall view of themselves, their specific ministry, and the ministries of their churches.

Interestingly enough, every one of these churches had extremely well thought-out and written-out policies and procedures for serving in children’s or youth ministry.  And most of them also had some kind of handbook and training process that needed to be followed in order for someone to be approved to lead a home fellowship.  Some of them also had written guidelines for ushering, parking lot attendants, volunteering in the bookstore, and so forth.

But guess what?  Less than a dozen of those churches had any kind of policy or procedure that a potential missionary would need to go through before being “sent” from the church to the mission field.

When I encouraged them, especially the senior pastors, to think about the potential value of creating a written “missions” policy, I was intrigued by the main response that many of them gave me.  It was something like this, “oh man, written policies usually become something you end up being enslaved to and then actually kept by the policy from accomplishing the end game that the policy was originally created to help produce”.

It was strange to me that they didn’t take the same perspective regarding written policy when it came to children’s and youth ministry.

If one of the reasons why following a written policy for children’s ministry is God’s heart for children that is clearly revealed in His word, doesn’t His word even more clearly reveal His heart and love for people from all the ethnic groups and languages that He created?

If a written policy is an expression of His and our love for the children and youth of our own church, wouldn’t a written policy for reaching those scattered around the world also be an expression of love?  And in both cases, that written policy wouldn’t only be a blessing to those receiving ministry, (children or youth, or people in other countries) it would also be a source of growth and blessing to those who ministered within the guidelines.

Just like the written policy for children’s and youth ministry, a written “missions” policy accomplishes the following purposes:

1.  It proclaims to everyone that this area of your ministry is so important that you have thought through and recorded ahead of time the direction and structure necessary to fulfill the vision God has given you in this area.  This instills confidence and trust in your leadership.

2.  Provides a “process” and guidelines that can be easily followed and lets everyone what they can expect if they desire to be involved in this area of ministry.

3.  In many cases, it protects the pastors or other church leaders from having to be the one that says “yes” or “no” to the person who is following the process of the policy on the journey to the mission field. Because the policy was instituted by a group of people at a point in the past and as the result of much prayer, thought, and research, the policy itself can play a major role in who/what is approved or disapproved.  A good written policy provides an incredibly useful “screening” process.

The bottom-line is that a well written missions policy that is the “fleshing” out of the vision of the senior pastor–customized to flesh out his vision and to fit within the unique needs of that church, can be a major blessing to every aspect of a local church.

If the leadership of a local church desires to progress in being “senders”, a written missions policy should be one of the first steps to ensure that “sending” of one of their own is done in a manner that is worthy of our Missionary God.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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A Wineskin in the Smoke

Though I have become like a wineskin in the smoke, I do not forget your statutes”, Psalm 119:83

I have been preaching through Psalm 119 over recent weeks.  I love the Psalms and the refreshment they bring to my soul.  I don’t think I could preach straight through them as a whole, but I love covering them in random order in between breaks of other books.  A couple of weeks ago the above verse gripped me with its imagery.

A wineskin in smoke would become brittle and unusable for in practical purposes.  This is how the psalmist describes  his condition.  I love being a preaching pastor.  It is what I have been called to do.  I cannot imagine not preaching the Word of God on a week-by-week basis.  With this being said, I have to admit preaching every week and leading a church can be draining as it demands much from the individual.

I’m not in this for the short-term.  As I have studied other pastors that are many years ahead of me, I have discovered that it takes a lot of P.M.S. (I couldn’t resist but to through a Navy term in here…”Preventative Maintenance Service” for you you non-sailors out there) to insure that we do not dry out spiritually and loose our passion for the ministry.

What can we do to keep our freshness and passion for serving in this capacity?

Take time off each day.

I read a book somewhere where the pastor understood each day to have only three parts–morning, afternoon, and evening.  He attempted to only work two of the three parts each day.  I don’t always succeed at this, but the thought has been very helpful to me in governing my days.

Take a Day off.

Once a week…if you can.  Well, you can see that this is a tough one for me.  It is just so hard to disengage.  I know it is good for me, for my family, and for the church.  I shoot for Thursdays, but I don’t always make the mark.  In my short coming in this area, my family and I adopted a new strategy about three years ago.  My grandfather-in-law lives outside of San Luis Obisbo on a 40-acre ranch.  We head up there once a month for a two-day (Sunday evening through Tuesday) getaway.  I love this time and has been very fruitful for my family.

Vacation.

Take an extended period of time of each year.  I am learning to open up this time more and more.  I think taking 3-4 Sundays off is ideal.  This year we had a baby and didn’t go anywhere so I don’t feel like I relaxed as much as I could have, but I did manage to read about 3 books that had nothing to do with the ministry which was very rewarding!  That being said, I am already looking forward to a vacation next year.

Read Biographies and non-studying type books.

I was recently reminded of the importance of reading books outside of our field of study.  We should be reading a ton in preparation for our preaching.  I believe in digging deep.  There is no way to short cut study time for good preaching.  That being said, reading on top of that can be difficult, but it is good for us to read “non-study” books and biographies.  It is okay, and beneficial, to read books for fun.  They will have a greater impact on you that you realize.

Exercise.

Pastors and exercise shouldn’t be an oxymoron.  Getting your blood-flowing won’t kill you, go on…give it a shot!  Some of my best sermon prep happens on runs, in the gym, or during a soccer match!  I refer you to my previous blog Spiritually Fit, Spiritually Flabby if you want to know more of my thoughts on this subject.

Pick up a hobby.

I’m not much of a “hobby guy.”  But in many respects I think my wife and kids are sort of a hobby for me during this time of my life.  I love spending time in the pool, going to the zoo, watching ballet, practicing Spanish, going for walks, or simply hanging out.  Probably the closest thing I have to a hobby is being a chaplain to law enforcement…yes, ministry you’d say, but the reality is that it is fun for me and helps me do things like shoot and blow up stuff which is hobbyish!  This being said, I do think having something fun that is not ministry related is great for your soul over the long-haul.

How do you stay fresh?

 

world

Are we a “sender” or a “goer”? Or are we disobedient? Part 1

This past week has been incredibly busy and an incredible blessing.  My wife and I made a quick trip back to Phoenix so that I could co-officiate the wedding of a young refugee couple from the Chin ethnic group of Burma.  Then, the morning after our return to Southern California, I traveled about 4 hours south of the border with Ron Clipp from Shepherd’s Staff in order to visit and hopefully encourage a few missionaries that live and serve in that huge, developing nation, known as Mexico.

Because of the busy-ness of the week and thus the limited time I’ve had available to write, I need to be brief in this post.  What I will write about in this and my next few posts is the result of my time in Mexico spending just a few hours with these amazingly faithful servants who have stayed at their God-assigned posts through heart crushing personal trials and personal suffering and yet joyfully love, serve, and represent Jesus to those they live among.  Spending even a few moments with the one family who has lived there for 13 years and the other that has lived there for 26 years is a privilege that I don’t take for granted. 

During the 1 hour and 45 minute wait at the border to cross back over to San Diego, Ron and I talked about the giant, yet humble examples of faithfulness the people we visited are.  And I couldn’t help but ponder afresh what/who it is that motivates people like them to do what they do.  As I said, this will be the first of a few posts, and as I unpackage them, I do believe that some of what I write will be of use to those who pastor and lead churches. 

I don’t believe it’s a coincidence that Paul, the greatest non-divine theologian in the New Testament, was also its greatest missionary.   And if that truth is not a coincidence, than it shouldn’t be surprising to discover that throughout church history, many other great theologians and pastors with solid, thoroughly saturated, bible-based theology either went, wanted to go, or strongly encouraged their followers to take the gospel to all nations.

Why is this? 

To put it simply, if anyone is in an authentic relationship with the God of the bible, they are in a relationship with the missionary God.  The deeper our relationship with and understanding of Him, the greater our desire will be to “declare His glory among the nations” (Psalm 96:3), and to find our own, God-given role in accomplishing that purpose. 

I believe the following quote summarizes quite accurately the thrust of God’s word in regards to the individual believer and a local church:  “there are only 2 options:  you’re either a sender or a goer.  Anything else is disobedience.”

 

dictator

Leadership by Dictat

Please allow me to introduce what I want to say about a certain leadership style by way of analogy.  I tell pre-marital couples, during the lesson on sexual intimacy, that basically anything goes in their sexual relationship except that which violates the other’s conscience or sense of propriety.  If he wants her to do something that she doesn’t want to do (or vice-versa), she will begin to avoid the marriage bed.  She will go to bed before him, after him, have a perpetual headache – or whatever.  She will avoid intimate moments because he is violating her sense of what is right and appropriate.  Because he insists on his way he damages and wounds the spirit of his wife and weakens the marriage bond.

Transfer this same mentality to leader who, by his actions, damages the sensibilities of his staff.  When this happens with regularity, the glue that holds an assistant pastor to the senior pastor is weakened.  Even as a husband should make decisions in light of his wife, a pastor should make decisions taking into consideration their impact upon those in ministry with him.  Will this decision affect their conscience or sense of ministry propriety?  I have heard so many stories of arbitrary pastoral leadership and I know that this is more than just an occasional gripe from a disaffected staff member.

As pastors, we so often shoot ourselves in the foot.

  • When loyalty is demanded and consideration is not given, a falling out is inevitable somewhere along the line.
  • When unquestioning obedience is expected and unprincipled leadership is offered, division is sure to come.
  • When those affected by the decisions of leadership cannot appeal to that leadership for clarity and understanding, a kingdom model of leadership is not being followed.  (This is what caused the Revolutionary War!)

This has really made me revisit my leadership style and how I think through the impact that my decisions and direction has on others.  It’s been a profitable meditation.  In James 3, the wisdom from above is easily entreated.  Have you ever known staff members/staff pastors who are afraid to question a decision the senior pastor has made?   The Jesus style of leadership is not time efficient.  But since much of the church operates according to the corporate model or the military model, pastoral leaders are often full bore ahead with the expectation that the staff will adoringly and obediently follow.  Sometimes, as leaders, we need to be forceful.  I don’t mind pushing someone, but I’m not into pulling them apart.

All too often Calvary Chapel pastors look at staff as functionaries and not as partners.  I want my staff and elders to have the sense that they are working with me and not for me.  I think I have largely achieved that without sacrificing any pastoral authority.  In fact, I believe this model enhances pastoral authority.  My staff and elders are following and walking with me at the same time.  For me, church leadership is like a marriage.  I am the head of my home – and my wife follows me and walks with me (and occasionally reins me in).

PS – I will be out of the office when this publishes and don’t know if Wi-Fi is available where I’ll be going.  I may not be able to interact with any comments that are made until I return.

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These Things Take Time…

Proverbs 24:30-32

30 “I went by the field of the lazy man, And by the vineyard of the man devoid of understanding;

31  And there it was, all overgrown with thorns; Its surface was covered with nettles; Its stone wall was broken down.

32  When I saw it, I considered it well; I looked on it and received instruction:”

 

It’s an interesting thing to consider…wise King Solomon receiving instruction at the unkept vineyard of the lazy man who is devoid of understanding. So often I think I pass by the unkept vineyards and nary offer a glance. Not so with Solomon. He is walking down the dusty road, gravel crackling under his sandals, and he has the wherewithal to stop at this field, this vineyard, and he considers it. He considered it for a good amount of time. He looked over it in it’s entirety, “And there it was, all overgrown with thorns”. Initial thoughts? “What a waste of a good vineyard. So much potential lost in the bountiful fruit that could be produced to provide for themselves, the employ of others, and a blessing and joy to the community. So sad.

He then looked beyond external glancing appearance and saw, “Its surface was covered with nettles”. Pain-causing, annoying, irritating things, nettles. What obviously began as fertile soil in which to grow grapes was now encumbered by nettles. Someone started off with a desire, a vision, and hard work to bring it all to pass…but now it is hard and unable to really receive anything of benefit to the vines, as the weeds will steal most of it. What vinedresser would even hazard walking these rows of vines, tending the precious fruit, when there are nettles overtaking the ground. How lonely this vineyard must be with none to lovingly tend it.

Then, almost as if a sudden, subtle shock, or a prick of the heart does he notice, “Its stone wall was broken down”. The sorrowful state of disrepair speaks of a callous indifference, a disregard of one’s rightful duty of caring for, and protecting this once precious vineyard. Time, neglect and other anxieties must have slowly crept in, unseeingly eroding the once solid boundary of this once prized and promising field. Winds, rains, predators, careless or curious passers-by…all taking their toll under the ever unwatchful eye of the one into whose responsibility and stewardship it was given.

May we all take the time to make the time to walk down the village road, intentionally observing our surroundings. And when we happen upon the unkept vineyard of the man devoid of understanding, may we pause a long while, for nothing is as worthwhile as receiving some sound instruction for our own lives and the lives entrusted into our care.

transfer growth

When Transfer Growth is Healthy

Sometimes we are overly-simplistic in our criticisms and cautions. That’s just part of being human. Still, accuracy and balance (if biblical and true) is something to pursue. And one area in which I think pastors particularly get a little overly-simplistic is that of transfer growth. Transfer growth occurs when someone who is already a follower of Jesus (or at least professes to be so) switches from attending one local church to another.

There is a status quo regarding transfer growth that is understandable, often legitimate, but sometimes overboard. It is frankly taboo to appear to be at peace with Christians coming to your church or church-plant from another local church. As such, pastors who don’t want to be filleted don’t talk openly about it, no matter what the reason someone may have transferred to their church may be. My belief is that, while much of the time (perhaps most) transfer growth is due to unhealthy thinking or behavior, sometime’s it is not. And what I hope to do is shed some light on reasons why sometimes transfer growth can even be a godly, wise, and needed reality.

Let me be clear upfront that I don’t think intentionally pillaging the members of a gospel-centered, God-ordained church is ok. The leaders of the church I serve have, and will continue to tell people at times that they need to return to the church they came from when they desire to come to our fellowship in an unhealthy way, with selfish and sinful motivations. But I’ve also seen people come through our doors from other places who I will never tell to go back to where they came from. Here are some reasons why:

 1. The Gospel must be preached

Not all churches that have the gospel correct on their doctrinal statement actually preach the gospel. Some churches are so focused on speaking to people’s felt needs and emotional struggles that they forget to be clear on the problem of sin and how Jesus solved it for us in His death, burial, and resurrection. And in case we forgot, the gospel is the power of God for salvation (Rom. 1:16-17), nothing else. Sometimes people come to my church from another, maybe visiting with a friend or something, and they hear the gospel clearly proclaimed, and God convicts them of sin, brings them to faith in the gospel and regenerates them. And as we counsel with them we discover that though they’ve been at a church that has the right gospel on paper, they’ve never heard it preached before. But now they understand it, are broken over it, and put their trust in Jesus in light of it.

The deal is, if you don’t understand and believe the true and simple gospel, you are not born-again. You are not saved from hell. So, for me, when I meet this kind of person at Refuge that last thing I’m going to do is tell them, “Well I’m sorry, but you need to go back where you came from.” I’m going to love them and make sure they have the opportunity to get the discipleship they’ve never had.

 2. Heresy is real

This ties in with the last point, but not every church that names Christ actually preaches Christ. Churches get into weird crap. That’s the bottom line. I remember learning that a local Episcopal church in a town where I used to pastor had started encouraging their Moms of Preschoolers (MOPS) group to start using the Quran and Book of Mormon for their studies in addition to the Bible. Because of that kind of thing, I was more than happy to welcome a few transfers to our church who knew there was something wrong with that. They voiced their concerns, called for a change and repentance, and were unheard. So, I was happy to welcome them to a place they could not only be discipled, but invite moms to, knowing that they’d be getting the living water of God’s word instead of the poisonous waters of pluralism.

 3. Seasons in Life Change

We also need to allow for people to grow or transition into different seasons of life. If I were simply looking for a church to plug my family into in a non-vocational ministry sense today, I wouldn’t go to the churches I attended in the past. This isn’t because they are evil or wrong. They’re just not a good fit for where our family is at right now in our relationship with Jesus theologically and philosophically.

4. Sometimes Churches Really do Hurt People

One of the most tragic reasons I’ve seen transfer growth is when people are truly hurt by leaders and churches. A couple years ago a pastor in my area was found to have been having affairs with underage girls in the youth groups he was leading. Part of the fallout from that was that people transferred from that church to other churches, including ours. We welcomed these people to our church as a hospital where they could be cared for and encouraged.

 5. Sharing the lowest theological common denominator isn’t always enough

Generally speaking, if we have the gospel in common with another church I love to promote unity between us. But there are some churches that are involved in things that are just weird enough for me to understand why people would leave them. For instance I know of a church not far from us that began promoting the idea that certain crystals used in worship services can encapsulate the praises of God’s people and project them into the cosmos. This church was encouraging people to give their money and tithes to the people taking these crystals around and doing presentations with them. Then there is the whole prosperity preaching issue that was prevalent. Still other churches who have that “come to us if you don’t want to be held accountable for your sin, in the name of grace” reputation are a problem in our area too. Some of these churches claim (or really do) believe in the same Jesus and gospel we do. But that lowest common denominator isn’t always enough. I would never tell someone they need to go back to that kind of environment because of the way people over-generalize the problem with transfer growth.

I hate unnecessary, flippant, consumeranity, transfer growth. I want people to get saved through Refuge Church. But I also don’t want to be so naïve as to act as if there are no legitimate reasons people may transfer into, or out of the church I lead. So am I saying that all transfer growth is good? No! I’m just saying we need to not be overly-simplistic in the way we talk about the issue.

A Final Exhortation

Having a good relationship with the other pastors in your community is vitally important for handling transfer growth in a way that keeps the gospel witness in tact in your area. If the pastors in your area lob grenades at each other behind one another’s back without having face-to-face interaction, we turn into a bunch of squabbling church people. And most lost people don’t want any part of that. Communicate with the pastors in your community about transfer growth. Ask their advice on how to handle it, and follow-up with each other. The witness of the gospel depends upon it.

leadership

The Art of Spiritual Guidance

I have been sharing a series with our staff on spiritual formation. At our staff meeting this week, I spoke about spiritual guidance or spiritual direction. This is a lost art in contemporary evangelicalism. The role of pastor can be spiritual direction in a sense. But classically, spiritual guidance happens in a one on one setting. Spiritual direction is not about Biblical information but about heart transformation. I encouraged our staff to both avail themselves to spiritual guidance as a receiver and as a giver. To seek a mentor and to be a mentor. When I got to ‘be a mentor’ time, I shared six simple principles for the art of spiritual guidance. One of our pastors jotted down some notes about it and then forwarded it to me. So here they are. Obviously this is not exhaustive by any means but it is practical and helpful. Definitely not the final word on the subject but some important ideas just the same.

1) Focus on Gods kingdom and design instead my plans for that person.
What is God’s will for this person? How has he designed them? How
can I help them down that road?

2) Keep your advice founded in the Bible. From the Book outward instead
of the opposite of that. Most of the issues with historical and contemporary spiritual guidance comes when it is divorced from the heart of God in the Word of God.

3) Founded on care and concern. Love them with the concern of Christ. Care and concern will always (with the exception of intercessory prayer) translate into time spent together. So you must figure out how to make time for that person.

4) Have a listening ear. Eugene Peterson said, “Show up an then shut up.”
Let people express their hearts. Where they are at. Do not jump in. Wait
and see where they are coming from before you put in your .02. Give
them an opportunity to express themselves. Then pick your words wisely and
choose carefully what you are going to say.

5) Be humble. The people who walk with the Lord the longest and the
closest recognize their neediness for God the most. Lead with
humility not pride. When you are addressing them, do not forget that you have a plank in your own eye!

6) Lead with the premise that you are going to reproduce yourself
spiritually
, whether good or bad. It is a great responsibility. Is our
own walk where we want it to be? People we disciple will take on many
of our characteristics. Things we do and say will show up in their
lives because we are encouraging them to walk down the road with us.

Stressed

PLAN OR DIE

Life is busy. Ministry life is even busier. Something I figured out in the first six months of being in pastoral ministry was that I was going to have to plan my week well, or die. And as my ministry load has steadily and dramatically increased over the years I’m more convinced than ever that having a “plan or die” mentality is essential to survival and effectiveness in the ministry. I’m so convinced of this that I not only plan out my schedule to the minute as much as possible every few months, but I also require all pastoral trainees at the church I lead to do the same in cooperation with their family when they start the training process. I figure it is better to learn early to plan by instruction than to figure it out through burnout and floundering ministry endeavors.

Below is a copy of one of my old daily schedules:

 

Sunday Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday
6-7AM: Morning Routine

 

7-8AM: Sermon Prep

 

8:30-2PM: Church

 

2:30- Evening: Family Time

8-9AM:

Morning Routine

 

9AM-Evening:

Family Day/Daddy Date

 

 

6-7AM: Morning Routine

 

7-7:30:

Exercise

 

7:30-8:15AM: Sermon Prep

 

8:15-6PM: Solitude

 

 

 

 

 

6-7AM: Morning Routine

 

7-7:30AM: Worship/Prayer

 

7:30-8AM: Exercise

 

8:15- 10:15: Sermon Prep/Writing

 

10:15-11:45: Admin/Systems

 

12-1PM: Lunch

 

1-6PM: Leader Follow-up

6-7AM: Morning Routine

 

7-7:30AM: Worship/Prayer

 

7:30-8AM: Exercise

 

8:15- 10:15: Sermon Prep/Writing

 

10:15-11:45: Admin/Systems

 

12-1PM: Lunch

 

1-4PM: Counseling Apps

 

4-6PM: Leadership Meeting/Fellowship

 

 

6-7AM: Morning Routine

 

7-7:30AM: Worship/Prayer

 

7:30-8AM: Exercise

 

8:15- 10:15: Sermon Prep/Writing

 

10:15-11:45: Admin/Systems

 

12-1PM: Lunch

 

1-6PM: Counseling Apps

 

7-8AM:

Morning Routine

 

8-10:

Family Time

 

10-12:

House Chores

 

12-1: Lunch

 

1-Evening:

Family Time

 

 

 

Some will look at that schedule and think I’m too loose with planning. Others will think I’m too extreme.

Here are a few benefits I’ve experienced from learning to plan my schedule this way:

 1. Stuff gets done

If I just try to swing at things “when I get around to it” I frequently find that I never really get around to it. I have to plan for the needed stuff to happen, or it won’t happen. But conversely, if most everything has a spot on the schedule, it gets done.

 2. I have more free time

That’s right, MORE free time. The counterintuitive thing I’ve learned about intensely detailed planning is that having a solid plan actually frees you instead of restricting you. The reason for this is that if I work on everything when I’m supposed to, for as long as I’m supposed to, I end up getting things done much quicker and more efficiently than I would if I did those same things when I felt I had a spare moment. For example, I have 7 hours and 45 minutes scheduled for sermon preparation time because that is an extremely important part of my job. But the reality is that it usually only takes me 2 to 4 hours to completely prepare for a sermon. So as I work diligently on my sermon during schedule times I end up getting it done, and the remaining sermon prep slots become free time to do other things. That is how detailed planning gives me more time instead of restricting me.

 3. My family is informed

The last benefit I’ll mention (though there are many more) is that planning this way blesses my family because it makes it easy for us to be on the same page day-to-day. Generally, my wife knows exactly what I’m doing and when I’m doing it if she wants. And my family knows that when dad’s working, he’s working. But they trust me with the busy times because they know I’m making scheduled times in which we invest in our family which are just for us a priority as well.

The truth is that our need/desire to plan comes from our being made in the image of God. Our God is an ordered God of planning. Jesus came to earth when “the fullness of time had come.”[1] God is not the author of confusion and chaos, but peace, rhythm, and harmony.[2] No wonder life is draining and unproductive when we approach it chaotically, without plan or intentionality. If you feel like you’re suffocating under the weight of responsibilities and lack of direction in what to do, that alarm in your mind might be the Holy Spirit exhorting you to plan or die.


[1] Gal. 4:4 NKJV

[2] 1 Cor. 14:33