Being called out from the pulpit

It’s one thing to be “called out” in a general way because you’re convicted by Truth. That’s the work of the Spirit, and it’s a great thing (though in the moment we don’t always think so).

It’s another thing entirely when you’re specifically “called out” from stage, the sermon stopped, and you’re told “I hope if you’re going to be a preacher that everybody in the audience talks when you preach. You’ll reap what you sow.”

Ouch. (you’ll see that in the video below)

I was called out once for using an electronic Bible. That was fun.

Check out this clip.

Is it ever appropriate to call out somebody publicly, from the pulpit?

 

(HT: Todd Rhoades)

 

A plea to pastors: be real

I recently wrote a post that got some folks pretty fired up.

I wrote my 7 reasons for why nobody really likes cats. Turns out, that’ll get some people pretty angry. And how I think that “the only good cat is a dead cat.”

I made it clear that it was just a joke post, and that I was just having a bit of fun. I don’t really want to kill cats. If I see one in the road, I swerve to miss it. If I’m at your house and you have a cat, I’ll sneeze and scratch my eyes, but I’ll pet your cat. And I’ll talk to it in that little baby voice we talk to when we communicate with small animals.

I was having a bit of fun with my post. Why?

Because not everything that comes out of my mouth is a Scripture reference and a word of wisdom.

Confession: I am a real person.

Screen Shot 2012-10-22 at 9.24.05 AM

It’s okay for you, too, if everything that comes out of your mouth is not be spiritual. You have my permission. Especially if you’re a pastor.

In fact, I believe that’s one of the reasons why Grace, where I was on staff, was successful: our pastors were real people. That’s one of the reasons why I believe Long Hollow is successful, too: our pastors are real people. With real struggles. Real pain. Real shortcomings. Real victories. Real families. Real hobbies.

When pastors talk in King James and end their every sentence with, “thus saith the Lord,” it gives the appearance that they’re perfect, inadvertently preaching that they have nothing wrong, struggle with nothing, and have every answer to every question ever asked.

Pastors: please be a real person.

The danger of detachment

You have a different calling, with higher responsibilities. There are certain expectations placed on you by God Himself, and God will hold you accountable for the way you taught and led. But that doesn’t mean you have to abandon everything in life except your Bible. The more you detach yourself from regular life the more you’ll find yourself detached from the people you’re called to lead. If the people you lead are in to football, you need to be in to football. If they’re in to raising pigs, you need to be in to raising pigs. If they’re in to hiking, you need to be in to hiking. Paul says it like this: “I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some.” (1 Corinthians 9:22)

If you don’t have that thing that you enjoy, you’ll burn out, too. You can’t be a spiritual superhero all of the time. You’ll burn out and break. You need a release, and a chance to unwind. Find a TV show you and your spouse can watch together. Go golfing with the guys. Take your kids to a baseball game. Take off your pastor hat.

The more you share about who you are, even the parts of you that aren’t perfect and polished, the more you’ll be able to show people just how big of a God you serve. If you’re broken, you show people just how much you need Jesus. If you’re a mess, you paint a picture of a King that is full of grace.

It’s easier to relate with a real person that with one who doesn’t encounter regular life issues. It’s easier to connect with a pastor who follows Jesus but admittedly doesn’t have it all figured out. Why?

Because you don’t have it all figured out, either.

There was only one perfect man. And He’s the one I point people towards.

Which doesn’t mean that I don’t like football. Or golf. Or that I’m not going to say something dumb some time.

I’m sorry that I do that. I’m human. I don’t like that I’m still fallen, and still struggle. But offer me some grace.

And laugh at my jokes, even if you don’t think they’re funny. Please? 

 

 

6 Things Pastors Should Never Say to Themselves

There are certain things that pastors should not say out loud. Things that instantly create a damaging culture that’s difficult to recover from.

There are also phrases you should be careful saying to your pastor, and things every pastor wishes they could say.

image credit: Flickr user Pa Gagne

But there are other things that pastors say to themselves that are incredibly damaging. These words point pastors on a dangerous course. In the moment, they seem harmless. They just seem to be the product of a stressful week or a slip of the internal tongue. In time, though, these can shift a pastor’s heart away from authentic, biblical shepherding. Away from their calling. And away from the people they love.

6 Things Pastors should Never Say to Themselves

 1. Should I really preach this difficult text?

Consider carefully what passages from Scripture you’ll preach. Choose with wisdom how you’ll lead your people through Scripture. But don’t let “Is this passage too hard for people to hear?” motivate you to not preach a text. If you feel like the timing isn’t right, bump it a few weeks. But don’t let fear and cowardice keep you from preaching Truth.

2. Because they give so much…

Never start a sentence with this. “Because they give so much…

  • I’ll meet with them.
  • I’ll listen to their idea.
  • I’ll give their idea a shot.
  • I’ll not give up on them.

James 2:2-4 warns

For example, suppose someone comes into your meeting dressed in fancy clothes and expensive jewelry, and another comes in who is poor and dressed in dirty clothes. If you give special attention and a good seat to the rich person, but you say to the poor one, “You can stand over there, or else sit on the floor”—well, doesn’t this discrimination show that your judgments are guided by evil motives?

3. Preaching is so much more important than ministry throughout the week.

Preaching is important. But don’t grow to the point where you feel your Sunday morning ministry is more important than what you do throughout the week. The way you love people, serve your community, follow up with visitors, shepherd staff, and make key strategic decisions is just as important, and both feeds into and out from, your Sunday morning ministry.

4. Pastoring is more important than my family.

No. No it’s not. If you think this, you’ll end up with no ministry at all.

For if a man cannot manage his own household, how can he take care of God’s church? – 1 Timothy 3:5

 5. Should I really tithe?

Giving is an act of faith. It shows a deep trust that God is in control of money, not you. It also shows that you believe in something or someone. If you give money to a political candidate, you show your support of them. Give money to Habitat for Humanity, you show you believe in them. When you don’t give money to the local church you’re leading, you show a lack of support. On top of that, it’s a bit hypocritical for you to ask people to tithe, while you yourself don’t.

6. I think God is done with me.

Never, never say this. God may be done with you in a certain context. A certain type of ministry, maybe. But your pain, frustration, and disappointments can become, if you’ll let them, your unique voice of hope and grace. God’s not done with you. You still have a ministry. God uses men and women every day who have been crushed by life. Don’t mask your pride by thinking God’s done with you. “Your” ministry is so much bigger than you, anyway.

 Pastor: ever uttered these phrases? Ever heard someone else say them?

 

9 Lies Pastors Believe While they’re Preaching

image credit: CreationSwap user Jordan Wiseman

While I’m preaching, there are myriads of thoughts racing through my head. Some of which include:

Why is that baby crying? Are they crying because I’m too loud? Or because they didn’t like that joke? Or because it’s too dark? Or too bright? Or…oh wait, it’s because they’re probably tired. Good thing they’re not falling asleep during my sermon like the guy behind them.

Why did he just get up to leave? Bathroom break? Am I going that long? Should I call him out right here and now? Nah…or wait. That might be funny. Or offensive. Probably offensive. But probably funny, too.

Why didn’t she turn her cell phone off? Hmm…I wonder who’s calling her? Wait…is she answering that phone? What’s she whispering? I wish she’d speak up so I can hear what she’s saying.

Uh oh…I’m going to go long with this sermon. Should I cut something out? Or make them sweat if I’ll ever be done?

I may be alone in how much my mind can often wander during a given sermon. But somehow, I think I’m not. And I’m willing to bet that most pastors believe these lies while they’re preaching:

9 Lies Pastors Believe While they’re Preaching

1. Man, this sermon is awesome. In fact, all of my sermons are awesome!

Whoa there, Desperado. You’re not as great as you think. Jump on down from your high horse. Some weeks are good and others are, well, not so good. Accept it.

2. The person shaking their head in affirmation is actually listening.

Sometimes they are. But sometimes they’re just trying to keep from falling asleep. Don’t take it personally. And don’t use that moment to slide in your every-other-week “You shouldn’t stay out late on the night before church” points.

3. Everyone likes me.

Not the guy who stands out in the hallway every week. He doesn’t. Never has. And until you preach a message aimed at engaging him, he probably never will. OR…you could just try to have a normal conversation with him in the hallway. Either way…

4. “Amen!” guy is so zoned in to what I’m saying. It’s like we were cut from the same cloth.

I heard an “Amen!” guy at a church I once attended that “Amen”-ed every single point. He didn’t know when to stop. So he didn’t. I think I even heard him “Amen!”-ing in the parking lot.

5. I can do it all. If only I could clone me…

Stop it. Stop it right there. You’re doing one thing in this moment. You’re preaching. If you’re also slated to do the music for the day, every visitor follow-up throughout the week, and every prayer preceding the pot-lucks, it’s time to share some responsibility. You’re not good at everything. And if you think you are, then that might be one of the reasons your church isn’t growing as quickly as it could. (whoops…did I take that one too far? Sorry…)

6. They’re actually taking notes!

I saw some of our handouts from this Sunday. Doodling. A couple of notes. Then they left it under their seat after the service. Don’t kid yourself.

7. If I say this point with more force, you’re more likely to remember it.

Just keep trying. Use a megaphone if you want. Or, better yet, start yelling from the top of the sermon to the bottom. It’s all important, right? Then do your vocal warm-ups and let ‘em rip. And watch ‘em grab the ear plugs on their way in, too.

8. If I go long, people will love me for it.

Nope. If you go long, people will wonder how long you can actually go. And they’ll also be lamenting the fact that the Methodists are going to beat them to lunch today.

9. If I go short, people will judge me and wonder what I did all week.

Nope. If you go short, they’ll be the ones beating the Methodists to the buffet. And you’ll be their favorite preacher.

Why share this? Why smack pastors in the face a bit?

Because we’re humans, too. We’re prone to thinking too much of ourselves, taking ourselves too seriously, thinking everyone cares about intricate theology as much as we do, and prone to spiraling downwards into self-glorification.

The more we can pursue humility, making less of ourselves and our gifts and our talents and our insights and our winsomeness…and make more of the God who gives us life and breath and everything, the better off we are. And the better off our congregations are, too.

Time to quit believing the lies. Time to preach faithfully the message God’s given us. Time to remind ourselves who the King really is.

 

 

 

10 Things You Forget About Pastors

I had the chance to preach at Grace this past Sunday. What a gift it was.

apparently, I said something I thought was funny

And what a hard week it was.

Every time I get the call to preach, I forget just how much work it is to prepare until the Wednesday before I preach on Sunday. It’s at that point, when I’m on my 5th rewrite, my 10th bottom line, and my 4th, “I have no idea what I’m going to say” thought for the week.

In the process of preparing and delivering the sermon yesterday, I realized that there are a few things that people often forget about preachers. In fact, I’ve found exactly 10 things that are often forgotten.

10 Things You Forget about Pastors

1. Preaching is a lot of work.

In fact, it takes me between 20-30 hours to prepare my sermon. On top of that, I still have my normal, weekly responsibilities. Last time I checked, adding 30 hours to a work week was a pretty significant amount. The best sermons take time to marinate. Which means that if you enjoyed the sermon…it probably took longer than normal to prepare.

2. Preaching is stressful.

If you mess up in your job, your boss might get upset with you. If we mess up…God is upset with us. I’d rather get the stink eye from your boss than mine any day. :)

3. Preaching has a lot of moving parts.

We feel the weight of preaching the Scriptures faithfully, in an engaging way, every time. We have to balance humor, theology, and application, making sure to pepper in just the right number of illustrations, but not too many so that people remember the illustration and not the Truth. That’s a lot to balance on a small stage.

4. We don’t always have it all figured out.

We don’t know it all. Or have all of the answers. Or have every truth we’re preaching on mastered. Growing up, I assumed that my pastor knew everything. Now that I’m in that role, I realize that we don’t.

5. We get worn out, too.

Delivering a sermon is physically, emotionally, and spiritually draining. Expect that we’ll be pretty zapped afterwards. After all, “they” say that delivering a sermon is equivalent to 8 hours of work.

6. If you tell us some important detail on a Sunday morning, we’ll probably forget it.

Feel free to tell us, but follow that up with an email. We’ll thank you later. It’s not that we don’t care in the moment…it’s that our minds are racing, and we often have hundreds of thoughts and ideas we’re wrestling with.

7. Preaching is a gift, but it doesn’t always feel that way.

Some days, it feels more like work. I’d love to say that every time we preach, the heavens open up and God gives us great joy in the preparation and in the delivery. But I’d be lying…sometimes it doesn’t feel like a gift.

8. Criticisms need to wait.

Seriously, if you have a bone to pick, call us on Tuesday. We’ll be in a much better spot to handle criticism then, than on your way out the door on Sunday.

9. We see you texting.

Don’t act like you’ve listened to our sermon…we know better.

10. We have to do it all again next week.

Most preachers preach every week. In fact, most preachers preach on Sunday, Sunday night, and then again on Wednesday night. The work of a pastor is never done.

Question:

Have you ever preached? Do any of these resonate with you?

 

 

 

 

Pastors: no cheap shots

Yesterday, I talked about an offending experience I had with my digi-Bible. I was directly offended, being the only person in the audience with an iPad…hearing the pastor theologically hammer my iPad as an illegitimate Bible.

This time, from a different preacher, I found myself offended in a different way.

In fact, I wasn’t personally offended. I was offended on behalf of someone else.

I guess you could say I was proxy offended. (or I was proxily offended? Can I get away with that grammatically? Is proxily even a word?)

image via Creation Swap user Daniel Romero

During his sermon, the pastor made an off-handed remark. Though off-handed, it had the desired effect.

It went like this:

The way we do things is…umm…not like other churches here in our community do things…”

He said this while rolling his eyes and shaking his head from side to side, pausing between the words “other” and “churches” for emphasis.

Everybody in the audience knew exactly which other church he was referring to. A handful chuckled. I winced in pain. The guy beside me whispered, “Are they talking about _____?”

He was pointing out a way of doing church services that he didn’t like. A personal preference that he didn’t care for. A programming difference that he had decided not to do in his context.

Instead of simply advocating for his method, he chose to rake another church (and their pastor) through the mud for a quick laugh and a longer-lasting insult.

Truth: It’s never okay to publicly criticize another ministry over a gray area. Never. (I even struggle with the idea of publicly criticizing another church over black-and-white issues. Seems like Matthew 18 would, instead, prompt me to have a redemption-minded conversation with them instead of public condemnation)

Not from the stage. Not in staff meeting. Not in a blog post.

Just because you can say something doesn’t mean you should.

Do what you’re called to do. Do it well. And when you have an opinion about another church…stuff it. Let it motivate you to do what you do even better.

You’d rather not be as “flashy”? Then don’t.

You’d rather not have as many programs? Then don’t.

You’d rather not have a keytar? Then don’t.

You’d rather focus more heavily on the homeless community? Then do.

You’d rather preach for 75 minutes? Then do.

You’d rather sing from hymnals? Then do.

When it’s a gray issue, leave it between that local congregation and God. Public condemnation tears the Kingdom apart.

Question: have you ever heard a pastor publicly criticize another local church?