42 Posts Categorized as about "The Pastor's Home"

Saying it Well: Touching Others with Your Words

I wrote my new book primarily for you—for speakers in general and preachers in particular. After five decades of honing the craft, I feel that I’m finally ready to put into print much of what now works for me as a preacher and public speaker.

Saying It WellI wanted to communicate everything I’ve learned, but that’s unrealistic. Some things—let’s face it—can’t be put into words on a page; they must come naturally from within. Each of us has an inimitable “style” that is ours and ours alone. But there are some things I mention that might be of value to you; I certainly hope so.

Our own individuality is what makes our message compelling and our delivery unique. Let’s never forget that. From this point on, it’s important that you release yourself from the straitjacket of others’ expectations. Furthermore, you must determine to overcome your fear of not sounding like some other person you admire. You can learn from each of them . . . but don’t waste your time trying to be them—or acting a little like them. That’s phony. The goal, remember, is authenticity. Until you free yourself from that trap, you’ll not find your own voice. I repeat: you are YOU and none other. Never forget that each insight or principle or suggestion—whether from me or another author—must be fitted into YOUR style and YOUR way of expressing yourself when YOU speak or preach.

How I wish someone in my formal education had told me these things! Because no one did, I spent far too much time trying to look like or sound like someone I wasn’t. Thankfully, all that is behind me—and I hope the same is true of you. If not, maybe my book will help to free you to become the preacher God created you to be.

I pray the book is a major encouragement to you and an enhancement of your pulpit ministry.

—Chuck

Cultivating Enduring Companions

As I scan the lives of those I most admire in Scripture, I quickly discover that very few of them were loners.

Not long ago, I spent almost a year studying the aging apostle John—a man who was still active in his mid-nineties! I’ve logged numerous hours perusing his first letter, which is filled with terms of endearment, like “little children” and “beloved” and his most-frequent exhortation, “love one another.”

John’s life remained intertwined with others. He never “outgrew” his need for people. And believe it or not, when we get into that major work we call Revelation, which he wrote while all alone on the rugged island of Patmos, John isn’t halfway into chapter one before he identifies himself to his readers as, “John, your brother and fellow partaker in the tribulation and kingdom and perseverance” (Revelation 1:9).

As I probed into the original Greek term translated, “fellow partaker,” I couldn’t help but think of the phrase, “enduring companion.” How could John be an “enduring companion” while alone on Patmos? He tells us. He was their companion:

  • “In tribulation”—the idea includes circumstances under pressure.
  • “In perseverance”—this conveys endurance, not a passive endurance but a passionate spirit of courage and conquest.
  • “In kingdom”—in other words, he anticipated the time when they would share eternal rewards and kingdom life together.

What stands out is that, even though the old apostle had been banished to a distant and lonely island in the south Aegean Sea, he felt neither distant nor alone. Rather, he felt a common bond with those going through the agony of enormous pressure . . . he was passionately enduring along with the rest of them . . . he was anticipating that day when they would stand before their King of Kings and receive kingdom rewards together.

He may have been living as an island castaway, but he remained closely linked to the lives of his brothers and sisters many miles away on the mainland! Pressure and hardship pull companions close together; pressure and hardship don’t separate us. Those kind of trials can even draw us close to people we hardly know.

Do you have a few enduring companions you can turn to in lonely times? I hope so! If not, are you willing to take the necessary steps to cultivate those key relationships? Ministry requires them, you know.

—Chuck

Give Your Presence This Year

Do you feel the tightening squeeze this time of year brings?

On top of an already demanding schedule of preaching, teaching, counseling, and calling, you have had to add Christmas parties and programs, a creative Christmas series that you’ve never preached before—and still another eloquent sermon is coming up for the Christmas Eve service.

Such a schedule has a tendency to turn us into Scrooge-like characters, doesn’t it? (We secretly think: Humbug!) Work, work, work . . . nothing and no one will get in our way.

May I assume the role of one of old Scrooge’s ghosts for you? Let me escort you to your home. Peer into the window. Look closely. Is your chair empty at the dinner table?

Okay, that was a cheap shot.

We in ministry don’t like to talk about it, but too many of us sanctify workaholism. And the holidays can be the busiest time! We can allow ourselves to be so involved in “the Lord’s work” that our family is neglected. And I do mean “we.”

This may sound like heresy, but we have to learn to adopt the attitude: “I’m more committed to my home than I am to my ministry.” Try saying that out loud. I doubt any pastor’s final words will be—and I know mine won’t be—“I should have put more time into studying supralapsarianism for that sermon on election.” No way! But I will regret not spending more time loving and laughing with my wife, children, and grandchildren.

Are you feeling adequately guilty yet? Me too. So let me suggest some positive things for us to consider. Here are six rewards that represent huge dividends for yourself, your family, and even your ministry if you make your home your priority. You will enjoy:

  •        the sustained cultivation of a great character
  •        the continued relief a clear conscience brings
  •        the increasing personal delight of knowing God intimately
  •        the rare privilege of becoming a mentor
  •        the priceless treasure of leaving an unforgettable legacy
  •        the crowning reward of finishing strong

It took three ghosts and a sleepless night to convince old Ebenezer Scrooge that work without regard for others amounts to foolishness—and a wasted life.

I have a pastor-friend whose wife often tells him, “I don’t want your presents as much as your presence.” Let’s give ourselves to our families this week, okay?

—Chuck

Listening to Them

I’ll never forget one man’s criticism of me that helped me as much as anything I’ve ever heard.

I was about to graduate from seminary. I had completed the finest courses in theology, Greek, Hebrew, and homiletics—you know, I was fully prepared for life and ministry. (Yeah, right!) But I still had something essential to learn.

I’ll never forget this man’s words. He looked me in the eye and said, “You know, Chuck, you’ve got a great sense of humor . . . but it’s often at someone else’s expense.”

That stung, but it was true.

When you have a sense of humor, and you can add a little barb with a touch of cynicism or sarcasm, you can usually get a better laugh. But usually there’s one who’s not laughing down inside. That person receives the brunt of the joke. In years past, that person was my wife, Cynthia. My critic who had witnessed this in me cared enough to say something. In some ways, he saved my marriage.

For ten years Cynthia and I went through difficult, difficult times. She didn’t feel I valued her. It weakened my relationship with my wife, mainly because I wasn’t teachable. I didn’t realize what a treasure I had in this woman who was not only my wife but also my wisest counselor and my best friend.

In the years that have followed, I cannot tell you the times that I have been grateful for those times I listened to my wife. And I cannot tell you the times I have regretted when I didn’t.

Who else is more in my corner than the woman I’ve married? Who more than her wants to see me succeed? Who else has put up with fifty-two years of me? Nobody.

So why do I sometimes think she’s not in my corner? The adversary occasionally tries to convince me of that. And he does the same to you, I’m sure.

Don’t go there, guys.

Some of the brightest people on the planet are the people we’ve married. They know us better than anybody. We need to value them . . . which means, listening to them.

–Chuck

Disintegrating Families

The temptation of any child of vocational Christian ministers is to see the work of the ministry as just another thing, just another religious occupation. Breaking through the wall of “public religion” must be the intense responsibility of the parent-minister if his or her children are to understand that this isn’t big business, a slick profession, or an entertainment arena where Mommy or Daddy puts on a performance.

The key word is authenticity. Not perfection, for no one gets it right all the time. But being real. Admit your faults, own them completely, ask for forgiveness, be quick to give it, allow children plenty of room to fail, and let them see you live your life behind the scenes with love, grace, and humor. All of that takes time and effort, both of which will cost you productivity on the job. Consider it a priceless sacrifice . . . a permanent investment.

Disintegrating families have parents who refuse to face the severity of their children’s actions. Eli knew how horrible his sons had become, yet did nothing! I’ve seen parents in such denial that they cannot bring themselves to admit that their child has a serious problem with drugs or pornography or sexual promiscuity or stealing—behavior that most others would consider a red flag. Yet they act as though the crisis will resolve itself if given a little patience. Wrong.

If you have children who are young, you have those around you who are impressionable. Now’s the time to make your most important investment in them. If you wait until they’re as tall as you, you will have already allowed them to sow seeds of self-destruction.

If your children are nearly adults, take responsibility for your part in their poor choices, then do whatever is necessary to save them. Because you’ve waited so long, there are few options that don’t have grave consequences. So consider the long term, and do what you must.

It is never too late to start doing what is right.

—Chuck

It Takes Grace

Sarcastic infighting. Negative putdowns. Stinging stares. Volatile explosions of anger. Doors slamming. Desperate feelings of loneliness. Awkward silence. Those descriptions portray the marriages in many homes and families.

And also, in many parsonages.

We are not immune, are we? It is possible that you have gotten to the place where you look for excuses not to be home. Or to be there as little as possible. It’s easy in the ministry to justify our absence, isn’t it? Even in our own minds.

For more years than I care to remember, I was so insecure and fearful it wasn’t uncommon for me to drill Cynthia with questions—petty, probing questions that were little more than veiled accusations. It is amazing she endured it. Finally, we had one of those famous showdown confrontations every married couple has had. (Yes, even pastors.) No need to repeat it, but she made it painfully clear that I was smothering her, I was imagining things she never even thought of doing . . . and it had to stop. Her words hurt, but she did the right thing. Thankfully, I took her seriously.

I went to work on this ugly side of my life. I confessed my jealousy to Cynthia. I assured her I would never again treat her with such a lack of trust. I asked God for grace to help, for relief from the destructive habit I had formed, and for the ability to love and give myself to this woman without all the choking conditions.

I distinctly recall how much an understanding of grace helped me. It was as if grace was finally awake in my life, and I could appropriate its power for the first time. It seemed to free me; first in small ways, and finally in major areas. I can honestly say today that I do not entertain a single jealous thought. Grace literally wiped that slate clean.

I’ve said for years now that my favorite place on earth is just inside the door of my home. I absolutely love being home. It is there I find maximum security and acceptance, fulfillment and accountability, responsibility and harmony, and honesty and love. Why? Because we are committed to the same common denominator: Grace.

  •  Grace releases and affirms. It doesn’t smother.
  •  Grace values the dignity of individuals. It doesn’t destroy.
  •  Grace supports and encourages. It isn’t jealous or suspicious.

What does it take for us as pastors to be just as thoughtful and encouraging and creative with our wives as with those who sit in front of us on Sundays?

I have the answer: it takes grace.

— Chuck

Make or Mar Your Ministry

I don’t think the Lord gives mates to us pastors to frustrate us.

God gives a pastor a wife for life, knowing full well that it will take time to cultivate that relationship. In fact, when we give our time to our spouse, we are demonstrating devotion to Christ. I don’t think we’re missing out on anything God has for us to do at the church.

A passage we’ve read many times—maybe even preached—also applies to those of us who are engaged in ministry: “But one who is married is concerned about the things of the world, how he may please his wife, and his interests are divided” (1 Corinthians 7:33–34).

Unfortunately, we live in a day in which people think if our activity is not at the church, it lacks devotion to Jesus. As pastors, we can believe that lie if we don’t continually guard against it.

One of my cherished mentors, Dr. Howard Hendricks, once made a tremendous statement: “Your marriage will either make or mar your ministry.”

It has taken years for me to get my arms around that significant statement . . . and I’m still learning the truth of its implications.

Does spending time with your wife take away from your time with God and your work for God?

In a word: Yes.

And it should.

—Chuck

Accepting Others

One of the reasons I like to buy groceries where I do is because they hire those who are a little slower as baggers. Isn’t it neat to be around people like that? One of them calls me, “Sonny.” I especially like that. There aren’t many people left today who say that to me! He’s about a 35 year old man, I’d guess. “How you doing, Sonny?”

I like choosing his checkout line because he and I always talk together. The other day I told him what a great job he was doing and tears came to his eyes. Isn’t that amazing? You’d think half the people who go through there tell the baggers they do a good job. He said, “Man, I haven’t heard that in a year.” The manager of the store, who was standing about three feet away, said, “I told you that three months ago.”

Now is a good moment for you to stop and think about encouraging those around you. Just start at home with your wife.

I spent the first ten years of my marriage trying to make Cynthia into me. I can’t think of many things worse on earth than a female Chuck. And I’ll be honest, it almost broke us apart. We didn’t though, because she stayed and stuck it out.

I’ll never forget when Cynthia said to me, “I don’t want you to keep telling people we’re ‘partners’ because we’re not partners. I bear your children and I cook your meals, and I clean the house, but I’m not a partner.” Then she added, “You’ve never accepted me for who I really am.” I said, “Yes, I have.” She said, “No you haven’t.” I said, “YES, I have.” She said, “NO, you haven’t!” And I got louder and she got louder, and she finally walks away in tears. And I was left with the dishes. While doing those dishes I thought, She’s right.

We began a process that took four years to break that habit in me. It involved some serious counseling that we both sought . . . and it was very helpful. It just about wiped me out, though, realizing how true her criticism was. I did very little encouraging back then. I had picked the people I liked, and those were the ones I spent time with. The others I just used.

It was years later at a gathering with some friends from our radio program that someone asked Cynthia, “Why don’t you say some things about the broadcast?” She walked up and said, “The best part about this is that Chuck and I are in this as partners.” In that wonderful moment her statement brought a knot in my throat. She hadn’t said that word, since she had said it to me on that cold kitchen floor many years before. I finally came to realize the importance of accepting my wife.

I often remember Peter’s words to us as husbands, and how our lives at home affect our effectiveness as pastors. I’ve emphasized the result of obeying Peter’s words: “Live with your wives in an understanding way, as with someone weaker, since she is a woman; and show her honor as a fellow heir of the grace of life, so that your prayers will not be hindered” (1 Peter 3:7). 

She has a different temperament than you and a different way of thinking. Most wives do, you know; that’s why the marriage works. I invite you to make a serious study of the fourteenth chapter of Romans. It sets forth an absence of legalism. It underscores the enjoyment of freedom, the appreciation of diversity, a non-controlling lifestyle. It’s all about accepting people as they are . . . and it also applies at home.

I’ve often found it easier to be more accepting and encouraging of the people in our congregation than my own wife. Maybe it’s the same for you too.

—Chuck

John Donne: An Enduring Companion

John Donne is one of the least-known saints in history. The 17th century poet and preacher endured a life of persecution, pain, unfair imprisonment, and lengthy suffering.

It was during his term as Dean of the great St. Paul’s Cathedral – London’s largest church – that three waves of the Great Plague swept through the city. The last epidemic alone killed 40,000 people. In all, a third of London’s population perished, while a third more fled to the countryside, turning entire residential districts into ghost towns.

Donne’s life had been no picnic. Released from prison and now blackballed, he couldn’t find work. He and his wife Anne lived in grinding poverty, and Anne nearly died from childbirth more than once. Donne himself suffered intense headaches, intestinal cramps, and gout. His longest literary work during this excruciating period of his life was an extended essay on the advantages of suicide.

He decided at the late age of forty-two to seek ordination as an Anglican priest. The year after Donne took his first Anglican church, his beloved Anne died, after having borne him twelve children in all (five of whom died in infancy).

Amazingly, this was the man appointed to St. Paul’s Cathedral in 1621. With all his trials, he hardly seemed a likely candidate to lift his nation’s spirits during that era of the plague. He stayed near his beleaguered parishioners—arising every morning at 4 a.m. and studying until ten at night. He delivered sermons of such power, the vast cathedral remained crowded with worshipers despite London’s declining population.

It was then—at the zenith of his public ministry—his dread disease was diagnosed along with his death sentence. What is noteworthy is that he never “retired” from his calling—and he refused to become a passive recluse. While surviving those dark months, he stayed engaged with people. His life modeled the priceless value of enduring companionships.

Among his best-known writings are lines from his work, Devotions, written only a few years before his death. You may remember some of them:

No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent … if a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less … any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind; and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.1

The importance of our staying engaged in the lives of others cannot be overestimated. Isolation is not only unbiblical and unwise, it is, in fact, unhealthy. You get weird.

Finding and nurturing a few very close companions throughout your years in ministry is a key ingredient to surviving. If you are one of those in that category—you are miles ahead of those who think they can survive on their own.

I must add — you are also rare.

—Chuck

1. John Donne, The Works of John Donne: Dean of Saint Paul’s, 1621-1631, vol. 3, ed. Henry Alford  (London: Parker, 1839), 575.

Can You Name Five?

Time once was when our homes and offices buzzed with loud laughter. As family members and coworkers, we interacted with each other in houses and hallways, by the water cooler, in the kitchen, at the fireplace, sitting on front porches, or in a plaza. Ideas were shared, and gestures were freely expressed. Feelings of affirmation were punctuated through smiles and handshakes. Hugs, frequent touches, and arms around each other’s shoulders were commonplace.

No longer.

Today, walk into most office areas and you’d think you are entering the local public library! Instead of noses in books, each person is glued to his or her own personal computer or staring at a handheld phone and writing with thumbs . . . and never looking up.

In days gone by, we’d jog with a good friend several days a week and stay caught up. We’d visit with a neighbor while working in the yard. We’d get acquainted with the stranger in the next seat on the plane. Not now. The ever-present headset connected to one’s own iPod, communicates in clear terms, “Don’t talk to or interrupt me—I have 3,500 songs I’ve downloaded that I need to listen to!” Eye contact is a thing of the past.

Yesterday, we knew numerous people—deeply. Today, we’re hard-pressed to know what anyone is struggling with or who might be facing a life-and-death issue. Most of us could not call the first names of someone else’s kids. Yesterday, we would chatter with close friends. Today, we “Tweet” with them. Isn’t it strange? We’re more in touch with some acquaintance on Facebook or a high-school grad from yesteryear living across the country than the person occupying the next office or that lady who lives two doors down. The Lone Ranger, once a fantasy hero, is now our model—mask and all. (With emphasis on the word, Lone.)

Our computer files are filled with multiple columns of names—called our “contact list.” But truth be told, some of us would be embarrassed to admit that if we really needed a “close companion” (I mean, someone who would come and be with us without ever asking why), we would find it difficult to name even five people in that category.

Can you name five?

Don’t you occasionally wonder who the eight will be who will carry your coffin? And one final question: will their grief over your loss cause them to sit through the entire memorial service without once checking their mobile phone?

—Chuck