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Posts Tagged: ministry

The Impact of TLI in Four Minutes

Sep. 22, 2016By: Darren CarlsonAuthor Bio
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Second-Handing and Your Bag of Tricks

Sep. 1, 2016By: Darren CarlsonAuthor Bio

Some of the best advice I have ever received came from my advisor Scott Manetch in seminary. He warned me not to use a "bag of tricks" when I got into ministry.  He explained how most pastors stay at a church for 3-4 years and then move on.  One reason, he suggested, was because many pastors only had three years worth of sermons, ideas and programs in their bag of tricks. When the pastor ran out he would move on to another church and recycle everything again.

The root of this (I think) is being a second-hander.  We may push children to make their faith their own, but pastors seemingly must do the same.  Here are seven signs that you are setting yourself up to be or already are a second-hander.

1.  In school, when you are assigned an exegesis paper, you run to the commentaries and your conclusion first.  You short-circuit your own work and effort by not staring at the text over and over again.  Time is of the essence so you hurry through the process.  The result - you have just written a paper on Romans 8 that is almost identical to Doug Moo's commentary.  You get a good grade, you learned something about the text, but you skipped the process of learning.

2.  Speaking of languages, you rely on your computer software to parse everything for you.  Even when called upon in class, you look hard into your computer screen and then say what the program tells you.  Teachers would be smart to not allow computers in exegesis classes!

3.  You get assigned a text to preach and you immediately go to The Gospel Coalition and Desiring God websites for help. You listen to a few sermons, make an outline, add a personal story and boom, you are done!  Funny thing - it sounds just like John Piper's sermon last week.  I remember being in preaching lab while in seminary and three people had the same sermon.  To say pastors continue to use other people's sermons in an unhelpful way is an understatement.  Just read here. By the time you preach on Sundays, your sermons really are just insights from your three favorite preachers.  

4.  You would rather read book reviews than books, books about the Bible instead of the Bible,and books on prayer instead of praying. Books reviews are helpful. So are commentaries and books on prayer. But these are secondary sources, not primary.  

5.  You rely on what you learned 10 years ago instead of what you learned over the last 10 years. The Bible is not fresh. All of your insights are from mentors and teachers before they unleashed you on the Church.  You may have bought books at a conference or from a great online deal, but you only read a few, if you are lucky!

6.  When you awake in the morning, you run to the blogs and news to hear what people say about Scripture instead of reading it for yourself.

7. All of your ideas are someone elses.  This includes ideas for what your church is involved in. This isn't necessarily a bad thing. It is bad if you find that you are reduplicating the same plan in different contexts with different people.  

I believe what happens in the process of using secondary sources first, is that you become a caricature of what you had hoped to become.  You imagine yourself to know far more than you do. But honestly, the roots of Scripture are only an inch deep. You can not be a firmly planted tree by streams of water without delight and meditation. One thinks of the end of C.S. Lewis's Four Loves as he reflects on his own experience of God:

God knows, not I, whether I have ever tasted this love.  Perhaps I have only imagined the tasting.  Those like myself whose imagination far exceeds their obedience are subject to a just penalty; we easily imagine conditions far higher than any we have reached.  If we describe what we have imagined we may make others, and make ourselves, believe that we have really been there.

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Remembering the Day I Was Fired

Apr. 22, 2016By: Darren CarlsonAuthor Bio

In the spring of 2008 I was brought into the principal’s office. I had been teaching at a Christian school for two years, where I had started working after I graduated from seminary. The first 18 months had gone really well and I truly enjoyed what I was doing. I had seen kids come to Christ, enjoyed teaching the students, loved coaching the basketball team, and was privileged to serve as a board member. At home, my wife and I had just welcomed our second child into the home we bought in 2006. However, the last six months had been pretty difficult and in the morning of a spring day I was asked to resign. We all know what that means - I was being fired. 

It is hard now to recapture exactly what happened. I write with eight years of perspective. The day will forever be ingrained in my mind. Getting called in. Sitting with friends who were letting me go. Telling my wife I was being fired from my first vocational ministry job. I had heard that only 1 in 5 people that graduated from seminary were in vocational ministry after five years. Would I be a casualty? Would people think less of me and wonder whether I was competent or qualified to serve in a role I had been trained to do? Most of what I say below would apply to all types of firing, but I am speaking specifically about being fired from a vocational ministry position for reasons other than significant moral failure or cut backs - I’m talking about the hard and unclear cases.

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The allegations, whatever they are, are probably not 100% false

The last six months of my job were difficult. I needed to wade through all that was being said about me and learn. Even if 99% of it was false, some of it was probably true and even if it was minor I needed to mature. Do some pastors get sifted by their people even though they are 100% in the right? Yes, but it is rare. I have sat with many people who have been let go from ministry positions, and as they have told me their stories I have usually been able to see why the whole thing went south, even if they can not see it yet. It took me some time, but I Iearned quite a bit about leadership, personal interaction, clarity in speaking, keeping better attention to details, and much more.

Submit to Authority

Almost everyone is under the authority of someone else. It is easy to submit when you agree with the decisions being made, but the true test of submission is whether you can submit to decisions you do not agree with. I am not talking about submitting to immoral decisions. Over the course of a job we are bound to disagree with someone making decisions in leadership. I am sure I could have reasoned that what was happening was unjust. Maybe I could have reasoned they were my enemies and prayed the imprecatory Psalms over them. Maybe I could count it as persecution. Maybe I could have planted seeds of discord in the staff, parents, and students and try a divide and conquer strategy. 

Or not.

“Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.” Does Romans 13:1 only apply to the government rulers? I don’t think so.

Let no bitter root grow

Being fired by a Christian brother or sister is a terrible experience. I was sitting in a room with four people who took little pleasure in letting me go. They knew what it meant for my young family. Some of them were and still are close friends. I had actually taught or coached three of the four’s children. We had a relationship. They were parents, spouses and friends. They had prayed for me and the person who made the decision thought he was making the best possible decision.

There were also the colleagues - those who liked me and were on “my side” and those that were not. Again - all believers for whom Christ had died. For me, Hebrews 12:14-15 came to mind: “Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.” Even for the people who treated me terribly, I was responsible before God to be at peace with others and not let bitterness grow. 

Eight years later I can say that I have prayed with all four of the people that were in the room with me and keep in contact with two of them. As for the others who pushed for me to leave, I have prayed for reconciliation but life has taken us different places and I have no idea where they are. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God (Matt 5:9).

As a man and the only one who received income for work, this was especially important for my family. I needed to provide a safe and calm environment for my wife and kids. They needed me to not be angry, anxious, or full of contempt. They needed me to lead.

If it keeps happening, you really need some perspective from others your trust

I got some good advice from a wise man when this happened. He told me that if this only happened once it was not a big deal. If it happened again it was a cause for concern. If it happened 3-4 times it was a big red flag.

If you constantly find yourself being let go from ministry positions it is probably a sign that you need some perspective and feedback. It could be that you are not cut out or gifted for the type of jobs you are applying for. You may be taking jobs beyond your competency. You might need to learn to actually love people and not just on your own terms. It could be that you don’t know how to discern a situation that is a good fit for you. Whatever it is, find some friends and get some perspective. 

The Lord will take care of you, even if it’s your own fault

I had an immediate problem in that I had no job in April of 2008, which was beyond the hiring cycle for most churches and schools. It’s difficult to not be anxious when you walk into your home you purchased right before the market crash, look into the eyes of your wife who had just had a baby and tell her you were fired. Would the Holy Spirit carry me through?

In June of that year, I pitched the idea of Training Leaders International to a pastor at the church I attended. In July, I began an interim pastorate that lasted two years. And though the Lord extracted quite a bit of flesh from me, TLI was launched and now serves pastors around the world. 

The firing taught me a lot about myself, which the Lord used to shape me. The pastorate was one of the greatest blessings of my life. Now I am in a position where I have to ask people I love to resign. It is painful, and I remember what it was like to receive the news

The truth is, TLI would not exist if I had not been fired, nor would I have been ready to lead it. So Lord - thank you for firing me from a job I loved.

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A Distraction for Pastors?

Oct. 9, 2015By: Darren CarlsonAuthor Bio

Lifeway Research recently polled over 1000 pastors on the biggest distractions they face. The most significant distraction – dealing with critics.

slide3Here are the numbers:

•79% of pastors say critics distract them from their ministries. Nearly 40% strongly agree that they do.
•Though pastors of all church sizes felt this way, pastors of churches with over 250 in worship attendance were more likely to struggle with the critics.
•48% of pastors say conflict among staff and/or key lay leaders is a significant distraction.
•Pastors in the South are more likely to have conflict among staff and/or key lay leaders than pastors in other regions.

It is a fascinating find, because a distraction is classified as something that is not part of what you should be doing. For example, to say problem solving is a distraction if your job is to be a leader, would be to dismiss part of your job description.

Everyone who has ever lived has had to deal with conflict. Christians tend to flee it through denial or flight, but those responses tend to makes things worse. Conflict is an opportunity for ministry if done well. A distraction? Sometimes. Moments for ministry? Always.

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Support Raising: God’s Amazing Provision for Ministry

Aug. 10, 2015By: Weymann Lee

When I began to consider retiring after 35 years of pastoral ministry and my wife and I began seeking the Lord’s will for our next ministry, little did we realize that He had already been preparing our hearts over the past number of years.  I had had the privilege to be a part of several short-term ministry trips to other countries to help train national pastors and church leaders, most of whom have little to no theological training. God ignited a passion in our hearts for the training of these pastors and leaders; and as we sought out His leading for our “retirement”, we sensed that He was leading us to this specific kind of ministry.

Our Struggle

As we began to prepare for this new ministry opportunity, we knew for certain that we would need to raise support. In other words, we would be missionaries. Having only been in the pastoral ministry, I have never had to raise support since churches generally provide a salary for their pastors. 

please-giveAs much as we love the work of missions and have always been supportive of missionaries, we knew that becoming missionaries ourselves was going to be a challenge. It meant that we would have to go around and ask people for money, an idea that neither of us were comfortable with or eager to do. We also knew that raising support would take time; we knew many missionaries who spent a number of years raising support before they could even begin serving in the field.  At this point in our lives and ministry, we wanted to transition into our next ministry as soon as possible.  

Ultimately, raising support became the one factor that held us back from wholeheartedly pursuing the ministry that God had put on our hearts.

God’s Reminder

After much time spent thinking, praying, reading about raising support, and seeking counsel, the Lord reminded us of the following:

1) If we wanted to be involved in a ministry of training national pastors, we would have to raise support. There was no other choice. 

2) Raising support for ministry is clearly taught and modeled in Scripture. (Matthew 10:9-10; Acts 18:4-5; 1 Corinthians 9:1-18; Philippians 4:18; 1 Timothy 5:18). Therefore, it’s not wrong to ask people to financially support our ministry.

3) Being a missionary is, in reality, no different from being in the pastoral ministry. As a pastor, our family had been supported financially by the giving of a local body of believers. As missionaries, we would be supported financially by the giving of believers within the body of Christ.

4) If God truly called us to this ministry, He would perfectly provide for all of our needs. God alone could move the hearts of His people to support our ministry.  It was not our responsibility to persuade or convince others. This was a liberating truth for us.

5) Being involved in this kind of a ministry would require that we take a step of faith and trust God for His provision. This meant that we would have unanswered questions, doubts and uncertainties.  If we didn’t, there would be no faith involved and, therefore, God would not be pleased or ultimately glorified (Hebrews 11:6).

God’s Amazing Provision

My wife and I made the decision to retire from the pastorate and step out in faith to pursue the ministry that God had laid on our hearts.  In His perfect plan and timing, He brought us into contact with Training Leaders International, a Christian non-profit organization whose vision was to provide solid biblical training in God’s Word to pastors in developing countries around the world.

After submitting an application and going through their interview process, I was invited to join the staff as an International Trainer. Upon receiving my letter of appointment, we began the process of raising support for our ministry.  Even though we were given 18 months to raise full support, we had no idea how long it would take.

We simply started by personally sharing with others about the ministry God had called us to, inviting them to partner with us, praying, and allowing God to do His work in people’s hearts.  

We were and are amazed, at times even at a loss for words and even left in thankful tears, at seeing God’s perfect provision for our ministry at each step of this journey. By the end of six months, He had provided 50% of our support, which enabled me to begin serving part-time. At nine months, we had reached more than 75% of our support, allowing me to serve full-time. By the end of twelve months, the Lord provided 90%; and by the end of eighteen months, we reached 100% of our monthly support goal.

We still find it hard to believe that we have reached full support and are continually thanking and praising God for His amazing provision for our ministry. We realize that this is not something we have done, but it is what He alone has done! To Him be the glory! 

We also see His provision for our ministry as affirmation that this is the ministry that God has called us to.

Encouragement

If you’re considering serving the Lord in work of missions, or perhaps even in training national pastors abroad and you’re reluctant to pursue that ministry because it requires support-raising, remember…

* If God has called you to the ministry, He will provide for you in His perfect timing.

* Raising support is a biblical concept. It’s not wrong to ask people to financially support your ministry.

* It’s God’s responsibility to move His people to support your ministry, not yours.  He will move the hearts of those whom He wills. Just faithfully share from your heart what God has called you to do, prayerfully commit it to the Lord, and then let Him do His work.

* It will require you to take a step of faith and to trust Him to provide for you.

Raising support for ministry may seem like an impossible task; but remember, we have a God who can do what is seemingly impossible.  Step out in faith, trust Him, and you will be amazed at His provision for your ministry!

 

 

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