Wednesday, November 25, 2009

I heard the voice of Jesus say . . .

I just re-learned something I've known for quite some time: There is truly power in God's Word. His Holy Spirit really does speak through the Scriptures.

There's no doubt in my mind that when I skimp--or skip!--on my Bible reading that I get further away from God. My thoughts are less focused upon Him and His Work, my choices become more selfish than serving. I lack clarity and purpose and . . . and, well, vision.

It's not that life gets easier or better when I'm getting fueled up by God's Word. It's not that I get richer or healthier. But what I get from God's Word is what His Spirit gives. I receive enlightenment to God's ongoing work. I receive clearer vision to do what He leads me to do, to choose the things that bring glory to Him and blessings to others. And I receive strength to stand and endure to the end.

And for someone like me, that's far better than a wealthy life, a comfortable life, or an easy life.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Wired to be a reshaper

Just a few days ago I received the exciting news that my blog had been approved to be part of Mark Batterson’s blog tour for his new book Primal. Equally exciting was the news from a few weeks ago that I had been accepted into Thomas Nelson’s book review blogger program. Simply put, this means that with both of these I get a free books in exchange for reading them and posting reviews (actual reviews, not just flattery puff pieces) on my blog and on commercial sites.

Getting free books is great, but the real reason I’m pumped is because this fits exactly into how God has wired me. By nature I’m a receiver and reshaper. I tend not to create ex nihilo (fancy Latin phrase meaning “out of nothing”), but instead I take in thoughts and ideas from all manner of sources (in this case free books!), inspect them, take them apart to understand them, and then rebuild them again to fit the unique setting of my own church.

Sometimes I feel bad about this, because I feel a bit of pastoral peer pressure to be a creator of new ideas, to be a cutting-edge innovator. I get the impression even from some pastors that being a reshaper is at best a second-rate Kingdom occupation. But honestly, when I stop trying to emulate the gifts of others and instead start working in the way and manner that God has gifted me, there is no better feeling in the world! Things just click. It’s almost effortless. And confidentially, it’s a serious rush. So I’m learning to embrace the way God has wired me and learning to love working from within my gifts rather than struggling to appear to have gifts that God in His wisdom didn’t give me, but that others somehow still think I should have. I’m learning to love being a reshaper, a rebuilder, and I’m laying down the idol of being a pure innovator.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Where are we headed . . . and why am I wearing this hat?

I’m a small-town pastor, so let’s face it: on any given day you’ll find me wearing a number of different hats. Some hats—like the preacher hat or planner hat—are hats that fit me well. They’re hats I love to wear, because they match my personality and how God has hard-wired me together to do certain things well. Other hats, though . . . well, they just aren’t the best fit and wearing them makes me uncomfortable. If I wear those hats for too many hours in a day and too many days in a week I find that I’m fighting against my God-given nature, and so it wears me down and makes me unproductive in all aspects of my work and ministry.

So what’s a small-town pastor to do? Money is severely limited, so adopting the mega-church practice and doing specialty hiring for a “Minister of Assimilation” (or for that matter, even a lawn maintenance guy!) is out of the question. Equally unattractive is just sucking it up and performing as best I can in areas that I was never equipped by God to really excel in, all the while having my spiritual and emotional batteries drained dry.

There’s a third option, though. It takes time. It takes patience. And it takes relying heavily upon God. But it is an option:

Trust God to bring somebody forward, train them to take on an area of ministry as their own, and turn it over to them.

Trusting is difficult because while I wait for God’s timing, I either must continue to work against my nature or simply let some things not get done. That’s unappealing to most people. Training people and turning over ministry is also difficult because there’s always the reality that they’ll end up doing ministry in some way other than the way I would choose. That’s a mighty big pill for some people to swallow.

But in the end . . . isn’t it the best way? Wouldn’t it be the most amazing, rewarding thing to see a desire for a certain ministry birthed in a person’s heart and to see them learn and grow and then go on to impact others in a way that I never could?

And wouldn’t it be great to thank God for doing something I could never do on my own?

You bet it would be. You bet it is.

So what am I—as a small-town pastor—to do? Just what I said: trust God, train people, and turn ministry over to them. Makes life difficult at times and challenging at others . . . but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Book review: Derailed: Five lessons learned from catastrophic failures of Leadership

As a pastor, I appreciate reading good books on developing and maintaining healthy leadership. I believe such books help me in the important task of leading my congregation on a relational human level while doing my main work of shepherding them in Christ on a spiritual level. “Derailed” has found a spot on my shelf of valuable leadership books.

In “Derailed” Tim Irwin has brought a compelling format to a well-known topic. There is no doubt that leadership books are full of exhortations to character as being the bedrock of leadership, but Tim’s format of first profiling six highly visible leadership failures brings a new, gritty twist to the subject. The profiles served as a fun-house mirror, enabling me to see my own failures magnified to a grotesque level. The stories allowed me to see exactly how such failures cause a leadership derailment even before I got to the main content of the book. As such, Tim’s profiling in the first half of the book serves the second half (where he blends information with personal application) exceptionally well.

But without a doubt, it’s the second half of the book where this book earned its spot on my shelf. Tim’s understanding of the dimensions of character (authenticity, self-management, humility, and courage) bring what is normally a vague, ethereal quality down into measurable, quantifiable bedrock that a leader can actually stand on. And then, when he finishes up the book with simple instructions on developing specific “heart habits” in order to avoid leadership derailing, he puts that all-important factor of personal application to good and practical use.

All in all, Tim Irwin has a solid and readable leadership book in “Derailed”. I recommend it.