4 Posts from June 2013

Our Calling: A Responsibility . . . a Privilege

As a pastor, it doesn’t take very long before you understand that the ministry is not a job.

It’s a calling.

I love Paul’s first letter to his younger friend, Timothy. It is full of great reminders for us as pastors.

Over the next few posts, drawing from this essential epistle, I’ll be challenging all of us in three areas related to our calling, specifically:

  • What do we flee from?
  • What do we follow after?
  • What do we fight for?

By the way, I see our calling as pastors as a responsibility that comes from God . . . without any expectations of pastoral perks on our part. Here’s what that means:

  • We don’t do it for the money.
  • We don’t do it because the hours are good.
  • We don’t do it because everybody will love us.
  • We don’t do it because of where we get to choose to live.
  • Why do we do it? Because we cannot be satisfied doing anything other than our calling.

    Honestly, can you think of any greater privilege?


About Our Calling . . . and Artichokes

If you’ve ever traveled up Highway 1 along the coast of California from Los Angeles to San Francisco, you have passed through the little town of Castroville.

Castroville is noted for one thing. Artichokes.

If you like artichokes, you’ll love Castroville. If you don’t like artichokes, well, there’s not much else to like in Castroville.

As you drive through the town, you think things like, Oh, I’m so grateful God has not called me to Castroville. And if you’re in the ministry, you always add, But I’m available, Lord! I’ll go if that’s where You would like me to serve.

We learn to say that, don’t we?

I have a physician friend who left Fort Lauderdale and moved to Tyler, Texas, to practice academic medicine. He and his wife lived in an old house and put down deep roots and enjoyed things like backyard barbecues and sandlot baseball.

One day we got a letter saying they had moved back to Fort Lauderdale. My friend wrote, “Do you know why we now live in Fort Lauderdale? Because I said when we were in Tyler, ‘We will never move back to Fort Lauderdale.’ Now here we are.”

Insightful words.

So take it from me, friend, God may call you to Castroville. If He does, you go.

And when you do, I have some advice for you: learn to like artichokes.


Ten Tips for Staying Balanced in Ministry

My word to those of us engaged in ministry is, keep a healthy balance. Here are ten tips I’ve found helpful:

  1. Because you teach, also remain a good student. Stay teachable.
  2. Read more.
  3. Listen better (especially to your spouse).
  4. Be ready to change. And change!
  5. Admit wrong where you are wrong.
  6. Stand firm when you know you are right (but be nice).
  7. Because you are called to be a leader, follow well.
  8. You cannot do it all, so delegate.
  9. You have a big job to do, so let others help you do it. And when they do it well, make sure they get the credit.
  10. The ministry is serious work, so keep a good sense of humor.

Here’s a bonus tip: take God seriously but don’t take yourself too seriously.

Let me elaborate on that last one, because we pastors need it more than most. When you listen to the recordings of your sermons (yes, it’s okay to admit you do that), I urge you not to be afraid to laugh at stupid things you’ve said in the pulpit. I get to do this regularly. You see, at the end of each year, those who do the work of putting my messages on the radio and Internet give me a CD of all the mistakes they took out of my messages during the year. It’s sort of a Christmas “gift.” Nice, huh?

I cannot believe some of the dumb things I have said. It is enough to reduce one to the size of an ant.

Sometimes it’s good for us pastors to see ourselves as ants.

It keeps us looking up.


Go Ahead, Admit It

There it was. One of those posters. Some are funny. Some are clever. Others, beautiful. A few, thought-provoking. This one? Convicting.

It said something like this:

A prayer to be said when the world has gotten you down,

And you feel rotten,

And you’re too doggone tired,

And you’re in a big hurry,

And you’re mad at everybody . . .


I remember one week it seemed I saw the poster everywhere. God really wanted me to get the message. He nudged me when I first read it in a friend’s office. He slapped me hard in Newport Beach when I ran into it again. While moving faster than a speeding bullet in Portland, I came face-to-face with it again. It was silent as light but twice as bright . . . smashing me down and pinning me to the mat for the full count. How did I interpret God’s message through that poster?

“My son, slow down. Cool it. Admit your needs.”

Such good counsel. But tough to carry out. Why? Why in the world is it such a struggle for us pastors to cry out for assistance?

  • In my entire life, I’ve never seen a football game played without substitutions.
  • Even the finest surgeons receive help in delicate and extensive operations.
  • Highway patrolmen travel in pairs.
  • I was taught all the way through my days in the Marines to dig a hole before combat big enough for two people in battle . . . never for just one.

Asking for help is smart. It’s also the answer to fatigue . . . and the “I’m indispensable” image. You want to know what’s at the heart of much of our boundless ministerial drive? We can get pious and call it “passion.” But it’s something else.


Plain old, stubborn unwillingness to admit need. You see, the greatest battle in the pastorate today is not inefficiency; it’s super-efficiency . . . that is, it’s being too proud to ask for help.

The result? Painful though it is to describe, you know it’s true: impatience. We become easily irritated. Often angry. Longer hours. Less and less time off. Little laughter. No vacation. Zero time with family. Inflexibility. Longer and longer gaps between meaningful (personal) times in God’s Word. Precious few (if any) moments in personal prayer and prolonged meditation.

Say, my friend, it’s time to declare it. You are not the Messiah of the 21st-twenty-first century! No way can you keep going at this pace and stay effective year after year.

Analyze yourself any way you please, and you are H-U-M-A-N . . . nothing more.


So, slow down!

So, give yourself a break!

So, stop trying to cover all the bases!

So, relax!