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Pastoral Discouragement

The Eighth Deadly Sin: Discouragement
by James L. Wilson
How will I respond when my failures seem to outnumber my successes?

______________________

I don’t know if it was passing the big 4-0 mark or knowing that my public ministry was half over. Whichever it was, I found myself wading into retrospection. Am I making a difference? How am I doing at reaching my goals and fulfilling my dreams?

I pushed the keyboard aside, propped my feet on the desk, and began taking inventory. I made a mental checklist, noting accomplishments on one side and failures on the other side. Does God really care about this stuff? Rebuking myself, I sat upright and got back to work.

Try as I might, I couldn’t shake the questions, so I decided to turn to my “brain trust” for counsel. Once a month, three retired ministers who are now members of my congregation meet with me to discuss ministry in general and our church in particular. I call them “the brain trust” because all three have earned doctorates.

I put two questions on the agenda: What are your greatest accomplishments? and What are your biggest regrets in ministry?

When the two older ministers spoke, I could tell they’d made peace with both sides of their ledgers long ago. Not so with Fenton, who is freshly retired.

Fenton sold insurance until age 37, then he stopped, went to seminary, and launched Tarzana Baptist Chapel three years later with five people.

“I expected it to grow to a church of 300 or 400 in a couple of years,” Fenton said. He planned to use his church to build a network of satellite churches throughout the Los Angeles Basin.

It didn’t turn out that way.

Tarzana Baptist Chapel constituted as a church five years later with 135 members. It never grew any larger; today is has fewer than 25 members.

“I once complained that we’d done all the church growth stuff, but the church wasn’t as big as it ought to be,” Fenton said. “God reminded me that he never promised me a big church.”

But Fenton had promised himself one.

With a doctorate in church growth, Fenton knew the principles, and he applied them. But the church wasn’t growing. Why?

He’d always thought that if a guy couldn’t grow a church he was “either incompetent or carnal.” Fenton didn’t want to consider himself either.

The work was tough. Tarzana Church seemed unable to close the back door. Fenton felt he had to reach three new members to net an increase of one.

Some, like John, left to attend one of the large churches in the area. Fenton had poured hours into John, an aspiring movie director from Australia, and brought him to faith in Christ. Just when Fenton was seeing fruit in John’s life, the director left Tarzana to go to a church with a drama program and a theater.

The cycle repeated itself, Fenton said. “I’d do all the hard work of cultivating, witnessing, and baptizing the converts only to lose them to the great choirs, youth groups, and drama programs of larger churches.

“It was frustrating.” Fenton had a faraway look as he told the story.

Looking for success in all the wrong places
If Fenton didn’t lose converts to a church down the road, the transient nature of Los Angeles claimed them. One year 51 of the church’s 110 members moved away.

That year, Fenton crashed.

“It was almost like a death,” Fenton said. “The church was never the same again.” As hard as that year was, he hadn’t hit bottom yet.

The elder pastor told how Judy, a nurse, was addicted to prescription drugs, cocaine, and heroin. Then she came to Christ, and God delivered Judy from her addictions almost the instant he saved her. Fenton baptized Judy, and she was doing well.

Then it happened.

Fenton lost track of her. She simply disappeared. His efforts to contact her were futile. “I still don’t know whether she’s dead or alive,” Fenton said.

Judy’s memory still haunts him. “I should have spotted this,” he said. “I should have been more cautious and warned her about the danger of a relapse. I should have paid more attention to her.”

Fenton was a gifted evangelist, but a struggling shepherd. Because of these apparent failures, he began losing sight of the value of his life and his work. Fenton despaired that his church would ever grow. He grew depressed. Eventually, he resigned.

“For Tarzana to grow it needs a new vision,” he told the congregation. “I’ve pleaded with God and prayed, and that’s all I’ve heard from him. Someone else will have to lead you to the place you should go.”

Fenton left the church he founded to become a full-time missionary to the Jewish population of the area. He had a heart to win Jews to Christ. His plan was to focus on personal evangelism and to awaken churches to the needs of the Jews. However, he had a hard time motivating pastors to follow up on the Jews he introduced to the Messiah, and his speaking engagements at churches were too few to make a lasting impact.

The night of my meeting with the brain trust, Fenton stopped short of saying he regretted going into the ministry, but he gave the strong impression that he had mixed emotions about whether he had fulfilled his calling. We didn’t talk about it again for months, and I continued to ponder the questions that drove Fenton from the pastorate: Am I fulfilling my calling? How can I know I’m making a difference when the evidence is scant?

And if I don’t find answers to these questions—answers I can live with—will I surrender to despair? Or more accurately, despond?

Despond is that sense of uselessness that says, “I’m not accomplishing what I was called to.” Despond questions one’s purpose when confirmation is in short supply. Despond looks at the clock, and wonders if the time allotted for this portion of the test has run out, and deep down hopes it has, because a passing grade seems so unlikely. Despond despairs, grows cynical, sighs, resigns.

Footsteps worth following
We were returning home from a church growth conference. Fenton was driving. Chaplain Scott Sterling, one of Fenton’s converts who went into the ministry, rode shotgun, and I relaxed in the back seat, eavesdropping. For thirty minutes or so, they discussed the “good old days” at Tarzana and some of the people who surrendered their lives to the ministry—nearly a dozen.

I couldn’t believe it.

I interrupted their conversation. “Fenton, do you remember our brain trust meeting a couple of months ago where you talked about your regrets in ministry?”

“Sure,” Fenton said, “what about it?”

“Let me get this right. You pastored a church for ten years that produced a dozen ministers like Scott here, and you question your effectiveness as a pastor?”

It got quiet.

“In my opinion,” I continued, “you’ve had a wonderful, world-changing ministry. As your pastor, I want to bless you for the work you’ve done and release you from the guilt you carry because you never built a large church.”

Despond had blinded Fenton to his ultimate value as a servant in the hands God, used not to build large churches, but to build a missionary force of purposeful believers.

That night, I decided that I would fight the temptation to worry about my goals, accomplishments, failures and shortcomings. I left that conversation encouraged that my successes may not look like I expected. The lasting accomplishments may not match the criteria I’ve been looking at. If God called me, He will use me to do things he planned that I did not. Whether I fulfill my dreams or not, I can only pray that I will be faithful.

Like Fenton was.

James L. Wilson is the pastor of Lighthouse Baptist Church in Seaside, California and the online editor at http://www.FreshMinistry.org.

2001 by the author or Christianity Today International/Leadership Journal.
Spring 2001, Vol. XXII, No. 2, Page 45

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Filed under Church Leadership, Encouragement, Pastor & Church Relationship, Pastoring

P.A.M. (Pastor Appreciation Month)

(This was written in October 2007)

Some time in the not so distant past, someone came up with the idea of a pastor’s appreciation month (P.A.M.). October became the designated month. It’s a good idea; yet it’s sad that we would have to come up with such specific event and time. But that’s the nature of our American culture; and I’d rather have P.A.M. than not.

Some churches don’t observe P.A.M. I’ve had the opportunity to ask the leadership of a few of these churches why that is. Their reasons vary. Here’s a short list of what they’ve said:
· “The pastor knows he’s appreciated.” (Oh? Does he now? Have you asked? Have you been demonstrable in showing appreciation for him?)
· “We show appreciation throughout the year.” (Well, that’s even better and I hope that is true).
· “We made a big deal when he first arrived.” (That reminds me of the husband who explained why he never tells his wife he loved her is because he had told her on their wedding day, and he would let her know if there was any change).
· “We don’t go for anniversaries like that.” (Implying it’s too unspiritual or unbiblical. I’ll wager a dollar they celebrate birthdays).
· “It would only spoil the pastor. We don’t want to contribute to his pride.” (That’s old school thinking; you know – keep the pastor humble and poor. But that’s such a ginormous pile of fufu dung! Thank God the Lord doesn’t treat us that way).
· “The Bible doesn’t tell us we have to do that.” (Uhhh…pardon me, Pharisee, but would you please slither back down that hole with the rest of your brood while I go vomit?)
· “Our pastor is not worth appreciating.” (Maybe that is the case. If he is not worthy of honor, then what is he doing in your church? If it’s a matter of your personal dislike, then someone needs a major attitude adjustment).

P.A.M. was created out of an apparent need. Contrary to popular opinion, pastors are people too. They need “attaboys” and “thank yous” and “we love yous” just like other people do. I appreciate our church’s appreciation for me as pastor. It’s an uplift. It contributes to a sense of satisfaction and joy. And, it’s biblical! Of course the Bible doesn’t have an explicit chapter or verse about appreciating your pastor. There isn’t the eleventh commandment, “Thou shalt appreciate your pastor.” But there are commands to love others, to respect, honor and highly esteem your elder(s). In fact, Hebrews 13:17 tells you that you should bring joy to your pastor, and tells you how you can make your pastor’s work a joy. It says he should be enjoying the ministry and not groaning because of it, and for your benefit!

Paul is such a great example of how a church leader shows appreciation for the church he serves. Paul not only showed them by giving his all, and sacrificing his life for them – he told them. He sent them love letters. Romans, Corinthians , Ephesians, Philippians and Colossians are reservoirs of the love of Christ that cascades down through Paul and into the hearts of men, women, boys and girls. Paul thanked them for their demonstrations of love and appreciation for him. It’s a rather lengthy catalog when you read through those letters: they provided for him, prayed for him, healed his wounds, gave him hospitality, listened to him, obeyed him, communicated their affection for him, supported others when he asked them to, treated him with respect, visited him when he was jailed, suffered with him when abused and persecuted, and more.

Notice something here: they didn’t do these loving things only during a special month. They practiced pastor appreciation moments. Or, you could say, they practiced a good kind of S.P.A.M (Spontaneous Pastor Appreciation Moments)!  The church I serve does that. Oh sure, they surprised me last October with a special P.A.M. event. But that was more like the topping on the proverbial pie. These folks are SPAMmers (of the good kind). This elder will tell me he appreciates what I’m doing. That lady sent me a thank you card for my service. A young lady sent me a birthday card. Another elder prays out loud and praises God for me and my family. The music leader often asks how I’m doing or gives me a big hug from time to time. Deacons have told me they’re grateful I’m here. One man signs his short info emails with “Love, _____”! An elderly man tells me often that he’s glad I’m his pastor. Women express thanks for how I am with children or for the sermons. Children of all ages will converse with me; some will even hug me or give a kiss or two. Couples have us over for supper. And on it goes.

I commend them for being an example of biblical love. They know how to appreciate their pastor. I wish I could package it up and send it off to churches where pastors need the same. These dear folks don’t show appreciation merely because it’s a P.A.M. thing or because they have this duty-bound compulsion to do so. They didn’t stop after their first display of appreciation when my family and I arrived, showering us with baskets of essentials, food and treasures. The obvious displays of genuine affection continue.

You know what else? They are not spoiling me. In fact, if anything their S.P.A.M. is humbling! Over the years I’ve been around too many who thought it was their God-ordained mission to humble me. What they did wasn’t humbling. It was humiliating. And unkind, unloving, unbiblical and un-anything-good. Like Paul, I thank my God in my every remembrance of the people he has placed me with now. Their methods of appreciation are so much like Jesus – gracious, merciful, gentle, and kind. I don’t deserve any of it, but like Christ they show mercy and grace. And that’s humbling.

If you’re involved in a local church, take a cue from Scripture and from the example of this church body (Cornerstone Community). Make a conscious effort at showing spontaneous moments of appreciation for your pastor(s). And if your church doesn’t have a special anniversary to formally appreciate your pastor(s), then start one. It will make a big difference in his life, and more than that, you and your church will reap the residual blessings!

D. Thomas Owsley

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My Expectations of Church Members

It is rare that a week goes by where, as a pastor, I have not failed, disappointed or offended someone within the church. I know because people feel the freedom and apparent need to tell me.  That can be discouraging. In fact, I’ve observed that there is a corresponding corollary between the frequency of failing, disappointing and offending, and the level of discouragement on my part.

In those more sobering and clear-headed moments, I am able to evaluate what was said to me about those failures, disappointments and offenses against what Scripture says. On the one hand, it is a constant reminder of my sinfulness, weakness and inadequacy. On the other hand, it is a commentary on the nature of people’s expectations of me as a pastor. Merely evaluating the comments or criticisms over the past several weeks, it has been quite obvious that most of those failures, disappointments or offenses were not against God but against members’ expectations.

That got me thinking. What if I, as a pastor, took the liberty to assess church members based upon my personal expectations of what I want from them?  Granted, all pastors do that to some degree; but I am not talking about all pastors.  I‘m talking about what I want! I am talking about taking the same liberty that so many church members (and deacons and elders) do:  judge others within the local church according to their own personal standards.

So, allow me to expose my selfish desires for what I want, expect, demand(?) of all church members within any church in which I serve. Here’s the shortlist:

1. For every member and regular attendee to be at every event I am at.

2. To be faithful to every Bible study or class I teach.

3. To be early to Bible study, Sunday school and worship.

4. To be attentive to everything I say and teach.

5. To learn more from me than from any other teacher or pastor.

6.To give undivided attention to every sermon I preach (never be bored, never fall asleep, never miss a sermon).

7. To never compare me with any other pastor or preacher, unless it’s in a positive way.

8. To idolize me more than all of their current idols and superpreachers.

9. To have each person or family invite me and my family for supper at least once a month.

10. To do what I ask them to do and go where I ask them to go.

11. To anticipate in advance when I will get sick or enter the hospital, and attend to me accordingly.

12. To always pray for me.

13. To adore my wife.

14. To think my children are perfect and wonderful.

15. To never correct me, scold me, rebuke me or say anything negative to me.

16. To read every article, blog or book I write, and like them.

17. To speak glowingly to everyone they know about how wonderful I am.

18. To bring people to my church every week in order to make the church grow in a way that will break all records (so that I too can be featured in Christian magazines and go on speaking tours).

19. To not expect me to live up to what the Bible says a Christian should be.

20. And certainly not expect me to live up to what the Bible says a pastor should be and do (that’s just too unreasonable).

21. To always be available when I call.

22. To always be home when I come to your house.

23. To like the same personal tastes and preferences I like.

24. To enjoy the same games and sports as I.

25. To like the same music that I do, especially in church services and events.

26. To dress according to my preferences and standards.

27. To always be pleasant and kind to me.

28. To tell me how much you like what I do or say (I would be angry at you if you don’t).

29. To never have any expectations of me (such as having to be at every class, Bible study, church activities, or worship service because I do have other things I want to do, you know?)

30. To visit with me when I feel like you need to (and you should have the foresight and intuition to know when that is).

31. To always send me birthday cards (gifts would be awesome).

32. To read the same books, magazines and journals that I do so we can discuss them at my pleasure.

33. To make sure everyone else in the church is doing what they need to do in order to make me happy. If they don’t, then I will threaten to leave.

34. To fulfill this list and anything else I can think of.

35. And never to think I‘m ever being selfish expecting these things!

Because, as we know, church is about my kingdom coming and my will being done; for mine is the kingdom and the power, and I want the glory, forever and ever…

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Pastoring is Hard (and that’s an understatement)!

My Advice to Young Pastors  

Written by Timothy Hammons

The church is hard and if you are going there for any other reason than the fact that He calls you there, you will be beat up and disappointed. In fact, you are going to get beat up if He has called you there, but the difference is the status of your heart as He tends to you through the fires of the ministry. If He hasn’t called you there… don’t go.

Go straight to selling insurance and save yourself and your wife the grief of being a pastor in the church. Since so many of us end up selling insurance, you are getting a jump on all the other seminary grads in your class and you will be much happier in the long run.

But given that you are “called by God,” I guess I should offer some serious advice. The above was an attempt at humor. Maybe you will get it after being the ministry for ten or so years. Not that all young pastors will have tough ministries. I seem to know quite a few who are doing quite well in the ministry. They love it. Things are going well. But given the odds, only a few of those who graduate from seminary will have the big prosperous ministries whereas the rest of us just get to wonder what that is like.

Most of us fall in the middle lines of small churches. We struggle to make ends meet. The ministry is hard on our marriages and families. We see the ugly under belly of the church far more often than we see the fruit of our ministry as so many pastors claim they see. We strive to be faithful to our callings but its hard when members of the church are telling us the body would be much better off without us.

We pray to the Lord that blessings would flow in our ministries, but the blessings are few and far between and after a while, we start praying that the Lord would open the door for us to support our families in some other calling. We long for the moment that we can tell the disgruntled member to stick it. Not that we actually would say anything of the sort. Fortunately, we have the Lord’s Spirit dwelling in us that keeps us from following the flesh when we would like to.

We remember deep down that those disgruntled members belong to Christ as well. We wonder why God would bother with such wretched men and women of the church and His Spirit answers those questions on a regular basis in our own hearts. So we keep silent where the flesh screams for vengeance and follow the Spirit instead.

We strive to be faithful, preaching God’s word week in and week out, more often, knowing that with each sermon the Spirit of God is going to work on us far more than it works on the congregation. It takes it’s toll. We come down out of the pulpit, after being used by God, and no matter how hard we try, we cannot find a rock big enough to crawl under. We want nothing to do with the sermon we labored so hard to craft, nothing to do with the truth that scorched us so badly. Even when its a great sermon, we are spent and done for the day and hope for nothing more than sleep so we can recover just like Elijah after God used him to defeat the prophets of Baal. The congregation never sees the spiritual battle that took place in the pulpit, and before that, in the study, and most importantly, in our hearts. It leaves us like Elijah, saying “It is enough! Now, Lord, take my life, for I am no better than my fathers!”

“The ministry is hard,” is what one fellow pastor told me. That was an understatement. It makes sense of the statements by those grey-haired professors in seminary who use to say, “if you can go do anything else besides ministry, then do so.” Now that I have grey hair, I echo their sentiments. But then there is that call of God.

If the ministry was just another career choice, then it could be easy to walk away from. I know how to walk away from other careers. I’ve been a disc jockey in radio, in the military, a journalist, and a host of other small careers mixed in to fill in the gaps. I walked and God opened the door for me to do so. But He hasn’t since I entered the ministry some sixteen years ago. I’ve asked Him at times, “Lord, if there is something else I can do…“

The irony is that I’m highly qualified in certain skill sets that look good in certain circles of the work force, just as I’m qualified as a pastor. The problem: just like there are 200 pastors for every pulpit in my denomination, there are plenty of people jumping to fill in those circles where I’m gifted.

By God’s grace, He has kept me in the ministry. He hasn’t opened any doors and even though I feel spent, used up, empty, broken, sad, disappointed… I know the hand behind that calling. While the church can be hard, faithless, mean, unforgiving, lonely, and filled with a host of other maladies, the ONE behind the church is not. He is faithful, and loving, and kind, and gentle and merciful. He holds me up when I don’t have the strength to do so. He speaks through me when I have no desire to speak. He keeps me moving forward and helps me be faithful in this calling of His. When I enter that pulpit, that place of His calling, He comes and stands with me. He leads me on and gives me the words to speak that I don’t want to utter. He encourages me and carries me along. That is the blessing of my week. Through all the struggles and difficulties, He stands with me. That is what keeps me going.

So what is my advice to young pastors? Sell insurance. Otherwise, make sure that you are walking with Him and more importantly, that He is leading you where go. The church is a hard place.

I used to get mad when I would come across people who had been hurt inside the church, left to depart and never to return. I don’t get mad anymore. I understand. The church is hard and if you are going there for any other reason than the fact that He calls you there, you will be beat up and disappointed. In fact, you are going to get beat up if He has called you there, but the difference is the status of your heart as He tends to you through the fires of the ministry. If He hasn’t called you there… don’t go. Go where He calls you, because it is that calling that will keep you there striving to be faithful when the sheep have bitten you for the umpteenth time.

Trust Him and look to Him. In Him you will find your joy. If you look for joy in your church, you will only be disappointed. Remember, our Lord and God is Jesus Christ, not St. First Church of the Spiritually Dead. To look to the church for any level of satisfaction, especially as it’s undershepherd, is breaking the First Commandment. You must look to Him and Him alone for all that you need, otherwise the bruises will mount up over time and drive you from your pulpit.

In remembering these truths… we can enter back into the pulpit as we are called to do, to say the things the world despises but the Lord loves. When we look to Him for our guidance, we truly do mount with wings of eagles, staying strong and not growing faint because He is the One that maintains us. To enter the pulpit in any other fashion will lead to disillusion. But with Him, there is the strength we need to proclaim what men most despise. That is my advice to young pastors. Do not enter the ministry on your own strength and zeal, but on His. Otherwise, sell insurance.

Teaching Elder Timothy Hammons is a minister in the Presbyterian Church in America and is serving as interim pastor of Grace PCA in Jackson, Tenn. This is from his blog (http://timothyjhammons.com/) and is used with permission.

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Reforming Pastoral Ministry: Challenges for Ministry in Postmodern Times

Below are selected quotes from a book, edited by John Armstrong, that I would recommend to fellow pastors and church leaders.

Here are the excerpts:
To put it briefly, this book is written to help us return to those truths that made the church great.
“For they refreshed my spirit and yours also. Such men deserve recognition” (1 Cor.16:18).

While affirming the Bible’s authority, large numbers of pastors now use it ever so lightly (inconsequentially) in preaching popular sermons aimed at restoring the emotional and spiritual health of their flocks. They counsel with profound dependence upon the newest fads and popular psychological books while they lead with the sharpest managerial techniques of the most successful corporations of our age.
The focus of the Bible is not upon plans for successful living. It is not upon the family. It is not on growing large and successful churches. It is not about dealing with codependency or self-esteem. And it is certainly not about political concerns the church must address prior to every national election. From Genesis to Revelation the Bible is about Christ.
The revival of Christian experience (if it really is Christian at all) without the recovery of Christian truth would be an unmitigated disaster.
These attacks are rarely waged over real doctrinal subjects since most church members know very little real doctrine in the first place! They are usually aimed at the pastor’s inability to keep the entire flock happy and positive toward his overall ministry.
We may still confess the same creeds and statements of faith, but we do not confess them in a way that makes a real differenceeason ministers have lost their way is not hard to find. There is no vivid sense of otherworldliness among us. God as absolutely holy no longer matters. We live for the now! We actually think the Gospel is a message that is primarily about putting lives back together. We have no sense of the eternal. As a result we have a Mr. Fix-it mentality about the Christian ministry. The church wants a pastor who can fix the problems of the congregation-social, emotional, marital, financial, and spiritual. Kindle location 258.
In previous generations the minister was understood to be the “man of God.” He handled the Word and cared for the souls of his people. Today if he is truly successful, he is more likely to be the manager of a local corporation. Kindle location 262.
Pastors are weak human instruments who must be filled with divine authority. There is no other way to accomplish the true work of pastoral ministry. True authority never comes from within our human persona or from the office (or gifting) itself, but from a divinely given mandate and from a scripturally based message.
[This quotation comes from a longer statement called The Preacher’s Mandate and is used by permission of The Cornerstone Trust, Box 1906, Cave Creek, Arizona 85327]: The Preacher’s Mandate Pray as though nothing of eternal value is going to happen unless God does it. Prepare as giving “my utmost for his highest.” Seek not to “get a message” from the scripture, but seek “the message” of the scripture. Be satisfied not with producing good content, but with producing good people. Attend carefully to a private and public walk with God, knowing the congregation never rises to a standard higher than that being lived by the preacher. Be “persuaded that the gospel is the power of God unto salvation.” “Preach the word”-not about the word, not from the word, not with the word-affirming it is only proclamations of God’s word that carry God’s authority and his promise to bless. Exalt Christ preeminently, trusting he will then draw people to himself. Balance declarations of “salvation by faith alone” with declarations describing the life Christ produces when he sees saving faith; transformed heart, desire to serve the Lord not self, growing affection for his word, increasing obedience, fruit of the Spirit, saltiness in society, maturing Christlikeness. Depend solely upon God for translation of spiritual truth into life. Preach Christ’s word in Christ-like demeanor. Agree it is impossible at one and the same time to impress people with Christ and with oneself. Allow the preaching to exude the fruit of the Spirit, lest the preaching fail to produce Christ-like lives. Preach with humble gratitude, as one privileged to be an oracle of God. Trust God to produce in the hearers his chosen purposes-irrespective of whether the results are readily visible. Kindle 341
Discouragements and obstacles abound. In our ministries many of us confront much that is disheartening and rubs against our efforts to walk the King’s highway of holiness. We often feel frustrated, disappointed, near despair, and often quite unholy. So much of what we are makes us unprofitable and so much of what we do appears to be fruitless. As John Stott says, “Discouragement is an occupational hazard of the Christian ministry.”  Kindle 636 

Note that godly living involves both discipline and the continued grace of the Holy Spirit. This dual emphasis upon duty and grace is fundamental to Puritan thinking on godly living.’ As John Havel wrote, “The duty is ours, though the power be God’s. A natural man has no power, a gracious man hath some, though not sufficient; and that power he hath, depends upon the assisting strength of Christ. 116
Likewise, Jean Massillon (16631742), a famous French preacher, said to a group of ministers: A pastor who does not pray, who does not love prayer, does not belong to that Church, which “prays without ceasing.” He is a dry and barren tree, which cumbers the Lord’s ground. He is the enemy, and not the father of his people. He is a stranger, who has usurped the pastor’s place, and to whom the salvation of the flock is indifferent. Wherefore, my brethren, be faithful in prayer, and your functions will be more useful, your people more holy; your labors will prove much sweeter, and the Church’s evils will diminish. Kindle 702
If you long to be drawn closer to Christ, read Thomas Goodwin’s Christ Our Mediator, Alexander Gross’s Happiness of Enjoying and Making a Speedy Use of Christ, Isaac Ambrose’s Looking Unto Jesus, John Brown’s Christ: The Way, the Truth, and the Life, or Friedrich Krummacher’s The Suffering Savior. If you are sorely afflicted, read Samuel Rutherford’s Letters, J. W. Alexander’s Consolation to the Suffering People of God, James Buchanan’s Comfort in Affliction, or Murdoch Campbell’s In All Their Affliction. If you are buffeted with temptation, read John Owen’s Temptation and Sin. If you want to grow in holiness, read John Flavel’s Keeping the Heart or Octavius Winslow’s Personal Declension and Revival of Religion in the Soul. Kindle 744
In the early 1900s Methodist Bishop William Quail carried the idea further by asking and answering a rhetorical question: “`Preaching is the art of making a sermon and delivering it?’ he asked. `Why no, that is not preaching. Preaching is the art of making a preacher and delivering that!” Kindle 898
One of these lessons came in the form of the offertory prayer. Almost infallibly when called upon to pray before “taking up” the offering, some wizened older man with sunburned face turning suddenly white at the juncture of his head where his cowboy hat was worn 365 days out of the year would implore the Lord to “bless this young man You have sent to us today. Give him Your message, and be pleased to hide him behind the cross.” Kindle 1015 

What a text says and what it means are the concerns of the teacher. But the preacher, while being committed to the accuracy of the biblical text, goes beyond the work of the teacher, for preaching has as its ultimate goal redemptive penetration. In describing the nature of God’s Word, Hebrews 4:12 provides a working vision of preaching: “The word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” Kindle 1226
This deep penetration of the Word by the Spirit reflects the apostles’ priority: “We will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the word” (Acts 6:4). It is prayer that drives the Word into the preacher’s imagination, conscience, and passion and creates the preparation for the ministry of the Word.
John MacArthur has aptly put it this way: “Worship is all that we are, reacting to all that God is.”
When God’s people are being scripturally fed and led and are part of a growing church climate and culture that is increasingly Word-centered and thereby more God-centered, they want more of what God wants.
We must teach God’s people that it is vanity to come to God’s house with a flippant and unprepared heart (Eccl. 5:1-7). They must understand that God is to be treated as holy by all who come near to him (Lev. 10:3).
Because we are to “be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our `God is a consuming fire”‘ (Heb. 12:28-29).
In addition, we must teach God’s people to discipline their minds in worship (2 Cor. 10:5), so that wandering thoughts will not disrupt them during their worship.
the tacit implication is that a pastor will be hired to serve as the moral errand-boy of the congregation, performing those good deeds the parishioners deem appropriate but have little time to undertake. Kindle 1902 .
Eugene Peterson has rightly captured this inconsistency: We are, most of us, Augustinians in our pulpits. We preach the sovereignty of our Lord, the primacy of grace, the glory of God: “By grace are ye saved … Not of works, lest any man should boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9, KJV). But the minute we leave our pulpits we are Pelagians. In our committee meetings and our planning sessions, in our obsessive attempts to meet the expectations of people, in our anxiety to please, in our hurry to cover all the bases, we practice a theology that puts our good will at the foundation of life and urges moral effort as the primary element in pleasing God. The dogma produces the behavior characteristic of the North American pastor: if things aren’t good enough, they will improve if I work a little harder and get others to work harder. Add a committee here, recruit some more volunteers there, squeeze a couple of hours more into the workday. Pelagius was an unlikely heretic; Augustine an unlikely saint. By all accounts Pelagius was urbane, courteous, convincing. Everyone seems to have liked him immensely. Augustine squandered away his youth in immorality, had some kind of Freudian thing with his mother, and made a lot of enemies. But all our theological and pastoral masters agree that Augustine started from God’s grace and therefore had it right, and Pelagius started from human effort and therefore got it wrong…. How did it happen that Pelagius became our master? Our closet Pelagianism will not get us excommunicated or burned at the stake, but it cripples our pastoral work severely … it is catastrophic to the church’s wholeness and health.’ Kindle 1908
What the New Testament describes as fellowship-souls knit together in love, having all things in common, considering others as more important than oneself, trusting one another’s protection enough to allow for mutual, personal confession of sin, preferring one another as forgiven brothers and sisters, and working diligently to enhance the perfecting work of the Holy Spirit in one another unto love and good deeds-is today described in terms of social events, friendly greeters, punch and cookies, name tags, meals-on-wheels, and creatively named affinity groups. Kindle 2121 .
Simply put, true fellowship cannot be programmed, packaged, or produced through even the most creative energies focused on people. Healthy fruit comes from healthy roots, and in the case of true fellowship, the root is Christ.
Fellowship among believers is the fruit of fellowship with Christ.
Of all the challenges we face in ministry today, three stand out as those that present the greatest opposition to true fellowship. Consumerism. One of the most daunting realities I face as a pastor is the challenge of turning religious consumers into humble servants. The consumer mentality, where the customer is king, has set the church back on its heels. What pastor does not feel the pressure to give religious consumers what they are shopping for so they will become steady customers? In many churches everything from preaching and music to child-care and parking is reexamined almost monthly to ensure that the church meets the ever-changing needs of the religious consumer. Kindle 2139. 


Unfortunately, sooner or later we have to tell them that, actually, Christianity is not man-centered but God-centered. The customer isn’t the king-God is. The church exists for Him and is called to exalt Him above all else, in humility and fear. We have to take those whom we have attracted and assimilated by meeting their needs and tell them that Christian maturity demands that they now subordinate their needs to the needs of others, their wants to the wants of Christ. Kindle 2147.
Independence may allow for cordiality, but it usually resists intimacy. Kindle 2169
In a networking context, people are ranked according to how their resources, position, knowledge, or influence can help you reach your goals. Kindle 2180
The networking mind-set presents great challenges in the church. First, it makes the purpose of the gathered community the promotion of the individual rather than the exaltation of God. And second, it undermines true fellowship. Unfortunately, many in the church today have honed their networking skills and insights so well that they have largely lost the ability to appreciate people as people. We have become programmed to pursue those who can help us, who are like us, or who offer us some advantage. We only value those we consider valuable. But this is quite the opposite of true church fellowship. Kindle 2184.
If it is the fruit of fellowship in the church that you want, fertilize the root of union with Christ. The first grows from the second. The only effective energy for a fellowship among believers that truly shares a common life is a recognition that that common life is the life of Christ. Show me a group of redeemed laborers who find daily delight in their union with Christ, whose one goal is the glory of Christ, whose only boast is in the cross of Christ, and I will show you a group of people whose love and preference for one another is radiant and inviting. That love is the fruit of their deep understanding that they have been joined to Christ through faith and thus share a unity that transcends the natural and previews heaven. They love because they first were loved. The fruit of their fellowship is rooted in Christ Himself. Kindle 2238.
The idea that our life for Christ ought to be a reflection of our life in Christ is one of the great themes of the New Testament. Jesus Himself exhorted those on the hillside that the light of their lives ought to reflect their Father in heaven (Matt. 5:16). Later he told the Twelve that their love for each other was to reflect His love for them (John 13:35). Elsewhere we see that our lives are to reflect the life of Christ, including His holiness (1 Pet. 1:15), His faithful endurance (Heb. 12:1- 3), His humility (Phil. 2:5-8), and His submission (1 Pet. 2:21-25). Kindle 2243.
TAKE FULL ADVANTAGE OF THE LORD’S SUPPER
Promote the Christ-centeredness of the Communal Meal
Promote the Equality of Those Partaking

Promote the Unity of Christ in His Church
George Whitefield, the great evangelist of the eighteenth century, once remarked to Mr. Betterton, a famous actor, “Why is it that the clergy, who speak of real things, affect people so little, and the players, who speak of imaginary things, affect them so much?” Betterton responded, “My lord, I can assign but one reason-we players speak of things imaginary as though they were real, and too many of the clergy speak of things real as though they were imaginary.”Kindle 2832  
So if that’s all the stuff we’re not doing, what are we doing? I have concentrated on praying, modeling, teaching, and working to create in the church a culture of faithfulness and prayerfulness in relationships, and friendliness and spiritual conversation among members of the church. Kindle 2915

We’ve used various courses-for example, Living Proof 1 & 2, Speaking of Jesus, Tell the Truth, Two Ways to Live, and Christianity Explained (an evangelistic Bible study on Mark’s Gospel). Kindle 2921
The motto of the Reformed churches, on the other hand, was Ecclesia Reformata, semper reformanda secundum verbum dei. That is, “the church reformed, always to be reformed according to the Word of God.” Kindle 3021
“They don’t convert-they choose.” He added, “The marketplace is now the most widely used system of evaluation by younger churchgoers,” and “by this standard, the most successful churches are those that most resemble a suburban shopping mall.”‘ Kindle 3051 

“Jesus, knowing that they intended to come and make him king by force, withdrew again to a mountain by himself” (6:15).10 Was the multitude satisfied with the teaching of Christ? No. Their desire was to shape Jesus into an earthly king rather than being shaped through Jesus’ spiritual reign over their lives. The crowd was more interested in Jesus adapting to them than in submitting to Him as Lord. So Jesus left the multitude and sent His disciples across the Sea of Galilee by boat while he withdrew to the mountain. Kindle 3106.
Bill Hull squarely explains the nature of the gospel message: The gospel is confrontational in its very nature. Any presentation of the gospel that does not present a challenge to the unbeliever to radically change his or her thinking and attitudes toward God and his saving work in Christ is not the same gospel preached in the pages of the New Testament! Today, people can be happy, healthy members of evangelical churches without ever having to face a God who is anything more than a “buddy,” a Savior who is anything more than an example, and a Holy Spirit who is anything more than a power source. And that can happen without faith, without repentance, indeed, without conversion.”Kindle 3129  

What would happen if we returned to doctrinal preaching rather than bending to marketing techniques? Instead of allowing the whims of the crowd to dictate the content of a sermon, which is precisely what happens in seeker-friendly preaching, the preacher would boldly expound the Word of God. Christ would be magnified in His churches rather than attention being given to skilled preachers, big buildings, and clever techniques (2 Cor. 4:1-6; Gal. 6:14). The glory of God would be evident against the backdrop of human inability (Rom. 11:33-36; 1 Cor. 1:26-31). The righteousness of the law would be raised as the holy standard that holds men accountable before God (Rom. 3:19-20; Gal. 3:19-22). The sufficiency of Jesus Christ would be elevated as the only means for saving sinners (Gal. 2:15-21; Col. 1:15-20). The adequacy of the Holy Spirit would be depended upon to bring revelation, conviction, and regeneration to unbelievers (John 16:7-11; 1 Cor. 2:6-16; Titus 3:5). The church would be known as the Body of Christ (1 Cor. 12:12-31; Eph. 4:7-16), a dwelling of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 3:16-17; Eph. 2:19-22), a proclaimer of the excellencies of the One who called unbelievers out of darkness into His light (1 Pet. 2:9), and the pillar and support of the truth (1 Tim. 3:14-16).

“Moreover, to be ashamed of the Gospel is a fault of cowardice in pastors,” rang out Martin Luther. “But to contradict it and not to listen to it is a fault of stupidity in church members. Kindle 1118

So much attention is given to creating growth in our churches that we may very well be forcing what should be a more natural process by the grace of God. Paul spoke of the local church functioning rightly, with the pastors and teachers equipping the flock, the members doing the works of Christian service, the whole body growing together in doctrinal unity, and each member making his or her own contribution to the body’s needs. Out of this process, growth naturally occurs. It is not forced or programmed. It is not a plan to carefully follow. Rather, it is the Body of Christ living like the Body of Christ (Eph. 4:11-16).

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Book: Lead On

Excerpts from Lead On (Why Churches Stall and How Leaders Get Them Going)

by Wayne Schmidt

            Would one class, event, or prayer list create a church that has a heart for the lost and prioritize its ministries of outreach?  No.  It would take repeated seminars, events, and prayer times—as well as modeling by the leaders, testimonies of life change, and messages from the pulpit—to cause an evangelistic heart to beat within the church’s culture.  It would take repeated emphasis over a period of time.      P. 27

 

One of the greatest challenges of spiritual leadership is the stewardship of power.  We usually think of stewardship as managing hard assets—measurable things like money and time.  But leaders must manage soft assets as well—things like credibility, spiritual gifts, influence, and yes, power.  We become better stewards of power as we recognize that all of it belongs to God and that He can exercise it through the life of any devoted person.  He sovereignly chooses to do His work through us, and we are blessed simply to be present when His power is manifested.   P. 45

 

Kevin Myers, a close friend and pastor of a thriving church in Atlanta, Georgia, teaches the “God’s calling is where God’s power and God’s purpose come together in your life.”  God gives His power only for His purpose—He doesn’t give us His power to pursue our own dreams.  And God’s purpose can only be accomplished with His power—if we try to fulfill God’s mission in our own strength, we’ll burn out long before we finish.  The intersection of God’s power and God’s purpose causes His kingdom to come and will be done on earth as it is in heaven.    P. 61

 

Personally providing necessary pastoral care and counseling for a large percentage of the congregation.  The goal is to be an equipper of caregivers rather than a doer of care ministry, with a few exceptions.    P. 64

 

As Peter Drucker says, “Nothing is less productive than to make more efficient what should not be done at all.”  So, in order to answer this question, we must assess the present-day validity of our activities.  It may be that a “not to do” list is more important than a “to do” list.   P. 123

 

Leaders who have defined their unique contribution and delegated the authority and responsibility for results are free to spend their time and energy developing the resources that are needed to fulfill the mission.  The greatest of those resources is people.      P. 129

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People in Church Fight Change (for a reason)

People in our churches fight change because they face it everywhere else—in their families, their careers, their communities, even their bodies, but they don’t want it to happen in their churches!  They want one place in their lives that doesn’t change, and that place is the church.  They seem determined to die and take their church with them, and some of them will succeed.  But people make a bad choice when they select a church as their bastion of consistency, because God is the One who decides what the church is about and God is about change.  What greater change could there be than to turn us from hell to heaven and deliver us from death to life?  He takes us from self-centeredness to self-sacrifice, from decay to glory.  All of life is growth in grace, a constantly growing change.  God has called the church to be the most significant change agent in the world, so as our culture changes we must change, while, like God, we remain unchanging in our essence.

Bill Lawrence in Effective Pastoring; p. 199

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