Among the many things to be thankful for, I’m thankful for this person

Would you sign up for the following job description?

  • On call 24/7/365.
  • Required to step into emotionally laden situations and be the voice of both comfort and reason.
  • Must say things people don’t want to hear, often when they don’t want to hear them.
  • Will be evaluated, compared, and criticized by many people you serve with little recourse or opportunity to respond. Often.
  • Expected to go “above and beyond” on a consistent basis, with little thanks or appreciation.
  • Required to knowledgeably step into domestic, medical, end-of-life, business, and community situations regularly.
  • Have to lead people who often don’t want to be led.
  • Expected to convince people to see things outside the bounds of their typical world-view and change as a result.
  • Must deliver dynamic, persuasive presentations to small and large groups, sometimes as often as a weekly basis.
  • Need to be skilled at leading committee and board meetings on a regular basis, with positive outcomes.
  • Must be compassionate but bold, clear-thinking yet tolerant, truth-speaking yet merciful, as well as kind and approachable at all times.\
  • Serves as an example and guide to the entire staff.
  • Pay range is below the average for similar work in other fields.

In case you’re at a loss as to what position requires such things, it’s that of a local church pastor.

And I’m not being factitious in the least with that list.

Everything there is an expectation someone in the local church family has of their Pastor. Many of the things are hard realities that I and many other Pastors have experienced over the years.

I’m not complaining. My experience in ministry for the almost-20-years I served were something I’d never trade.

And the Pastors I know aren’t complaining either.

I provide this list to give you, the ones who are not in the role of a Pastor, a bit of perspective – and opportunity to know a bit of what it’s like to wear the shoes of a church leader.

AND I SHARE IT FOR A REASON: So you can do something with it.

  • Look at your Pastor with new eyes.
  • Thank him for his work, his heart, his service.
  • Thank God that he serves you and your family willingly and well.
  • Let him know he’s making a difference – and be specific.

Among the many things you have to be thankful for I’d encourage you to put your Pastor at the top of the list.

You may be surprised to know that many Pastors feel undervalued and misunderstood. Don’t let your Pastor be one who feels those things this Thanksgiving.

He’s not perfect, but He’s God’s servant, placed in your life for your good.

He does his best, with God’s help.

He loves you and yours.

He wants the best for you and works humbly to bring it about.

Church Leadership Training: How the Elder Training Handbook Was Created

Finding and equipping the right people for church leadership is one of the most important tasks in the church…

And I’ve had my share of struggles through the years.

I mean, it’s hard to find the RIGHT men to serve as Elder. And it’s even harder to know IF they are the right men for the role.

As I had to face the task I found that my biggest struggle was in getting to know the potential men in a way that enabled me to discern if they were a good fit.

Just like a job interview – anybody can fake it long enough to impress the one doing the interviewing. And that’s not to say that anyone intentionally fakes it – but we all DO put our best foot forward.

So… as I found myself in need for better tools I finally came to the point that I had to create one for myself.

My solution to the church leadership needs in my churches was to create the Elder Training Handbook.

This guide for identifying and equipping men for the role of Elder is powerfully practical… from assessment to evaluation to installation.

This workbook-style handbook is designed to help church leaders do just that, in a wise, careful, and thoroughly Biblical way.

Some contexts where this handbook may be helpful:

  • When an existing Elder team needs to bring others onto their team
  • When a Pastor needs to establish an Elder team from scratch
  • When an Elder team needs a “refresher” about their role, or would like additional training regarding the Biblical mandate for Elders
  • As a discipleship curriculum for men, where the role of Elder is held up as a “model” for how they can lead their families with the heart of a shepherd
church leadership training - buy the bookchurch leadership training PDF version for free

This handbook is not offered as a magic formula or fool-proof method for finding or equipping men for the role of Elder. No such thing exists. Scripture clearly teaches that men are only appointed to the role of Elder by the determination of the Holy Spirit (Acts 20:28).

Instead, this handbook is designed to serve as a tool in that Spirit-led process. It is an aid in discerning the will of the Spirit, first through assessment of the man being considered, and secondly through training for those who appear to be called to serve as Elders.

With over 260 study questions, a variety of self-assessment tools, scripture memorization, and “quizzes” to test the candidate’s understanding and application of the concepts included, The Elder Training Handbook is a serious-minded tool for discovering, encouraging, and equipping men to shepherd, protect, and lead the New Testament church.

Preaching to the social media choir

Preaching to the choir.

It’s a phrase used to express the ridiculousness of speaking with conviction to people who are already convinced of your position.

But through the sweet and gentle correction of a trusted friend I’ve come to notice that I do it all the time on social media.

Here’s how it happened:

I posted on Facebook about a comment I heard on a podcast. I wrote it in a way that implied that everyone who heard it would see it the same way I did; as an obviously foolish idea. I have to admit that my tone and the hashtags I used were obviously mocking and condescending.

My friend responded by telling me her story as it related to the quote and encouraging me to reconsider the way I’m posting about the opinions of others. In her mind, the way I was going about it was counterproductive to loving people into the kingdom of God.

Her approach was powerful and insightful. And she’s got me thinking about the why behind my social media posting.

I typically post things about my frustrations with the way the world is. And I often have the expectation that many of my “friends” will like what I have to say and acknowledge their agreement with a comment or click.

OR

I make a snide remark about a comment I heard or a meme I read (many times in an effort to appear witty, funny, or wise). And I expect others who are cut from the same cloth as me to affirm my opinion.

As I’ve thought about my social media posts since then, I think that I’m making those kinds of comments because I love the praise of people.

  • I want to be affirmed.
  • I love to be acknowledged.
  • I’m seeking the approval of others.
  • I still want to be the cool kid (even though I never was).

It’s sickening.

But there’s something worse that could be happening when I’m doing this social media choir preaching.

What is it?

The worst part about preaching to the choir is that non-choir members hear what I say.

At first that may seem like a good thing. After all, I’m…

  • “Enlightening” the masses.
  • Educating them.
  • Sharing some insight.

And especially because most of what I share is “Christian” in theme, it seems even more right to do.

But I’m beginning to question if that’s really what’s happening.

I’m wondering if I’m so wrapped up in my little corner of the world that I don’t even consider anymore how my words (wise, caustic, or otherwise) might be construed by those who are not in the choir.

  • Those who are not even sitting close to the choir
  • Those who don’t even like choirs.

Is it possible that instead of hearing a wise observation, they’re hearing condemnation?

Could the strength of my conviction be construed as anger at them, their beliefs, and their way of life?

Could my clever use of hashtags (#fail, #stupid, #FacePalm) actually be crushing their souls and embittering them toward people who call themselves “Christians” because I am one?

Even on Social Media, there are people on the other end of the interaction (yes, apparently I needed to be reminded).

  • Real people.
  • People God loves.
  • People I’m called to love.

Following your passion, receiving a calling, skill development, career mastery, and a guy named Cal Newport

Follow your passion or build your life work?

Somewhere on the way to adulthood I bought into the idea that I should follow my passion, chase my dreams, and do something great in the world.

Those ideas were in the air during the 70s and 80s, the years when I was growing up.

I’m pretty sure that idea didn’t come from my parents.

They were/are part of the “greatest generation,” a group of people that exemplifies almost the opposite viewpoint. Hardworking, do-what-you-have-to-do people, who did exactly that. As far as I can tell, there was no dream chasing in my dad’s career path, unless building a secure and stable life for his family was the dream he sought, because he surely did that.

Wherever my passion-following bent came from, I had it, and it became increasingly more frustrating the older I got.

Why? Simply because “it,” my passion, stubbornly refused to identify itself. By the end of my Senior year of high school I had no hint of what I was “supposed” to do. Though I never said it aloud, I felt there must be something weird about me to make me so clueless. I had many friends who seemed to know what they were going to do with their lives: architecture, music, teaching, and I wasn’t coming up with much.

I wound up choosing a college major I was somewhat interested in and moderately talented at (music) but knew deep down that it wasn’t the thing that lit me up in a good way. {{SIGH}}

On top of that, I grew up in the Christian church.

I constantly heard the stories of biblical heroes, missionaries, and pastors who received a “calling” from God almighty.

Wasn’t that a sanctified “passion” to follow? Wasn’t that what I should expect since I was a Christian, that God Himself would lead me into His calling for my life?

I can see now that I viewed those called-out-ones in the pages of the Bible a bit too idealistically. Some of them (Moses, Jonah, Saul of Tarsus) didn’t exactly pursue their version of a lifelong dream, and once they received their “calling,” not all of them were super excited to follow it.

As a result of all that angst and confusion, I was well into my early adult years before I found what I felt I was truly “meant” to do… which is not what I’m doing to put bread on my family’s table now. But that’s another story.

Is that the way it’s supposed to work?

Did people in the past follow a passion?

Looking at the way those Bible people thought about life and making a living got me thinking. In fact, I’ve been stewing on this one for years.

In the past things worked very differently than they do in our day.

Youngsters typically learned and carried on the family trade, many times carrying it with them as an identification or surname (Smith, Baker, Miller, Hunter, Mason, etc.). In those days there was hardly a dream chaser in the bunch. The primary passions most folks cared about were those of keeping themselves alive and fed.

There were surely exceptions. There always are. But to figure out how things are supposed to be by looking at the exceptions isn’t a very smart way to go about it. The exceptions aren’t helpful by nature of what they are – exceptions.

Those were the days of the ”craftsmen,” people who learned and practiced their trade to the point of mastery and artistry. Long years were spent apprenticed to a master, learning the intricacies and nuances of a craft. It was a job to be sure, but more than a job. The trade became an identity. There was as much pride taken in the exquisite nature of what was made as in the income it produced. Quality mattered. It was an identifying mark of the person.

What about today?

If we humans are meant to “follow our passion,” how do we explain the craftsman of old? Their path into adulthood was not characterized by following a passion. It was in many ways the pursuit of the path of least resistance. In most cases, those individuals took up whatever trade was at hand or necessary, and over time became the best at it, loving it as a result.

That right there might be a clue for us to consider.

Follow a passion OR build one?

Somewhere in my internet wanderings I came across a guy named Cal Newport. He’s been giving thought to these things as well.

Cal believes that career fulfillment and love of what you do come over time as you do the hard work of honing specific knowledge and skills to the point of expertise. Only then do you possess something worth feeling fulfilled about.

Cal is a professor of computer science at MIT. That means he’s really smart. 🙂 When I first noticed Cal I didn’t know he was a professor, nor did I know he taught at MIT. All I knew about Cal Newport was that he’d crafted a headline to a blog post that resonated with something way down inside me.

The Passion Trap: How the Search for Your Life’s Work is Making Your Working Life Miserable.”

In that post, and some others Cal wrote as part of a series, he cites modern stats about job dissatisfaction, chronicles the miserable career journeys of 20 and 30-somethings, and argues that the rise of career discontent tracks concurrently with the rise of the “follow your passion” mantra so popular today. I can attest to its prevalence in the entrepreneurial world. Many of my clients and their featured guests espouse the passion doctrine week after week on their podcasts.

Cal’s position is that focusing on an ethereal passion or undefined dream rather than concentrating on the acquisition of rare and valuable skills, is a damaging and fulfillment-delaying practice. He suggests that a better course of action is to start where you are with what you have available, which would include interests and natural abilities, and begin intentionally acquiring the “career capital” (needed knowledge and skills) to become an expert where you are.

  • Doing so will provide opportunities to advance.
  • It will naturally set you apart from the crowd.
  • And it will open doors that those unwilling to put in that kind of work only wish for.

Sounds like the work of a craftsman, doesn’t it?

One of the most interesting things about Cal’s investigation of this approach is that in person after person Cal interviewed about this topic, doors opened for them as they pursued excellence, and many times those doors led into things they found themselves very interested in.

Am I saying there’s no such thing as a “calling?”

Not at all.

I served as a local church Pastor for 20-ish years, and did so because I believed I was “called” to do it.

I have a long time friend, Greg Stier, who received such a calling way back when he was a pre-teen – at least I think that’s how the story goes. He’s been after that “one thing” ever since then.

So I believe in receiving that kind of calling. And I don’t think it’s always or only a “religious” calling when it happens.

But I’m not sure that’s the norm, or that it’s supposed to be.

Being out of my “called” vocation for over 3 years has shown me that my experience in receiving my calling is not the experience of most people, and that waiting on that kind of calling puts the average person far behind the curve and at a disadvantage in life. And as I look at my situation after reading Cal’s book, I see that some of what he describes is what happened in the path I followed into church ministry. One of the “open doors” was my first opportunity to preach/teach, which revealed some gifts and desires within me that I wasn’t aware of up until that point.

My working theory after reading Cal’s book, “So Good They Can’t Ignore You,” and after thinking through this issue on my own, is this:

The average person is given opportunities by God that will lead into His intended place for them. As they pursue the opportunities that open to them, they will discover any “calling” that may be there. It may come in a flash of realization they actually see as a “calling.” Or it may come through the slow and steady development of skills and expertise that make them into a craftsman.

Either way, they don’t necessarily follow their passion, their passion follows them.

And for most of those people, what they find as they mature is that what they really love about their role in the world is the things it provides for them and their family.

Food. Shelter. Clothing. A lifestyle.

Sounds like my Dad. Sounds like a craftsman.

Sounds like a passion worth following.

Getting started is the hardest part

Getting started is hard.

But it’s the most powerful thing we can do from our current vantage point.

Consider the significance of getting started with:

  • Your New Year’s fitness goals
  • A much needed 12 step program
  • A difficult conversation with someone you love
  • Exploring why you feel physically “under the weather”
  • Changing your financial future
  • Improving your marriage
  • That website or blog or product or business you’ve been considering

Why do we find it so hard to get started?

I think for a lot of reasons, but the one that is most gripping is this:

The present discomfort is more comfortable than the unknown

It’s a bit dysfunctional, but true.

  • We think routine is always our friend, when sometimes it’s our worst enemy.
  • We believe that known is better than unknown.
  • We rest in what is familiar, no matter how gut wrenching it continues to be.

But deep down we know we need to get started, to take the first step toward changes that could bring about…

something different

something better

something we’ve always dreamed about but never believed could be real for someone like us.

The first hump is the hardest. Push your way over it and get started.

Get off the drama bus

DRAMA: An exaggerated amount of emotion or excitement in relationship to the events to which it pertains.

I wonder what might happen if we made a conscious decision, everyday, to get off the drama bus?

If we refused to talk in exaggerated terms about things that aren’t worth talking about?

Silly things, like red cups.

Like the “war on Christmas.”

The latest gossip about celebrities.

The way our favorite political candidate is going to save the world.

The snarky comment our Facebook friend made about his ex-spouse.

What if we got off the drama bus and instead chose to talk about:

  • How to make the 5 mile radius around our home a better place to live.
  • What we can do to love our co-workers and fellow church attenders in more tangible ways.
  • Why our business and hobbies seem more important to us than our spouses and children.
  • Ways we can make someone else smile or have a better day.
  • How we will look at the way we’ve spent this year, 5 years from now.
  • The kind of legacy we want to leave behind when we die.

What might happen?

Do you think we’d become better people?

Would we live each day a bit more intentionally?

Would the people around us enjoy being around us?

What would happen if you chose to get off the drama bus?

Today is the day

This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it. ~ Psalm 118:24

THIS is the day…

  • It’s the only one you’ve been given.
  • You may not get another.
  • In all it’s blessings and sorrows.
  • It’s yours to do ill or good.
  • It’s yours to mope around in or charge forward in.
  • It’s yours to accomplish what only YOU can accomplish.

that THE LORD has made…

  • He doesn’t make mistakes.
  • Then, it’s exactly as it should be.
  • You get to be a part of it.
  • What does HE intend your part in it to be?

LET US rejoice and be glad…

  • We can choose our attitude about it.
  • We get to decide our outlook.
  • Knowing it’s from Him, we can receive it joyfully, as a gift.
  • No matter the difficulties it may hold.

 

White chocolate differences

The first time I encountered white chocolate was a wonder-filled experience.

My older brother had come home from our little town’s brand new shopping mall, a greatly anticipated marvel I had yet to see.

With the light of a sage beaming from his face he extended his arm. In his hand was a paper sack with an unfamiliar logo on it. From the bag he produced a confectionary marvel. Shaped like pretzels, but white in color, the smell of those bow-shaped beauties assaulted me. I took one. I bit it. It was a pretzel, but amazingly more. I couldn’t believe that something so silky-smooth, sweet, and satisfying could exist.

“What IS it?”

“White chocolate,” my brother said, a knowing smirk on his face. “You can also get big, square chunks of it.”

Chunks.

Could the mall really be so grand a place?

White chocolate VS other, lesser confections

It pains me to even think it, but there are others who do not share my appreciation for white chocolate.

Even people in my own family.

Though she enjoys white chocolate, my oldest daughter prefers the bittersweet bite of dark chocolate. The darker, the better.

I can’t fathom such an abomination.

My youngest son claims to not care for white chocolate at all.

It’s hard for me to conceive that he’s serious. But he is.

I know. Unthinkable, but true.

How can something I feel such a strong opinion about not be the way others feel? It is hard to grasp.

Just as white chocolate is made to be different from dark chocolate, every person is created to be different.

  • Different likes
  • Different dislikes
  • Different opinions
  • Different preferences
  • Different, different, different

And because I’m me, and not them, because I’m stuck inside my head, not theirs, it’s hard to think that those differences are not somehow wrong.

But the reality is that individual differences are good things. They are beautiful things. They are what make each of us, us.

Learning to appreciate our differences is one aspect of the journey into maturity.

It’s what enables us to love a person for their uniqueness rather than dislike them because of it. It’s a skill of discernment that comes from wisdom, from seeing things in this world as they really are.

We all learn this truth at different times and in different ways. Some of us never learn it.

As a result, many a church has split over differences of this nature, let’s call them “White Chocolate Differences.”

Many a war has been fought on their account. (Remember, Dr. Seuss’s children’s parable, “The Sneetches“? It’s not too much of an exaggeration when you search the history.)

And I wonder how many personal, private wars are fought day after day in modern families because of white chocolate differences?

  • How many marriages are in crisis because of an ongoing pattern of stubbornness around opinions and preferences?
  • How many parent-child relationships have been ruined because of unimportant distinctions?

And what can be done about it?

The first step is to admit that white chocolate is not that important.

There, I said it.

Neither is dark chocolate. Or milk chocolate. Or any other preferential thing that tends to polarize people into opposing sides.

There are things fighting for. But most of what we humans fight about isn’t in that category.

What can YOU do today to move toward undoing damage that revolves around white chocolate differences?

I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

Some free ebooks to brighten your holiday season

Hello, and thanks for being a loyal reader and subscriber to my blog…

Depending on when you’re reading this, you may be able to get in on some free Amazon promotions I’m doing with a few of my books.

Check out the following books at the corresponding links for a possible free deal (they only last for 5 days each, so if you read this too late, you’ll miss out. Sorry)

Dragon Slayer 1 - 3d

Dragon Slayer: Beginnings (book one) – free for 5 days

You can get it here – http://www.amazon.com/Dragon-Slayer-Beginnings-Chronicles-Book-ebook/dp/B00IUMGOPU

Moving Toward God

Moving Toward God

You can find it here – http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00LCKNRHU

Marriage Improvement Project

The Marriage Improvement Project (a study for couples)

Grab your copy here – http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00A6Z5K9A

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RECHARGE: Devotional methods to maximize your time with God

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00HZS2JGS

Mind Hacks Book 1

Entrepreneur Mind Hacks: Book 1: Productivity and Creativity

 Get one here – http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0195X1WY0

I’d love for you to grab a free copy and help me spread the word. Merry Christmas!

 

Scary world, scary God

Human arrogance is a startling thing.

How is it possible that we can become wrapped up in ourselves to such a degree that we can mock the One who created us?

Last week, in response to those who’ve been vocal about the need to pray over the recent spate of terrorist attacks worldwide, the New York Daily News headline declared,

God isn’t fixing this!

Wow. Just wow.

First of all, to presume that any human knows what God is doing behind the scenes, and through a situation like a terrorist attack, is ridiculous.

But the thing that’s even more insane is the scornful attitude about God that can produce such a headline. THAT is a scary place to be, a place even more terrifying the prospect of terrorism coming your hometown. It’s an attitude that heaps scorn on the Almighty, who WILL NOT be mocked. (Galatians 6:7).

Meek and mild, loving Jesus once said this:

And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. – Matthew 10:28

He’s talking about God there, not some crazed terrorist. He’s saying that even though you live in a very scary world, never forget that your life is daily in the hands of a very scary God. Yes, I said scary and God in the same sentence.

He’s scary because…

  • He’s unimaginably superior to you.
  • He’s entirely pure, while you are not.
  • He’s qualified to render judgment on you, me, and every person throughout history, and He will.
  • He is WORTHY of respect, honor, and worship, and we humans so seldom give it.

There are lots of reasons for God to be ticked, yet, with a kind of mercy that only He could have, He makes a way for our deserved punishment to be absolved. So while He IS scary, He is also kind, kind enough to divert His wrath from us by pouring it out on someone who can take it, Someone who wanted to take it for us.

THAT is yet another reason to be scared.

How do you feel when you’ve gone out of your way to do something really cool for someone and they respond with indifference, or even outright animosity?

Bewildered?

Hurt?

Angry?

We know that God is incapable of the first two. But I’m pretty sure He feels that last one regularly.

He’s done everything to make our self-inflicted plight curable, and we arrogant humans reject it consistently (not all of us, but you know what I’m getting at). That is SO unlike the god of Islam, the god of terrorism. The true God, the Father of Jesus, has taken deliberate action to fix things. And He’s still fixing the mess, every day. In fact, He already has.

But the same arrogance that generates a scathingly irreverent headline rejects God’s solution, Jesus Christ.

I’m joining those who are asking people to pray about these terrorist acts that are going on.

But my request is that you pray for US – that we will be grateful for what God HAS done and IS doing to fix things.

And I ask that you pray for THEM (the terrorists) to see that His kindness extends all the way to them, that the god they are “serving” is false.

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