When Numbers Are Not Enough

This is a hugely tough post to write. In my area, there has been a rash of high profile pastors succumbing to affairs. Heard about another one this weekend. My guess, not knowing them, would be that at some point they stood tall and declared to someone close to them “I’m not going to be that guy.” I get it because I was that guy. At the time, I didn’t understand the relationship between following Christ and adopting Him as my identity. I was simply following Jesus out of my own strength, all the while doing what I could to prop up my false self. I was asking Jesus to be my accessory. So I write this post hoping that one of those pastors who has become that guy will see and read. I don’t want to save them. I don’t want to get blog hits from them. I don’t want fodder for gossip. I want to be vulnerable with them. Help them address their brokenness and maybe provide some guidance on breaking free of their role for Christ and developing an identity in Christ. If you are such a pastor, contact me, let’s talk and start the journey together. If you know of such a pastor, anywhere, forward this to them. I want to offer myself to them without strings or fee. Satan attacks, that is true and he is relentless. But we make the opening wider when our identity is in the wrong place. Putting on the full armor of God means clothing our self with Christ – having an identity rooted in Him. For the pastor, well meaning as he or she may be, it...

The Empty Inner Circle

I help church leaders avoid the pitfalls of spiritual leadership. Overwhelmingly, pastors feel isolated, overworked, unappreciated, and consumed by their role in the church.The quality of our inner circle relationships is a key foundation for successfully enduring the unique rigors of church leadership and pastoring. We need connection. An outlet. Support and comfort. Sadly, by the time all was said and done with regard to the collapse of my world, my inner circle was completely empty and that hastened the fall.Some of the emptying was done for me. My wife and I had no connection. She had distanced herself from me and I had stopped trying. The person in the world that I would want to describe as my best friend, my supporter through thick and thin, was instead the person that I felt the most distance with. Rather than being able to offer support and guidance through the crests and troughs of ministry, my sharing sounded more and more like whining filling her with bitterness and resentment toward my job. This resentment was compounded by the fact that it was to my job that I turned more and more of my attention as the distance between us became greater.Most of the empty inner circle was because of me. Pride is my root sin. In my relationships that expresses itself as a fear of rejection. A fear that if someone knew the real me, my real struggles, the real condition of parts of my life then they would certainly reject me. So I wore my “I’m fine” mask. Acted like everything was great all the time. If questions were...

Fruit and the Spirit

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. – Galatians 5:22 – 23 It is the desire of most of the followers of Jesus that I know to be closer to God. So, when our lives are compared to the verse above, the path seems clear. The solution is more fruit. Now, our well-meaning desire for closeness becomes a mandate to try harder. Because I want intimacy with God, I will set myself on being more self-controlled. Because I am in Christ, I should make sure that I act more joyful. I’m sure you can see and maybe are living in this pattern. If we follow the path of focusing on producing fruit, then we become slaves to our performance. But this verse, thankfully, is not about behavior modification. The broader passage is Paul reminding those in Christ that their behavior is actually a product of their root. A tree does not control its fruit. If a tree is planted in poor soil or is not given water, it cannot simply try harder to produce pleasing fruit. The same is true with us. Fruit is a product of being connected to the Spirit, it is NOT and invitation for the Spirit. [Click here to Tweet that.] The fruit of our life is indicative of our root – on what we are basing our identity. This verse in Galatians tells us what to look for. If you are not seeing love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control, then it is highly likely that you are attempting...

Healthy Things Grow

In a conversation with a leader last week, I used the expression “healthy things grow”to talk about what I was hoping to see in one of the ministries that I oversee. It is a good principle. Healthy kids grow. Healthy plants grow. If there is health, there is the potential for growth. We encounter problems with this principle when we focus our efforts on the growth. And try to make growth happen. Pointing to growth as a sign of healthy things, we become driven to experience growth. But healthy things are not the only things that grow. Cancer grows. Weeds grow. Beer bellies grow. Focusing on growth is a way to feed the false self. It is a way to improve how we measure up by comparison, and thus improve our sense of worth. We can do this in our spiritual life by seeking value in the questions “How often…”,“How long…”, and “How much…”. Doing the right things rather than being the right person. In our churches and ministries we do this when success is evaluated by participation or budget. It is assumed that a growing church is a healthy church. As a blogger, it is easy to judge success by visits or clicks. As a coach, it is tempting to judge success by number of clients. When growth is the driving force, it becomes easy to compromise our values. Growth becomes the new value. People can be manipulated. Used as a means to an end and then discarded. The lens of appropriate behavior becomes whatever helps with growth. Giving them what their itching ears want to hear. Focusing on externals, diminishing vulnerability and humility. All...

Status and Vulnerability

According to research by Brene Brown from her book “I Thought It Was Just Me”: The unspoken rule states the greater the credentials and status, the more you’re allowed to know about others and the less you have to reveal about yourself. In other words, what this research reveals is that as we achieve higher status, whether it is positional or educational, then the expectation of vulnerability is no longer reciprocal. The person of more import has unspoken permission to not, or the expectation that they will not, reveal themselves to the other. In the context of our churches, that means when we are a group leader, deacon, elder, ministry director or pastor our natural inclination will be to close ourselves up and put on a mask. How true this unspoken rule is about the church, and how tragic for all that we serve. I recall several years ago as a pastor leading a small group of people I knew very well. Even in this group of friends, I would never share the difficulties that I was feeling in my own marriage. Part of this was my pride, but equal part is that in our culture, the people we serve in the church want their leaders to be ‘fixed’. A visible example of the effectiveness of following Christ. Instead of inviting others into my circumstances, they were met by my false identity. Rather than pushing back, because I was the leader, it was easy to accept that things were OK. Looking back, I would have benefitted so much from inviting them to walk along with me. And how their own protective...

Gain Perspective. Live Well.

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