The Loneliness of a Pastor on a Holiday

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I’ll admit right from the start. This is an awkward post to write (and no, I don’t need an invite for a cookout this weekend). But with the 4th of July coming up, I thought it might be helpful for pastors, for a pastor’s wife, and for church members to understand what a holiday like this is often like for a pastor.

Many pastors and their families do nothing with anyone on a holiday weekend.

This is something that is hard for someone who is not a pastor to understand.

A pastor knows so many people, and because of this, people in their church think the pastor and his wife have a ton of friends. This is rarely the case. Because they know so many people, everyone in their church assumes the pastor and his family is always doing something with someone. So, when a picnic or pool party rolls around in the summer time, no one thinks to invite the pastor and his family because “they probably already have plans.”

I remember how hard this was when we first planted Revolution. I remember when this became obvious. We were talking to someone about a summer holiday, I can’t remember which one and they were surprised we had no plans. And they said, “But you guys know everybody. I thought you’d have 15 invitations.”

Now, if you are an introvert, you may not care. Chances are high though, if you don’t care, your spouse does.

In the past few years, this has changed for our family by doing a few things:

  1. Invite people over. At first we started inviting people to our house on the holiday weekends. If no one invites you to their house, throw a party and invite people over. Have a great time. Besides you’re the pastor, they’ll want to come over. This is also a great opportunity to model hospitality if your church isn’t very good at this.
  2. Build community the rest of the year. We often wait to build community for when we need it. That leaves us lonely and hurting. You have to build community for the time that you need community, if you wait til you need it, it will be too late. Pour into relationships at other times, be a good friend to others. Many pastors struggle with being a good friend and shutting off work and just being a person.
  3. Teach people what it is like to be a leader. Most people have no idea what it is like to be a pastor or be a pastor’s wife or be part of a pastor’s family. Teach them. Talk about it. Recommend books on it or share blogs (like this one). It isn’t that your church doesn’t care, they just don’t know.
  4. Be someone people want to invite over. The reality is, some people don’t hang out with their pastor or his wife because they aren’t fun to be with. It isn’t that they are being mean, it is just that you aren’t any fun to be with. You might be a grumpy pastor, or a bitter pastor’s wife. Fight against that. Be a friend people want to have. Learn how to talk about other topics besides church or God. Have some hobbies you can do with others.

I hope that helps you as a pastor or if you aren’t a pastor, to know how your pastor might feel this weekend. Have a great holiday!

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Links for Your Weekend Reading

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Al Mohler on There is no “third way” when it comes to homosexuality.

There is no third way. A church will either believe and teach that same-sex behaviors and relationships are sinful, or it will affirm them. Eventually, every congregation in America will make a public declaration of its position on this issue. It is just a matter of time (and for most churches, not much time) before every congregation in the nation faces this test.

Eva Selhub, M.D. on CrossFit bashers, can you be more constructive?

CrossFit is not the problem folks, obesity is. We have an epidemic of obesity that is not only propelling the rising costs of healthcare, but also morbid problems like metabolic syndrome, heart disease, cancer and diabetes. The estimated annual medical cost of obesity in the U.S. was $147 billion in 2008 U.S. dollars. The medical costs for people who are obese were $1,429 higher than those of normal weight.

Why one Mom says “no” to electronics for her kids.

When I tell you no to devices, I’m giving you a gift. And I’m giving me a gift. It’s a gift of relationship. True human connection. It’s precious and a treasure. And you mean so much to me that I don’t want to miss a second of it.

6 reasons Millenials aren’t at your church and 7 to draw them to your church.

LifeWay Research found 70 percent of young adults who indicated they attended church regularly for at least one year in high school do drop out of regular church attendance. That does not mean, however, they have left never to return. In fact, according to LifeWay Research, almost two-thirds return and currently attend church (within the time frame of the study). That same study found most don’t make a conscious decision to leave due to a doctrinal dispute or significant disagreement. They simply drift away because the church doesn’t seem as important to their lives as it once did. Many have looked at a church and decided it is no longer relevant.

Cross Fit by Jesus

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What’s Next for Revolution Church

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On Sunday, we announced at church that Paul and Jennifer Ingram are moving to Alabama for Paul to be the worship leader at a church there. This is bittersweet for our church and for me personally. I have worked Paul longer than anyone else in my life. Paul and Jennifer have been a crucial piece to get Revolution to where it is today and I’m not sure we would’ve made it through the planting phase without their gifts.

But as I said on Sunday, “God has a way of moving resources to the places they are needed most when they are needed most.”

As Paul mentioned on Sunday, he started feeling this past year like God was preparing to move them to a new place, which means God has some exciting things in store for us as a church as we continue forward and continuing growing. Whenever God calls someone somewhere, God begins calling a person to replace that person.

For us, this comes at the right time as we are growing from a church of 300 to 500. This is a crucial season in the life of our church. What makes this exciting is that we are able to seek God as to the kind of leaders He thinks we need to take this step. While I always thought Paul would be a part of that equation and we would lead Revolution together for decades, God had other plans.

On June 15th, we will say good bye to the Ingram’s and celebrate what God has done through them.

Going forward, this leads to a few questions. Paul and Jennifer did a lot at our church in worship, finances and Planet Rev.

Over the summer, AJ Winslow who has been mentored by Paul and has led regularly at our church will be leading the worship area as we figure out what is our best next step. He will lead a couple times a month and oversee all the behind scenes of our worship and tech area. We will also have some guest worship leaders from churches here in Tucson and Phoenix that we are connected to. It has been exciting to see the way other churches we’ve supported and blessed over the years reach out to us and ask how they can help us in this transition. While it can be hard to have a rotation like this, know that the quality of our worship will not drop as we move forward.

In the area of finances, if you have a question you can direct them to Jason Wood or Ciara Hull. Jason is one of our elders and has worked closely with Paul in this area over the past year and this is a natural transition. Ciara has been on staff for over a year and knows the inner workings of what Paul does each week in this area and this will enable us to have a seamless transition in this area.

For Planet Rev, God has once again blown me away with how he has protected our church and put pieces into place to ensure that Revolution will continue without a hitch. Several months ago, we announced that we were beginning a search to hire a full-time Children’s director. We went with a local organization to lead the search as we felt they understood the culture of Tucson and could provide training and coaching to our leaders and volunteers. This ministry, led by Karen Wendling will be overseeing Planet Rev during the interim time. This will allow us to keep all our classroom leaders in place (which will keep things the same for your child and our volunteers) while we continue the search for a leader in this area. In fact, we have 2 interviews next week, so be praying for that as we move forward.

As I said at the top, this is a sad, but exciting time for our church. God has protected us in the past and sent us the leaders we needed at the moment we needed them, and I know He will do the same now as we move forward.

If you have questions about our next step or for Paul and Jennifer, please don’t hesitate to contact myself or Paul.

Have a great week and I’ll see you Sunday as I’m preaching our next sermon in our Change series on “How to trust God.”

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Pick a Church

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When I spoke at Exponential on the topic of how to transition a church from small groups to missional communities, the question of attending two churches came up. This happens a lot in church planting circles. It goes like this, “Can I or someone attend a church on Sunday, but then attend a small group or missional community at another church?”

The reasons people do this are many, but the answer to the question is simple.

No.

Many times, someone will attend a larger church on Sunday or a service they like and then attend a group at a smaller church because “it is easier to get connected and cared for at the smaller church.”

This creates a weird tension for people in the group or MC.

At a church like Revolution, where we discuss the sermon, if you don’t hear the sermon you won’t be able to add to the discussion. So, now you are silent attendee. The other aspect that is incredibly important and this is the real reason people do this (even though they would never tell you this). Attending a church and an MC at another church keeps a person from having accountability in their life or having to submit to authority. They are able to skirt it at both churches, get what they want and go home.

No one holds them accountable, gives them pushback for not serving (because they aren’t), not giving (because they usually aren’t because their heart isn’t at either church) and ultimately, they are simply being a consumer at two places and taking it all in instead of giving to anyone through care and serving.

On a larger level, this keeps the church who has the MC they attend from growing their church. The consumer getting the best of both churches is taking up a needed seat for someone to get connected at the church.

I know what you will say, “But they want to be there. They need to be connected. This is uncaring.”

I would say, “It is uncaring to say no to someone who wants to be in an MC at the church they attend that you can’t because we don’t have room because of this person who doesn’t attend our church, doesn’t want to attend our church but wants to be in an MC.” It is uncaring to the person waffling because they are missing the crucial element of accountability that is so important to relationships and community because they go to this place on Sunday and then to our place on Thursday.

You can’t have it all and by trying to have it all (attending a church service and an MC at a different church), you actually end up missing the thing you are trying to get.

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9 Lessons from Pixar for Churches and Pastors

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I recently read the new book Creativity, Inc.: Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration by Ed Catmull on the story of Pixar and the culture of that company. The lessons churches and pastors can learn from them are numerous. There were so many, I’m actually going to share the lessons in multiple blog posts. You can read the first 10 here. Below are 10 more:

  1. The health of the team outweighs the results. Sadly, this is something churches and pastors can learn from Pixar. Catmull said, “The needs of a movie can never outweigh the needs of our people. We needed to do more than keep them healthy. A company must have strategies to prevent the deadlines from hurting their workers. What is usually considered a plus – a motivated, workaholic workforce pulling together to make a deadline – could destroy itself it left unchecked.” It is the leader’s job to put things into place to keep other leaders, volunteers and staff from burning out. Yes it is an individual’s job to keep themselves healthy, but they often get to a place of unhealth because of expectations or what they think are expectations. At Revolution, we require our MC’s to slow down in the summer time. It isn’t because we don’t value community, mission or want to see people get connected. We also run the risk of people not getting connected or losing momentum for things happening. We do it to help ensure our leaders slow down and not burnout. 
  2. For a senior leader to stay engaged, they must make new goals. At one point, when Toy Story came out Catmull had the empty feeling that he had reached his goal of producing a computer animated movie. When he did that, he had what all leaders have, the feeling of wondering if there is more to leadership and life. To stay engaged, a senior leader must continually set new goals, look to new heights personally and organizationally. They must look to new hills to climb or else they will quit or become disengaged.
  3. The team is more important than the ideas. This is surprising to come from Pixar since they are so focused on the story. But according to Catmull, “If you give a good idea to a mediocre team, they will screw it up. If you give a mediocre idea to a brilliant team, they will either fix it or throw it away and come up with something better. Getting the team right is the necessary precursor to getting the ideas right.” I think many lead pastors and churches, in an effort to get things done or have people to take care of things, they don’t spend a great deal of time thinking through who is on the team. They have their requirements, whether that be schooling, experience, character, doctrine, agreed upon vision or a combination of the above, but they move too quickly and don’t hold out for the best team members, the best leaders.
  4. Any hard problem should have many good minds simultaneously trying to solve it. In churches, we often keep power to a few at the top. By doing this, we often miss how knowledge can be found everywhere and answers can be found everywhere. There is also a fear that many churches and pastors harbor and not having a willingness to learn from other pastors and churches that are not in their camp. Acts 29, my camp does this. We are fearful of seeker-sensitive churches and only read books by dead guys or a few pastors we respect. Why not read books by business leaders? Or pastors of churches that have a different viewpoint than we do?
  5. Whatever happens, we have to be loyal to each other. I’m sure loyalty is talked about in most churches and leadership teams, but I wonder how often it is held. Without loyalty, teams will fail, leaders will fail and churches will fail. If you teams aren’t able to continue working together when it gets hard, they won’t last. This is also seen when a lead pastor has someone come to him and say, “Did you hear what that leader did? Did you know this was happening?” I’ve often told our leaders, keep everyone up to date so that when a problem arises, we are able to have each other’s back.
  6. The first impression sticks. First impressions always stick, they are almost impossible to break. That’s why the first moments on a Sunday morning are the most important minutes. There is something else about this that churches miss and that is the idea of being thought well of by outsiders. Many churches and pastors seem to want to stir up controversy, say stupid things so their blog gets more hits or they get more RT’s on twitter. Nothing brings in people like a controversy. That’s true, but your church doesn’t want any of those people. It also makes those outside the church think poorly of us and the gospel. Yes, but what if it is true? It won’t matter if it is true because they won’t hear it. A church and its leaders should strive to be thought well of, while at the same time being faithful to the Bible. It is possible.
  7. Story Is King. For Revolution, the sermon is the most important piece of our gathering, but it is the thing that drives our gathering. Everything we do stems from the text and the theme for the day. The songs, videos, stories, readings, art, responses, next steps, etc. Everything stems from the passage and sermon. Start with that, start with what will be communicated and use everything to get that across. This is one of the things that sets Pixar apart, their stories are incredible and memorable.
  8. Trust the Process. This is hard for leaders to do, especially pastors. We often want to control people, outcomes or how things will go. We see a problem brewing or a person who isn’t making it and we want to step in and end it or make something happen. We need to trust the processes that we have put into place. If you have an assessment process to be a leader, trust it. If you have a membership process for people, trust it. Let the process weed people out.
  9. Getting the team right is the necessary precursor to getting the ideas right. One of the most important, if not most important, aspect of leadership is getting your leadership team right. All effort needs to be put into this because your church will rise and fall because of the caliber of leaders you have. The amount of time you spend developing leaders, finding leaders, hiring the right leaders needs to be more important than you probably make it.
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Fixing What’s Wrong with Your Church

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I remember when I was in my 20’s looking for a new church job after seminary and one of my professors told me, “Find a church that you would attend if you didn’t get paid to be there.” Let me ask it another way for pastors, “Would you attend your church if you didn’t get paid to be there?

The answer for many pastors is a resounding, “No.”

You cannot fix anything at your church, you can’t make lasting change until it is clear you want to be there. 

Here’s why it matters:

  1. You aren’t bought in. If you don’t want to be there, you aren’t bought in. You may tell me you were called there or at least take a paycheck from that church, but you aren’t bought in. You will take the next higher paying job as soon as it comes along. As soon as life with the elders or staff member gets difficult, you will update the resume. If you are not bought in, the first sign of a difficult season will send you packing. I know a guy who simply quits his job whenever it gets hard or he doesn’t like someone he works with. Pastors can be the same. This environment creates little buy in from your church and team.
  2. Others know you aren’t bought in. Your church and your leaders know you aren’t bought in. It is obvious. You have no vision, no excitement for the future, you don’t invite anyone to church, you don’t talk about any conversations you have with non-Christians. You are simply showing up and people know it. Pastors think they hide it but your church is as perceptive as kids are with their parents, they don’t miss anything when they are looking. When it comes to vision and excitement, your church is looking to see what you have.
  3. Without being bought in, you will change the wrong things. If you aren’t bought in and aren’t excited, if you don’t want to be there, you will have no vision. When this happens, you will change what you just learned at a conference. You will come back and start a drama team, start using candles, do dialogue in preaching, have more songs or less songs, preach expository sermons or topical ones depending on what the latest trendy pastors said he is doing. This creates a roller coaster ride for your church. They don’t know what the win is and they get nervous when you go to a conference because of what will change afterwards.

I would say, if you wouldn’t attend the church you work at, find a new church to attend. Notice I didn’t say work at. Be bought in somewhere before working there. This is why, when someone emails Revolution about a job, we tell them to move to Tucson, start attending Revolution and we’ll see what happens. We want people who are bought into our vision and excited about where we are going, not people who want a paycheck.

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Why You Aren’t a Leader

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I meet a lot of people in their 20’s and 30’s who are really smart. The reason I know they are smart is because they tell me. Typically, in your 20’s, you are always the smartest person in the room, especially as it relates to churches. I get it. I was the same way. I’ve had to since apologize to some people I worked under for my arrogance.

If you are in your 20’s and 30’s, there is also a sense of people should just hand things to you.

I remember a couple of years ago being asked by some people at Revolution why we weren’t supporting a church plant in Tucson (sadly, this church plant no longer exists). My response was, “they never asked.” Now, the people asking knew the planter and asked why we didn’t just give money to them without them asking.

Answer: leaders cast a vision. Leaders make the ask. Leaders make it known what is needed. Leaders sit across the table from influencers, givers, and others leaders, cast a vision and say, “I want you to be involved and here’s how _____.”

Leaders do not wait for someone to give them something.

If you are a church planter or pastor and don’t have the volunteers you need, the money you need, the people you need. You have either not asked or you are not casting a compelling vision for people to join.

Don’t miss this: people are not looking for something else to give to or something else to do. 

They are looking for something worth their time, money and effort.

This is hard to do and this one reason is why so few dreamers ever reach their full potential. Here are 3 ways to ask:

  1. Don’t say no for someone. You have a need and you know the perfect person to fill that need, except they are really busy. Many pastors will not ask that person, they will ask someone less qualified. Don’t. Don’t say no for someone. Let them say no for themselves. They might be too busy. They might cut something out of their life to do what you ask them to do.
  2. Know what you are asking for. If you are asking them to give to something, know how much you are asking for. If it is serving, know for how long and how much time it will take. The more specific you are in what you are asking for, the higher the chance they will say yes.
  3. Know why you are asking. This is where many leaders miss the boat. They know “what” and “how” for their church plant, team, ministry, etc. but they don’t know why. Why should this person do this? What will it gain? Why is it worth their time or money? I once talked to a campus minister and all he told me in our hour meeting was what he would do on campus. I already knew that. I wanted to know why, I wanted to hear his heart, I wanted to hear his passion and why it drove him to give his life to it.

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What You Need to Know to Make Easter Great at Revolution

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Easter is next week. Here are 10 ways you can help make it great this year at Revolution:

  1. Don’t miss Easter. Easter is April 20th, next Sunday. At Revolution, we are starting a brand new series Change on the book of Galatians. On Easter, we will be looking at how the first step to change is to be rescued from what is broken in our lives, what needs to be changed.
  2. Don’t miss Good Friday. On Good Friday we walk the stations of the cross to come face to face with the cross of Jesus and the sacrifice made to purchase our salvation and to right all the wrongs of the world.
  3. Join our prayer challenge. This year, we laid down the challenge to pray 30 minutes a day during the week of Easter. So far, 75 people have taken the challenge. If you want to join in, email Ciara Hull and we’ll send you an email each day with things to pray for Revolution, our city and other churches about.
  4. Invite someone. Stats say that most Americans would go to church if someone invited them. So, grab an invite card this Sunday, share a link on Facebook or twitter, send an email, shoot out a text, make a call, show up at their house and drag them to church or at least bribe them with lunch. Put invite them.
  5. Serve somewhere on Sunday morning. Every week, Revolution happens because everyone plays a part. As we continue to grow, this is even more important. At Revolution, there’s for everyone to play and lots of help is needed. If you aren’t sure where to serve, email Ciara Hull and we’ll get you plugged in.
  6. Pray some more. 
  7. Get baptized. What a better way to celebrate Easter than getting baptized. If you are a new follower of Jesus or have never been baptized, you can sign up here.
  8. Be friendly on Sunday morning. We will have tons of guests on Easter Sunday and many of them have had a bad church experience, are nervous, think Christians are unfriendly. Prove them wrong. Have a smile on your face. Say hi to them. If you see someone who looks lost, ask if you can help. If they don’t know where something is, show them, don’t point the way, walk them to where they need to go.
  9. Pray again. 
  10. Take time to remember, thank and worship Jesus. In the bustle of Easter, having family and friends get together, serving, praying, it is easy to forget that we celebrate and remember a Savior and King who died in our place and rose from the dead. Take time to do that this week.

Thanks to Mars Hill Church for this blog idea.

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One of My Hopes for the Church

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Can I tell you one of my dreams for Revolution Church and your church?

I preached on our vision and some dreams on Sunday. Here’s how I closed:

I want people to know that we stand against sin in our world, that we want to see people rescued from it and live the life God has called them to live.

I also want them to know that we are incredibly broken, more broken than we ever realized. But, that we have been rescued and it is greater than we thought possible and we will not quit until everyone knows.

I also want them to know, that even if we disagree with them, if they have a need we can meet, we will be there. I long for people to look at people who are part of our church and say, “I don’t agree with everything they believe, but when I needed a friend, when I needed a shoulder to cry on, when I needed food, when I needed help financially, when I needed a ride home because I was too drunk to drive, when I needed to be picked up off the ground because my life hit rock bottom, someone from Revolution was there.”

And that through serving, through loving, through walking with them, you will be given an opportunity to talk about Jesus with them and that through your serving and loving, they will be open. Because, they will begin to look around their life and see the brokenness and see that you are the only friend still there and wonder what is so different about you.

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Pastor, Enjoy the Season of Growth (And Pruning)

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I was talking to a church planter the other day who is in the hard season of planting. He told me (something I have felt and heard other planters say), “It seems like nothing we are doing is working or growing. But it seems like Revolution is going gang busters right now.”

A few thoughts I shared with him:

  1. This season is coming. If you are a pastor, leader or church planter, you will feel like this at some point. Whether it is because it didn’t go as you expected, people leave your church, giving goes down, no one responds to a sermon, you lose a place to meet or have a fight within your leadership or a hard season with your spouse or kids. Either way, it is coming.
  2. Let’s admit that from our perspective everyone has it easier and better. It doesn’t matter if you are a pastor or not, everyone has it better. Everyone has the bigger church, bigger budget, better marriage, better situation, better staff, better worship leader, kids pastor, student pastor, bigger blog or twitter platform. Everyone else is a better communicator, leader, pastor, better everything. It isn’t true, but it seems that way and because it seems that way, it becomes true in your mind.
  3. Don’t waste the pruning season. Pruning is brutal. Whether personally or as an organization. Everyone needs it and everyone gets it. The question is if they use it or waste it. Every leader from Moses, David, Jesus and Paul went through the desert and were pruned. Everyone of them came out the other side and while no leader wants to go through the desert, after going through it, they wouldn’t trade it. For me and our church, 2012-2013 was a season of pruning. It was hard. I grew a lot in those years. God did a lot of work on my heart and in our church. During that season, our church didn’t grow a lot. I think sometimes God protects our churches from growing so he can work on the leaders. Bottom line is this, if you are in a season of pruning personally, as a church staff or as a church (and you know if you are), lean into it. Grow in it. Don’t waste it. Those seasons tend to last until God is finished with us so you might as well dig into it.
  4. Enjoy the harvest season. Right now, Revolution is moving from the pruning season (we are still in it) to a season of growth and harvest. This is what every pastor and church dreams of, and it is fun. This is when things work, things grow, MC’s grown and multiply and people get saved, sermons have life and connect. It is easy to miss this season and not enjoy it. That doesn’t mean sit back and be lazy, but thank God for this season. It is his grace on you.

Regardless of the season you are in, it doesn’t last forever. Spring does come and winter ends. But the summer harvest also moves into a season of fall which becomes winter. Nothing lasts forever, no matter how much we want it to or how much it seems like hard difficult season won’t end, it will.

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