Category Archives: Personal Growth

What Effective Pastors Do With Their Time

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Leadership gurus will tell you that a primary skill of an effective leader is the ability to manage time for maximum productivity. Out of curiosity, our research team asked over 200 pastors to provide us an hour-by-hour calendar of a typical 168-hour week for them. Keep in mind that 168 hours represent all the hours in a week, so their reports included such mundane items as sleeping and eating.

Impressed with the Effective Leaders

Our study included 101 pastors that we called effective leaders because their churches ranked in the top five percent in conversion growth in American churches. A comparison group of pastors of similar number were leading churches that did not have significant conversion growth.

Our researchers were impressed with the time management skills of the effective pastors. Perhaps the best way to show their skills is to compare their use of time with that of the leaders of the comparison churches.

Differences in Priorities

Without comment, let us highlight some of the most significant differences between the pastors of the effective churches versus the pastors of the comparison churches. You may be surprised at some of the findings.

  • Pastors of effective churches sleep slightly over six hours per day. Pastors of comparison churches sleep almost eight hours per day.
  • Pastors of effective churches spend twenty-two hours in sermon preparation each week versus four hours for pastors of comparison churches.
  • The effective church leaders spent ten hours each week in pastoral care compared to thirty-three hours for the comparison group pastors. Pastoral care included counseling, hospital visits, weddings, and funerals.
  • Effective church leaders average five hours per week in sharing the gospel with others. Most of the comparison church pastors entered “0” for their weekly time in personal evangelism.
  • Comparison church leaders spend eight hours a week – more than an hour each day – performing custodial duties at the church. The typical custodial duties included opening and closing the facilities, turning on and off the lights, and general cleaning of the building.
  • Leaders of effective churches average 22 hours a week in family activities. The comparison church leaders weren’t too far behind with 18 hours of family time each week.

Priorities and Balance

The time allocation of effective leaders seems to complement the way they describe their own leadership styles. In order to accomplish what they considered priority functions, they had to sacrifice in other areas. The leaders of effective churches spent over 40 hours per week with their families and in sermon preparation time. In order to fulfill these priorities, they obviously had to let some things go.

Thus the effective leaders cannot do many of the responsibilities often expected of them as pastors. They cannot make all the hospital visits. They cannot counsel everyone. And they cannot perform all of the custodial duties that may be expected of them. But as leaders they can see that those things get done.

Leaders of effective churches thus make certain that their family and work life is balanced. And they make certain they have time to be missional and all about the Great Commission.

They also give priority in time to prayer and to preparation in God’s Word for the sermons to follow.

They almost sound like they are following the pattern of the early church leaders: “But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the preaching ministry” (Acts 6:4, HCSB).

Biblical. Missional. Evangelistic. And powerful preaching.

How are you spending your time?

 

This article was originally published at ThomRainer.com on July 1o, 2014. Thom S. Rainer serves as president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources. Among his greatest joys are his family: his wife Nellie Jo; three sons, Sam, Art, and Jess; and seven grandchildren. Dr. Rainer can be found on Twitter @ThomRainer and at facebook.com/Thom.S.Rainer.

The Narcissistic Christian Leader

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By Thom Rainer

Narcissism should not be said in the same breath as Christian. The former is love of self; the latter is love of God in Jesus Christ.

But the sad reality is that narcissism can and often does creep into the lives of many Christian leaders. And narcissists are selfish and inconsiderate. They demand excessive attention. They feel entitled. And they often pursue power and prestige without regard for others.

The world of narcissistic Christian leaders is complicated by the fact that these leaders rarely recognize their problem. And the disorder may not be readily apparent to those who see them from a distance. They can appear, at least on the surface, to be brilliant and charismatic.

In fact some of those leaders may be reading this article thinking it’s about someone else. They have trouble recognizing their own malady. Let me be more personal. On too many occasions I have struggled with prideful and narcissistic behavior myself. And it took a confrontation from a friend or confidant to open my eyes.

Any person in leadership, even Christian leadership, can be tempted to love self and move into narcissism. So what can we who are Christian leaders do to avoid this trap? What can we do proactively? Allow me to offer five suggestions.

  1. Pray that God will open our eyes. A person of prayer is already demonstrating humility. He or she is admitting a dependency on God instead of self. Let those prayers include a request for God to remove the scales from our eyes, to let us see ourselves as we really are.
  2. Get a trusted advisor. Leaders need someone who can speak truth into their lives. Unfortunately, many leaders surround themselves with sycophants who only tell them what they want to hear.
  3. Get the true picture from those who serve under us. Narcissistic leaders might fool those who don’t see us up close.  But a true, clear, and often painful picture may be available from those who are and were closest to us. They really know us. But they may not have the fortitude to speak truth into our lives. It can be very helpful for a trusted advisor or coach to interview these current and former co-workers with a promise of anonymity.
  4. Repent. Narcissism is a sin. Once we have an awareness of this sin, we must confess it to God.
  5. Seek to restore relationships. A few years ago a trusted friend confronted me with my narcissistic behavior. He let me know that I was hurting others and harming my leadership. I never knew who shared with him about my sin. But I thought it was critical to let my leadership team know of my awareness, my apologies, and my desire to change in God’s power. The entire process was very painful for me, but very necessary for me personally and for my leadership.

Christians who are leaders can be prone to think we have achieved our leadership status because of our intellect and keen skills.  And that type of thinking is the first step toward narcissism. The godly Christian leader will realize that he or she is a recipient and conduit of grace, not a dispenser of wisdom and strategic insights.

And when we have that awareness, there is no way we can see ourselves as anything but a sinner who needs the grace and strength of our Lord every day and every minute.

This article was originally published at ThomRainer.com on March 10, 2014. Thom S. Rainer serves as president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources. Among his greatest joys are his family: his wife Nellie Jo; three sons, Sam, Art, and Jess; and seven grandchildren. Dr. Rainer can be found on Twitter @ThomRainer and at facebook.com/Thom.S.Rainer.

Ten Areas Where Pastors Need to Be Trained for the 21st Century

By Thom Rainer

Any pastor or other church staff member should be prepared in biblical truths. Theology is a key discipline as well. Indeed none of the classical disciplines should be forsaken, nor any of the practical disciplines, such as missions, evangelism, or church planting.

But the American culture has shifted dramatically in a relatively short period. The United States is becoming more like an international mission field. As a result, ministry training, whether formal or informal, should reflect this reality. Missionaries are typically required to receive intensive cultural and language training before they go overseas. Frankly, a similar need exists today for those in American congregations, or those planning to go to these churches.

So where are the greatest needs? My list is certainly not exhaustive, nor is it in any particular order. But I do see all of these areas as key to reaching our new and challenging culture.

  1. A new language. If a pastor or church staff member does not “speak” social media, he or she is neglecting one of the fastest growing trends in our nation, indeed in our world. It is no longer a fad; it is a primary means of communication.
  2. A non-Christian culture. Our nation is fast becoming a non-Christian nation. While we lament the relative decline in the numbers who follow Christ, we must also accept the reality that those in our community cannot be assumed to be like us, or to hold our values.
  3. The decline of cultural Christians in churches. The Pew Research project confirmed the dramatic increase in the numbers of people who have no religious affiliation. For our churches, this development means that most people do not feel cultural pressure to attend churches. More and more, those who are there are convicted Christians and not Christians in name only.
  4. A new work/life balance. Pastors and church staff members have always been on call 24/7. But now they are connected 24/7 as well with computers, smart phones, and other technological advances. For better or worse, the world of work and personal life is becoming increasingly blurred.
  5. Unregenerate church members. Cultural Christians are those who really know they are not believers, but are affiliated with churches for cultural reasons. But another group includes those who may cognitively assert a belief in Christ, but have really not had a conversion. For certain, this development is not new. But we are seeing the cumulative cost of weak discipleship and false conversions in our churches. How will we respond to the issue of numbers of members who are not truly believers?
  6. The community as a mission field. Can we change our mindsets and be better prepared? Our communities are not just changing because there are fewer Christians. They are changing with an influx of new ethnic groups and people of other religious beliefs.
  7. Less automatic cultural respect of church leaders. In past years, those who held the title of “pastor” or some similar nomenclature were revered in the community just by the position they held. Such is not the case today. Respect must be earned one day at a time.
  8. A more critical world. Many pastors and church staff members do not deal well with the more transparent and critical world in which we live. Some retreat to a form of passivity or paths of least resistance. And some quit altogether.
  9. A greater need for leadership skills. The world in which we live is complex. We may long for simpler times, but that won’t change our realities. Church leaders must be better leaders in more challenging times.
  10. More churches in need of revitalization. This last item may be last on the list, but the need is huge. As many as nine out of ten of our churches are in need of some level of major revitalization. There are tens of thousands of these churches, and the implications for equipping leaders for them are vast.

This list may be discouraging to you as you read the cumulative implications. I see it, however, from a different perspective. I see this new reality and this new mission field as a great opportunity. No, it’s not your father or mother’s church. It’s a new and challenging reality requiring a missional mindset. It requires total dependence on the One who sends us to the mission field. And that is exactly where God wants us.

What do you think about this mission field called America?

This article was originally published at ThomRainer.com on March 10, 2014. Thom S. Rainer serves as president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources. Among his greatest joys are his family: his wife Nellie Jo; three sons, Sam, Art, and Jess; and seven grandchildren. Dr. Rainer can be found on Twitter @ThomRainer and at facebook.com/Thom.S.Rainer.

10 Reasons NOT to Quit Abruptly, Pastor

Don't Quit

By Pastor Joe McKeever at www.joemckeever.com (used by permission)

“Therefore, we do not lose heart.” (II Corinthians 4:1,16)

From time to time I receive notes like this:

“I resigned my church tonight. Just couldn’t take it any more. The bullying from a few strong men (or one family in particular) finally wore me out. So, I got good and fed up, and tonight I tossed in the towel and told them I was through. It feels good to walk away and leave all this stress behind. But now, I will be needing a place to move to, a way to support my family, and when the Lord is ready, a new church to pastor. Please keep me in mind if you know of a church in need of my services.”

Nothing about that feels right. I want to call to my friend, “You resigned in a fit of temper or or a moment of discouragement? You walked away from the place God sent you? You quit a well-paying job without knowing where you will move your family or how you will support them? Have you lost your everloving mind?!”

I guarantee you the pastor’s wife is thinking these thoughts, no matter how loyally she supports her man and aches to see him struggling under such a heavy load.

I would like to say to every minister I know that unless you are sure the Holy Spirit inside you is saying, “This is the time. Walk away now,” don’t do it. Do not resign abruptly or impulsively.

Here are 10 reasons not to quit and walk away even when to remain there is killing you….

1) God sent you. Stay until He says otherwise or until you are fired.

You may not be able to keep a church from firing you–some of the finest ministers on the planet have been terminated at one time or other–but if it’s up to you, stay until He tells you to leave.

So, pastor, you found the going to be tough, some of the leaders resistant, and a few members to be criminal in their behavior? You grew tired of fighting them and fed up with the way they treated you?

I have something to say to you, my friend.

Grow up.

No one said it was going to be easy, least of all the Lord who called you in the first place. Go back to Matthew 10 and read what He said to the early disciples, from verse 16 through the end of the chapter. Compare your situation with what they were facing, then apologize to Him for your belly-aching.

2) The church needs you to see them through this crisis.

There are good people in your congregation who need a shepherd. If you walk away, you are abandoning them to the bullies who have been making your life miserable and ruling that church with a heavy hand.

If the bullies remain in place, the church will continue to be sick and stunted in its growth and ministries. Read Acts 20:28ff and notice that from the very beginning of the Lord’s church, it has been this way. Your church is not unusual. It may be sick, but if so, it needs a physician and that’s why you were sent. Stay with the patient.

3) If you walk away, the bullies win, they are empowered, and they will try to control the next pastor.

The pastor who follows you will wish for all the world that you had cleaned out that nest of vipers before leaving. As it was, he will feel you took the easy way out, turned over the keys to the trouble-makers, and made sure the next preacher will have to deal with them all over again.

I know, I know–it doesn’t feel that way. You are at your wit’s end and feel you cannot take it any more. But you can. Stay with the assignment the Lord gave you. Love those bullies and minister to them as faithfully as you do the precious saints. Follow the blueprint of Luke 6:27-35. You will puzzle the troublemakers, frustrate the devil, and honor your Lord. Furthermore, you will strengthen your church and give your people a picture of a blessed servant of the Lord for all time.

4) You have a family to support.

As the head of your household, you are charged with providing for your own, a serious assignment from the Lord. To walk away from a steady paycheck because you “couldn’t take it any more” reflects poorly on you and puts your loved ones in a difficult situation.

Now, it’s possible to go too far in the other extreme. I’ve seen pastors cave in to the bullies and not challenge them on anything–”I go along to get along,” one called it–in order to keep their job. Do that and you soon lose the respect of everyone including those nearest and dearest to you, and will become the lapdog of the church-rulers.

Each extreme is unwise–caving in or abruptly walking away.

Stay close to the Lord for His guidance, His wisdom and the kind of self-control only He gives.

5) If you walk away, your ministry will be changed forever–and possibly diminished.

What do you suppose a pastor search committee is going to think when they look at your resume? May I answer that for you?

–”If this guy is so good, why is he without a job now?”

–”If he could not get along with the strong leaders in his last church, he’d have trouble in our church, too.”

–”Let’s not take the chance. Let’s see who else is available without all this baggage.”

And you are history. Believe me, pastor, I have been on the receiving end of this stuff and have the scars to prove it.

You are seriously handicapping your future service to the Lord by quitting and walking away.

In the Southern Baptist Convention–always my frame of reference–if you walk away from your present church, it will take from six months to a year before you get another church and that one will be a third to one-half the size of the present one. You will regress in your ministry in a hundred ways if you walk away.

6) If you walk away and find yourself unemployed, you may lose confidence in yourself and possibly in the Lord.

Say what you like about the ministry being different from other jobs, but the simple fact is in our culture most of us get our identity from our work. When you have no work to go to in the morning, you begin to wonder “who am I?” and then “am I a failure?”

I cannot count the heart-breaking emails I have received from unemployed pastors who wonder why God doesn’t hear their prayers, why search committees do not appreciate their resumes, and why friends do not recommend them to other churches or invite them to fill the pulpit in their absence.

You do not want to be in that position if you can help it, preacher.

7) God can use this testing time in your life, in your family, in your church, and even in the lives of the trouble-makers.

In the weight room, you build a muscle by putting stress on it. In God’s kingdom, He builds believers by allowing us to undergo trials and burdens and oppositions. If we walk away from the work before quitting time, we miss the blessings and often add to the problems of the very people we were sent to encourage and bless.

Did you enter the ministry idealistically? Were you expecting the churches to be filled with saints and every day to be sweeter than the day before? If so, it’s clear you have never read your Bible. Look at the ministry of God’s shepherds in the Old Testament (Abraham, Moses, Joshua, Isaiah, Jeremiah, etc) and in the New Testament (Paul, Peter, James, John, etc). They all had a tough time of it. Did you think you were better than they?

I don’t mean to be unkind here, but only to provoke you to be tough with yourself and not jump ship when the going gets rough.

8) Think of how you will feel about this a million years from now.

Which is to say, take the long view and not the short-term view.

9) The bullies need you to act courageously and faithfully. Whether they know it or not.

It will be good for the Diotrephes in your congregation (those who “love to have the pre-eminence”) to see someone acting like God truly is in this place, that the Lord really did send him here, and that he actually expects to have to stand before the Lord some day and give account for this flock (see Hebrews 13:17). It will be eye-opening for the bullies to see you able to take a licking, then get up and love them again in the power of the Holy Spirit.

You are going to win them by the power of humility, love and service, and not by playing the game the way they want it conducted (by sheer force, big numbers, and power).

10) Your family needs to see you acting maturely, speaking firmly, and confidently dealing with this matter in quietness and strength.

Over the years, I have encountered adult children of ministers who quit going to church years ago “after seeing how the church people treated my daddy.” They grew bitter at the church and marked them all off as unChristian and hypocritical. To the extent their preacher-fathers allowed them to be hurt, they did them no favors.

Protect your children, parents. As much as you can, pastor dad, shield your wife from the trouble. She’ll need to be in on some of it, but not all. But shield your children from as much of it as you possibly can. They are so vulnerable. They do not have the spiritual resources with which to deal with hateful members or cruel leaders. So, try to shield them.

The ministry can be the most rewarding life in the world. But it can also be the cruelest. In either case, it is the Lord Christ whom you serve. And let me assure you, He does not take lightly the wonderful service you render in His name nor the treatment you receive from those who would hinder you. (Hebrews 6:10 has your name all over it.)

Find out and then help your family to see what Scripture means in calling the Lord “our Shield and Defender.” It’s all good.

Now, get up off the ground and get back into the ring, preacher. The worst thing they can do is kill you and all that does is send you to Heaven.

Pastor, How Well Do You Know Jesus?

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When you are in ministry, people just assume that you have a very strong relationship with Jesus. And they should be able to assume that, but unfortunately, it is an assumption that doesn’t always turn out to be true. In my ministry I get to talk to a lot of pastors, and truth be told, many of them know a lot of facts about Jesus, but for any number of reasons, they don’t have a close personal relationship with Him anymore. Here are some common reasons:

  1. Not enough time with the Word. It is one thing to read the Bible to get together a sermon outline or lesson, it is quite another to read the Bible devotionally for the sole purpose of drawing closer to Jesus.
  2. Not enough time in Prayer. Sometimes we are in such a big hurry that the only prayers we offer are before meals and from the pulpit.
  3. Not enough Faith. You might be shocked to learn how many ministers struggle with their faith on a day-to-day basis. It isn’t that they are atheists, but they’ve come to a point in their spiritual journey where they just have trouble believing like they once did.
  4. Not enough Motivation. Sometimes after working 50-70 hours a week in ministry, you are so spent trying to be Jesus to others, that you have no drive to spend time with the real Jesus yourself.
  5. Not enough Concern. Unfortunately, there are a number of ministers who just don’t care about knowing Jesus at any more depth than they know Him now.

The words above aren’t written to condemn, but to recognize some of the behaviors that have led us away from knowing Jesus as we should. I am convinced that we all would rather experience what John shared:

That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, concerning the Word of life–the life was manifested, and we have seen, and bear witness, and declare to you that eternal life which was with the Father and was manifested to us–that which we have seen and heard we declare to you, that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ. — 1 John 1:1-3 (NKJV)

It’s hard not to envy John as we read these words. He begins this letter by identifying himself as one who had experienced an intimate relationship with Jesus Christ. How wonderful to consider what it must have been like to hear, see, and touch the one who has always been. If we use our imaginations, we can perhaps obtain a small glimpse of what John was able to see firsthand so many years ago.

But you and I both know that seeing Jesus with our eyes is not what we need the most, even though it would make us feel good on an emotional level. What is most important is that we recognize Jesus as John describes Him, as “the Word of life.”  This is the same way John started out his Gospel account – “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” (John 1:1, NKJV). This Word John speaks of is the eternal, infallible, sinless, crucified, risen, and returning Son of the living God. And the great news is that today, even as you read these words, THE Word wants nothing more than for you to grow in relationship with Him. Are you ready?

How can you begin to know Jesus again on a personal level? How about reversing the negatives above, and turning them into positives?

  1. Spend time in the Word! Starting right now, open your Bible and begin reading one of the Gospels and discover all over again why you are in love with Jesus. Don’t stop to take notes! Don’t try to find a sermon outline in the text! Just read it and take the time to ponder how great Jesus is.
  2. Start Praying! Jesus wants to hear your voice right now. You don’t have to come up with something flowery or something that sounds like an institutional prayer. Just lay your heart out to Jesus like you once did. Let Him know your fears, your doubts, your frustrations, but also let Him know that He can count on you to continue fighting for Him and His Kingdom!
  3. Begin Building Your Faith! Remember all the ways that God has worked in your life in the past. Ponder all the times you’ve seen Him work in the lives of others. Look up into the sky and fathom the wonderful universe that He has created. What brought you to faith in the first place? Reflect on that and begin to focus on it all over again.
  4. Recharge Your Battery! I know what it is like to work long hours, struggling to be everything everyone thinks you should be. It is exhausting! You are going to have to take time off for yourself. Hopefully you are taking at least one day a week where you are not focusing on ministry at all. Read a book, go for a walk, talk to your spouse! Allow yourself a break from the everyday stress of ministry.
  5. Reignite Your Passion! You know deep down that without an intimate relationship with Jesus, your life is just going to keep getting worse. Depression, burnout, marital problems, and much more, often take place when we lose our passion for Jesus and the ministry He has called us to. All of what has been stated above will help you to get your passion back, but there is one more thing that will help — surrender your life to Him all over again. I’m not talking about being “resaved,” but recommitting yourself to Jesus and your calling. When you recommit you refocus, and when you refocus, your passion will return.

So Pastor, how well do you know Jesus? I hope that starting today, you’ll take the steps necessary to know Him better than you ever have before!

Now please do me a favor — click the “Read More” button directly below this message and then go down to where it says “Leave A Reply” and let me know if this article helped you today. Feel free to share with us and other pastors who will read this, how God is helping you to get to know Him better. Also, please click on the social media buttons and share this on Facebook, Twitter, etc… to help get the word out! We truly want to be the “Pastor’s Helper.”

In Christ,

Barry L. Davis

 

 

 

Barry

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