A Loose Grip

“Today, I can write about helping pastors, or I can actually help them.”

This was the statement I made to my wife sitting out on our patio the other morning. As we talked over coffee, I was facing choices about my agenda for the day. There were a couple of situations that had come up recently requiring hands on involvement in the ministry of helping pastors. But I had planned on doing some long overdue writing for my blog, a task that has eluded me over the last couple of months. What has kept me from writing? Because I have been actually working at helping pastors – preparing seminars, having lunch, talking on the phone, walking with people in crisis, setting up Pastor in Residence programs.

And so, there on a bright summer morning, real life battled with my expectations.

to do listI have faced this often in my life; and it continues to be a struggle. I am deeply committed to people, but I can also be deeply obsessed with accomplishing my agenda. The horns of my dilemma – tasks vs. people! When I have opted for the former, it has been easy to shut others out and not be present in the moment. I can get grumpy when my plan gets interrupted. Clearly, there are tasks that are important to tackle – things do need to get “done.” But it has been my inability to loosen my grip on the day – on my agenda – that has made many days miserable and unfruitful in a more lasting way.

When I was pastoring, I remember not always being at my best for people. My mind was on what I was NOT doing, what I could be doing other than actually listening, caring, helping. Go figure!

It has taken awhile, but I am learning to step back from the emotions that hijack my ability to see the bigger picture – emotions like frustration, annoyance and anxiety. It is not a pretty picture sometimes. And I definitely need help – from my wife and others – to challenge my default mode. An actual willingness to listen to their input has often resulted in a better grasp of what I am feeling and what the real priorities need to be.

I am in process. And the sense I have is that I am moving in the right direction. God’s agenda is always more deeply satisfying. The paradigm of “people over projects” is mostly true. (I am still not fully convinced!). However, I am convinced that our treasures in heaven are not completed “to do” lists.

reins According to my resident equestrian expert, having a “death grip” on the reins of a horse typically doesn’t result in the best ride. It is counter-intuitive, but light contact and a deeper seat in the saddle create the kind of connection that makes for an effective ride. I sometimes find it difficult to release my death grip on how I think a day should go. When I do, my connection to real life is actually much better .

So now, it is becoming easier to step back, to loosen my grip. When God completely turns my day upside down, I find there is a new grace that frees me to be present in the moment and adjust my agenda to His.

I think it is a good choice.

What about you?

A Good, Hard Look at Ourselves – for pastors, ex-pastors and other Church leaders.

crackOver the course of the last week, I had the privilege of speaking to two vastly different groups about the urgent need in the church for restorative grace for pastors. The first was a gathering of seminary students in St. Louis, at Covenant Seminary. The second group was mostly made up of seasoned pastors from around Southeast Michigan. In both cases, as we talked about the present challenges of ministry life and as I shared my own journey under God’s restoring grace, a common theme emerged. In the midst of the questions and comments it became apparent to me that there is a fundamental flaw in the way we view ourselves and in the way we understand our roles in life and ministry.

Most of us see ourselves solely as reflections of our calling – our “work” role – and that self-image defines how we relate to the rest of the world. Unfortunately, doing so can lead to many of the difficulties pastors and church leaders face today: the pastoral persona, the need for approval and validation from those we work for, etc. However, based on these recent conversations, I’d like to suggest an alternative, though it might be a complete paradigm shift for both the pastor and those he shepherds.

It’s become clearer to me that the place to begin, is the beginning.

kneeling at crossWe need to see ourselves first as human beings, created in the image of God, who are in need of the gospel every single day. This fundamental reality is inescapable. Pastors are not suddenly exempt because of their calling. Even as pastors, we are as limited, needy and flawed as everyone else – and the object of God’s great love and grace as well. By recalibrating our thinking here, we can avoid a host of troubles in our lives and ministries. Without the sense of ourselves as human, we tend to live separate from the one thing God has put in place to help us all grow back into the fullness of His image: the community of the Church.

Next comes the importance of understanding that we are disciples of Jesus Christ. Our own discipleship precedes anything else we might do “for” Him. I have often said to my fellow servants that God is far more interested in YOU than anything you might do for Him. This translates into reordering our personal priorities and schedules to make room for the care of our own souls first, and the honest working out of our own obedience to His first call on our lives, “Come, follow me!” A critical point shared with the group of seminary students, and confirmed by research done among pastors, was that if the basic disciplines of the spiritual life are not already in place while in seminary, those disciplines will not be present when a newly ordained pastor enters full-time ministry. When Jesus restored Peter, he not only re-commissioned him to teach and feed His sheep, but also set that clearly in the context of Peter’s own need to follow Jesus (John 21).

focusWhen we see ourselves first as human beings in need of grace, and then as disciples of Jesus Christ, our vocational calling can begin to take its proper shape. Pastoral or ministry leadership in the Body of Christ has to grow out of the realities of both our humanity and our discipleship; the sequence is of critical importance. If we reverse the order, or ignore one or the other, the dangers of pride, isolation, need for control, and living a double life are far too tempting. It is humbling to actually live out the understanding that we are human beings that need to experience repentance, confession and forgiveness just like everyone else. It can be difficult to prioritize our lives around our fellowship with Jesus and not around ministry tasks. But, then again, faith is sometimes unsettling.

I am becoming convinced that taking a good, hard look at myself and reorienting the way I see my life is the first step to healthy ministry. It may be the key to living and serving from the heart, rather than simply from our heads. I appreciate this warning to us all from Paul Tripp,

 “…a pastor’s ministry is never just shaped by his knowledge, experience, and skill. It is always shaped by the true condition of his heart.”

Dangerous Calling

How do you see yourself today?

 

The Thankful Pastor – Patterns for Healthy Pastoral Life Pt. 2

Years ago, when I was pastoring, I asked one of the ladies at our church to create a banner around the Latin term “Sursum Corda.” She did a fabulous job, visually depicting the concept of what the term literally means: “Up with Your Heart!” Hanging for all to see at the front of the church, that banner was a weekly reminder to look up, to spiritually take our hearts by the chin and look into the face of a gracious loving God who has provided “everything we need for life and godliness” in Christ.

sursum corda 2

Living under that banner has been a big struggle for me, both in ministry and in life. I spent a lot of time laboring under the shadow of the emotional environment with which I grew up; expectations were never achievable and little time was devoted to truly being thankful. Family members’ constant reminders to send “thank you notes” made that gracious act into an obligation, and not a true expression of my heart.

Entering ministry, I found pastoral work to be a field of land mines that regularly blew any idea of thankfulness or gratitude to smithereens. People were always coming up short, things didn’t happen fast enough or the way I believed they should. It was far too easy to be affected by the spirit of our age, which – like it or not – sees people as products, with efficiency as the master of the system. Certainly, there are tasks that could use a good dose of efficiency. But people are not projects! They will never be subject to efficiency. The more we try to fit them into that mold, the more angry we become – and less thankful. Unfortunately, in this mode, even God can come up short in our eyes. We unconsciously believe He promised things He never did, or didn’t show up when we thought He should – as if somehow He owes us.

We have become production managers when we should be shepherds.

shepherdI am constantly being drawn back to this fundamental idea of pastoral work, that we are indeed shepherds. It flies in the face of our “chronos” (clock) driven culture, and functions in the world of “kairos” (event) time. Sheep, we realize, are not something that function any better or quicker if ‘managed.’ Sheep will indeed produce fleece, in time! If the sheep are healthy, they will naturally repopulate the flock. The shepherd’s job is to protect the sheep, to seek out green pastures for them to feed on and fresh water for them to quench their thirst. The shepherd is called to be faithful to the owner – since that’s whose sheep they are!

Similarly, pastors must also regularly take their places as one of the sheep, finding nourishment for their own souls and health for their own hearts. This is how we become the kind of shepherds that are gracious and wise; without that time for our own hearts to find their proper posture before God, we will be driven instead by anger, impatience, control, and a sense of entitlement. The inner voices that correspond to our own emotional neediness will demand the drug of approval from others – and that is dangerous.

With these images never far from my mind, I am learning to be grateful, to be a thankful person. The results are becoming apparent and the benefits obvious. I smile a lot now! I am finding that my schedule is more flexible around people and, most certainly, God. People even like to be around me – most times. There are still things to get done, and I have my strategy for ministry, but it is daily put on God’s desk for editing and amendment. And each day is a fresh page to be turned.

So, if I were going to try to describe the “thankful pastor,” I would offer a few things that might be helpful. The thankful pastor is:

First and foremost, daily rooted in the understanding and joy of his own redemption;

  • Attentive to his own call to follow Jesus before he worries about others;
  • Aware that life and ministry are gifts from God – undeserved, but lavishly given;
  • Understanding that the people he leads and the church he serves are not his, nor is he serving at their call;
  • A peacemaker in his own heart between the voices of efficiency and the voice of the Spirit of grace;
  • On a daily adventure with God, having been invited into the wonder of spiritual work;
  • Growing in flexibility, faith, and the ability to take joy in the moment.

gratitudeThankfulness and gratitude are the barometer of our heart, a choice regarding how we see the world we live in, the person we are and the calling we have received. If we can begin with the truth of the gospel every day – for our own lives – we will be the healthy pastor people hope for. Sursum Corda is an invitation to pick the eyes of our hearts up from the ground and look full in His wonderful face. And THAT is a privilege we cannot take for granted!

I recently heard a great piece of advice for pastors who are beginning ministry in a new church: when you begin your new role, find anything and everything you can commend and be genuinely thankful for among the people you have come to pastor. I think that is a great way to start! It helps us to recognize that God was there before us, and softens our hearts so that we are less prone to see only those things that are wrong or frustrating.

In his book, Pastors at Risk, Chuck Wickman makes this simple statement that is so true: “Count your blessings. Gratitude is a healer.”

Michael Spencer (The Internet Monk) expresses his own journey toward thankfulness:

“There is discouragement in my world, but if I am honest, most of it is smaller than I make it. I am the one who amplifies it most of the time. As I’ve learned to listen more and more to the promptings of the Holy Spirit, I’m learning that Jesus was very dependable when he taught us that the Kingdom of God is upon is. Right here, right now, close by. I choose to not see it because I am lobbying for that most destructive of emotions: self-pity. Jesus is reminding me that there is sufficiency in the love he extends, and the love he places around us. That love comes in thousands of different ways in a day. The problem is that I don’t expect it, don’t listen or look for it, don’t live in expectation that his gracious love will meet me throughout the day.”

Paul has a lot to say about thankfulness in the book of Colossians, but I have always been drawn particularly to Colossians 2:7. The progression in this passage is noteworthy: rooted in Christ, renewed in the truth of the gospel, which creates a geyser of thankfulness. It reminds us that there is too much wonder in the world to be grumpy. The Gospel is too strong to allow us to remain disappointed.

How have you grown in thankfulness?

sursum corda

“Once Upon A Time…Sabbath!” Patterns for Healthy Pastoral Life Pt. 1

“Patterns for Healthy Pastoral Life” is a series in which I would like to explore some of the key ingredients to living and serving well. I make no claim that these are the exclusive paths towards healthy pastoring, nor do I have the corner on insights in these areas. But I am drawing from what I have observed in my own life, my work in a restorative ministry to pastors, and the ideas of those whom I respect in the world of pastor-care. I invite you to share your thoughts and add to the discussion along the way.

crashing boundariesThe other day, I was asked to name the single most common reason pastors are exited. There is no simple answer; we are quite creative at putting ourselves at risk! It’s like trying to pick the single thread out of a tangled ball of yarn. There are many contributing factors, but I would say that a lack of boundaries is a good place to start. Boundaries include not only what you won’t do, but what you will do. And it includes establishing boundaries regarding time!

Although there has been a good deal written lately on the subject, I would like to begin this series with the thorny subject of Sabbath. I intentionally borrowed the title for this post from the start of many fairy tales, because keeping the Sabbath seems like a fairy tale to most Christians and many pastors. “Rest? Who needs rest? Not this guy!” It is unfortunate that one of the most important patterns for our spiritual health is also one of the most absent.

As I read through the gospels, I am constantly challenged by the pattern of Jesus’ life. With so much at stake, there was a rhythm and easy order to his days. He wasn’t frantic, nor did he arrive at the end of the day restlessly anxious about everything he didn’t get accomplished.

That is so NOT me.

I am constantly bumping my head (and my heart) up against the limits of my humanity. Even technology fails me, providing only an illusion of being able to be more and do more. I am desperately in need of rhythms and patterns where God’s grace becomes apparent to me in ways that I usually miss. (I am indebted to Annie Dillard, who provides a wonderful illustration of this in her book Teaching a Stone to Talk)

I can hear many of you now, “Rest is for the weak!” You might not say that out loud, but what exactly is the message that we communicate with our busyness? Somehow, we think the rules don’t apply to us and that we can exceed our limits without consequence. Unfortunately, if we don’t create boundaries, someone (or something) will. I found this quote from Wayne Muller’s book, Sabbath – Finding Rest, Renewal, and Delight in Our Busy Lives, “If we do not allow for a rhythm of rest in our overly busy lives, illness becomes our Sabbath – our pneumonia, our cancer, our heart attack, our accidents create Sabbath for us.”  And, I would add, our burnout and exit from ministry.

familySabbath is a way of ordering our lives. Of creating boundaries in time where we can breathe deeply, sit without any other purpose than to observe, delight and center ourselves in God’s goodness. Where we can reconnect with ourselves, letting our souls catch up to our bodies, and tell our families we love them with our whole-hearted presence.

Trust me – this is hard for me, too! There is not enough time to get done everything I want to get done. There are tasks to be completed: family tasks, house tasks, church tasks, MINISTRY tasks! I find myself spending as much time managing the tools meant to make me more efficient, as doing the work. Sometimes vacations are more like another project than the true rest we seek. Frustration mounts and then you want me to STOP and do NOTHING!?

I am convinced that not having a Sabbath rhythm is a big deal. The creation pattern, re-emphasized by the Law and re-clarified by Jesus, is crucial for maintaining a healthy life for all, but especially pastors. Why? God’s people were told to guard the Sabbath, and even though the warnings in Old Testament became ritualized, we have to ask why God thought this was so important.

Were you aware that the beautiful grass that adorns the greens at Augusta National (or any good golf course, for that matter) grows best if you cut it 6 days a week? Leaving it alone on the 7th day keeps it healthy and ready for optimal play. This was shared with me years ago by a friend who was a Master Greenskeeper.

So, why is rest important?

  • Rest frees us from being the center of the universe. We would never say this, or think this, but our behaviors tell the real story
  • Rest reminds us of Whose story we are a part
  • Rest frees us from the illusion of control
  • Rest roots us in our relationship to God first and foremost
  • Rest gives us perspective, allowing us to see beauty and wonder, opening our souls to a larger vision
  • Rest allows for space to ask the deeper questions. This was particularly meaningful for me as I journeyed on my own path toward restoration.

sabbath fieldsWhen we rest, we can let go. We are less prone to try to control. We can begin to serve, not out of compulsion, drive, or fear, but out of a reciprocal love with the God that renews us.

We preach, counsel and advise those in our congregations to observe a day of rest. Do we practice what we preach? My wife is my best barometer in this regard. While I am getting better at it, I am still not always diligent about keeping to this pattern. Since our small group spent a year studying the Sabbath and its implications in our modern life, we have regularly set aside Sunday to nap, take a drive (though it’s been awhile) or sit on the patio and enjoy our garden.

I confess to still getting antsy from time to time. That is because patterns and rhythms are not one time things; they must become the culture of our heart. As my friend Frank said the other day, a day off can’t merely be a time when I “patch myself up enough to get through another week.” However it may appear to others, it is vital that pastors build into their lives a clear and non-negotiable pattern of keeping the Sabbath. Jesus said the day was made, created, and designed for US! It is God’s weekly gift that frees us from ourselves.

Fortunately, it may actually be a part of your job! Pastoral coach and counselor David Weidis offers this perspective:

“When I coach pastors, they often look at me incredulously when I tell them to include time spent in solitude, recreation, and refreshment as part of their working hours. Why? Because your ‘job’ requires you to be spiritually fit, and you can’t be in good spiritual condition by always being on the go. Jesus often ‘withdrew to a quiet place’ and effectively said ‘no’ to ministry opportunities.”

Questions of who will “cover the bases,” especially for the small church pastor, have to take a back seat to the overarching importance of setting into place healthy patterns that will allow you to be a healthy pastor for many years to come.

How can you make the pattern of Sabbath a reality in your life and ministry?

Sign

 From the blog of a good friend, who has some keen insights into the life of the Spirit:

http://www.farmingtonglenn.net/caught-in-moments-or-lost-in-movement/#comment-446)

 A great primer on helping your leaders help you design a sabbatical:

http://pinmin.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/01/Sabbatical-Policy-Booklet.pdf

 Tim Keller provides some helpful insights on Sabbath rest:

http://redeemercitytocity.com/content/com.redeemer.digitalContentArchive.LibraryItem/594/Wisdom_and_Sabbath_Rest.pdf

 A wealth of helps here:

http://www.emotionallyhealthy.org/index.php/free-resources/

Back to Jesus Alone

I heard this wonderful piece recited at a recent conference by my friend, Peter Reid. Peter is connected with Lamplighters Ministry, and was the featured speaker. I asked him to send it to me, and I am pleased to share it with you. It reflects the yearning of my heart on many occasions. I trust it will be an encouragement to you. Let us all return to the One who is our life.

jesus at table

 

BACK TO JESUS ALONE

 

When you can’t figure out whether to:

           sit at his feet, walk in a manner worthy of His call, run the race with diligence,

It’s time to get back to Jesus alone…

When you can’t even remember:

            the twenty-two characteristics of a good wife or husband, the seven steps of appeal to authority, the eight things to do when you are worried, or the nine ways of love,

It’s time to get back to Jesus alone…

When the proof of authority is simply “they say”:

and they say, “Have faith, just trust, let go and let God”;  and they say, “just find the sin and repent”; and they say, “just love, have joy, and receive peace, and pray”; and you can’t figure out who “they” are,

It’s time to get back to Jesus alone…

When your Pastor says:

hear the Word, read the Word, mark the Word, memorize the Word, study the Word, and meditate on the Word, and you are lost in the middle of Leviticus or Revelation, and Jeremiah is just too much,

It’s time to get back to Jesus alone…

When you hear:

it’s pre, mid, post, a, or pan, don’t take the “mark”, it is “times, time and half a time”, and you can’t get through the next half hour,

It’s time to get back to Jesus alone…

When you hear testimonies of others:

raising the dead, praying all night, fasting forty days, leading thousands to the Lord, and memorizing the entire Bible, and you hear it through someone who hasn’t done any of it,  and they expect you to do it, and you feel obliged,

It’s time to get back to Jesus alone…

When you hear:

have faith, work hard, repent, conquer, give, suffer, sacrifice, evangelize, make disciples,  wait on Him, walk in Him, pick up your cross, claim your possessions, and pray, and you feel pulled ten different directions on a rack,

It’s time to get back to Jesus alone…

When it is:

            home school, Christian school, public school, the school of hard knocks, or no school, and

            the discussion is heating up,

It’s time to get back to Jesus alone…

When you are getting a multitude of requests and letters to give to:

Wycliffe, Billy Graham, TBN, CBN, CMA, CCC, BOM, LCM, CFNI, CORE, YWAM, IVF, YFC, 700 Club, PTL Club, CBS…ABC…XYZ…,

It’s time to get back to Jesus alone…

When you can’t figure out whether to:

            wash the dishes, do the laundry, have a quiet time, change a diaper, mow the grass, or read,

It’s time to get back to Jesus alone…

When it is running the car to:

soccer, volleyball, softball, basketball, handball, football, or just plain ball, and you feel the road is your home,

It’s time to get back to Jesus alone…

When you are asked, “How’s it going at your church?” and you know it means “Ask me how it’s going at mine. “and you know you are about to hear about:

            a huge explosion of numbers, miracles, tongues, radio broadcasts, and seminars, and you feel a failure,

It’s time to get back to Jesus alone…

When you’re overweight and feel like running past the mirror and people are suggesting:

            Spas, running, jogging, cycling, swimming, weight watchers, triathlons, biathlons, and trampolons, and you are out of breath just thinking,

It’s time to get back to Jesus alone…

When you have gone to another conference this year that claimed “This is it!”:

and you tried “it”, and “it” didn’t work, and the guy left town with your $200 and you can’t get a hold of him to ask why “it” didn’t work,

It’s time to get back to Jesus alone…

When you just heard another:

“thus saith the Lord”; that contradicted the last “word from the Lord”; that was contrary to the previous “the Lord told me”; and you finally get the picture the Lord is being dragged into things He never said,

It’s time to get back to Jesus alone…

It is time to separate His commands from Christian demands,

It is time to hear Him speak the Word.

It is time to simplify.

It is time for one step at a time.

It is time to consider some lilies and birds.

It is time for the secret place with Him alone!

By Jim May(edited)

In the Meantime…

clockIt’s been a busy couple of weeks. (I hate ever saying how busy I am, even if it’s the truth.) So I am catching up on my posting and thought I would share a couple of links to some other bloggers that have challenged me over the last few days.

The first one comes from a friend of mine who is speaking powerfully into the lives of pastors who have experienced a moral fall. His blog is full of insights gained through a great deal of pain and the grace of God. Check out his latest: http://fallenpastor.com/2013/02/25/what-i-would-change-about-the-way-i-pastored/

The second one comes from a blog I follow, written by Brad Lomenick. I appreciate the younger viewpoint that he brings to ministry discussions. In this post, however, he hits on a theme that is timeless. For those of us who struggle with the white space on the pages of our lives, take a look at what Brad has to offer: http://www.bradlomenick.com/2013/02/25/make-time-for-margin/

I will see you back here in a couple of days with a new post of my own.

Roy

Sursum Corda

sursum corda

Pastoral Ponderings – A Sound Heart

“In everything set them an example by doing what is good. In your teaching show integrity, seriousness and soundness of speech that cannot be condemned, so that those who oppose you may be ashamed because they have nothing bad to say about us.” – Titus 2:7-8

A while ago, when I was fresh into PIR’s work of caring for pastors, I decided it would be a good idea to read back through the Pastoral Epistles. I wanted to refresh my memory regarding Paul’s directives to Timothy and Titus, who were new to the role of leadership in the church. It was important to me to remember what the core principles of pastoral work looked like as I began to talk with, and minister to, pastors. It had been a while since I had sat in while Paul shared his own heart about serving the Church as a leader.

It was in the course of that brief study that I came across an intriguing section in Paul’s encouragement to Titus. In chapter two, verses one through eight, Paul introduces the concept of “soundness,” as something Titus was to both have in himself and teach to others. My first question was: “How do you teach soundness?” It must be something one possesses first, obviously. But, if so, what IS it?

The word itself means to have the properties of being healthy, robust, in good condition, reliable and of substantial or enduring character. A good start – but not enough to be compelling and really flesh out what Paul was talking about.

Then, the idea of soundness rang a bell with me. I have had a passing fancy with boats over the course of my life. (My one claim to actually being a sailor was in a Sears JetWind on a shallow inland lake!) I remembered reading and hearing about the importance of soundness when it comes to a ship’s hull – especially those constructed of wood. Doing a little digging, I came across the following, which helped shed some light on what Paul was trying to communicate to Titus, and perhaps to pastors today:

“There is one example of aging wooden structures that I can give that nearly everyone is familiar and can relate to. That is driving through the countryside and seeing a very old barn that is starting to fall in upon itself – the kind with the swayback roof and bulging sides. If you would like to understand what happens to old boats, all you have to do is look at that old barn which is subject to nothing more than wind, rain and gravity.

Because boats are subject to much greater stresses, old boats rarely ever get to that point without breaking apart first. Even so, aging boats will reveal the same signs of age. The first sign is open seams that just won’t stay closed no matter how much caulking the owner does. As the wood weakens and the fasteners corrode, the entire hull structure just keeps getting looser and looser. Eventually it reaches the point where the whole thing is working every time it goes to sea and it then becomes just a question of time before something pops loose and an accident happens. Or if the owner is lucky, it just quietly sinks at the dock, as most do.“Surveying Wood Hulls by David H. Pascoe, Marine Surveyor

While this passage describes soundness in a negative way, it serves to illustrate that one cannot simply assume that all is well and ignore the means to preserve the soundness of the vessel. The author above goes on to point out that the only sure way to determine the true health of a boat’s hull was through an internal examination, not an external one! If a ship’s hull is given the care it needs – working from the inside out – it will remain sound and seaworthy. Without that intentional care, the character of the construction will begin to deteriorate.

How does this help us understand Paul’s admonishment to Titus? The key to a healthy life and ministry – one that is robust and of enduring character – is the intentional and constant care of our own heart and soul. One of the most significant contributors to pastors being ‘at-risk’ is the lack of their own personal soul care. If the interior places are not maintained by a living, breathing relationship with Christ, the hull will eventually pop and come loose. And no amount of external “caulk” can save it.

This is a theme I will likely come back to over and over again. In the busyness of a pastor’s life, it is far too easy to bypass the time and effort to care for one’s own heart. And yet, the consequences are there for all to see in the ghostly remains of lives and ministries that broke apart and sank.

Pastors: do we believe what we teach? Are we maintaining the interior? This goes beyond the “catch as catch can” approach of devotionals and prayers. Here are three suggestions that I have seen make a difference in my life:

Silence – the opportunity to press down through all the noise and the multitude of voices we are subjected to every day in order to hear the One Voice that matters.

Sharing– not “ministry” or superficial information, but the communication of our own true needs, frustrations, desires and hopes with one or two people who will listen with grace.

Sabbath – rest, the cessation of work, the pursuit of our humanness; where we can remember that God is quite sufficient to take care of His flock and we are not the center of the universe. It is a time to renew our own sense of being loved for who we are, not what we do.

I like the way The Message translates verses 7 and 8.

“But mostly, show them all this by doing it yourself, incorruptible in your teaching, your words solid and sane. Then anyone who is dead set against us, when he finds nothing weird or misguided, might eventually come around.”

A sound heart keeps us from presenting a misshaped Gospel and gives us a sure foundation from which to lead God’s people.