Five Reasons Every Pastor Should Be A Writer

If you’re a pastor, then you should be writing. Ok, wait! Before you start with a list of excuses just hear me out (besides, I know all the excuses because I regularly used them to avoid my responsibility as a writer).

Truthfully, I have had an on-again, off-again relationship with writing since 2003. It’s something that I know I must do, even though maintaining the discipline to continue writing every week is challenging. Writing is first and foremost an act of sheer will. It’s not easy. But if you are a pastor I am fully convinced that it’s a necessary part of your ministry. Here’s why:

Expanding Your Audience

At first, this sounds self-serving. However, remember the Apostle Paul’s desire to go to great lengths to reach people for Christ. He said, “I have become all things to all people, that by all means, I might save some.” (1 Cor 9:22)

As a pastor, each week your audience is limited to the number of people that will attend your church on Sunday. That’s a problem because even if you could pack the building every single week there’s still a limit to how many chairs you can set up. And there’s even a limit to how many services you can hold.

These physical limitations are difficult to overcome, but by writing and publishing there is virtually no limit to how many people you can reach. Sure, it takes a while to build a good-sized audience, but it’s worth it.

Building a legacy

Here’s one of my frustrations as a pastor: I usually spend 10-15 hours praying about, thinking about, preparing, and writing a message to teach on Sunday morning. Then, when I’m done…it’s gone. Almost forever. No one may hear it again!

That’s a problem because I believe these messages to be God-ordained and important to the cause of Christianity. Not just to my parishioners but to Christians everywhere. I don’t want them to fade away forever.

A church and its leaders can have a great impact on the community both in terms of outreach and aid. But this is also true when it comes to the philosophy, doctrine, and teaching too.

As a pastor, your teaching is part of your “spiritual fingerprint” in the world. Allow those ideas to make an impression in the world through your writing.

As a pastor, your teaching is part of your 'spiritual fingerprint' in the world. Allow those ideas to make an impression in the world through your writing.Click To Tweet

Content Availability

As a pastor, you are in the business of creating fresh content every week. Literally, it’s your job to look into the scriptures and find innovative ways of communicating those important truths to your congregation. Like me, you take those ideas, format them to be captivating and interesting, and verbally deliver them in the form of a sermon.

While the sermon is meant to be spoken, those ideas can also become source material for your writing. Whether they become a book or a weekly blog, you have ready-to-go content on a regular basis. So, there’s no need to try to figure out what to write – just write what you are teaching.

There’s considerable evidence to suggest that much of the scripture we read each week on Sunday morning are parts of sermons, regularly given by the Apostle Paul. The book of Hebrews is one long sermon!

Note: you’ll notice that Sermon Series become great books, each sermon becoming a subsequent chapter of the book. This is one of the secrets of many ministry writers, from Timothy Keller to Chuck Swindoll.

It’s Inexpensive

Previously, getting published was difficult and expensive. It’s not that way anymore. A writer can publish a blog for a few dollars per month, if not for free. Platforms like Medium are also a great way to publish your thoughts.

Even if you desire to publish a printed book, self-publishing is so simple that there’s no reason not to do it.

Increased Opportunities

Without question, published authors have greater chances to impact their community through speaking engagements, teaching opportunities, and additional writing prospects. This can lead to a larger audience but also to financial blessings as well. Some may shun the financial rewards that may accompany a writing career, but for many in ministry, this can be a realistic way to supplement ministry in a small church.

So where are you in the process of becoming a writer? Have you tried and failed? If so, keep trying! Develop a regular routine and stick with it.

“so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.” (Isaiah 55:11)

Churches For The “Unchurched”

This is a guest post by fellow Tribe Writer, Melissa Joan Walker. Melissa is a teacher and writer. Her focus is the pursuit of spirituality and the search for God. You can read her work at melissajoanwalker.com. Get her free Ebook “20 Simple Ways to Connect with God (Even When You Don’t Believe)” by signing up for her email list. 


My friends and I are a liberal, unchurched bunch. But more and more of us are opting for church. Why? The usual reasons: We are looking for spiritual connection. We are looking for a spiritual home for our kids. We are looking for comfort in the painful world. We are looking for meaningful connection to our own inner life, and to something bigger than ourselves, to God, or, for those who aren’t sure, for a connection to SOMETHING.

What kinds of churches are we looking for?

Surprisingly, for a bunch of people who fancy themselves “independent” and “free-thinkers”, we are going pretty classical. Formal churches, rather than the new church movement is where most of my friends have landed.

The church I go to is Episcopalian. High Episcopalian, which means we have a lot of pomp and circumstance at our services. The dean goes up the middle aisle with the bible, holding it aloft. There’s incense. We are constantly kneeling and getting back up. I don’t know why.

It reminds me of one New Year’s Eve service I attended in Mexico. I don’t speak Spanish. I didn’t understand what was happening. The church was full of abuelas and teenagers dressed for a night out and babies.

The priest walked around the cathedral holding a baby aloft very seriously, a procession following him, and a solemn little girl in a pew a few rows ahead of us stared at us over her grandmother’s shoulder and made the sign of the cross. We couldn’t figure out if she thought she was the pope or that we were Satan.

And yet it was magical.

It was holy. The Spirit was present. I felt the mystery of the Lord, the mystery of creation, and, surprisingly, I felt my own place. I felt more sure of my own place in the midst of it all, in my confusion. I felt at home.

The Episcopalian church we go to now couldn’t be more different from the middle of the road Presbyterian congregation where I grew up. My parents dropped us off for church (that’s a sign about how important church really is), and it didn’t get much more controversial than the Golden Rule.

And to my childhood purist sensibilities, it was the most unchallenging version of the Golden Rule, too. Just love your neighbor, you know, by which we mean, just gossip behind closed doors and then drop off a casserole on important occasions.

But I looked for more righteous, less hypocritical congregations and found them wanting, too. After all, as the Buddhists say, I entered the temple to leave the world, and I found the world. Humans are humans everywhere, it turns out.

So, I left church. For a long time. It’s not hard to do. There are so many awesome things to do on a Sunday morning besides church.

TV called my name. Dating. College. Reading. Cleaning the house, and reading the newspaper. And you know brunch is on Sunday mornings, there’s a lot of good brunch to be eaten.

But then I got married. And before we got married, we started going to a church again. My husband grew up Unitarian Universalist so we started there. I liked the openness of the faith. I liked that there wasn’t a singular dogma but instead a set of principles at the core of the church.

But when our church changed pastors, the message was lost on me. Our Sunday attendance petered out.

When my son was born, we tried again. I want my son’s life to be easier than mine has been. I want him to have a rock solid faith to fall back on when life is too much for him. I want him to have what I couldn’t find in those churches.

So, now, some of my friends and I have settled into congregations, and most of us are at churches that are highly ritualized. Catholic. Jewish. Or, Episcopalian, like us.

God will let me know what I need to know, when I need to know it, and not before. @mjoanwalkerClick To Tweet

I like the mystery of the services. The ritual puts me in the right posture to hear God working in my life. Getting up and kneeling down over and over again, following along with the others, reminds me that, truly, I am on a “need to know” basis with God.

God will let me know what I need to know, when I need to know it, and not before.

I don’t need to know why we are standing or kneeling. I can just follow along in faith.

I am a part of the congregation. I don’t have to understand everything to be a person in good standing before God. God knows what’s going on, and that’s enough.

Five Ways To Make Your Sabbath Count

A while ago I was asked to be a part of a local pastor’s ordination ceremony. As a new pastor myself, this was a first for me and I was excited to be a part of it. That Sunday morning, I took my place on the stage with several other pastors. As the ceremony started, each of us was asked to share an encouragement–some bit of wisdom we had acquired during years of service as a minister. I had no idea they were going to ask me to say anything. I had not prepared for this! I racked my brain to think of something eloquent, something deep, something witty. But my mind was empty and I didn’t know what to say. When it was my turn to share the only thing that came out was, “Don’t forget to take your day off.” The audience laughed a little while other pastors smiled and nodded their heads.

That was almost 10 years ago and at the time I felt a little stupid. However, since then I’ve realized that it may be the most important thing I could have said. It is so important to make sure you take a Sabbath day of rest as a minister.

It takes practice to ensure that your day off is actually relaxing, refreshing and God-honoring.Click To Tweet

Don’t forget, taking a day off and honoring God is one of the 10 commandments. Yes, it’s that important. So, here are several pointers to make sure your day off is restful.

Turn Your Phone Off

This is difficult for some people to even comprehend, but if your congregation or ministry team calls and texts you at all hours of the day and night they will most likely call and text you on your day off too. Perhaps you’re disciplined enough to ignore those texts and let the calls go to voicemail, but I’m not. I would wonder what they needed and also worry that people felt ignored if I didn’t respond back quickly. To avoid that feeling, I just turn the phone off completely and focus on an interruption-free day. Then, when I begin work again the next day I turn my phone back on and receive a flurry of text messages and voicemails. I return each beginning with the following phrase, “I just saw your message, yesterday was my Sabbath so I had my phone turned off…” To date, no one has complained about this but quite the opposite. They are glad to know that their pastor is willing to observe one of the 10 commandments faithfully.

Avoid Social Media & the News

Studies have proven that Facebook is depressing and most other social networks aren’t much better. Most of the news is pretty depressing too. I’m not saying that we should ignore the plight of people on social networks and the news completely. I’m just saying that it’s not something to focus on during your day off. Perhaps Paul said it best in Philippians, “whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” So, rather than wake up and update your Facebook status, scroll through Twitter, and see what’s happening in Washington, it’s much better to wake up and focus on the beauty of nature, or scripture, or just about anything else.

Eat Healthy

One of the biggest challenges that I have on my day off is eating good, healthy meals. In the past, when I was less intentional about taking a good Sabbath, I would wake up late, eat whatever I could find, and spend the day lolling around with no purpose. Once I began to realize the purpose of Sabbath, to recharge and refill my tank spiritually, emotionally, and physically, I take the time to prepare good and healthy meals that make me feel better and prepare me for a week of hard work taking care of other people.

Take A Nap

My wife always says “catching up on sleep is a myth.” Perhaps she’s right even though I hope it’s possible. On my day off I really enjoy a good nap. I enjoy a good nap on other days too! But, while the regular challenges of day-to-day life in ministry rarely affords you the chance to catch a few extra moments of sleep, a day off is a perfect excuse to sleep in the middle of the day.

Do The Opposite of Your Work

Some people really don’t like to do “nothing” all day. It’s difficult for them to envision the idea of “sitting around” or “relaxing” by doing nothing. For some, it’s important to keep moving. If that is true of you I suggest that you see your Sabbath as a way of doing something that is not associated with the work that you normally do. I think this is the spirit of the 4th commandment anyway. As a pastor, I spend most of my week talking with people, listening to their struggles, and offering encouragement and prayer. So on my day off I try to do the opposite. I work on my cars, or I write (it’s my day off today) or I golf. Sure, it’s activity, but it’s different than what I do most of the week. It recharges me.

No matter what you choose to do on your day off, I encourage you to follow the fourth commandment to the best of your ability. We need good people in ministry to be recharged and refreshed each week in order to face the challenges of working with people.

Make Your Goals A Reality With This Planner

Note: this is a non-paid endorsement. I love this planner and I think you might like it too. That’s why I’m writing about it.


I’ve just discovered the Full Focus Planner and I love it. Designed by Michael Hyatt, the Full Focus Planner is a great tool to help you stay focused and productive while achieving your goals. Here’s why it works.

It’s Analog, Not Digital

According to Hyatt, research shows the value of so-called analog activities – essentially anything that does not involve a digital medium. Analog tasks like reading books, drawing, and handwriting are essential to help the brain concentrate while producing better memory and higher levels of focus. This rings true for me. I love sitting in a quiet place, figuring out my day, writing notes, lists, and ideas with ink and paper.

Granted, Hyatt suggests using a hybrid approach to planning, which involves the Full Focus Planner in addition to iCal or Google calendar and apps like Nozbe.

Goals Are Highly Prioritized

One of the key features of the planner is the priority it places on creating and setting goals for the day, week, weekend, quarter, and year. For the week and day, you decide on your “big 3,” these are the things that must be done this week or day. These tasks are often derived from the goals and objectives spelled out in your monthly and quarterly tasks.

It makes sense to me. For the longest time, I floated through my day without aim, just handling tasks before they became emergencies. Meanwhile, I was ignoring my own professional and personal goals. There’s nothing wrong with having goals but they only become reality when you create a plan to reach them. According to Antoine de Saint-Exupery, “a goal without a plan is only a wish.” So True.

Training Videos Included

One of the things I have appreciated is the additional video tutorials that Hyatt makes available for purchasers of the planner. There are 12 videos in all and they cover everything from best practices to creating daily rituals for morning and night. So much of what is included in the tutorial seems obvious but organized so that what seems obvious is now effective. It’s more than a Moleskine journal or notebook–it’s a system.

It’s High Quality

This planner looks amazing. It’s just the right size, with a beautifully bound cover, thick ivory-colored pages, and two smart book-mark ribbons that complement the package. It’s thicker than a traditional Moleskine but much smaller than a Franklin Planner or some type of binder-based planner that can be purchased at Office Depot or Target.

If there is a drawback to the system it’s that it only covers 3 months. That being said, a planner system like this would have to be about the size of an encyclopedia in order to last a whole year. It’s a little pricey, $37 each, but well worth it.

For those of you that are reading, I recommend you check it out.

3 Good Reasons To Leave Your Church

Leaving Church

They say, “all good things must come to an end.” Often, that is true when it comes to the relationship you have with your church family. Leaving is never easy but in some cases it is necessary.

In a previous post, I suggested that there were some very terrible reasons for leaving a church. But, are there any good reasons to leave a church? Yes, there are plenty, and here are three:

Spiritual Abuse

If the leaders of your church use biblical pressure tactics to coerce or manipulate you in any way, it’s time for you to move on. I have heard of pastors that twist the Bible in order to guilt people into serving or giving money. I have seen pastors and leaders who reduce Christianity to a list of rules that must be followed by their congregation at all costs. When their followers fall short of these regulations they are shamed, disgraced, and penalized — often publicly.

This is nothing new and Jesus opposed these types of leaders. In Matthew 23:4 he said, “They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to move them with their finger.” He criticized the Jewish leaders for holding their followers to a higher standard than even they were able to follow.

Spiritual abuse is a dangerous trend and is often disguised as the pursuit of holiness. Of course, being holy is something that all believers should aspire to (1 Peter 1:14–16), but our desire to live a Christ-like life should flow from our desire to please God, not the pastor.

Our desire to live a Christ-like life should flow from our desire to please God, not the pastor.Click To Tweet

Teaching That Is Unbiblical

When someone in the congregation says, “I’m not being fed,” it usually means they don’t like the preaching in their church. Sometimes their reasons for not liking the preaching are superficial. For example, they don’t think the pastor is funny enough, or his/her sermons are too long, or they don’t appreciate their style.

But there are occasions when a pastor falls short of their call to teach the Word accurately and consistently. Defective teaching is harder to judge, considering the wide variety of teaching styles and methods. But, if you notice that your teaching pastor consistently avoids using the Bible during his/her messages, turns every single message into a political statement, or adds their own ideas to the gospel, you should be on high alert.

The Apostle Paul faced this exact situation on a number of occasions. He wrote to the church in Galatia to warn them about perverting the gospel through false teaching. He said, “but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ” (Gal 1:7) A few verses later he says they should be cursed!

If your church leaders are preaching any gospel other than the simple truth of Jesus Christ, Son of God, crucified and raised for your sins to the eternal glory of God — it’s time to go.

Your Gifts are Needed Elsewhere

On a more positive note, there are times when there is no controversy and no abuse, however, the gifts and talents that you have been given are needed more in a different congregation.

About 7 years ago a good friend and member of our worship band came to me and told me he was leaving our church. He loved our church family and everything about the congregation. However, he felt called to be a part of the worship team at a smaller church across town. Since our music team was well-stocked with talented musicians and theirs was not, he knew his talents would make a bigger impact for the gospel in their church. We blessed him and his family as he left, knowing that he was leaving for the right reasons.

If you are a follower of Christ then you have been given a gift (1 Peter 4:10). Are you are using that gift to its fullest potential at your church? If not, find out how to get involved so that you can strengthen your church family and be a part of the gospel’s forward movement. However, if your gift is needed in a different church, then pray and ask God if it’s time to go. While it may be difficult to leave your church family, it’s always the right idea to follow God’s call, even if that means saying goodbye to a church you love.

What do you think? Do you agree or disagree? Have you been a part of a church that abused its congregation? If you have let me know in the comments section. I would love to hear from you.

3 Terrible Reasons To Leave Your Church

leaving church leave

I have been a pastor for almost 15 years. In that time I’ve seen my share of people leave our church. Sometimes they go nicely, and for good reason. Other times they leave in a hail storm of controversy and bitterness.

Believe it or not, sometimes leaving a church is the right thing to do. Often times though, people leave for very bad reasons and when they do they cause damage to the body of believers.

Here are the 3 worst reasons you can give to leave your church body:

The Music Is Too Loud

Over the years I’ve heard this one more than a few times. If this is the only issue you have with a church it shouldn’t be enough to cause your exit. In almost every church in America (certainly every church under 300 people), the band and sound team are made up of volunteers. These well-meaning and dedicated men and women are not professional audio engineers. They are usually well-meaning folks trying to do their best on Sunday morning.

If the sound is legitimately too loud then I suggest you do a couple things:

First, volunteer to be a part of the sound team! That way, with your hand on the control knob you’ll be able to make sure the sound is just perfect for you. But be aware, you’ll likely field a number of other complaints such as, “I couldn’t hear my son’s guitar at all” or “why isn’t my daughter’s voice louder?”

Second, you could simply purchase an inexpensive pair of sound reducing ear plugs! I’m being serious. There’s no shame in doing this – especially if you love everything else about your church family.

I’m Just Not Getting Fed

Not only is this a bad reason for leaving your church, it’s not biblical. Actually, uttering the phrase “I’m not getting fed” reveals a lot about your lack of spiritual maturity. Only a spiritually immature Christian would think it’s the job of the pastors or ministry leaders to hand-feed them. As a believer, the goal is to feed yourself.

The writer of Hebrews illustrates this clearly by calling out the Jewish believers for their lack of understanding and for having the inability to feed themselves. He/she says, “For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food… (Heb 5:12)” We all know that babies drink milk while adults eat solid food. Infants are hand-fed, but eventually learn to eat on their own. Spiritually speaking, it’s obvious – mature Christians should be able to feed themselves. In that way, the church is less of a restaurant and more of a kitchen. The teacher makes the food (teaching) available and perhaps even combines the ingredients (draws conclusions, points out an application, etc.), but the mature believer does the work.

The church is less of a restaurant and more of a kitchen Click To Tweet

Even if you think the preaching is subpar or if you’re not 100% interested in every topic your pastor chooses, as long as the Bible is open you should be able to get something out of it. You might just have to do some of the chewing.

The Church Is Full Of Hypocrites

Well, that’s just stupid. Yes, the church is full of hypocrites. It’s full of liars, drunks, and cheaters too. Complaining about a church being full of sinners is like complaining about too many sick people being in a hospital. Sick people belong in a hospital and sinners belong in a church!

Complaining about a church being full of sinners is like complaining about too many sick people being in a hospital. Click To Tweet

If you leave your church hoping to avoid hypocrites then you’ll never find a church home. Every church is full of men and women who are recovering from the effect of sin in their lives. When Paul wrote to the church in Ephesus he said, “put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness. (Eph 4:22-24)” Obviously, Paul has to say this because it’s not exactly happening–the people need a reminder. And guess where they are? In the church!

If you feel the need to leave a church because it’s full of hypocrites then the best thing to do is take a good look in the mirror. There’s a good chance you have a plank in your eye! (Matt 7:5)

So, are there reasons to leave a church? Of course! There are several good reasons to leave but they are all Biblical reasons. Stay tuned, I will write an article called, “3 Biblical Reasons To Leave Your Church” next week.

Behind Your Pastor’s Smile

This is a guest post by fellow Tribe Writer, Alicia T. Rust. Alicia is a writer and an educator and she writes to shine light on the day-to-day struggles of mental health battles. You can read her work at lifesodaily.com. Be sure to sign up for her email list for updates.


Wedding day…baptism…hospitalization…death in the family…emotional or spiritual crisis.  Whom do you contact?  Most likely, your pastor.  A pastor’s life includes emotional events of other people’s lives. They are invariably expected to be on call.

In addition, they attend meetings, write sermons, lead services, support and oversee the running of the church, and show leadership in all they do through their expected higher standard of behavior. The perpetual work of helping others can be emotionally and physically depleting.  Due to such a schedule, ministers generally neglect regular exercise, personal devotions, and relaxation; taking time for oneself is tethered to guilt.

Numerous people feel burn-out within their careers, and pastors are no different.  Inevitably, depression can set in.  Today, an increased number of pastors are on antidepressants. Thom Rainer mentions that most are “reticent to say anything about their depression lest they be viewed as … unable to help others.” They are not protected from the stigma of mental illness. Part of this stigma includes believing that those with mental illness have little value. Yet, having a mental illness doesn’t automatically mean one cannot be high-functioning.

In order to turn coping into healing, begin with seeking help. Not only can counseling and medication be beneficial, but self-care is of utmost importance. Taking a day of rest makes sense, yet most pastors don’t allow themselves to do so.  Their ministry swallows them up. They choose to serve others 24/7 to their own detriment, and their congregants are unaware of the effect they may be having on their pastor’s health.  They take their spiritual guides for granted…calling upon them only when needed.

Furthermore, pastors often feel isolated even when surrounded by people because these relationships are generally not reciprocal. A sense of social isolation can lead to depression, anxiety, and emotional exhaustion. A study by researchers from Duke University, Azusa Pacific University and the University of New Mexico found that clergy who are supported in their times of need and are shown appreciation are more likely to be satisfied in their ministry and have a higher quality of life. I find it astonishing that we needed a research study for us to realize this. Is it not common sense? Showing appreciation allows a person to feel significant and loved.

Have you ever had a friend in direct sales who is constantly pushing products on you? It’s a turn off. We start feeling as though we’re no longer being valued as a friend but for what we can provide for their sales.  So, quit endlessly taking from your pastor, and begin to give back.

Make every day Pastor Appreciation Day. Here are a few suggestions…

  • Take your pastor to lunch!
  • Write a letter explaining how God has used him/her in your life.
  • Offer your services (bring a meal, mow the lawn, assist with odd jobs)
  • Support your church financially
  • Remember your pastor on his/her birthday, Christmas, and other holidays
  • Offer event tickets or gift cards
  • Add to his/her personal library
  • Serve in the church
  • Sit up front during a service! (I’m sure a seat is available!)
  • After a service, comment on something specific from the sermon; don’t just say it was “great.”
  • Honor your pastor with an appreciation party!
  • Encourage a day of rest, a sabbatical, or a vacation.

Religiously showing appreciation (ᵔᴥᵔ) (rather than solely during our own poignant life circumstances) lets your pastor feel valued and strengthens relationships. Become fluent in appreciation by practicing it often.

1 Timothy 5:17 (NIV)

“The elders who direct the affairs of the church well are worthy of double honor, especially those whose work is preaching and teaching.”

How To Be A Better Listener: 3 Simple Tips

Every ministry leader needs to be a good listener. Unfortunately, listening is a lost art. This is especially true in an era where opinion and individualism are valued over practically everything else. Everyone wants to be heard, but it seems that few want to listen.
 
The challenge for ministry leaders and pastors is that we should be the listeners for our followers and flock. It’s taken me a while to figure out how to be a better listener, and while I still struggle from time to time I have learned a few simple methods to help be a better listener.

Stop Talking

I remember when I was about 20 I was having a conversation with an older gentleman about music outside after church. After 10 minutes of my non-stop talking, he finally said, “Will you please shut up? It’s not much of a conversation if you don’t let me talk too!”
 
That was a wake-up call for me. Suddenly I understood, it’s frustrating for the other person if you don’t let them speak.

So, when you’re listening to someone, stop talking. Completely. And if you do decide to speak, ask follow up questions that allow the other person to elaborate on what they are saying. Even better, paraphrase what the other person is saying back to them. This lets them know that you are listening and understanding their point of view.
 
Perhaps the Apostle James said it best, “Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak…” (James 1:19)

Body Language

The posture of a listener is also important. If you’re seated while listening, lean forward. This tells the other person that you are interested. Eye contact is critical too. Look at the person that is speaking to you, not past them. Also, be wary of body language that signals boredom or loss of interest. Don’t fidget with your hands, don’t look at your watch, and please, please do not look at your phone.
Good listening is about putting the needs of other people first. It’s really about humility. Allowing another person to take center stage in a conversation is challenging. The Apostle Paul writes about the model of humility in Philippians 2:3-4, “…in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” He says this is how Jesus acted toward others and we should too. Imagine what a good listener Jesus must’ve been!

Be Patient

This might be the hardest part of listening. Good listening takes time. The challenge for ministry leaders and pastors is that we feel like we don’t have a lot of time and so we aren’t always the best listeners.
 
Plenty of times I have sat with people who are sharing challenges and problems in their lives with me. Often, they don’t get to the point right away. In my head, I think, “get to the point so I can solve your problem quickly!” But helping them “solve” their problems is not why they’ve come to see me. Isn’t it God’s responsibility to solve problems anyway? They just want to be heard.
 
Eugene Peterson says, “Pastoral listening requires unhurried leisure, even if it’s for only five minutes. Leisure is a quality of spirit, not a quantity of time. Only in that ambiance of leisure do persons know they are listened to with absolute seriousness, treated with dignity and importance.” (Read Eugene Peterson’s article at Christianity Today)
 
The brother of Jesus wrote, “Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed” (James 5:16). Notice that he is not saying you’ll be forgiven (that comes from God), but healed. There is something very powerful that happens when we talk to each other about our problems, challenges, and sins.

Mevo: An Affordable Option for Streaming Worship

You’ve probably seen some of the mega-churches broadcasting their worship services and wished you could do the same. For years, I wondered if we would ever be able to afford the technology ourselves.

As a church of 200 or so, it didn’t seem possible until we stumbled onto Mevo, an out of the box option that makes it easy to broadcast just about anything.

Mevo Camera

How It Works

The Mevo camera is small–about the size of a baseball. It connects to your wifi signal and to your phone, which enables you to stream video to Facebook and Youtube (as well as other services).

If you want to take your production to the next level you can send the signal to LiveStream, Mevo’s software solution that allows you to create a professional production by integrating other cameras, graphics, and social media into the feed. The battery lasts about 1 hour and charges via USB. Additional add-ons are available that allow for 10 hours of battery life.

Automation Makes It Professional

The most amazing thing about Mevo is the automation that comes with the software. The camera is able to detect faces and make flawless transitions between people that are on stage. For example, if you have a 5 piece worship team on stage, the Mevo will figure out how many people are involved and cut back and forth between them, all the while including group shots throughout. It seems unbelievable but it looks really professional! See an example of this.

Mevo Is Affordable

The price is $399 at Amazon for the starter setup. Truthfully, this is all you need to go live. If you want to extend the battery life and add a few bells and whistles to your setup then you can grab the “Pro Bundle” which includes the power boost and a case.
Considering the cost of an average professional camera these days and anything less than $1,000 seems like a steal.

If you decide to stream your worship services live then check out Mevo. So far it’s been working great and we plan to unveil our streaming worship service in about a month. For the cost, I think it’s a no-brainer. Check on your internet connection, you’ll need at least 1.5Mpbs to broadcast in standard mode, and about twice that to broadcast in HD.

This post contains affiliate links, which means I receive a small commission from Amazon if you make a purchase using this link. This is at no extra cost to you.

3 Reasons Why People Lose Their Faith

I’m a notorious loser. But not in the way you are thinking. See, I lose things. I lose my keys and my phone just about every day. I can never find my computer power cord. I couldn’t tell you the last time I owned a pair of sunglasses for more than a week or two.

But it’s one thing to lose your keys, and it’s another thing to lose your faith. Replacing your keys (though troublesome) is possible. Replacing your faith is much more challenging.

There are a lot of reasons that people walk away from their beliefs. Each person has their own set of motives, I’m sure. But in my experience as a minister over the last many years, there are three reasons I see most often.

The Teaching Is Too Hard to Understand

In John 6, there is a fascinating exchange between Jesus and his followers. In verse 56 Jesus says, “Those who eat my body and drink my blood live in me, and I live in them.” This must have been the first time many of his followers heard anything like this and they didn’t like it. According to John, they said, “This teaching is hard, who can accept it?” After that, many of them stopped following Jesus.

Of course, Jesus was speaking in spiritual terms. The followers, who had recently feasted on the miraculous loaves and fishes, thought Jesus was being literal.

Today, a lot of people decide to walk away from their faith the moment they can’t understand every tiny detail. To them, if God cannot be rationalized and categorized then they can’t believe.

It’s okay to have questions if you’re a believer. It’s ok to have gaps in your belief.

Faith is what lies in the gap between what you know and what you don’t know yet.Click To Tweet

You would think that because I’m a pastor I don’t have any doubts or questions about my faith. I have tons! There are many things I don’t understand, but I know that one day I will.

The Lifestyle Is Too Hard To Follow

Can we be honest? It’s hard to be a good Christian. It’s tough to forgive others. It’s challenging to be patient with people. And it’s near impossible to forgive in all situations.

My default mode is to be selfish–to look out for #1. But following Jesus means that we need to act opposite of our selfish ways. We should put others first. We should turn the other cheek when wronged. We should be patient with people. It’s just much, much easier not to.

In Matthew 7:13, Jesus said we should “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many.”

The narrow gate is the harder path to navigate. The wide gate is easy to enter. Anyone can do it.

Frankly, people give up on Christianity because they thought it would be easy. Someone must have told them that when they decided to follow Jesus life would be a cinch. Sorry, the opposite is true. Those who decide to place their faith in Christ face an uphill battle. They must suppress their fleshly desires and seek God and his desires.

I realize that I’m not painting a rosy picture of Christianity here but I’m being honest.

People leave Jesus because it’s harder to believe than not to.Click To Tweet

The People are Too Difficult To Live With

Of all the people I’ve known that have fallen away from Jesus, most have left because of other Christians. They’ve been mistreated, spiritually abused or exploited, taken advantage of, and lied to.

Maybe you’ve felt this way too? Perhaps you trusted someone who professes to be a “Christian” but acts like the devil. You may feel betrayed and rejected by them and so you turn your back on God.

Remember that Jesus was betrayed too. He was rejected. In the gospel of John, chapter 6, Jesus asked his disciples, “Did I not choose you, the twelve? And yet one of you is a devil.”

Jesus knew that Judas would betray him and yet, he still chose him. Do you ever wonder what it was like for Jesus to spend three years with Judas, the whole time knowing that Judas would sell him out? And yet, during the last supper, Jesus washed the feet of all his disciples. That included Judas, his betrayer. What an incredible picture of love and acceptance.

So, What To Do?

I know that it’s tempting to abandon faith because a few of the “faithful” are poor examples of Christianity. But don’t. Remember that Jesus accepted Judas. Remember that Jesus died for everyone, including those who left him because his teaching was “too hard.”

Learn to rely on Christ for guidance on the narrow path. Lastly, learn to be comfortable not understanding everything. After all, the prophet Isaiah quoted God as saying, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD.”