not in category mode for script check
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
Sheep will let you lead them if you first love and feed them.
This lesson is crucial for task-oriented pastors like me. This was Peter's blind spot also, which is why his post-resurrection restoration was such a pivotal moment in his life and ministry.
In Jesus' third and last interaction with His Disciples after the resurrection, they grilled out for breakfast. Then Jesus took Peter on this life-changing walk on the beach.
Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me more than these?” “Yes, Lord,” he said to Him, “You know that I love You.” “Feed My lambs,” He told him. A second time He asked him, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me?” “Yes, Lord,” he said to Him, “You know that I love You.” “Shepherd My sheep,” He told him. He asked him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me?” Peter was grieved that He asked him the third time, “Do you love Me?” He said, “Lord, You know everything! You know that I love You.” “Feed My sheep,” Jesus said. (John 21:15-17)
Peter was like most action-biased leaders I know. Charge!
Jesus leveraged Peter's biggest failure not only to restore him, but to also reset his ministry trajectory with these two simple directives.
"Feed my lambs"
Hungry sheep are never happy sheep, so make sure their souls are full from your preaching or teaching.
Soon after his restoration, Peter and his comrades would face the challenge of prioritizing their prayer and preaching ministry (Acts 6:4 ). Immediate ministry demands distracted them from their preparations which led to the spiritual and numerical stagnation of Christianity’s first church in Jerusalem.
The most effective way to prioritize preaching is to consistently start preparing your sermons early in the week. Unless you are preaching on Sunday nights, this ideally could begin on Sunday afternoon (after your nap). If you balk at studying on the sabbath, you should relax and enjoy the sabbath on another day that you are not working.
"Shepherd my sheep"
Pastor, your people are longing to be genuinely loved by you.
Yes, even those annoying members who are resisting all of your initiatives. Most church conflict is the result of slow relational erosion, not any one particular issue.
As I said in my opening sentence, your sheep will let you lead them if you first love and feed them. This morning I read this love letter Paul wrote to a local church he planted:
We cared so much for you that we were pleased to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own lives, because you had become dear to us. (1 Thessalonians 2:8)
That doesn't sound very professional, does it? Almost sappy in fact. It took a while to learn that my sheep needed me to be personal more than they needed me to be professional.
I believe gradual relationship erosion sneaks up on a lot of pastors. They are genuinely surprised when their sheep dig in their hooves in response to their vision and initiatives. Perhaps they are not so much opposed to advancing the gospel as they are opposed being pushed or shoved.
If you try to lead or feed them without loving them first, you may get bit - or worse - ignored. As Peter learned on the beach that morning, loving your sheep first is a much better pastoral plan.
photo by Cameron Kirby
by Janet Dance
Life is good right now but my heart still aches for a certain prayer request. It is very personal to me and it definitely lines up with God’s will. I pray daily but some days my prayers sound more like this, “WHY? No really, WHY? This seems so obvious, WHY?”
Reading through Nehemiah recently, I noticed his plea. In the last portion of the book Nehemiah runs through a list of all he has done for God and then states, “Remember me, my God, with favor.” (Neh 13:31b)
I can relate. I have faithfully served Him for over 40 years. I not only have attempted to follow His teachings but have served diligently to make His name known and praised. So yeah, He should remember me when he is passing out prayer answers, right? I’m not trying to be cocky, it just makes logical sense. So my prayer changes to, “I have done ____________________ and remember me, my God.”
Why should God answer my prayer?
Fast forward a few weeks to my reading in Luke. Jesus is teaching the disciples in parables. A very crude summary of the one I read goes like this:
“When your slave comes in from a long day in the field, do you thank and serve him? No! You still expect him to fix you dinner before he can eat and rest. “In the same way, when you have done all you were commanded, you should say, we are good-for-nothing slaves; we’ve only done our duty.” (Luke 17:10)
When my son was a teenager and half listening to me, he would sometimes say, “Wait, what?” In our home we started using the phrase, “Wait, what? moments.”
My “Wait, what?” moment was when I realized that my works didn’t entitle me to anything. That sort of flies against the “remember me” theory I had been clinging to. So I went back to Nehemiah and found a man who was not feeling entitled, but was desperately wanting to please the Lord. Sort of like a sweet child saying, “Watch me Daddy.”
Because He is!
There’s a big difference between, “Watch me Daddy” and “I have slaved for you in the field so you should serve me now.”
Back in the early years of our marriage and ministry, Mark and I met with his late uncle Dr. Guy Newman, who was a highly respected man in the ministry. I remember him saying to Mark, “Don’t ever expect any privileges because you are in the ministry… but when you get them, don’t ever forget to say thank you.”
I believe there is a God honoring balance of attitude between “… whatever you ask in prayer, you will receive, if you have faith” (Matthew 21:22), and what I was feeling.
The God of the universe does not owe me a thing! He does, however, love me immeasurably and has a purpose and end to my story that I cannot see.
So humbly and trustingly, I continue to pray.
Photo: Sergey Svenchnikov
I have noticed a few annoying patterns amongst our tribe that just need to stop...immediately.
I’m curious if you recognize these patterns in other pastors or yourself. Also, I would love to hear your opinion on typical pastoral patterns of behavior that need to stop.
Stop telling people how hard you work
Yeah, we already know. Saying it just makes you look insecure.
People are onto us. We need shock-collars for this one.
Stop spending more than you earn
Ask any banker who their worst credit risks are and pastors are always on their list (doctors and plumbers too). Living within our means is not rocket science, and there have never been more stewardship tools in history than today.
Stop worrying and praying about the same things
Prayer is helpful and worry is unhelpful (and sinful), so do one or the other, but stop trying to do both at the same time.
#budget #staff #attendance #kids #marriage
Stop trying to remember everything
The bad news is that your memory stinks. You are a human, not a computer, so stop trusting your memory. The more balls you drop, the less credibility you have.
The good news is that you have a computer at your fingertips right now. Let people see you write down appointments, tasks, and prayer requests.
Stop holding onto grudges
Unforgiveness is unforgivable. Stop holding your pain in and let it go before it destroys you and your ministry.
Stop doing other people's ministries
If we are not equipping people for ministry, we are robbing them of it. Pastors waste a lot of kingdom time outside of their calling and gifts.
Stop being late
Whether you are running late to a meeting at church, being late for supper at home, or finishing your sermon late, you are being disrespectful. You can only use the God-card so many times on this one, friends.
Stop saying “yes” to everybody
If everyone is a VIP to you, then no one is. Stewardship of your time and money are similar in that both are limited and both will either be budgeted or wasted. My VIPs are Jesus, Janet, kids/parents, friends, church, unchurched, and self (see Great Commandment).
Stop beating yourself up about the rest of this list
I've done all these stupid things and more many times. I won't stop trying to stop them until my funeral. We are all pastoring imperfectly and need to save some of the amazing grace we preach about for ourselves.
Photo: Kane Reinholdsten.