Get free email updates as I write new articles:

5 Ways to Recover Your Passion for Pastoral Leadership

Passion

I’ve been there. I’ve been burned out and depressed, discouraged and defeated. I’ve led in atmospheres where every creative idea was smothered by questions rooted in fear. I’ve been distracted by secondary interests. I’ve given into my own emotions and have isolated myself from healthy, life-giving relationships.

And I’ve recovered. That doesn’t mean I’m where I need to be – I’m still on the journey and have a long way to go. But I’ve learned the hard way how to bounce back to passionate preaching and leadership in the local church. From my own past and my own painful experiences, let me shoot from the hip with five big ways you can bounce back from burnout and be a passionate leader once again.

  1. Repent of sin. Dig it out of the depths of your heart – the secret recesses where no one else sees but God and own your sin, especially the seven most life-stealing sins: pride, lust, laziness, envy, unholy anger, gluttony, and greed. If you’re hanging onto these, it’s no wonder you’re feeling defeated. You’re living as though victory isn’t already yours in Christ.
  2. Read the Word. Let’s be honest. Most of the time, when we’ve given into feelings of distance from God and others, we play the victim and pout in the corner, acting entirely uninterested in the things that matter most to our deepest relationships. But God has spoken and this blog post doesn’t even compare to the re-igniting power of the eternal word of God.
  3. Practice the discipline of prayer. Set aside thirty minutes to just pray. If you run out of things to say, sit silently and listen, but don’t cut the time short. It doesn’t always have to be thirty minutes, but start there. I know you don’t feel like it. You’re not even sure God is listening anymore, but deep down you know the truth. So re-join the conversation.
  4. Love people. Get in touch with friends, serve others, and pray for people in pain. Talk about your issues. Isolation is deadly. You have to fight to beat your desire to retreat. The best way to climb out of the misery of self-focus is to intentionally become others-focused. Spend some time praying for others, then see how you can serve them.
  5. Feast yourself on the lavish love and unfathomable depth of God’s grace. Stop living by performance, the to-do list, and the tyranny of the inbox. You can’t work hard enough to make God happy with you. You simply must rest in the assurance that He’s pleased with you in Christ. His grace is always, always, always sufficient!!

Here’s the thing. I like books, blogs, and seminars about leadership and church growth. They give us ideas, inspire us to lead better, and equip us with skills we couldn’t otherwise possess. But none of those things will bring healing like a deepening relationship with Jesus. And that comes through the humbling work of prayer, Bible-reading, repentance, reliance on God’s grace, and ministry to others through acts of love.

You know what to do. Let Jesus become bigger and more glorious in your eyes than ever before.

Why We Need a Bigger View of God

Our tendency is to put God at the center of our universe and treat Him as a sort of crystal ball or magic genie who is all about us and our happiness. The problem is, this makes for a much smaller God than the one represented in the Bible. The most powerful perspective change we can have is to echo the sentiments of John the Baptist who said of Jesus, “he must increase, and I must decrease.” (John 3:30)

The book of Acts says of the early church that “a deep sense of awe came over them all, and the apostles performed many miraculous signs and wonders.” (Acts 2:43 NLT) I find it interesting that the order is the reverse of what we would assume. We would have written the story with great signs and wonders happening, resulting in our bigger view of God. But the Bible says the opposite – an increase and expanded understanding of God produces the fruit of a powerful experience of God.

In other words, life begins with worship, and worship is an enrichment of our understanding of God’s size and magnitude and power and majesty. And church begins there too – not with a sensational experience of the miraculous, but with a humbling before His Almighty being.

Remember that the early church was both poor and persecuted. They struggled daily with poverty among their members and with continual threats from the religious establishment of the time. This was no easy situation in which to proclaim the magic genie concept of God. They realized their need to understand God in much deeper, much larger terms.

Whatever problems you’re facing today, realize that it may not be a matter of having God fix them but rather a matter of enlarging your view of God and re-capturing your sense of awe at His power and presence. Only when we begin to see Him for who He truly is can we see Him at work doing what He really does.

Who Invented Social Media? God Did.

The Creation of Adam

Michaelangelo understood the personal and relational nature of God’s initial acts of creation. photo: Wikimedia Commons

God invented social media. I know that might sound like a crazy claim, but I have a biblical basis for believing this. So I’m primarily speaking to those who believe with me that God is the creator presented to us in the biblical book of Genesis.

Social media seems like a new term. Many people are just hearing it, and many others are already tired of it. It’s a trend, a fad, something that people are jumping on quickly for reasons ranging from connecting to old friends to making millions of dollars. When I say it’s a fad, I am referring to the term”social media” not to the actual concept of it.

Let’s break it down this way. The word media really just refers to information. Facts. Things that are true, or at least things that are thought to be true. Social is a word we used to refer to interactions between human beings – otherwise known as relationships. Putting it together, social media simply refers to the sharing of information through relationships.

There was a time in history when the only way information was shared was by conversation between people. And even after information began to be written down, writings were still shared from person to person through real, human relationships. Even in the garden of Eden, god communicated directly with Adam and Eve in a family-like relationship. He told them what they needed to know (media) in a direct personal way (social). In other words, God invented social media.

[bcoxlike]

Why does that matter? Why is it so important to realize God is the inventor of this newfangled fad? I believe it matters because the church has struggled to adopt social media on the grounds that it is something new, something scary. We have actually come to believe that mass, impersonal media is the best way to share the story of God with other people. We see social media as an add-on, a toy, and something for teenagers to dabble in and grandparents to see pics of their grandkids.

But social media is more. Social media is where we came from. And it’s definitely where we’re heading, quickly. It is my passionate conviction that social media (as I’ve defined it above) has always been God’s preferred method for communicating truth about Himself that has driven me not only to engage in it heavily myself, but to write a book about it. Are there cautions? Of course, as there are with any other medium of communication. But the cautions shouldn’t stop us from engaging in the conversation that is happening with or without us, all around us.

John Piper once challenged a fellow Pastor to begin using Twitter in order to “fill every space with the glory of God, including the online space.” I’m with Piper. If you’re with me, share this post somewhere or connect with me. Also consider buying my new book, Rewired, which is all about how using today’s technology can bring you back to deeper relationships, real conversations, and powerful ways to share God’s love.

If you think I’m wrong, or crazy, or right, or dumb, or anywhere in between, tell me about it in the comments!

Think Bigger

It doesn’t matter how big you think or dream – God is always thinking bigger. Paul put it this way…

God can do anything, you know—far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams! He does it not by pushing us around but by working within us, his Spirit deeply and gently within us. – Ephesians 3:20 (MSG)

In other words, out beyond the edges of the capacity of the human mind, God knows a reality and possesses capabilities larger than we could even begin to think about.

When you think about how God can use you and what He has planned for your life and the lives of those around you, do you tend to go bigger or smaller? You may struggle to believe in yourself, but believing in the God of the Bible demands that we imagine big, big things and trust Him to bring those big, impossible things to pass for His own glory.

Whatever you’re thinking right now about the future, think bigger.

God Is Always Right On Time

God exists in this moment, and in every moment, and outside the moment. Whatever God has destined you to do, He has a process for getting you there.

– Brian Wise

We’re an impatient bunch of people for sure. We don’t like to wait for anything. We even ask that restaurants cut holes in the sides of their buildings and send our food out through a window so we can stay in the car. In a convenience-oriented culture, waiting minutes or hours for something drives us crazy.

When it comes to the way God works though, we often wait much longer. It takes a lifetime for Him to fulfill His purposes in us, and often our times of waiting and suffering stretch beyond what we’re willing to accept. But God isn’t subject to time. The Bible says,

But you must not forget this one thing, dear friends: A day is like a thousand years to the Lord, and a thousand years is like a day.

– 2 Peter 3:8 (NLT)

This verse is often used in odd ways by people trying to support wild hypotheses about the end times. What it really means is that the One who started the clock and who will also stop the clock someday exists completely independently of the clock. He’s not subject to time. So what seems a painful wait for us is not painful to God at all.

He’s on it. It may take Him longer than you wish, but His timing is always perfect. Trust Him for another day.