3 Words to Encourage Fallen Pastors

man praying

In the past few years, as a pastor and through my blog, I have had the occasion to minister to some very broken people. Many of those have been pastors or ministers who once had thriving work they were doing for God, but, whether by a personal failure or through circumstances beyond their control, they are no longer serving.

It breaks my heart.

One resource I saw recently showed that 1,500 pastors leave the ministry each month in America. Startling.

I want to help some of those think through a process of restoration. I don’t mean to oversimplify a very difficult situation, but often if people can think in terms of a process they can more easily plan their steps. That’s my goal in this post.

Here are three words of encouragement to a fallen pastor or minister:

Recover – Seek forgiveness. Offer forgiveness where needed. Make things right as much as you can with people you have injured. Now is the time to do the right thing. What you do in this step will often determine the degree to which you can be restored.

Also in this step, most important is that you recover in your relationship with God. Ultimately, He is the One you are seeking to please. You can’t earn His love or re-earn His love, but if fellowship has been broken, confess your sins to the One who is faithful to cleanse. Fall on your knees in surrender once again.

Rebuild – Get counseling. This is usually paid counseling and it will be worth the investment. There are ministries that offer this, and there are those who will fund this, but just as you wouldn’t look for free medical help from a medical doctor, don’t neglect this step even if it isn’t free. It’s necessary in almost every case where disruption in ministry has occurred at a level where you had to resign.

Also important, find a few men (or women if you’re female) who you can trust and who can build into your life, hold you accountable and help you find focus again. Give them freedom to walk with you daily and speak into your life for the months to come, even after you return to ministry.

Rebirth – Accept grace. Launch again. It may or may not be into a ministry such as you left, but if God called you to follow Him with your life, I don’t see examples in Scripture of Him releasing that call. I see where you can reject Him and refuse to follow, but His grasp on you is firm until the end. I don’t agree with those who would say you’re forever barred from serving anywhere. (I’m sure those legalist will struggle with this post.) Where’s the grace in that? It’s certainly not amazing grace.

Don’t rush it. Make sure you are healthy enough. Follow the steps above first, but at some point you’ll need to turn from where you were and start again. There is still much unfinished Kingdom business to be done.

Be helpful to those who may need this post.

What else would you advise?

A Dozen Things I Learned Last Year

two elementary school students looking at globe

I strive to be a continual learner. I learned a few things last year.

Here are 12 of them:

Small things matter most in making change.

Shower gel, shampoo and conditioner in one. Who knew? Changed my gym shower life. (Apparently my wife and boys did but they never let me in on the fun!)

A conference room table can also be used as an ironing board.

Certain neckties interfere with our television broadcasts. (This year we are looking to upgrade our system.) For now, it is a good excuse not to wear a tie, right?

Some people aren’t upset with you. They are upset with their life…or others…and you just happen to be in the way of expressing their frustration and discontent.

Transitioning to a new city happens faster when you’re intentional. And one way to do that is to learn all the hamburger joints. Another is to intentionally network with people…especially people who will connect you to other people.

Resistance to change is relative. Everyone struggles with it at some level. It’s just a matter of how we react to it and how it impacts us that determines our response.

Having done both, I have to say, church planting, in many ways, is easier than church revitalization…and more difficult in other ways. But both are needed.

Losing a beloved pet as an adult may be harder even than as a child.

Lexington, KY is one of the friendliest cities we’ve ever experienced. It would make a great, inexpensive, family weekend vacation spot.

Trust doesn’t come with position or title. It comes with time and experience. Yet gaining trust may be one of the most important aspects of being an effective leader.

People transfer emotional baggage and injury to other people and other situations, who had nothing to do with creating the emotional pain. It is unfair to the innocent recipients, but very true.

What did you learn last year?

Three Steps to Setting Achievable Goals

calendar, blue target

In my previous post, I talked about resolutions in a light-hearted manner. Many say they don’t make them, because they don’t work. The news media doesn’t help. Every year I see the same reports telling us how many people don’t keep the resolutions they make. No encouragement there. So, I shared some broad resolutions that are more life directions than actual resolutions. (Read that post HERE.)

I know this, however, seldom do we hit a target we haven’t yet identified or located. So, if you want to improve in certain areas of your life, you need some new direction to get you there. You’ll have to make some changes in what you are currently doing.

Call them goals if you want. That seems to be a more popular word these days, but decide a few areas in which you want to see improvement, then put some goals in place to help you get there. Making positive lifestyle changes isn’t easy, but it really does start with that simple of a process.

To help you get started, here are…

Three guidelines I use for choosing achievable goals:

Quantifiable – Make sure you can make the goal measurable. Don’t say you want to lose weight. Decide how many pounds you want to lose. Don’t say you want to read more. Say you want to read one book a month…something like that. You want to read your Bible more? Then set a goal to read one chapter per day. Not…save more money…but save $50 per pay period…etc.

Reasonable – Set a goal you can actually attain. Otherwise you’ll give up easily. If saving $50 per pay period is completely unreasonable, then decide the reasonable number. It probably should be some stretch to make it worth celebrating later (which is a key component in goal setting), but make sure you can do it. Losing 10 pounds per week is going to be tough…perhaps even unhealthy…but two pounds per week…pretty much anyone can do that with a little discipline.

Motivated – Pick goals you are passionate enough about to put the energy and discipline in it to achieve success. Do you REALLY want to lose weight? Do you TRULY want to do better with your finances? Is reading your Bible ABSOLUTELY a goal worth pursuing? Your degree of motivation will likely determine how committed to achieving the goal you remain.

If you think through setting quantifiable, reasonable and motivated goals, and then you consistently practice them for a month, or two, or better yet three…you’ll be we’ll on your way to successfully completing them. And, the satisfaction from that will be worth celebrating.

If you are really serious about this process and want more, read THIS POST on writing a Life Plan.

Do you set goals (or resolutions) for the new year?

20,000 Days and Counting: An Interview and Giveaway with Robert D. Smith

20,000 days

This is an interview with Robert D. Smith. Robert is the author of 20,000 Days and Counting and a consultant to numerous best-selling authors, speakers, and entertainers. For over 30 years, he has managed the career of New York Times best-selling author and in-demand speaker Andy Andrews. He recently took the time to answer some questions about his debut book and the concept of getting the most you possibly can out of any 24-hour period. The book was released today, and you can learn more about it HERE.

Early on in 20,000 Days and Counting, you introduce the concept of measuring our lives by days instead of years. Can you explain how and why you started doing this?

I started several years ago when I put my birth date into a countdown clock widget on my computer just to see what would happen. It worked the way I thought it might—it showed how many days had passed since the day I was born. And I was astounded. The number was just under 20,000.

Seeing the sheer magnitude of the amount of days you have spent on this planet is truly powerful. It can be a game-changing experience for your perspective on the ways you spend your time.

As people, we almost always overestimate what we can do in the next year, but dramatically underestimate what we can in the next 24 hours. When you become aware of each day, it’s amazing what you can achieve. If this has gotten curious as to how many days you have been alive, I set up a simple calculator here that will show you.

So if we’re in the habit of underestimating what we can do in the next 24 hours, how do we start taking better advantage of the time available to us each and every day?

Something most of us struggle with is waiting for motivation to hit us. We’re waiting to start the next big project until an epiphany suddenly appears.

The reality, though, is that motivation is a myth. Everyone always says they need a little motivation to be more productive when it’s actually the opposite that’s true—increase your productivity, then the motivation will follow.

So how can we start working without any motivation?

Ah, see starting is the hard part. My secret for getting started is focusing on the results. I always think back to a high school teacher of mine who would always say that simply starting a research paper meant you were half finished. You can be halfway to the finish line…just by starting! I love that concept!

I always feel more excited, more pumped up, more motivated after the work has begun. Once you get past that initial nervousness and hesitation of actually starting, you can really get going.

There was a major figure in psychology, William James, who had this same sort of idea as well. He believed that we don’t sing because we’re happy; we’re happy because we sing.

What made you want to base your book, 20,000 Days and Counting, around this concept of counting your days and making the most of each one?

The whole thing started like I mentioned earlier, when I found the countdown widget that told me how many days I had been alive. I wrote an e-mail about the concept of counting my days to over 40 of my closest friends. To my astonishment, every single one of them wrote a lengthy reply full of amazing insights.

About two years later, I began writing out some of these concepts in more detail and was encouraged by some friends to publish a book. Despite my best efforts to say no (I’ve been a behind-the-scenes guy my whole life), I eventually caved.

You talk a lot about living each day as if it’s your last in the book. How do we overcome what has kind of become a cliché and actually apply that to our lives?

Living each day as if it’s your last is a concept that is thought of in the wrong way 99% of the time. Most of us here that phrase and start thinking about all the “bucket list” things we would try to cram into one day. But it’s not about the specific actions you would take; it’s about having a specific mindset that creates a sense of urgency and importance in you every hour, every day.

We have a tremendous ability as human beings to only get serious about life once we know it’s about to end. What “living each day as if it’s your last” is really about is creating that sort of intense urgency well before you near the end of your life.

To create that, you need three things—a sense of your purpose, a sense of awareness that your life will be short, and a sense of gratefulness for the life you have been given. And I aimed to give people those three things with 20,000 Days and Counting.

Thanks for sharing Robert!

To help launch the new book, I’m giving away 4 autographed copies of 20,000 Days and Counting.

Want a copy? All you have to do is:

1. Share this post on Twitter or Facebook
2. Comment on this post. Any comment will suffice, but you might share one thing you have an “urgent sense” about in your life right now. It can be anything. A change. A dream. A relationship. Anything.
3. Make sure I have a valid email address.

I’ll give it a few days, see how the comments are going, and choose four (4) random winners.

If It Worked…I Resolve…

resolve

I don’t make resolutions. They say they don’t work anyway. No one keeps them. So, I guess I won’t. I mean, why try something others say you can’t do? In fact, I read a news report that said a third of all resolutions are broken by the end of January. So, with those odds, better comply with the news. It’s what everyone does. Right?

But, if I did…if I did make resolutions…I’d make some worth keeping. I might even call them goals…or benchmarks…just to feel better about them.

But if I chose to defy the odds…or the popular culture of debunking resolutions…it might go something like this…

I resolve…

To pray more than worry, so I can trust more than doubt.

To choose the healthier food choices when available, and keep unhealthy snacking to a minimum.

To allow my time spent reading to compete against…maybe even win…with my time spent watching television…since I often say “there’s nothing worth watching” anyway.

To value rest and exercise as a vital part of my day, since I know how both impact my productivity and overall attitude.

To keep a close reign on my tongue, saying only those things which bring value to people and make life better for them.

To speak the truth in love, but never be ashamed of the Gospel.

To forgive easily, knowing that a grudge causes me as much harm…or more…as the person I am forgiving.

To use any influence God should give me for His glory and not for my own.

To seek wisdom from those who seek progress, more than from those who only seek to complain.

To speak words of affirmation and encouragement to those God intersects with my life, knowing the value such words have had in my life…often at just the right time.

To enjoy the abundant life, knowing that He who began a good work will be faithful to complete it.

To guard my heart above all things…for it is the wellspring of my life.

What would you resolve…if you actually resolved…and if these things actually worked?

In my next post, I’ll share three steps to set goals you can actually achieve.

Husbands: 7 Gift Suggestions for Your Wife

Christmas gifts

I know I’m talking to some men who haven’t even thought about what you’ll get your wife for Christmas yet. Right? I understand. It still seems early to you Christmas Eve shoppers. 🙂

Maybe you’ve thought about it, but not being as in tune with things like this as your wife is, you haven’t a clue what to get her. It’s the same problem every year. Gift card may be what you’re thinking. Cash perhaps. Let your daughter pick something up if she’s old enough.

No sweat. I understand. I’m here to help this year.

Here are 7 suggestions to get your wife for Christmas:

Make a coupon book – A date night a week…or a month… Make up 12 random dates. A movie. (One she picks.) A walk in the park on a sunny, Spring day. Dance lessons. A cooking class. Print a coupon for each. Then give her access to your calendar and let her claim them as needed.

Break a bad habit – She may have tried to change you. It hasn’t worked. You need to lose weight, so she worries about you. You need to quit smoking. Or maybe it is the way you talk to her. You are super critical of her. You talk down to her sometimes. It may be as simple as never picking up your clothes from the bathroom floor. Whatever it is she may have subtly or not so subtly tried to suggest a change in you. You agree with the change, but haven’t made it. Just make it. Merry Christmas to you and her.

Start listening – Make a commitment to speak less and listen more in the new year. Perhaps you symbolize this with a token of some sorts. Wrap up the remote and give it to her. Would that do the trick? You know the distraction. Maybe it’s a picture of your face, symbolizing you’re going to look her in the eyes and not always have an answer…trying harder to listen next year.

Open a savings account – Put $100…or $50…whatever you can afford, into a savings account. Label it…”future investment in us!” Is there a family trip she’s dreamed about? Somewhere you always promised to take her. Take the first step to make it happen this year.

One night in a nice B & B – Many men shy away from these…and many women do…but for Cheryl and I, some of our most romantic moments were one night trips to a bed and breakfast. Make sure you get a private bath. A comfortable bed and a room with a view is great. If you plan ahead you will spend less than a really great hotel and the experience of reconnecting can be amazing for both of you.

Make a new habit – Could it be that you need to do a Bible study together? What about a prayer routine? Could planning your personal finances be in your future? You probably know what she wants in this area. If not, ask her. Then wrap it up! If you’re subtle enough you may even be able to surprise her still. And make her very happy in the process.

A trip away…in May – This is my best gift idea. It isn’t as practical for me now, because we are empty-nesters and can travel when we want, but this was the rockstar gift when our boys were home.This is brilliant on several points. It builds positive emotions up until the trip. When she’s having an exceptionally stressful day she can remember…at least we are getting away soon. In addition, you can plan the trip now, yet pay for most or all of it later, helping to stretch your Christmas budget. (To do this I often ordered brochures from a place I know we have thought about going and wrapped them in a pretty package. Sometimes I made reservations, sometimes I just picked the place. Either way, it is your responsibility to handle the necessary arrangements to make it happen.)

Do you get the idea that these are more about time than even money? I’m convinced it’s what most women want from their husbands. I realize some will say their wife once did, but doesn’t now. If that’s true, it’s probably an indication of a bigger problem. It may even be because she wanted you then and you weren’t there. Maybe the answer is to give her more time now.

Now before I get Dave Ramsey emails, be responsible. Don’t spend money you don’t have. Many of these are very low cost ideas. Some you can budget for and pay later. Chances are good you are going to get her something and I’m guessing some of these might be better than a dress shop gift certificate or another pair of those ugly pajama bottoms. You forgot you bought those already, didn’t you? She didn’t.

Seriously, not trying to be funny. Trying to help. Your marriage and your wife is worth the extra effort. This year, think through your gift. Be purposeful. The woman you love is worth the effort.

What gift ideas can you add to the list?

3 Things I Know About God

Sow for yourselves righteousness, reap the fruit of unfailing love, and break up your unplowed ground; for it is time to seek the LORD, until He comes and showers righteousness upon you. (Hosea 10:12)

As I read the Scriptures, here are 3 things I know about God:

God wants people to seek Him – From the beginning of time, God has been calling His creation into fellowship with Him. Before a person ever seeks God, God has first sought after that person. (John 6:44, Acts 17:26)

God is easily found – Remember the story of the boy Jesus where His parents misplaced Him for a short time. Mary and Joseph found Him in the temple, learning from the temple leaders. When questioned, Jesus responded, “Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?” God desires that same attitude in our hearts today. I have never known anyone who genuinely searched for God who didn’t find Him, because God is always waiting that we may call on Him. If you seek Him, He will be found by you. He will never hide from you. (Jeremiah 29:13, Acts 17:27)

God desires to change our lives – God’s design for us is to be righteous. He wants us to have the mind of Christ so that we might receive the full blessings of fellowship with Him. Being perfectly Holy, God cannot accept sin; any sin. He wants to clean us up and mold us into the image of His Son. He wants to turn over the “unplowed ground” and make it fertile enough to bear good fruit. He wants to change us so we may better experience Him and all of His glory. (Romans 8:29, Ephesians 2:10)

What thoughts does this post trigger about what you know about God?

NOTE: If you’re seeking God today, don’t be surprised if you find He’s already been seeking you!

An Encouraging Phone Call

My childhood pastor preached for me recently. He is 93 years old and still preaching almost weekly. He continues to be one of my mentors in ministry today.

He called me the following week…It was one of the most humbling phone calls I ever received.

It went something like this:

Ron, I want you to know I’m proud of you. You had some difficult family situations growing up. You’ve come a long way. You had your own obstacles to overcome. But, you’ve allowed God to use them for His glory. I’m just really proud of the man you are.”

Don’t you think I was encouraged? Of course I was! In fact, it was one of those days I needed the call most. I’m so thankful for the people who have believed in me and invested in my life.

It was also another reminder to use my experience to encourage you:

Don’t let trials hold you back. Let them launch you into who God wants you to be.

All of us need encouraging at times.

Who could you encourage today?

Make the call!

Some of my best work…

Is done when I can’t understand all that I’m doing…

  • When things are messy…
  • When my head is cloudy…
  • When I have more questions than answers…
  • When my faith is being stretched…
  • When I am unsure of my position…

If you wait until you have all the answers…where doubt is removed completely…

You’ll often find yourself stagnant on making decisions…

You’ll seldom achieve “the best you can do”…

And the rewards you receive will be less than monumental…

Part of living the Christian faith is actually using it!

How are you currently having to walk by faith?

One who watches the wind will not sow, and the one who looks at the clouds will not reap. (Ecclesiastes 11:4)

How to Become a Regular Church Attender

I love when people who don’t currently attend church, give church a try. Many of these once attended church, but for some reason, they no longer do. The best church growth, in my opinion, happens this way. And, statistics tell us there are plenty of people willing to give church a try if we will simply ask them. (Hint. Hint church people.)

The most common thing I hear from people who begin attending church or who want to is that it’s hard to get into the habit of church. I understand. Beginning anything new requires a change of lifestyle. That can be difficult.

Recently someone asked a great question, “How can I get my family back in the habit of church again?”

Great question. I’m so glad you asked.

Here are a few suggestions:

Recognize the greater purpose – Why are you going? If it’s to check it off a “feel good” list, that won’t sustain you when a “better offer” comes along. If it’s part of your spiritual growth process…if it’s making you a better person…if it’s to serve others…fellowship…grow…you’re more likely to be committed long-term. You’ll also complain less when the message isn’t the greatest or they don’t sing your songs 🙂

Discipline until it sticks – I don’t really get up wondering if I’m going to church. And, I didn’t when my family was young and I wasn’t in ministry. It was a habit. If you attend long enough, without too many breaks in between, it will soon become a very welcome and comfortable part of your weekly schedule.

Plan the night before – Don’t make the decision to go to church Sunday morning. Make it Saturday night. (or earlier). Lay out your clothes. Plan your breakfast choices. Set your alarm. Be prepared.

Find a place to serve – If you really want to go for the long haul in church attendance, find a place to serve in the church. If there’s not a place, stand in the parking lot and welcome people. Become a servant of others and you’ll not only be more faithful in attendance, you’ll get more out of the experience.

Make it a priority – The reality is that we make time for things we value most. If your kids want to play soccer, that game becomes a priority, right? If you want church to be a regular part of your life….make it important enough to follow through.

Help this post. I’ve never had a time in my life when church wasn’t part of my weekly routine. If you have, and you now attend regularly, what happened?