It’s Monday morning. Your tank is empty. You gave all you had for the Lord yesterday. Your family saw little of you as you were consumed with ministry, people, serving and leading. That comes with the territory and with joy.Continue reading “Monday Ministry Encouragement”
Pastors in Hiding
Ministry friend, are you struggling? Do you want to quit? Are you carrying a heavy load? Do you feel all alone? Need a friend to help you, listen to you, care for you, and give you hope? Please read the post below and reach out to us. You are never too far gone that the Lord cannot restore and refresh you!!! Let us help point you to the One Who is our Living Hope!!
Nearly Two in Five Pastors Have Considered Quitting Full-Time Ministry
With pastors’ well-being on the line, and many on the brink of burnout, 38 percent indicate they have considered quitting full-time ministry within the past year. This percentage is up 9 full points (from 29%) since Barna asked church leaders this same question at the beginning of 2021.
There are many reasons for pastors quitting the ministry, but one I am concerned about is pastors in hiding.Continue reading “Pastors in Hiding”
But We’ll Be Late! | The Pastor’s First Ministry
There she was, sleeping so soundly. After a very draining week emotionally, mentally, physically and spiritually, my wife was snuggled securely in bed in a deep slumber.
“What time is it? What day is it?” Those were her words when I awakened her.
Slowly she crawled out of bed and began to make herself ready for the day.
What day was it? Sunday.
What time was it? Suffice it to say, she had overslept!! Didn’t hear her alarm either.
We have pre-service prayer meeting on Sundays at 8:30. As I watched the clock and began to fix her a to-go breakfast, she came down the stairs. My wife was ready to go to church on the outside, but I could see that she was not on the inside. And based upon my ever present “I’ll fix this situation” manhood, I declared, “I’ll go on ahead, and you can come in your Jeep.”
Wait a minute! It’s raining, she’s fighting off a migraine, and she is definitely not crusin’ along on all eight cylinders.
It was then and there that my first ministry captured my attention. Serving my wife was more important than being at prayer meeting on time. She had no business driving by herself. She needed her husband. She needed her pastor. She needed her friend.
Pastors, Christian leaders, missionaries, we are so prone to put the ministry above our wives, leaving her in the dust with her brood as she carries seven diaper/book bags, Bibles, a purse, and wearing her “running shoes” to keep up with you. I mean, after all, you are the pastor and you must be there to open the door and lead in prayer! What will people think if you are late!!!
Men, you know the words of Matthew 22:37-39 quite well. May I encourage you to remember that your wife is your neighbor. She is to be loved more than your church congregation (Ephesians 5:25). Your ministry to your wife, and your church member, I might add, is an example to all the other believers. She is your first ministry.
Fighting the urge to drive a bit more aggressively and take some of the curves on two wheels, we had a nice, easy and enjoyable journey.
Interesting enough, folks gathered for prayer as always, and . . . we were the second ones in the parking lot. No harm done. Compassionate, caring love shown to my wife.
Thank You, Lord, for stopping me in my tracks and reminding me what is of greater value.
“C’mon, Hon. Take your time. I’ll wait. Let’s go together.”
Let’s Just Settle Down
My dad had many sayings. When my friends and I got rowdy as a kid, he would sometimes utter, “You boys need to settle down.”
Now in my 60’s and having been exposed to so much in the Christian and religious world for these years, could we as pastors/Christian leaders just settle down?
My background is one of . . . growing up in a pastor’s home (My dad was Church of the Nazarene until his Army days in Korea, and then came to understand the security of believer in Christ, thanks to a godly chaplain who taught him the Word!); The Wilds Christian Camp (Doc Hay, Rock Royer, Major Brooks, etc.); Bob Jones University (college and seminary plus a host of its graduates including all of its presidents to date, Bible Conference speakers, faculty, etc.); Tennessee Temple University graduates; the Sword of the Lord crowd; my Southern Baptist grandfather who pastored in Kentucky and southwest Virginia; the GARBC; the many men who fellowshipped in what was for years known as the Fundamental Baptist Fellowship (Now Foundations Baptist Fellowship); Dallas Theological Seminary grads; being mentored personally by the likes of J.B. Williams, J. Robert Martin, Randy Patten, Reynold Lemp and many others; plus being influenced from a distance by the likes of Charles Stanley, Chuck Swindoll, Adrian Rogers, Henry Blackaby, David Jeremiah, and more.
In more recent years, my background continues to be of the many mentioned above plus Men’s Prayer Advance, 9Marks, T4G, CoRE Conferences, plus many, many books authored by Tripp, Ortlund, Wells, Bridges, Payne & Marshall, Thomas, Huegal, Ryrie, Walvord, Pickering, etc.
“What’s the point?’, you may ask.
Well, I want to say that for all of us in ministry, none of us have it all figured out; none of us knows all the facts about everyone or every situation; none of us know more than our God; none of us have the absolute right methodology; none of us are the standard; and none of us have arrived!
For all of us in ministry, none of us have it all figured out . . . none of us have arrived!
We all come from various backgrounds and are all influenced by a diverse group of people, churches, institutions and movements, but we are saved by grace through faith alone in the cross work and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. We are one in Christ. We are made complete in Christ. We are sealed by the Holy Spirit. We are children of the living God!
Therefore, understanding that there are clear, biblical points of separation and the application thereof, such as preeminently, the Gospel (Galatians 1:1-10), may I say that we need to . . .
- Give one another the benefit of the doubt.
- Be gracious and kind.
- Stop making fun of our brothers on social media whether you agree with him or not. (No wonder the lost world doesn’t want our Jesus, seeing the way we lampoon one another.)
- Throw away our Pharisaical microscope.
- Give one another space to grow in sanctification.
- Cheer our brother on when he’s down. When revival breaks out where he pastors but not where you serve, rejoice and praise God with him!
- Personally call up the brother we have issue with instead of talking about him behind his back or on social media.
- Exchange the time of criticizing and posting for time on our knees in prayer.
- Let God handle error by His righteous standard rather than us being “the enforcer.”
- Meet with your brother for coffee; get to know him and disciple each other.
- Confess and repent of our arrogance and pride.
- Exercise grace.
- Remember, we will live forever together in Glory!
Throw away your Pharisaical microscope.
In times past, I have jokingly said, for instance to a group of four men, “There are only four people in the world that’s perfect. That’s me and you three, and . . . I am doubtful about you three!”
Proverbs 22:4 recently challenged my heart again . . . By humility and the fear of the LORD (not man) are riches and honor and life.
May I suggest that we soak our soul often in the truths of Colossians 1:15-18 and go deep in meditation and prayer in Philippians 1:1-2:18?
Let’s join Paul in prayer . . . And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in knowledge and all discernment, 10 that you may approve the things that are excellent, that you may be sincere and without offense till the day of Christ, 11 being filled with the fruits of righteousness which are by Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God. (Philippians 1:9-11)
Let’s just settle down.
“I Don’t Care Anymore!”
“It’s time for me to quit!”
“I’m so weary and tired.”
“I need a break from the ministry!”
“The past two years have been my worst ever in all these years of ministry.”
“What’s the use?”
“The financial struggle has gotten the best of me.”
“I didn’t know so-called Christians could be so mean!”
“My family has gone through hell!”
“Loneliness in ministry is severe.”
These and a hundred more statements have been heard and made by pastors over the years, some recently and others frequently.
Pastor, I am right there with you.
Many years ago in a ministry in another state, the deacon chairman lived directly across the street from the parsonage. He and wife watched us “like a hawk.” They rose up against my wife and me, even leading others to join them. At seemingly my wit’s end one morning, my wife standing in the bedroom with me, I grabbed a pillow from the bed, hurled it across the room, and yelled, “I CAN’T TAKE IT ANYMORE!!
Now, some thirty years later, many more blessings than battles, I can say, “I made it, and we are continuing to make it, take it, move forward, . . . all by the sufficient grace and unfathomable love of God, plus the multiplied “ravens” (e.g. Elijah, 1 Kings 17) He has sent our way.
Pastor, may I help you today?
Perhaps one of the things that is “killing you” today, breaking down your body, and harming your marriage and family as well as the ministry is your own set of expectations.
Psalm 62:5, My soul, wait silently for God alone, For my expectation (my hope) is from Him.
Can you honestly say that?
Who or what sets your expectations?
- That “To Do” list that never is completed?
- Some church members/board or your perceived/assumed viewpoint of the church members’ thoughts about you?
- Your false identity that you think you have to live up to as being the “man of God”?
- Your own deceptive heart?
- That “super conference” you just attended and heard of many success stories?
- Your Twitter feed?
- Your recent track of success that must be continued or you will look like a failure?
- That text notification you just received?
- Your idea of being “superman” pastor who never takes a day off?
- A sense of guilt when you do take a day off?
- Wanting to perform every Sunday, being on your “A” game?
Pastor friend, may I suggest two things?
- Please take some time to rest; learn to rest. Most pastors do not know how to “take their foot off the accelerator.” Ministry is 24/7, even on vacation. Nevertheless, you need to set in your calendar a morning or day to rest during the week as well as at least four times a year go away to a cottage or some other get-away to, yes, get away! You are worn out! Even when you do take a vacation, it takes three days to unwind, then you haven’t taken the upcoming Sunday off, so you are back in “get ready to preach, get prepared for Sunday mode,” and you have not properly rested your body and soul. If you don’t learn to rest, you are headed for potential failure, a downfall in ministry. I will write more about this in the days ahead.
- Wherever you go to rest, take a list of any of the expectations mentioned above, adding those from your own personal collection and lay them before the Lord in honest, crying out, transparent, conversational (you talk and then listen to God) prayer. Find a place by the lake, along the hiking trail, at the dock, on your back deck, someplace you can be alone. undistracted. Wherever you are, honestly talk out loud to the Lord about each one of these. Christ is your Shepherd and the Head of the Church. He’s your intercessor. Let Him redirect your focus, your motives, your goals, your passions, your dreams, your heart!! Be sure to write in a journal what He reveals to you and add the scriptures He brings to your mind for each one. Don’t be in a hurry! Leave your cell phone alone, please. Don’t use it to search the scriptures. Bring a printed Bible with you.
Pastor, go to the cross, then the empty tomb, and settle in at the Throne. Don’t be in a hurry at either place. Rest there awhile and soak your soul in Matthew 11:28-30, Romans 8 and Hebrews 12:1-3.
You see, when your expectations come from God, He gives grace to accomplish His will (Philippians 2:13), and He’s responsible for the outcome.
These numbers represent folks who Denise and I had the joy of sharing in sweet fellowship this past Saturday and Sunday in two different locations.
For 38 and 44 years, Seth and Linda, now retired, have labored for the Lord in the fields of Christian education.
For 48 years, Bacilio and Eunice has labored faithfully in the mission fields of Hispanic nations. Although the years have taken its toll on him, he said to me, “Dale, I am busier now that I have ever been.”
As I have pondered their lives after our recent visits, my heart was once again encouraged to finish well; to have staying power over the long haul.
How does someone in full-time vocational ministry “stay by the stuff” until the end?
What’s the “glue” that helps us “stick-to-it”? Having been involved in ministry now for over 41 years as well as growing up in a pastor’s home, I share these with a bit of experience, yet knowing that my race has not been finished.
- Keep your heart fresh in your walk with the Lord by living life in the awe and wonder of Who God is! (Psalms 34:1-3; 63:1-4; 91:1-2; 145:1-21)
- Live a life of prayer, not a prayer life. (1 Thessalonians 5:17)
- Memorize and meditate on Scripture so when you talk to yourself, rather than listening to yourself, you have something really worthwhile, transformative to say. (Psalm 42:5, 11; 43:5)
- Learn to rest spiritually, mentally, and physically. There is no virtue in having your “foot-to-the-pedal” 24/7. (Matthew 11:28-30; Mark 6:31; Philippians 4:6-8)
- Make daily investments in your marriage; more deposits than withdrawals. Outside of Christ, your wife needs to be your best friend. (Proverbs 5:15-23; Ecclesiastes 4:9-12; Song of Solomon 4:9-11; Ephesians 5:18-33)
- Enjoy the journey! Laugh a lot! Have fun! Don’t take yourself so serious! (Psalm 16:11; Proverbs 15:15; 17:22; Ecclesiastes 3:4)
- Love people as Christ does. (Matthew 22:37-40; John 15:9-17; 1 John 4:21)
- Expect to be disappointed and suffer at the hands of people. Why should I be treated any better than Jesus was? And, make sure you do not live with a martyr’s complex! (Hebrews 12:1-3; 2 Timothy 4:10)
- Live a life of gratitude. (Colossians 3:15-17; 1 Thessalonians 5:18; Hebrews 12:28)
- Remember, few men cannot stand the applause. (1 Corinthians 10:31; Proverbs 16:18)
- Your identity is not in a successful sermon or project but in Christ alone. (Philippians 3:4-14)
- Surround yourself with godly, encouraging, edifying, loving, transparent friends inside and outside your ministry. (Proverbs 27:17; Romans 16:1-16; Philippians 2:19-30)
- Live with the Bema in view as well as eternity. (1 Corinthians 3:9-15; 2 Corinthians 5:9-10; Revelation 21-22)
- Live the gospel and share the gospel. (1 Corinthians 15:3-4; Philippians 1:27)
One final thought comes to mind as I consider these four faithful laborers.
At this late date in their lives, they still have such a winsome personality, a sweet disposition and a joy-filled heart in spite of the aging process and current physical hinderances.
Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal. (2 Corinthians 4:16-18).
10 for 10
Over the past ten days, my wife and I have enjoyed many blessings of ministry of which here are ten. They are shared here for God’s glory and appreciation for His kindness to us in these days of such sin and sorrow!
1. Officiating and directing a wedding! Wow! How special to see two lives brought together in the will of God! The wedding was Christ-exalting and so very romantic! I love weddings!! (Side note: In respect of the newlyweds, I will not post any pics until they do.)
2. Providing a place to rest in our home for two days for a fellow servant in ministry! Quiet walks, prayer, porch time, mountain drive, sharing scripture, etc.!!
3. In 2014, my wife and I had the joy of leading the Missionary Teen Retreat in the Basque region of Spain. We have kept up with several who are now young adults. Daniel and Jessica celebrated their first anniversary with a return trip to Gatlinburg, TN. Their anniversary celebration included worshipping with us in both Sunday gatherings plus a meal and afternoon spent at our home. What a special treat! I call that “clipping grace coupons”!!
4. Preaching the Hebrews 12:12-19 passage in the morning gathering at BCBC!! What a solemn and joy-filled honor it is to prepare and preach the Word of God verse-by-verse!! The Word works!! (2 Timothy 3:16; 4:2)
5. Leading and teaching the Biblical Counseling Elective on Sunday mornings!! “The heart of every issue is an issue of the heart.”
6. Follow-up visitation of church visitors. Made to feel so at home with these folks!!
7. Having coffee with a young man from our church who just finished his first year of college. My heart was greatly encouraged to see how he has grown both spiritually and as a young man!!
8. Discipleship with another man in our congregation. Met for lunch and read together through a chapter of Disciplines of a Godly Man, R. Kent Hughes. Iron sharpening iron (Proverbs 27:17).
9. Small Group gathering on Thursday night! What can I say?!?! A highlight of every week! Singing, prayer, transparent testimonies, Bible study, fellowship around the bar counter and in the living room, laughter, tears, bearing burdens, and rejoicing in answered prayer!!
10. Attending a high school graduation of a young man that has attended BCBC through his teen years. Another opportunity to encourage a young man to follow Christ, not his heart!!
That’s only 10! There were so many more!! Oh! How marvelous is the goodness and grace of God!! And, I got to share in all of these with my wife, except for #8.
It is the blessing of the Lord that makes rich, and He adds no sorrow to it. (Proverbs 10:22)
The oft-spoken adage and biblical advice for preachers is, “Practice what you preach!”
Well, since having completed an eleven blogpost series on overcoming discouragement in ministry, my wife and I put Post #7 to practice.
Last week we “got out of Dodge” and headed for a week of rest at Edisto Island, SC.
To make the week purposeful and full of memories, we took the word “READS” and used it as an acrostic for each day’s goal. After all, you usually spend time reading when you get away like this.
Here’s a sampling of our time with the hopes of encouraging you to “practice what you preach.”
R – REST
- Each day, we did not let ourselves be driven by a clock. We had quiet, leisure mornings on the deck overlooking the golf course with our Bibles, journals, study books and coffee. We did read a lot on the beach, too!
- When we went to the beach, which we had basically to ourselves, we just sat or strolled along the shore. One day I looked at Denise and said, as if I was being asked by someone at home, “Well, preacher, what did you do on vacation?” “Nothing!”
- Wherever we went in the car, it was slow driving; no hurry.
E – EXERCISE
- Although I did not get to run on the beach, I really enjoyed running through the Ocean Ridge Wyndham property!
- Denise and I walked around the property hand-in-hand in the evenings!
A – ADVENTURE
- Played Putt-Putt golf (Denise won, made four hole-in-one’s, just missed two others). So I bought her an ice cream cone for her “trophy”!)
- Botany Bay shoreline at high tide with a storm brewing!
- We have always said that the vacation begins when we leave home and ends when we arrive back home. Therefore, our “out-of-the-way” trip to Charleston, SC, was a great adventure: Handy & Hot Restaurant, King Street shopping, and strolling along King and Meeting Street to view the historic homes.
D – DINNER
- We had seafood every day!! Some of the best was at Roxbury Mercantile (Twice), Edingsville Grocery Restaurant, and Pressley’s!!
S – SPECIAL
- The historic Presbyterian Church on Edisto Island is a must see! There is a small Prayer Chapel on the property. We stopped on Tuesday and Thursday (National Day of Prayer) for a time of prayer together that was very special!
- Since we love ice cream, each evening I served Denise mint chocolate chip accompanied by a mint chocolate chip cookie served in a tall stemware glass. Cheap ice cream, Aldi’s cookies, but served up in special way.
- Cheese sandwich picnic!!
Practicing can be fun when you have your best friend, wife, and sweetheart of 41 years alongside!
Now! That was a great way to stay away from or overcome discouragement!!
Do you need to practice what you preach?
Overcoming Discouragement in Ministry Podcast
Over the past several blog posts, my heart has been to encourage the discouraged in ministry because I know the “address.” Hopefully you have been helped and have changed “addresses.” Hopefully, you have been able to set your mind on Christ and live in Philippians 4:6-8 and Psalm 42!
As a final nudge toward overcoming discouragement, may I encourage you to listen or view the following podcast: Re:Church Podcast – Overcoming Discouragement?
Thanks for reading and listening. Please contact me if I can help you in this journey. Don’t be fearful, embarrassed, or overcome with pride.
From a pastor’s heart,
Overcoming Discouragement in Ministry #11
Two marriage failures. One sexual abuse. One suicide.
I heard about these four tragedies in a two day period. These were all ministry leaders.
Only the Lord knows all the facts about each of these scenarios, but the following is for certain:
- These sins could have been prevented.
- The heart of every issue is an issue of the heart.
- Men in ministry are not above temptation.
- The root cause is unbelief in God which leads to discontentment which leads to discouragement which leads to despondency/depression which leads to despair.
This is why I have written these several recent blog posts about overcoming discouragement in ministry. As I heard of the aforementioned moral failures, my heart ached. I wept. I realized again how susceptible I am in my own heart to fail. Everyone of us is one decision away from bringing reproach on the name of Christ, destroying our testimony, marriage, family and ministry.
The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; Who can know it? (Jeremiah 17:9)
Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall. No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it. Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry. (1 Corinthians 10:12-14)
Ministry is made up of two worlds, public and private. Public ministry life has its share of hurts and struggles which brings the temptation to deal with it in a sinful way in the private world, where there is no accountability.
Will you read the following from Paul Tripp and soak your soul in the grace of God, the Lord Jesus Christ Who has brought deliverance and rescue to us all?
“Why do I struggle with the same sin over and over again, and how can I break the cycle?”
Someone submitted this question not too long ago. I could feel their discouragement through the email. Have you ever felt stuck in a cycle of sin, seemingly unable to break a pattern that dishonors the Lord and reaps a harmful harvest?
I know I have, and when I do, my mind immediately jumps to Romans 7. “For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing.” (vv. 18-19)
So what do we do when we hit that wall? I think Romans 7 provides us with some practical steps and encouragement to break the cycle of sin.
The first is this: Don’t sign a premature armistice agreement with our sinful nature.
As believers, the Bible declares that our heart of stone has been removed and replaced with a heart of flesh (Ezekiel 36:26). Yes, we are new creatures, and yes, the controlling power of sin over us has been broken … but the presence of sin remains.
I think many of us have seriously underestimated the drama, the power, and the depth of remaining sin—how deep it is inside of us and how it infiltrates every aspect of our being. There is a tremendous moral and spiritual war still raging on within us.
I am surprised by how many Christians, myself included, live with a peacetime mentality. While we might be active fighting our culture or protesting outside evil, some of us seem to expect the luxuries and leisure of peace in our heart—where the war rages most fiercely.
And then suddenly, we get surprised or discouraged when sin starts winning!
Don’t misunderstand: because of the wonderful atoning work of the Prince of Peace, the war between God and us has ended. And when Christ returns, our struggle with sin and the Enemy will be complete. But until then, a battle of hostility inside us still rages. Perhaps the problem is that we think that the adversary within—remaining sin— has been conquered long before it actually has.
In the middle of this spiritual war, there’s a second thing you must do: Don’t argue for your own righteousness.
Perhaps the biggest and most tempting lie that all of us tend to embrace is that our most significant problems exist somewhere outside. This is partially true because, in a fallen world, people sin against us and we experience bodily pain and suffering. The Apostle Paul experienced both of these and doesn’t minimize them by writing about them elsewhere in Scripture, but in this particular passage, he’s only concerned about his own sin and heart. He doesn’t argue for his righteousness.
On the contrary, in Romans 7, Paul locates his struggle inside himself. He knows that when you argue for your righteousness, you convince yourself that you don’t need the grace of God—the only thing that can protect you from sin.
“If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” (1 John 1:8)
Are you feeling discouraged in your battle with sin? At first glance, Romans 7 can be a pretty discouraging passage! Paul exclaims, “What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?”
But the passage doesn’t end there: “Thanks be to God—through Jesus Christ our Lord!”
Eternal rescue has been supplied, but rescuing grace is still necessary every day. What we have received in Christ, we still desperately need. Romans 7 calls us to be aware and serious; the war for our hearts is not over. Our need for a conquering Savior has not ended.
- What sin have you conquered or left behind by God’s grace since becoming a believer? How have you become a new creation by being in Christ?
- What sins or weaknesses do you find yourself still struggling with? When was the last time you wrestled with the flesh because of it? What was the outcome? Do others know of this consistent battle?
- Are you more committed to fighting the sins of the culture than you are fighting remaining sin in your heart? Why is the latter more of a danger to you?
- Consider a recent time when you deceived yourself by arguing for your own righteousness. Who, or what, did you blame? How did you justify your selfishness or sin?
- What does the daily rescuing grace of Christ look like in your life? How can you pursue it today? Be specific.
Ministry friend, if I can be a listening ear for you with a heart of compassion and truth, please contact me at email@example.com. Let me help you before you become a statistic.
From a pastor’s heart!