What You’re Fighting About Isn’t What You’re Angry About

bookThink about the last fight you had with someone. It might be your spouse, child, a boss, employee. If you are a pastor, think about the last angry person you met with and the reason they gave for their anger and why they are leaving your church.

Now, the thing you were fighting about, the reason someone gave for leaving your church, that isn’t what they are angry about, that isn’t what the argument was about. 

I remember sitting in a counseling class in college. It was incredibly boring and then in a moment of God’s providence, I paid attention towards the end of one class and my teacher said this, “When life is stressful, when life is out of control, when people don’t know what to do, they take their anger out on the closest authority figure in their life. If you are a pastor, that will often be you.”

For 12 years as a pastor, this has proven to be true on a weekly basis.

Here’s a way to know if this is happening to you: does the response match the situation?

Often, fights happen in marriage and are started because of a crying child, something not being put away, something not getting done, a miscommunication and then…boom.

The fight isn’t about the child, something being left out or something not getting done. It is about the underlying issue that it represents. It is about being able to trust the other person, count on them.

What couples do, is fight about the issue at hand. They then continue to have the same fight for years with no resolution. It isn’t until they have a discussion about the actual issue, and only then, will they be able to move forward.

Here’s a church example. “We’re leaving because you didn’t start this ministry that I want.” That isn’t the issue. What is the issue at hand is either a disagreement in vision and where the church is going and/or an unwillingness for this person to follow a leader. They want more power or authority than they have. Or, “We’re leaving because you don’t preach deep enough.” That isn’t the reason. What they are leaving for is without their “deep preaching” they have to take responsibility for their spiritual journey, and, with all this “shallow preaching” going around this church, we have a bunch of unchurched people who don’t know Jesus showing up and they are acting like they don’t know Jesus and that is uncomfortable.

I remember when we first planted Revolution and people were coming and going quickly, which happens in a church plant. I tried to meet with as many people leaving as I could to learn from them and what went wrong. We still do this as often as we can as a church. In each of those meetings, we talked about what frustrated them about Revolution, but 50% of what we talked about at those meetings was their frustration around their job, their spouse or their child who wasn’t growing up like they hoped.

Proving my professor right.

When life is stressful, when life is out of control, when people don’t know what to do, they take their anger out on the closest authority figure in their life. If you are a pastor, that will often be you.

The next time you have an argument with a child or a spouse stop and ask, “Are we really fighting about this? Or is something else driving this?” Are you tired? Run down? When was your last date night? Katie and I argue about the silliest things if we miss a date night.

When someone leaves your church, listen to their complaints and then try to find the heart issue with it and try to discuss that. They will probably still leave your church, but at least you’ll know why they left.

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You Long for Blessing

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There are two great words in the Bible that describe the posture of our souls toward other people. One is to bless. The other is to curse. We are creatures with wills, and in every encounter with other people we will what is good for them, or fail to do so: we will what is bad for them. Blessing is not just a word. Blessing is the projection of good into the life of another. We must think it, and feel it, and will it. -Dallas Willard, Soul Keeping: Caring For the Most Important Part of You

Blessing is not something we talk a lot about in our culture, or experience or do. Our culture is more concerned about being right, putting others down, getting others in line, controlling outcomes.

Yet, blessing is something long for.

So how do you bless someone instead of curse them? Here are ___ ways to bless someone:

  1. Have a right heart. No one blesses from a place of pride or selfishness. It is a giving away. It might be financial, time, effort, care or love on your part to someone else. This is why it is rarely done. We bless people we think deserve, instead of blessing the people God has given to us. I remember when I got married and the pastor who had mentored me through college prayed over me. It was one of the most emotional moments of my life. Here was a man that to this day, I have done very little for simply because I couldn’t give him anything. He mentored me, showed interest in me, used his connections to better me and my ministry and he was asking God to pour more blessings on me. That’s a right heart. Giving, knowing that you will get nothing back. 
  2. Help them see who God wants them to become. Because blessing comes from someone, you are really helping the person you are blessing helping them see themselves as God sees them and who God wants them to become. This might be challenging a child to be who they are called to be. At the end of the day, this is vision casting. This is painting a picture for someone about how they are settling in life. Not in a negative way or a “stop doing that” sort of way. But, don’t you want more out of life kind of talk. There is a difference. One is negative that shows how much smarter you are and one is more helpful and comes from a place of serving that says, “I don’t want you to miss God’s best in your life.”
  3. Be willing to serve someone. Blessing is about giving something of yourself away, to someone. You may serve them, be generous to them. It might simply be words spoken to them. It will require you to take a step towards them. Blessing is not reciprocating. There is a difference. When I bless my children, I am not expecting them to give something back for it, or to earn it.
  4. Blessing shows someone where they have come from, but where God wants to take them. Each year, I write a letter to our kids on their birthday. In the letter, I highlight how they have grown this year, how God has worked in their hearts and lives, what has happened in our families. My plan is to give these letters to them when they graduate high school and go to college. I want them to have a picture of who they are, where they have come from, so that it influences them onto where they are going. In Scripture, when someone blesses someone there is usually a genealogy nearby in the text. This is a reminder of where these people have come from, their history. In essence, it is who they are, their identity. Blessing is a way of reorienting someone’s identity, helping them to see things more clearly so they are on track.

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Boldness, Community and How God Moves

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Sunday I’m preaching on Acts 4 and the boldness that the disciples had. One of the things that struck me about their boldness was how closely it went with generosity and community.

Boldness → Generosity → Community

Something in us knows the connection between boldness and community. Something in us also hates this connection. When we are hurting, we want community, but the last thing we want is to be bold to get it. We want it to fall into our laps, for someone to just show up and be a shoulder to cry on, but how can they help if we don’t ask?

Think for a minute, do you need community right now? Do you need someone to walk along side of you right now? What is keeping that from happening?

Boldness. 

You are sitting on the sideline waiting for it to happen.

It’s the same with generosity. In Acts 4, as the church is bold, their generosity increases and they see God add to their number.

This is not an accident.

Boldness → Generosity → Community → God Moving

But it all starts with boldness. It all starts with a step.

Boldness to drop the pretense and be real.

Boldness to ask for help.

Boldness to be weak.

Boldness to open yourself up.

In that moment of boldness, others have the opportunity to be generous, to be community and in our weakness, in our humility, we stop trying to be God so we can see God be God.

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Home

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Home is the place where we sometimes hurt the ones we love, but the back door is always open – and there is always a seat at the table. We have a choice where we put our hearts and lay our heads, but home is where it’s always been. Home is home – not necessarily a location, but more than a feeling. It’s the place where we are loved even when that love is complicated and messy but still takes time to set a plate for you. -Jeff Goins, The In-Between: Embracing the Tension Between Now and the Next Big Thing

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Finding an Accountability Partner as a Pastor

If you are a pastor, you need some kind of accountability. You know it. You stand up in sermons and tell your people they need accountability. The problem is that it can be very difficult for a pastor to find accountability. Who can they turn to? Who can they trust?

For pastors, the people who are most eager to be your friend, be your accountability partner are usually the last people you want filling those roles. They usually have agendas or are expecting things you won’t be able to deliver.

Here is the rub for a pastor. Men can vent about their bosses or someone at work. But, if a pastor opens up in their MC and says, “I’m really frustrated at work right now.” Or he says that to an accountability partner, the game has changed. Who is the pastor talking about? Are there sides to take? Who got on the wrong side of this leader?

The same goes for a pastor when they need accountability for purity, integrity, want to talk about their marriage, their kids or their struggles. Just anybody cannot fit this role.

Here are a few things to look for in an accountability partner as a pastor:

  • Someone you trust. If you can’t trust your accountability partner, you are off to a bad start. You won’t be honest and the relationship won’t bring about the goals it sets forth. You have to trust the person, completely. This is why many pastors don’t have one. They bounce from church to church too quickly and never make deep friendships.
  • Someone who understands your role. Being a pastor is different than being a doctor or a landscaper. The person who holds you accountable has to know this. They have to understand the spiritual and emotional side of ministry. All work is hard work. Ministry work is just different hard work. Not harder, just different. The person who holds you accountable has to understand this. Sometimes, it takes a pastor educating someone because not everyone understands.
  • Someone who loves you. They must love you as a person and want what is best for you. This doesn’t mean telling you what you want to hear, but it does mean wanting to see you succeed and become the person God created you to be. Loving you means saying hard things to you sometimes.
  • Someone who isn’t begging for it. If they want this role in your life, it is usually not a good idea. When people want to get close to a pastor or his wife, there is usually an agenda you want to avoid at all costs. Not always, but usually.
  • Someone who is a big fan of yours, but not too big. They must cheer for you, but can’t be over the top.
  • Someone who might not attend your church. They might be outside of your church. At the very least, you should have another pastor you can vent to and get advice about things you can’t get from someone who attends your church.
  • Someone you are not married to. Your sole accountability partner should not be your wife. Period. You should be open and honest with your wife, keeping no secrets, but someone else should hold you accountable.

What would you add to the list for an accountability partner for a pastor or pastor’s wife?

Why a Pastor Should be in a Missional Community or Small Group

Recently, I’ve talked with a growing number of pastors who tell me, “I’m not in a missional community or small group because my staff or my elders are my community and accountability.”

I understand the reasoning. For a pastor, this is a lot more comfortable. This is also a huge problem for pastors, at the end of the day, it is unhealthy. Here’s why:

  1. You aren’t modeling community. What keeps a businessman in your church from saying, “My community is with some Christian guys I work with” that has no connection or accountability to the local church.
  2. What about your family? This may help the pastor, but does nothing for his wife and kids. Where does their community come from? The pastor’s wife is often one of the loneliest people in the church. The pastor’s kids need to be around other Christians and see community lived out and be a part of it.
  3. Missing a crucial discipleship component. Having people into my home weekly is a great discipleship tool. One of the best ways to counsel people is to simply be around them. Instead of doing life counseling or marriage counseling, hang out with them. Let real life rub off on them.

I understand where pastor’s are coming. You work on the church all week, you want a break from people in your church, but you need the people in your church. Scripture calls them to minister to you as well as you ministering to them.

I’m also an introvert and being around people can be tiring as it is for everyone introvert and when you are done working in the evening, you just want to relax in quiet. Introvert or not, Scripture calls us to be in community and around other people. That doesn’t mean you kill yourself to do it or that you go overboard and spend all your time with people. But if our communities only have extroverts, we will not be the full church that Jesus envisioned.

Pastor’s also don’t want to open up to an MC or small group. You have to have wisdom here. I can’t share as much as everyone else can. I can’t say, “Today was a really bad day at work, I’m really frustrated with a staff member.” Pastor’s often tell me, “If I can’t be totally honest, then why join a group?” Again, I understand, but we are still to be in community. Not being in an MC sends the message that what you call people to is not for everybody.

Lastly, there is a direct correlation between the number of adults in community at a church and whether or not a pastor is in one.

Question: Do you agree? Should pastors always be in a missional community or small group at their church?

4 Ways to Maintain Community

Yesterday, we continued our series in the book of Ephesians at Revolution Church called Image is EverythingI preached from Ephesians 4:1 – 6 on the 4 things needed to maintain unity in relationships and community. If you missed it, you can listen here.

There is no doubt that our culture desires community. This is why Facebook, twitter, instagram, pinterest and other social media sites are so popular. We even put social in the name to emphasize how much we want community from them. The problem is that these sites bring connectivity to our lives, but not community. Those aren’t always equal. It is deceptive to the point that people think because they are connected and have 1,000 facebook friends, lots of twitter followers or instagram likes, they have community. They have connection, not necessarily community.

In Ephesians, Paul lays out what the church in Ephesus knew in their heads, but struggled to know and live out in their hearts. We easily do this with community. We know what it takes to have community, know we should have community, yet we struggle to live that out. Paul gives us 4 ways to maintain unity in relationships, whether that is a church, a missional community, a marriage or family. The interesting thing he says is not to create unity, simply maintain it (Eph. 4:3). It is given to us by Jesus through our relationship in him.

Because of this change in our lives, finding our identity in Jesus alone (Eph. 4:1), we are empowered by the Holy Spirit to maintain unity through:

  1. Humility. This is the basis of the Christian life. To follow Jesus, one must humble themselves and admit they are broken and that without Jesus, they continue this way. Relationships are destroyed because of pride. Pride elevates one person over another, elevates one agenda over another. Keeps people from serving each other. Pride keeps people from receiving help when needed. I can’t tell you how many times people have complained about their struggles and when I ask who they’ve asked for help from, they say “no one.” Pride.
  2. Gentleness. This is being caring in a relationship. Not berating someone, not bringing up history in a relationship, not reminding someone what they’ve done wrong in the past. This is caring for the other person, seeking their best, not yours. This gets into how you speak to someone. If you say something and immediately have to say, “I was just kidding” that’s sin. You weren’t kidding, there’s some truth in that statement.
  3. Patience. Community will require patience. People will let you down, intrude in your life. You can’t have a relationship and always get your way. I meet so many people who are alone and the reason is because they aren’t willing to give up what they want. Patience also requires you to allow people to grow and change. If Jesus is the basis of our relationships, then we believe He is powerful enough to not only save us and those we’re in community with, but also powerful enough to change them. Stop trying to change those around you, let Jesus do that through you.
  4. Love. Biblical love is not an emotion first. In our culture that’s all love is. This is why people tell me right before they sin, “You can’t choose who you love.” Biblically, you can. Love is an act of the will (a choice), followed by an emotion. One author said, “To love means you start loving a person and on the way to loving that person, you begin to feel that love.”

While these 4 things are incredibly basic and all of us know them. They are difficult to live out. If they are lived out, the gospel is seen clearly. Community is one of the most powerful pictures of the gospel because people in our culture do not stay in relationships long. Lasting in relationship, often is one of the best ways to show the gospel has a changed a group of people.

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4 Types of Friends a Pastor Needs to Have

I’m reading through It’s Personal: Surviving and Thriving on the Journey of Church Planting by Brian Bloye. Before sharing all my thoughts on the book in a review, I wanted to share a few things that jumped out to me that I thought needed an entire post.

Finding and keeping friends can be very difficult for a pastor. It can be awkward for people to be friends with a pastor because they sometimes don’t want to invite their pastor over when they have the guys over for football. It is often easier just to think of your pastor as someone you see at church, not someone you hang out with. It can be hard for a pastor because there are times he wants to stop being a pastor and just be a guy. It is hard for him to turn that off and it is hard for those around him to let that happen.

Trust is also a big factor for pastor’s when it comes to choosing friends. Pastor’s will wonder, “If I open up to this person, will they use it against me? Can I be truly honest with this person?” As people in their missional community share a prayer request, it is difficult for a pastor to say, “This has been one of the worst weeks at work for me. I’m so frustrated with a co-worker.” Pastor’s and their wife often wonder when someone wants to hang out with them if there is ulterior motives. Do they want to be our friends because they like us or because of what we do? Sadly, people want to be friends with a pastor or his wife, simply to get closer to the center of the action, to be closer to the power as they see it in a church.

People in a church wonder the same thing. Does the pastor and his wife want to hang out with us because they like us or because they think we need ministry? When they hang out with us, are they working or having fun?

Friendship and community are incredibly important to surviving as a pastor or a pastor’s wife. But how does that happen. Bloye talks about the 4 types of friends a pastor needs to have in the journey of church planting:

  1. The developer. A friend that makes you better. They encourage you, lift you up when you fall down, someone who believes in you during times you don’t believe in yourself.
  2. The designer. A mentor, coaching you in life and ministry. Someone who shares the wisdom they’ve gathered in life.
  3. The disturber. The friend who rocks your boat. He’s there to bring discomfort to your world, not comfort. This friend challenges your ideas, is not impressed by you. Not a yes man.
  4. The discerner. An accountability partner. Someone who looks you in the eye and asks the hard questions about your life and where you stand with things.

What the Gospel Saves us For

“When God had mercy on us, when God revealed Jesus Christ to us as our brother, when God won our hearts by God’s own love, our instruction in Christian love began at the same time. When God was merciful to us, we learned to be merciful with one another. When we received forgiveness instead of judgment, we too were made ready to forgive each other. What God did to us, we then owed to others. The more we received, the more we were able to give; and the more our love for one another, the less we were living by God’s mercy and love. Thus God taught us to encounter one another as God has encountered us in Christ. ‘Welcome one another, therefore, just as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God’ (Romans 15:7).” -Dietrich Bonhoeffer

An “Idealized” Community

“Those who dream of [an] idealized community, demand that it be fulfilled by God, by others, and by themselves. They enter the community of Christians with their demands, set up their own law, and judge one another and even God accordingly. We can never live by our own words and deeds, but only by that one Word and deed that really binds us together, the forgiveness of sins in Jesus Christ…Christian community is not an ideal we have to realize, but rather a reality created by God in Christ in which we may participate. The more clearly we learn to recognize that the ground and strength and promise of all our community is in Jesus Christ alone, the more calmly we will learn to think about our community and pray and hope for it.” -Dietrich Bonhoeffer