Tag Archives: pastor

2013 Resolutions: The Fourth of Four

Recently I read the book Dangerous Calling by Paul Tripp. He openly discusses the culture of the church that typically views the pastor as having it all together all the time and how this pressure can be challenging on pastors. While God has called qualified people to be pastors, they are still people, flawed and in need of a Savior. Their character, convictions, and competencies are those of a leader, but no leader is perfect and expectations must change.

My last resolution is to be a faithful shepherd, pastor of my church, but also to be a fellow brother in Christ with my church. The fourth of four resolutions is simply to be a friend and to be a friend in need. 4a & 4b if you will.

To be a friend & a friend in need

The gospel of Jesus Christ is a powerful thing, powerful to save anyone from a life bent away from God’s desires, transform anyone, and empower all who embrace it by faith to meet the needs of others. Throughout the scriptures, God speaks about blessing people with Himself in order that they would be a blessing for others.

Part of this reality is that I am have been given certain gifts and a certain role in the body of Christ, for me it is to be a pastor. This involves studying the word of God, praying, counseling people in the scriptures, dialoguing about Jesus and His gospel with anyone regardless of their beliefs or background, and cultivating communities that do the same. If you were to boil it down to one idea, it’s to be a true friend to anyone I meet, to love them with the love of Christ that they might know about a relationship with God.

But the gospel of Jesus Christ is also powerful enough for me to confront my weakness. This brings freedom to acknowledge that there are times when I am a friend in need and that God has provided people in my life, from all background or beliefs and especially in the church that share my beliefs to help me when I am in need.

The perception that the pastor has it all together all the time is an impossible expectation because no one does, except for Jesus. We are all in progress, constantly learning and growing, and the gospel of Jesus Christ brings freedom to walk in this reality. This allows me to sit down with a friend and be honest. I can let people know that there are times when I’m tired, times when I’m not as happy as I wish I was or had been last week and that I need their help to change. That there are times when I’m not fired up about reading the scriptures or talking about the Lord, but I don’t want to feel this way and many times it is the help of other people in our community, using their stories and their gifts that God provides a path toward change.

Use My Gifts and Benefit from the Gifts of Others

This also provides me perspective on how I’m gifted and to celebrate how others have been gifted. It takes the pressure off to always have the solution, to be able to say I don’t know, and to honor how God has uniquely gifted other people. God’s design was to gift all of God’s people to serve all of God’s creation.

When all gifts are celebrated, honored, and embraced by the church, the church truly begins to embody Jesus Christ who possesses and exercises all of the gifts perfectly. The church would like everyone they interact with to experience Jesus through them, but it’s only possible when individuals are introduced and invited to experience the entire community of Christ followers.

I hope this year involves helping people identify how they have been uniquely designed and gifted by God to serve others, to equip them and empower them to do so and to see those gifts be used to love others well.

These are my resolutions and I hope that I can look back at the end of the year having been fully present to enjoy my marriage, love my kids, and serve the city we live in by empowering and serving my church. Here’s to 2013.

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What would you say you do here?

For the past 8 months, I’ve had the blessing to serve as a pastor at Apostles Churchhere in New York City. The most common question I get from friends and family is the Office Space question. What do you even do? There seems to be some confusion as to what a pastor even does, you know, besides spend too much time on twitter.  My official title is the Pastor of Community & Justice, which is pretty awesome, but still leaves people wondering what I do.I am trying to fulfill the calling of a pastor as outlined in scripture for the church. Since John Piper is wiser and an infinitely better biblical scholar, I’ll point you to this article on the role of a pastor and this will just focus on describing how that looks in my role at Apostles.

Community Groups & Justice Ministries
I primarily oversee our Community Groups and Mercy & Justice ministries. That means I read a lot of books about missional community (which I’ll explain in a post tomorrow) and invest in, train, and care for our Community Group leaders and coaches. I prepare monthly trainings and have periodic meetings with each of the leaders. I mainly focus on training & challenging them toward 3 core values: Gospel Enjoyment, Intentional Community, & Prayerful Mission.

We want to see our community groups love the gospel, because you only live for what you love & enjoy so why not love the greatest thing, the gospel of Jesus Christ (Gospel Enjoyment). We want them to sync the rhythms of their lives to sacrificially care for one another and serve their neighborhoods together (Intentional Community). We want them to extend the message and mercy of Jesus Christ together in their local neighborhood (Prayerful Mission).

For Mercy & Justice I work with the great Derek Devine to assist our Community Groups to identify ways to pursue creative compassion with their neighbors through local government, neighborhood associations, local non-profits and Hope For New York affiliates. This happens along church wide initiatives (like fighting sex-trafficking with Love146 or international oppression with the Dalit Freedom Network), but also locally in the Neighborhood Gatherings & Community Groups serving together regularly.

Neighborhood Gatherings
I also train and assist our Neighborhood Gathering Coaches to organize our community groups in the area to participate in social events, prayer efforts, and mercy/justice initiatives. They also plan our monthly community conversations where our Community Groups gather with local residents at a restaurant or bar to address issues facing our city and how our faith guides our response. These are our mid-size communities that aim to support the mission of the local Community Groups & support the eventual launching of new congregations around the city.

Industry Renewal Sessions
In our church, there are a lot of extremely gifted and talented individuals that work in just about every industry imaginable. As we seek to connect our faith with everyday life and our work, we gather people in the same industry to discuss how faith can challenge them to excellence in honoring God with their work, but also how these people can utilize their work for the betterment of their industry and our society.

General Ministry Responsibilities
My weekly time also involves a number of other ministry responsibilities including connecting with people at our church for counseling, prayer, answering various church & theological questions, and working with our deacons on financial or other benevolence needs at the church. This typically involves more email than I knew could ever be read or sent.

All of this is typically done in some collaboration with our staff since we work well together and genuinely enjoy each other. It’s a collection of intelligent and encouraging individuals that form a great team to serve Apostles Church and our city. I also spend weekly time with the other pastors/elders at Apostles to pray for the church, make decisions on church-wide initiatives, and a variety of other things. Occasionally, I will preach on a Sunday or teach at an equipping class here at Apostles, but all of the above is what typically goes on throughout the month in my role.

It’s been a tremendous blessing, a great challenge, and a fun opportunity to serve the Lord while working at Apostles Church. I continue to learn more everyday and doubt that will ever change. I’m constantly thankful for the training I received at the Austin Stone Community Church through their pastors & staff, which they have shaped that training into an amazing opportunity called the Austin Stone Institute that I would highly recommend.

I’m confident I’m missing something and leaving you with more questions than answers, but I’ve discovered there is more than you could ever imagine doing at a church, but ultimately caring for people is valued more and takes priority over tasks. My goal is to model the things I want to see and am calling others to do as well.

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Pastors, do you really want lay leaders?

Last week I looked at how Christians can bless their pastor by living out the mission of the church at home, at work, and in service to the church. As I mentioned last week, I’ve never heard a pastor complain about someone desiring to be bi-vocational. To be faithful at their job, while also faithfully serving and assisting in accomplishing the mission of the church.

As I thought through those blogs, I also started thinking through whether ministries are structured and prepared for an influx of volunteers if, like I intended, people magically stumbled upon my blog and they were divinely enlightened to life-changing truth.

While I know many pastors who would love to have more volunteers, there are times it seems ministries aren’t planned or structured in the necessary way to accommodate various commitment levels.

How can pastors help volunteers & lay leaders get more involved? Here are 8 ways I think will help.

1. Affirm the bi-vocational mindset. Be the voice for the priesthood of all believers on a Sunday and beyond. It’s easy for the average church-goer to attend a Sunday service and not see a need because most churches are organized and planned for Sundays.

We need to be reminded and hear that our calling is to be the priesthood throughout the week in addition to helping on Sundays. And I don’t mean mere lip-service of voicing your belief in the scripture that affirms it, I mean backing it up by providing bi-vocational leaders an opportunity for high-level leadership if the Lord has gifted them and equipped them to do so.

Putting a bi-vocational leader in those positions will be the most effective way to convince volunteers that you truly do affirm this calling.

2. Understand the limitations. A bi-vocational leader spends 40 hours a week on something other than ministry. Understand that they may only be able to give 5 hours, but value those 5 hours. Even though there are limitations, don’t shy away from trusting people with responsibility. Consistently ask how they are doing and if they feel overwhelmed.

The limitations actually force you to raise up more lay leaders as opposed to hiring more staff.

3. Plan further ahead than you think. Things take longer when you choose to use bi-vocational leaders. If you haven’t planned for that, you’ll only be frustrated with us and our lack of speed. Most leaders want to be shown that a plan is in place to utilize them and provide them opportunities to contribute.

This will also help you answer all the questions that business minded volunteers typically ask.

4. Delegate and let people learn. It won’t be as “perfect” as you do it the first time, but eventually it will be what you need. You’ll never develop anyone if you do all the work.

5.  Explore various volunteer opportunities

Create Project Specific or Seasonal teams.  Do you have a busy Christmas season or summer schedule? Or are you working on developing a specific ministry for social justice or missions? You could create a team for each specific project or season that is able to work on things long-term allowing you to provide oversight and direction rather than building it all yourself.

Distinguish between short-term & ongoing commitments. Providing a short-term, a few hour commitments allow people to explore your ministry to get a better picture of what you really do. It’s a great entry point for people wanting to get involved.

The ongoing, long-term projects or commitments reveal you’d like them to focus deeply on one ministry instead of spreading themselves thin across 4 commitments.

6. Have a Leadership Path. This is something we just put together for college ministry, but it clearly showed the potential for growth and development within our ministry. Our leaders really responded well to that because it showed them they could commit long-term and wouldn’t have to move to another ministry for deeper responsibilities.

7. Identify training needs and provide ongoing development. What are the essentials theologically and practical needs for leading in your ministry? What are the most effective way to train people in knowledge and abilities necessary for your ministry? Can you get them up to speed within a month?

8. Ask. Personally invite them to be a part of your ministry. The announcement from stage on a Sunday can get people to sign-up, but a personal invitation often leads to greater commitment. And you’ll be surprised to find that many are waiting if only you’d ask.

Pastors, if you’re tired of being overworked, overextended, and making way too many family sacrifices, the long-term sustainable solution is to develop lay leaders and provide them real opportunities to bless you and the church in their service.

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