Tag: pastor (page 3 of 3)

5 Things a Pastor Should Never Say

Ever heard a pastor say something that made you cringe?

We pastors say a lot. From the stage, to the phone, in an email, and in passing conversations, we are communicating with people most of our days. And while much of what we share is (hopefully) helpful, there are certain things that should never be said.

image credit: Creative Commons user The Justified Sinner

5 Things a Pastor should Never Say

1. “If it weren’t for the people, I’d love being a pastor.”

You’ve probably heard this one. In fact, you may have said it yourself. Often said in a moment of frustration or as a passing joke, this is a statement that can be incredibly hurtful to the people that need help the most. It inadvertently creates a wall between the pastor and those who are in need of grace and hope. And it makes people feel like there are problems too big to bring to their pastor.

 Truth: Being a pastor is about the people. It’s about serving and giving and loving and pouring yourself out for others.

2. “This week was so busy, I didn’t even get a chance to work on my sermon.”

This is sad, really. There are a handful of things that only the pastor can do. (qualifier: having a teaching team is an option that many churches utilize, but when it’s your week to preach, this is no excuse). Preaching is one of them. It’s not that others aren’t qualified…it’s that your role that Sunday is to preach.

Truth: Having the stage (or the pulpit, depending on your context) on a Sunday morning is a great privilege. Neglecting that gift is irresponsible.

3. “I don’t have time for a small group.”

Thankfully, our pastors at Grace have never said this. But many pastors have. Their weeks are so busy with other activities (even good things) that they don’t feel like they have time in their lives for a small group. But if relationships are vital to growth in discipleship, you’d be foolish to neglect this. And it’s hard for you to tell them that small group life is worth bending their life around if you aren’t living that.

Truth: you don’t have time to not be involved in a small group. 

4. “And my ninth point, again starting with the letter ‘W’…” Seriously, just write a book. 🙂

Truth: people will not remember all 9 points. Pick the most compelling, helpful point, and preach a sermon with that as your bottom line.

5. “Someone like you is not welcome here…”

I got a call this recently from someone, who said, “I have a friend, her name is ____. And she’s done ____. She talked with another church, and they have asked her not to come because of some stuff in her past. Is she welcome at Grace?” Honestly, I was taken aback. It literally took my breath away. I told her that there are few things in life that cause my blood to boil. This happens to be one of them.

Truth: God’s grace is huge. Minimizing it is foolish.

Question:

What have you heard a pastor say that caused you to cringe?

 * image credit: Creative Commons user The Justified Sinner

 

Why I chose to be ordained

Recently, my church, Grace Community Church, ordained me.   It was an unbelievable kind of an experience for me. It was so incredibly special, and will be a great marker for me for the rest of my life.

But I had a lot of people ask me why I wanted to get ordained. Why, especially because I was already licensed (which is the process that the state recognizes for me to be able to marry and bury)?   Why, especially because it wouldn’t change my title or job description at Grace?   Why, especially because it wasn’t something our church had ever done before?  Why, especially because it’s more of a ‘traditional’ church-y thing, and I’m not ‘traditional’ or church-y?

There are a few reasons why I wanted to be ordained, and why I wanted to do it at this point in my ministry.

Why ordination?

Ordination affirms your call to ministry.

In the process of ordination, I got to share my story, and sit before the elders and others at Grace for them to question me on my calling, my theology, and my future aspirations. We talked through safeguards I have in place in my life, and how I pursue God. Those men affirmed God’s working in my life.   And I needed that.

Ordination tells you that other people have your back.

In a sense, ordination is a time where other guys hear your story and say, “Yep, we understand what God’s calling you to do…now go do it! We’ve got your back.”  And I needed that.

Ordination is an important step for pastors.

People often associate “you know what you’re talking about” with ordination.   There’s a different level of respect.  And it’s not that I think I deserve or have earned that…I don’t think I’m entitled to it. Rather, I know that the title “ordained” carries weight with it.  And I’m ready for that weight.

Ordination helps others understand their call.

In the process of public ordination, a local church sees someone who has been called to full-time vocational ministry. And I’m convinced that when they see that, God works in their heart. And sometimes He begins to plant the seeds of ministry in their heart, too. Because I know that it’s been in hearing other people’s stories that mine has seemed to gain more clarity.  And the church needs that.

Why at this point?

Ordination shouldn’t be rushed.

I’ve been on staff now for nearly 4 years.  I could’ve been ordained sooner, but I wanted to wait until Grace really knew me and my character.   I wanted many people in the church to be able to honestly say, “I can also affirm God’s call on your life.”  If I’d gone through this process earlier, there would’ve been some people who would’ve come down to pray over me.   But it would’ve likely been those people who just felt like they had to do it.  Now, there were lots of folks who came down front to pray over me…and these people have actually done life with me for nearly 4 years. They’ve seen my character and served with me, and are truly willing to stand beside me as I continue fleshing out God’s call for my life.  That’s much more meaningful to me than a forced ceremonial ordination.

I’m glad I went through this process.  It’s help me sure up my call, surrounded me with men who know who I am, and given me a renewed sense of God’s call on my life.

Question:

Have you been ordained?  Was it a good experience for you?

 


 

 

The #1 way a young leader can gain influence

Young leaders often feel behind the curve.

Every meeting they attend, every team they lead, every trip they plan…they’re the youngest and least experienced.  And, in my case, I’ve been in the room where everybody present had children older than me.

I can’t tell you how many looks I was flashed that said, “How cute…he’s trying to lead us…isn’t that neat?!?” As a leader, that’s frustrating.

When I started in my current role, I was the youngest on staff.

When I started in my current role, I was the younger than every one of the small group leaders at Grace.

But over time, I’ve been able to grow some level of influence.  And here’s one principle I’ve learned:

Be faithful in the little things.

If I was given a task, even if it didn’t directly relate to my area of leadership, I worked to make sure I completed the task well.  Not just half-heartedly, but with excellence.

If I took on a new responsibility, I made sure that I was 100% faithful, to the best of my abilities and even more so, to exceed expectations.

And this principle is biblical:

One who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much… – Luke 16:10

It’s the little things, the smaller responsibilities, that are the greatest test of character, not the bigger ones.  Letting the ball drop on the “little things” is a symptom of a heart that’s not ready for bigger, weightier things.

If you’re given smaller, less significant assignments and you fail to meet and exceed expectations, why would those who are in leadership over you trust you to meet and exceed expectations in more significant roles?

The insignificant tasks you take on early in leadership may be just that…insignificant.  Except for one thing: they show your character.  And if you want to gain influence, character (even more than age and experience) is key.

A certain level of trust must be granted to you because you’re young.  But a deeper, more substantial level of trust, the one you’re looking for, is earned.

Trust is earned one faithful step at a time.

Be faithful in the small steps.  It’ll pay off in time.

Have you ever dropped the ball on a small responsibility?

Did you see that affect your influence?

 

Don’t overlook the young guys

This is a series of posts where small group experts share how group life has impacted them personally.  The entire series can be found HERE.
Steve Gladen is the Pastor of Small Group Community at Saddleback Church. He oversees the strategic launch and development of their 3,500 adult small groups. His new book, Small Groups with Purpose, comes out in June 2011.  You can follow him on Twitter and Facebook.

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Flashback with me to 1977. While most of the living population was born, probably the readers of this blog weren’t born (as painful as that is to say). I was a junior in high school. I was also a new follower of Christ. What was high school like for me? Was I an ESPN 150 Top Pick?

Not even close.

Getting ready to attend my first prom?

No again.

I was actually a late bloomer in many ways. A scholar?

Nope. I had to struggle just to get C’s and B’s. Luckily, gym class was always there to pull up my GPA!

But, surely, I was a sought-after young Christian leader, right?

Not even close.

When I think of what phrase might best describe me during this time, it is “in the background.” I was not a part of the in-crowd, the Who’s Who, the pretty people, or those who were invited to parties. And, worse yet, I had no ideas or the plans for the future. I was clueless. My dad was in business, so I had a vague notion that I would head down that path too. And that pretty much summed up my goals at the time. I enjoyed my life and basically just took it one day at a time.

The Story Begins

Enter a man named Ron Swiger. Ron was an adult in my church who took me under his wing without me ever realizing he was doing it. Our church didn’t have small groups, but they did have Sunday School and a Bus Ministry (Google it – it was a phenomenon in the 1970’s). That Sunday School functioned much like a small group. The Bus Ministry included serving and evangelism. Although the methodologies I use today are different, I realize, now, what a powerful role Ron played in my life.

Ron made sure I was involved and gave me a place to belong. He asked me to be an assistant in the Bus Ministry on his bus. He spent time with me. He did ministry in such a way that I wanted to be like him. He was also my Sunday School teacher. He was far ahead of his time and was a master at promoting growth in his students. He taught me to pray. He challenged me to give back to God. He taught the Bible in a relevant way.

Most importantly, he modeled what he taught. That Sunday School class was probably the best disguised small group of the day. We didn’t just learn biblical facts, we learned how to live life together. We had parties, interacted with the greater church, did outreach events together, and learned to challenge each other to deal with the dark areas of our heart.

Were we perfect?  No. Did I apply everything I learned to my life?  No. But did that class make an impact in my life? Yes!

A growing seed

When Ron stepped out of the role as my mentor, another man stepped in, Bill Brown.  God used him to build on the foundation Ron had started.  During those years of high school, despite my clueless nature, a seed was planted for ministry.  That seed would not bloom for almost 8 years, but it was still firmly planted.  And I owe a lot to those two men and others who had community with me.

What’s the moral of the story? When you look across the horizon of your church, you might not see the next young leader. You might just see a bunch of “clueless” people.

But don’t overlook them.

Because two guys were willing to pour into my life, I am where I am today. Community is where people are shaped for the future. Be willing to shape those God has put before you – not the ones you want to shape.

Has anyone invested in you?

Are you investing in the next generation?

 

 

Directions

My wife and I just got back from a trip to the United Kingdom.  While there, we visited the city of Windsor.

Windsor is a charming town, with cobblestone streets, vendors selling pastries, and lots of people roaming the markets.  The queen also resides occasionally at Windsor Castle, and while we were there, she happened to be in town.

There were a whole lot of tourists visiting…many, I’m sure, hoping to spot the queen.

For whatever reason, we didn’t look like tourists that day (even though it was our first day there, and I’m sure we still had that wide-eyed look that tourists seem to have), and were stopped and asked the question, “Do you know where the McDonald’s is?”

Don’t mind the irony of the situation (the fact that they were asking a couple of Americans, who weren’t in America, where an American restaurant was located).  We really weren’t sure where the McDonald’s was located.  It seemed like we had passed one (and passed we did…we refused to eat American food while in the UK) earlier, so we pointed them in the direction we thought best.  Turns out we were right.

Turns out we were right.

But we could have just as easily have been wrong.

Just because we were American didn’t mean we knew where the McDonald’s was.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the whole process of mentoring lately.  Maybe because I’m at that stage where I need a lot of help. (will I ever get out of this stage?  Would it even be healthy if I did exit this stage?)  Maybe it’s because I see others’ errors more easily than I see my own (that’s a problem, I know).  Maybe it’s because I thoroughly enjoy learning from others.  But I’m not going to just choose to learn from anybody.  I mean, I’ll read lots of books.  Listen to lots of podcasts.  Read lots of blogs.  But when it comes to asking somebody to specifically speak truth into my life, I’m being very picky.

And I think you should as well.

Because the people who are influencing me now really are influencing me.  They’re shaping the way that I look as a husband, a dad, and a pastor.  And for some odd reason, I think that’s pretty important.

In looking for help thinking through your current stage in life, choose wisely.

Just because someone’s a dad doesn’t mean that they know what they’re doing.

Just because someone’s a pastor doesn’t mean they can help give you the counsel you need.

Just because someone’s a leader doesn’t mean that they can help you take the next steps you need to take.

They may be right.

But then again, they may not even be in the right country.

The people who are influencing you now really are influencing you.

 

How to launch a small groups system

Here is the 5th, and final, installment of my interview with Randall Neighbour (on Twitter HERE), as a follow-up to his book, The Naked Truth of Small Group Ministry: When it Won’t Work and What to Do About It.  You can see part 1 HERE, part 2 HERE, part 3 HERE, and part 4 HERE.

My final question for Randall: What is the best way to launch a small groups system?

 

Should I kick them out of my group?

Should you kick someone out of your group if you find out they’re attending another church?

I’ve run into this question myself.  A group leader approaches me and says, “Can I invite ______…he goes to another church, but…”  Or a group member approaches me and says, “My good friend goes to ________ Church, but I’d love to invite her to our small group…can I?”

I’ve posted this question on Twitter HERE, The Small Groups QHub HERE, and gotten some great responses.

Todd brings up a good point

@benreed If it’s obvious their goal is to win others to their theological position, or they’re avoiding dealing with sin, i’d confront.

If their goal is to win others to their theological position, it’s time to have a conversation (though the whole “obvious” part is, in my estimation, difficult to ascertain).  We see this at different points in the New Testament, where people came into the local church and, through their teaching, intentionally divided the local church (passages dealing with false teaching: Matthew 24:11; Mark 13:5-6; Galatians 1:6-10; 2 Corinthians 11:1-4; Col. 2:1-10; Peter 3:17-18; 1 John 4:1-6).

Spence says

@benreed I ask them to view their time in group as training to launch groups at their church

I love that idea (though I have a few exceptions…you’ll see what I’m talking about below).

There’s a lot that goes into answering this question.  I don’t think that the answer is a simple, “Yes” or “No.”

Trying to understand another person’s intent/desire/theological bent/difficulties is not an easy task.

Should you kick someone out of your group if you find out they’re attending another church?

Instead of making a general pronouncement for or against kicking people out of your group, why not consider these things:

Should I kick them out?

1. Not all churches have a discipleship structure that helps people grow in their faith. I know…I know…at some point, we need to take personal responsibility for our growth.  We can’t depend on others solely for our own spiritual growth.  But if we’re in such a difficult place (local church) that we can’t lean on them when life is tough (for example, how about a church plant in a place where the Gospel isn’t prevalent), then we need to be able to draw from other churches.

2. Some pastors of other churches aren’t able to be fully open and honest in their own church’s small groups. If they were completely open about their struggles with church members, it may be tough for church members to hear them preach on Sundays.  *Pastors need to have people in their life to whom they can be fully transparent…but it may not be people in their congregation.

3. Not all churches truly offer grace. People’s sins sometimes preclude them from having regular fellowship with believers because their church can’t truly offer grace and forgiveness.  Once others find out the nature and extent of a person’s sin, they can no longer have regular fellowship with them.  It’s not that these who have sinned are trying to run from accountability…they’re longing for grace, and they get it from God, but not from His people.  It’s unfortunate, but true.

4. Some people are sensing that God’s calling them to another church. Small groups are a great test of the health of a local church. Instead of walking out of their Sunday morning services immediately, they can explore what God would have for them through the small groups at your church. *I understand that there are “biblical” and “unbiblical” reasons for leaving a local church, and my intent in this post is not to address those reasons.

5. Exercise wisdom. Look at these on a case-by-case basis.  Instead of making judgments against every person’s situation in a blanket fashion, work with each of these situations individually.3. Some people try to get away from accountability, but not everybody.

Whoever isolates himself seeks his own desire;
he breaks out against all sound judgment. (Proverbs 18:1)

If one gives an answer before he hears,
it is his folly and shame. (Proverbs 18:13)

Some people try to get away from accountability, but not everybody.  Some people hop from church to church because they don’t feel they are getting the respect they deserve, but not everybody.  Some people are true false teachers, but not everybody.

At the end of the day, you have to decide for yourself (or your church) what’s right.  I don’t think that the Bible explicitly spells out the absolute “right” or “wrong,” “black” or “white” way to handle this issue.

May we be people quick to forgive and quick to offer grace…because we serve a God who is ready to run after the prodigal.

 

A "day off"

If you have a “day off,” would you rather have something to do or nothing to do?

Having nothing to do stresses me out.  I feel like I should to be doing something.  Since I’m a pastor, and Sunday is a work day for me, I try to take at least part of Friday and Saturday off.  Yesterday, Laura and I had a community group over for game night at our house.  Today is a “day off” for me, but it’s nowhere near a day off.  I’m preparing for leadership training tomorrow and a membership information class that I’ll be leading.  In addition, my wife has a booth (for the small business that we have on the side) set up at a spring fair here in Clarksville.  I set it up this morning, and will tear it down this afternoon.

I hate having nothing to do.  I wasn’t created for that.  Call it a personality quirk if you’d like, but I like to work.  What about you?

 
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