The internet is a breeding ground for anger.
Blogs, comments, Facebook posts, tweets... all of these mediums can so quickly become vehicles for us to express our rage. I can't believe you said that! I can't believe she thinks that! I can't believe he did that! Maybe it was the inevitable cost of connecting everyone. We can no longer avoid those we disagree with. Apparently that really ticks us off.
Like it or not, the 24 hour news cycle is predicated on anger. Flip to this channel and they're angry at the president. Flip to the other and they're mad at congress. When we start reading blogs, it gets even worse. And Christian bloggers are the biggest offenders.
Do you have progressive-leaning theology? You're apostate. Are you more traditional? Your legalism is driving people away from Jesus. Somewhere in the middle? Quit being so lukewarm, God hates that. Have an axe to grind? There's a comments section for that. Want to add gas to the fire? Just start a tumblr and join the rage-fest.
Anger has become the fuel that makes the internet go. Outrage fuels posts which fuels clicks which fuels advertising and books and speaking. And to top it all off, we like how it feels. We like getting "righteously indignant." We like being right and correcting wrongs.
Look, I get it. I have my personal theological convictions and can feel my bile rise when I feel someone is leading the people of God astray. I have the same struggles, same in the moment reactions, the same anger at those who I disagree with. I'm not writing this because I'm perfect. I'm writing this because I'm guilty.
But who are we? As Christians, truly, who are we? Do we not worship the Prince of Peace? Are we not all filled with the same Spirit of love? How is it that we so easily hate? Tear each other down? Why do we seem to lead with what divides us, rather than what connects us?
There was a time when I gave anger a foothold. I read outrage blogs and lit up Facebook comments. I let my anger burst out without regard for who it might hurt or offend. I'm right! Why should I let those who are wrong have the last word?! I was guided more by my perceptions of right and wrong than I was by the gentle had of God.
There have been disagreements since the beginning of the Church. Right now I'm studying for a short series in James, and I read that James (the head of the Church in Jerusalem) didn't really care much for Paul (as in the Apostle) and that the feeling was mutual. Two of the most important voices in the early church and they had some disagreements. Think about that. Think about the implications of that for us today.
What if when you picked up Paul's letter to the Colossians, you read "bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you... except for James. His beliefs are just too far out there to have anything to do with." Or if you picked up James and read "what causes fights and quarrels among you? Don't they come from your desires that battle within you? But that's not the case with my quarrel with Paul. My quarrel with him is justified and he must be silenced!"
Disagreement is inevitable. Anger doesn't have to be. We cannot allow anger to gain a foothold in our lives. Especially as pastors and leaders, we have an obligation to lead a group of people who have vastly different ideas than we do. If those ideas enrage us, how can we effectively lead?
What's worse, when we take our disagreements public and engage in angry debate, we are causing the body to stumble and marring our witness to the world. When we allow ourselves to be sucked into the outrage culture that exists all around us, we are giving the enemy a foothold into our lives and creating fractures in an already broken body.
Think back to James and Paul. They had their disagreements. And apparently it was at least somewhat known throughout the Church that they didn't see eye to eye. But we have no record of either publicly disrespecting or justifying their own position over the other. They didn't allow their disagreement to breed anger and then allow that anger to gain a foothold.
The mission was too important.
The message was too valuable.
The body was too precious.
Let's rid ourselves of anger and bitterness. Let's deny it a foothold. Let's do better because the mission, message, and body are too important not to.
On episode 81, we talk with Angela Riedeman, the voice of the 200churches Podcast! Angela and her husband moved to our town four years ago. They moved here from Wisconsin, and began to look for a church. After about a four-month search, they decided to join our church. In this episode, we ask her why!
As you listen to this episode, ask yourself what you might hear from your own church members. Here are some of the questions we asked Angela...
NEXT WEEK we talk with Dave Jacobs about how to develop an outward focused church!
I'm about 2 years into this whole pastor thing, and I'm already forgetting what it's like to attend a church as a normal person who, you know, chooses to attend on Sunday mornings for a reason other than "this is my job."
How about you? How long has it been since you went pro with your church attendance? Do you remember what it was like to just be a regular person on a Sunday morning?
This week on the podcast we're talking to Angela, aka the voice of the 200churches Podcast, about what it's like to start attending a new church and the positives and, ahem, negatives that go along with that process. A big part of our conversation revolves around what it's like to have the "view from the pew" and what it's like for new people and young families in small churches.
If you're like me, it's difficult to put yourself in the mindset of what a visitor or new member of your church experiences on a typical Sunday morning. We all want our churches to be welcoming and inviting environments, but we're so far on the other end that it's tough to bridge the gap.
Wednesday's podcast is full of awesome content for pastors, but Jeff and I also got the added benefit of sitting with her and hearing her honest thoughts about our ministry. The podcast is awesome for our listeners, but Angela's insights were even better for me and Jeff!
This past week, I took a wilderness trip with some youth from our church and camped in the mountains of Colorado. It was the first time in 12 years that I had slept in a tent outside, and the first time in my life that I camped somewhere without running water, electricity, or even toilets. Yikes.
Facilitating the trip were some seasoned campers who spend at least 10 weekends a summer in tents on top of mountains. It was clear from our conversations that they had long ago worked through the various issues that I (very vocally) encountered as a newbie. Thankfully they extended a lot of grace to me in my struggles.
When it comes to church, I've become an experienced camper. Unfortunately, many people who are new or visiting your church won't be as vocal with their thoughts or issues as I was with my camping companions. To make up for that silence, we have to be diligent in seeking out the views of others.
My challenge to you is this: who can you sit down with from your church and have an honest conversation with regarding what the "view from the pew" is like at your church? Who can you take out to lunch and pick their brain? If you want to know what it's like to be a normal church attendee, go find one to talk to!
Don't let your familiarity with your church create blind spots for you. Get up, get out, and find someone who will help you see from a different angle!
Congratulations you guys! If you read this and watch the video, you will have seen my very first video tutorial ever! Pretty lame, but hey, we all have to start somewhere, right?
I am doing this on a whim, but I really do have a very cool feature to show you that can save you a lot of time in message prep if you use it!
So, go ahead and watch this HUGE two and a half minute narrated video by me. Over time, these will get better if we do more of them...
Jeff and Jonny absolutely LOVE recording and producing their podcast, but their greatest joy is knowing that they are providing you as a small church pastor with high octane encouragement each and every Wednesday! They have been at this for a while now, and today's episode, #80 is absolutely another grand slam with the leadership master, Dan "the Enforcer" Reiland!
(By the way, everything Dan shares in this episode, plus much more, is contained in his book, Amplified Leadership, which you can get here!)
They wanted me to tell you - EAT IT UP BABY! Jonny is off on a youth trip to Colorado this week while Jeff is slaving away in his very last week of his Master's program summer session. When he finishes on Sunday night, July 27, he will be D-O-N-E.
So they are having me, the 200churches Gnome, write the post for today. Jonny said to remind you that they are just two pastors, "no big fancy podcast budget" for professional transcripts and extensive and expansive links to online resources.
Jeff said that you just have to listen to the episode, and take notes. "There is a wealth of leadership encouragement here for the small church pastor" he said. That's about all he said, because he was pretty grumpy I was calling him in the middle of writing a paper. (I probably shouldn't have said that?)
They are going to be traveling and on vacation for the next few weeks, but they have done their work ahead of time, and recorded all the episodes through August 20th. Which, I think, is pretty impressive. I listen to podcasts for Gnomes, and a lot of these podcasts put up "best of" repeats in the summer. Not Jonny and Jeff!
In the coming weeks, they have Angela, the "voice of 200churches" in the studio for an episode, Coach Dave Jacobs talking about how to become an outward focused church, Nathan Stob, for his second appearance on the podcast talking about pornography addiction, and then they did an episode with just them, talking about their passion for small church ministry - I've listened to them all, and I liked them. But then again, I'm just a Gnome.
This episode is based on a blog post Dan Reiland wrote, and you can find it here.
Please enjoy Episode 80 of the 200churches Podcast. And if you talk with Jeff or Jonny, tell them you liked the Gnome!
Your primary, #1, above-all-else, first-and-foremost ministry in life is to your family.
There is no qualifier here. No "but," "or," or "and." There is no out-clause. No work around. No ifs, ands, or buts. You can be a pastor of 5 people or 5,000 people, but either way it's the same. Your primary ministry is to your family.
This week on the podcast we're talking to Dan Reiland, and as always the content is OFF THE CHARTS for pastors and leaders. Dan really is a never-ending source of amazing leadership lessons and encouragement and he has a HUGE heart for small church pastors.
But one part of our conversation is still stuck in my mind from when we talked a few months ago. (Sorry for the spoiler, but yes, we do record many of our episodes months ahead). He talked about taking a trip with his son to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Why does that stick out to me?
Because that's what really keeps Dan going. He loves leadership and training and mentoring, but when we asked Dan how he was doing and what he was up to, that's the story he told us.
This weekend Jeff's oldest son got married. Jeff is in the thick of his final and fullest semester of seminary and is up to his ears in school work. He's burning the candle at both ends and a little in the middle. It's incredible. But in the midst of it all, he carved out a whole bunch of quality time with his son this week. He shut out all the noise of school and ministry and was just dad to his son.
The church can burn. You can fail out of school. You cannot steal time from your family.
Tonight I read my son to sleep. That's not some incredible admission or me campaigning for a "Dad of the Year" trophy, it's something I do pretty much every night. And every night after he's snoozing soundly, I just stare at him a minute. And I take it in.
The church can burn. You can let the emails pile up. You cannot steal time from your family.
I encourage you to check out your life. Really. This isn't a guilt trip, it's just a check up.
How's your family? How's your primary ministry?
Are you a pastor first, or a dad/mom/husband/wife first? When all the chips are on the table, which side of the table are they on? If you're on the right track, stay there. If you've lost your way, today is the day to find your way back.
It was a Monday evening, and I was driving with my family. My mind was a blur. Every ounce of focus and concentration was gone.
Inside, I kept saying: “Pull it together, Paul! It’s not that big of a deal. What is wrong with you?” Then the tears started flowing uncontrollably, and they wouldn’t stop until I had cried myself to sleep several hours later.
Little did I know that I was just beginning to feel the effects of a full-blown breakdown.
My Spiral Downward.
Six months before, I was preaching three services every Sunday. I had recently become a police chaplain with our local department. Our church had just opened a coffeehouse in the center of the city, and it was bustling with ministry activity.
I also had started a master of divinity program at a local seminary. And did I mention I was married, with two preschool-age sons?
In hindsight, I know the Holy Spirit was working to get my attention. The first class of my master’s program was on addiction, and Jesus spoke loud and clear to me: I want to deal with your work addiction and perfectionism! I was clueless, however, about what that meant, and I failed to seek out the meaning.
Then a particularly frantic season began for me. A family member was in crisis, and I dove in to help. In the midst of that, a 17-year-old teen, whom I had baptized just months earlier, was diagnosed with leukemia. I often spent hours a day with him during his last four months as he fought for life.
After his memorial events, I was exhausted. I took a one-month self-imposed sabbatical, believing that would get me out from under the stress I’d been carrying. Not even close. After just one weekend back, I encountered that fateful Monday night.
A wise counselor told me that I didn’t get here overnight, and I wasn’t getting out of this overnight, either. So began a long process of God putting the pieces back together. His way. Following are some of the key things I learned during my journey.
Four Lessons I Learned
1. God speaks through our bodies and emotions. Imagine my discouragement when diagnosed with clinical depression. Now, envision my hope when I learned that depression is actually a gift from God—it’s a circuit breaker that forces the body to slow down before it starts blowing gaskets. Viewed with the Spirit’s discernment, this painful process can take us to places we would otherwise never go.
2. My spiritual maturity will never outgrow my emotional health. Figuring out why work addiction and perfectionism were issues in my life freed me to grow emotionally in ways for which my spirit was thirsting. God created us with emotions we must learn to express in healthy and life-giving ways that will release our spiritual maturity instead of stunting it.
3. I have my own God-given pace at which I am meant to live life. God designed each of us uniquely. Some people can thrive living life at a fast pace, others cannot. And that’s OK. Even Jesus knew when He needed to withdraw from the crowds; He knew His pace. Live yours!
4. Physical and emotional health go hand-in-hand with spiritual leadership. If your blood pressure is high, there’s a reason for it. If you can’t sleep well, that’s going to catch up with you. If your focus and concentration have run dry, or you find yourself shedding tears for no reason, those are real issues that you shouldn’t simply chalk up to spiritual warfare.
Being a healthy leader means walking in health in all areas of life, not just spiritually. Don’t wait until you have a full-blown breakdown. If you need help, reach out for it today.
There we were--surrounded by animal heads and piles of papers and books--getting ready to start recording. And I (Jonny) gave Doug the same advice I give all of our first-time guests: "Above all else, Doug, you just have to be yourself! Lots of people pick up the mic and drop their personality. Just be you and it'll be great."
He promised to do his best and Jeff hit record. "Welcome to the 200churches podcast!" I said in my best podcast-projection voice, when all of a sudden Doug interrupts:
"What happened to just be yourself!?"
Honestly, if there is one person in the world I don't have to tell to be himself, it's Doug Grogan. To know Doug is to love him and we are so excited to have him featured today on the podcast.
Our conversation with Doug primarily focused on the struggles that face pastors of small churches. Doug's perspective is amazing because he's been in the trenches as a small church pastor, and in his current role as the District Superintendent works primarily with pastors of 200churches.
One of my favorite things that Doug talked about was putting together a support system. As pastors, we need to have people we can be real with and share our struggle with. We're not meant to be lone rangers, and Doug encourages pastors to find a support system.
Another point that Doug makes repeatedly in the podcast is that pastors must practice patience. Take time, get to know people, learn the lay of the land. In other words, only fools rush in. Doug shares some great stories and examples of how patience can lead to healthier change.
This is a great podcast episode that you should share with every small church pastor you know! The "view from the top" that Doug offers is invaluable to the men and women serving in a 200church, and it is truly encouraging to hear his heart for small churches.
(When I was a kid, I attended a very small church. We met in a living room, a mobile home, and then a ranch style building. Today there is a larger church building on a hill at the edge of town – with oh, about 200 people attending. Imagine that.)
When I was about ten years old, the church had an outing to a small amusement park in our area. I was very excited to go on the biggest ride in the park – the roller coaster. Excited that is, until I got on it and it crested the first hill! I screamed like a girl until my breath could scream no more.
The entire ride found me clutching the youth leader who was next to me, screaming for him to make it stop. Big man I was. To this day I don’t like heights, and I would never go on a roller coaster. As a teenager, to impress my girlfriend, I got on one with her. I closed my eyes and screamed loudly on the inside during the ride. She never knew. I never again went on one… to this day.
Ups and downs, ups and downs. Let’s see now… hmmmm, what is like a roller coaster, with all of its ups and downs??
Hey! Pick me, pick me! I know, I know!
Yes, Jeffrey? Do you know?
I know… “Ministry!”
Very good Jeffrey! You get the gold star for knowing the right answer!
Just so you know you’re not crazy, Pastor, yes, ministry is full of ups and downs! If you’ve experienced that, don’t worry, you’re normal.
Just today I received both compliments and denigration, praise and criticism. Today I was both appreciated and taken advantage of. Today I was both cared for and ignored, understood and misunderstood. Today I was riding high on good things, and then hanging low in the depths of despair.
Now, to be fair, today was a little extreme, but it was still just another Sunday, nothing out of the ordinary. As a pastor, you just never know. You’re ready for anything, unless you’re not! Then you get blindsided. I got blindsided today.
I said I wouldn’t get blindsided anymore, but I did. I always expect the best, and many times receive the best, but people act like I act sometimes, like a person, a fallen person. I’m just like everyone else, I struggle to encourage others even as I want to be encouraged. But we keep trying, right?
So, Pastor, did you ride a little bit of a roller coaster this weekend? You did? Okay, fine then, you’re normal. Tell God about it, let him love you. Tell your husband or wife and perhaps a trusted advisor or friend, and then trust God with both the good and the bad.
We’re not like regular people, we’re pastors. We ride the roller coaster, and sometimes we close our eyes and scream inside, but we try not to let anyone know. Sometimes that’s good. We’re pastors, and we’ve committed our lives to making it all about others, not us. There’s good to that. Of course, stay healthy, don’t ignore your needs or your health, but it’s OK to make it about others, and just scream on the inside. J
So this seems like a strange post to me, but I somehow feel like all of you pastor friends will understand.
The one difference between the roller coasters I don’t ride anymore and the roller coaster that is ministry sometimes is this: I never get off the ministry roller coaster – it is my life calling. I love it. Yeah, so what, sometimes I scream. But I still love it. Wouldn’t want to do anything else.
God, help us to LOVE your sheep, just like you LOVE us pastors. They are beautiful and precious to you – and we get to love them, care for them, and feed them. Thank you God.
We have a fantastic podcast episode for you this Wednesday with Doug Grogan, the District Superintendent in charge of me and Jonny. Poor man. But he is a man of wisdom, humor, and grace – and has some awesomely wonderful words to share with all of us 200church pastors – this week on episode #79 of the 200churches Podcast!
Today I will drive Jonny to the airport. He has a very early morning flight out to a major Rocky Mountain destination. He’s going to visit a good friend. The other day he told me that he could not be more excited to spend just a couple days with this guy. There’s something about hanging out with a friend with whom you share a lot of history and many memorable experiences.
Lucky. I have a to stay home. I can’t go because… “I have homework to do!” Well, actually, I wouldn’t go anyway because I don’t even know the guy, and somebody has to stay and watch the store!
Relationships – that’s all there is to life. People who are important to us matter most.
Recently I thought about how you and I are often striving on the inside, trying to figure our ministry out. We’re trying to figure out how to lead our people, teach our people, organize our people, counsel our people, feed our people, grow them spiritually, etc. We feel the weight of leadership in the local church, and if the truth were told, on the inside – we’re just striving.
We, you and I, have a friend. His name is Jesus. Holy Spirit. Father. He is many things to us, but one of them is “Friend”. We serve him. We work for him. He owns everyone we shepherd. He owns them because he paid for them. If you pay, you own. Right? Yes. Right.
Now, why do we strive, Pastors? Why do we fuss on the inside? Why do we brood? Why do we worry? I know, “we” is you, and me. Why do I do these things?
I just wanted to take this Friday post to remind you that all of us pastors have a Friend. Our Triune God will work for us, fight for us, and one of them will fill us, while another prays to the Father on our behalf. He’s our Friend. We can hang out with him and ask him to help us stop
Jonny is hanging out with his buddy this weekend. A great friendship. Pure joy. How about we all hang out with our Friend this weekend too, and let him help us carry the load. Since, after all, it’s really his load. Let's not drive this road alone.
You’re a small church pastor – and you get to do this! Do it with love, class, and grace. Your pastoral work matters HUGE in the Kingdom of God. Your shepherding of your church family makes all the difference in their lives. To have a pastor who loves you and cares for you is a big deal ladies and gentlemen!
You know that you’re just you, and you mostly aren’t impressed – but to your people you’re the pastor. You’re a big deal. Be a big deal this weekend with your people, and may the big deal about you be that you’re marked by love and unselfishness.
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