Three Encouragements for Pastors Pursuing Wandering Sheep

One of the unintended consequences of the pandemic has been the disintegrating weekly habit of attending the Sunday gathering. What should a pastor do when faced with wandering sheep, those who have left the safe pastures of the local church and found themselves in dangerous territory away from the herd?

Let me encourage you, pastor, to consider three things as you seek out wandering sheep.

First, be prayerful.

Paul commands that “supplications, prayers, intercessions be made for all people” because God “desires all people to be saved.” This is certainly true for pastors and their flock. Prayer’s importance lies in the power of the Spirit to work in the heart of the wandering. So, pastor, as we aim to persuade and plead with sheep to return to the flock, remember that in our own strength “our striving will be losing.”

One practical way to do this is to create a list of members whom you haven’t seen at church in a while. Simply pray for them on Saturday night to gather with some gospel-preaching church the next day.

Second, be patient. 

There are at least three types of patience that God produces while we seek wandering sheep.

The first type is pastoral patience with the sheep. There can be great temptation to frustration and anger as call after call, email after email, text after text goes unanswered. The call for the pastor is the same: “Be patient with them all” (1 Thess. 5:14). Wandering sheep often know they are wandering, so a welcoming and gracious call to repentance may be a surprising response.

The second type of patience is procedural, relating to how quickly one may pursue church discipline. If you are in a church that practices church discipline (that’s good!), be slow in employing it on wandering sheep. Be quite sure, insofar as you can, that this member has truly abandoned the fellowship of the church and has no intention of returning. A good rule of thumb: the less you know, the slower you go.

Lastly, God desires to grow you in patience and gentleness. Seeking the lost is one way Christ conforms his servants to his likeness. Unlike Jesus, we are not naturally disposed toward gentleness and kindness, patience and understanding. So God often places difficult, seemingly unreachable people among us so that he may grow us to be more like his patient Son. Pastor, embrace the sanctifying work of God as you seek to shepherd the flock God has entrusted to you.

Third, be persistent. 

Prayer is essential, but so is pursuit. So after praying, keep reaching out. Don’t give up. Keep calling, texting, and emailing. Your persistence is a secondary means by which Christ seeks out the wandering. It is a privilege to be used by our Lord to bring back what is rightly his. So, pastor, as you grow weary in pursuing, remember that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners (1 Tim 1:15) and “to seek and save the lost” (Luke 19:10). If that wandering sheep belongs to Christ, have confidence that “the sheep follow him, for they know his voice” (John 10:4).

 

Nick Gardner, Capitol Hill Baptist Church

Article orginally appeared on 9marks.org

10 Lessons About Leading the Lord’s Church I’ve Learned the Hard Way

By Joe McKeever

This is not the final list. I’m still learning.

Most of what follows about leading God’s church is counter-intuitive. Which is to say, it’s not what one might expect.

In no particular order….

One. Bigness is overrated.

“It doesn’t matter to the Lord whether He saves by the few or the many” (I Samuel 14:6).

Most pastors, it would appear, have wanted to lead big churches, wanted to grow their church to be huge, or wanted to move to a large church.  Their motives may be pure; judging motives is outside my skill set. But pastoring a big church can be the hardest thing you will ever try, and far less satisfying than you would ever think.

Small churches can be healthy too; behold the hummingbird or the honeybee.

Trying to get a huge church to change its way of thinking can be like turning around an ocean liner.  Even so, the Lord’s teachings about the mustard seed (see Matthew 13:31-32 and Luke 17:6) should forever disabuse us of the lust for bigness.

I will spare you the horror stories of pastors who have manipulated God’s people and lied about numbers in order to create the illusion of bigness.  Forgive us, Father!

Two. Lack of formal education in the preacher is no excuse.

The pastor of the small church often has far less formal training and education than he would like. As a result, he often feels inferior to his colleagues with seminary degrees. I have two thoughts on that…

One.  It’s a mistake.  He can be as smart as they are and more if he applies himself.  Let the Lord’s preachers not be overly impressed by certificates on the wall or titles before their name.

Two.  He can get more formal education if he’s willing.  Some of our seminaries have online programs that make seminary education practical and affordable.

My dad, a coal miner, had to leave school after the 7th grade. But he never quit learning.  He took courses and read constantly. When God took him to Heaven, Dad was almost 96. Our mom had to cancel four or five magazine subscriptions he was still taking and reading.

Some of the finest preachers of God’s word I’ve ever known have had little formal theological education.

Three.  There are no lone rangers or solo acts on the Lord’s team.

He sent them out two by two. (Mark 6:7; Luke 10:1)

The preacher who says pastors are not allowed to have friends and thus shuts himself off from colleagues in ministry has bought into a lie from hell that causes him to deceive himself and limit his ministry.  While a pastor may choose not to have close friends among his own members, there is every reason for him to make friends with other pastors and ministers who serve the Lord well.  Failing to do so limits himself and hurts the kingdom work.

Furthermore, he must have co-workers alongside him. Paul needed Barnabas, Silas, Timothy, and many others. Read the last chapter of I Corinthians and ask God to forgive you for trying to do this work alone.

Four. Doing a job by yourself is easier than enlisting and training someone else, but it’s violating your calling.

“Make disciples,” said our Lord.  That mandate calls for us to help people come into the kingdom, then nurture and grow them to the point they will know the Word, can share the Word, and can make disciples of others.

Barnabas did not find it convenient to leave Antioch and travel to Tarsus “to seek Saul” (Acts 11:25).  But in doing so, he connected the man called as an evangelist to the Gentiles with the opportunity of a lifetime.  We are forever grateful to the best disciplemaker in Scripture, Barnabas!

Five. I cannot lead people to do what I’m not doing.

God did not send me to be a talker, but a doer. Not as a coach only, but as a player-coach.  It is enough for the disciple to become like the teacher, said our Lord.

So, as a pastor and church leader, my job is to show them how. Not just tell them.  (James 1:22 and I John 3:18).

Six.  Not only is it hard to get started tithing my income or sharing my faith (and a hundred other discipleship things), God likes it that way.

Watch the butterfly emerge from its chrysalis.  The struggle, we are told, is a necessary part of its development.

Only people of faith and determination will set out to learn to tithe and witness and understand the Bible, then stay with it  until they are able to do it well.  Everyone else drops by the wayside, intending to wait until it’s easy.  In doing so, they’re asking for and expecting what never was and never shall be.  “Without faith, it is impossible to please God” (Hebrews 11:6).

The members of your church need to be reminded that God does not need their money.  He is not suffering from a cash flow problem. God is trying to grow disciples.  That accounts for the hundreds of teachings on money in the Word. When are we ever going to understand this? When are preachers going to quit fearing criticism and teach stewardship until people do it!

Seven.  God makes His leaders servants, not bosses or lords or bigshots.

I keep running into husbands who want to lord it over their wives because “God made me the head of the home and told you to submit!” Such men may call themselves believers, but they are pagan to the heart and have probably never been saved. They certainly don’t know the first thing about God’s word or Jesus’ heart.  If they did, they would know that they are sent as servants. “Even so, Christ loved the church and gave Himself for it.”

Bullies on the playground or dictators in the pulpit are cancers on the body, and must not be tolerated.  The parable of all parables on this subject is Luke 17:7-10.  We must keep saying to ourselves–even when we have done everything Jesus required– “I am only an unworthy servant; just doing my duty.”

Eight.  The more righteous we are, the less we will be aware of it.  “Moses knew not that his face did shine” (Exodus 34:29).

I said to the 75-year-old saint in our church, “Marguerite, you are the most Christ-like person I know.”  She didn’t flinch.  “Oh honey,” she said to her young minister, “if you only knew.”  I did know, in a way, but have learned a hundred times since:  Those closest to the Lord are the last to know it. The nearer to the light we get, the more imperfections and blemishes we will see.

Beware of ever thinking you have arrived. “Let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall.”

Nine. The Lord’s servants who serve well are going to run into the buzz saw of opposition from the nay-sayers, do-nothings, status-quo lovers, and carnal. That’s no fun, but it’s not all bad.

Reading the mandate of the disciples in Matthew 10:16ff, we cannot say we were not warned.  But it has ever been this way.  We are swimming upstream in a downstream world.

Jesus prepared us for this by saying that whoever receives us is receiving Him, whoever listens to us is listening to Him, and whoever rejects us is rejecting Him. (See Matthew 10:40 and Luke 10:16.).  If being treated like Jesus is not enough for us, we’re in the wrong calling.

Ten.  Not only does the Lord allow His choice servants to suffer sometimes, He even plans for that to happen. See Matthew 10:16ff.

Caesar ain’t coming to  your revival, preacher. So, the Lord is going to be needing someone to get arrested for preaching. Then, when the high and mighty ruler has to decide on this case, he will order the saint in chains to “tell us what you’ve been preaching.” That’s how it worked with Paul (see 2 Timothy 4:16-17), and how it has been with His choice servants ever since.

When Paul and Silas were falsely charged, then beaten and jailed, even though their backs were open wounds and they were hungry, tired, and hurting, “about midnight, they began praying and singing hymns of praise to God. And the other prisoners were listening to them.” (Acts 16:25)  They’re always listening and watching when God’s people suffer unjustly.  That’s a fact which God uses to reach many for Himself.

No one wants to suffer.  No one volunteers to hurt. But sometimes it’s the only way.

What God’s faithful must never do is groan and bellyache and say, “Why me, Lord?”  Your suffering may turn out to be the highest compliment the Father ever gave  you.  Early believers rejoiced they were counted worthy to suffer.  (See Acts 5:41).

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A Call to Sound Doctrine: The Pastor’s Job Description

By Paul Tautges

The apostle Paul’s ministry offers an ideal model for today’s pastor, but I fear it’s one many churches today have lost sight of.

Consider Paul’s goals: “We proclaim Him, admonishing every person and teaching every person with all wisdom, so that we may present every person complete in Christ” (Col. 1:28, NASB).

He sought the spiritual maturity of every believer—Christlikeness. To this end the apostle employed Christ-centered proclamation and the teaching of biblical wisdom, of which Christ is the embodiment (Col. 2:3). So should we.

Sadly, evangelical churches today don’t share these priorities. Instead, there’s a noticeable shift away from theology toward something closer to therapy.

PRIORITIZING SOUND DOCTRINE

According to the Bible, pastors must prioritize teaching doctrine so that congregations learn to think theologically. Jesus commands us to make disciples by “teaching them to observe all that [He] commanded” (Matt. 28:20). “Teaching” comes from didasko, meaning “to give instruction.” [1] The noun form simply means “doctrine.” [2] Paul likewise says that elders possess oversight in order to protect against wolves “speaking twisted things” (Acts 20:30). They’re to equip the saints for the building up of the body, less church members be “tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine” (Eph. 4:14).

And so, teaching doctrine was a high priority in the early church. The believers described in the early chapter of Acts were “continually devoting themselves to . . . teaching”—that is, to doctrine (Acts 2:42)

The Thessalonians, too, responded to the gospel with eagerness and applied it to their lives. Paul writes, “You also became imitators of us and of the Lord, having received the word in much tribulation with the joy of the Holy Spirit, so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia” (1 Thess. 1:6–7).

PRIORITIZING THERAPY

Evangelical pastors today, however, have shown less interest in teaching theology and more interest in offering therapy. One scholar studied thirty years of the periodical Christianity Today, particularly its column “A Layman and His Faith,” and then offered this conclusion:

In these three decades [1959–1989], the laity had apparently moved from a doctrinally framed faith, the central concern of which was truth, to a therapeutically constructed faith, the central concern of which was psychological survival. Christian truth went from being an end in itself to being merely the means to personal healing. Thus was biblical truth eclipsed by the self and holiness by wholeness. [3]

This shift has had disastrous effects on the lives of God’s people and their families. Any time the rock-solid foundation of the Word is displaced believers will be washed out to sea. Theologian David Wells even noticed this thirty years ago:

I have watched with growing disbelief as the evangelical Church has cheerfully plunged into astounding theological illiteracy. Many taking the plunge seem to imagine that they are simply following a path to success, but the effects of this great change in the evangelical soul are evident in every incoming class in the seminaries, in most publications, in the great majority of churches, and in most of their pastors. It is a change so large and so encompassing that those who dissent from what is happening are easily dismissed as individuals who cannot get along, who want to scruple over what is inconsequential, who are not loyal, and who are, in any case, quite irrelevant. [4]

Throughout his book, Wells offers examples of the shift away from a doctrinally based faith to an experience-based form of Christianity.

SOUND DOCTRINE PROTECTS, BUILDS UP, NOURISHES, AND CLEANSES

When feeling good about oneself becomes a higher priority than knowing one’s soul is right with God through the application of sound doctrine, the systematic teaching of biblical doctrine becomes more important than ever. It’s indispensable to the disciple-making process because doctrine protects, builds up, and nourishes believers (1 Tim. 4:6; 1 Peter 2:2).

Os Guinness reminds us that “sound doctrine” in Greek literally means “hygienic” and “health-giving.” [5] It cleanses the mind and feeds the body.

Conversely, bad doctrine undermines faith and damages believers. Church shepherds must therefore be discerning and not allow man-centered, Christianized self-help theory to permeate the church and redirect the eyes of believers off Christ and onto self (see Acts 20:28-32).

BAD DOCTRINE LIKE GANGRENE

Bad theology is like poison that invades the bloodstream and destroys the body. It kills the church from the inside out, whether it’s preached openly from the pulpit or shared subtly in the counseling room. The apostles warned of “destructive heresies” (2 Peter 2:1–3) that hold undiscerning believers “captive through philosophy and empty deception” (Col. 2:8). Therefore, church leaders must instruct men “not to teach strange doctrines” (1 Tim. 1:3) because “their talk will spread like gangrene” (2 Tim. 2:15–18).

Gangrene is a deadly disease. Spreading throughout the skin tissue, it leaves portions of the body dead and in need of amputation. The disease starts when there is a lack of blood flow, and the resulting shortage of oxygen to the body parts causes tissue to die. Once dead, the tissue becomes numb and turns black, leaving only one effective treatment—removal of all dead tissue and the exposure of infected areas to oxygen under high pressure, thus killing the bacteria that can only live in oxygen-free tissue.

Consider this as an analogy of theology in the body of Christ, the church. Sound biblical doctrine, like oxygen, is needed to sustain spiritual life. When there is a lack of sound doctrine, the poison of false theories begins to spread underneath the surface of the skin until the infected area of the body dies. Once dead, it becomes numb to any danger. To remove false doctrine from the church requires amputation, followed by intense doses of pure doctrine to force the error out.

TEACH SOUND DOCTRINE

Church shepherds must make the imparting of doctrine a significant part of our teaching ministry: “teach what accords with sound doctrine,” says Paul (Titus 2:1).

A basic requirement of being an elder, he instructs, is the ability “to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it” (Titus 1:9).

As believers are grounded in the Word of God and taught to think about everything in their lives from a God-centered, biblical perspective, their minds will be renewed, and their faith nurtured (Rom. 12:1–2; 1 Tim. 4:6). Gary Johnson’s comments are fitting:

A healthy Christianity cannot survive without theology, and theology must matter today, especially in our mindless and irrational culture. It should especially matter among evangelicals who confess saving attachment to Jesus Christ. But current challenges to the authority of the biblical gospel often come from within our churches, from practitioners who are increasingly uninterested in serious theology. [6]

If we’re committed to biblical shepherding, we must take doctrine seriously, since the ongoing spiritual health and growth of our disciples depends upon it.

Author’s note: This article is drawn in part from Paul’s book, Discipling the Flock: A Call to Faithful Shepherding (Shepherd Press, 2018).

[1] W. E. Vine, Merrill Unger, and William White, Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 1985), p. 619.

[2] Ibid., p. 180.

[3] David F. Wells, No Place for Truth, or, Whatever Happened to Evangelical Theology? (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1993), pp. 209–210.

[4] Ibid., p. 4.

[5] Os Guiness, “America’s Last Men and Their Magnificent Talking Cure,” in The Journal of Biblical Counseling, 15/2 (1997), p. 23.

[6] Gary Johnson, “Does Theology Still Matter?” in John Armstrong, (ed.), The Coming Evangelical Crisis (Chicago: Moody Press, 1996), p. 57

By Paul Tautges

Article originally posted on 9marks.org.

Paul Tautges is the senior pastor at Cornerstone Community Church in Mayfield Heights, Ohio.

When a Pastor’s Child Strays

By David Gough

I recently met up with an old friend. We’d served together in local church ministry, but hadn’t seen each other in several years. After he accepted a pastoral call to another state, we’d fallen out of touch. There were the occasional email exchanges and the annual Christmas card, but nothing more.

It was great to see him. But as we prepared to say our goodbyes, the conversation suddenly took on a somber tone. “Can I ask you to pray about something?” he asked. Tears began to fill his eyes; his normally strong voice faltered. He apologized, and then took a moment to compose himself. Over the next several minutes he told me about the heartbreaking story about his son who had recently walked away from the faith.

Sadly, I’d heard my friend’s story before. Another pastor’s kid, gone. Raised in a Christian home, seemingly trusting Christ at an early age, memorizing Scripture, serving as a leader in youth group, participating in mission activities—the story was all too familiar. Almost overnight and without much warning, his son had an epiphany: he no longer believed any of this stuff. The gospel and the claims of Christianity no longer made sense to him, if they ever really had at all.

A FAMILIAR STORY

I write not as a mere observer or sympathized, but as a father and a pastor who prays for his own wayward children. How desperately I long for them to embrace the faith they were taught and had imperfectly modeled for them. I’ve waited for years for the Lord to call them to Himself, even as I struggle with my own sense of failure in their having chosen the course of life they’re presently pursuing. What could my wife and I have done differently? How might we have made the gospel more appealing? The sense of guilt I sometimes feel, whether legitimate or not, is at times overwhelming.

Ministry is hard enough when things are going well. But it becomes doubly difficult when the path chosen by our prodigals withdraws from the Lord and weighs heavily upon us. Brothers, we need others to help us press on when the burden becomes too heavy to bear alone. Perhaps the following reminders will prove helpful in providing support and reshaping our perspective.

1. Don’t try and go it alone.

Surround yourself with a band of faithful and prayerful men. Perhaps this will mean the elders of your church with whom you serve. Or perhaps it will be a small group of fellow pastors that you’ve grown to trust. These should be men with whom you’re willing to be vulnerable and transparent, those who will not judge you or add to the guilt and pain you already feel.

Be willing to receive appropriate criticism when it is offered by other faithful men. You’ll likely discover that your situation isn’t as “unique” as you imagined, that you’re not as alone in the pain you feel. As these fellow brothers help you to reframe your perspective, the path forward will become more bearable. Though the recovery of your children won’t be immediate, you will enjoy a clearer view of the One whose hands hold much-needed mercy and grace.

2. Don’t fake it with your people.

Church members tend instinctively to look up to their pastors. They consider them either immune from or having overcome the daily problems that they so regularly face. This is perhaps especially true in matters of the home. Because of this, pastors may feel the need to mask the struggles that come with wayward children. They think this helps this ministry, but in reality it more likely hinders it.

As pastors, we shouldn’t be ashamed or embarrassed to reveal our own parenting imperfections. We shouldn’t downplay the disappointing outcomes for the sake of protecting our reputations. Even the most respected man of God has “feet of clay,” and we should not yield to the temptation of pretending that we don’t. It can be altogether appropriate to admit that we are hurting, and to ask for prayer for ourselves and our families. Consider discretely weaving brief vignettes of your own parenting struggles into an occasional sermon, being cautious not to say too much. But a word of caution is fitting here: we should exercise care in not doing this too frequently or too vehemently, lest we’re guilty of soliciting sympathy for ourselves.

3. Never stop loving your children—really loving them.

Despite what some people think, pastors don’t have “all the answers.” Nor do we think we have all the answers. Privately, we know that all too well, but publicly we sometimes don’t like admitting it. Rarely can we discern what God is doing “behind the scenes.” That’s true in the lives of our children, perhaps especially when they’re “far from home.” So resist blaming a specific cause, and instead receive the troubling providence as a humbling lesson from the Lord.

Nonetheless, our love for them must not be allowed to fade. Nor should it be conditionally dispensed. Warmly embracing our offspring while not condoning their chosen lifestyle is a practiced skill—and it must not be faked. If we hope to keep the communication lines open for the gospel, we must learn to love them well even as they stray.

It’s at this point where pastors sometimes veer off course in their emotion-laden appeals to their wayward children. Consider how the Lord pursued us when we were in the “far country,” and how his consistent love eventually drew us to himself (Luke 15:11–32). We owe our children no less. Therefore, let us continue to pray that the Holy Spirit would grant them faith and repentance so that they would turn from sin and embrace the Savior.

4. Don’t let go of the grace of God.

We have have no assurances that our children will ever be brought to saving faith. But we do know with absolute certainty that the God we serve is good and perfect in all his ways. He is merciful and just. As we persistently plead with our Heavenly Father to spare and to save these precious ones whom we love, may our dependent confidence in him never fade. He alone is our hope and in him alone do we trust.

In the closing words of Malachi’s prophecy, we are told that the Lord “will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers” (Malachi 4:6). Of course, that’s not a carte blanche promise that God will save every pastor’s child who has abandoned the faith. Some he will save; their waywardness will end in their salvation. Others he will not; their waywardness will end in their destruction.

So the question that remains for us is a difficult one: will we continue to serve the Lord faithfully with no strings attached . . . even those that are tied to our very hearts?

“Shall not the Judge of all the earth do what is just?” (Genesis 18:25). This assurance gives hope to both my friend and myself as we pray without ceasing for our children to come home.


David Gough is the former pastor of Temple Hills Baptist Church in Temple Hills, MD, a local body he served for 13 years. Prior to that he served as the Chairman of the Educational Ministries Department at Washington Bible College for 25 years.
Article originally posted on 9Marks.org

Help! I’m a Pastor!

By Joe McKeever

“In a multitude of counselors there is victory.” (Proverbs 11:14 and 24:6)

I said to Pastor Marion, “I’m glad to exchange notes with you like this. But you need a couple of mentors–older guys with long histories in the ministry–whom you can sit across the table from and talk about these things.”

He named two such, a seminary professor and a retired pastor.

Pastors often find themselves in tough situations.  At the moment, Pastor Marion is leading his church in a massive building campaign, while working night and day to minister to his growing flock.  In the five years he has been there, his church has doubled or more in attendance. And then, this happens….

A deacon who is used to getting his way in the church called a meeting of the key leadership. He was upset about some of what Marion has been preaching, he says. Furthermore–it will not surprise you if you have ever been the target of this kind of abuse–-“many others in the church feel the same way.”

He threatened that steps may be taken to remove the pastor from the pulpit.

What is a pastor to do?

I mentioned a few possibilities, but with the caveat that “these are just some thoughts.” No way do I want to take responsibility for whatever he decides.

 

–a) I said, “You can take it to the church. This Sunday morning, tell the congregation that a couple of deacons are suggesting you need to resign, that they are unhappy with your leadership. And that you are calling a business meeting for Wednesday night to discuss this.”

The upside of doing that is you take the initiative, take the matter out of their hands and put it where it should be, in the hands of the congregation. This tends to stop a bully in his tracks. His anonymity has been a winning technique for him–that is, working on the pastor in the background. But you are now flushing him out.

The downside of this is that anytime you ask a church to affirm your ministry, you should anticipate the possibility that they might just hand you your walking papers. More than one pastor has gone into a church meeting expecting affirmation only to suddenly find himself jobless.

–b) Another possibility, I told Marion, is “You can meet privately with the other deacon or two who had partnered with the bully. Find out if they feel strongly the way he does or are allowing themselves to be pushed along by the force of his personality.  Get them thinking about the cost of forcing you out in the middle of a building campaign.”

–c) “But before you do anything else, Marion,” I said, “I would meet with those two mentors and give them the entire picture. See what counsel they have for you.”

Every pastor needs a few counselors.

Proverbs says, “In a multitude of counselors there is victory” (Proverbs 11:14).  The wonderful KJV says there is “safety.” Not wisdom, necessarily, but surely safety and eventually, if we do it right, victory.

We’re more likely to make the right choice after running the situation by several people whom we respect and considering their take on matters.

One question we would like to ask Marion is, “So, what have you been preaching that would cause this deacon to react this way?” There is always the possibility that the deacon is right. Older mentors could help him look at all angles.

Another question to be asked by the older guys: “In case the church should terminate you, do you have any fall-back support, anywhere you could go, any way to support your family?” If not, this will limit the pastor’s choices.

“Marion, how strongly do you feel that God has placed you there in that church and still has His hand on you?”  This may be the most important question of all.

I once had a deacon take me to lunch with an offer of a lot of money if I would walk away from the church. I said, “I’d love to leave. I’m so tired of this stress. But God won’t let me. I have to see this through.”

It’s not about me; it’s about the Lord.

Get that straight and you’d be surprised how quickly it clears up matters.

No young pastor should ever do anything just because his mentors advised it.  But they can help him reason things out, can pray for him, and can be there in the future when and if things go badly.

Why pastors are reluctant to get mentors

Something inside us wants to go it alone. That feeling is not from God. No one in Scripture was commanded to go into the Lord’s work all by himself. The Lord intended that His people would have partners, co-laborers, advisers and counselors and helpers. Some will be–you will understand the expression–“above” you in ranking and some “below” you.  You need both groups.

Your pride can become your worst enemy. “I don’t need anyone else. The Lord is with me.”  The last part of that is true, the first part is a fatal error in your machinery.  You need lots and lots of people in your life. Check out all the “one anothers” found throughout the New Testament. We are to love one another, pray for one another, encourage one another, rebuke one another, and so forth. At least 31 different such commands are given in the NT. That ought to tell us how strongly the Lord wants us to be part of His team and not long rangers.

Notice how often Paul identifies certain ones as his co-workers, co-laborers, and partners in ministry.

How to get a mentor

First, toss the terminology. When a deacon asked if I would “mentor” him, some 20 years ago, I asked what he had in mind and then declined. He was looking for someone to meet with regularly, with whom he could share his every wayward thought, and who would function as his manager in spiritual things. I was his pastor, admired a hundred things about him, but simply did not have the time or energy for this.

Just call these guys your “friends.” That’s what they are and all they need to be.

Second, if you have had a favorite professor or pastor along the way who lives in the area and is still working in the Lord’s vineyard, call him up for coffee.  That’s how you start. And, under no circumstances should you tell him you want to meet with him like this every week or month or whatever for the rest of your life. That sounds burdensome.  Don’t do that to him or yourself.

Just enjoy the visit. Be sure to ask what he’s doing and what you can pray for concerning his work. And don’t overstay. Thirty minutes may be a tad short. Forty-five minutes is ideal. An hour is pressing it. Two hours is too long and will cause him to hesitate the next time you call inviting him for coffee.

Third, wait two weeks, then call him again. If the meeting place was ideal, stay with it. If it was too crowded or noisy or the chairs were uncomfortable, find another coffee shop. This time, have a situation in your church or your sermons for which you need his advice. Take notes. Jot down his advice, scriptures he mentions, books he recommends.

Then, wait a month before you do it again.  After that, you will know–and so will he–if this should be an ongoing thing.

Remember, it’s fine to have several such friends. You are not betraying the first to do the same thing with one or two others.

Finally, if you are leaning heavily on those two or three friends, at least annually drop them a personal note to say how much you appreciate them. Every couple of years, give each one a gift card to a local bookstore with a note of thanks.

They may make the difference in your ministry.

Now, while you’re at it, look around for some younger minister who may be needing you.  What comes around should indeed go around.


Pastor Joe McKeever
http://joemckeever.com/

Five Reasons Why Pastors are Getting Fired Because of Their Social Media Posts

Five Reasons Why Pastors are Getting Fired Because of Their Social Media Posts

 

By Thom Rainer

“It’s not fair I lost my job,” the pastor told me.

“My church members post a lot worse things than I do on social media. It’s a double standard.”

He’s right. It is a double standard. But it’s reality. And, with greater frequency, more pastors and church staff are losing their jobs because of what they post, particularly on Facebook and Twitter and, to some extent, their blogs.

By the way, churches will not always tell the pastor the specific reason for the firing. But, once we begin to infuriate our church members with our posts, many will find a myriad of reasons to give us the boot.

I recently recommended a pastor to another church. I think very highly of him. Indeed, the search committee chairman seemed genuinely enthused when I recommended him. He contacted me a couple of weeks later with this comment: “We can’t consider him. He’s just too snarky and sarcastic on social media.”

Of course, this pastor was not fired. But he never had a chance to be considered by another church.

So what are pastors posting on social media that is raising the ire of church members? It typically falls into one or more of these five categories:

  1. Generally combative and sarcastic comments. Do you know someone that seems always to be in debate on social media? They always want to prove their points, and they will take you on personally if you disagree with them. There are now a number of former pastors in this category.
  2. Political comments. If you make a political comment in today’s incendiary environment, you will offend someone. The persons you offend may just be the ones who push you out the church.
  3. Taking on church members. I cringe when I see church members posting critical comments against a pastor or church staff member. I cringe even more when the pastor decides to take them on in a public forum. Most readers have no idea the context of the conflict. They just see their pastor acting like a jerk.
  4. Criticizing other people. I have a friend who served as pastor of four churches. He loved criticizing well-known pastors, celebrities, Christian leaders, and others on social media. He was fired from his last church without a stated cause. I believe I know why. And he has gone three years without finding another place in ministry.
  5. Unsavory comments. A pastor or church staff member making lewd or suggestive comments on social media gains nothing, even if it’s a quote from a movie or someone else. The consequences are always negative.

This post is not about pastors losing their prophetic voices. It’s about pastors and church staff losing their ministries because of their failure to control their digital tongues.

“If anyone thinks he is religious without controlling his tongue, then his religion is useless and he deceives himself . . . (The tongue) pollutes the whole body, sets the course of life on fire, and is set on fire by hell.” (James 1:26, 3:6)

Social media is not the place to vent or to wage petty battles.

The consequences are simply too great.

 

This article was originally published at ThomRainer.com on March 6, 2017. Thom S. Rainer serves as president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources. Among his greatest joys are his family: his wife Nellie Jo; three sons, Sam, Art, and Jess; and seven grandchildren. Dr. Rainer can be found on Twitter @ThomRainer and at facebook.com/Thom.S.Rainer.

3 comments

  • Great message Tom. I’ve had a couple of them respond to me like that as well. I wondered how could they even be in the minsitry.

  • Brian

    I’m constantly amazed at how some “discernment bloggers” who also pastor churches are able to hang on to a congregation. Based on their podcast output (and the research time required to produce it), they have to spend 20-25 hours a week just on their internet activity. How do they find time to care for their sheep?

  • This was such a blessing to read, especially as I consider future ministry opportunities.
    It is a good think to learn from the mistakes of the past. Thanks

How a Pastor Should, and Shouldn’t, Use Social Media

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Seven Sentences We Never Expected to Hear in Churches in 2020

Seven Sentences We Never Expected to Hear in Churches in 2020

By Thom Rainer

I can only imagine how we would have responded in 2019 if someone had told us we needed to be prepared not to gather in-person in worship services for several months in 2020. Indeed, if we had been given a glimpse of this crazy year ahead of time, we would have thought the world had gone crazy.

It probably has. 

Look at these seven sentences we hear in churches today. We could have never predicted them. 

  1. “We need to decide if we are going to require masks in church.” If I had heard this sentence would be common in churches, I probably would have wondered if we are having mandatory costume parties in 2020. With the different masks used today, maybe we are.
  2. “We can’t take the offering anymore.” Really? I think many leaders would have freaked out if they heard financial support would become dependent on digital giving. Probably many more would have been surprised how many members were willing to move to digital giving.
  3. “We can no longer have the stand and greet time.” This issue was contentious in many churches before 2020. While many churches held tenaciously to this tradition, it was fading overall. But, imagine if we outright banned it in churches. That has happened for the most part. In case you’re wondering, I’m really okay with this development.
  4. “We need to measure our streaming views over 30 seconds.” For sure, a few churches were doing live streaming services prior to 2020, but they were a distinct minority in number. I don’t think any of us anticipated that streaming views would become a common church metric.
  5. “We need to arrange our worship center seating to accommodate social distancing.” Prior to 2020, I would have thought social distancing was only something we introverts practiced. Now it is something church leaders plan on a regular basis.
  6. “We need to move all of our small groups to meet on Zoom.” If most church members had heard this statement in 2019, they may have wondered if small groups would be in some drug-induced state. Zoom? What is that?
  7. “We will no longer visit church members in the hospital.” This development in 2020 is painful both to those confined to the hospital and to those in the church who really want to care for these members. It is indeed one of the tragedies of the pandemic.

Who would have predicted the articulation of these sentences in churches prior to 2020? It has been a strange year. It has been a painful year.

What unexpected sentences would you add?

This article was originally published at ChurchAnswers.com. Thom S. Rainer serves as founder and CEO of Church Answers. Dr. Rainer publishes a daily blog and podcast at ChurchAnswers.com and can be found on Twitter @ThomRainer and at facebook.com/Thom.S.Rainer.

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