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3 Luxuries That Should Be Essentials

Reading and ListeningThere are three luxuries I never feel I have enough time for – reading, writing, and creating. Why? Because they tend to follow the “have to’s” such as financial management, relationship management, task lists, and deadlines.

Have you ever said something like, “I don’t have time to read another book, write another blog post, or craft a new sermon… I have too much to get done.”? Somehow, we need to flip that on its head. How? I don’t have all the answers, but I think I have a few:

1. Read, write, and create early in the week, and early in the day, saving the to do list for later. W. A. Criswell always had excellent advice for young pastors, whom he would advise to “give your mornings to God and your afternoons to the ministry of the church.” He studied at home, in seclusion, each day from 6 to noon, then headed to the office, and still managed to lead a church of tens of thousands of Dallas residents with its many ministries and sub-organizations.

2. Think long term instead of short term. There is great short-term gain in getting a to do list accomplished and knocking out tasks. It’s called “productivity” for a reason – it produces results. But if, after months of intense productivity, we dry up spiritually and feed no one, what good have we really done?

3. Redefine “success” and “effectiveness.” We tend to define both in terms of output – the numerical measurement of the results of our work. But perhaps being effective and achieving success have as much to do with input as output – not merely the result of our work, but what we’ve invested into the improving of our work to begin with.

4. Start. Now. As I write this, I have a lengthy to do list filled with important tasks and assignments, but I’ve read a chapter of a new book helping me to understand tripolar spirituality more clearly, I’ve written most of this blog post, and I have yet to get my son off to school. Sometimes you just have to dig in and force the “luxuries” to become essentials – for the good of your soul, the organization you lead, and everyone else around you.

In other words, sometimes making the luxuries the essentials is a means of accomplishing the greater good. Imagine if we applied the same principle to devotional time, family time, and introspection time. Our whole world just might change for the better.

Photo by Joel Bedford.

The Identity of a Pastor

IdentityIf you can’t define who you are, someone else will do it for you, and the best way to define who you are is to understand whose you are. Everyone faces this same identity crisis and Pastors are no exception. Other people will define you as…

  • The on-stage celebrity.
  • The chaplain who visits everyone personally.
  • The champion of political activists.
  • The guy with the perfect marriage and perfect kids.
  • The hireling, here to do whatever the board says.

But your identity is wrapped up in how your Creator defines you. If you’re a born again child of God, you are redeemed… forgiven… called… sent… and empowered.

To my fellow Pastors I would say, don’t ever be defined by the numerical size of your church’s membership or even by the esteem with which your colleagues view you. Instead, define yourself as God’s child.

There isn’t anything wrong with being a good organizer, a skilled speaker, or an influential leader in the community. But some have been all of those things and have still lost their testimony and ministry as the result of moral failure.

King Saul was guilty of sins we would probably measure up as smaller infractions than those of David, but his most tragic mistake was identifying himself as a man of the people. David, on the other hand, was a man after God’s heart.

So how are you doing as God’s child?

Big Prayers I’m Praying for Grace Hills

Grace Hills ChurchGrace Hills had its first meeting a year ago and launched six months ago. We’re in our fourth location and we’ve baptized 26 people this year. We average anywhere from 120 to 160 in our Sunday morning worship attendance, depending on how many families are on vacation (it’s the summer thing).

As we look toward the fall of 2012 and the start of the school year, I’m already asking God what His next steps for us will be. I want to lead us to the next level, but what exactly is the “next level?” Here are some prayers that are weighing on my heart as I write this…

  1. We need a better spot to serve as our “home base.” The theater has been great and I’ve written about its benefits, but what we would really love to find is a 12,000 +/- square foot blank canvas, close to the I-540 corridor between Bentonville and Rogers for less than $6,000 per month.
  2. While we’d like a more accommodating space, we also want to remain flexible, portable, and lean in our approach to ministry. In other words, we don’t want our vision to be shaped by space, geography, debt, or the “comfort” of owning assets.
  3. We want to triple our number of Grace Groups so that as many people as possible are involved in a small group community. This is how we handle pastoral care, this is where real growth happens, and this is how we will really multiply to reach northwest Arkansas.
  4. We want to love and serve northwest Arkansas. We’re utilizing a big weekend called We Love NWA weekend to help people test the waters of community outreach, but we want this to merely be an introduction to a lifestyle of missional living. Ultimately, we want the community to count on us as a go-to source when there’s a need we can meet.
  5. We want to multiply! That is, we want to be directly involved in the planting of other churches locally, regionally, and internationally. And we don’t want to wait until we’re “big enough” (an ever-elusive target). We’d like to raise up and send out leaders for the harvest now!

So pray with us. If you have a lead on a meeting space that fits the description above, let me know. If you want to partner with us to plant more churches, let me know. And if you’re local to northwest Arkansas and want to know what Grace Hills is all about, let me know!

“I Feel” Versus “I Know”

Feeling and KnowingRight now, I feel tired. I also feel that I’m spinning my wheels and not getting anywhere, and that I’m failing to meet the expectations of others. I feel bogged down in things that need doing, and I feel inadequate to the tasks that loom largest in my life – be a great husband, a great Dad, and a great Pastor.

Right now, I know that God’s approval matters more than the approval of others. I know that He equips those whom He calls and that I am adequate and can do all things through Him who gives me strength, even when I’m tired. I know I am redeemed, forgiven, and strengthened by the power of the Holy Spirit. So I know that moving forward in faith is the right, best, and wisest thing to do.

Living by what I feel is a deadly choice. Living by what I know, based on the unchanging truth of Scripture, is a life-giving choice.

I know the One in whom I trust, and I am sure that He is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him until the day of His return.

~ 2 Timothy 1:12 NLT

Photo by Hani Amir.

I’m Going to Join Jen Hatmaker In the Basement

Chick-fil-A

I avoid writing about politics and culture wars here, and it’s because, frankly, the arguments from both sides often annoy me. Occasionally, someone who writes far better than I do is able to articulate what I wish I could say, and in regards to the current debacle over Dan Cathy and Chick-fil-A, Jen Hatmaker has done that job quite well.

Here’s a clipping…

So a business leader is no longer entitled to an opinion, even one that roughly half of America shares? Is that where we’re at? Now the mayors of Boston and Chicago and San Francisco are suggesting Chick-Fil-A be denied permits in their cities, and just like that, a hot-blooded difference in personal opinion – not lewd remarks, not discriminatory actions, not company policy – has turned into punitive legislation…

But as Jen writes further, she articulates an argument in the other direction equally well…

Christians, do you really think posting pithy statements on Facebook about “standing firm in our values” and “resisting the liberal media” is helping? The lines we draw in the sand do absolutely nothing except assure everyone else: YOU’RE OUT. When we turn to politics and power to legislate our brand of morality, we take the opposite approach of Jesus whose power was activated in the margins with the outcasts…humbly…peripherally.

And one more byte…

Sure, the storm will rage on up there. But you can find refuge just down the stairs. We have a whole thing going on underground. Gay friends and family, you are welcome down here. Marginalized women, come on down. Isolated and confused by organized religion, afraid your questions aren’t welcomed? Join us. Activists and bleeding hearts, you are our heartbeat. Plain, old, ordinary sinners saved by grace, you belong here. Misfits, ragamuffins, and rebels, bring the party. Reformed legalists, you are my people. Pastors contending for God’s glory and people, help lead us. Dissenters, dreamers, visionaries, we need you.

You need to read all of Jen Hatmaker’s post,  In the Basement. And hopefully you’ll want to run to the basement as well.

Seriously, go read it.

Photo by Gerard McGovern.