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Behind the Curtain

Looking in the kitchen of any restaurant may cause you to never eat there again. Looking behind the curtain at a church may cause you to question your faith. I’ve seen it happen. Why is it? I think it’s because we have unrealistic expectations for what goes on at church.  There are false expectations many people build into their faith. They build their faith upon the idea that mystically everything in the church is okay. Perhaps they want it to be because their world is not okay. I know that I've talked with several men who while going through midlife crises considered a career transition to the church. I'm sure at times this can be healthy but for these men it was not. I know that because they said, "I'm tired of working in the world...it's hard. I want to work in the church where everyone is nice and things are easier." If that's you, we need to talk. Let me tell you about my job, behind the curtain. Now first off, I love my job. I consider myself happy

When is it time to go?

“You should leave while they’re still sad to see you go.” I agree wholeheartedly with this bit of wisdom I gathered from a seminar on longterm ministry. You don’t want to leave a church because you were fired! You don’t want to have a few beautiful decades with a congregation tainted by the last year or two.  How long is too long? When is it time to go? What are the signs it’s time to leave your ministry? Maybe I’m not yet qualified to answer these questions as I haven’t left a long-term ministry. That said, I have asked these questions at different times and have so far decided it's time to stay. I ask these questions because I don't want to coast. I don't want to get in a rut that sucks the life out of me or the church I serve. So, I try to live an examined life and asking critical questions is key to being self-aware. My primary questions regarding the church and my ministry center on my effectiveness. Every so often I ask myself, “Am I still able to effect change? Am I

God's Call - My Salvation

 “Why did God call you into ministry?” He asked me, looking for the right answer, not a story. I had previously thought this question was easy, but now my answers seemed inadequate.  “God called me into ministry.” I started hesitantly, “Because he wanted me to serve and lead his people. He equipped me to bless his church.” That sounded right, it’s what I had thought.  My friend had different ideas. He reminded me, “God calls us to himself. His first call to everyone is to salvation.” He continued, “Every other call in our lives is in service to this call. God called you into ministry for your own salvation.” He's right. It’s a bit humbling to think you’re God’s gift to the church, only to find out that God’s church is a gift to you. This paradigm shift changed everything - changes everything. It changed the way I view interruptions. Instead of thinking, “I have important business to bless the church. How dare you interrupt!” I realize (on my good days) that this interruption is her

Lead with Love

Love is not required for any other job (at least that I can think of now). An office worker doesn’t have to love their supervisor. A carpenter doesn’t need to love the foreman. An executive doesn’t need to love their staff. A doctor doesn’t need to love their patients. A teacher doesn’t have to love their students.  That said, loving the people you work with makes any job easier. You’re happy to take instructions from a boss you love. You’re even happier to take instructions from a boss who loves you (in an appropriate and non-creepy way). You’ll go the extra mile for a patient, student, or even a customer if you love your job. But, you’re delighted to go the extra mile for someone you love. Love helps in any workplace, but is required for ministry.  A church consultant shared about a time he was working with a church search team. They were drafting a job description and afterward he asked, “What if I could find you a candidate who was everything on your list, but didn’t love you? Woul

It Starts with God's Call

Andy Stanley wrote that he never experienced a sense of call. I’m sure he’s not alone, but I’ve yet to meet another minister who didn’t have a sense of call. It's a sense of call the keeps me in the game. It’s what my wife and I go back to when things get tough. You can always find another job, but another call? A sense of call isn’t necessarily unique to ministry, in that I think God calls all of us to some vocation or another. As my children grow I see their passion for particular fields of academics converge with their giftedness. They work hard on what they care about and are starting to narrow down the field of possible occupations they might enjoy. We pray for them and talk things over with them. In all of this we are ultimately seeking God’s call for their life. The Quakers have a much more structured approach to this in their Faithfulness Groups. People come before this prayerful group of leaders who ask them questions to help discern their gifts, experiences, and passions.

Outlove and Outlast

“It’s not normal!” That’s what my wife and I tell our kids when we talk about our ministry at Bowling Green Christian Church .  It’s hard to nail down a hard average tenure for the American pastor as there is no one singular body that tracks these details. I’ve seen numbers that range from 3 to 8 years, which means at best I’ve doubled the average tenure. My experience isn’t unique, but unfortnately it’s not common which is why I’ve decided to write about it.  I want to share my experience with other pastors because that’s why I’m still here. Lunch at Coco’s Bakery, coffee at Spencer’s, and barging into colleague’s offices for counsel and consolation have kept me going. I’ve phoned a friend and emailed mentors to get their perspective. They’ve shared their mistakes with me so that I didn’t have to repeat them. It’s my turn to return the favor.  A survey (that I’ve lost) of longterm pastors revealed that the number one characteristic they shared was having made friends with other clergy