not in category mode for script check
Does your vision rob you of your sleep? Quicken your pulse? Change your community and world? I want to explore what makes a vision so compelling that it is difficult to ignore or oppose.
Your vision will only burn as bright as you do. When this passion comes from deep within you, it is a conviction that people will sense and follow. A vision is something you not only see in your mind, but also burns in your heart.
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The average NFL football game lasts 3:12 hours, but the players only play 11 minutes collectively, according to the Wall Street Journal. So what do the players do during the three hours of dead time as replays and an average of 100 commercials are shown?
There is obviously a lot of loitering going on, but some of their down time is strategic. Sometimes the players and coaches need to rethink their strategy.
A Time-Out is a Strategic Play
Sometimes stopping is the most strategic ministry move you can make. A well-known and loved Bible verse explains,
“Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth” (Psalm 46:10).
The Hebrew word that is translated “still” literally means to stop fighting; to withdraw. Some translations say “cease striving.” The term paints a portrait of a surrendered life.
Stillness is a simple strategy, yet it is not easy if you have a bias toward action. We have places to go, people to see, and battles and souls to win.
The stillness that King Hezekiah was practicing was an intentional time-out. Israel’s head coach was consulting with the team’s real owner – Yahweh. He just needed some time to find out what the right game plan was.
Stillness Helps Us Listen More Intentionally
King Hezekiah was surrounded by the many voices of counsel, each with a unique plan of action – Sennacherib’s intimidating voice, Isaiah’s strong prophetic voice, the psalmist’s poetic musical voice, as well as many other friends, family and advisors. The smartest thing he did was to heed the psalmist’s advice to stop and pray.
People were looking to Hezekiah for a decision and he was looking to God for direction.
Stillness Helps Us To Strive Less Often
The historic context of Psalm 46 is that Judah (Israel’s southern region) is on the brink of war. The psalmist also calmly reminds the Judeans and their king that,
God is our refuge and strength, a helper who is always found in times of trouble. Therefore we will not be afraid (vv 1-2a).
This message was originally intended to encourage Judah’s King Hezekiah to relax in the presence of God. Leadership often involves pressure filled situations like this doesn’t it? Hezekiah was struggling with the temptation to agree to a political alliance with the neighboring pagan kings of Assyria or Egypt. He was also being pressured into reuniting with his backstabbing relatives in Samaria (2 Kings 19:14-19). The stakes were high because Hezekiah’s army was tiny by comparison to any of his neighboring enemies.
Some of you will likely be frustrated by this admonition to do nothing. Pastoral passivism is not how you roll.
I get it…really, I do. I am wired the same way.
Driven people like us do not like to be still or to wait. In fact, I’m not sure which one I like less. Waiting in line or traffic feels like wasting time to me. Stillness seems to be uniquely suited for those who are unable or unwilling to move forward.
Sometimes the Best Move is Not Moving
If this trailblazing king slipped and fell, everybody would pay for it. Instead, Hezekiah put on the brakes until he heard from God. He literally stopped (Shabbat = Sabbath = stop) and waited for God to lead him. Hezekiah ended up refusing the unholy alliances. He decided to surrender to Yahweh instead of his pagan neighbors, who would have certainly imposed a life of idolatry and slavery on them.
Sabbath-stillness may seem like a lack of progress initially, but it is a strategic lack of movement until the direction is clear.
How you practice the discipline of stillness is as unique as you are. Stillness is not necessarily lack of physical motion – like a game of freeze-tag. My best prayer times are while I’m walking, jogging or hiking. Driven leaders are multi-taskers by nature, so be creative in how you apply this to your busy life.
What restores your soul? I ask pastors and ministry leaders that question all of the time, although it applies to any busy Christian leader.
Early in my ministry I read a small book by Chuck Swindoll which introduced me to these four key spiritual disciplines: Stillness, Solitude, Silence and Surrender. Last week I started this little series by writing about solitude. Next Monday, I’ll write about the discipline of silence.
What are some ways you have personally practiced stillness?
Why is a vision so important for a pastor and a church? Vision determines your direction and prioritizes your limited time and resources.
I have learned so much over the years from Thom Rainer, Eric Geiger, and Will Mancini about vision, and much of what I write about in these next two posts I have learned from them and others. I have also picked up a few ideas from almost thirty years of pastoral experience.
Here are three essential components to casting a clear vision: http://www.lifeway.com/pastors/2015/11/19/three-components-to-casting-clear-vision/
A million books are published each year, so I want to make your ministry less overwhelming by sifting through some of them for you. Here are a few I recently recommended on LifeWayPastors.com:
Ministry in the New Marriage Culture by Jeff Iorg (B&H, 2015)
What do pastors and church leaders do now that same-sex marriage is culturally cool? Pastors need tools to help navigate their churches through the cultural chaos, and that is what this brand new book is. Pastors must be prepared to answer these difficult questions about ministering both to couples in same-sex marriages and all the people impacted by those unions.
Dr. Jeff Iorg, a seminary president and experienced pastor, has assembled some of the leading voices on a range of topics from children’s ministry to preaching to legal issues in the new marriage culture. Readers will be equipped, perhaps for the first time, with practical answers to some of these complex questions.
Growing Up by Robby Gallaty (B&H, 2015)
Jesus established a disciplship model for us by forming and leading the first discipleship group and it worked. The men who emerged from that group took the Gospel to the world and, ultimately, laid down their lives for Christ.
In Growing Up, my new pastor Robby Gallaty presents a practical, easy-to-implement system for growing in one’s faith. This guide offers a manual for making disciples who make disciples by addressing the what, why, where, and how of discipleship.
The High Definition Leader by Derwin Gray (Thomas Nelson, 2015)
Most pastors aspire to lead churches that look like the communities they are in. Pastor Derwin Gray has succeeded where many have failed or, worse, failed to try. This is not an angry rant at monochromatic congregations, rather it is a positive and practical playbook for pastors and leaders who want to build multiethnic churches in a multiethnic world.
I met Derwin this summer for the first time and immediately knew that he lived out the bridge building. Fueled by a Gospel-centric love for the beautifully diverse body of Christ, Gray speaks with a fresh voice about both racial reconciliation and interracial ministry. His ideas are grounded in theology and tested on the front lines of ecclesiology.
Unburdened: The Christian Leader’s Path to Sexual Integrity by Stephen & Alex Kendrick (B&H, 2015)
The question isn’t whether pastors and leaders struggle with sexual integrity, but how we struggle. Satan hates pastors and sexual temptation is perhaps Satan’s favorite “scheme.” I recently heard Michael Todd Wilson speak at a conference which made me want to learn more from his book. This book, like the man, is full of grace and truth. You will be blessed by his personal transparency, biblical clarity, and hopeful encouragement. If you are looking for the typical platitudes and short-cuts, read another book. If you are looking to finally turn the corner on moral and spiritual integrity – read it with a trusted friend who also wants to stay on the path to sexual integrity.