Why It is Okay When We Feel Incompetent

Reading articles about being a Pastor make me feel like a failure. Through the years, I have attended conferences, listen to tapes and CD’s, subscribed to magazines, purchased books and read hundreds of blog posts. There is no lack of information out there on how to be a good pastor or Church leader. My problem is that every time I get more information, I realize how incompetent I am as a leader.

Some people get up at 4:00 am in the morning and keep a disciplined schedule all day. Some people have goals about how many books they read, and they consume more than 50 books a year. Some people have detailed plans of how to connect with other people and network with leaders in both the community and the Church. These guys have excellent skills, and there is no doubt that God will grow their Church.

Me, on the other hand, I like to sleep in if possible. Some days I barely make it out the door on time. Personally, I would like to read more, but can’t seem to find the time. I want to connect, but find myself hiding in my office dreading the work of connecting with people. Most days I struggle between productive labor and a total lack of competence.

Before you make comments and send me notes, know that I am completely okay with this truth about myself. When I started into ministry, it really bothered me that I felt like a second-class pastor who would never get invited to headline a big conference one day. Then one day I read a passage of scripture that changed my life. The Apostle Paul is writing about his ministry and a struggle he had with a “thorn in the flesh.” There he writes;

2 Corinthians 12:9-10 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. (10) That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (New International Version)

The Apostle Paul struggles with some issue, I am convinced it was a problem with his eyes, but that is another post. He struggles, and it left him feeling incompetent compared to other people. God then gives him a clear word, “My power is made perfect in weakness.” Paul realized that anything he accomplished in his life would not be because of his own power, but rather the power of God.

Each day I am learning that God uses me despite my weaknesses and my shortcomings. Anything good I accomplish in my life will not because I am something special but because I worship and serve an all-powerful God. I am incompetent and yet God chooses to use me every week.

I know a large group of believers who feel just like I do. They do not feel adequately prepared or gifted to handle what life is throwing at them. If that is you, I want you to know that God has the power to take our weakness and use it for his good. Availability is more important than ability.

Weekend Reading

Here are some good articles for you to explore in the near future. Enjoy.

STOP MAKING YOURSELF THE HERO OF BIBLE STORIES

Boring Church Services Changed My Life

Sex Before Kissing: How 15-Year-Old Girls Are Dealing With Porn-Addicted Boys – A must read for parents of teenagers, especially young teens.

6 TOUGH THINGS THAT MIGHT BE ON YOUR PASTOR’S MIND TODAY – Inside a pastor’s mind on Monday.

5 PASTORAL PROVERBS THAT STUCK – Great stuff for Church leaders.

The Shack – A GOOD MOVIE TO MISS

I find these graphics fascinating –

making-the-nfl

Traits of People I Want to Spend Time Around

There are some people I love to be around. From the moment I see them my heart lights up, and I have a smile on my face. There are just certain people who I look forward to seeing.

While thinking about this, I began to wonder what it is that makes some people so attractive to be around. What is it about some people that make them light up your life? In response to that one idea, I started a list of characteristics I find attractive in people. Here it is:

1. Encouraging – Some people always have a kind word. They are positive in almost every situation. They take their positive attitude and put it into words that help uplift others.

2. Giving – Some people are more than willing to share. They are ready to share their time, their talent and even their treasure. They have an open heart and an open life that is reflected in their open hands.

3. Spotlight Others – They say nice things about the people they know. They are not degrading of others. They are not gossips or backstabbing people. They talk nicely about everyone. The result is that you know they say nice things about you to others. This enables you to let down your guard and speak opening without fear of it coming back to hurt you.

4. Thoughtful – Some people just have a knack for making other people feel good. They remember big days like birthdays and anniversaries. They send cards when they are thankful for something. They show concern when they know you are down. They touch your heart when you need someone there to help.

5. Open & Inquisitive – They share their life and continually ask about yours. They are willing to be open and honest about their life but not in a way that is self-serving. They do it to put you at ease and make you feel better about your own struggles. They ask questions about your feeling. They actually want to know how you are doing with everything going on right now. They care about others with their words.

I think most of us would agree on my list. You might have something you would add, but this is a good start. The real issue for us is to flip this concept around. Do you and I possess any of these traits? Do people want to be around us because of our wonderful personality? Is there anything I can and should change about myself to connect with more people? The harsh reality is that sometimes our lives are lonely because we are not a pleasant person to be around.

Maybe we can start to change that today?

I Am a Really Healthy Person

Physical health is paramount to me. I would say it is one of my top priorities.

1. I like to exercise. I mean I don’t do it daily or anything. I am not fanatical about it, those people are weird. I just think people should do it and one day I hope to get around to it.

2. I don’t attend a gym. Oh, I visit one on special occasions. I sometimes go if they have something special for the kids.

3. I have lots of books on diet and exercise. I haven’t read any of them, but one day I might.

4. I have lots of healthy friends, and I enjoy being around them. Usually, we talk over chips and salsa at the local Mexican restaurant.

5. I really want my children to grow up healthy. I never teach them personally about health as I don’t want to push my beliefs on them and make them resent healthy living.

6. My local market has a great health food section. I let my children make their own choices about what they buy and eat there. I do not want to push them into eating something they might regret later. After all, sometimes healthy food is boring and I do not want them to be bored while eating.

7. Right now I am overweight, but it is my heart that counts. I really do think about being healthy a great deal when I am home alone. It is one of the more sacred parts of my soul. But, don’t judge me if I consider a bowl of ice cream as a meal once in a while.

Does this seem crazy to you?

Yet, I hear the same craziness almost every week about religion.

Loving Your Preacher is Not the Same as Loving Jesus

My wife and I were recently talking about a couple who once attended a Church where I was the pastor. This couple loved us and supported us through some good and bad times. They appeared to grow in their faith and even assumed some leadership roles. Now, they no longer attend any Church, spend lots of time drinking and seem to be so far from God.

One observation that we made during this conversation was that they seemed to by more attached to us as Church leaders than to Jesus. When we left, their faith disappeared as we drove out-of-town. As we finished our conversation, I grabbed my phone and typed the title to this blog into my notebook app.

It is a complicated issue. I stand in front of the Church each week and speak for the Lord from his word. If I do my job well and the Holy Spirit uses my efforts you will be challenged, encouraged and grow as a believer. The result is that you will be glad I spoke those words, and you will begin to thank God for me. (I am humbled by even this thought). This is all good so far.

The problem comes when we take these thoughts and begin to misapply them.

1. I can only learn through this one preacher
Sure some voices touch us deeper than others, but anyone who preaches from the Bible has something they can teach us. I firmly believe that all preachers can teach us if we really want to learn.

2. The growth God brought through my preacher is because of him
The preacher did not change your life. God changed your life, he just used a preacher to speak the words of faith.

3. Everything my pastor says is wonderful
No preacher is perfect in their life, words, and thoughts. None!! Continue to use your head and search the Bible for yourself.

4. It is no longer a good church without that preacher
Sure, the Church you attend will be different with a new preacher, but as long as it worships Jesus, it is still a Church. If you feel this way, you may have been too attached to the guy in the front and not the people setting around you.

5. My faith is dead without hearing that preacher every week.
I have never heard anyone say this out loud, but I have sure seen it in their actions. The preacher leaves, and they quit their Church and finally their faith. Were you really trusting Jesus or just the guy who was leading the Church? That is a huge difference. This one often comes out with a moral failure. If your preacher committed some grievous sin and you lose your faith, then your faith was built on the preacher and not Jesus.

Here is the bottom line: one day this Church will have a different preacher. I have no immediate intentions of leaving, but what if I did? Even if I don’t leave now then one day, I will retire (hopefully), or I will drop dead. One way or another this Church will one day have another preacher. Would that change the way you feel about Jesus?

I hope and pray that each one of you likes your preacher and he is helping you to grow. I especially hope for that if I am your preacher. I also hope you see a clear line between liking your preacher and loving Jesus. Your future in the faith may depend on this vital issue.

Love is Not Always Soft

Today is Valentine’s Day. It is a day known for cards, flowers (especially roses), candy and stuffed animals. Men will take their women out on dates and eat fancy meals and watch sappy movies. Many people will spend the day trying to show that one they love how much they feel about them. Today is a soft day that makes us feel good.

One day I realized that love is not always soft. In fact, building a great life of love often requires hard decisions.

1. Love Says No to Everyone Else
Real love looks at all others who vie for our love and firmly says, “NO!” That is more than just saying no to sex with another person. I believe that means not giving your thoughts to someone else emotionally. True love comes to a couple in exclusivity.

2. Love Says No to Everything That Pulls Us Away
I listened to a fascinating sermon recently, and the minister was talking about the dangers of putting your children into sports over Church. Then in the middle of the sermon he paused and said something like this, “One real danger is that couples who spend all their time at children’s sporting events are destroying their marriage.” He went on to say that most couples who give themselves entirely to their children end up having marriages that fall apart. We love our kids, but sometimes you are required to say that your marriage is more important. Maybe for you, that is something like work or even your own family. True love keeps the relationship a priority.

3. Love Says No to Selfish Desires
All of us want to be happy. We want to do the things that bring us joy. Many times, we have to put our own desires on hold for the desires of the one we love. It may mean we have to give up something we enjoy for a period of time. It may mean that we have to struggle with someone rather than be happy for a season. True love says yes to self-sacrifice.

4. Love Says Yes to Hard Work.
Real love is willing to do whatever it takes to keep the relationship together. That can take a thousand forms from doing the laundry to setting down for a heart to heart conversation. It means cooking dinner and seeking wise counsel when necessary. It means holding my tongue and suppressing my anger even when I feel I have the right to explode. It means doing whatever is necessary to make the other person happy without compromising my beliefs. True love is willing to put on gloves and get to work.

All of us enjoy days like today that are filled with warm, fluffy emotions. They bring out the best in us and make us feel good. Relationships that make it, those who spend a lifetime in love, are those who carry out the hard decisions and do the difficult tasks day after day.

I hope you enjoy today. I know I will. I also hope you are willing to get up tomorrow and the day after that and do whatever it takes to keep your love alive, no matter how hard it might be to do.