It’s Time for Some Pastoral Laughter for a Change

old_man_laughing
By BerLin (Nikon) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

I know, I know—“ministry is serious business.” If I hear that one more time, I think I’ll gag. I fully realize that too much humor can be irritating, even offensive.

I recognize that it can be taken to such an extreme that it is inappropriate. But doesn’t it seem we have a long way to go before we are guilty of that problem?

I think so.

Flexibility and Fighting Through the Flatland Fog

Flexibility
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Are you open to change? People who make a difference can be stretched, pulled, pushed, and often changed. You heard it from me: traditionalism is an old dragon, bad about squeezing the very life out of its victims.

So never stop fighting it. Watch out for those age-old ruts!

Let’s be careful to identify the right opponent. It isn’t tradition per se; it’s traditionalism. I’m not trying to be petty, only accurate. The right kind of traditions gives us deep roots—a solid network of reliable truth in a day when everything seems up for grabs.

Among such traditions are those strong statements and principles that tie us to the mast of truth when storms of uncertainty create frightening waves of change driven by winds of doubt.

Whatever is in First Place

First Place
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If some ministry position is the god of your life, then something terrible occurs within when it is no longer a future possibility. If your ministry, however, is simply a part of God’s plan and you keep it in proper perspective, you can handle an unwanted dismissal just as well as you can handle a promotion.

It all depends on who’s first and what’s first.

Breaking the magnet that draws things ahead of God is a lengthy and sometimes painful process. But God loves us enough to wrench from our hands everything we love more than Him.

2 Tips for Living Victoriously (After You’ve Blown It)

Victory
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Picture for a moment the barrenness and bleakness that happens in a life when compromise occurs. It doesn’t come immediately. At first, there’s some zip, a little excitement; there’s a measure of thrill and pizzazz.

But inevitably the fleshly investment starts to yield its carnal dividends. And when that happens, you suffer as you’ve seldom suffered before.

Perhaps the words very low paint a picture of bleakness that describes you at this moment. Even in ministry, the burden of struggle takes it toll. You have ignored God’s warnings and pushed your strong convictions aside as you trafficked in unlived truth.

But now you are at the end of your rope. You’re discouraged. You have failed miserably. You’re thinking, What a terrible way to live!

Committing to Excellence

Excellence
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Mediocrity is fast becoming the by-word of our times. Every imaginable excuse is now used to make it acceptable, hopefully preferred.

Things like . . .

  • Budget cuts
  • Time deadlines
  • Majority opinion
  • Hard-nosed practicality

These are outshouting and outrunning excellence.

Swimming Upstream

Those forces seem to be winning the race. Even for pastors. Incompetence and status quo averages are held up as all we can now expect. The tragedy is that more and more people have agreed.

  • Why worry over the small stuff?
  • Why bother with the genuine now that the artificial looks so real?
  • If the congregation buys it, why sweat it?

What to Do When Discouragement is Just Plain Awful

Hope
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Can you remember a recent “gray slush” day? Of course you can. So can I. (For us pastors, it’s often a Monday.) On such days, the laws of fairness and justice are displaced by a couple of Murphy’s Laws.

Your dream dissolved into a nightmare. High hopes took a hike. Good intentions got lost in a comedy of errors; only this time, nobody was laughing.

You didn’t soar; you slumped. Instead of “pressing on the upward way,” you felt like telling John Bunyan, the author of Pilgrim’s Progress, to move over as you slid down into his Slough of Despond near Doubting Castle, whose owner was Giant Despair.

Discouragement is just plain awful.

Hanging Tough When You’d Like to Hang it Up

Determination
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When Jesus tells us to “seek first the kingdom of God,” the very word seek implies a strong-minded pursuit (see Matthew 6:33). J. B. Phillips paraphrases the idea with “set your heart on.”

The Amplified Bible says, “Aim at and strive after.”

The Greek text of Matthew’s gospel states a continual command: “Keep on continually seeking.” The dominating thought is determination, which I define as “deciding to hang tough, regardless.”

All of this urges us to keep in mind the difference between natural sight and supernatural vision.

Are You Dreaming?

Dreams
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We dare not miss an important dimension to hanging tough. It is the thing that keeps you going. I call it a dream. I don’t mean those things we experience at night while we’re asleep.

No, by dream, I mean a God-given idea, plan, agenda, or goal that leads to God-honoring results.

Most pastors I know don’t dream enough. If someone were to ask you,

What are your dreams for this year? What are your hopes . . . your agenda? What are you trusting God for?

Could you give a specific answer? I don’t have in mind just ministry objectives or goals, although there’s everything right with those. But what about the kind of dreaming that results in character building, the kind that cultivates God’s righteousness and God’s rule in your life?

Waiting and Listening in the White Spaces

Waiting and Listening
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During times of waiting on God, there is a “white space.” That’s when nothing seems to be happening—at least nothing visible. You could easily tell yourself at the time, “I’m waiting in vain. Nothing’s going to change.”

That’s precisely what the Adversary wants you to think: “Waiting on God is a waste.”

Don’t you believe it!

When the Enemy’s message slips into your mind, you need to kick it out. Reject it. Call it the lie that it is. As Paul wrote,

We are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5).

See how practical that is? Every thought.

During those times when doubt and discouragement creep into our waiting periods, the Lord provides us with strong counsel to remember. 

When You’re Feeling Intimidated in Ministry

When You’re Feeling Intimidated
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Many years ago, I went through a dreadful experience with a person who decided to make me his enemy. I still don’t know why he had it in for me. It remains a mystery. Nevertheless, it occurred.

This individual decided to make my life miserable.

  • He watched my every move.
  • He questioned my decisions.
  • He cast doubts on my ministry.
  • This person applied pressure, sometimes to the point where I thought I would scream.

I don’t know how much he said to others about his opinion of me; I never asked. But he said enough to me and was bullying and intimidating enough that I became frightened, especially when I realized he carried a gun!

Eventually, on one occasion, he even threatened me with it.