7 Things As A Pastor I Wanted From The Church

By | Church, Encouragement | 25 Comments

As pastor, I served in such generous churches. Almost every week someone sent me a note or an email to tell me they were praying for me. I routinely got encouragement when I need it most. Some of our closest friends were at the churches where I served as pastor. I’m so thankful for the body of Christ God allowed us to serve.

A question I received often was, “Pastor, what can I do for you?” or “How can I pray for you?”

I was so thankful for that kind of heart.

The church always did plenty for me, but since they asked – and I assume you may wonder what you can do for your pastor…

Here’s what I loved receiving from the church:

  • Understanding that I’m human and will make mistakes.
  • Prayers that I would stay focussed, committed and faithful.
  • Seeing a need within the church or community and meeting it without being asked.
  • Not looking to be spoon fed, but taking ownership and responsibility for spiritual growth.
  • Realizing that I couldn’t be everywhere or do everything I might  have wished I could.
  • Bringing new people with them to church as often as they could.
  • Making church services a priority over other activities – rather than the opposite.

I realize this is a daunting list.

It would not be an easy list to complete.

But people did ask, so it seemed I had an obligation to share with those who did.

By the way – I love the picture with this post:

Can I get an Amen?

Giving visible feedback to messages – that’s an added bonus!

Pastor, what would you like from your church?

One Secret to Having a More Productive Week

By | Church, Encouragement, Leadership | 13 Comments

Here’s a secret to having a more productive week:

Spend 30 minutes Sunday afternoon or evening, or even early Monday morning, planning your week.

I know that sounds overly simplistic, but it can actually be quite powerful.

Give everything you have to do this week an estimated time and then place it on your calendar.

Make sure you allot time for recreation, exercise and family. Even schedule some time to read and/or dream.

Then try, as hard as you can, to work the plan. When interruptions come in your week, unless they are true emergencies, you have a valid reason to say no.

I don’t do this every week, but I try to especially do this on busy weeks, when the demand on my time is more than I feel I can accomplish, or just when I really want to be most productive.

Let me know how it goes.

And don’t tell anyone – it will be our little secret! 

In my next post I will share a more detailed listing of how I do this.

In the Process of Thinking Big, Don’t Forget to Think Small

By | Church, Encouragement, Funny, Life Plan, Vision | 18 Comments

I remember the day God said something to me!

Well, one of the days. Thankfully I’ve had a few powerful days when I sensed the Creator spoke clearly.

But I’ll be honest, as someone who is supposed to teach others how to have a relationship with God, and to actually hear from God, I’m always somewhat startled when He chooses to speak directly to me. (To be clear, most of the time I have heard God speak it has been through His written word and I know whatever I think I’m hearing would never contradict His word.)

Anyway, a number of years ago, He said something to me that I try to remember in life and leadership.

Let me set up the scenario for you, so you’ll understand the context.

On this particular week I was at the beach. My oldest son, Jeremy, was getting married and our youngest son Nate was his best man. I got to perform the ceremony. How cool is that? It was one of my all time favorite moments as a dad.

Anyway, on this morning I went for a morning run. As a runner, when I was out of town I normally ran farther, because the scenery changed. I had run 4 1/2 miles before I realized how long I’d been running. I decided to stop, buy a cold drink, and sit and look at the beach for a few minutes before running back. (Oh how I wish I could still run 9 miles in a day.)

As I was sitting there, I became enchanted with the size and power of the waves. I watched a little boy running away from them, and nearly get knocked down by one. I saw a couple walking the beach get splashed unexpectedly. Mostly, however, I just saw the beach being pounded by wave after wave after wave. I have been to the beach many times and I never get tired of watching the ocean display God’s glory. In that moment, I did as I’ve done so many times before sitting at the beach – I bragged to God about His handiwork.

I prayed something like this, “God, this is so majestic, so powerful, and You made it all. Every powerful wave I’m seeing today was hand-shaped by You! You are a mighty God! You do huge things! You are so incredible and worthy to be praised! What a mighty God I serve!”

Have you ever had such emotions flood you when you see God’s creation? 

Anyway, as I was praying, I sensed God say something else. It was almost as if He said, “Hold on Ron, (I always love that He knows my name) you’re talking so fast and thinking so big, you may have missed something.” I paused to listen to God and it seemed I heard Him say:

“In the process of thinking big, don’t forget to think small.”

I sensed it was Him, because I recalled the verse in Zechariah, which says, “Do not despise these small beginnings”. I also know God counts hairs on our head and He notices the sparrow. He apparently took time to “paint” the tiny spots on a Lady Bug also.

Then this passage came to my mind:

How precious to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them! Were I to count them, they would outnumber the grains of sand. When I awake, I am still with you. Psalm 139:17-18

Instantly, I looked down and noticed the sand all around me. I was reminded that God made every grain of sand. I’ve been told that no two grains of sand are the same. And my God knows each one of them. The Bible seems to indicate God may know how many grains there are. (Or at least He could count them.) I think He does. He’s all-knowing.

I don’t know exactly all God was teaching me in that moment. I know I’m a big thinker. I always have a new dream. I was currently in a season of planning big things – good, hopefully God-honoring things. It is one of my favorite things to do.

I don’t think He was telling me not to think big. He gave me my creative mind. I’ll obviously never out-think Him and He tends to stretch us towards bigger dreams in His word (“No eye has seen, no mind has conceived, what God has prepared”).

I think He may have simply, kindly and gently reminded me that “In the process of thinking big, don’t forget to think small.

I think He may not want me overlook the smallest moments of life, such as holding the hand of the one I love, or hearing a baby giggle in the coffee shop, or the glance at a picture on my desk that reminds me of my wonderful family – or turning on the faucet and getting clean water to fill my glass. Sometimes in leadership I can be so focused on the overwhelming problems and obstacles we face that I fail to notice and celebrate the small steps of progress we are making.

You could add your own small things you shouldn’t take for granted.

Sometimes the small things ARE the big things.

How are you doing at enjoying the “seemingly” small things of life? 

Sometimes the Problem with the Gym can be a Problem with the Church

By | Church, Church Planting, Encouragement | 17 Comments

Let’s face it…going to the gym can be brutal on the ego…

Recently Cheryl and I moved downtown. It was an intentional life change (You can read about it HERE.) Part of that move involved changing gyms. I now workout on the campus of our local university, Austin Peay State University. I love the facility. I’m a huge supporter of our local school. Cheryl and I graduated from there, but there’s only one problem with my new workout location.

Most of the people in the gym don’t look like they need to be there…

They are young, lean, fit, strong, beautiful college-aged gym people…

More so than my last gym where lots of people looked like me. 🙂

Recently as I was sweating like the oldies it got me thinking…

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One Tip to Help You Meet Your Goals

By | Business, Encouragement, Innovation, Leadership | 3 Comments

Do you ever struggle to complete a project?

You have a goal, you may even know what needs to be done for the goal to become a reality, but you never seem to accomplish the necessary tasks that will bring you success. Your dreams remain simply dreams and you remain frustrated with yourself.

Sound familiar?

Let me share a quick tip to help you avoid this scenario.

Many of us, perhaps even most of us, work better under a little pressure.

Earlier this year I wrote about writing a life plan. (You can read that series of posts HERE.) I’ve found that setting a deadline for the specific action steps in a plan like this helps me be more productive…

If I have a major project I need or want to complete I will:

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10 Realities I Would Share with Every Young Leader

By | Call to Ministry, Church, Church Planting, Encouragement, Leadership, Life Plan | 5 Comments

I love working with young leaders. I have to say it’s one of my favorite parts of leading. I have two incredible young leaders as sons. (The picture with this post is with them years ago – taken the day we moved from Tennessee to Kentucky.)

Occasionally, when I am talking to a younger leader something becomes apparent. They often think what they are experiencing is unique. And perhaps more surprising, they think their struggle is no longer mine – like somehow I’ve “outgrown” their struggles as a leader.

After experiencing this numerous times, I was prompted to write a post. These are simply some things you need to understand to be a leader long-term.

Here are 10 realities every young leader needs to know:

At times you will feel overwhelmed.

You know the feeling, right? Like you can’t get it all done and you’re not sure you know where to start. Those feelings don’t ever leave you completely as a leader. There will be seasons where they are stronger than others, but if you’re doing anything of value you will occasionally feel overwhelmed. These times are a part of life – and work. Something you’ll never completely outgrow.

You’ll not always know what to do.

You don’t ever get to a point in life where you’ve learned everything. You get better at some things. Okay, lots of things. Obviously, wisdom and experience has its benefits. But, regardless of your age, if you’re doing anything productive you’ll learn something knew everyday.

Seldom will you be 100% certain.

Whenever you’re making decisions – like the really big decisions of life – you’ll seldom be absolutely, without any reservations, fully convinced it is the absolute best decision. You’ll always have an element of risk in your life. You will be forced to move forward by faith – based on the best information you know at the time (from your own experience and the collective wisdom of others) – then trusting God with what you don’t know.

And this is a good thing. It keeps you grounded and on your knees before God.

Sometimes it’s just for the learning experience.

And this is huge to understand. Perhaps it’s a job you don’t particularly like. Maybe you put all your effort into a project and it doesn’t work – or its not as good as you thought it would be. You might try a new business and the business fails. It’s easy to get frustrated – even to lose hope. But the process will teach you something if you allow it to. And the value of the learning experience may prove to be life-changing for you in years to come. Never miss the life principles intended for you.

You’ll many times feel under-appreciated.

There will be lots of things you do that no one will notice. You may be doing great things – trophy-deserving things. It may appear at times like no one noticed or even cares. And this may not be true. They may simply be living a full life like you are – overwhelmed like you are – and they simply didn’t take the time to let you know how much you are appreciated.

Plus, the more you do something well, the more it becomes expected and the less recognition you receive for it. But all this can leave you feeling under-appreciated if you dwell on it too long. Like all leaders who last, eventually we have to find our reward in the knowledge and personal satisfaction of our work well done as much, if not more, than the public recognition of our work.

People are watching.

If you position yourself to lead in any way, you become a target of spectators. What you do, what you say, and what you post on social media – people are watching. Some will agree. Some will not. Some will agree just to get on your good side, but disappoint them and they will leave. Some will not agree because they are jealous of a leader with an opportunity.

All this said, don’t shy away from people. This never the right response. Just be aware. Be gentle as a dove and wise as a serpent. And, while you have people watching, lead them somewhere noble – better than their current reality. This is what great leaders do!

Learn the words of successful leadership early.

The words of a leader carry great weight. Don’t make it “my” team or your leadership won’t be very successful and no one will buy-in to the team except you. A leader’s words should always be inclusive rather than exclusive. Become a fan of words like “we”, “us” and “ours”. The more you include people, the more they’ll feel included (see how simple this is) and they’ll be more likely to suffer with you for the win. Great teams are shaped by leaders who value the input of everyone on the team.

Sometimes, if we believe in something strong enough, we have to be willing to stand alone.

This a hard reality in a world which tries to force sameness and is critical of anyone who doesn’t follow whatever is “in” at the time. But if you do anything of value – or believe anything strongly enough – sometimes you have to stand single until others catch on or until you find supporters. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t listen to advisers. You should. You should have mentors and be open to constructive criticism. I never make major decisions without the input from others. But don’t give up what you know to be right – especially those things you sense God is calling you to do – because it isn’t popular. Always be willing to admit when you are wrong. Be very humble – never arrogant or self-serving – but stand with courage when you know in your gut you’re right.

Great things start with humble beginnings.

“Do not despise these small beginnings…” (Zechariah 4:10) Don’t be afraid of starting at the bottom and working your way to the top. This is still a viable option – and the reward feels greater when you build something the hard way. The greatest reward often comes when there has been plenty of sweat, tears, and times of waiting.

And never underestimate the power of a moment. One moment can easily change a life.

You have to discipline yourself to decompress.

It’s not usually built-in to the system. During the busy seasons of life – when there’s plenty of work to do and time is of the essence – which is most of our life if we set out to be leaders, you’ll have to discipline yourself – to rest, to re-calibrate, to refocus and to rediscover the passion which once fueled you.

Perhaps to re-connect, if needed, to a deep intimacy with God. You have to discipline for these things. You’ll seldom have a leader above you or a system in place which forces this upon you. And it’s life-essential. Don’t neglect your soul. Never neglect your soul.

These are obviously random, but in my life they’ve become realities. For some of these, if you don’t understand them, you may think something is abnormal about you. Although, I guess another reality I have learned, is there something abnormal about all of us. Enjoy the abnormal part of you also. God makes no mistakes.

The Emotions of a Pastor or Leader’s Spouse in Times of Transition

By | Change, Church, Church Planting, Church Revitalization, Encouragement, Family, Marriage | 10 Comments

When I’m talking to a pastor or other leader who has accepted a new position or is in a time of transition – after I hear the excitement in their voice of what they see God doing – I almost always ask the same question:

“How is your spouse dealing with the change?”

I like to encourage pastors and other leaders to remember their spouse’s emotions in the process of transition.

When I ask the question I often hear a short pause, followed by an “umm” of some sort, then a statement such as, “She/He seems to be doing okay.”

Push a little more (which I usually do) and I’ll hear something like:

It’s been harder on him/her than I thought it would be.”

Pushing even further, I have even heard something like, “I don’t understand why he/she is not as excited as I am. We agreed this was what God had for us.”

Many times, when the leader is honest, the transition hasn’t gone as well for the spouse as it did for the pastor/leader. It will likely come in time – if given time – but for now, the spouse is simply not as excited about the change in positions as the one who made the change in career is.

Why is this?

Well, consider it from the spouse’s position. (This is always a good practice in any relationship issue.) The pastor/leader who moved to a new opportunity came with their center of gravity and purpose defined. You know what you are going to be doing with your time and energy. Most likely the spouse will feel a sense of loss and have to look for theirs. That takes time.

Often a new pastor, for example, comes home at the end of a long day and has something exciting to share about the day. Whether the day is good or bad things are moving, changing, and challenging them daily. So, even on days things aren’t going well they have drama in their day they can’t wait to share.

Many times, right now, the spouse has days which basically look the same.

Since a majority of my readers are in vocational ministry, let me say a word to the new pastor. This is just a typical scenario I have heard many times.

You arrive at your new position, come home at the end of the day pumped at what God is doing, so naturally you share your enthusiasm with the one you care to share with the most – your partner in life and ministry.

But if you’re not conscious of your spouse’s emotions, depending on their state of mind, they may hear, “My life is exciting. Yours is boring.”

Or worse, “My life has meaning. Your life has none.”

Granted, you are not and would not think those things – and would never want your spouse to think you do, but emotions are high in times of transition. Don’t be surprised if they produce irrational thoughts and actions at times. This is part of change.

Your spouse likely moved from friends and has to learn who to trust again. They may even be more relation-centered emotionally. Their heart may transition slower. The roles they held in the church or community haven’t been replaced yet.

You moved forward in your career and passions. Many times the spouse may have taken a step backward. Or, at least, seems to have for now. This will change in time, and the spouse probably knows this intellectually, but emotionally they feel a sense of loss which will take time to replace with a sense of purpose equal to yours.

The key is to remember your spouse is an individual person, with individual needs for a sense of purpose and accomplishment. Failure to acknowledge this and be sensitive to it is not only unfair it can damage the relationship and slow the process of acclimating in the transition.

The Elasticity of the Heart – An Important Life Principle

By | Christians, Devotional, Encouragement, God, Life Plan | 10 Comments

Be aware of the elasticity of your heart.

I’ve learned through hard lessons that a stretched heart never returns exactly the same.

The Bible says, “Above all else, guard your heart.” I think part of the reason is that once the heart stretches, it’s changed. Forever.

Let’s say you had a dream. You pursued it with passion. It didn’t work out. You failed. But in the process you stretched your heart for something new. You’ll have to find yet another dream to fill the void you created by stretching.

You thought you had the job. You were beginning to get excited about it. You even looked at houses in the area. You didn’t get the job. Your heart stretched. You will have to refuel your passion where you are now or you’ll be miserable. Your heart was stretched.

You felt a call to missions at some point in your life, but you ignored it. You’re not serving right now and your heart is empty. Your stretched heart has never been the same.

And it works in other ways too. You looked at things online you shouldn’t have seen. Now you want more. And more. You can’t seem to find satisfaction. You stretched your heart.

Be aware of the elasticity of your heart.

My advice is to find something to fill the new space you have created. You can’t just “get over it”.

You have to fill the void left behind because of the stretching. That may require prayer, discipline, accountability, practice or even counseling. Maybe all of them.

But your stretched heart is too important to ignore.

Above all else – guard your heart“. (Proverbs 4:23)

How I Battled Claustrophobia (and other life applications)

By | Encouragement, Innovation, Leadership, Life Plan | 5 Comments

Cheryl and I were once on a long airplane flight. It wasn’t the longest flight we had been on by far, but it seemed longer than it was. We managed to get the last seat in the back corner of the plane. There was no window, no reclining to the seat and limited leg room. I realize that’s typical these days for most seats, but this was the worst seat I ever had on an airplane and I’ve flown a bunch.

To make matters worse, the guy in front of me reclined his full 3 inches and wouldn’t sit still the entire flight.

I already knew I was semi claustrophobic, but this flight confirmed it. I thought I was going to die. I allowed myself to be psyched into a frizzy of miserableness. Cheryl tried to calm me, but I was restless.

I know it sounds extreme, and like I am a big baby, but it became that big of a deal for me at the time. I had to do something. (Even funnier was that I read a book about a WWII POW survivor on this trip. Talk about surviving – I am a sissy!)

So, how did I survive?

And why this post?

Because the way I turned an uncomfortable situation into a manageable situation was a lesson for me for other life situations. The kind that last longer than an airplane flight.

Here’s what I did:

Thought about destination. We were getting out of town. We were going somewhere exciting. It was a vacation. Better times were ahead.

Reminded myself this was temporary. I knew this would pass. It wasn’t my permanent home or situation.

Redirected my thoughts to something that I enjoyed thinking about. (Such as writing a blog post.) And planning a new strategy. And studying my Bible.

It made the trip more pleasant and helped me arrive in a better mood. Cheryl was happy about that.

But, as I said, it helped me process how I respond in other claustrophobic times of life.

When you feel stuck or like the walls are closing in around you – when you are miserable in your current circumstances –

Here’s what you do:

Look at the Destination – Think about where you’re going – maybe in your work or in life. Likely better days are ahead. If you’re a believer – a follower of Christ – you are living with some promises. But if we head ourselves in the right direction, and make wise and strategic decisions, things will likely improve with time.

(If you’re not on the right path – redirect is your step here.)

Remember the Temporary – Remember life has ups and downs. These days shall pass. good and bad seasons are a part of life.

And, as Paul said, even if troubles last a lifetime, these “light and momentary troubles are achieving for us a glory that far outweighs” anything of this world.

Change your thoughts – In many ways we are what we think about – especially in our emotions. Many times what we think about determines how we feel.

Again, Paul said, “whatever is pure, whatever is noble, if anything is excellent or praise worthy – think about such things”. Maybe we need to think better thoughts.

Often when we have a proper perspective we can sit back, relax and better enjoy the flight.

Just for fun, what’s the most miserable flight you’ve ever been on and what made it so?