Tag Archives: Google

8 Qualities to Develop Before Going into Ministry.

I am a young pastor. As a result, other young men look at me and ask about going into pastoral ministry. One of the common things people will ask is what they need to be good at before they start training to go into ministry. In my 17 years of ministry, I would say these are things that one needs to be good at before start training for church ministry. They are necessary disciplines BEFORE one starts trying to lead others. They are things God can teach you along the way, but they are best as disciplines you implement before the pressures of ministry are added. So, if you want to be in ministry, here’s my list. Every pastor has a list of things they look for in younger ministers… Take mine with a grain of salt… before I went into ministry I was pretty solid on 5 of these… the other three I have grown in. It might be that you follow the Lord and He grows you in these places as you work. But, when I am asked what qualities need to be in a young man before ministry, these are the ones that come to mind.

  1. Attend church. If you will not be disciplined to attend church before you are in leadership, then you probably are not ready to be in leadership. The fortitude to attend church when you’re not in leadership is the same fortitude that will enable you to persist among dry seasons and difficulties. Many young men think that they will be good leaders in church ministry, but then they refuse to discipline themselves to attend church with any regularity. If one will not discipline themselves to attend church when they are not in leadership, then it is highly unlikely that they will have the discipline to lead a congregation.
  2. Read your Bible. Ministry is the work of the study and teaching of the Word. So, you need to read the Bible. You don’t need to know the original languages before starting in ministry, though it is helpful. You don’t need to be able to preach wonderfully, though that is an advantage. You don’t even need to have large portions memorized! But, you do need a love for the Word of God. If you cannot discipline yourself to study and read the Word, then you will not discipline yourself to teach it. So, read it… every day.
  3. Worship well privately. Part of leading in ministry is leading other people to have a deep personal relationship with the Living God! As a manifestation of that relationship, there ought to be some sort of private worship that you regularly engage in. This private worship is what will save you in moments of despair in the ministry. It will be the balm necessary for you to press through difficult situations. This private worship is a pre-requisite for survival in your training. Every church has dry spells. We cannot always depend on the community to fuel our worship. We must learn to fuel our Spirits. Only then will we be able to lead others.
  4. Worship well corporately. One of the marks of Christianity is corporate worship. In Acts 2, the first church begins in corporate worship. Church History records corporate worship as an act that EVERY church engaged in regularly. Preaching, singing, prayer, and feasting all were weekly and normative in the church. The best people to worship with are those who are totally absorbed in worshiping the living God. I stood next to a young man who couldn’t sing well and was constantly bumping into the person next to him (me). At first, I was bothered and considered his zeal an impediment to my ability to worship. I grumbled quietly and moved a few inches. Suddenly I was bumped again. Slightly irritated I turned to look at him, determined to say something. As I turned I felt his arm wrap around my shoulders, eyes filled with tears, he was singing at the top of his lungs and I was drawn into the presence of the Living God! This young man worshiped with abandon and it was contagious. Immediately I forgot my shame and joined in the worship. Be like that before you try to lead others to be that way.
  5. Learn to be wrong. I am wrong often and I know it. I am comfortable with being wrong. I learned early to accept when I am wrong and move forward. I will seek to see the truth and, if someone presents a better case, I’ll gladly say I was wrong. As a pastor, you need to be able to be wrong. Churches will often prove you wrong. You’ll be wrong about people, passages, policy, and even Jesus. A good leader will recognize when they are wrong, apologize, and figure out how to move forward. If a pastor cannot admit when he is wrong, then he will not be able to lead people.
  6. Learn to be wrong, when you’re probably right. I distinctly remember being scolded by a person about something I said in a sermon. I was young and their statement was false. They accused me of something I had not said and misunderstood something I had said in the message. I apologized for what they heard me say and simply said, “That was not right of me, please forgive me.” I was pretty certain I hadn’t said what they accused me of so, afterward, I went back and listened to the sermon. Indeed, they were wrong. I had never said what they accused me of saying. However, they heard what they heard and as a leader, it is not mine to correct perception. My job is to help people move beyond perceived offense and model granting grace. If I had to be known as right or gracious, I’ll choose gracious. So, I’ll be happy to be wrong if it means I can model grace to those who believe themselves to be right even if they are wrong.
  7. Learn to listen. It is difficult to listen when you know things. Perhaps the first step in listening is recognizing that we don’t know everything. I have a dear brother who always says, “Better to stay silent and thought a fool than to open your mouth and prove it.” The Proverbs put it this way, “Even a fool who keeps silent is considered wise; when he closes his lips, he is deemed intelligent” (Proverbs 17:28). Being silent and listen. Prove that you can learn before you start trying to teach.
  8. Learn grace extended. This is perhaps the chief and most helpful perspective I had before training for ministry. To read more about it go here.

Again, take these with a grain of salt, I learned many of these growing up. Some I still grow in. If you’re a pastor, what’s your list to give to young men who ask what they need to be before they go into ministry? Leave it in comments.

6 Helps for Meaningful Conversation

Conversation is a dying art in our culture. Eyes are unfocused, words are undisciplined, and attentive engagement is often non-existent. The majority of our conversations are hidden under screens of constant social media and shallow treatment of life and community. Our ability to see each other in thorough and delightful conversation lies buried under the mask of self-image and projected self-worth. So, what are we to do? How do we have good conversations that engage with the community while simultaneously freeing us from the constraints of social media? Here are a few simple practices to have a good conversation.

  1. Put your leash (phone) away. Most of us have a phone that tethers us to a fictional world. If you want to have a good conversation, you need to put this leash away. Set your phone to airplane mode when you begin a conversation or at least turn the volume off. Anything that is definitely in need of your attention will still be there when you turn it back on. Most things do not need your immediate attention. So, take the leash off for a bit and enjoy the moment. The better thing to do is to leave the leash at home. Let yourself run in conversation and let your mind race in response to boredom! You’ll find yourself enjoying people a little more and being a little less anxious.
  2. Listen to others and assume they bring some value to life. Stop trying to be the smartest person in the room. Most of us enter a conversation for what we can contribute. Instead of listening well and considering the ideas of our conversation, we plot the next thing we are going to say. In order to overcome this tremendous gulf, we must assume that the other person has something to contribute. Recognize that everyone has a unique experience that can contribute to your own life in some way.
  3. Overlook the ideological and tribal affiliations in favor of honest discussion. Honest self-reflection is in short supply these days. We are tribal people who determine our worth and value by those to whom we find a connection. Often our discussions are stifled because we connect ourselves or others with a tribe of people and therefore all the ideological nuances assumed about that affiliation. However, people are not numeric collections of data. They are individuals with unique thoughts and individual ideas that may or may not be informed by their particular tribe. Assume they are individuals who come by their ideological affinity honestly and strive to investigate those points with integrity.
  4. Talk about ideas, not people. It has been said that great people talk about ideas. Try to focus your conversation around deep thoughts and ideas. Stay away from talking about other people. I am a pastor and spend a great deal of time counseling with people. Often it is my goal in these sessions to get the person to move from identifying people to identifying the deeper root issues. I will ask questions that will attempt to lead the other person to identify the “why” of a feeling and this can lead to some incredibly constructive conversation about ideas and ideology. In like manner, when you are having a conversation with someone, try to press past the “who” and get to the deeper more philosophical questions. This will lead to a deeper and more productive conversation.
  5. Ask unassuming questions. For example: ask, “how are you doing?” and not “are you ok?” Ask, “what’s one thing you’re excited for this year?” rather than “what have you been doing?” Ask questions that allow others to talk about themselves with a broad spectrum of specificity. Avoid questions that assume something negative about the person or are narrow in scope. “Are you feeling ok” is not a good question unless you think the person is sick. “What are you reading?” is a great question, if the person reads or if you have a book you’re wanting to talk about. Better questions are ones that engage the person’s mind and are open enough to allow for variation. Some conversation questions I like to ask are: “What is your favorite Jesus story?” “What is one thing you’re excited about this year?” “What is one of your most prized possessions and why?” and “what is your favorite activity for relaxation and why?”
  6. Finally, try to see the other person. Your goal in conversation is to reveal the person to whom you are speaking. Try to SEE them. Try to know their condition. I have some friends who are really skilled at doing this. I will call them on the phone and before I know it, they have asked questions that have revealed my personal struggles and thoughts and I have spoken for about an hour. They have worked hard to see me and know me. Often these conversations end with me saying something like, “Man! I talked the whole time! Next time I want to hear about how you are doing!” This is refreshing and uplifting to me, so I want to do it to others.

We Hide From Conflict; Ways we Rob Ourselves of Joy, Part 2

The time had come to address the issue. My stomach seemed to drop beneath the ground and my head began to spin. The weight of conflict landed heavy on my shoulders and made my fight or flight reflexes begin to wrestle with unrivaled fury. I knew this issue must be dealt with and I also knew I did not want to do what was necessary.

As I entered the room and sat across from the man I needed to speak with, my legs felt like jello and I could see on his face the same weight was heavy on him. Small talk and light banter covered over our awkward attempts to dance around the issue. Then, one of us spoke of it.

This sort of encounter is normative in communities. People are fragile. Relationships break and fracture. Often these confrontational meetings are necessary. However necessary they may be, we don’t like them and we often try to avoid them. We convince ourselves that we can just sweep the issue aside and persist in a false sense of harmony. Overwhelmed with the prospect of effort it will take to overcome the conflict, we run from the opportunity for joy! You see, when conflict arises, we are given a rare opportunity to press hard into the community and find joy. We are granted the grace to test our faith community and see the grace of God. We are given the chance to trust God in the midst of our failures. We are given the opportunity to love and know God more fully.

Yet, given the opportunity to walk through difficulty and feel the grace of God, we often deny ourselves the joy in favor of complacent comfort. There are numerous reasons for this avoidance, here are four common reasons why I have avoided conflict:

1. I was afraid of the outcome. Indeed, the end result of conflict terrifies us. We convince ourselves that vulnerability will result in our own self-destruction. We look across at the other person as though we are in a contest that must result in the death of someone or something. However, death is not required in conflict. Indeed, if you have trusted in Christ, death is not on the table. Conflict will not result in your demise, only your betterment. Romans 8:28 is true! God works all things for good. In the midst of conflict, we need to remember death is not on the table.

2. I don’t trust God’s grace and sovereignty. In general, it is safe to say that most people believe that God is all powerful and CAN do what He desires to do. While some may argue over the self-imposed limitations or the preservation of free agency, Christians agree that God is actively playing a role in the world and in our individual circumstances. If it is true that God is actively involved in the world and that His involvement is good (Romans 8:28), then it stands to reason that the conflicts we face can be used by God for our good and His glory. When we avoid necessary confrontations and difficult discussions we deny the truth that God is good and we fail to trust that God is at work in our circumstances. We fail to trust God.

3. I fear I will be fully known. Most people do not have close personal friends. Indeed, many are living rather lonely lives even in the midst of crowded spaces. In truth, we don’t want to people to know who we really are. Self-identity and thorough self examination are terrifying to our sensibilities. We want people to think that we are perfect and that we have everything together. However, there is great comfort in being known. When someone knows us, we need not fear that we will fail to live up to expectations or disappoint through conflict.

4. I misunderstand the value of conflict. Conflict is inherently valuable. It is through conflict that we grow and produce valuable means of grace and maturity. It is often through the greatest conflict that God develops the greatest soldiers in the Kingdom.

Here are three ways to press through conflict and grow.

1. Remember this is not the end, take the long view. My dad used to say, “don’t sweat the small stuff and if you back up far enough, everything is pretty small.” Remember there is a great deal more to life than this one issue. Gain some perspective and realize that this is not the end. Indeed, for a believer, none of this life is the end. Heaven awaits and this is merely a training ground. So, if this is not the end, then press on towards action. Instead of dwelling on and dealing with past offense, move forward. Make plans of how to move forward in the relationship. Ask forgiveness for wrongs committed, offer forgiveness when wounded, and make plans to advance the Kingdom of God. (A truly practical way to do this is to make specific plans to hold eachother accountable for gospel work. Commit to pray for specific gospel opportunities for one another. This way we turn conflict into conquest!)

2. Remember grace given to you, Jesus overcame the ultimate conflict for you. Often, in times of conflict, we forget the grace that has been given to us. A “woe is me” mindset begins to set in and our ability to see the reality of our circumstance is skewed. But God has granted us grace beyond our own ability and has rescued us from certain death! In Jesus, He has taken the punishment for sin upon Himself and forgiven you. You who were an enemy, He has made His child. Can you not extend grace to someone else? Is this conflict going to result in your literal crucifixion? If not, I think you can bare a little tension and struggle for the betterment of your community. Extend grace to the other person. Don’t take things personally, even if they are and go ahead and let yourself die for the other person. After all, if Christ is in you… then you have the power to do so.

3. Remember to cherish life. Through storm comes life. The aftermath of storms is devastating. Houses are destroyed, lives are lost, and even nature seems to be crying out in despair after a hurricane or tornado. However, when we return to the sight of a storm years later, houses are built stronger, lives are restored, and even the ground seems to have blossomed with a life-ferocious. Storms may bring pain, but they also strengthen the resolve to live. When conflict comes, do your best to preserve life, remembering that you will be stronger on the other end. Confess your wrongs, own your faults, take the blame (even if you’re right). Let the storm land on you so that you can preserve and protect the other. IN this way you will be stronger and the other will be loved.

Are there things you do to press into conflict? Share them in comments!

See part 1 of this post here

Thinking Through Ephesians! A free pdf sample

About 16 years ago I was asked to teach the college class at Highland Baptist Church in Waco, TX on a Sunday morning. It was a large crowd of roughly 1,000 students. My brother was the college pastor associate and had recommended me to teach. I had preached and led small group Bible studies before. I had spoken to moderately large churches, but never a crowd of such significant size and never without a strategic outline or material to follow. I called my brother and asked his advice. He said, “pick a passage of Scripture and teach what it says. No more, no less. Just study what it says and teach it.”

b7a26-bible-on-a-pulpitI taught on Ephesians 5:15-20. Teaching that passage began a mountain-top journey through Ephesians for me. It fast became my favorite book of the Bible. I began to trudge through the text verse by verse, line by line, phrase by phrase until I grasped everything I could. Sometimes I’d get stuck on one verse and write page after page. Sometimes I’d sit on the concepts of the book for a month before I penned a word. All the time, I sought to know Jesus deeply and engage His word and work in my heart and life.

 

IMG_7029

For roughly 14 years I would return to Ephesians every few months and write a little more. Then, a little more than two years ago I was challenged to blog more often. I decided that I would blog every day of the week save Sunday. I started to blog each day through the book of Ephesians, taking the notes I had collected and put them into bite-sized chunks for anyone interested. Somewhere within chapter two, my brother Jeff (who happens to be a great author! you can check out his stuff here: Jeff’s stuff), told me I should consider compiling them into a book.

Cover smallSo, for the last year and a half, my wife and I have edited this work for your joy. This book is the result of a 16-year devotional walk through Ephesians. It has been a delight and joy to write. I hope it is a joy to read as well.

For a free sample of a few chapters and the intro, click here.

To purchase through Amazon: https://goo.gl/fwKDxN

To purchase through Lulu.com:  https://goo.gl/yCoQJk

Great Art: You Must Linger to See it

When the soul needs respite and the heart needs the vexing challenge of soul-stirring intellectual engagement, art offers a haven. On the nights when one cannot recognize the eyes of the individual in the mirror and the world seems as though it is failing to maintain its own rotation, art gives us a perspective that can rescue. When the everyday monotony of life begins to drain our souls of joy, art refreshes and revitalizes our hearts. Art: three simple letters used to label the concept of expression in total. The word seems wholly inadequate. It should be longer and have an “x” somewhere in it. Perhaps it is simple and short because art is easy to overlook and pass by?

Art is a powerful medium to express that which is inexpressible by any other means. Great art transcends cultures and time. It has no limitations and only grows in its appreciation as it is engaged. Great art refracts through layers of expression that expose a deeper truth, often revealing things that cannot be understood without equally deep investigation.

As of late, I have been inspired by the work of Makoto Fujimura. He uses a particular style of Japanese art to produce works that are masterful. Fujimura’s work is literally done in layers. Several translucent layers, one on top of another. The result is stunning, but only if the viewer allows them to linger. You see, the eye has to adjust to seeing the layers. In our modern world, this is extremely difficult to do. Yet, to appreciate the beauty of Fujimura’s work, the eye must hold fast to the piece. We must train our eyes to linger and rest on the expression. As the eye grows accustomed to the peculiar focus required to see the layers, the piece will spring to life. The greater attention given to grasping the work, the more beautiful it becomes.

So it is with all great art. The soul must be allowed breathe deeply the scent of expression. We must permit our souls the time to linger… to gaze upon the beauty and understand. Our souls, like our eyes, must adjust to the refraction of the light. As the light illuminates the layers of the canvas, our eyes slowly gain the necessary perception and begin to see the glory of the painting. We begin to see the work of the artist.

The Greatest Artist has displayed His work in layers that have become common to our eyes. We fly past His work constantly, seldom stopping to admire the layers of His glory. But if we would linger a bit, we would find our eyes adjust to an ever increasing beauty in the Father of Life. If will settle our souls to seek and savor Jesus Christ, we will find the much-needed respite from this present monotony. Work hard to engage your soul with the respite of great art… work harder to engage the work of The Great Artist.

Now a brief word of warning: Jesus is The Artist, who created everything. He is also the Light that exposes the work. When you stand in His presence to see His work, you will inevitably find some layers of yourself exposed. And that can be uncomfortable. But, to see the beauty of The King and to know His work is worth it.

Linger over the great truths of Scripture. Engage the incredible artworks produced by God’s people. Gaze at the beauty of what and who God has created. Listen to the music that He provides upon the winds. Seek beauty in Christ’s display of His glory. Work hard to engage your soul with the respite of great art… work harder to engage the work of The Great Artist.

Googling God

ImageIn John 8 Jesus reaches the mid-point climax of His confrontation with the Pharisees.  Up to this chapter, the religious leaders have maintained their composure and have stood in front of Jesus with some semblance of dignity.  But things are about to go bad for them.  In John 8 Jesus forgives an adulterous woman who was brought before Him as a trap and the religious leaders become infuriated with His claims to be “The Light of the World.” (v.12) Attempting to turn their eyes heavenward and to remind them of the eternal nature of their God, Jesus begins to speak of Heaven, truth and His own eternal nature.  This befuddles the religious elite and they begin to grasp at anything they can to discredit Jesus.

So, before we go any further, let’s get the issue straight.

1. Jesus has shown them that He can forgive sins and that forgiveness is not based on making the right choices in life or being good enough, but on His grace and mercy.

2. Jesus has told them that they cannot understand the light because they are not of God and are in need of Him to change their hearts.

3. Jesus has explained to them that He is the truth that can set them free from sin and that freedom is found in Him and not in self-made righteousness.

4. Finally, Jesus has explained that the religious leaders have believed the lies of the devil because they do not know the Heavenly Father.  In essence, Jesus is telling them that they are not God and they do not know God.

Now, we come to the place where someone has been confronted with a truth about God that they were not prepared to accept.  In verse 48, the religious leaders begin to come unraveled.  They attempt to grasp at anything that will discredit this God-man who stands before them.  Confronted with who Jesus is, they spit out, “Are we not right is saying that you are a Samaritan and have a demon!?”  Now let’s just pause here… who would EVER answer that affirmatively?  The question is, in itself, a testament to the reality that these people don’t know God.  When we don’t know Jesus, we leap to whatever theological standpoint that would prove us right.  I like to call this, “google God.”  It happens more often today than we like to admit.  When we are confronted with a character trait of Jesus that we don’t particularly like, we often dive head first into the world-wide-web and google our theology.  What we come away with is a sad indictment on who we are and to what it is we really think makes us righteous.

The religious leaders cling to their accusations of Jesus, but the accusations are unfounded and are not based on a relationship with God and His word.  If the religious leaders had really been concerned that Jesus was teaching something heretical, they would have gone to what they knew authoritatively about God from the Scripture.  But, they don’t.  They google God.  What I mean is this: instead of seeking the authority of the Most High God to determine their answers, they take the first opposing argument they can grab hold of and throw it out in a last ditch effort to win the debate.  This is what so many people who profess Christ do in our time, we google God in an effort to find a short-cut to win a debate.  But, this is not how God works in our hearts.  God works in the tireless efforts of struggling to know His nature and find our delight in Him.  God is more evident in the disciplined heart that has labored to understand Scripture than the one who is incredibly proficient at using the internet to find satisfactory answers for a debate.  When we google God, we don’t look impressive to those who know Jesus or even those who want to know Jesus.  We look annoying and we ask questions that don’t make since, just like the Pharisees did.

So, don’t be that guy.  When you are confronted with something difficult about the character and nature of God, go to Scripture.  Google-ing God may give you a short-cut to the answers to win a debate, but it also short-cuts your journey to know Jesus more and thereby limits your ability to know Him truly.  Knowing Jesus is much more valuable than winning the debate.

Wake up early to pray and study, stay up late to study and pray, do the discipline to know Jesus.  A relationship with Jesus can’t be googled.