Since I became a Christian in 1987, I've constantly heard the phrase "Culture Wars" thrown around. It usually refers to the clash of two perspectives in America: a more traditional worldview based on a Biblical understanding of how a society should function and a more liberal view of culture where old perspectives are challenged and replaced with new viewpoints and ideas on everything from marriage to education to economics to the power of government.
Christians today find themselves in a tough spot. As the culture shifts further away from the long assumed Christian ethos of American history, we as followers of Christ remain firmly planted in our convictions on essential values and beliefs. But the cultural shift means that as society moves farther from the way things used to be, evangelicals look more and more odd to outsiders.
You may or may not know that October is more than the most beautiful month of the year. It's also Pastor Appreciation Month. For many congregations it carries the same weight as Arbor Day. It means very little, if anything, to most churches.
Many people bristle at the idea of showing anyone extra appreciation or honor if they're being paid for doing their job. I once asked a Deacon if they were doing anything special for their pastor in October and he replied, "Yep, we're giving him a paycheck!" And he wasn't being cute. He was being serious. That attitude is completely opposite of what we are commanded to do in scripture.
How can we honor and respect those God has called and equipped to lead us? How can we avoid worshiping a personality while simultaneously loving and blessing our pastors and setting them up to win and succeed in serving us? Here are 5 practical places to start...
I truly believe that one of the defining marks of a mature follower of Jesus Christ is their willingness, or more particularly their EAGERNESS, to celebrate the victories, successes, and milestones in the lives of our brothers and sisters in Christ.
It seems like the internet, blogs, Twitter, and Facebook have helped create a culture of critics and cynics who say things about people behind a computer screen that they would never say face to face to a fellow believer. This has added to a culture that automatically assumes the worst about people rather than giving them the benefit of the doubt. So perhaps it is more difficult today to celebrate when God blesses someone else; their finances, their church, their ministry...you get the idea.
So you are no longer a slave, but a son. And since you are a son, God has made you also an heir. Galatians 4:7
There are two kinds of people in this world. One is a slave. The other is a son.
Slaves own nothing. They have no rights. No property. No posessions. No freedom. Slaves are told what to do by their master. Their existence rises and falls on the whims of whoever owns them.
Sons, and daughters, own everything that their Father owns. All His property. All His wealth. All His authority. Even His own name belongs to them. And by virtue of the Father's goodness, His sons and daughters are not just His children. They are His heirs. Everything that is His is also theirs. Both now and ultimately.
You could compare your spiritual life to a balloon. You could also compare the church to a balloon. My boys love them and fight over them when we go somewhere that has balloons, like restaurants. They like balloons that have regular air in them, but they LOVE the ones with helium. They float. The ones with air just fall.
There is a dangerous tendency to assume that our spirituality has to always be floating, that we need to be soaring on wings like eagles, living on the mountaintop, staying fired up for God…insert any Christian cliche here that will suffice. You get the picture. I even received an email from a youth pastor recently who asked me what advice I could give him to help keep his kids on fire for Jesus. His heart was pure, but his perspective was wrong. I had no advice for him but to scrap the whole idea of being fired up and replace it with abiding in Christ, walking in the Spirit, and living by faith in the gospel.
Nobody ever plans to fail at life. I've never met a single person who made it their life goal to be a loser, die young, and go through life all alone and depressed.
Yet people do these things everyday.
The lives of people we love are plagued with addictions, bitterness, shame, loneliness, depression, and maybe worst of all...regret.
I've been asking myself lately what failure would look like for me. Not mistakes. Not mess-ups. I'm talking about utter, unquestionable failure. Because if I don't actually know what failure would be for me, then it will be most difficult to avoid it.
It’s Monday morning and I have been awake since 5 AM. This is common for me so don’t be alarmed. But I am not alone.
Thousands of pastors join me in sleeplessness, either waking up way too early or staying up way too late. Why? Because it is part of paying the price to do what God has called us to do. The excitement and adrenaline, as well as the difficulties and discouragements of ministry often times make it next to impossible for us to enjoy the natural rythms of life that others experience.
There is no denying that ministry creates situations that lead to stress, pressure, depression and anxiety. (If you question that statement, then you are not involved in pastoral ministry or full time church work). The key is not how we AVOID these situations, for the only way to avoid them is to QUIT THE MINISTRY. The key is to see them coming, prepare for the impact, and weather the storm.
"So how are you today?" they ask. I respond, "I am blessed ." Almost every single time, they will look up from what they are doing and actually make eye contact with me. They usually seem dumbfounded by that response. Boom! I have their attention. As soon as their eyes lock on mine, I then say, "I am doing so much better than I deserve."
There is another secret weapon I need to share with you that is really no secret at all. Most of us know we should do it. Our parents tried to instill this practice in us when we were kids (at least they should have). But we seem hard-wired to fight it no matter what our bodies tell us.
If my big secret is GET UP EARLY, then my other big secret is...GO TO BED WHEN YOU GET TIRED.
If you just made an exasperated sound when you read that, you are probably the very person who needs to take this advice.
As a leader, pastor, dad and husband, I want to know all that I can to make me better at what I do. I also want to experience all I can to make me a more effective minister of the gospel, a more faithful friend, and a more dedicated disciple of Jesus. So when I see someone who has gone further than me or been faithful longer than me, I make it a point to ask them about lessons they've learned and mistakes they've made in hopes that I can glean this knowledge from them in a more streamlined fashion than having to go through a lengthy process myself.
In other words, I would rather learn from someone else's mistakes than to make them myself.
After 25 years in ministry, I am no expert by any means. But I do have TWO BIG SECRETS and I want to share them with you, because I know that if you apply them, they will greatly increase your chances of being a lifelong, faithful follower of Jesus Christ. Here is the first one.