One more reason to pray for your pastor: Those frustrating times with members

Any pastor can tell you that even when you do your best to minister to His people, some church members are not going to let you.  If you didn’t do things their way, were not there when they called, did not jump at their bark, you are a failure and they will never forgive you.

Such people are the exceptions, I hasten to say to those who wonder why we overlook the 98 percent of members to focus on the 2 percent who drive us batty.  Our answer–

–It’s the 2 percent of drivers who are the crazies on the highways and ruin the experience for everyone else.

–It’s the 2 percent of society who require us to maintain a standing police force to enforce laws.

–Rat poison, they say, is 98 percent corn meal.  But that two percent is deadly.

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When a pastor misrepresents himself, is it lying?

“Lie not one to another, seeing that you have put off the old man with his deeds, and have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of Him that created Him….” (Colossians 3:9-10).

I hate to admit this, but it needs to be done.

Preachers sometimes misrepresent themselves. 

Some claim to have degrees that sound authentic but were bought on the sly somewhere for the simple reason that they have learned laypeople in our churches are unsophisticated about that sort of thing but are impressed by high-sounding degrees. Some ministers claim to have been places they merely flew over, to know people they shook hands with, and to be more than they are.  Some give the appearance that they know the original languages when they are merely quoting something they picked up in a book.

There is no substitute for integrity in those called to preach the Word and lead the Lord’s flock.

A surgeon must have cleanliness in all he does; a teacher must have a love for the students at the heart of all she does; a carpenter must have the blueprint at the heart of all he does; and a pastor must have integrity at the heart of all he does.

Integrity. Truth. Honesty.  No deception. No embellishment. No twisting of the fact. No irresponsible reporting.  No claiming what is not so, no declaring what we do not know, and no using what belongs to another.

The temptation is ever with us to do otherwise.

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100 things I tell young pastors (the final 20)

81. Just as no one knows you better than your spouse, your co-workers on the church staff will see you as no one else does. Make sure they respect you as a person of integrity and compassion who keeps his word, has a sincere heart for God, and treasures each of them.

82. Watch for certain scriptures–a verse here, a verse there–that impress themselves upon you in a special way. This is a work of the Holy  Spirit, a personal gift even. He is inviting you to study this area more, to seek His insights and receive His teaching.

83. Humility. Do not hesitate to apologize. If you made a mistake and everyone knows it, to stonewall and refuse to admit it will end up enraging a few and disappointing everyone else. By humbling yourself and asking for forgiveness, you endear yourself to everyone who matters.  (I’ve known of pastors who gained so much love by publicly apologizing, they started looking for some other dumb mistake to make just so they could apologize.)

84. When you require the approval of a committee, if the chairperson tells you, “Oh, just go ahead and do that, pastor,” don’t do it.  Instead, you should respond, “Thank you, my friend. But I’d really like the entire committee’s input on this.” Never allow the chair to act as if he/she is the committee. (Just so subtly are church tyrants created.)

85. Always err on the side of conservativism in finances and of grace in relationships.

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100 things I tell young pastors (61-80)

61. Resiliency. There is no shame in being fired by a church or run off by a group within the church. Some of God’s greatest champions have that on their record. The shame comes when you let that discourage you from future ministry.  Read Second Corinthians 4:8-10 again and again until you “own” it. If this happens to you, own it, give it to the Lord, then get up and get back in the game. Your team needs you.

62. If you are terminated–or “encouraged to leave” a church in a way that leaves you angry and bitter–read Luke 6:27-35 repeatedly until you make it your own.  The way to rid yourself of the anger and bear a faithful witness to your detractors is to practice what the Lord commanded: do the four actions the Lord commands in this passage.  Do good to them, bless them, pray for them, and give to them.

63. Encourage pastors who have been terminated or for any reasons, find themselves “between churches.”   A pastor friend ousted from his church had trouble re-entering the ministry.  One day he asked, “Why don’t other pastors help me?” I said, “Tom, how many unemployed preachers did you help when you were pastoring?” He said, “I didn’t know it was the problem it is.” I said, “They don’t either.”

64. Problems. Teach your lay leadership (preferably in small group settings) how to deal with problems that arise in church, how to confront a troublemaking member, and what to do about a pastor or staff minister who has gone rogue. When nothing of that sort is happening in your church is the perfect time to teach this.

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100 things I tell young pastors (41-60)

41. Preparation. Remember that preaching is not a written art, but an oral thing. So, once you have finished your plan for the message, go for a walk and preach it aloud.  This will alert you to detours to avoid, rabbit trails to shun, potholes to steer around, and will make you aware of areas where you need to do more work..

42. Never deliver a sermon you have not preached to yourself at least three times. Likewise, when you plan to read a Scripture in the worship service, prepare by reading it aloud numerous times to prepare your tongue for forming these particular sounds, to find phrases you need to emphasize, and so you can do the reading justice.

43. When you are invited to guest preach in other churches, there is no need to reinvent the wheel. This is no time to hammer out a new sermon, but an opportunity to use something you have previously preached. You’re being given a rare opportunity to return to something you have preached and improve on it.  In time, this may become a favorite message you preach in many places.

44. While your sermon-machine is always on (and you will always have a notepad nearby when reading anything), make it a point to read Scripture devotionally–asking the Father to feed your soul–every day.  Read for no other purpose than to listen to God.

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100 things I tell young pastors (21-40)

21. Off days.  Early on, establish with your spouse at least one full day (including evening) each week for yourselves.  Have an understanding about this when talking with search committees. Protect it. (Then, help your wife to know that a) you will work hard to protect this day, but b) there will be exceptions once in a while.)

22. Search Committees. When dealing with search committees, do not become so enamored with that church that you fail to do your homework–such as looking carefully at the church’s history, its relationships with previous pastors, what income/benefits they offer, the details about the living arrangements, etc.

23. Mentors. Find at least two older ministers and ask them to be your mentors. That word means different things to different people; to me it means “a resource, a friend, someone I can call and run things by.”

Call them occasionally to tell what’s going on and seek their counsel. Pray for their ministry.  You will be needing them.  I promise.

24. Reading. In addition to theological books and ministry periodicals, read outside your field.  Run by the public library and browse the periodicals. Scan through magazines you’ve never heard of. Be alert for ideas, interesting concepts, anything you’ve never heard of. Read a lot of history.

25. Always have reading material in your car so if you are stuck in traffic or in a waiting room, you’re prepared.

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Twenty things I tell young pastors

(Eight years ago, I posted “One hundred things I tell young pastors,”  twenty at a time in five posts.  I’m reposting the first twenty, but tweaking them, adding to them.  Whether I’ll repost the (amended) other eighty depends on the response.) 

There was no particular order to these.  I jotted them down as they occurred.

1) In all the world there are only three Christians who love change; none of them are in your church.  This is a reminder to introduce change carefully.  I suggest you not use that word, but “experiment.”  Tell the church, “We’re going to experiment with an 8 o’clock service.”  It implies that if this doesn’t work out, you’ll try something else.

2) When you speak before an unfamiliar group, be careful what you say.  You never know who is listening. You’ll start to tell a story about some guy in your former church and his mama is sitting right in front of you.  I have scars to back this up.

3) There will never come a time when you know all the Bible and have all your questions answered.  If you cannot serve Him with some gaps in your knowledge and preach without knowing everything, you’re going to have a hard time.

4) As a general rule, your church members should submit to your leadership, but you’re not the one to tell them that. Furthermore, you should not be a one-man show, but share the decision-making and direction-setting authority with others.

5) The best way to get people to submit to your leadership is for you to humble yourself and serve them the way the Lord did the disciples (John 13).  People will trust someone who loves them that much.

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When pastors pull rank: Something the Lord Jesus never did

Standing with a group of pastors, chatting and fellowshiping and shooting the (sacred) bull, I was interested to hear one say, “I told him I’m the pastor of the church, that God made the overseer, and if he doesn’t like it, he can find another church.”

He pulled rank on his unhappy church member.

That brought nods of approval, even from a couple who knew they would never have the gumption to say such a thing. Even if they feel like doing it sometimes.

But that pastor is wrong.

Dead wrong.

If anyone on earth had the right to pull rank on other people, it was our Lord Himself.

Yet, He never did.

Now, the Heavenly Father didn’t mind doing it.  The Old Testament is rife with commands backed up by reminders that “I am the Lord!”  The idea is that “Since I am God, I have a right to say this. Disobey at your own peril.”

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How I overcame the fear of public speaking and learned to love it

Good title, right?

Now a confession. I was never afraid to stand in front of a group and speak. Not ever. In fact, quite the opposite.

When I was a fourth grader in our little West Virginia schoolhouse, teacher Margaret Meadows would periodically invite anyone who had read an interesting story to stand and share it. Violet Garten (love that name!) was so good at it. But when she called on me–I’m the guy frantically waving my hand–and I walked to the front of the class, I broke all the rules.

I did not relate a story I had read somewhere.

I made one up on the spot.

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What the pastor is to do when ousted from a church

The headline from an online preacher magazines says a pastor fired because of his alcoholism is bitter at his mistreatment by that congregation’s leaders.  Not good.

I’ll not be reading that article, thank you.  But a lot of people will.  Looks to me like he deserved what he got.  But then, I’m neither his judge nor their advisor.  But when a fired preacher walks away bitter, that does concern me.

No one deserves to pastor the Lord’s church.  No degrees on the wall, no glowing resume, no recommendations from the denomination entitle you to a church to pastor.

It’s a privilege.  A call from Heaven.

The bitterness feels like this guy no longer trusts the Lord.  I suggest he read Acts 16 again, and remind himself how God can use setbacks and what appears to be defeats for His purposes.  But to do that, he will be needing trusting servants who are willing to take their lumps without complaining, to quieten their spirits, and to sing at midnight (Acts 16:25).

That God would allow any of us to preach to His people year after year, declaring Heaven’s message to the redeemed, without giving us what we truly deserve–the fires of hell come to mind, frankly–shows Him to be a God of grace.  Why don’t we see that?

Whenever I hear a Christian talking about not getting what he deserved, I run in the opposite direction, lest the Father suddenly decide to give the fellow what he’s asking for!

So, you were fired.  Okay.  Can we talk?

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