Pastor: Are you fulfilling these four key tasks?

Leadership

It’s surprising how often we engage in an activity or work without thinking about all the parts and pieces involved. I drive a manual transmission car. Yes, by choice. When I drive, I don’t even think about shifting gears up or down. It’s automatic, or unconscious to me. In certain contexts, this isn’t always a good thing. In ministry, you could be about the work and not be aware of the parts you may or may not be fulfilling. You could be drifting along automatically doing what you do without understanding some key parts. Are you aware of at least these four key tasks of a Pastor?

I grew up in a pastor’s home. I have invested 30 years of my life in local church ministry, as an Education Pastor, Family Pastor and the like, and now serving over a decade as an Executive Pastor. Whatever the role or title, from Senior Pastor on, we all have components of ‘the work’ to fulfill. The opportunities to learn some lessons and make some observations about pastoring the local church are abundant, and we never stop learning and growing.

I have an immense gratitude for being able to serve the Lord in this way through my life. The kindness of the churches to me and my family is great. The gratitude I have for those who have shared life in ministry is immeasurable. It is also such a joy to see young ministers now being equipped and trained to continue to serve the church as we move ahead together.

Over the last decade, I had the great privilege of serving with Dr. Hance Dilbeck at Quail Springs Baptist Church. He now leads the work of Oklahoma Baptists. Through that season I not only heard the following framework for ministry, but observed it and then practiced it. It is beautifully simple in its concept and practice. When done well, its balance yields strength and growth for you as a minister and for the congregation.

Listen to Peter’s admonishment to pastors from 1 Peter 5:1-3…

Therefore, I exhort the elders among you, as your fellow elder and witness of the sufferings of Christ, and a partaker also of the glory that is to be revealed, shepherd the flock of God among you, exercising oversight not under compulsion, but voluntarily, according to the will of God; and not for sordid gain, but with eagerness; nor yet as lording it over those allotted to your charge, but proving to be examples to the flock.

Feed

A primary task of pastoring is feeding. Shepherds guide their flocks to safety, cool water and food. If the congregation is starved for God’s word, there will be problems. A primary task of the pastor, in any position, is preaching and teaching. I feel the burden anytime I preach as I see the eyes of individuals who are looking to be fed the Word of God.

Paul reminds us In 2 Tim 4:2 to preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching.”

Care

Think about the hungry crowds following Jesus as they longed for help physically and spiritually. Jesus saw them like sheep without a shepherd. Pastor, pray for your people, visit, care and call your people. Share notes of encouragement with them. Weep with them. Laugh with them. Counsel and guide them. Do life with them.

Do you see your people as a burden, or as problems, or as the whole reason for shepherding? Jesus responded to the people in Matthew 9:36, “Seeing the people, He felt compassion for them, because they were distressed and dispirited like sheep without a shepherd.

Lead

We see the early church leaders almost immediately making decisions and guiding the church. They led the church to select servants/deacons to help with distribution of food and care of widows, the work of councils and meetings on important doctrinal decisions, and the financial care of the early churches. Some have asked me, what does an Executive Pastor do? My quick answer, “Make decisions.” All day. Every day. I fulfill a duty with the church and our leadership to help make decisions. It is not easy. 99% of the decisions made are not simply right and wrong, good and bad, but a choice of options. If we go this direction, these are potential outcomes, or if this way, other outcomes. And then there are big decisions and issues that birth gray hair. Pastor, do not neglect the importance and privilege of making decisions.

And God has appointed in the church, first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, administrations, various kinds of tongues. 1 Corinthians 12:28

Share

Of the four areas I am mentioning here, One area of my own ministry that suffers the most is this one. Regardless if I say I have the “gift of evangelism” or not, the bottom line is the command of the Lord to share the Good News and make disciples. Disciples cannot be made apart from hearing the Good News and surrendering to it.

Paul shares this so plainly in Romans 10:14-15. “How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? How will they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how will they hear without a preacher? 15 How will they preach unless they are sent? Just as it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news of good things!”

Paul also directly admonishes Timothy to this work in 2 Timothy 4:5. “But you, be sober in all things, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.”

Ask Yourself…

Are you aware of these four areas of responsibility? Score yourself, 0-10, from worst to best effort in each of the four areas? How are you Feeding, Caring, Leading, Sharing? What area is naturally easy for you (automatic)? Which task is an area for growth? What will you do this week to enhance one of these areas of growth in ministry?

One word about Church Staff Pastoring teams. While I am responsible to fulfill duties as a pastor like those listed above, I also serve at a church with multiple pastors, including most importantly, the Senior Pastor. The beauty of these tasks is I can, and prayerfully do, take a portion of some of these duties off of the Senior Pastor. For example to focus more of his time and attention to Feeding the flock (preaching), I tend to focus more of my time and attention and giftedness to Caring and Leading. The only caution is for me or anyone to neglect any of the other areas on your Pastoral Staff team. For example, while I preach infrequently, I still stay sharp and preach often. I find great fulfillment and clarity in serving with my Senior Pastor in this way!

It is a joy to serve with you – Ray

Obstacles or Opportunities

Leadership

How many times have you heard ‘unprecedented’ since the COVID19 season hit us? It truly has been just that! I heard a new one today that was beginning to be tiresome for some and that is ‘fluid’. It’s true, that word totally captures so much of our current path – fluid – who knows the future. In our challenges, I find great hope.

Do you see opportunity?

Recently while spending some time in quiet devotion, I was inspired by a simple phrase in the midst of a powerful story. Early believers and leaders in the Christian faith were sharing the hope found in Christ. In Acts we find a leading disciple, Peter, in a situation that had options. He had choices about what to do next, and it says in Acts 3:12 “He saw his opportunity and addressed the crowd.” NLT

I know that is teasing out a bit of an obscure phrase in the midst of the situation of this narrative, but Peter, in his situation assessed the situation, saw the opportunity and pressed “go!”

What are the opportunities?

I have been considering much through this season, as we all have I’m sure. One of my dear leader coach friends, Jeremie, challenges people to consider on their next steps in the journey what will be “my aha take-aways, and what will be left behind.”

Here are some things on my “take-away, leave behind” list:

  • More time reserved to think, rest and ponder. Simply, slow down.
  • I am leaving behind mindless churn. There was a pace that was not even recognizable for so many of us until this time-out.
  • More time invested in simple time with family and friends; meals, walks.
  • More time invested in relationships at work and in my own neighborhood – meaningful conversations.
  • More time invested in things that build strength in mind, body and spirit.
  • Flexible work environments and options.
  • Usage of technology and innovation; zoom, online media – for everything: family, meetings, connectivity, groups, large broadcasts, and podcasts!
  • Simply, and like Peter, using every opportunity to share how my faith in Christ gives me strength, in good and bad, stress free times and times of panic!
  • This is just a start…

Take this time to consider what you see, and then seize the opportunity. Time to start the engines in a new way!

COVID19 – Moving forward

Leadership

As COVID19 restrictions are lifting and we are entering into uncharted waters. There will be new guidelines for how we gather in groups. It is likely that how we gather will be different for some time. If you lead in your context (and we are all leading someone) now is the time to keep the right mindset in guiding. We can guide people to adjust to new ways of doing things, communicating clearly what’s ahead, and quite frankly, just staying calm.

Delicate navigation

A few years back my wife was invited on a special cruise and I was glad to be her personal assistant! I was fascinated by something I had never seen before – the cruise ship Harbor Pilot. In the image above, you can see the Harbor Pilot boat that ferried the Pilot on and off our vessel. The Pilot is not on the full cruise, but rather is on board long enough to assist the Captain in safely navigating the harbor, around other vessels, and obstacles and barriers.

I serve in a large organization. In the best of times it takes the ‘seven touches’ of communication to get through to the largest percentage of our people – like with any organization. We simply need to hear something seven times for it to get across. Add to that the very real and heightened sensitivity of COVID19. The plan and communication has to be crystal clear. This is also made even more complex by the range of people’s reactions to COVID19. Some may respond ‘this is nothing, why aren’t we back to normal’ and others ‘this is dangerous, and we should not be out at all’.

Keep it simple

As we prepare for some uncharted waters, like our own new schedule we’ve never had before, I have heard our team share frequently – this has to be simple and clear. We are working even now to strip away minute details with our communication pieces to just the basics. In other words, we want to answer the biggest questions. We want to respond to the biggest concerns. Then we describe the first steps. If subsequent steps and answers will come as people are literally on that path, there is no need to clutter the first round of instruction.

Say it multiple ways

The Communications Director in our organization, and our staff do an amazing job of helping us get the word out! There is a pretty massive message communicate over the next days as we relaunch our campus on May 31. It will involve sharing it in multiple ways: website, social media, e-newsletter, video, letter, card, and networking with leadership groups.

As we pilot our organizations through this new harbor, be confident of where you are headed. Narrow down and simplify what you need to communicate, and share it often and in multiple ways. And yes, stay calm and positive – we will get through this!

Before you go back to the office…

Leadership, Personal Growth

Aren’t we all incredibly grateful the eye of the Coronavirus seems to be passing by! Before you go back to the office after the COVID-19 “safer at home” restrictions, consider how you would like to return:

  • Are there things you have committed to do better as a leader?
  • Are there things you have experienced during this season away that you know you need to improve?
  • What are the things you will STOP doing?
  • What are the things you will keep doing?
  • What new things will you practice?

Something needs to change

Through this shelter at home season, work has likely been more complex and hurried, not less. As you reflect on going back to the office to work, are there things you’ve considered changing and priorities you would like to address? Perhaps you know there are things you would like to change about your leadership, workflow and leadership techniques.

But maybe an issue is not knowing how you’re doing as a leader. Is there a place to be able to assess your leadership, your style, your pace? Other than going to a conference (which is unlikely for a while), or heading back to school, is there a place online for clear assessment, growth and development?

Become a better leader? But how?

Between your final Zoom meetings this week as you are working from home, take time to invest in yourself. Kick the tires of your leadership capacity and blind spots before you take yourself back out on the track. If not, it could be that you are down the road 6 months in the same situations with no change.

GiANT.tv

Go to GiANT.tv and sign up. While this resource is worth every penny, if you sign in now with affiliate link ‘raygriffinonline’ you receive a month free.*

This resource will help you assess, train, and learn core concepts of leading in the 21st century. There are so many modules in a wide array of leadership principles. You’ll find videos, and a toolbox of easy to apply leadership and growth insights and other goodies.

Still learning and growing

I have used these principles for years, and even last week, invested time in a GiANT.tv “pathway” on delegation. The lack of delegation for me is something I know I need to leave behind when I go back to the office for work.

There are communication principles and strategies that I would love to share here, but trust me, as we go back in the pressure cooker of how to say what the new normal is, when and to whom will be critical. You can find insights like this at GiANT.tv.

You’re about to be back in the office. I am glad. But, are you ready?

OKC April 19, 25th Anniversary

Personal Growth

25 years ago on April 19, a deplorable plan and act was executed in Oklahoma City. Here’s a video I was honored to be a part of in an effort to continue to bring healing to the city I call home.

My thanks to the men who served then and share now of that experience – they represent a host of heroes and families who still walk through healing.

I would also share thanks with videographer, Jesse Wallace, who took an idea and made it come to life.

Moving Out of Confinement

Personal Growth

Since mid-March, my family has experienced school and work from home with our city’s safer at home policies. When I was out for a walk in my neighborhood, there was a lone commercial jet flying overhead. While I was walking, my mind wandered to trips I’ve been on, near and far. I reminisced about those adventures, the beauty experienced and the fun and challenge of exploring distant places. Watching that jet zoom across the blue sky wondering where they were going, longing to be back out in the big wide world again with them, I was reminded of a truth.

Phasing out of home confinement coming soon?

Word is spreading that our sheltering at home is lifting soon or at least eased. Soon, we will move to another “new normal” of daily life and work. It is likely we are out and about again with some continued restrictions. I am grateful for that. In our collective home confinements I have grown ever fond of what we had:

Large gatherings like sports and concerts

Strolling with Jennifer in a packed mall or shops

Cruising a car show

Hitting the open road or skies to anywhere

Enjoying a park or amusement park with the family

Exploring a new place

Definitely church life!

But I actually long for more…

I watched the jet easily cruise at altitude across the blue sky pondering the destination of those aboard. Wishing I were traveling too, I also had the dull pang remembering that no place or experience in the end actually seems to fill the longing that tugs at my heart. Any experience, while definitely appreciated – especially now – still falls short of something.

Have you felt that way before?

Not too long ago my family and I traveled to a place I would say is stunningly beautiful. The refreshment exploring this paradise with my family was incredible. But, even that trip fell short as I shared here. Have you felt that before, that even in the best location or experience there is still a longing for more. Somehow it is good and appreciated, but not all right yet with a longing for things truly being as they should be.

  • As the engines begin to fire back up in our normal lives,
  • As the hustle and bustle takes back over for many and our schedules press for every moment,
  • As opportunity to do things that we enjoy like vacations and trips,
  • And as that sense of longing for more beyond all that grows…

This life’s quarantine is lifting some day

Are you ready for the ultimate release from this home/life’s restrictions? This life’s confinement is coming to a close someday. An early leader in the Christian faith, Paul, said it this way. Our lives in this body are much like living in a tent or shelter. He shared that we “groan” in this life with its burdens looking for more. He shared that when those who know Jesus personally leave this old broken body and world, our current home confinement, we are with the Lord where He is.

Jesus described this new place as Paradise. It is a New Heaven and New Earth. In the Old Testament, we see a shadow of what is to come as “The Promised Land,” a place of peace, rest and abundance. It is moving into, for those who know Jesus, the place He promised He was preparing, a new dwelling made just for them. It is a place that has no sin, death, sickness, and a place where all tears are wiped away.

If you want to experience that place, where we are really released from confinement, don’t wait to make Jesus Lord of your life today. Here’s the hard truth, Jesus is Lord whether you confess that or not. The issue is about you and your belief, will you accept Him as Lord of all, including your life? Don’t wait to simply follow Him – all the way out of this life to the next!

2 Peter 3:13

But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.

COVID-19: Managing Anxiety and Stress

Personal Growth

We are all living in extraordinary times. The COVID-19 virus pandemic has thrust the globe into an experience that is unparalleled. We are all experiencing financial, social, emotional, and for some, physical impacts. From the global economy to households living lives in new ways, it seems every area of our lives are being pressured and changed.

The primary question then becomes, “When will this all be over?” Who knows? A secondary one is, “What will be the ultimate impacts on lives and livelihoods?” It is in the midst of this storm, that it becomes critical in how we manage anxiety and stress.

I have had numerous conversations about staying healthy in mind, body and spirit in these days of social distancing and apprehension. Here are the common threads that seem to be key components.

Recognize you are stressed and anxious

To recognize or realize you are stressed or anxious may seem paradoxical, but denying or refusing that all of this is taxing would be an error. This is big. Just for our family, we have moved a college student home, a daughter is now doing classes online and has lost her job temporarily. As parents our normal routines and schedules have been dramatically changed, as I now also work from home. There is a grieving to it – plans we had have been canceled. Normal routines of life, from our church community life to simply running errands, have been changed.

Yet, all of our own family’s impacts pale in comparison to those who:

  • Are now unemployed.
  • Have had to be quarantined.
  • Live in a stressed environment, with the social, economic and work restrictions compounding a toxic relationship situation.
  • Are grieving the loss of a loved one who has passed away and are unable to have a funeral because of social distancing.
  • Are infected by the Coronavirus.
  • Have had a love one die due to the Coronavirus.

To dismiss or diminish the stress and anxiety would miss the next point:

Deal with the reality of the stress and anxiety

To dismiss the stress and anxiety as nothing would be a mistake. On the other end of the spectrum, to add pressure to your yourself that you “shouldn’t feel that way” or you “should just stop it” would also compound the situation.

A healthy approach is to recognize how you feel. I’ve heard feelings described as the temperature reading on the thermometer, but how we deal with them as the thermostat. Just like adjusting the comfort level in our homes, you can feel the temperature, and you turn the air conditioning thermostat to bring it to a comfort level.

How do you find comfort? Wrong ways:

There are some ways that can compound the stress:

  • Numb or zone out with alcohol and or drugs.
  • Turn to sin to “escape” the reality of the situation.
  • Isolate yourself from healthy relationships.
  • Let common elements of Christian discipleship fall off (personal devotion and prayer, journaling, accountability, mentoring).
  • Distance or absence from church resources – Not participating in online services, or connections in a small groups.
  • Become bitter, sarcastic or cynical, snapping at others and yourself.
  • Get lost in an endless and frightening news cycle, especially from what could be hyper-sensationalized social media or news outlets.

How do you find Comfort? Right ways:

The are some very real ways to reduce the impacts of the stress and anxiety. Like turning the thermostat, these are some of the dials you can turn:

  • Again, identify it. Own it. “I am scared.” “This has me totally stressed.” “I cannot believe I lost my job, and now my savings – I don’t know what we are going to do.” Identify the feelings, identify the reality.
  • Connect online with your church.
  • Do a video “reunion” or video call with family.
  • Call or video connect with friends and co-workers.
  • Stay connected in your neighborhood. Talk with neighbors.
  • Journal your feelings and journey.
  • Give – minster within the COVID-19 guidelines to Senior adults or others in need. Find a call list and check in every other day or so.
  • Within guidelines, work at a food-bank or distribution center.
  • Give support to those in the health industry.
  • Do an online call or conference with a Pastor or Counselor for guidance and to pray as an individual, couple or family.
  • Be ready to give crisis abuse or suicide hotline information to anyone in need.
  • Find something to complete. So much is incomplete and unknown – tackle something that has a sense of accomplishment. A guitar lesson online, cleaning out a junk closet, writing, finishing a home or lawn and garden project.
  • Exercise, eat well – take care with caffeine. Rest.
  • Take walk breaks outside without your phone or other devices.

The Main way to find Comfort:

Turn to God. Take the grim reality of how you feel, and tell God. Tell Him exactly how you feel. Tell Him precisely about the things that are going on: lost job, lost wages, lost sleep, lost loved one – take it all to Him.

A favorite of mine captures taking our raw emotions to a loving God in Psalm 118:5

“Out of my distress I called on the Lord;
the Lord answered me and set me free.”

A key verse from God’s Word found in Psalm 94:19 says:

“When my anxious thoughts multiply within me,
Your consolations delight my soul.”

Later it says in Psalm 94:22

“But the Lord has been my stronghold,
And my God the rock of my refuge.”

  • Connect to God and His Word.
  • Pray your heart to God and share what you are reading with Him.
  • Meditate on God and the truth of His word. Let it marinate in your soul. Stop, rest, think, ponder and reflect on Him. Breathe.
  • Connect with your church.
  • Connect with a Christian small group.
  • Talk and pray with a Pastor or friend. Call or video chat. Simply talk and pray with someone.
  • Read inspiring and encouraging works. There are books, blogs, social media outlets and other resources that point up!

Bottom line, you are not alone. We will move through all of this together. God is teaching us! Trust Him now.

Steps Foward – Growing Professionally and Personally

Leadership, Personal Growth

Are you working to challenge yourself to grow and change personally? Are you working to help an organization grow and change? As the saying goes, if you are not moving forward, growing, you are dying. Here are some things I am using on this journey of personal and organizational growth.

Organizational Growth

Through the years I have had the opportunity to serve with some incredibly capable leaders. One leader used a process for long range planning that helped teams think about:

  • Ministry – What do we believe our Mission and Vision is for the future?
  • Personnel – Who will it take on a staff team to complete the Mission?
  • Facilities – What physical resources will be needed to accomplish the Mission?

This type of planning set us up years ago to experience what is reality today! As a matter of fact, much of this plan is still in place. But we can see clearly the need to update and adjust. Here are two key ways we are currently doing that:

CAMPUS AND FACILITIES

Our campus now pairs two separate church campuses as one. The church is experiencing great growth. How do we expand the current campus for growth now and in the future? How do we marry the two campuses to be one, parking, flow, ministry outlets? Thankfully we have a Long Range Planning team in place. And this group has hired an architectural firm skilled in campus master planning to help us! I am hopeful this journey and the insights of this group, and our prayers, will guide us to a plan that will bless for years to come.

STRATEGIC PLANNING

We are also working with a leadership consultant on strategic development. Lead staff are entering into a process of team growth, mission renewal and strategic planning. We are seeking a fresh mission, and accountability of clear objectives. It would be easy to simply say “let’s grow,” or to keep running headlong into busy-ness. Instead, we want to take a fresh look at our community, our mission, and our responsibility to do what is before us.

Personal Growth

MEANINGFUL TRAINING

This year is a bigger one for me. I turn 50, and will have been in ministry for 30 years. Much like strategic planning on the organizational front, I am working through the same process personally. What is my mission, am I equipped to handle the changes ahead? Last year I completed specialized training that was fulfilling and is a meaningful tool in my own mission.

KEY BOOK

A key book that is fitting for this season is Didn’t See It Coming by Carey Nieuwhof. His frank transparency in sharing his story of navigating life-change has been encouraging! He shares practical steps and biblical insights for staying fresh, energized and living fully. Whether you are turning 30, 40, 50 or beyond – get this book.

If I can help you on your personal and organizational growth journey I would be honored to do so! Find out more HERE.

Russ Taff: Reflections on Grace and Our Expectations

Personal Growth

Over the Thanksgiving break, I had the opportunity to chill out a bit and watch some shows. Obviously, there are tons of options to watch out there – from movies and DIY shows to mini-series. While scrolling, I came across a documentary on Russ Taff, Russ Taff: I Still Believe. Taff is one of my all-time favorite Christian artists along with Michael W. Smith, Sweet Comfort Band/Bryan Duncan, and Petra (yes, I grew up in the 70’s and 80’s). I enjoyed groups like DeGarmo and Key, Whiteheart and PFR, then later on to DC Talk and MercyMe. I remember Christian bands and artists though being rare in my early years with groups like the Imperials and Dallas Holm at the forefront. All I can say is, the volume of artists today owe their success in some way to those on the early trail – those like Russ Taff.

Painful Turn

The documentary on Taff was a such a nostalgic walk down memory lane for me. There was a fascinating trove of background information on Taff, in particular his early path to The Imperials. But, the retrospective took a painful, yet ultimately redemptive, turn when it dove in to a too common theme for many artists and those in the spotlight: Drive, success, pressure, purpose, disillusion, escape/addiction and its effects.

Unreasonable Expectations

Too common in this type of situation would be many of us who may have an automatic response: judgemental thoughts about that person’s failure, or their inability to cope. But as I watched the story unfold, I became convicted. Could it be that I was part of the pressure, the churn? What about our expectations – expecting too much – performance, perfection, personality, availability? It almost seems that those in the spotlight are treated like a bottle rocket. We light the fuse on these talented folks, expecting superhuman feats and perfection to watch them be consumed, literally.

Escape and Addiction

For the person in the performance crucible, the trap and allure of addiction is real. Yet there is Hope. One of my friends, Lance Lang, launched Hope Is Alive (HIA) out of his own battle and victory. He discovered some huge gaps in what those in the war on addiction need – a place to land and rebuild – and he and HIA are directly providing for this need! There is a structure for grace and mercy all in the surroundings of support and encouragement. I thank the Lord for HIA.

Another brother in Christ, Seth Haines, is also a great resource of help and direction. His journey in brokenness and redemption moved him to write Coming Clean, a heartfelt and transparent story of his own journey. His words of wisdom on both sides of his experience would help anyone – be that to avoid a perilous trail or find the way back to the right trail.

Healthy Perspectives

As I continue to reflect and ponder on this documentary, I wonder what could be some simple, healthy perspectives?

First, what about our expectations? What do we expect of people? Is it unrealistic? Or will we work to give people a break – on performance and expectations. There is a certain irony in the fact that I find myself as a consumer of this very documentary on Taff. Another issue to wrestle is when people crash, mess up/sin (and we do) what will we do? Rubberneck and condemn, or forgive and lend aid?

The Bible says:

Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working. James 5:16

Second, to those of you out there who give their time and lives in performance, thank you. I pray the Lord gives you His peace and rest.