Grace at the Grocery Store
“Spiritual struggle” isn’t usually the first thing that comes to mind when I think about buying my food. But lately, I’ve noticed a lot of judgement as I work through the aisles – from other people to me and from me to other people.
The Joy of Calvinism
Joe Thorn: Those who are reformed will benefit from this book by being reminded of the humble joy the doctrines of grace should produce. In my case my early years in the Reformed faith were characterized by pride. This was not the fruit of Calvinism, but the byproduct of a heart that was not yet grasping the theology I was reading. I was missing the forrest for the trees. God was gracious in directing me to a few specific books that helped me to see much of what Forster writes in The Joy of Calvinism.
One of the most enjoyable assignments (at least for me) that I set my students in our Leadership class is to get them to fill out a “Ministry Timetable.” Basically I ask them to imagine an ideal week in ministry and present it to the class in a one-page spreadsheet. It’s especially fascinating because we have such a wide range of cultures in our class – from North America, Africa, Asia, Europe, etc. Quite a lot of stereotype-smashing takes place!
It’s also quite amusing to watch the faces of students as they realize they’ve left themselves only four hours sleep a night, or that they’ve forgotten they have a wife and children, or that they might need to eat from time to time!
And then there’s the fear that begins to spread across their faces when it begins to dawn on them that much though they’d love to spend 30 hours on every sermon, it’s probably going to be closer to 10! And what happened to all that personal reading time that they were looking forward to? It’s been mercilessly swallowed up by administration, meetings, and more meetings.
And of course, like the best war plans, even the most realistic ministry timetable doesn’t survive the first encounter on the battlefield of pastoral ministry. Nevertheless, it’s still worthwhile for pastors (indeed all of us) to analyze our working days from time to time and ask ourselves if we are allocating time correctly. Scott Belsky recently did this and identified five different kinds of work that fill his day.
Reactionary Work: Responding to messages and requests – emails, text messages, Facebook messages, tweets, voicemails, and the list goes on. You are constantly reacting to what comes into you rather than being proactive in what matters most to you.
Planning Work: Planning Work includes the time spent, scheduling and prioritizing your time, developing your systems for running meetings, and refining your systems for working.
Procedural Work: Neither reactionary nor strategic, procedural work is the administrative/maintenance stuff that we do just to keep afloat: bills, tax returns, recurring items.
Insecurity Work: Includes the stuff we do out of our own insecurities – obsessively looking at certain statistics, or repeatedly checking what people are saying about you online, etc.
Problem-Solving Work: (I’d rather call this Creative Work). This is the work that requires our full brainpower and focus, whether it be preparing a sermon, writing an article, posting a blog, etc.
Scott then goes on to give hints on how to audit your work day and how to manage each type of work best. His most telling admission is probably true for most pastors as well – that the majority of each day goes into Reactionary Work.
What other kinds of work should a pastor have in his day? I can think of quite a few.
Any that should not be part of our work day? I can see a very obvious one.
Pastors: Don’t just quote, be quotable
“I think it’s more effective for you to meditate on the passage a bit longer and say something that is yours rather than quoting all these guys. Be gripped by the text; I’d rather hear you then them.”
Be a real husband and Dad
“As much as deadlines and workload would tempt us to believe otherwise, parenting doesn’t wait until we’ve finished those remaining M. Div. credits. Neither does marriage — perhaps especially marriage. There are no footnotes to Ephesians 5 that qualify Paul’s instructions as pending until graduation.”
93rd Foot Regiment
“ Not only were these Presbyterians zealous about their personal faiths; they also encouraged fellow soldiers to respect authority, to live uprightly, and to fight knowing that God would direct the battle. Men of the 93rd fought for God, their families and the Empire. In a phrase, they displayed a Protestant war ethic.”
Want to learn how to empower others rather than how to command them? Here’s a summary of Gary Burnison’s tips on how to Learn the softer side of Leadership. There’s only one of these that I would want to adjust or for pastoral ministry. Which one? Take a guess.
Leaders are the mirrors for the entire organization. If the leader is down, the organization will follow. If leaders reflect optimism and confidence, the organization will rise.
Leadership is taking charge to help others execute. A leader does not tell people what to think or do, but rather guides them in what to think about.
Leadership is awareness of what you’re not hearing. People won’t tell you what you really need to know, only what they think you want to hear. To keep from being isolated, you need to be out there and engaged with customers and employees.
Leadership should be humbling. Humility is the grace that constantly whispers, “It’s not about you.” Humility means that you know who you are, where you’ve been, and what you have accomplished. With that knowledge, you can get out of your own way and focus on others.
Leadership has an endpoint–organizations should not. Leaders must recognize the endpoint of their leadership is not the endpoint for the organization. Just as leaders took over from someone else, so others will follow them as successors.
Leadership is all about how you make other people feel. Your achievement as a leader is measured in the success of others…Leadership conveys and embodies the enduring purpose and deeper reasons for an organization’s existence.
Dads, sing like you mean it for your kids are watching “You did a fantastic job as my father and I am so glad I got to be your son. Thank you for taking me to church. But more importantly thank you for going to church and being joyful there. Thank you for singing like you meant every word… You have no idea how that still affects me… I love you dad.”
On the need to unplug
“We need to unplug. And when I say unplug, I mean to be totally present and uninterrupted in our face-to-face interactions with family and friends, and in our prayers and praises to God. This kind of presence demands that we put away anything that beeps, buzzes, glows or otherwise draws our attention.” (HT)
It’s not about you
“Did I really connect in my sermon? Did I spend enough time pursuing visitors? Did I give the right advice to the parents of a troubled teen? If I had done something different, would the result have been better? Slowly but surely, the terms of evaluating my ministry have become highly self-referential”
An open letter to the President
“Mr. President, please look into the beautiful faces of your daughters and remember the time that your wife carried them in her womb. Your heart tells you they were children then as they are now.”
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