not in category mode for script check
Life and ministry are way too hard to do alone. Pastors and their spouses need to reject the notion that ministry is a sentence to solitary confinement.
Here are a three places I have successfully found friends with whom I am sharing my life.
IN MY COMMUNITY
When Janet and I moved to Nashville almost two years ago, we prayed for friends. A week later, God sent Greg and Erica, who I wrote about in this post: Why Multi-Racial Friendships Matter. We have a lot in common with the Mitchells, but our growing friendship drives us to look for just about any reason to hang out with them.
We also asked God for some friends with whom we could share our love for the outdoors. Janet enjoys backpacking and I love to bowhunt. Someone at LifeWay reminded me that professional hunter and television host Dr. Jimmy Sites lived near us. I had only met Jimmy once ten years ago when he spoke at our Beast Feast men’s outreach event. Within a week of that call, Jimmy and I were kayaking on the lake behind our house with our wives (that is Jimmy and me in the blog photo).
God is so good! I wonder how many of my unanswered prayers are actually just prayers that I never prayed.
I am sharing my recent friendship experiences with you to encourage you to take the initiative with God and also with people who live all around you.
IN MY CHURCH
Can pastors have friendships in the churches they serve in? Old school ministers believed that a pastor should not be friends with church members. Do not confuse friendship with favoritism or you will fall prey to this isolation trap. Your church is more than your job, they are your faith family.
I give you a new command: Love one another. Just as I have loved you, you must also love one another. By this all people will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another (John 13:34-35).
Your church certainly needs you, but you also need them. If you don't have a friend in your life, maybe you should look first in your church. But also look beyond the church into the community where you live. If not, you are missing out, or maybe worse - burning out.
WITH MY PEERS
For three decades I have made an intentional effort to have a mentor, a mentee, and a ministry peer in my life. These three relationships have become firewalls for me against isolation, loneliness, and spiritual drift. I written about how every pastor needs a mentor like Paul, a mentee like Timothy and a friend like Barnabas.
Any of these mentoring relationships can also be included into your inner friendship circle. I have a mentoring/coaching relationship with a handful of Nashville area pastors whom I genuinely consider my friends.
I hope that you will make many friends in the ministry, but please do not stop there. Additionally, pursue friendships outside of the ministry which will make your life richer. They will inadvertently make your ministry healthier too because healthy pastors lead healthy churches.
Hi, my name is Mark Dance and I am a churchoholic. Although I take partial responsibility for my addiction, it would be remiss and cowardly of me to not place most of the blame on my parents and my childhood pastor. My parents are at fault for raising me in the trifecta tradition of attending a dynamic church on Sunday mornings, evenings, and Wednesday nights. I usually enjoyed it, except when the “Wonderful World of Disney” TV program competed with Sunday evening ministries. These were the dark days before DVR or VHS. It was a small church-wound, but not enough to curb my addiction to church.
My father Ken was and still is a deacon at my hometown church in Tyler, Texas. Deacons used to wear snazzy suits when they took the offering. Deacon’s wives, like my mother Bobbie, were way too hot to take the offering, as this would have caused an unreasonable distraction. As an impressionable child, I seriously considered becoming a deacon when I grew up until I realized they weren’t the ones who were spending the money – they were simply collecting and counting it. Boring.
The real action was in the pastorate. My pastor Paul Powell not only wore fancy suits, he always rocked a pocket-square that distinguished him from those boring deacons who never got to spend any of God’s money.
I was a full-blown, out-of-control churchoholic by age sixteen, so I boldly made my intentions clear to Green Acres Baptist Church and have not turned back thirty-three years since. By the way, My Dad and other rogue deacons however, have backslidden to golf shirts, while my mother now wears pants to church. If she starts wearing jeans, I’m going to initiate an intervention.
Since my computer didn’t recognize the term churchoholic, it vainly attempted to change it to the ignoble addiction of a chocoholic (def: a person who is excessively fond of chocolate). If you love the church, but suspect that your love has grown into an unhealthy obsession, consider getting help soon. Here are seven symptoms to love for that will help you to confirm and confront your addiction:
1. You are reading this blog and watching TV at the same time. 2. The show you are watching is ripe with sermon/lesson material. 3. Your wife changed into lingerie during the commercials and you didn’t notice because you were returning “urgent” emails or texts. 4. You are excessively using cheesy church talk outside of church premises. 5. You take it personally when someone doesn’t say, “All the time” when you say, “God is good.” 6. You hear yourself alliterating words in normal conversations. 7. Even if you don’t have seven points, you are reluctant to end with #6 because there are negative spiritual overtones to that number.
Full-blown churchoholics are no doubt anxiously curious by now as to what the real point of this satirical blog is. I actually have three points (you know why):
1. THANK THOSE WHO INFLUENCED YOUR CALL TO THE MINISTRY
I give thanks to my God for every remembrance of you, always praying with joy for all of you in my every prayer, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now. Philippians 1:3-5 HCSB
2. ENCOURAGE YOUNG PEOPLE WHO SHOW AN INTEREST IN MINISTRY
What you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, commit to faithful men who will be able to teach others also. 2 Timothy 2:2 HCSB
3. GIVE YOURSELF PERMISSION TO LAUGH AT YOURSELF AND OTHERS
Our mouths were filled with laughter then, and our tongues with shouts of joy. Then they said among the nations, The LORD has done great things for them. Psalms 126:2 HCSB
I have a problem with overcommitment. I used to say “yes” to almost every ministry opportunity that came my way for these reasons:
I love God and want to use the gifts he gave me.
I love his bride and enjoy helping her leaders thrive.
I need to be needed and thrive on appreciation.
That last one was hard to write. I would prefer to have only godly motives to blame for my ministry addiction. I’ve used the “God card” more than a few times to justify the hole I’ve dug for myself.
What should you do when someone asks you to commit to an ongoing ministry opportunity? Here are a few ideas that I hope will be helpful.
Make Easy Decisions Quickly
Some decisions are easy and obvious. If the Dallas Cowboys ask me to play quarterback, I’m not going to pray or think about it. The answer is “no” because I am too old and don’t want ginormous men squashing me on TV. If the Cowboys ask me to be the holder for field goal kicker Dan Bailey, I’m going to enthusiastically say “yes” because nobody ever tackles the holder. And I happen to be a free agent.
You don’t have to pray about every decision you make. A simple “yes” or “no” right on the spot is appropriate when the requests are obvious and minor, like making a phone call or hospital visit.
Wait Until You Hear From God
It would be difficult to refuse to even pray about a legitimate ministry opportunity, so this morning I found myself doing just that.
My Discipleship Group is reading through the Gospel of Mark as part of the Disciples Path/Journey. I read today that Jesus prayed very early in the morning...in a deserted place. The disciples and crowds started looking for him because they wanted more teaching and healing. Jesus told them he was ready to move on to the neighboring villages so that that he could preach there too. This is why I have come (Mark 1:38).
Instead of saying “yes” to those crowds, Jesus said “yes” to his Father’s leading to go to other villages in Galilee. Wait and listen in silence for his voice until it is louder than the crowds, because they will always want one more thing.
Seek Counsel From People Who Love You
I can’t say that I pray with equal intensity about every request I get to speak, write, or host an event. I do run them by Jesus and Janet before I say “yes” to them, however, which is a relatively new development for me.
When I first came to LifeWay, I resumed my pattern of overcommitting until I became overwhelmed. At first I simply informed my wife and supervisor on what I was doing. Eventually I wised up and started asking for their input before I committed.
Who can you consult about your schedule who has your best interests in mind?
Make Shorter Term Commitments
Sometimes there is an opportunity to modify a ministry request. Instead of a simple yes or no, perhaps there is a flexible alternative. Short term commitments may lead to longer term opportunities, but they also may provide a soft exit when things don’t work out as expected.
Take control of your life by taking control of your schedule. If Jesus can say “no” to one ministry opportunity in order to say “yes” to another, why can’t we? The key is to listen to the Lord as well as those he chooses to speak through.
This post originally appeared on LifeWayPastors.com
Each weekend, around 400,000 churches in the U.S. celebrate our risen Lord. I hate to say it, but every party has at least one party-pooper. Seems like somebody is gonna have a cow each Sunday in your church. Hopefully not you.
The resurrection of Lazarus was cause for celebration, so his sisters threw a party in Jesus’ honor. Revisit John 12 with me and see who you identify with most at this party.
Laid Back Lazarus
It had been a crazy week for Lazarus. He spent the first half in a tomb. He spent the second half celebrating his resurrection. It was the best and worst week of his life!
Lazarus was a party-pooper because he seemed to have gotten the idea that he was the guest of honor at this party. He was reclining while his sister Martha was serving and sister Mary was worshiping.
Some of your church members come to church to worship, others come to serve, and most are likely doing neither.
When a church I pastored was building a new worship center, a wealthy member suggested to me that we have cup holders in our seats. I assumed he was joking, until it became awkwardly obvious that he was not.
By far, most who come to our churches are expecting to be fed. Their laid- back-like-Lazarus attitude reflects their consumer mentality. Allow God to replace your entitlement mentality with one of appreciation.
Mad Dash Martha
I see myself in Martha. A lot.
Like most ministers, I show up to serve, which is good. Yet, like Martha, I get easily distracted by all of the preparations that have to be made and become “worried and upset.”
Hard work is commended in Scripture, but Martha was too busy to worship. She lost her focus and her joy. Luke gives us a lowdown on how Mary and Martha were getting along (Luke 10:38–42). Like a lot of sisters, they weren’t.
Do you ever bite off more than you can chew and lose your joy? Perhaps you are inadvertently robbing others of their joy as well by huffing and puffing around the church. If you are like Mad Dash Martha, those around you are waiting for you to explode or implode. Your good work ethic is commendable, but it does not excuse you from redirecting the focus off of the Guest of Honor.
Serve the Lord with gladness; come before Him with joy and songs (Ps. 100:2).
Sisters Mary and Martha prepared a feast for Jesus and his disciples. While Mary was worshiping, Martha was working, which brought tension into the house.
Martha was distracted by her many tasks...worried and upset about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary made the right choice. (Luke 10:38-42)
Before you judge Martha too harshly, know that without task oriented people like her, nothing would ever get done. She was a list person, which is how God wired her, and perhaps you. Martha was the first to “welcome Jesus” - she just got distracted.
For people wired like Martha, Sundays can be a blast or a burden - both for us and for those around us. Are you distracted right now? How can we make sure our work for God is not overshadowing our walk with God?
This third party-pooper famously “objected” to the apparent wastefulness of Mary’s gift. Judas was not rebuked by Jesus for being financially frugal, because that was his responsibility. He reasoned that pouring a year’s wages on someone’s feet was wasteful and irresponsible. He even feigned concern about helping the poor.
Nobody bought it. Everyone would know within the week that Judas was a thief and a traitor; caring less for the poor, his friends, or Jesus.
Judgmental members are party-poopers who enjoy criticizing other people and their ministries. They would assume this post is for other members or staff.
Therefore stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in the way of a brother or sister (Rom. 14:13).
Mary was different. She anointed Jesus with expensive ointment worth about 3 years’ wages (John 12). Messy Mary worshiped extravagantly by pouring out most of her inheritance on the feet of Jesus, as well as on the floor around Him and her hair.
Mary was no party-pooper. She focused on the resurrection and the life, and didn’t care much about what others thought about her extravagant gift.
When was the last time you worshipped publicly with abandon? Genuine love is sometimes expressed in raw, spontaneous, and even undignified ways. Church can get messy when it turns into a resurrection party.
David was dancing before the Lord with all his might (2 Sam. 6:14).
What we do at church is not nearly as important as how and why we do it. Are you a party-pooper at your church? If so, prayerfully consider the Guest of Honor before you show up this Sunday.
When my childhood pastor Paul W. Powell went to heaven just after Christmas, he left a few things behind for his family, friends, and preacher-boys. I am one of those boys, and have learned many things from Dr. Powell in the last 45 years. Here are the five lessons I shared at his graveside service.
1. Laugh often, especially at yourself
Laughter is often a welcome break to the intensity of preaching, especially at weddings and funerals. Paul was good at witty quotes and jokes. I have a more dry, sardonic sense of humor - which often backfires on me!
Regardless of your style, don’t forget to smile. People have had a hard enough week between Sundays.
2. Sermons can be simple without being shallow
One of the reasons Paul’s preaching style was compelling was that he preached like a Texan, not a scary revivalist or a cheesy televangelist. Texans shoot straight and probably have more swagger than we should.
Paul was more concerned with being clear than being clever. He wanted them to bring their Bible to church, not their dictionary. I learned that a preacher doesn’t have to be murky to be deep.
3. Friendships trump politics
Paul’s leadership path led him into some Baptist battle zones. Friendships were tested, including our own. As a younger pastor, I grew bored with Baptist politics, which somewhat confused Paul and some of my friends. Paul and I both eventually realized that God had been preparing me to pastor pastors across denominational lines later in my ministry, which is what I am doing now.
Paul never left me wondering if he loved me or was proud of me.
4. Pastors need grace at church and at home
Pastoring is the only profession that requires people to win both at home and work. Pastors need grace for both assignments...as do their families. Paul’s daughter Lori and I literally grew up together since we were six years old. Our parents and brothers have been very close friends since 1971, so our families have walked through most of life’s seasons and challenges together.
Green Acres Baptist Church in Tyler, TX has always been a grace-zone for pastors and members alike. The glass house the Powells lived in helped me later as a pastor to save some of the grace I preached about for myself, my family and my ministry.
5. Paul’s legacy was in what he helped others do
Some are remembered for what they accomplished in life. Paul’s legacy is more about what he helped others to accomplish. He was an unselfish pastor to many members and pastors like me. Paul helped pastors prepare for retirement as CEO of Guidestone Resources, then helped future pastors prepare for ministry as the dean of Baylor’s Truett Seminary.
His legacy is alive and well and lives on through me and many more of his preacher boys around the world.
Paul Powell’s last book
Paul published over fifty books, three of which were collections of his funeral sermons. Since those are all out of print, he suggested we write one together with twelve of his sermons and three of mine. This book was published two weeks after his funeral. Shepherding in the Shadow of Death: 15 Funeral Sermons For Busy Pastors is available at LifeWay.com or through your local LifeWay store. We donated our royalties to allow me to give away as many as possible to young pastors and seminarians.
Paul’s favorite funeral sermons are in this book, but his life was the best funeral sermon he ever preached.
Photo below: Some of Paul's preacher boys immediately after his funeral.
You have probably heard the rumor that LifeWay has updated the Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB). Last year this may have been the worst kept secret amongst our evangelical friends.
After preaching from the HCSB for a decade and reading this refreshed CSB daily for several weeks, I am very excited to introduce the Christian Standard Bible (CSB).
I genuinely love the changes! You might assume that I get a raise or an angel gets its wings every time I say that, but some angels don’t have wings, so that is off the table.
LifeWay’s B&H team did more than knock off a whole letter/word from the HSCB (thank you for that), but updated this translation to improve on its balance of faithfulness and clarity. They have delivered big time on making it more readable, which will also make it more preachable. I have always loved the accuracy of the HCSB, but sometimes the language was a bit...awkward. They also sought to enhance the shareability of the HCSB to new Christians or those reading the Bible for the first time.
Another change I really like is how some of the conventional wording we have become familiar with is honored in the CSB. A good example is 2 Timothy 4:2:
Proclaim the message; persist in it whether convenient or not. (HCSB)
Preach the word; be ready in season and out of season. (CSB)
So, is the CSB really trustworthy and easy to understand? Don’t take my word for it; see for yourself by reading the online version right now. Pastors and ministry leaders can request a review copy here. And, of course, we have a FAQ page because, well, it is just the right thing to do.
Our goal for the CSB is simply this: to grow the number of people reading God’s Word and serve the Church in her mission to make disciples. Pastors, I want to personally ask you to give a serious look at this CSB and prayerfully consider preaching from it. I know first hand that sheep follow shepherds. Some will follow immediately, some will follow slowly, and some will never even think about following you (being realistic).
I realize that your calling is to preach the Word, not promote it. Is it fair to say that whenever we read or preach from a translation, we are basically endorsing it? Thank you for letting LifeWay serve you as you serve the beautiful bride of Christ. I’m praying that this secret will keep getting out.
Today’s encouraging post is by my wife Janet Dance, who has an encouraging word for pastor’s wives about responding to the inevitable challenges of ministry. You can also see a summary of this post on Janet's 3 minute Facebook Live video.
“Sheep bite”, a young pastor’s wife told me once. Not only do sheep bite but this shepherding thing is hard work! It takes a lot of our time, our energy, and unlike most other professions, it takes our hearts. The ministry has great potential for hurt or discouragement.
Unrealistic expectations of the ministry can lead to resentment.
We may have an idealistic view that church people will always act lovingly towards us, that we can completely control our schedules, that our husbands should be perfect, or that they will get a raise every year. (wink wink)
Some of the questions we get from pastors and their wives at Pastor Date Night come from obvious pain. Questions like, “How do I face those people who hurt my husband?”, “What do I do when my kids are bullied from other church kids?” Last week I got emotional when a wife asked if she was wrong to feel abandoned by her husband when he spends all of his time with his ministry.
Ministry is hard work but scripture encourages us that “…it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil.” (1 Peter 3:17)
Life in the ministry is not always rosy and if we expect it to be, we will be very disappointed. If we are not careful, resentment can creep in; resentment towards our husbands, our church, the ministry or even God. A seed of resentment can become a dangerous aggressive cancer. “Watch over your heart with all diligence, for from it flows the springs of life.” (Proverbs 4:23) And since “… the things that come out of the mouth come from the heart.” (Matthew 15: 18a) we can become part of the problem.
Some of us may need to mourn the loss of an ideal.
I’m not saying just willfully accept everything that comes your way sacrificing your personal needs, your family, or personal ministry. I am saying accept the fact that there will be challenges. Pray and discuss them with your husband and try to prepare for them as best you can; have a plan, but don’t put unrealistic expectations on your husband or the ministry.
Count your many blessings, not just your challenges.
When our son, Bradley was in high school he received a letter from the church and a $100 bill. All the letter said was, “I just want to say thank you for sharing your parents with Second Baptist Church.” What other profession would send the son $100 and say “thank you”? There’s a lot that is hard about ministry, but there are a whole lot of blessings as well, and if not from the members, then from God.
If we are not careful resentment can creep in and rob us of joy, our ministry and our influence on a lost world. Accept the reality that ministry is going to be hard at times. Guard your heart when it does, and try to focus on the blessings of ministry more than the challenges.
Photo: Sam Carter