Category archives: pastoring

Rebuking

A few weeks ago, I came across an excerpt from a sermon where the pastor at a church started “rebuking” members of the congregation for their various faults.

That video has gone viral now and, as I write this, about 600 thousand people have seen it on Youtube. So Christianity Today asked a number of experts about rebuking from the pulpit. I was particularly interested to see Methodist luminary William Willimon‘s take on it:

Prophets such as Amos or Nathan called people to account personally. It’s almost refreshing, in this age of feel-good theology, to see a preacher really get worked up over behavior and get morally indignant in the service of the truth delivered to him to speak.

Well, yes, as a fellow mainline pastor, I agree that it is (sadly) refreshing to see a preacher get worked up and morally indignant. But is it the right thing to do? Albert Mohler said, “I can’t imagine a situation in which it is healthy or wise to attempt individual church discipline or exhortation in the context of preaching in a worship service.” I agree with him more than I do with Willimon.

But my own position is one I’ve stolen from Jim Burgen, and it goes like this: if you can’t put “me too” somewhere in the sentence, then just don’t say it. There are other people in the congregation and they can probably see what the problem is as well as you can. Instead of you thundering “you bad person” from the pulpit, let those other people come alongside and say “I struggle with that too, and here’s how God has helped me.”

After Matthew Warren’s Suicide

I feel so bad for Rick and Kay Warren, grieving the suicide of their son Matthew at 27.

Of course, there are no words, but as Greg Laurie said on his blog, there is the Word: God with us. I can’t imagine losing one of my children at all, much less to spend a lifetime watching them battle any type of mental illness. May God give peace to the Warren family.

Adrian Warnack has a nice piece answering the question, can Christians be depressed? (Yes.)

I was grateful to read this reflection, by Beth Moore. I can understand (barely) why people who aren’t Christians might dislike Rick Warren, but it baffles me that so many Christians not only disagree with but even hate him. [Update: Mark Driscoll’s blog entry on this tragedy and the behavior of Warren’s critics is (surprise!) comprehensive and strongly worded.]

Although I don’t know Rick Warren personally, I did get a hug from him once. Two years ago I was attending a conference on the main Saddleback campus in Orange County. Here’s what I said at the time:

I just got a hug from Rick Warren. I’m at Catalyst 1-Day. On a coffee break, chewing on what Craig Groeschel just said (man up, more or less) and Warren comes up from my blind side and says, “How about a hug for a pastor?”, delivers aforesaid hug, and moves on so quickly I didn’t realize at first who it was. Very timely. I really like that guy.

I wish I could return that hug now, when he and his family need it.

Saddleback Church

I do like Rick Warren, as I said. He says we need to be careful about making heroes of living people, because sometimes they don’t finish well, but I think he’s a pretty good model for pastors to aspire to. Not least because he loves other pastors. He did a series of podcasts for people in ministry as impressive as it was brief, and the “Minister’s Toolbox” (subscribe on Pastors.com) is certainly worth the time of anyone in ministry.

If you haven’t read The Purpose Driven Life, I recommend you do. I’m just rereading it (actually reading the tenth anniversary reissue) and I’m more impressed now than I was the first time I read it.

Dallas Willard on Satisfied Preachers

Dallas Willard has an great piece over at Preaching Today, on the subject of excellent preaching. The subhead really says it all: “learning to preach from the overflow of your deeply satisfying relationship with the Savior.”

As usual, he nails it. The lowest spots in my ministry have mirrored his. “I know my temptations come out of situations where I am dissatisfied, not content. I am worried about something or not feeling the sufficiency I know is there. If I have a strong temptation, it will be out of my dissatisfaction.” And it didn’t take me very long to discover that my church is full of people just like me. Ministry in a church is not without its rewards, but I can’t depend on my successes there, or my relationships in the church, rewarding though they may be, to make me satisified.

So what’s the solution? Find something more satisfying: a deeper and more rewarding relationship with the Savior:

I encourage pastors to have substantial times every week when they do nothing but enjoy God. That may mean walking by a stream, looking at a flower, listening to music, or watching your children or grandchildren play without your constantly trying to control them. Experience the fullness of God, think about the good things God has done for you, and realize he has done well by you. If there is a problem doing that, then work through the problem, because we cannot really serve him if we do not genuinely love him.

Pastors’ work hours tallied in new survey

This is why we get paid the big bucks:

A telephone survey found that 65 percent of the 1,000-plus senior pastors surveyed work 50 or more hours a week — with 8 percent saying they work 70 or more hours. Meetings and electronic correspondence consume large amounts of time for many ministers, while counseling and visitation often suffer, along with family time, prayer and personal devotions.

via Pastors’ work hours tallied in new survey.

My Sermons Should Be Improving

I liked seeing this in my twitter feed the other day:

No matter what you do, your first 200 sermons are going to be terrible.

It’s attributed to Tim Keller. If he’s right, then my preaching will be getting better, because I’ve surely passed that number. In fact, I’m coming up fast on 250 sermons.

Heroes and mentors

Only last night, I was bemoaning how the PC(USA) does such a lousy job of developing new pastors. (I.e., me.) You get an education, you get evaluated on your gifts for ministry, and then you get turned loose on some poor, unsuspecting church. In too many ways, you’re on your own as a pastor.

Our system intentionally prevents people from becoming pastors in the context where their gifts for ministry first surfaced. You may be a stellar youth director, but if you go to seminary, you will not return to that same church as a pastor.

We also don’t mentor our newbies. We’re too busy in our churches, we’re too geographically dispersed–this isn’t Scotland, and whatever the meetings of our governing bodies are good for, it sure isn’t mentoring. Unless you had previous experience on a church staff (as an Associate Pastor or a non-ordained position), you don’t have more than a smattering of experience to draw on as you go about your work.

That was last night. This morning, I read this on Seth Godin’s blog:

Mentors provide bespoke guidance. They take a personal interest in you. It’s customized, rare and expensive.

Heroes live their lives in public, broadcasting their model to anyone who cares to look.

Like a custom made suit, a mentor is a fine thing to have if you can find or afford it. But for the rest of us, heroes will have to do.

Good advice. If nobody will mentor you, find some heroes. Stop with the pity party already, and take some responsibility for your ministry. (“You are Elasti-girl! ” —Edna Mode)