Years ago I had a secret. A secret so shameful, that I could not tell anyone. At the time, it just wasn’t done. It was a secret that wasn’t spoken about at dinner parties, and a problem you were expected to solve on your own. I had carried the secret for years, and it was making me sick.
DO YOU HAVE A SECRET?
Pastor, do you have a secret you wish you didn’t have? Is it one that you don’t want anyone else to ever discover? Are you getting tired of hiding this part of you, of masking over the pain and the shame? Is it a secret that only you and your husband or wife know about? Or, maybe, they don’t even know? Is your secret making you sick?
One of the secret weapons against secrets is also one of the secret weapons against sin. That weapon is… the light of day! Your secret only has power because it’s a secret. As long as it’s a secret, it has control over you. Once you shine the light of day on it, it loses its power and hold on you. Once you tell your secret to another person, you share the burden of it, and it begins its descent into irrelevancy.
God does not want us pastors to carry secrets. They lead to shame, guilt, lies, holding our cards close to our vest, etc. God doesn’t want us doing ministry alone, and he certainly doesn’t want us carrying our burdens, our secrets, alone. Maybe it’s time for you to come clean, to share your secret with a trusted friend or mentor. Maybe you need to share the burden of it with another, and to get help. When you tell your secret, it’s like a new car immediately after you drive it off the show room floor, it’s drops in value big time! A shared secret loses its teeth, and releases its bite on you.
BACK TO MY SECRET...
Back to that secret I had years ago. Dear God. I carried that thing around, with my wife’s help, for years. We sweat over it, prayed about it, tried our hardest to fix it, and did make some progress. In fact, we made a good deal of progress. But we bore it in silence, and in secret, hoping no one would find out. If they did, they would think less of us, perhaps consider us unworthy of ministry.
When it was time for us to move to a new ministry, I decided I would open up and let our new church leaders know up front what my situation was. I was almost sick over it, no, I was sick over it! I wasn’t sure they would want me. I’ll never forget the call. It was a special call I made before I came to candidate. I was honest and open. I shared my secret. To my shock, and delight, it was a nonstarter. “Is that all you got?” they said. I was floored, and felt a ton of weight being lifted off my shoulders.
“Has it been difficult?” they asked. “Yes” I said. “Then good, we want a pastor who has been through the ringer and knows what it’s like. We want a pastor who has crashed and knows what it means to get up and keep going. We’re on your side, we’re in this together.” After we hung up, I sat there in my van, staring at my cell phone, weeping. This is what grace is. I finally experienced it. Grace. Love. Acceptance. Jesus. This is the body of Christ.
What was my secret, you ask? I’ll never tell! LOL. You see, you don’t have to tell everybody your secret for your burden to be lifted. You just have to tell the right person or persons. Paul said, “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” James said, “confess your sins one to another, that you may be healed.” If I told you, you would say, “oh yeah, that” and move on to the next thing. No big deal. But it was huge to me, because I had no one to help me carry it.
What secret are you carrying? Can I scream it? Here I go – FOR HEAVEN’S SAKE, BARE YOUR BURDEN! TELL SOMEONE! SHARE YOUR SECRET! And watch it lose its power, and feel the weight lifted off your shoulders. Then understand what Jesus meant about finding “rest for your soul.”
OUR GIFT TO YOU
This Wednesday, on the 200churches Podcast, episode 64, we talk with John Lynch about our pastoral health. We talk to him about what it’s like to be honest with someone else, nothing hidden. If you have secrets that are making you sick, don’t miss this episode. We love you Pastor, and we want to bring hope and encouragement to you this week.
So, today, this one’s for you! For all the men and women out there pastoring small churches – we love you! You bear the burdens of others, carry the water for the ministry, and often go un-thanked and unnoticed. So from Jeff and Jonny today – THANK YOU! Hey, we noticed. We’re two of you! We know. It’s a new week. If you need Wednesday’s episode – we offer it to you as our gift of encouragement and support.
Happy Monday. Now, go get ‘em!
Pastor, if your people knew the worst about you, would they still want you to be their pastor?? Here’s a question, is there someone in your church who, if they did know the worst about you, would still love you and support you as a brother or sister in Christ?
Pastors can often languish in the prison of secrecy, believing that if people knew the real them, they would be rejected and expelled from their leadership position. Is this not the real definition of stress?! You must hide yourself so well from your people, because if your people found out what and who you really are on the inside, they would run?
What if the worst really is that bad? Who can you tell? Who can you trust with the truth? How is it that pastors are supposed to get help? What if you are in deep in a situation and you need someone to talk with, confidentially, so that you could get out?
This is what next week’s podcast is about. It’s about living grace. Grace that lives. Grace that is so real, and so much from Jesus, that it actually lives, and gives you life. Go back and listen to episode 61, with our friend John Lynch. If you’ve already listened, listen again. Then get ready for episode 64, which is the conclusion of our conversation.
In the meantime, go ahead and buy the Kindle version of The Cure. You can find it here. Read it, and listen to these episodes, #61 already on iTunes, and #64 which will be released this coming Wednesday.
Pastor, if you’re in trouble, help is on the way.
What are the three dangers you ask? Here they are, so that you can be thinking about them as you listen to the podcast:
1. Believing that if the church is small it doesn’t make a big difference.
2. Chasing feeling good over doing right.
3. Trading dreams for duty.
In this episode, we explore these three in detail with the Executive Pastor of 12stone church in Lawrenceville, GA, Dan "The Enforcer" Reiland.
This is a great conversation where Dan joins us for the entire episode. There is also a cameo appearance by a good friend of Jonny's. In this episode we get to know Dan just a little more, and we all explore together these three dangers that all churches face, but especially small churches.
I (Jeff) just returned a few hours ago from Bethel Seminary in St. Paul, MN. I spent four days in the last class I will have for a Master's degree. Five nights of moderate sleep deprivation leaves this post uncharacteristically short - so hurry on over and listen to the podcast. We'll catch up again on Friday!
You can find more of Dan Reiland at www.danreiland.com! Click on his picture above to check out his book. Amplified Leadership, on Amazon.
I attended a large church yesterday. It wasn’t a mega church, but it was large, probably around 2,000 people. Is that a mega church?? It might have been twenty years ago, but not today. Anyway, I attended a large church yesterday!
There was a large parking lot, greeters at the door, and the next door, and the next door. There was a very spacious “welcome mall” with great signage and helpful volunteers stationed about here and there.
There was helpful literature with great graphics and cool flat panel monitors broadcasting all manner of helpful pictures, video, and promotions. In the auditorium there were well padded seats, a kickin’ sound system, colored stage lights, fog machines, a very cool worship team with awesome music, an amped up well-worded introduction to the morning theme, a series intro video, casually dressed staff and a casually dressed pastor presenting a very dynamic, but down to earth, message. Oh yeah, and he had a very cool bar stool to sit on, with a padded round seat that could really spin!
I knew the message would be soft pedaled and light on Scripture. I knew it would be interesting, but not too convicting, funny, but with enough content to make a person think, short, but long enough to validate a pastoral paycheck. I knew it would be church-lite, Bible-lite, and God-lite. Okay, not really. I didn’t really know these things about the message. But, here’s what it was really like…
It was unbelievably excellent and effective! The message was from 1 Corinthians 6 and contained about the most straightforward warning against sexual sin one could present. It was Andy Stanleyesque, in the very best sense. The pastor used story, and self-deprecating humor when necessary, to draw the congregation in. He asked the questions out loud that they were thinking silently.
He piqued their interest for an answer to the question “Why?!” Why in the world would God demand that people in the 21st century live by an antiquated and prudish notion that sex should be reserved only for marriage?! He politely asked for 30 minutes of their attention and then assured them at the end that if they would commit to living by God’s design for sexuality, they would be so glad they did!
The service concluded with a very powerfully played “Forever Reign” which includes the lyrics:
Oh, I'm running to Your arms,
I'm running to Your arms.
The riches of Your love
Will always be enough
Nothing compares to Your embrace
Light of the world forever reign
It was one of the most powerful conclusions to a service that I have ever experienced!
At this large church, we were given a very powerful, focused, culturally needed biblical message, wrapped in a winsome and gripping delivery, wrapped in a very crowd-appropriate musically dynamic service. It was an amazing experience.
I walked out hating my small church and my life as a small church pastor. Wait a minute! No, I didn’t!! I walked out thankful to God for a church like this that will reach a lot of people and connect them to their loving God. I was thankful for the pastor and staff that God has equipped to do their Kingdom work.
And, my friends, I walked out so thankful for my 200church! In my church, it’s different. Not better or worse, just different! I am so thankful for the people at my church, and the opportunity we have in our community to reach people, join them to God through the Gospel of Jesus, equip them to serve God and others, and connect them in meaningful and healing relationships with each other.
I was challenged and encouraged yesterday morning in a number of ministry areas, areas where I can up my game, and attempt just a little more for the Kingdom in my own 200church.
Dan Reiland wrote a Pastor’s Coach article a while ago that talked about the three dangers that large churches face:
This Wednesday on the 200churches Podcast, episode 63, Dan joins us for the entire episode to talk about those three dangers. It’s a great, personal, and free-wheeling episode that is sure to encourage and challenge you, and of course, make you laugh!
You should attend a really large church sometime when you are able. It was fun. It really was. And I lived to tell about it!
Jeff is attending his very last on campus course at Bethel Seminary in St. Paul, MN this weekend. Degree completion is within sight now!
Jonny is holding down the fort with an all night youth activity Fri/Sat, a college event Saturday night, and preaching for Jeff on Sunday morning. Jeff says, "How are we doing for sleep Jonny?!" :)
Today's post is a re-direct to a podcast companion post by Dave Jacobs on The Pastor and FEAR. This week's podcast episode #62, dealt with Facing Your Ministry Fears. If you haven't listened to it, you can listen to it or download it here: www.200churches.com/podcast.
Below is a link to the original Dave Jacobs post at SmallChurchPastor.com!
Today’s podcast episode, #62, is all about handling fear in the ministry. Dave Jacobs from SmallChurchPastor.com joins us in this episode. You’ll just have to listen to it. We hope that it encourages you and gives you some practical food for thought to help you deal with fear in your pastoral role.
But, can I just say two things about fear, and then leave you to listen to the episode?
Number one, About a month ago, I wrote a blog post titled, Fear: The Great Negotiator. You should check it out if you haven’t read it yet. In that post, I share what I believe is the antidote to fear.
Number two, my personal opinion is that a very practical way to handle ministry issues that cause fear in your heart – is to step right into the middle of them. Once we engage them, they tend to lose their fangs. They don’t look as ferocious as we thought they would.
As I reflect on my past ministry experiences, I remember several encounters I needed to have, confrontations actually, that caused me fear. Actually, I was filled with FEAR. I remember one time looking at the clock in my office, and deciding that when the second hand reached the 6, I would walk into another office and make the confrontation. It was all I could do to literally will my legs to walk down the hall.
When I got there, the person had gone to the bathroom, and I had to repeat the whole horrific process five minutes later! When the conversation actually occurred, it was not easy, but I lived through it. And boy, oh boy, did I feel better when it was finished! FEAR attended me, but it did not prevent me. Once I stepped into the “scary” situation, fear dissipated, and we were just two people trying to make the best of a tough situation.
Again, if you haven’t read that post about FEAR being the Great Negotiator, read it. You’ll find that the antidote to fear is FAITH. And then step right into your fear. It’s bark is worse than its bite!
Remember, as a pastor, you’ve got the greatest position in the world! It’s all about attitude Babeee! We get to pick our attitude, so pick a positive one. Think about it. The SPIRIT is the One who equips you, the LORD is the one who goes with you, and JESUS is the one who’s paid your way. Your church, no matter the size, can do great Kingdom things with you as the pastor, when the Triune God helps you do your job. Go for it.
Oh, one more thing… fear not. Yeah. That.
YOU CAN FIND DAVE JACOBS AT SMALLCHURCHPASTOR.COM. WITH 8 YEARS OF EXPERIENCE COACHING PASTORS, HE IS AVAILABLE TO COACH YOU! WE CONFIDENTLY AND ENTHUSIASTICALLY ENDORSE DAVE AND RECOMMEND HIM TO YOU AND YOUR CHURCH!
Moment of truth: Jeff and I are currently sitting together in the 200churches studio at 11:30 PM Sunday night realizing that this blog post needs to be written.
Weirdly, I think we're afraid of what it would mean if we didn't write it.
What if we skip just one Monday, just once, and no one notices? Or worse, what if we skip one Monday and just start to get into the habit of skipping Mondays? We've been at this for over a year now, and with the exception of a (much needed) Christmas break, we've been very consistent. It's just one post, but the implications of that post can be scary.
Jeff just said that if we start skipping posts, it will only get easier to do it, and, we have learned a ton blogging thoughts and ideas with you over the past year, and we wouldn't want to give that up!
This week the blog and podcast are focusing on the topic of fear. That dark little feeling inside that what you're doing isn't right. Or that you're not good enough. Or that your church is going downhill.
Fear is that thing that keeps you up at night when you're so exhausted sleep should come easily. Fear is the tightness in your chest when you think about meeting with that one member of your congregation, or preaching out of that book that you know will cause controversy. If we let it, fear can start to control our thoughts and desires - our decision making and relationships. We're prone to fear, but the truth is, there is no room for fear in a Spirit-led ministry.
In 1 John we see that perfect love casts out fear, but how often do we forget that this truth applies to our ministry? God's love leaves no room for fear, because fear is a tool and weapon of the enemy. As true as that is, we all know it's hard to really lean into God's love in our own lives, let alone in the life of our church. It's easy to start wondering how God's love will pay the utility bill or fix that buzzing in the sound system. It's even harder to see God's love when your board is getting deadlocked or a group of people decide to walk out of your church. As pastors, we know God is love, but sometimes it's hard to feel that.
This week we're talking with Dave Jacobs on the podcast, and he has some great insights on how pastors can deal with the fear that is controlling their lives. It's a message that's so important, but at the same time is hard to swallow, because the first step is admitting to yourself that you are letting fear guide your decisions in the first place.
Our encouragement to you this week is to really dig down deep into yourself and look for fear. Look for how the enemy has tricked you into believing things about God and yourself that aren't true, and how those lies are leading your decision-making in your ministry. It might be a hard look to take, but ultimately it is so important to your ministry that you recognize those places where fear has taken hold. You have an important mission to your church that has been entrusted to you by God, and we want to encourage you to be the leader that God created you to be.
Let's not let fear be a factor in our ministries!
Tonight I (Jeff) talked to my friend. It’s been over twenty years since we’ve talked. Maybe twenty-five. Either way, it’s been so long we don’t even remember. Within sixty seconds we picked it right back up, laughing, joking, using the insider language that was a part of our dorm communication. We remembered the olive parties. It was priceless.
My good friend is planning a pastor’s retreat. It will be an intimate gathering of pastors, only about twenty of us. It will be intense, concentrated into three days. It will be spiritual, honest, and fun. Some of us will know others; we will likely all make new friends. Most of us are pastors. Most of us are 200church pastors. A couple of us are lay leaders in our church.
Me and my friend had a great conversation. He is pastoring a church of 75 people. It is the church his family grew up in. It has changed hundreds of lives over the years, maybe thousands. He and his brother are both pastors today. We talked about the challenge of pastoring a 200church. We also talked about the importance of having smaller churches in communities and neighborhoods, churches that people can connect with easily and personally. Our churches are needed!
Thinking about this pastor’s retreat made me think about the importance of community as pastors, community with other pastors who can both know us and understand us. It takes one to know one, right?
I wondered tonight after we talked – “How many of our 200churches friends have other pastors in their lives that they can confide in, talk to, get help from, or just spend meaningful time with?”
I think about the women pastors who listen to the podcast or read the blog. I wonder – “Is it harder for female pastors to find other pastors to confide in, talk to, or get help from, since most pastors are men?” I know way too little about the struggles of women pastors. I plead ignorance! Have mercy on me ladies.
The truth is, I have not gotten together with a group of pastors quite like this in about seven years. It’s been too long. We need the connections we can make with other pastors who can be our friends. We need the challenge, the confidentiality, and the chance to be ourselves around other pastors who want to be themselves.
If you’ve listened to our podcast from this week, Episode 61, you know that I have Steve here in my church. I can be me around Steve. The truth is, I can be me around a lot of people in my church, on my board, and in my small group. We are intentionally trying to build a church characterized by this statement: Authentic Relationships With God & Others 24/7.
But I’m aware that not all of you have those kinds of relationships. If my church people read this post, they might think “Why doesn’t Jeff feel like he can just be himself around us?!” Well, I do. Mostly. But you pastors know what I mean. We need to spend some time, at some point, with our own. With other pastors. You and I know this: We are strange life forms! Normal humanoid carbon units are not always able to understand us. :)
How about you? Where can you go to find fellowship, help, authentic community, a listening ear, or wise counsel? Not many of us are blessed to have these relationships already baked into our lives. We have to be intentional and deliberate about finding them.
If you need help, encouragement, or counsel – look around. Who is there in your region that you could approach? Perhaps another pastor in your community needs that friendship and support even more than you do but you just don’t know it. Maybe he or she doesn’t know it either. Take a chance. Step into a risk. Make a call or visit. Be real, talk honestly, reach out.
God wants you to be supported and encouraged. He is community, right, so he wants us to be in community both with our Triune God and with each other as shepherds and elders.
Have you done this? Where do you find your support? Leave a comment on this post below and tell us how you find help, support, fellowship, and encouragement. Talk to us, and let’s talk to each other.
Watch this video first - it's short, and it's John talking to a small group that is ready to start their study through the book, The Cure. It will give you a glimpse into John's personality and caring nature - then you'll hear him on today's Episode 61 of the 200churches Podcast!
May we introduce to you, for the first of what we hope will be many appearances on the 200churches Podcast, John Lynch! John is from Phoenix, AZ where he is one of the pastors at Open Door Fellowship Church. John has been there for thirty years. John, along with his friends Bill Thrall and Bruce McNicol, have written the book, The Cure - What if God isn't who you think he is, and neither are you
TODAY'S PODCAST EPISODE
This book, The Cure, has made a significant impact on many people in our church, and we were able to hoodwink John into joining us live in the opulent and luxurious 200churches Podcast Studio to record this episode for you! John was speaking in the area, and we sent a car, and spirited him away in the dark of night to join us in the studio.
One of our church members, Steve Mason, who read the book, and whose life was changed by it, drove out and picked John up. Steve has been a HUGE blessing to our church, as we have seen the transformation Jesus has made in his life, and as we have been blessed by his love for us. The truth is, Steve’s wife Pam has also been changed by the message of the Cure, that God’s grace is so much stronger than our efforts – and Pam made two mouth watering pies that we consumed upon completion of the recording. Consumed like wild, ravenous wolves!
Steve, John Lynch, Jonny, and I basically had a party in the 200churches Studio, and recorded some of it for you! We had a blast! John is one of Steve’s heroes, and one of our heroes now too, and it was so enjoyable to just sit and have fellowship together that only happens because Jesus loves us and makes us brothers.
Today’s podcast is only the tip of the iceberg. We will have another episode, much longer, next month, where John expands on the message of The Cure. In the coming months we will have John back, as well as Bill Thrall, to encourage all of us as pastors of small churches in our personal walk with Jesus.
In today’s episode John introduces and explains the foundational message of the book – replete with his Scottish accent and Irish brogue, mixed wonderfully with the voice of a drunken pirate! You’ll just have to hear it.
Below are two short videos by Bill Thrall and Bruce McNicol, as well as links to the TrueFaced website and The Cure book. We do get a kickback if you buy the book – and that would be the joy of knowing your heart will be changed and you just may never understand your relationship with God the same again – really!
Next week – Small Church Pastor Coach Dave Jacobs! Our topic with Dave is one of the small church pastor’s toughest struggles – Fighting Fear. That’s next week on Episode 62.
Here is Bill Thrall sharing what we think is a phenomenal perspective on the Gospel and the Christian life. Bill will join us in the future on the podcast.
Finally, here is Bruce McNicol explaining the difference between pleasing God and trusting God.
How do you preach to your people? How do you teach them week after week? What expectations do you lay out at the end of your sermons or lessons? Are the lives of your people pleasing to God? Do they experience or sense God’s face shining on them? How do they think about their relationship with God?
Well, there you go, Happy Monday! How about those questions? Do you find them easy to answer, or hard? Perhaps you are wondering if we are setting you up? You might ask, “What are Jeff and Jonny getting at with these questions?” We are attempting to set you up for this week’s podcast, episode 61, with John Lynch.
John has been a pastor at Open Door Fellowship Church in Phoenix, AZ for the past 30 years. He and his pastor/partners, Bill Thrall and Bruce McNicol have written a book titled, The Cure. It is all about the life of grace, and it’s subtitle is: What if God isn’t who you think he is, and neither are you?
At our 200church here in Orange City, IA, we have used this book in small groups and Sunday School classes, and it has changed lives as we learn that we are exactly who God says we are, even on our worst day! We are redeemed, righteous, forgiven, and loved. We no longer have to wear a mask, hide or manage our sin, live in relational isolation, or stress out over pleasing God. There is a remedy in the Gospel, that these guys call “The Cure.”
On this week’s podcast, John talks about, not so much the book, but what the cure actually is. We also have Steve, a member at our church, whose life was changed by this book, share just a bit of his story. Steve and John Lynch join us in the opulent and luxurious 200churches Podcast studio, and are almost overcome by the live, in-studio experience. :)
The Cure will change how you preach to and teach your people. We know, we know, that is a presumptuous and somewhat bold statement. We too are hesitant when someone is only as good as the last book they’ve read. We’ve read a lot of books over the past few years, and we are not in the business of being affiliate marketers of books. But this book is simply about the Christian life and how the message of grace informs it.
The Authors Will Join Us
Because this book has challenged so many of our people, and literally changed the lives of some, we wanted to share it with you by talking directly with the authors, then sharing those conversations with you on the podcast. They will, over the coming months, be a part of our podcasts. We’ve asked them to begin to share the message of grace, a message that they have worked so hard on over the past years to articulate and model to their own church family. They’ve written several books and crafted a number of message series around this topic.
These guys are pastors who are serving in the trenches along with us. They have several services and their church has run between 700 and 1,000 for a couple decades. They know the struggles, the joys, and the challenges of local church ministry.
Practical Ministry Benefit
Recently a member came to Jeff’s office for some counseling. She was sensing God nudging her to work on some issues in her life. She has struggled in some areas, and knows God wants her to get victory over them. She knows that these struggles are coming between her and a healthy relationship with God. She came to ask for his advice on how she could get past these things, and live in victory, with a life pleasing to God.
Jeff’s advice to her a couple weeks ago was very different than it would have been a couple years ago. That advice became so clear to him after processing the message of The Cure in his reading, and going through it in his small group. This is the message we want you to hear.
We are so excited to share our conversation with John Lynch with you on Wednesday in episode 61 of the 200churches Podcast!
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