What the pastor owes the church staff

“My pastor called me in and informed me that the church is hurting financially, therefore my pay would be cut by (so much) and my health insurance is being terminated.”

In the last year, at least a half dozen staff ministers have written to me describing this very scenario.

The first they knew of the change is when the pastor “called them in and informed them.” If you think that sounds like a plantation manager informing a lowly day-laborer, you’d be about right.

What are you thinking, pastor?   Where is your heart?

You have just told us far more about yourself, pastor, than about the church or the staff member.

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How to change the culture of a church

“I will build my church” (Matthew 16:18).

I received a note from a young pastor in another state, along with his resume’. He said, “I’d be interested in coming to your city to pastor. However, I do not want to waste my time on a congregation of self-focused, carnal and complacent church members. I feel led to pastor a church poised for growth, where the people want to reach the lost for Jesus.”

I wrote back, “That would be nice. But if we ever have such a church, you’ll have to get in line, friend.  Every pastor in the country will be clamoring to go there.”

It would be nice to serve a church made up of spiritually mature and responsive believers.  It would be heavenly not to have to lead troublesome business meetings where the deacons want to go one direction, the personnel committee another, and the congregation wanting nothing to do with either.

Most churches I know are not “poised for growth,” but are dealing with issues of one kind or other.

That’s why God has to “call” pastors to these churches. No one knowing what he is doing would voluntarily go to any of them.

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Why God tells us to be perfect but doesn’t expect it

(Part 2 on this subject)

“Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father in Heaven is perfect” (Matthew 5:48).

Would the Lord issue a command He does not expect to be obeyed?

We may as well raise the question before some reader does it for me and uses it to dismiss everything that follows.

Short answer: He’s trying to get something across, to teach us something important, by issuing the command.

Longer answer: everything that follows.

In His”Sermon on the Mount,” the Lord Jesus sets the bar alarmingly high for all who would live as His disciples.

–When persecuted, we are to rejoice (Matthew 5:12).

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Do what you do best, pastor: be you.

Pastor, you have not been called by the Lord to be Abraham or Moses, David or Jeremiah.

He did not call you to be David Jeremiah, either.

Not Charles Stanley, or Warren Wiersbe.  Not Mark Driscoll, Stephen Furtick, Andy Stanley, or Louie Giglio–and not their clone.

Speaking of Louie, he says, “You are not a reprint or a lithograph. You’re a one-of-a-kind, original creation of God.”

What a marvelous creative inventive (someone get Roget’s Thesaurus down and finish this list!) God we have.  Billions and billions of human beings, no two alike, each one an original! Each one known by Him, and each loved, with a unique place in His divine plan.

Mull on that a while.

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Perfectionism: The cruelest burden we place on one another

“Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father in Heaven is perfect….” (Matthew 5:48)

First, let’s get the theological argument out of the way.

Let’s make this perfectly clear: God knows you are not perfect and will never be this side of Glory.

And even clearer: “God does not expect sinlessness out of you and me. He is under no illusion about us.”  See Psalm 103:14 “He Himself knows our frame; He is mindful that we are but dust.” And Romans 3:10 “There is none righteous, no, not one.”

Got that?  The illusion of sinless perfection is all ours, my friend.

We read Matthew 5:48 and come away with the erroneous conclusion that God ordered us to be perfect, that perfect means sinlessness, and therefore we can be sinless.  But since we cannot achieve perfection–no one you know has ever pulled it off–then He has given us an impossible standard to live by, one that crushes us and frustrates us and forever disappoints Him.

The result would be that we forever live with a disgusted God and in fear of the celestial woodshed, the destiny of children who bring in failing grades.

Yuck. What kind of theology is this?  And yet, you and I know people who believe this and call themselves Bible students, serious disciples of Jesus, and even evangelists (“sharers of the good news”)..

Now, let’s drop the other shoe here…

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When church committees begin to jump the track

“Then the chief priests and the Pharisees formed a council and said, ‘What do we do? For this man does many miracles. If we let him alone, all will believe on him” (John 11:47-48).

After watching the Lord Jesus raise Lazarus from the dead, the religious leaders were faced with a choice. They could either do what the common folk were doing and worship Jesus, or not.  My friend Josh Carter, pastor in Memphis, points out what they actually did: they formed a committee.

By creating a committee, we hand off the assignment–the decision on what to do and how to do it–to a group of “others.”

Sometimes that works out.  Often it doesn’t.

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What my pastor’s wife does for him better than anyone else

“He who finds a wife finds a good thing and obtains favor from the Lord.” (Proverbs 18:22)

And, may we add, the minister who finds a woman called by God as a pastor’s wife has found a  very good thing indeed.

The role of a pastor’s wife is a unique ministry. Nothing else like it.

My friend Iris, the widow of a beloved pastor, sent me a note this week that went something like this:

“This pastor’s wife had some interesting conversations with God when my college-age daughter burst into the house saying God had called her to be a pastor’s wife.  Later, when she began dating Chris, who was majoring in criminal justice and hoping to work with the border patrol, I asked her if she planned to tell him he was going to become a pastor. She smiled, ‘No. I’m going to let God do that.’ And lo and behold, He did. Chris is going to become a pastor.”

Iris has more than an inkling of what her daughter has in store.  And so, she prays.

My pastor’s wife is Terri and, as I write this, she’s out of the country on a mission trip and can’t stop me from doing this. (smiley-face goes here)

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A rhapsody on a theme of grace and mercy

Mercy is God NOT giving us what we deserve. Grace is God GIVING us what we do not deserve.

Like that? It’s the truth, but it’s not the whole story.

Think of mercy as the restraint of God, His holding back on the judgment we have coming.

Think of grace as the generosity of God, HIs pouring out His blessings on the undeserving.

After God gives us mercy (forgiving us), we are still in need of grace (transforming us).  Mercy is the judge not sending the defendant to prison but suspending all charges and setting him free. Grace is the judge then recommending him for a training program and inviting him to his church where he will share a pew with a banker and his family.

God is a God of grace and mercy.

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10 big bad things happen when a minister commits adultery, and 2 little-bitty good ones.

“You have despised me and have taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your wife” (II Samuel 12:10).

A minister falls into adultery and it becomes public knowledge. This becomes a sad, sad day for everyone who knows him.

(And yes, I am aware it takes two people to commit this sin.  However, this blog is directed toward pastors and other church leaders, so the minister is the focus of our comments here.)

“I think we all should consider this a wakeup call,” said a colleague of a friend who had fallen into sin and lost his ministry.  The other ministers nodded in agreement.

It can happen to any of us. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

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20 things a pastor can do to get past a rough time

Some power clique in the church is on your case.  Some church member is leading a movement to oust you.  The church has a history of ousting pastors every so often and it’s time, and some members are getting restless.

Or, perhaps, as the pastor, you did something wrong and it blew up in your face.  People are calling for your head.

Or, you failed to act and some cancer has gained a foothold within the congregation and your job is in jeopardy.

What to do now?

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