What wears pastors down, ages them prematurely, and uses them up too quickly

Betrayals.  Disappointments.  Constant conflict.  Second-guessing everything you say.  Griping.  Negativism. 

Like herding cats.

It takes a toll.

Most church members have no clue that the constant murmuring (the KJV’s favorite word for it) among the flock is offensive to the Heavenly Father and burdensome to the shepherd He has sent. 

Moses is a great case study for us.  For forty years–think of it!–he gave faithful leadership to the people of God who, far from appreciating him,  were relentless in their eroding, grinding, burdening undermining, questioning, and outright opposition.  Scripture gives a reason for this:  Among the flock was a group of strangers, aliens to the faith. 

They were the main problem. 

Scripture says when they left Egypt’s slavery, “A mixed multitude went up with them” (Exodus 12:38).  Some translations call them “rabble.” Since the Hebrews were not the only slaves of Pharaoh, when God threw off the shackles it must have been like a massive jailbreak.  All who could flee the country did so.  And since this Moses fellow seemed to have a glorious destination in mind, with no other place to go, many of the “mixed multitude” decided to accompany the Hebrews..

This bunch became the source of a thousand problems for Moses. 

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How to listen to sermons better

A friend left this question on our website…

What advice do you give people in the pews to be better listeners? I admit I have listened to a wonderful sermon and by mid afternoon may have trouble with recall of the major points. I have found jotting some notes can help. Your thoughts? We have a gifted pastor and I want to honor him and our Lord by my listening and learning.

My first thought is to say to my friend, “This isn’t rocket science.  It all boils down to pay attention, take notes, stay focused.”  That sort of thing.

Those who listen to sermons regularly have noticed that a successful listening experience usually involves a number of factors:

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Preacher, be careful about deceptive come-ons!

Shepherd the flock of God which is among you, serving as overseers, not by compulsion but willingly, not for dishonest gain but eagerly, nor as being lords over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock….  (I Peter 5:2-3)

If anyone on the planet should hold to the highest standards in dealing with people, it should be those who preach the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Alas.  The Elmer Gantrys have always been among us. Those who are in the work for the basest of reasons: money, recognition, other kinds of gratification.

Unto whom much is given, much will be required.  A warning if there ever was a warning to those who occupy the pulpits. (Luke 12:48)

Lack of integrity permeates our culture.

I had to cancel a credit card this week. The monthly statement showed six or eight fraudulent charges.  Where did that come from and how did it happen? I don’t know, but no one is surprised anymore.

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Proud of our ignorance

“Though by this time you ought to be teachers,  you need someone to teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God, and you have come to need milk and not solid food” (Hebrews 5:12).

Warren Wiersbe once heard a preacher announce, “I didn’t never go to school!  I’m just a igerant Christian, and I’m glad I is.”

Dr. Wiersbe countered, “A man does not have to go to school to gain spiritual intelligence; but neither should he magnify his ‘igerance.'”

Spiritual knowledge is available to all who will open God’s word and sit before the feet of the Savior.  But, we hasten to add, it does not happen in a few minutes.  We do not take a pill for spiritual maturity and godly knowledge.  It’s more the result of what has been called “a long obedience in the same direction.”

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Servanthood: A different kind of leadership

“…your servant, for Jesus’ sake” (2 Corinthians 4:5). 

God wants you to be a leader, Christian.  But not your garden variety kind of leader, where you have lots of followers who obey your commands, groupies surrounding you to anticipate your whims.

God calls you and me to be servant-leaders.  A servant leader is the kind the world knows little of, the type that is counter-intuitive, we might say.  That is, it doesn’t look or feel like a leader but it is.

Once again, the way of the Lord is upside down compared to the world’s way.  (You’ve noticed that, have you?)

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Churchfails: Scoundrels in the Lord’s family

“There must be heresies among you” –I Corinthians 11:19.

The complete text of that verse goes: “There must be heresies (or divisions) among you that those who are approved may be recognized among you.”

How will we know what we believe if we don’t know what we don’t?

“Churchfails” is a book edited by David Stabnow and written by several seminary professors.  Subtitle: “100 blunders in church history (and what we can learn from them).”

I predict you’re going to love this book.

You know immediately that much of this is tongue-in-cheek when you read the introductions to the seven learned authors of these short, pithy chapters.  For instance…

–“Rex Butler was a shoe salesman in his former life, then God called him to teach when he was 40 years old.  He went from selling soles to schooling souls…..following in the footsteps of William Carey and D. L. Moody!”  (Joe’s note:  Carey was a cobbler and Moody sold shoes.)

–Ken “Deep Dish” Cleaver grew up in the Windy City, a land flowing with cheese and sausage…… We actually invited him to be on our team of authors because he’s an avid unicyclist and we needed the balance.”

–Rodrick K. Durst was “raised and trained in California, moving between campuses of Golden Gate Seminary to catch all the earthquakes…..”

–Lloyd A. Harsch is a “parent, professor, pastor, political pundit, and punster…..He has a captive audience that is pressured to applaud his puns because he submits their grades!”

–James Lutzweiler is “a part-time mushroom picker…..” Stephen O. Presley “hails from (Texas) but ventured out to study theology among the brave-hearted kilt-wearers of the far northern territory….” David K. Stabnow (editor of the book) “gave up a dead-end career digging graves in the frozen soil of Minnesota in favor of herding cats and shepherding words as Bible and Reference Book Editor at B&H.  He lives in Nashville but doesn’t listen to country music.”

Whew.  And the book hasn’t even gotten underway yet.

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The insecure pastor

“I am only an unworthy servant; just doing my duty” (Luke 17:10). 

I’ve noticed that actors seem to be an insecure bunch.

On the reruns of the old Match Game show (Game Show Network; these shows were run in the 1970s), celebrities are asked to supply answers that match those given by the contestant.  Invariably, the guest celebs are so frightened their contributions will be laughed at (in the wrong way) by the audience.  Their nervous laughter betrays them.

It’s understandable.  And even endearing.

The longtime “mayor of Hollywood” was Johnny Grant, who died in 2008.  It was an honorary position since Hollywood is a district of Los Angeles.  But Mr. Grant was known for his participation in the Hollywood Walk of Fame when a star would be placed on a sidewalk to honor a celebrity.  I heard him say once that in all the years of his involvement, he had never met one celebrity–not one–who was not insecure and afraid no one would show up for the little ceremony.

My wife and I were watching the PBS series on Queen Victoria last Sunday evening.  This segment dealt with the publicity the queen received which threw everyone for a loop.  An artist had sketched her giving one of her seven children a bath.  A print shop made hundreds of copies and sold them on the streets. The public was crazy about the drawings.  But Buckingham Palace was not so sure.  The queen’s advisors were alarmed and they upset the queen by assuring her the mystery and dignity of her office, of “the crown,” were being undermined.  She was torn, unable to decide what to do, until she learned that the public adored this image of her.  It personalized their queen and they loved it.

Insecurity in anyone is a frightening thing and can actually cause a ton of problems.

Pastors can be among the world’s worst at handling their insecurities.

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They criticized the pastor. So, being a great champion for God, he resigned.

“Christ also suffered for us…when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to him who judges righteously….” (I Peter 2:21-25).

Quotes on enduring criticism abound.  Go online and pull up a chair.  Here are a few we found in a few minutes….

–The final proof of greatness lies in being able to endure criticism without resentment.(Elbert Hubbard)    -You can’t let praise or criticism get to you.  It’s a sign of weakness to get caught up in either one. (John Wooden)   –A critic is a legless man who teaches running. (Channing Pollock)    –You are a glorious shining sword and criticism is the whetstone.  Do not run from the whetstone or you will become dull and useless. Stay sharp.  (Duane Alan Hahn)

Pastor and church leaders:  You do not want to live and work where there is an absence of criticism.

You think you do. But you don’t.  Only in the harshest of dictatorships is there no criticism.  But in a free society–like ours–criticism abounds.  If the society is indeed free, much of the criticism is fair, just, and well deserved.  Likewise, much of it will be unfair, unjust and unmerited. A leader who survives has to develop discernment in order to know what to ignore and what to treasure and learn from.

A friend texted:  “Joe, write something about criticism!  Some good pastors are resigning because not everyone in the church likes them!”

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A word to those who have been “hurt by the church”

And one will say to him, ‘What are these wounds in thine hands?’ Then he will say, ‘Those with which I was wounded in the house of my friends” (Zechariah 13:6). 

Wounded in the house of “those who love me” is the literal interpretation of the Hebrew there, according the footnote in my Bible.

It’s called friendly fire in military lingo.

Recently, after our article “Why professing Christians never attend church,” the responses poured in, positive and negative.  The latest note, however, prompts what follows.

A reader wrote, “What about those who have been hurt by the church?  Your article doesn’t address that (as a reason for believers dropping out of church).”

He listed several instances of people wounded by the church….

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When all else fails, go to Plan B. If you have one.

You do have a Plan B, don’t you?

You always have to have a backup plan.

–What if the guest speaker does not show up?  Who speaks? Should we line up the alternate speaker just in case?

–What if the power goes out in the middle of the party?

–What if it rains out the church picnic? Do we cancel or go inside? If we cancel, is there another day on the calendar that would work?  If we go inside, how can we create the fun atmosphere of the outside picnic?  Do we even want to have a church picnic?

–What if the school board does not approve our request to have the crusade at the football stadium? What then? Is there another place to meet that will hold a crowd?  Will people drive to that location?  Is it equipped to deal with our needs?  What other possibilities are there?

–What if we schedule that meeting and line up the singers and guest speakers but no one shows up, how do we cover expenses? Is there a way to know in time either to do some last-minute heroics to get people there or to cancel the meeting?  Are we showing lack of faith by even considering these things?

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