Mommy Moore’s Sweater

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I have an electric blue mohair sweater hanging in my closet – the only memento I have of my Mommy Moore.  It’s an odd item for a tiny Pentecostal Holiness minister to own.  I can only imagine when it was purchased and where she chose to wear it.  Mommy Moore and her husband Poppy Moore pastored for more than fifty years – trading preaching and Sunday School responsibilities.  Long before the days of televangelists, it was a given that this was a co-pastor position, and that Poppy would also work a day job.  Bi-vocational wasn’t even a word yet, but that’s what they did.  Yet in everything they did, from carpentry, to preaching, to raising five children, joy was present.

I have a few items from my parents – mostly photos since I’m the fourth child.  I have Mom’s Bible, the leather cracked and worn soft in her strong yet gentle hands, pages highlighted, notated, loved.  It’s like the Velveteen Rabbit.  My brother has Dad’s Bible and his Commentaries.  My parents pastored in Oklahoma and Texas for about ten years.  Dad was also bi-vocational, a wallpaper hanger by trade.  Dad left the ministry when I was just a baby, hurt by his elder board and neglected by his supervisor.  His sadness about his experience aged into bitterness that eroded his life until he passed at the age of 66.

I have my brother still.  He pastored for thirty years and for a great deal of that time he was also bi-vocational. He and his wife are full of a deep, abiding joy and sweet spirit. Their faces become more beautiful with each passing year and they seem not to age at all.  Eric and Susan will tell you that it has been a privilege to serve together these years, but those they served will say the privilege was in having them as pastors.  Countless people all over the world testify of their wisdom, encouragement, and mentoring.

Three stories, three lives, three distinct experiences.  What made the difference?  It wasn’t money, leisure activities, or size of congregation.   Each of them studied the Word, prayed, felt a sincere call to ministry, and devoted their hearts and lives to the Church.  In retrospect it seems the difference was, at least in part, a Sabbath rest and a support system – denominational, relational, and personal.  

Interestingly, this is a theme that cuts across denominational and demographic lines.  The vast majority of pastors say they have no close friend or mentor, and take no personal Sabbath themselves on another day of the week.  When questioned, many reply that the demands of ministry don’t allow for either.

My family’s stories and those of pastors everywhere drive the ministry of Barnabas House.  What can you and I do to have a positive impact on our pastors in the areas of rest and relationship?  We can encourage, support, cheer, volunteer, and put action to the good thoughts we have toward our pastors.  We can forgive, change expectations, leave room for their Sabbath, promote healthy boundaries, and bless them with a weekend or a week long getaway.  We can understand that they are people – faulty, sometimes broken individuals that often don’t feel they can be real without risking their position.

This winter I will once again wrap myself in that scratchy, electric blue mohair sweater and the joy woven between each strand.  I will remember Mommy Moore’s legacy in our family and in so many others.  Because of her I will choose joy, rest, and relationship, and I will sow that into my pastor’s life. And I will build a place where other pastors can come to receive restoration, refreshment, and renewal. What will you do?

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In the Potter’s Hands

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On my desk sit 12 small containers of Play-Doh™ in various colors.  As my college students wander into class, an unmistakable look of delight spreads across their faces when they spy the small pyramid of fun.  I gather up my surprise and begin to pass them out – each student choosing their favorite.  Immediately, lids are removed, fingers itching to work the stuff of childhood memories, the familiar scent creeping into the room.

We are reading “Invitation to a Journey” by M. Robert Mulholland, Jr.  In it he says, spiritual formation is, “A process of being conformed to the image of Christ for the sake of others.”  That breaks down into four distinct parts:

1)     A process

2)     Of being conformed

3)     To the image of Christ

4)     For the sake of others

Today’s lesson is on #2 – being conformed.

I speak to them of the part they play in that conforming.  They are not oil or water that takes the shape of any container into which it is poured.  Each one feels the smoothness and the slight resistance of the dough as they mash, or roll out, or ball it up in their hands.

I tell them that the power to conform is not theirs, even as the dough cannot rise up and form itself into a blue horsey or purple pizza.

Merely by chance (perhaps) one student receives a can of dough that has become dry and cracked.  Regardless of the way he tries to manipulate the lump, it simply crumbles.

Being conformed to the image of Christ, I tell them, is a cooperative work.  The form and method is in the hands of the Father.  We have no control apart from our willingness to be changed – our commitment to pliability.

I can see the light go on as their hands still.  A new grasp of the hymn,

                  Have Thine own way, Lord

                  Have Thine own way.

                  Thou art the Potter

                  I am the clay

                  Mold me and make me

                  After Thy will

                  While I am waiting

                  Yielded and still

The notes ring in the room even after my voice finishes the last line.

At the Station

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I found myself at the platform of a train station. I’m not sure how I got there or where I was headed. I just knew how very weary I was and that I’d been traveling a long time.

Looking around me, I was surprised to see that amid the hustle and bustle were not the faces of strangers, but family, friends, and acquaintances. Curiously, some of these I hadn’t seen in years and many I’d never see again. As I met their eyes, there lingered a question within that I couldn’t quite fathom.

Upon closer examination I saw that each had one or more suitcases with them – old, new, plain, fancy, worn, small, and large. On the cases were labels, but instead of countries were written words that I found even more confusing. This one carried a bag labeled ‘kindness.’ That one bore a particularly unattractive case with ‘abuse’ plastered across it. One face I knew very well belonged to a man juggling a collection of bags – ‘bitterness’, ‘disappointment’, ‘humor’, ‘work ethic’, and ‘confidence.’ I saw my mother holding matching Samsonite bags – light blue – identified as ‘strength’, ‘hospitality’, ‘justice’, and ‘integrity.’

Glancing down at my feet I saw my own luggage. I was surprised to see that these bags matched many of those before me. I suddenly realized that the question on their faces was actually a beckoning. “Will you take my bags?”

I tried to gather my own and discovered that I couldn’t carry them all. ‘What am I to do?’ I wondered. I was unable to move in any direction with all of them and, distressed, I cast about for help.

Seeing my frustration, the station master approached me. “What seems to be the problem?” he asked.
“I have so many bags, and all these people want me to carry theirs!”
“That is a problem,” he responded. “Why not leave some of them here?”
“Well, they’re all mine. I have to carry them. See this one? He gave it to me when I was twelve.”
“It looks awfully heavy,” the station master prodded.
“Yes, but I’ve become accustomed to it.” A sad sigh fell like a heavy cloud from my lips to the bag labeled ‘dirty secret.’
“Well, this one looks much lighter.”
“Oh yes, I think I’ve had that one my whole life. My grandmother gave it to me.” Proudly I showed him a well-worn bag marked ‘faith.’ “Actually, it’s been passed down from her to my mother and from her to me.”
“Hmm. If you stack these just so,” he suggested, grabbing ‘warmth’, ‘joy’, ‘wisdom’, and ‘serving’ and placing one atop the other.
“Oh, but that is far too tall!”
“Yes, but they are very light. However, you will have to use both hands.”
“If I use both hands I won’t be able to carry ‘doubt’, ‘fear’, ‘bitterness’, and ‘objectification.’”
“Sounds to me like you have a choice to make. I must tell you, though, that you won’t be able to get to your destination with those.”
“I don’t know what to do. How do I know what to choose? I’m afraid I’ll miss my train while I’m trying to sort it all out.”
“If you’ll allow me to help you, I promise to hold the train for you.”

As we sorted through the bags I was surprised to find just how much I had been dragging with me. Standing and grasping the handles of my new load, I set off for the train. Just before stepping on board, I turned to see the station master assisting another passenger.

“Wait, what if I pick up more bags along the way?” I called out to him.
“There is always a station master that’s willing to help you sort them out again,” he called back with a smile on his face.

I stepped onto the train, stowed every bit of the luggage, and settled in to my compartment with my face toward my destination. I still didn’t know where that would eventually be, but I felt sure for the first time that I would reach it.

Six Hundred

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Six hundred people excited about their dreams or excited about figuring out what those dreams are.

Six hundred people meeting new friends face-to-face after building community online.

Six hundred people admitting and addressing and conquering their fears.

Six hundred people encouraging each other.

Six hundred people.

I spent the weekend at Jon Acuff’s Start Conference as one of those six hundred.  We heard fantastic, funny, and touching speakers talk about their bumpy starts, their voices of fear, their struggles even after achieving amazing things.  People that had been Facebooking for the last two months or two years met, hugged, shared meals, and shared dreams.  It was so amazing I feel like I have a Start hangover.

One of the little things that struck me is the conference staff wore shirts that said, “Ask me to ask you about your dream.”  What an wonderful thing – a place that is safe to express your dreams and fears!  The air was electric with the energy of people sharing their passion and vision!  “Someone wants to hear my heart!”

The dream/passion/vision I shared over and over was Barnabas House.  I told people about you.  And every person responded to me, “That’s so needed!”  Every one.  That tells me that you are seen – your sacrifice, commitment, joys, and struggles.  Hold onto that in the dark night or on Monday morning.  You are seen.  By God, Barnabas House, and by at least six hundred other people.  When the enemy says you are alone, know him for the liar he is.  Your voice is being heard.

The transformational miracle of the conference was not in the speakers, regardless of how inspiring they were.  And they REALLY were!  (John Crist, Dana Tanamachi, Jeremy Cowart, Reggie Joiner, Dave Barnes, Steve Moakler, Derek Webb, Alli Worthington, Sammy Rhodes, Jeff Goins, and of course Jon Acuff were absolutely incredible!)  It was not in the fantastic facility at Brentwood Baptist church or the cool activity centers (a boxing bag and gloves to punch fear in the face, a brag table to share triumphs big and small, a photo booth to capture the joy).  The miracle was in the communities that had sprung up and thrived in preparation for the event. 

We are not celebrities or power brokers.  We are pilgrims traveling together on the journey to realizing God’s purpose for our lives.  There is power in community.  There is healing.  There is encouragement.  There is support.  There is challenge to come up higher.  There is hope.

Six hundred people didn’t rest much this weekend. 

Six hundred people connected in groups big and small.

Six hundred people celebrated the power of community and I was there.

Come join the celebration.

My Best Advice–12 Encouraging Words for Pastors

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Post by Ron Edmondson from churchleaders.com

 

I love pastors. Each week, through this blog and my personal ministry, God allows me to partner with dozens of pastors, helping them think through life and ministry issues. I’ve learned that many pastors struggle to find people who will invest in them and help them grow as individuals, leaders and pastors.

Recently I had a pastor ask me for my “best advice” for other pastors. Wow! That’s hard to say. I’ve learned so much through the pastors who have invested in me and by experience. It’s hard to summarize all that I’ve learned. It could probably fill a book or two…but at least more than one blog post!

I put some thought into the question and decided to come up with a list of encouragement, one that I would give to all pastors, to answer his question. I’m sure there’s more (and you can help by adding yours), but this post is at least a start. Of course, wisdom is transferable to other fields, so change a few words around and I’d give this advice to any leader…some of them perhaps to any person.

Here are 12 words of encouragement for pastors:

1. Choose your friends wisely…but choose friends.

Don’t attempt to lead alone. Too many pastors avoid close friendships because they’ve been hurt. They trusted someone with information who used it against them. Finding friends you can trust and be real with means you’ll sometimes get injured, but the reward is worth it.

2. The church can never love your family as much as you do.

Your family needs you more than the church does. They can get another pastor. Your family doesn’t want another you. You’ll have to learn to say “no”, learn how to balance and prioritize your time, and be willing to delegate to others in the church. (You may want to read THIS POST from my friend Michael Hyatt on saying “no” with grace.”

3. If you protect your Sabbath day, your Sabbath day can better protect you.

You’ll wear out quickly without a day a week to rejuvenate. God designed us this way. Take advantage of His provision. Take time to rest. You may not rest like everyone else…for me rest doesn’t mean doing nothing…but you need time away from the demands of ministry regularly. Lead your church to understand you can’t be everywhere every time. You owe it to yourself, your family, your church and your God.

4. You have influence…use it well.

The pastorate comes with tremendous power and responsibility. It’s easy to abuse or take for granted. Don’t. Humility welcomes the hand of God on your ministry.

5. No amount of accountability or structure will keep you from temptation if you’re heart is impure.

Above all else, guard your heart. (Proverbs 4:23) Avoid any hint of temptation. Look for the warning signs your heart is drifting. Keep your heart saturated with God’s Word and in prayer.

6. Let God lead.

You can do some things well. God can do the impossible. Whom do you think should ultimately be leading the church? You’ll be surprised how much more effective your leadership will be when it’s according to His will and not yours.

7. If you can dream it, God can dream it bigger.

Don’t dismiss the seemingly ridiculous things God calls you to do. They won’t always make sense to others or meet their immediate approval, but God’s ways will prove best every time.

8. Keep Jesus the center of focus in the church.

You’ll never have a money problem, a people problem, or a growth problem if people are one with Jesus.

9. Your personal health affects the health of the church.

Take care of yourself relationally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually. This, too, requires discipline, balance and prioritizing, but if, to the best of your ability, you strive to be healthy in every area of your life, as a good shepherd, your people will be more likely to follow your example.

10. The people in your church deserve authenticity.

Not only will be honest about who you are help keep you from trying to meet unreal expectations, but it will help the people in your church be transparent with you and others. Don’t be someone you’re not. Be someone worthy to follow, but make sure you’re living it…not just teaching it.

11. You’ll never make everyone happy.

If you try, you’ll be very unhappy…and very unproductive.

Now, make this post better. As you can count, there are only 11 here. I’m counting on you to add your best number 12.

What word of encouragement do you have for pastors (or other leaders)?

 

 

Ron Edmondson is a pastor and church leader passionate about planting churches, helping established churches thrive, and assisting pastors and those in ministry think through leadership, strategy and life. Ron has over 20 years business experience, mostly as a self-employed business owner, and he’s been helping church grow vocationally for over 10 years.

We’re In This Together

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Welcome to the Club!

 

Tuesday Tips #3

Community – for pastors who spend nearly every waking moment in the company of others, this may not seem to be a great need.  Even pastors themselves may contend that what they really need is time alone.  While that may also be true, the need for a safe support system of peers is much harder to find. 

The statistics on isolation and loneliness within the clergy are staggering.  The challenge is in identifying a group of people that will understand, listen and not judge, and keep confidentiality.  I don’t want to just reiterate the need, however.  Tuesday Tips are about solutions.  If, as Jon Acuff says, “Fear fears community,” then let’s punch fear in the throat by creating community for pastors and their spouses.

Let’s start with face-to-face at the surface level.  Ministerial alliance organizations exist in virtually every medium-sized city.  Even if your congregation is rural or you live in a small town, if there is a city within an hour of you, it is worth the drive.  You need a support system and so does your spouse!  The meetings are an opportunity to network and will address issues common to the ministry.  This is not the medium for over-sharing, it is the starting point for relationships and contacts.

Facebook groups, particularly when closed to non-members, offer more of a discrete opportunity for secondary-level sharing.  Do a search and join, or start your own.  A good group will be encouraging and even challenging.  They will be a forum for frustrations and comfort for grieving.  Here’s the caveat – if the group isn’t healthy, don’t stay.  And don’t set yourself up for sin by personal messaging members of the opposite sex.  We have an enemy and he is looking for an opportunity – don’t gift wrap it for him. 

Counseling support groups are a third-level sharing opportunity.  If you refer church members to a counselor when the situation warrants, then you already have a contact with this type of community.  If the counselor doesn’t have a group like this, he or she can help you find one.  This type of support will have guided discussions and there is a real understanding of confidentiality.  There is more commitment involved with participation, and there will most likely be a charge of some kind.  However, when you need this level of sharing, it will be more than worth it.

Community is available.  It truly is.  You may be involved in any or all three of these at any given time.  They serve different purposes and meet different needs.  Don’t let isolation create devastation in your life.  We are meant for community – all of us!

 

What are some of the ways you connect with other pastors and their spouses?

Make Sure You Rest

ImageEncouraging words for Pastors from Charles R. Swindoll

 

Following the sixth day of creation, the Lord God deliberately stopped working.

It wasn’t that there was nothing else He could have done. It certainly wasn’t because He was exhausted. He hadn’t run out of ideas or energy. He could easily have made more worlds, created an infinite number of other forms of life, and provided multiple millions more galaxies beyond what He did.

But He didn’t. He stopped. He spent an entire day resting. He marked off this one day as special. Like none other. If I read this correctly, it seems that He made the day on which He rested a “priority” period of time.

I’m of the belief that we’re no longer bound by the Sabbath command (Romans 14:5; Colossians 2:16). But I don’t believe we can sidestep the principle to set aside a regular time of rest.

That includes us pastors. We need to stop regularly—and not because we’re done working. If we intend to “be imitators of God,” as Ephesians 5:1 commands, we, too, will need to make rest a priority. As pastors, this includes:

  • A good night’s rest on a regular basis
  • A full day’s rest at least once a week (no, I’m not kidding)
  • Moments of rest snatched here and there during the week
  • Vacation times of rest for the refreshment and repair of both body and soul

These methods of getting rest help release us from the fierce grip of intense stress brought on by the daily grind.

I had a staff member one time in a former church who rarely took a day off. I remember driving by the church on a Monday evening, and I saw his office light on. When I got there Tuesday morning the light was still on! I marched into his office and asked, “When’s the last time you took a day off?” He seemed proud of his answer, “It’s been about three weeks.” So I said, “That’s unacceptable. You keep that up, and I’ll let you go.” You know what? Amazingly, he started taking his day off!

There is no value in not taking a day off. My former mentor, the late Dr. Howard Hendricks, had one wag tell him, “The devil never takes a holiday, so why should I?” Hendricks didn’t miss a beat and replied: “Oh really? I didn’t know he was your model.” I love it! There’s an old line that goes, “I’d rather burn out than rust out.” What kind of choice is that? Either way you’re “out”!

Let me urge you to change your routine, my friend. Blow the dust of boredom off your schedule. Shake yourself loose, and get a taste of fresh life. Need several suggestions for rest and leisure?

  • Begin jogging and/or a full-on exercise program.
  • Read some fiction for a change . . . or a great biography.
  • Get some music for your MP3 player, and lie on your back, drinking in the sounds.
  • Dig and plant a small garden, and watch God cooperate with your efforts.
  • Start watching a few sunrises and sunsets each month.

I’m not just writing about resting. In fact, I’m taking the next few weeks of vacation to practice what I preach.

-Chuck

 

Excerpt from the Pastor’s Blog, August 6, 2013