Posts Tagged ‘pastor’

As stated in my previous post, The Lord has greatly convicted me as a Pastor that there were things in my life I needed change. Much of it centered around bad habits, excuses and lack of disciple in regards to what went in my body and the fat that I was putting on. He then brought to mind at least four areas that confirmed why change was desperately needed.

The first area is the area of health. This should be the obvious one. Health is so obvious when it comes to the idea of putting on fat. We know fat is bad therefore we shouldn’t get fat. Yet, this knowledge does not seem to affect many of us like it should.

Think about it, if you have been around the church for any time at all, you know the verses found in 1 Corinthians 6.19-20 where it says, “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body.”

These two verse have been used for years as proof texts for those who wish to preach against smoking and drinking from the pulpit (understand I am not recommending you pick either of these habits up). They will rail on sinful lifestyles and bad habits all in the name of protecting the temple of the Holy Spirit. It is rather ironic that this occurs when you consider that some research shows that 77% of male pastors are considered to be overweight (statistics are cited on sowhatfaith.com in the article “Overweight Pastors”.

Don’t drink or smoke because it harms the temple say the fat guys! Well, as a pastor, I too have at different moments mentioned bad habits that people form that directly affect their health. I have cautioned people to be careful not to become a slave to something that can harm their body because they only get one body. All the while I was packing on the weight myself and eating things that were horrible for me and nearly never exercising.

Is anybody noticing an inconsistency here? Well, God convicted me in a mighty way. Health is a huge deal. Did you know that studies have shown that more liver damage is done by obesity than alcohol and that studies have indicated that obesity leads to more doctors visits than smoking? Perhaps, pastors, we should start modeling a life of discipline in regards to what we put in our bodies before we tell others to guard what they put in their bodies. (I believe Jesus called that pulling the log out. I am now desperately trying to yank out the log)

If we read the entire context of 1 Corinthians 6.19 we also must read things like “you are not your own” and “you have been bought with a price” and “therefore glorify God in your body.” What I take from this is that when I harm the “Temple” of the Holy Spirit then I am being a poor steward of something that is not mine. Poor health, when it is a choice equals poor stewardships.

I know pastors who were not able to completely fulfill ministry duties due to health related to obesity. I was headed that direction with an extremely unhealthy view towards food that involved a whole lot of fast food and pizza. I was on the path to harming my calling. I refuse to allow my calling from God to be a victim of my poor choices (this calling involves my marriage, my kids and my ministry). I have chosen to prioritize my health over my cravings because I crave God more than food.

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I ended my post yesterday with the following question: “What are the spiritual implications of neglecting one’s body (and at times abusing it)?

Four things (not necessarily in order of importance) came to my mind rather quickly as I considered the above question: (1) Health, (2) Disrespect, (3) Example and (4) Sin.

Each one of these four points quickly became points of conviction in my life. Points of conviction placed in my heart by the Holy Spirit. Points that I realized could no longer be ignored. God was telling me to stop blaming my age, the fact that I spend much of my day at a desk, my slowing metabolism, and a whole host of others things as excuses. It was time to stop just acknowledging my convictions but to start living them out. The message was a very clear one in my heart: Jon, stop just preaching about discipline…start exemplifying it. In other words, practice what you preach and stop being a hypocrite.

The convictions that God placed on my heart were so convicting that I have been forced to dramatically change several things in my life over the last several months. Types of food I eat, types of food I don’t eat, how much food I eat, things I will drink, disciplining myself in various kinds of exercise were all changes that have occurred.

As a disclaimer, I wish to state that I am fully aware that some face health problems that cause weight gain and have legitimate things in their lives that affect their bodies in a very real way that they cannot help. I am not writing about those who struggle with that. Rather, I wish to share the work that God has done in my heart and in turn hope that it will be a blessing to others. I am writing about me; not you.

My next four posts will examine the spiritual implications of not taking care of my body: Health, Disrespect, Example and Sin. My prayer is that it will be a blessing to you but at the same be a means to hold me accountable as I seek to live a life that is pleasing to my Savior.

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Recently God convicted me in a very real way that I needed to change my ways. He revealed to me that some of my lifestyle choices were harming me and in turn could harm those He had called me to lead. He showed me that food was a problem.

In case you are wondering, the answer is no! I am not morbidly obese. However, I stood on the scale four months ago and saw a number that scared me. I have slowly been putting on weight for the last ten years and the weight is directly tied with my own personal discipline. Discipline in regards to food choice, food portion and exercise.

As a pastor, I find myself sitting in a chair quite often. I sit to study. I sit to counsel. I sit to email. I sit to read. I sit to talk on the phone. I sit to eat. Then Sunday comes, I stand up in front of the congregation and preach discipline. Yet all the while, clearly demonstrating to those who listen, by my growing gut, that I had not been practicing discipline in my own life.

So the question that started to plague my mind was this: what are the spiritual implications of neglecting one’s body (and at times abusing it)?

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Pastoring a church has its unique challenges and none are more challenging that at times acting as the HR department. I have been called upon to put out fires, confront, remove people from ministry and at times serve as referee. I do not wish to just focus on the negative. For while there are negatives there is something so rewarding about working with so many who have such beautiful servants hearts. I am truly a blessed man.

While I sit and contemplate what is the most important thing when it comes allowing someone to serve in a service position I have settled on four items. This is by no means exhaustive but things that are necessary nonetheless.

1. Ability- I do not believe that everybody is suited for every ministry. Sometimes we need to say no, that’s not for you. Churches are great at plugging holes with warm bodies. They then wonder why ministries don’t work. I believe if God is in a ministry that He has provided all the correct pieces of the puzzle. Unfortunately we often mismanage these pieces and try to put them where they just don’t fit. Make sure ability lines up with the need. Saying no now is easier than removing someone that has been in a position.

In Mark 5 Jesus cast demons out a man that has been referred to as the Gerasene Demoniac. This man had lived among the tombs and after he encountered Christ he was a changed man. We are told he begged Jesus to let him accompany Him. Jesus told him. Instead this man was told to go do a different ministry.

2. Availability- If people are to serve in a church setting they must be people who are faithful. If someone is unwilling to show up to church when they do not have to “perform” their ministry then they clearly are in the performance. If someone is not committed to service and to church then they are the wrong person. I believe each church has to define this. Create a timeline and be aware of those being considered for a position a watch how faithful they are. If a skilled person does not come to church more than once a month then they should not even be considered. I believe that a faithful person will rise to the service. If you are constantly asking, “hey where is ___________” then chances are they ought not be in a service position. They need to be told “figure out how to be faith and then we will figure out how to plug you in.”

In Matthew 19 we find a narrative a man that has been referred to as the Rich Young Ruler. He essentially came to Jesus and said, “Here I am, I want to follow you.” Jesus did not respond in a manner that was pleasing to the man, so the man left. Just because someone is available does not mean they are ready or the right person.

3. Actions- How somebody conducts themselves is a huge deal. Nothing will hurt a church more than having a compromiser up on the platform acting holy. There must a consistent life present that can be seen not just in church but in everyday life. People who are engaged in immoral relationships should not be on a platform leading worship! If they have availability and ability we cannot overlook the obvious. It never ceases to amaze me how a church is willing to bypass God’s standards for their servants because they have a glaring need in the church. There would appear to be a severe lack of faith when we say God can provide for our needs but do not believe that if we uphold His standards that we will survive.

The writer of James tells us that we are show our faith by our works. Just as we can show off our faith by doing we can show off our lack of faith by doing. We do not want people from our community shocked that the worship leader is a Christian. His actions should show that even when he is not on the platform at church.

4. Attitude- Malicious grumpy people will do nothing but pull apart a team. These people at times are hard to spot because they tend to crack under pressure. They have ability, are available and appear to be doing the right thing with their actions yet something happens when they don’t get their own way. Bad attitudes will not just be frustrating for those working with them but will stop other volunteers from stepping forward. It is amazing that this is often overlooked and that churches often offer an inordinate amount of grace towards those who show no grace to anyone else. It is better to remove one bad attitude than to lose five good attitude people that can’t handle grumpy pants. This is one item I would actually take a step further though. If the individual that is being considered for ministry is married to a chronic complainer that appears not to like people I would consider that a huge red flag. I have known pastors, worship leaders, deacons, elders, and others in ministry that had their ministries hindered in a huge way because of their spouses. Attitudes will typically do one of two things: they will attract or repel. The last thing I want to see happen in my church is that new people are repelled by those who think their spiritual gift is de-edification.

Scriptures abound in regards to that which proceeds from one’s mouth. It is not hard to tell whether or something is acceptable and unacceptable. Then again, when we are with other believers who are fellow servants in our church we should not have to police attitudes and words. The Holy Spirit is the convicter and this is His job. Therefore if they are not convicted clearly there is a deeper spiritual issue present.

In conclusion, I would add that we must seek God’s face when looking for servants. Filling a position in a church can never be more important than honoring God. We owe to Christ to do it right.

I just pounded this out while sitting at my desk following some time of personal contemplation.  Nothing here is overly earth shattering but I thought I would share it nonetheless.   

Leadership is not the outcome of a title.  Just because I have the title pastor does not make me a leader.  My title only means that people trust me enough to follow me is I should choose to lead.  Yet the title and position in and of itself does not equate leadership.

If I were to define what it means to be a leader and was told only to use one word, I would use the word influence.  Far too many “leaders” wish to demonstrate they are leaders by telling you that they are leaders.  Reality is, if you have to tell me you are a leader, you probably aren’t.  If you were showing me that you are a leader by how you lived your life in the first place, then you would not have to tell me. 

Many people who hold a leadership position believe they must be followed because of their title.  I firmly disagree.  There are many leaders that I will never follow.  There are men and woman that I would never allow to influence my life as a leader.  Yet, I would respect their title and position. 

The question I pose of myself on a regular basis is how am I influencing others?  Can they see things in my life that are worth replicating in theirs?  I am not saying that I want a bunch of miniature Jon Goodwins running around.  What I am saying is that I regularly ask myself if I just have a title or if I am living my title out.  I don’t want people to say, “oh he’s a pastor” just as a reference to my job.  I want them to realize it encompasses my entire life and the title defines who I am and not just what I do.  A true leader embodies their title.  Do you? 

A great example of a man who embodied his title is the apostle Paul.  He writes to the church or Corinth in the 1 Corinthians 4.16 “Therefore I exhort you, be imitators of me.”  He basically repeats himself again in 1 Corinthians 11.1 where he says, “Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ.”  Then in the book of Philippians he writes, “Brethren, join in following my example, and observe those who walk according to the pattern you have in us” (Phil. 3.17). 

Now Paul might be seen by some as an arrogant man.  But a careful study of his life will show that he was man worth following.  He was a man worth following not because he held the title: apostle.  He was man worth following because his life was in alignment with his title.  The man owned his mission and therefore earned the right of leading his followers and telling them to follow his example. 

While you I may never tell people to follow our examples, it is implied because we choose to be leaders.  Because it is implied we must therefore strive for excellence in all that we do.  Failing to lead is no longer an option because it affects more than just you and me.  It affects all who look to us as leaders.

So as I write this, I would urge myself and whoever else might be reading this to own our title.  Whether is being a mom, dad, pastor, town board member, school teacher, business owner or captain of a sports team own it and live it.  Provide an example that is worth following.  Remember it is not your title that makes you great, rather is what you choose to do with it.

Roughly three and a half years ago I vividly remember an extremely trying week.  The following is a brief narrative of that week and how God brought me through it.  

I’ll never forget that week.  I felt personally attacked as students within my youth ministry made terrible decisions, a fellow youth pastor fell into sexual temptation, I was told a man of God who I greatly respected had committed adultery, parents called me on the phone to complain about my style of ministering, and all the other details that only someone in full-time ministry can truly understand appeared to happen. It felt as though every day of the week was accompanied by another piece of bad information that I did not want to hear.

By the time Sunday came around, I did not want to be in church. My frustration had hit an all time high and I honestly felt as though I did not have anyone to talk to. Yes, I am married and have a great relationship with my wife, but I did not feel it would be fair to her to have to endure the issues of my soul wrenching week. After all, she was busy potting training our toddler and changing the diapers of our infant. In my mind, that was enough for anyone to deal with.

Well, Monday morning came and I once again went to my office and sat down in my chair in front of my desk. I picked up my Bible and for whatever reason I turned to the book of Galatians. When I started reading, I was only intending to read a couple chapters before I started on my weekly to do list. However, the next thing I knew, I had read the entire of Galatians and while I was contemplating about what I had just read, I had typed out six pages of observations on my computer.

I now know it was not mere chance that drew me to the book of Galatians. It was God. As I read the book, I closely evaluated every word that the apostle Paul so carefully wrote down for the Galatian believers. The thought then hit me like a ton of bricks: the Apostle Paul knew exactly what I was going through. I was not alone in my frustration of sinful decisions that believers seem to continually make.

The Apostle Paul had me right from the beginning as he made the statement that the letter he wrote was not just from himself but from “all the brethren who were with me” (Galatians 1.2). It appears as though the Apostle Paul in his frustration was spending time with other church leaders who all had reached the same conclusion: the church was in serious trouble. He and other leaders had worked so hard. They had given everything they had only to watch as those they so passionately and compassionately cared about “quickly desert” (Galatians 1.6) the Lord and Savior for something that was contrary to Scripture.

This church which was once persecuted for their faith (Galatians 3.4) was now subscribing to false doctrine. Paul and the other believers watched as the Galatian church went from being service oriented and compassionate (Galatians 4.14-20) into a state of self-centeredness and slavery. Paul spends most of the time in this book refuting false doctrine and voicing his frustration at the church and his disdain for the false teachers.

Paul reached a point where many of us in ministry often find ourselves. He says in chapter four verse eleven, “I fear for you, that perhaps I have labored over you in vain.” We pour our hearts and souls into lives just to watch them time and time again explode and implode from an apparent lack of understanding and caring of the principles of the Word of God. Far too many of us let this question of did I labor in vain, linger in our minds, especially Monday mornings after we have been eaten up during our weekends of ministry.

Fortunately, Paul did not end his letter questioning whether or not his time invested into the churches of Galatia was merely a waste of time or actually something that was beneficial. Rather in chapter six, we see that Paul makes a shift in his writing. He appears to pause in his writing and directs the letter at himself and the leaders that he represents rather than at the church members who had wounded him. He stops with the you statements and shifts to the we. He says this, “Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary. So then, while we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, and especially to those who are of the household of the faith” (Galatians 6.9,10).

This is when it hit me, “Jon stop focusing on Galatians 4.11 and start focusing on Galatians 6.9 and 10.” Questioning whether what I was doing was in vain should not have been an option for me. I know and many of my fellow Christian servants know, that what we are doing with our lives is the call of God. He called me to minister and pursuing God’s calling is never a waste of time.

Paul had an eternal focus in chapter six. It was almost as if he was saying, “I am going to keep fighting because I can’t wait to see what God will do.” At least this is what Paul said to me as I read Galatians six. This would also be my admonition to fellow Christian laborers who are questioning God’s call as to whether or not what they are doing is in vain. The answer is NO!!! Keep fighting, for in His time God will produce the fruit.

This week I am seeing the fruit. In fact I just received a phone call from one of my students who wishes to share with the rest of the youth group some of the principles that she has recently learned through her study of the Bible. Sure I can choose to be frustrated, but I am choosing to focus on how God is going to raise up a new generation of Christian leaders and I do not know about you, but I am excited because “in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary.” (Galatians 6.9)