Category Archives: Discouragement

Measuring success for the ‘regular’ pastor

I follow a lot pastors on Twitter.  Many of these people who I follow have multiple staff under them.  According to the statuses that post, they are flying all over the country, and often, out of the country.  They are in many meetings that seem to demonstrate that they are busy being used by God to reach, teach, preach, and give counsel to many people.  These ministers have set the standard that the rest of us ‘regular’ pastors feel, or have been told, we must measure up to.

As a pastor, it is often a struggle to find significance God’s Kingdom while trying to attract, yes attract, people to come to church.  The problem is that not many can measure up to these more famous, and gifted, pastors who have resources that are unavailable to most ministers.  This can leave a minister chasing his or her tail sifting through many different thought processes.  Some are, but not limited to, “Am I supposed to be in ministry?”  “Am I in the right place?”  “Does God want me to struggle?”  “Why is this not working?”  I think you get the picture.

Yet, a pastor has to feel that he or she is making a difference.  The minister needs to feel that God is still  with him or her even though there may not be numerical growth.  Or, small growth; even a decline.  Many of the ‘regular’ pastors wrestle with how know if they have been successful on a daily basis.  Yet, because of today’s media services, these people are constantly reminded that they are not measuring up to the ‘others’ who are nationally known as leaders.

The short answer that I am considering right now is that we are not supposed to feel like we have become successful.  This is not a motivational statement that someone who is struggling is trying to hang on to.  Instead, it seems that if one looks in Scripture for enlightenment, then it could be argued that there were prophets, priests, and Apostles.  There were also kings, but I want to put that aside for now.

If you are prophet, then how often were these people disappointed with the results of their efforts on speaking in behalf of God?  These people were lonely, and often abused, along with being made fun of.  Yet, God continued to ask them to continue to proclaim even though many were not listening to them.  These measured success in their hopes for the future redemption brought by God.  And they would never see it.

If you are a priest, then how did he measure success while working in the Temple?  This person was simply asked to oversee offerings and make sacrifices to God.  These men would give spiritual guidance to people who gave sacrifices more easily than obedience.  These too were ignored for the most part.  Plus, there were times that the people did not even bring in their sacrifices and offerings.  Yet, their job was to remain faithful in their service to God.  These measured success by getting to continue to do what they were created for, worshipping God.

If you are an Apostle, these people were persecuted.  Every local church they built up did not last.  When they finally had a crowd, it was blown up by someone or something.  These people did not just get fired, but they were beaten and killed.  Yet, God continued to move them forward to where they were unwanted by most.  They measured success in being worthy to suffer for the cause of the Gospel.

By measuring success with these thoughts in mind, then we must consider whether most of the American Church has got it wrong.  Or, is this just a ‘regular’ pastor who is trying to find comfort?  What is it to be a successful pastor?  Numbers?  Salvations?  Baptisms?

If you consider that Jesus said only a few will make it to Heaven because many followed the wide road, then unless those numbers, salvations, and baptisms, really resulted in transformation, then the way we measure success is ultimately wrong.  If ministers are being held accountable for what they cannot control, numbers, salvations, and baptisms, then who really is the Lord of the Harvest?

Advertisements

3 Comments

Filed under Discouragement, Leadership, Small Church

From Jesus to my students

25 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27 Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life[e]?

28 “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? 31 So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

Teens and adults need to spend some time meditating on these Scriptures, taken from Matthew 6:25-34, and consider what real importance is in this life.  These statements and rhetorical questions were spoken by Jesus while He delivered The Sermon on the Mount to the Jews.

Interestingly, the Jews who taught about God and served God, were stuck in a philosophy of being important in the eyes of others.  A lot like we Western Christians are today.  They focused so much on material things that it is possible they actually were  miserable and did not realize how important to God they were and are.

So to my students that I sub for, I want you to know that you all are very important to me.  What is more, you are extremely important to God.  Jesus said that we are worth more than the birds of the air.  It is a timeless truth.  God is going to give you what you need.

When you use the things, or friends, and popularity, to measure your happiness with who you are we all lose.  Whatever situation that you find yourself in, you need to know that you matter greatly to God.  You will never find your happiness in dating someone.  You will not find your happiness in owning cool things.  Unless you have ’69 Camaro SS.  Just kidding.  You will never find happiness in being like someone else.

You must never define your self-worth considering whether or not you have friends that you think would be good for you.  You must never find your happiness in doing things sexually for someone because you think you are really making them and yourself happy.  It won’t work.

What happens is that you might think you will find happiness in being wanted by others; or think that you are important in the sight of others.  Yet, it won’t work.  We must find our delight and peace in the words that Jesus spoke to the Jews, 26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?

We must find our joy in the fact, that Jesus gave Himself on the Cross so that not only would we be able to escape hell, but that we could live a truly happy life knowing that we have a God who is in Heaven that smiles on us because we make Him happy and are worth everything to Him.  He hurts when we hurt too.

These are some things that I wish that I could have understood when I was a teenager.  I want you all to know things like this about God because I care about you, but God cares even more.

2 Comments

Filed under Discouragement, Faith, God, Teenagers, Youth ministry

A reminder to pastors (attendees)

The end of the conference year is coming in The Wesleyan Church.  This is when we audit our books and post the results of our church’s ministry for the year.  For a few, this will be a time of joy because they have experienced much fruit as a result of their church ministries. 

For others, this will be a time of doubt, dread, frustration, and mourning, because they will not have the fruit to show as a result of their ministries.  For many of these ministers they will be challenged to continue on in ministry.  Some will feel a sense of jealousy and their pride will be wounded deeply.  After all, no matter what denomination that you are in, when you see other churches doing well it is easy to feel discouraged.   

Some examples of discouragement are things that are felt indirectly.  There seems to be an undercurrent that is heard, felt, or imagined that they have not performed their duties well enough.  Yet, maybe they have performed their duties as they should. 

The good news that should encourage ministers, from all denominations and church sizes, is that Dr. Joe Dongell reminded us once that we (ministers) are not the Lord of Harvest.  Our duty is to plant and water the seeds.  When God and the people are ready, He will be the One who harvests them.   

Here is more good news from the book of John.  I’ve been spending some time in this book lately and found something that seemed to be a good reminder to all pastors who are not seeing the results they desire.  So I want to share some Scriptures that might remind us that we are taking too much upon ourselves as ministers of the gospel.  Let’s be for real.  Sometimes ministers fight the battle of taking things personal because the church’s ministry success has been tied to them, either by their choice or others’, instead of to Jesus Christ. 

In John 3:22-30, Jesus has become greater than John the Baptist.  This means that if you John the Baptist that you realize that you really are becoming less in your community.  John knew what his mission was; point people to the One who came after him though He is before him.  Also, Jesus’ disciples are baptizing more people than John.  For ministers, this means that the people of your congregation are leaving to go to another church because it is new or there is more action. 

First striking reaction from Pastor John the Baptist when he is alerted to the growth of Jesus’ ministry was that he has joy over it.  Yes, I said that the John felt joy over it.  Now, this is in contrast to the long introduction that I just gave.  Why?  Verse 29a, “The bride belongs to the bridegroom.”  Kind of what Dongell said.  The Church (the people of Christ) belongs to Christ.  This means that if ministers feel discouraged it is time to check our motives for success.  Is about us or Him?  The people in the congregation are not yours.  They have been Ransomed by Someone else.

Second, verse 29b, “The friend who attends the bridegroom waits and listens for him, and is full of joy when he hears the bridegroom’s voice.”  Ministers are attendees of the Church.  We are friends that Christ has placed trust in to care for His Church (the Bride).  The mark of a true friend is the demonstration of the joy felt when the Jesus does with His people as He sees fit. 

Finally, in verse 29c John said, “That joy is mine, and it is now complete.”  Then He ends with verse 30, “He must become greater; I must become less.”  To be a true friend, we must become faithful.  Yet, not just faithful out of duty, but because we want to be faithful; a faithful friend to Christ.  This means that we are supposed to be attached to success of Jesus connecting with people instead of attached to the success of us connecting to people and receiving accolades for it. 

Discouragement, frustration, and etc, are felt when we ministers do not understand who is responsible for church growth/fruit.  When we feel this way, we need to consider that John the Baptist was just before prison and in the midst of his decline in ministry, but still felt joy and complete at the success of another. 

You might be a small church pastor who needs to verbally say out loud that your joy is complete because another minister is doing well.  After all, we are just attendees who point the bride to the groom.

Leave a comment

Filed under Christianity, Church Attendance, Church Health, Church planting, Discouragement, Holiness, Leadership, Mental Health, Small Church, The Wesleyan Church

Fitness and Supplements My Review or Experience

A year ago I started exercising at a gym.  I want to share what I have learned in the past 12 months.  Before I start let me make some things clear about my qualifications.  I am not a professional.  I am a novice.  I have not turned into a world-class athlete.  I am not a nutritionist, scientist, or doctor.  I struggled in science and biology.  I’m just a 42 year old overweight man trying to remain some type of shape. 

First, since starting back at the gym, I am more mentally fit.  Of course my wife might disagree.  Yet, as a pastor, I struggle from time to time with minor depression spells.  Most of it these are linked to not seeing the results that I want to see in ministry, as well as other areas of my life.  But exercising has helped me to gain some confidence in myself and has made me happier overall. 

I meet people since I joined the gym.  I am a member of 365 Fitness in Liberty.  There is a fellowship that is in place that I now enjoy.  Everyone is generally on the same page and after the same goals.  There is an accountability that a person like me needs to keep me motivated. 

Reading articles about nutrition from people who are academic have helped me.  There is a difference between those who are telling you what they have found through academic research from those who are trying to sell products.  I realize now that eating the right types of foods really do impact your weight.  Some examples of food that is less fattening are whole wheat products, fish, lean meats turkey and chicken.  Salad dressings like Italian are best, not creamy.  No candy or cookies and etc.  No fast food (this is tough).  Discipline!

Treadmill is better than walking outside, the treadmill makes you keep a pace that will cause your heart and lungs to work.  It seems this really burns the fat, if you are eating right, as long as you are walking at a quick pace.  You don’t have to run.  The machine will elevate for you to give you more stress, which is good when you start getting into shape.

Weight lifting is very helpful too.  My goal was to be able to take my shirt off in public again, when I swim, I did not get completely where I wanted to, but I got close enough and that allowed me to enjoy the beach more.  Stay with this long enough and you will see changes in your body that will help your self-esteem. 

Supplements can help, but must be taken with exercise.  Understand that when you try to get a Mr. Universe body with over the counter products it is unlikely that you will succeed.  I sampled several different products that helped me to achieve some results.  I did not do anything illegal; keep in mind that you will pay a price possibly legally, but for sure physically if you do.  GNC products seem to be the best.  Pro Performance Amp Amplified Mass XXX does well.  I noticed gains in strength.  Pro Performance Amp Amplified Wheybolic Extrem 60 does well.  I noticed strength gains with this product too. 

A weight loss supplement that helped, but I warn that can mess up the prostate, was USPlabs OxyElite Pro.  This is a thermogenic that helped to boost my metabolism so that I could lose fat in the mid-section.  I had lost 10 pounds and could not get further and this product helped me to lose 25 pounds more.  The second time I tried it I only lost 5 pounds.  The key was eating right while exercising while taking this product.  You still have to do the work!  There is no magic pill out there, at least that is healthy, that will do the work for you. 

I tried a few pre-workout shakes that were supposed to give me energy to accomplish more during my workouts.  I don’t think these are worth the money, nor do I think they really help after a day or two.  I tried 2 products, and my body just adjusted to these.  You are going to have to will yourself to do the work.  

One product that does give me energy right now, so far after 6 days, is GNC Beyond Raw Refine.  It is a thermogenic that I was asked to sample.  I have not dieted properly with this product, but it gives me energy so far.  Check back later to see where I stand after I complete the bottle. 

I think vitamins are essential to health and are as helpful as the shakes that are pushed.  Immune boosters seem to help; but we must continue to wash hands to prevent colds.  Amino acids seem good right now too.  I sip USPlabs BCAA during workouts.  If nothing else there is some research out there that says that BCAA’s are actually healthy for you.  Search it out for yourself. 

Trade-off between free weights and cable weights about every 4 weeks with each muscle you are working.  Somehow doing that has given me better definition. 

The plant proteins seem better than the animal proteins when choosing shakes.  They are healthier.  Check with your doctor before trying these products.  Again, most of what you get from these shakes can be gotten by eating properly. 

Taking some of the vitamins, exercising, eating correctly, and slowing down on soft drinks helped my blood pressure.  It really was lower, and I have struggled with this in the past.  Another benefit that I noticed was that I was able to get off of my heartburn medicine too.  Talk to your doctor about this stuff.  Everyone has different genetics and respond differently to these products and exercises. 

Don’t overwork yourself when you exercise.  I see people come and go in the gym.  They go so hard that they hurt themselves and quit.  45 minutes 4 days a week will do wonders for you.  It is true about weight loss, if you gained over the years, then you will have to lose it over the years.  Discipline is a must.  Determination must also be part of who you are.

So give exercise a whirl.  It’s a new year.  Oh, and give Christ a try too if you do not know Him.  God and exercise are both healthy for you.

1 Comment

Filed under Discouragement, Exercise, Fitness, Living it, Mental Health, New Year Resolution, Supplements

What I want Teens to know

As a pastor I hear many stories from teenagers who struggle in different situations that they find themselves in.  Sometimes it is because of their own choices.  Other times they are in situations because of someone elses choice.  Parents, when you have kids there is more to life than thinking of yourself.  Sometimes it just works out that teens are placed in a hard situation.  Sometimes, it could be God who placed teens in a bad situation.  Just being honest. 

Here are some things I want to tell you that I wish I would have known.  I grew up in a hard situation too; and like you I did not understand why.  I was terribly angry, bitter, and hateful, toward people. 

You may find yourself being the class clown; but you know that it is not really you.  Sometimes you wonder, when nobody else is around, why you have to continue to be the person you show yourself to be.  The answer, you need to know someone pays attention to you.  What I want you to know is that God does because He has dreams for you even when others who are supposed to be important in your life don’t. 

You may find yourself alone.  You might think that nobody cares if you live or die.  Don’t fall for that!  More people do than you think, and again, God really does.  What looks like to you a situation that will never change, God knows it will.  You see the now in your life, but God sees the later (future). 

You may find yourself feeling the need to be sexually active because that is when you feel at peace and connected (I mean what seems like a good relationship because someone is listening) with someone.  Stop, because you feel worse and become angrier and more hurt.  You need to know that the other person is likely just using you which, at this point, is the last thing you need.

You may find yourself at odds with teachers and authorities who are in your life.  The problem is that they don’t realize, sometimes, how hard your life is right now.  They are trying to live their lives too.  You need to focus on the good that they give to you instead of the bad you receive.  Now consider, if you were in their place, you might bring the discipline too.  If you fight against those in authority over you, you will lose.  Don’t confuse giving respect, that is deserved, with getting pushed around some more. 

You might only have a relationship with one parent, maybe not even one, but I want you to know that this is not what God wanted for you.  Sometimes parents make mistakes, and they get caught in a cycle that keeps them from being able to change.  You might not know how hard they had it when they were in your shoes.  But God can make things happen for you, if you live for Him now.  What I mean is that if you live for Him now, He will have a better life for you later. 

I want you to know that all of the hard times that you face now will make you a strong person later.  And if you rely on God now, you will be a strong Christian later. 

I want you to know that you don’t have to choose to be uncaring.  It is okay, in fact, it is good to care even while it seems that nobody does for you.  This is character building because when things are good, it is easy to pretend to care for others. 

I want you to know your life that seem so bad now will get better.  I want you to know that I am frustrated for your sake and that I am mad with you.  But, I want you to have hope with me for your life later.  You are going to be great to your kids.  But you will have to choose it.  You have to ability to break the chain that has bound your family. 

I want you to know that not do I care for you, but God cares more than you know.  You can ask me things and you really need to ask Him things.  Read your Bible.  He is not angry with you and is not making your life hard because He doesn’t care.  He cares.  He can help you now.  Read your Bible and you will see this.

1 Comment

Filed under Discouragement, Faith, God, Pain, Parenting, Reality, Youth ministry

Continuing with Jesus

Here are some quick thoughts about continuing with Jesus.  A lot of Christians tend to become discouraged with a lot things they deal with on a repeated basis.  Over the course of time, which sometimes seems to weed out the “chaff,” people fall away from Christ.  These some thoughts that I hope will make sense to you if you are one of those people who is struggling to continue on.    

  • Do not count on other Christians to lift you up when you fall into a downcast state.  That is what Jesus wants to do for you. 
  • Seek God’s approval.  Do not look for someone’s approval so that you can be blessed.  Going with Christ means seeking His blessing alone. 
  • When looking for direction, do not seek it from other people first.  Pray that the Spirit will reveal direction to you. 
  • When giving effort, do so to please your Heavenly Father.  People cannot look into your heart like your God can.
  • Do not busy yourself with ‘religious work.’  Spend time alone God.
  • Do not allow situations to discourage you.  Trust that God is working things out for your good. 
  • Do not allow unconverted people to frustrate you.  Realize that they still need Jesus. 
  • Know that there is not anything that wastes your time.  God does not waste anything.
  • When someone tries to convince you of a major life decision that you should make, always think back to what God told you first. 
  • Know that it is normal to struggle over dying to yourself on daily basis. 
  • Trust and obey God.  Do this even when it goes against everything that you feel during a crucial moment.      
  • Focus on giving worship, great worth, to Christ.  Do not look to recieve all of the time.  Giving is the seed of recieving. 
  • Draw a line in the sand and do not go beyond it spiritually.  Commit to staying with Christ no matter what. 

1 Comment

Filed under Discouragement, Faith, Giving, Worship

What I wish for pastors in 2010

Some things that I have observed this last year that seem to be a good reminder for many pastors.  These thoughts have all denominations and non-denominations in mind.  Some of these I have to personally fight to remember myself. 

  1. Please Jesus.  Too many pastors focus on pleasing people.  It amazes me how many times pastors allow a project that does not mean anything to Jesus to monopolize their time and energies.  Most of the time these projects only mean something to the handful that wanted it. 
  2. Preach the Word.  This is one of your main functions as a servant for Jesus Christ.  Too many are looking for a way to get out this great opportunity.  Some even dread it.  Don’t dread it because they cannot come up with new topics and material.  Trust that God will give it to you in your studies.  STUDY.   
  3. Pray.  Another main function.  Busyness is the enemy of prayer time.  I heard somewhere that “Service is the enemy of God.”  As they say, “Too busy to pray, then you are too busy.” 
  4. Teach the Word properly.  There are many Christians, even those who have been in church for years, who do not understand the Word of God.  This happens because too many pastors teach political point of views instead of God’s.  Spend time in some books in the Bible so that you will be forced to deal with things that God is concerned about.
  5. Let Jesus inspire you.  Whatever happens in mega-churches is great.  But do not seek your inspiration from there.  It’s amazing how many sermons are preached after the mega-church pastor preached them.  It is comical guys and gals.  Your people have different needs than those who are at larger churches.  If Jesus inspires you, then that allows Him to lead instead another pastor leading through you.  
  6. Believe that Jesus wants to use you.  Do not compare yourself to other pastors!  They have their call and you have your call.  If God can use a mule, He can use you too.  If you are discouraged go back to the altar of remembrance.  In other words, remember back to the time when Jesus called you.  When I get off track, and know it, this is what I must do too.   
  7. Allow God to decide what your church should look like.  Quit trying to duplicate what everyone else is doing.  You are different and so is your church.  God is the Lord of the Harvest.  Listen to advice from others about what you should do, but ultimately allow the Holy Spirit to shape you and your church.  If God wanted His church that you pastor to look like the others, then He would have put the other pastors into your church.    
  8. Don’t allow yourself to get sidetracked with crazes.  Remember the Andy Griffith Sunday school craze?  I still kind of want to try that one.  Books that come out about things that worked in other churches are great to read.  Nevertheless, remember to look at how God worked in those books instead of simply trying to duplicate what you read.  Try to notice how the people’s faith in those churches was incorporated which allowed for success.    
  9. Focus on being you surrendered to Jesus Christ.  Too many pastors focus on being like other great leaders.  Remember God wired you the way He wanted you and you are to surrender to the Holy Spirit so that He can make you more like Christ.
  10. Don’t get caught up with awards and other types of success indicators.  Our treasures are in Heaven we cannot lose them there.  Awards and pats on the back are great and make you feel good.  Elevation in status among your peers officially, or unofficially, is great too.  However, remember that even Jesus was highly esteemed when He entered into Jerusalem for the last time.  Then the crowd turned on Him.     

4 Comments

Filed under Discouragement, Faith, Leadership, Reality