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

Finding Hope in the Midst of Conflict – Part 2

In part one of this short series, I talked about the need to be aware that conflict is inevitable in ministry. Another component in finding hope in the midst of conflict is the matter of self-awareness.

baggage claimWe all enter into our walk with Jesus and into our ministry with a baggage claim in hand. Though our guilt and shame is washed away, we still bring with us all of our experiences, character issues, bents in style and behavior – and how we handle conflict is often a result of the baggage we carry. Some of us have learned to resolve conflict in a healthy way, but most of us have not. Conducting some routine self-examination will help us recognize the less than productive ways we approach situations where conflict exists. So, the second key idea to navigating conflict is:

Examine your own styles and the baggage you bring to ministry!

When I sit across the table from a fellow leader in the church, and the dialogue escalates in intensity, when disagreements become deeply entrenched animosities and we are caught in what Eugene Peterson calls the “crosshairs of pastoral expectations,” we often retreat into methods of dealing with conflict that can prove disastrous to finding godly resolution. Here are a few that sound way too familiar to me:

Taking Things Personally (The Defender)

Steven James offers the following advice – dripping with sarcasm –

“If people criticize your work, they are, in essence, attacking you. Criticism of a project you have worked on is a direct assault on your intelligence, personality, and character. As a matter of self-respect, it’s important that you don’t let them get away with that. If you don’t stand up for yourself, you might come across as a pushover. So, show your strength and conviction by defending every idea you have. Rather than “choosing your battles,” remember that if someone criticizes your decisions, actions, or suggestions, they’ve already chosen to attack your personal self-worth. Don’t let them get away with that.” – From Seven Habits of Highly Ineffective Leaders – Time-tested practices to ensure complete and utter failure.

PIR uses an assessment tool called PRO-D. The potential for taking things personally is one of the most consistent themes identified by that tool as an area of concern for pastors and exited pastors. It is the dark side of our desire to care deeply about people: the extreme sensitivity to criticism and the tendency to make agreement a matter of personal acceptance.

Avoidance of Conflict (The Peacekeeper)

In his book, The Sacred Wilderness of Pastoral Ministry, David Rohrer identifies the temptations we face when we try to avoid conflict. We default to either “fight or flight.” Fear (flight) can lead us to become the “fixer upper,” the redeemer of all things negative. We can easily confuse peacekeeping with peace making! People pleasing, which is another way to express this, rarely leads to the place where God wants His church to be.

“If avoidance of controversy and maintenance of the appearance of stability are your highest aim then you will never go far in leading people into the truth.”– David Rohrer, The Sacred Wilderness of Pastoral Ministry (IVP), p.117

Passive-Aggressive Behavior (The Controller)

Pastors sometimes feel themselves at the mercy of church boards, key leaders, or influential groups in the church. A desire to feel in control of something, or anything, especially when you feel powerless, can lead to passive-aggressive behaviors.

“Passive Aggressive behavior is the expression of negative feelings, resentment, and aggression in an unassertive, passive way (such as through procrastination and stubbornness).” http://www.outofthefog.net

Resentment and anger, like so many other strong emotions, will eventually leak out no matter how hard we try to bury them. They may find their way out through Withdrawal (deliberate procrastination or unwillingness to contribute), the Silent Treatment (making yourself generally “unavailable”), Off-line Criticism (trying to influence opinion through gossip), Sarcasm (targeted humor), and even through Indirect Violence (slamming of doors and kicking the dog).

Winning At All Costs (Narcissism)

According to Rohrer, the “fight” side of avoiding conflict takes on the face of the “warrior.” This requires us to win and establish that we are right. As a result, there can be a slow creep into narcissism – where it’s all about me. Researchers are beginning to see a growing trend in our culture toward narcissism and pastors are not exempt.

“Imagine a person who does what he wants, regardless of how it affects other people. He refuses to take responsibility for his own mistakes, and he believes he’s unbeatable at anything he undertakes, despite mounting evidence to the contrary. Sounds like a textbook narcissist, right? Well, these days, it also sounds a lot like the United States. Narcissism is on the rise in the U.S. It’s likely to get worse before it gets better…” –United States of Narcissism Newsweek (7/17/2011)

feedbackIt may be time to take stock, and get some good, honest feedback about how you engage with conflict. Is your style of handling conflict an obstacle to finding godly resolution? Is it putting you at risk for an exit? Being aware of the way you deal with conflict is not just helpful – it’s a vital examination for anyone wanting to have a healthy ministry.

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.

CareGivers Forum 2012 – Gathering Together Those Who Serve God’s Shepherds

While the task of ministering to pastors can be daunting for those of us involved, it is encouraging to know that we are not alone. When I began the process of coming on board with PIR Ministries, I shared what God was doing in my life with a friend, Charles Shepson. Dr. Shepson entered my life as a counselor and encourager during a time in my pastoral ministry years ago when the depth of my own personal issues was just beginning to emerge. He is the founder of Fairhaven Ministries in Roan Mountain, Tennessee. Charles and I corresponded with some frequency over the years, and when he heard about the new direction of my life, he immediately said, “You need to go to CareGivers in November!” I had no idea what he was talking about at the time. But, on his recommendation, Deb and I signed up. Afterwards, we discovered that PIR Ministries has been an active part of CareGivers for a number of years.

The 2012 CareGivers Forum was held last week, November 4-8, at the WinShape Retreat Center on the campus of Berry College in Rome, Georgia. Deb and I had the privilege of attending, along with Ed Lochmoeller, the National Director of PIR Ministries. We met with 164 others, representing over 65 different ministries that share in the mission of caring for God’s shepherds. It is an annual gathering of people from across the United States, and “provides opportunity for personal relationships, professional networking and shared learning.” This year’s speaker was H.B. London, formerly the director of Focus on the Family’s Pastoral Care division.

I have been to my fair share of conferences and denominational meetings, where pastors and Christian workers meet together for a variety of purposes. And while there are times at those conferences where true connections are made, it was deeply refreshing to be a part of a gathering where the usual posturing and one-upmanship was completely absent. The willingness to share personal stories, resources and strategies for caring for pastors was remarkable. The work of helping and restoring those in full-time ministry can seem (and really is!) quite overwhelming. Yet we were reminded, through the teaching of H.B. London and the interactions with those who attended, that our ability to serve those who need care begins with our own personal rootedness in Christ. How fitting, since we often advise pastors that taking care of their own soul is the chief component in staying healthy in ministry.

A number of workshops were conducted by several of the members of the Forum, and will prove to be quite helpful as we chart a course through the waters of pastoral care. Deb and I particularly appreciated hearing from other couples who were working together in their ministries, as husband and wife.

Some significant new relationships developed for PIR Ministries during this year’s conference. Among those, we enjoyed getting to know Matthew Parker of the Summit Group in Detroit, and gaining a clearer picture of how to bring the resources of ministries like PIR to the pastors of the inner city. In a clear “God moment,” Deb and I were able to reconnect with a couple we had known and worked with during the years of our ministry in the pastorate. Ken and his wife Bonnie are working in a pastoral care ministry in Grand Rapids; we hope to partner with them and several other ministries in the West Michigan area in the coming months. We recently found out that Ken’s brother, is a pastor that has been in touch with us at PIR, taken the PRO-D, and has found help in dealing with some significant burnout issues.

All of this took place against the backdrop of the amazing hospitality and 5-star facilities of WinShape Retreat, where we were treated royally! This time of refreshment and encouragement is unparalleled in our experience. The fact that this was the largest gathering of attendees the Forum has ever seen is due largely to the generosity of the Cathy family (of Chick-Fil-A), who underwrote the bulk of the cost. We are very grateful for that generosity, and it seems to highlight for us that this ministry we have to ministers is taken seriously by many.

You will continue hear about some of the new ministry partners we met over the coming months. There are rich resources available to bring hope and help to God’s shepherds, and our hearts are joined with others who share the same burden. It is good to know you are not alone!

Doing Church in a Facebook world – Guest Blog

The pastoral world today is different in many ways from when I was serving in that capacity. As a result, I thought it would be good to invite some of the younger guys to jump in and talk about some of the unique challenges they face in trying to live out the call of God as pastors in today’s church. Today, I want to welcome a guest post by Dan Rose, assistant pastor for several years at Grace Chapel, and now a church planter. You can see what he is up to at “The Antioch Movement” http://acts13.net and on his own website at http://danielmrose.com

 If Facebook were a country, it would be the third most populous country in the world. Did you actually read that? Yes. Facebook has changed the way that people live their lives. The word “Facebook” has transformed from simply being a noun, to being a verb. People say, “I will Facebook you” and you know exactly what that means.

People spend hours and hours on Facebook, Twitter, and yes, even Google+. Instagram and Foursquare allow us to document our lives in pictures and locations. Everything we do and everything our friends do is out there for us to interact with and engage.

We live in a world of immediacy with a constant flow of information. We are able to interact with one another more efficiently than ever before, and through the rise of social media we are able to take messages around the world to anyone we want.

Facebook has changed everything, including the church.

Here’s a dirty little secret: I don’t like Facebook, Twitter, Google+, what have you. I really don’t. But, I am convinced that they are critical tools for doing ministry in today’s landscape. Therefore, I use them. Gutenberg’s printing press required the people of that day to completely change the way that they thought about sending the message of the Gospel to those around them, and so has social media.

Social media is not a neutral tool. It demands that we change the way we communicate. We must communicate in brief, in summary. The problem is that the things that we are concerned about in the context of the Church demand time, space, and true community.

Time is lost when it comes to social media. Responses are immediate. We see a comment or receive an email and fire off a response without taking time to consider or pray. This is dangerous in the context of the Church because we are dealing with people’s lives. When we feel that we don’t have time to consider and think, we respond from our flesh. When our responses are from the flesh, they typically lead to problems and misunderstanding.

Space is lost. Everywhere I go my phone beeps with social media and email notifications. Text messages flood into the device. My phone will ring and ring with people who want to talk to me. Social media has driven the mobile communications sphere (yes, text messages and email are social media). With the advent of the “smart” phone, we have lost space because now we are able to carry our entire relational sphere in our pocket. This loss of space means that we think we have less relational capital to spend on real people in our domains, and actually makes it that much more difficult to build the kingdom of God.

True community is lost. Community is ultimately formed through conflict and resolution. When those two things occur, people have the choice to either move forward in light of forgiveness given or received, or end the relationship. With most of our “community” occurring in the social sphere, the communal process of conflict and resolution is short-circuited. When conflict occurs, responses come fast and furious (loss of time) and the conflict is ever present (loss of space) so that we cannot process and pray. Often the “conversation” ends without any resolution. True community is not developed.

Doing church in a Facebook world means that Christ followers, as the Story-telling representatives of Jesus, need to subvert the entire culture. It means that we must choose to engage in person. Face-to-Face, not FaceTime. It means that the Church needs to subvert the immediacy mindset and easy connect. In my opinion, the church growth model of the 80s and 90s simply feeds the beast. It embraces instead of subverts.

The reality is that social media is here to stay. The Church has to engage with it in such a way that subverts its individualism and immediacy. We cannot run away from social media, for if we do we are running away from the world with which we are called to engage. We must understand social media needs to be subverted in such a way that we move from the virtual to the real. From image to substance.

How do we do that? I don’t know. I’m still figuring it out. I am certain of one piece, though. That is, we must “move into the neighborhood,” just as Jesus did. In practice, I think we can simply open our homes and embrace again the biblical principle of hospitality. I am convinced we change the world one good meal at a time.

Dan Rose