Five Things This Pastor Wants from His Congregation

I am not the type of person to ask for much, especially from the congregation I lead. I have no desire for expensive gifts, overseas vacations or any other kind of compensation. The leadership makes sure I get paid, and I am happy with what they give me. BUT there are a few things that I want from the people I lead each week that will help make my ministry more pleasant.

1. Your Prayers. Words cannot express how much I appreciate your prayers. Frequently I am caught a spiritual battle for my mind. Sometimes it comes through disappointment and feelings of inadequacy. Sometimes it comes through the flesh and the carnal desires of life. Sometimes it comes through pride and arrogance that stand contrary to the work of God. Pray for me to have spiritual strength through the power of the Holy Spirit.

2. Your Support. I never want to feel like I am the hired gun of the Church to do ministry alone. My hope is to be a part of a community of believers who are all working together for the glory of God. Yes, I get paid to do this job, but I still need the support of the body to extend beyond my own limitations.

3. Your Kindness. Treat me like a real person with real emotions. I am not asking you to do anything special for me. Just treat me like you would any other believer. Smile. Shake my hand. Talk to me about things other than Church. Invite me to do things. Speak kindly to me and about me. Don’t treat me as an evil villain or as a superhero, just as a fellow believer.

4. Your Trust. Honestly, not everything I do will be right. I will make some poor decisions. Sometimes it will be the right decision, and you will just not like it. That is okay; we do not have to agree on everything. What I am asking you for is the benefit of the doubt. I want you to know that my desire is to further God’s kingdom and nothing more. I am not making decisions to make you mad or just as a power trip; I am doing what I think is right. Trust my heart even when you do not understand or agree.

5. Your Love for My Family.
God brought me to this Church to be their preacher and leader; my family just came along for the ride. My wife donates significant amounts of time to the Church. My children have no other option but to come here each week. When people are friendly to them, it means more to me than when you are kind to me. I want my Church to pray for them, talk to them rather than about them, and show them love and support.

This is my list of hopes from my congregation. I hope none of them are selfish. These just make life and ministry more enjoyable. Near the end of the letter to the Hebrew Church, there is this great statement. The people of God are told to work with their leaders “so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no advantage to you. (Hebrews 13:17)”

Thanks to everyone who makes my work a joy and not a burden.


Giving People the Benefit of the Doubt

Most people know that I am an introvert by nature, but time has also made me a pessimist. Through my years of regularly dealing with people I have learned that the glass is always half empty and what I am being told is half the truth.

I wish this were not true about myself, but there is no denying it. Most people tend to let me down, confuse me, lie to me and distort their words to their own advantage. My time in ministry has frequently shown me the worst in people more than the best. In fact, I challenge people to spend a week or two in the Church office and see if that does not begin to change them too.

Recently I realized how cynical I have become in my dealing with people. This led me to challenge myself to handle people from a more positive standpoint. It is not an easy endeavor for me to undertake, but I have learned a few things already on this journey.

1. My distrust of others can come from my personal struggles.
There is an old saying that goes, “to a thief; all men are thieves.” I must continually remind myself of that when dealing with people. It is easy for me to project my flaws onto another person even when they do nothing to deserve it. I know what goes on inside my private world and it is easy to assume that all people have the same issues. When I get frustrated with other people, the first place I need to look is a mirror.

2. It is difficult to give people the benefit of the doubt.
For some reason, possibly just my sinful nature, I often attribute other people with negative actions and emotions. They said that to hurt me. They did that because they know I hate it. There is this subtle shift in my thinking that makes everyone else the villain trying to destroy me as the hero of my story. The truth is that this is rarely happening. Most people are not even thinking about me. I must force myself to give people the benefit of the doubt and not attribute them to some heinous motives.

3. Every sinner stills need the love of Jesus and his people.
The people who do have negative intentions are the most in need of grace. I often wonder how people treated Jesus. He was called a friend of tax collectors and sinners and being of that type of character probably led them to lie to him and hurt his feelings. I am sure they were not always perfect friends in return. Yet, Jesus remained their friend because he knew it is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. The same is still true today.

4. Ultimately, I am responsible for my actions alone.
When I am kind to someone, it might be greeted with anger. When I am generous, it might be met with selfishness. Other people’s response should not dictate my actions. The followers of Jesus turn the other cheek when they are struck. They pray for those who persecute them. They do not become cynical and self-centered because other people are acting that way. The call is to rise above my natural reactions to those who abuse my good nature.

I must admit to you, the journey back to optimism is a rough road. Every day my patience is tested as I clench my teeth and ask God to help me. But I want my life to be shaped by Jesus and his desire for me far above my common everyday response. It is never easy to give people the benefit of the doubt, but it always the best for everyone.

Some Things are Only Understood in Hindsight

Lately, I have been preaching through the seven “I am” statements of Jesus in the book of John. These are the times Jesus spoke of himself and used a word picture to help us understand his work. Each one of these is essential for us to explore as they give us insight into the reason Jesus came to earth in his own words.

Recently I was struck by how much of what Jesus said was entirely incomprehensible to his followers at that time. For example, he told his disciples that he was “The Good Shepherd.” Then he went a step further and stated that as the good shepherd he was going to lay down his life for his sheep.

The modern reader of these words knows exactly what Jesus was talking about when he said this. His followers in the crowd that day may have smiled and seemed happy at his comments, but they had no idea he was speaking of his own death on the cross. Apparently, they would not understand any of his predictions of death until after his resurrection and ascension. It was not until they looked back at the events of their lives and laid them alongside his words that they understood what he meant.

I wonder if there is not a principle there for believers. Many of the events of our lives are not understood until we look back in hindsight.

It reminds me of Joseph in the book of Genesis. He has this tremendous God-inspired dream for his life. The pursuit of that dream leads him to slavery and prison before he receives his blessing. Near the end of the book he tells his brothers that God was working in the situation and what they meant for evil, God used for his good.

Perhaps one characteristic the people of faith need is reflection. There needs to be a time in which we set down and look over our lives to see the hand of God at work. The practice of taking a spiritual inventory of your journey will continually remind you of all God has done. Maybe you don’t need for God to do a fantastic work in your life to increase your faith, maybe you just need to remember all that he has done.


Dear Frustrated and Angry Christian

I understand that when you read the title of this post, you probably thought, that is not me. I want you to know that I can see the truth. You are hurting inside. You are confused about your life, and you do not know how to express it properly. I am sure things did not work out as you planned. Your life was supposed to go this way, and it just didn’t happen. You are not happy, and frequently it shows.

My guess about your situation is that you once had big dreams. You were a sports star, homecoming royalty, popular and everyone thought you were the most likely to succeed. You set the bar high for yourself and rightfully so because everyone saw your potential. People knew that one day you would conquer the world and be rich or famous or both.

Somewhere along the way, things took a wrong turn. One of several things might have happened to you. A sports injury ended your career and left you sidelined from your dreams. Maybe a poor decision led to a series of unfortunate events that left you labeled with ugly terms. Perhaps you threw yourself into your dreams, and you simply failed.

In the wake of devastation, you turned to God. You realized your need for forgiveness. You came to understand and accept grace as you tried to rebuild your life. It was a wonderfully defining moment that saved you from deep despair.

And yet, something is still not right. You harbor bitter feelings of disappointment in yourself. There is a deeply hidden pain when you look in the mirror. You are sure everyone else is judging you and saying to themselves how much of a failure you really are. The frustration you feel about yourself is projected on other people. Without realizing it, you have become this bitter and angry person.

You feel separate from other people. No one seems to want to draw close to you anymore, and you are convinced it is their problem. The anger becomes your entrenched attitude toward everything and occasion blowup is becoming more frequent.

If this is you, can I make a couple of statements for you to think about today?

First, let me assure you that no one feels about you the way that you think of yourself. In fact, most people do not think about you at all. They are fighting their own internal battles. The majority of people see you as a wonderful person with issues, just like themselves.

Second, let me remind you that God forgives you. He not only forgives you, but he is also rewriting your story toward a better ending. God has better dreams for your life than you ever had. Cling to grace every day.

Third, your current anger is doing more damage than you realize. In your frustration, you are hurting people who love you. You have the power to stop the pain for them. Do a daily attitude check and resist the ugly emotions that fill your head.

Finally, I hope you will allow this season of your life to be a time of growth. Don’t run away from people who care about you. Don’t lock all these emotions inside and allow them to fill your future. Let these difficult feelings bring you closer to God, push you toward grace and become a kinder and gentler person.

As your pastor, I know you are struggling. Although you would never articulate it to me or to anyone else for that matter, we all know what is going on inside of you. We are afraid to say something because we feel like you will blow up and it will make matters worse. The people around you care about you, and we want to help, please let us.

You are God’s precious child no matter how you feel about yourself today.


This Odd Collection of People We Call the Church

While singing a worship song that I loved, I looked around the auditorium to see everyone else’s joy at the moment. What I saw was disappointing. Remarkably few people seemed to be enjoying the music the same way in which I was.

A little confused I then took the opportunity to do a little survey. With each song, I would take a quick look around to gauge the enthusiasm with every song. All of the songs, from hymns to chorus’, brought a different reaction. One group loved this song; another group enjoyed that song, some songs were liked by everyone while others seem to be hated by all.

As I watched this all unfold before my eyes, one simple thought became clear in my mind: Someone in the Church enjoys the exact opposite things as me. Each week the songs that you have the most profound emotional connection with are hated by other people. You can expand that truth out even further in the application. That program that the Church puts on that you can’t wait for each year, someone else dreads it. That class that you think is so beneficial, someone else finds it worthless. That person that you find so endearing, other people find annoying.

While this truth drives me crazy at times, I think that it is one of the most genius moves of God.

Think about it …

1. Our differences make us focus on Jesus.
The Church is a gathering of people brought together by Jesus. We are not a social club or a community action group; we are Christ followers. Every time I wonder why God brought together this group of people, he reminds me that Jesus is the reason we are a part of this group and nothing else.

2. Our differences allow us to connect with everyone.
If we were all the same, then we would only have appeal to people who are like us. Because the church is this mish-mash collection of people, we can share the gospel with everyone.

3. Our differences force us not be selfish.
I think that this maybe is the most significant benefits and challenges. Each week I must submit my will to the desires of the group. I have to say to myself, “I don’t like this, but I bet someone does.” If I want to see all people come to know Jesus as their Lord and Savior, then I will put my preferences behind other people’s. For the sake of the gospel, I force myself to surrender my will for the benefit of others.

I am glad we are not all the same. What a dull gathering that would be each week. Instead, God places us in a community of people who enjoy things I despise for the betterment of all of us. It may drive us crazy at times, but it also stretches to become more like Jesus.


Weekend Reading

Here are some of the best articles I have read recently. Lots of great thoughts. Enjoy.

Sing Your Heart Out at Church (Even If You Hate the Music)

5 Regrets You Don’t Want to Have if Your Kids Walk Away from Faith

Five Reasons Many Pastors Struggle With Depression

Five Reasons Christians Cannot Abandon the Church

4 Steps to Overcoming Porn Addiction

The Top 7 Myths About Time (It’s Time To Bust)

Three Truths for When Leaders Disappoint

Two more good ones from business guru Seth Godin –

Fun, urgent or fear-based

Your kitchen table

And finally, I love this video by John Crist, “Every High School Sports Parent”


Henri Nouwen On Your Identity

Here is a great quote I ran across from writer, speaker, and thinker Henri Nouwen (I think it is from the book “Life of the Beloved”)

“Strong emotions, self-rejection, and even self-hatred justifiably toss you about, but you are free to respond as you will. You are not what others, or even you, think about yourself. You are not what you do. You are not what you have. You are a full member of the human family, having been known before you were conceived and molded in your mother’s womb. In times when you feel bad about yourself, try to choose to remain true to the truth of who you really are. Look in the mirror each day and claim your true identity. Act ahead of your feelings and trust that one day your feelings will match you convictions. Choose now and continue to choose this incredible truth. As a spiritual practice claim and reclaim your primal identity as a beloved daughter or son of a personal Creator.”

— Henri Nouwen