5 Common Mistakes Preachers Make in Preaching

Here are 5 common mistakes that many preachers make, including me.

Too Many Points

I remember hearing a sermon years ago that had ten points to it. I struggled to keep up despite the fact that I take notes.  I was hard pressed to remember even one of the points that night and had to refer back to my notes even then.  There were far too many things to remember and if I had not written down some of them, I believe I would have lost all of the pastor’s sermon points.  As I write this, I can’t even remember one point in that message.  If you give too many points in a sermon then there are too many things for them to remember, let alone one or two.  I suggest that pastor’s stick to one main point and at the most, three. There should be a conclusion at the end of the sermon to summarize the one, two or three points in case some people miss it.  I believe one point is better than two or more because if they take at least one thing home with them and it’s that one point, then you’ve done your job as a pastor.

Rushing the Message

I have a very bad habit of going too fast and some of the congregants have told me so.  I have learned to slow down when I speak and give the listeners time to find the chapter and verse in the Bible. Too frequently I speed through part of the message and leave people frantically trying to keep up.  I needed to go slower and give more emphasis on what I did say.  Fewer words in a slower pace are always better than more words at a rapid pace.  Also, during the message, I give people time to find the chapter and verse, mentioning it a few minutes or so before I actually turn there.  This gives them time to find it. Also, I give them a little help if the book is not one of the main books we typically read out of.  Books like Ruth or Habakkuk are books that we don’t commonly turn too so I give them a little reference point about where to find these books so that they don’t have to go to the index to look for it.  Then, when I start reading the verses, ever few verses or so I repeat where I am at like: “continuing in Luke 8, verse 12” just in case someone’s lost their place.  I tend to read Scripture slower because there is so very much in so few words in the Bible.  I never want to rush the message, even if I’m excited about it.

Keep it Simple

I have noticed that some of my seminary professors and even some pastors that I listen to on-line use words even above my head.  If my listeners have to head for a dictionary to find out what that word was that I used then I know I’ve probably lost the interest of some of the listeners. There is an issue of pride too.  When we know the meaning of certain words that the listeners don’t, it can create a puffed up heart that makes the preacher feel superior to the congregation.  I like what the late Dr. J. Vernon McGee said, “Keep the cookies on the bottom shelf so that the kids can reach them.”  Young guys coming out of seminary are often filled with idealism and say things in a fancy or impressive way and end up just sounding confused or confusing the listeners using words like propitiation, exegeses, transubstantiation and such. Preaching and the selection of the words you use should be able to be understood by a young child or it’s too complicated.  It’s good to remember what Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 8:1, “knowledge puffs up, but love builds up.”

Your Own Message in Your Own Power

For some reason, I forgot to pray one time before the message and it was one of the worst sermons I’ve ever given.  That sermon tended to be my own message and not from the Word of God.  What a fatal mistake that was.  To preach in my own power is no better than being a vacuum cleaner salesman going door to door.  It is a non-Spirit led message and will only result in human power and ability and that’s not good enough.  It takes the Word of God from a man of God with the Spirit of God after prayer to God to reach the children of God.  The common theme here is “God!”  God will not work through human agents. He must empower us by His Spirit and we must humble ourselves before Him in prayer and crush all of our human pride and push aside every human imagination and effort.  Don’t ever make the sermons or the story about you.  It must focus on God.  God can speak through the pastor but He had better take the time to pray about this and depend on God’s power and preach for the glory of God for nothing else really matters.  What I have to say or my own personal opinion is worthless; only God’s message matters and so too does His glory.

Feel Good Messages

These are the types of sermons that are so popular today.  People want a real good, feel good message to make them feel good about themselves.  This is contrary to biblical teaching because Paul, in mentoring Timothy, wrote to “preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching” (2 Tim 4:2). Many TV preachers today never rebuke anyone; they only give soothing messages like “God loves you, you’re okay, you’re a good person, come as you are” however a sermon is not about how to win friends and influence people.  Paul wrote to Titus that “you should teach. Encourage and rebuke with all authority” (Titus 2:15).  It is far too tempting to make yourself the center of attention and spring out a joke or two to make yourself liked.  No, the Word of God comforts the afflicted but it also afflicts the comfortable.  You are not a therapist.  You are a preacher of the Word and you should know that “the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Heb 4:12).  The Word cuts like a knife.  It’s not a backrub.  It should cut but it cuts in order to heal but the thing is, it cuts both ways; for the listener and for the speaker!

Conclusion

I hope you have learned a little something in this article.  I have learned a lot from my own mistakes.  I don’t believe that we will ever arrive in this life.  There’s no avoiding mistakes but perhaps now you can avoid giving too many points in one sermon; you can slow down enough so that you don’t leave the audience behind; you can keep it simple enough so that the listeners understand the words you use; you learn to not depend on your power of persuasion but on the Spirit of God and the Word of God; and you are not hesitant about the concern of offending someone because the Word does cut.  I have made my fair share of mistakes but I have learned much more from my mistakes than I ever did from any book in seminary. Experience is a great teacher.

When Is It Time For a Church to Fire a Pastor?

When does a church know when it’s time to fire the pastor?  What are the most crucial of reasons?

Sexual Immorality

Pastors are instructed to live above reproach and that means he must be “faithful to his wife” (Titus 1:6).  The “the overseer is to be above reproach, faithful to his wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach” (1 Tim 3:2).  To be faithful means he must control himself (self-controlled) and his sexual desires and impulses and not even look at another woman with lust and this means respectable behavior in his daily life.  All too often I hear about pastors who have had a case of sexual immorality and they’re allowed to go back behind the pulpit. I don’t see this as three-strikes and you’re out.  No, this is a special calling; it is one strike and you’re done.  If a pastor has committed adultery or if single, committed sexual immorality, then the church’s reputation is greatly damaged and if the church allows this man to remain behind the pulpit, what kind of message does this send to the community of lost people and to the church members too?  One lady who was living with a pastor asked if this was okay and even though she said they weren’t having sex I said the Bible teaches that we “abstain from all appearance of evil” (1 Thes 5:22) and not only should we avoid any behavior anyone might perceive as being evil, we should flee from that which is evil and even flee from that which appears to be evil. She ignored my counsel to move out and this pastor is still a pastor at a church I personally wouldn’t darken the door in for sure.

Unbiblical Teaching

I have mentioned to the church a few times during my sermons that “Today part of my sermon will be perfect…the part where I read out of the Bible.” My part is never perfect but the Word of God always is.  When a pastor begins to teach unbiblical messages then he should be warned by the church leaders and membership that he’s in error. If the pastor doesn’t admit to the mistake (if it isn’t intentional) and then go back to the central doctrines of the Bible, then he is done as a pastor.  The last thing any church needs is to have someone teach doctrinal error and heresy.  The essentials include the sinless-ness of Christ, the divinity of Christ, the need for repentance, the need for confession of sin,  and the need for growing in and living in holiness.  If these essentials are compromised behind the pulpit, it’s time to fire the pastor for the good of the church.

Unethical/Illegal

I’ve seen too many examples where pastors have taken advantage of the church and spent money on themselves that is not associated with the church at all and then lied about it.  At the church where I am pastor at there was a pastor many years ago who ended up robbing the church of most of its money and then leaving in the middle of the night.  He has never been seen or heard from again.  I don’t even want to have the church’s checkbook so I will be above reproach and don’t even want access to the church’s money.  I trust our trustees with this. I know that they are faithful and I don’t want to even be responsible for having the church’s checkbook in my possession.  If a pastor has taken advantage of the church’s finances, he is actually robbing God because Jesus is the Head of the Church, not us.  It is His church, not ours.

Stealing/Recycling Sermons

There is nothing worse than plagiarizing someone else’s work.  In college and seminary we were warned that if we were caught plagiarizing someone else’s work, we’d receive an “F” in that course for the semester and possibly face more discipline from the school itself.  I am a writer and I can’t tell you the number of times that I’ve seen my material copied and pasted on other websites and had the owners of that website put their own name on it.  And they claim to be Christians and yet they customarily steal from others.  If a pastor is recycling his old sermons or stealing other pastors material from the Internet or books then that pastor should be warned and then if it continues, he should be fired.  The laborer is worthy of his wages; a thief is not.  If the pastor is so lazy that he cannot take the time necessary to study and create his own sermon materials, he shouldn’t be behind the pulpit.  Slothfulness (laziness) is a sin and it’s even worse when it includes stealing from others.  When a church pays their pastor they expect him to earn it.

Conclusion

It is a hard thing to fire a pastor because there are deep relationships that are intertwined among many people in the church and feelings are inevitably going to get hurt but the church board and leaders have a responsibility to God.  As I said earlier, this is not their church and it is not my church.  This is Jesus’ church and He is the Head of it and we are responsible  and accountable to Him and not any man, therefore if a pastor has experienced a time of sexual immorality; if the pastor is getting left of center on the essentials of the faith; if the pastor is operating illegally and unethically; and if a pastor is stealing other materials and not laboring in the word and you have talked with him more than once about it, it may be time to fire the pastor for the church’s sake and really, for his sake too.  Maybe he’ll repent.

3 Important Ways Pastors Can Connect Better With the Congregants

Here are 3 important ways that pastors can better connect with the congregants.

Stop, Look, and Listen

I love the analogy of crossing the train tracks.  When we engage people in the church, and not just pastors but all of the church members should, we should stop and look them in the eye and ask how they are doing and then listen.  Listen to what they say.  If we are too engage our congregants, we must take the time to stop and talk with them.  Look at them eye to eye and not over their shoulder as something or someone else as if you’ve got more important things to do.  I’ve had people do that to me and it makes me feel slighted; like I’m being an inconvenience to them.  These are God’s people and they are no less than we are.  God is no respecter of persons and neither should we be.  I tend to look for those who no one talks with.  I go to the back pews where the people tend to feel more slighted sometimes sit.  I think we should all stop, look, and listen to one another and show genuine care and concern for them because God has saved them and loves them and sent His Son to die for them too.  There is no respect for person before God’s eyes and there should not be before our eyes either.

The Personal Touch

Another way that you connect with people in the church is by your body language.  How do you react when you see people?  Do you avoid them or do you go directly up to them and shake their hands or hug them?  Some people are touch-resistant and it’s important to see how they react if you put your hand on their shoulder.  Others only like handshakes while others prefer hugs.  Try and read their body language and also be a student of observation.  That is, observe how they react to other people and greet others.  Do they hug or do they shake hands or do they do neither?  What is their preferred method of engaging with people? I think that we shouldn’t just wave and greet people from a distance but go directly to them and engage them one on one.  Pat them on the back. Thank them for their service to the church.  Ask them if they had a good week or if there’s something that you can pray about for them.

We are made for relationship; the body (the church) with Christ in a one on one relationship and in relationship to one another.  Paul says so much in writing to the church at Philippi, “Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion,  then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others” (Phil 2:1-4 ESV).  That is very personal; encourage one another, comfort one another, show compassion and tenderness with one another, be like-minded, be of one mind, do nothing out of selfish ambition, and in humility, esteem others better than yourselves and looking out for their interests.

Do a Scheduled Home Visit

I like to occasionally visit church members at home when I can.  Being a bi-vocational pastor, this is not always easy to do.  For some, I see them in the community and stop and talk to them at the post office or in the store or anywhere I see them in public.  If I plan a home visit, I call ahead or speak to them in person first to see if it’s okay and what is the best time for me to visit them.  I never show up unannounced because that’s not being fair to them.  Many  have children to feed in the evening, they’ve got homework and bath times for the kids and the pace of any home during a school year can be frantic, depending on how many children there are in the home.  I also include the children in home visits and genuinely ask how they are doing and how are school and sports going for them. I want to see them as part of the family visit because they are part of the family.  I never exclude children in the conversation during a home visit because they are not second class citizens; they are just as much a part of the church as their parents are.  There is no better way to engage a family than to visit them in their home (if they want it).  Sometimes during the summer sports I stop by and visit with parents in the stands and I also come to watch their children play sports in the summer or during school sports in the evenings.

Conclusion

Other ways that you can connect with your church is to smile at them, ask them how they are doing, make eye contact, show sincerity and concern with them, and try to familiarize yourself with them by knowing their name, their job, and their issues in life.  We need to stop, look, and listen to them; we need to be personal and loving giving handshakes or hugs; and we need to plan a special visit with them and attend as many of their family’s activities as our time allows.  These are important ways that pastors can better connect with the congregation and it is worth every effort to do so.

How Can Pastors Reach Children in Sermons?

Here is how you can capture and keep children’s attention during the sermon.

Keeping it Simple

When you preach, you may have no problem garnering the attention of adults but when you include young people in the message you have to keep it simple.  For one thing, all messages from behind the pulpit should be easy enough for a child to understand so that the adults can understand it too.  By using words that only adults can understand we risk shooting above the heads of children.  The late Dr. J. Vernon McGee once said to “keep the cookies on the bottom shelf so the kids can reach them” and I believe he is absolutely right.  When we use words like exegeses, hermeneutics, expository, propitiation and other such words, we tend to lose the children and probably a few adults too.  The gospel is said to be so complicated that theologians can drown in it yet simple enough for a child to go wading through it.  The simplicity that is found in Christ is simple enough for a child to understand.  Teaching them what repentance is can be useful for them to understand what they need to do.  The very first words Jesus said in beginning His earthly ministry, “The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news” (Mark 1:15)!  To tell a child that repentance means to “turn around, go the other way,” and “forsake their sins” is easy enough to understand and so is “believe the good news” and to believe means that we trust in what Jesus said and that means we can come to Him for forgiveness and be born again.  That’s the reason the call it good news; God forgives us once we repent of (turn away from) our sins and then trust or believe in Jesus.

Include Biblical Examples

If we wanted to talk about faithfulness we can use David while He was still a shepherd boy or the example of Daniel who was probably a young teenager when he was taken into captivity by the Babylonians.  Then there is Jeremiah who when he was called by God said “I do not know how to speak; I am too young.  But the Lord said to me, “Do not say, ‘I am too young.’ You must go to everyone I send you to and say whatever I command you.  Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you and will rescue you,” declares the Lord” (Jer 1:6-8).  God also told the very young Jeremiah that “I have put my words in your mouth” (Jer 1:9).

Paul was mentoring young Timothy so we must remember that God is no respecter of nations or persons any more than He is a person’s age.  You’ve probably heard this; God does not call the equipped, He equips the called and even Jesus sat in the temple and the people were amazed at His knowledge of the Scriptures and the depth of His questions.  This occurred in the Gospel of Luke where Jesus’ parents had gone up to Jerusalem for the Passover and they had left but then discovered that Jesus was not with them and so returned to Jerusalem (Luke 2:41-46).  They finally found Jesus in the temple and He was only twelve (Luke 2:42) and so “after three days they found him in the temple courts, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. Everyone who heard him was amazed at his understanding and his answers” (Luke 2:46-47).

Include Tangible Props

There is nothing better than using stories, parables, or examples.  Jesus frequently used parables and by using earthly concepts He could teach heavenly meanings.  The image that you can paint in a child’s (and adults) mind by explaining the parables or using an analogy of your own to teach children is almost unlimited.  Jesus will typically follow the parable by giving the explanation of what He was teaching.  The use of physical props, Power Point images, parables in the Bible or even your own story to teach a lesson tend to grip the audience’s attention and since children’s attention span is shorter, you shouldn’t try and elaborate too long on any one parable or example.  There is something special about stories and parables because they’re great teaching opportunities and they give us an image in our mind or an image on the screen that keeps the attention of the children for longer periods of time.

The Wonders of God

Use some of the mighty miracles like the plagues of Egypt, the parting of the Red Sea, the sun stopping until Joshua could vanquish the enemy and of course, Jesus’ resurrection.  The more we show the wonders of God the more the wonders of God will be instilled into the hearts of the children.  In the Old Testament God said “Only be careful, and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them fade from your heart as long as you live. Teach them to your children and to their children after them” (Deut 4:9).  By extension, I believe He is telling parents and grandparents today the very same thing, “You shall teach them to your children, talking of them when you are sitting in your house, and when you are walking by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise” (Deut 11:19) to “Impress them on your children” (Deut 6:7).

Conclusion

There is no reason to believe that children cannot be reached during sermons. The possibilities are only as limited as the human imagination.  Be creative, be engaging, and be as brief as you can in order to keep the attention of the youth by keeping it simple, by using biblical examples, and by the use of stories, parables, or images (or all three) to keep children’s attention for the gospel is simple enough that even a child can be saved.

4 Signs Your Small Group Ministry Needs Changes

Here are 4 signs that your small group ministry could use some changes.

Attendance Declines

When people stop coming on a regular basis to your small group ministry it might be time for one of two things; change the ministry and the focus, depending on how many members don’t come anymore or just let it end.  Churches are a lot like people; they are born, they live, and then they die.  It’s not the end of the world when a small group ministry dies.  Don’t wait for this to happen.  You could survey the group members before this happens and on a regular basis and ask what they’d like to see changed or what areas need improvement.  It’s not a bad idea to do this survey anonymously so people are more likely to speak their mind and not be hesitant to suggest something for trying to improve it and if others are in attendance they might be inhibited by the presence of others and what they might think about other people’s ideas so that they might never come to the surface.  You don’t want any of the members reluctant in speaking their minds because like true friends, they will tell you the truth and they will tell you what you need to hear, not what you want to hear.

A Lack of Volunteers and Leadership

If you are starting to have a hard time finding a new leader for the small group and you haven’t had any new members come in to replace any members who’ve left, then you might want to think about looking closer at the mission statement or purpose for which this small group ministry was established in the first place.  Also, if you are starting to have no-shows or no one wants to do activities or ministries for which the small group was created, it might be a good indication that some changes are needed.  Either the activities or the ministry is not as fruitful as it hoped to be or it’s not going the way that the small group anticipated.  Interest can wane at times and when the small group members start to decline in volunteering for the group’s activities or ministries then the group might have reached its shelf life and it might be time to finally move on.  This is why ongoing, continuous evaluations are needed to be in place so that the small group can grow in ways that reflect the group’s purpose and both the group’s purpose and their ministry might be evolving into something better than what was originally purposed.

Dissention and Gossip

Gossip and dissention can kill any small group ministry and they can do it very quickly. Churches have been known to die or split over such factitious behavior of membership and the same thing can happen to small group ministries.  Just as no church is immune to dissention and gossip, so is no small group ministry.  If there is consistent infighting during the meetings and even outside of the meetings by members of the small group and they begin to divide and wrangle over things that the small group has done, is doing or even plans to do, it’s time to meet with the group and do a reevaluation of the ministry’s members.

No Change, no Growth

When the group has met for a considerable amount of time and there has been little or no effectual change in the member’s personal lives, then clearly it’s not working.  When there is no life change in the members of the group, it might be time to either change the agenda or the lessons or the study habits of the group.  Is the Bible consistently accessed in the group and used as a sort of guidebook?  Are meetings shifting to different member’s homes?  Do people in the group or in the church rarely if ever talk about this group outside of the group?  Are all the decisions made by one person or are the decisions made by the majority of the members and by mutual consent?  Does it feel like you’re getting in a rut?  Do you believe that people are starting to make excuses for not coming or do people actually feel like they dread coming now?  If there is little or no change in the lives of the members and there is little or no spiritual growth, something is seriously wrong.  That is a bad sign for your small group ministry.

Conclusion

There are certainly more than just four signs that your small group ministry needs some changes but certainly if membership begins to decline, if you are having difficulty finding leaders of the group and volunteers to carry out specific functions and duties of the group, if dissention and gossip starts to surface, and if there is little or no change in the member’s lives, then you’ve got some reevaluation to do if your small group ministry is to survive.

5 Common Struggles Of A Pastor’s Wife

What are 5 common struggles of a pastor’s wife?  What ones could you suggest?

Married to the Church?

In the qualifications for pastor in Titus 1:5-9 and in 1 Timothy 3:1-7, the pastor is to be a one-woman man or faithful to his wife and be above reproach in that and other areas of course but sometimes, the pastor seems married to his work (the church) more that his wife.  That doesn’t work well in a marriage because a man’s first earthly ministry is not to the church but to his wife and his children but frequently the church takes second place behind God.  It’s like the husband who is a workaholic and is never home and doesn’t spend adequate time with his wife and his children.  Since the pastorate is typically a 24/7 job, it can create demands around the clock and every day of the week.  What scheduled time there is with his wife and children can be lost due to an emergency like having a member in the hospital or a death in the family.  The family’s time is usually the first thing to go in the pastor’s schedule.  Naturally, this creates a lot of tension and the wife can feel like a second class citizen in the scheme of things.  It is even made worse when the pastor is bi-vocational and in some cases tri-vocational because now the church and a job or jobs can cut into precious time with the wife and with the children and what affects the children absolutely affects the wife.

Loneliness and Isolation

You might think that the pastor’s wife is one where she’s surrounded by the congregants wives and supported in many ways but this is far from the reality.  My wife has felt so isolated at times that it became a real struggle for her to even go to services and I cannot blame her one bit.  Most people might not expect this problem but many don’t feel like they can easily approach the pastor’s wife even though my wife is one of the most respected women of our community and one of the kindest, most generous people I know.  My wife is so good to me and to the congregation and for so many years she sent them anniversary cards, birthday cards, Christmas cards and even made up Christmas goody plates and rarely, if ever, did she even get a thank you card nor did we ever get birthday cards, Christmas cards or anniversary cards in return or even the acknowledgement of these important dates in our life.  She didn’t say much but I could tell this hurt her deeply.  It was expected of her to acknowledge others but no one thought to think of her!  This has been so hard on her over the years yet she never complained to anyone in the church; ever!  How lonely and isolated she’s felt.  It’s like a one-way street that she is expected to travel but no one else is.  This has been so unfair to her and after all she has done for so many for so long and to never be acknowledged or even given thanks has hurt her very deeply.  The church forgets that a pastor’s wife is every bit a part of the ministry as the pastor is.  You can’t separate a pastor’s wife from a pastor’s ministry because they are a team.

Unreasonable Expectations

Everyone expects a pastor’s wife to be perfect, dress immaculately, and to never make any mistakes but those are unfair and unreasonable expectations.  My own wife has been above reproach, she has never raised her voice, nor has she ever said a cross word to anyone but they expect her to be an angel, even though to me I wonder if angels look at envy when they look at her.  They fully expect her to be perfect, be on every committee, sing in the church choir, be the church’s custodian, and to be in the nursery or teach in Sunday school every week but she cannot possibly do even half of the things that others suggest.  I find it interesting that all these people who suggest that she do this and do that rarely do anything at all to serve the church.  They read about the Proverbs 31 woman and expect her to be just like that even though that woman doesn’t really exist. It is irritating to me that those who ask her why she isn’t serving in certain areas in the church are usually the ones who do little or nothing. By the way, for so many years, she’s done more than anyone else in the church that I know of.

A Balancing Act

Being a single mother I believe is the most difficult job there is but next to being a single mother (and a single father) I don’t know of any wife who has a more difficult job than being a pastor’s wife.  That’s because she has to juggle things at home since her husband is gone so often and at odd hours of the day and the night.  She has to balance the demands of the children, her husband, the home, and the activities at the church and she’s only got two hands.  She rarely has any “me time” because she is always doing so much for so many others, including those in the church.  I know this; I couldn’t even function at my job as a pastor without my wife’s support and I can’t imagine the neglect that the children would have to experience.  She is a great multi-tasker because she’s had to be.  She learned how to be such a good multi-tasker because she had no other choice. Seriously, I don’t know how she does it.

Great Stresses

When jetliners go through regular maintenance checks, they test for metal fatigue because of all the stress put on the aircraft.  Are there any greater stresses in life than being a pastor’s wife and particularly with children?  According to the National Center for Health Statistics, about 50 percent of the 2.2 million marriages last year will end in divorce and sadly, the divorce rate among pastors is comparable to that. It’s no wonder either because of the stresses put on the pastor and his wife and all of the demands of home, husband, children, and the church. Talk about stress!  A recent survey by the Global Pastors Wives Network revealed that 80% of pastor’s wives feel left out of church activities, conversation, and fellowship and these same eight out of ten feel highly unappreciated. We don’t think about  the effects of mental fatigue which is exacerbated by feeling left out and being underappreciated but this causes a great deal of stress and the consistent stress and strain can eventually catch up to the couples and the end result can be divorce.

Conclusion

There are more than five common struggles that a pastor’s wife goes through but these might be among the most common and include feeling estranged to her husband as if her husband is married to the church and the activities there.  This can create a deep sense of loneliness and feelings of isolation.  It is made worse when so many unreasonable and unfair expectations are put on her and the balancing act that the demands of a husband, children, the home, and the church can create such stress that divorce is more likely to occur.  Remember to thank the pastor’s wife the next time you see her and thank her for all she does and make sure to acknowledge all that she does.  If she doesn’t fall over dead on the spot, she’ll feel good about things…at least for that one day.

4 Reasons Your Church Needs A Website

Does your church have a website?  If not, why not?  Here are 4 reasons that today more than ever, your church needs a website.

The Age of the Internet

People today rely on the Internet more than any other source when they are seeking information about something, someone, or some place and that includes churches.  Gone are the days, for the most part, where you’d search the phonebook directory to find out about a church.  The phonebook typically doesn’t give people enough information about what they are seeking in a church.  The church’s website can give a comprehensive look at what the church’s doctrines are, what their mission statement is, what ministries they have, and what is offered for different age groups.   The population is so transient today and new people are coming and going every day in the community where you live so it’s a great advantage to have your church’s information available at their fingertips and it’s essential to drawing new people to your church.  Most people seek quick access to information like the church address, the times of services, and if they have children, whether there are Sunday school classes available.  There is also an easy way to click a link on the website where it might say “Get Directions” and there you can have a link to a mapping website that will tell them exactly where your church is at.

A Picture’s Worth a Thousand Words

The saying that a picture is worth a thousand words is just as true today as in the day that this phrase was invented.  Images draw people’s attention like a magnet. Sometimes what they see can make their decision as to whether they’ll attend the church or not simply by looking at the church building, the parking lot, the sanctuary and also seeing pictures of some of the church members and the activities they’re engaged in.   At a quick glance, these images can show some of the activities of the church, what worship services are like, and how the people interact with one another and do it so much better than mere words can.  People are attracted to images that show smiling faces, engaged people, and their participation in various activities.  Pictures can show the website visitors more than words can even describe.  They give a lot more details in an instant that paragraphs of information can.  They might not have the patience to read everything on your website but they usually don’t hesitate to look at all the images.

Personal Stories Attract Visitors

When people visit your church’s website, if you have one, make sure to include stories about the power of God’s Spirit to work in the lives of people. These true, inspiring stories can give others hope that they too can overcome obstacles, scale strongholds, and have miraculous breakthroughs by the very power of God.  Truth is much greater than fiction and these real-to-life testimonies can be very compelling and intriguing and create a desire in people to follow in their footsteps.  Almost everyone can relate to God’s supernaturally working in people’s lives to conquer powerful addictions and change their lives for the better through the working of God’s Spirit.  For every inspirational story of a changed life there is a much greater chance that someone who comes to your website might be in a similar situation and giving personal, true-life accounts may be just what they were looking for and that is hope.

FAQ’s

FAQ is an abbreviation for “Frequently Asked Questions” and these can be questions about the times and days of services, the activities of certain ministries, whether the church is denominational or non-denominational, a place where there is a “Contact Us” form, and what the church’s beliefs are, whether they are contained in a statement of beliefs or by listing certain scriptures like Romans 10:9-13.  It’s also a good idea to have links that provide names of staff with their pictures on them.  It’s so much easier to see a friendly face when you want to contact someone than to give no names or pictures of the staff at all. Your website might even include a “Feedback” link where the visitors can make suggestions about the website to improve it and even a link to a Facebook or Twitter page for the church.  If you have a YouTube or GodTube account for the church, sermons can be accessed easily through these sites so that visitors can see and hear some of the messages.

Conclusion

If your church doesn’t have a website and it might not be able to afford one, there are many free websites available on line.  All you need to do is search “free websites” and you’ll get a great variety of sites to look at.  They are so easy to create and set up these websites today that almost anyone can do it.  Websites are a great idea because they give the visitors instant access to all the information that they’ll need to make an informed decision as to whether they want to visit your church.  You might even have someone who is adept at writing in your church create a blog on a link on the homepage on the website and this will keep fresh content on the site and draw new visitors who might be searching for an answer to a question and they might be brought to your website because of that  blog. SEO and web content searches can often bring unexpected visitors to your church’s website which is all the more reason for your church to have a website.

4 Ways To Survive A Difficult Pastorate

Here are 4 ways to survive a very difficult pastorate.

Stay on your Face

What do I mean by saying “stay on your face?”  What I mean by this is to fully depend on God for His sustaining you through the most difficult periods of your pastorate.  Any pastor should know that they cannot do anything without Christ and even Jesus said “Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me” (John 15:4) because “apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5b).  If you are not depending on God and being constant in prayer, you won’t be able to bear any fruit for His work.  Abiding in Christ is vital to being able to bear fruit because I have yet to see any fruit on any plant being born when it’s not attached or abiding on a vine.  Even the psalmist declared “You are my Lord; I have no good apart from you” (Psalm 16:2).  Some days are very tough for a pastor and those who are bi-vocational and even those who are tri-vocational have it perhaps the most difficult of all.  If you don’t stay in prayer during a difficult pastorate, or for that matter, any pastorate, there is no way you’re ever going to survive.

Stay in the Word

Returning to John 15 we read that “If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you” (15:7).  What does it mean to abide in Jesus’ words and then have His words abide in you?  In the first chapter of the Gospel of John it reads “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (John 1:1) “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14).  Since we understand that Jesus  is called the Word (John 1:1, 14) then the Word of God are Jesus’ words because you cannot separate the Word of God from the God of the Word and unless His Words are abiding in you then you are not equipped with the very power of salvation that is the gospel (Rom 1:16).  If you get into the Word daily, the Word will be in you daily.  Abiding in the Word means to remain in the Word and as the Greek word for “abide” (menō) means; “to not depart from, to remain in, to continue in,” and to “tarry” in the Word.

See People as God Sees People

Churches are difficult to pastor because they have people in them.  The pastor himself is no exception and being one, I know I’ve brought on many of the problems myself.  If we strive to look at people the way that Jesus looks at people, we might lower our expectations because you’re never going to find perfect people.  I know this because of the man in the mirror that I face every day.  We must realize that people are in different places in their walk with Christ.  Some are more advanced in their Christian faith while others are still working on being more Christ-like.  If we teach on subjects such as true humility and esteeming others better than ourselves, we might have the congregation try to look outside of themselves and be less focused on the self.  For example, Philippians 2:3 says we should “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves” and “Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves” (Rom 12:10).  This idea is reflected in Ephesians 5:21 which says we are to “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.”

Be Transparent

I think one of the greatest strengths a pastor can have is to be transparent and talk to the church about their struggles, their weaknesses, and their own personal issues.   When I witness to people on the street, I am quick to tell them that I am far from perfect.  I reveal to them the things that I have struggled with in life and those things that still hinder my walk with Christ.  If we are open and honest with people about our shortcomings, they’re more likely to confess their own faults and shortcomings to others.  James wrote “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).  We can’t pretend to be something we aren’t and really, it doesn’t help anyone to do this anyway because we’re not only lying to them and to ourselves but to God Who knows our heart.  If we admit to the church what we struggle with, this might encourage them to do the same.  Tell them straight up what the most difficult issues are in the church, the things you struggle with, and be specific because if they’re not even aware of the problems, they may never address them.  Ignorance is not bliss it is a blind spot and I know I have some and surely the congregants do too.

Conclusion

Today, I believe it is more difficult to pastor a church than at any time because of the trends in our society.  At least that is my experience.  The only way a pastor can survive in the church today and particularly in a difficult church, is to stay in constant prayer, be abiding in the Word of God every day, look at people in the same way that Jesus does, and be transparent and tell them what you’re going through and what you’re thinking.

Resource – Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

4 Areas America’s Morals Have Slipped Over The Last 20 Years

Here are 4 incontrovertible evidences that the morality of America has slipped in the last 20 years.

The Growth of Sexual Immorality

This might be the most evident sign of all.  If you remember some of the TV shows in the mid 90’s, you probably never heard God’s name taken in vain, you never saw images that you had to shield your children’s eyes from or you never had to blush at the sexually explicit images or specifically the predominance of sexually immoral relationships.  What was inconceivable just twenty years ago is now common place.  Like the frog in a pot that’s heating up on the stove, society doesn’t seem to notice that they’re being boiled to death.  There are a myriad of sitcoms today where unmarried couples have sexual relationships, same-sex couples are seen as typical, and having an affair, even an adulterous affair, is seen as the new norm.  The boom of sexually explicit materials over the Internet, TV, and magazines, has grown filthier over the last twenty years.  All you need to do is look back at the covers of Sports Illustrated and their swim suit edition then and now.  Look at the magazine and newspaper ads then and now.  Take a glimpse of the older sitcoms and what we see today.  Is there any doubt that our society, indeed our whole culture, has swiftly become another Sodom and Gomorrah?  Abortion on demand, graphic images in almost every movie, and primetime television is not suitable anymore, even for adults.

The Growth of Profanity

I was in the grocery store not long ago and I couldn’t believe the language that I was hearing from children and I don’t mean teens…children less than ten years of age!   Most used “damn” as God’s last name even while young children were present.  Jesus’ name is used as a cuss word just like “Christ!” is.  Certain words like what I call the “F bombs” are carelessly thrown around and have become as common place as hello or good morning used to be.   A euphemism is generally an innocuous word or expression used in place of one that may be found offensive or suggest something unpleasant and the number of euphemisms is horrendous like “Jeez” (for Jesus of course).  Even the over-used and oft-repeated “Oh my God” is used anytime there is an element of surprise, good or bad.  They totally ignore the fact that it is taking God’s holy name and using it in vain.  I say in vain because they use it without thinking, thought or care and with no purpose at all except to make an emphasis for something that’s happened or an overwhelming feeling.  This despite the fact that God says He will not hold those guiltless who take His name in vain (Ex 20:7; Deut 5:11).  Now it’s the frequent use of OMG which is an abbreviation for “Oh my God” and it has even grown more profane being used as “OMFG” with the “F bomb” being placed inside the “Oh my God.”  Could anything be more disgusting?

The Growth of Rudeness

Whatever happened to “Thank you, excuse me,” and “You’re welcome?”  They seemed to have flown the coup with the 90’s.  Gone are the days of letting someone go ahead of us.  Now there is an overabundance of road rage occurrences where people have lost their temper and even killed someone just because someone pulled in front of them or took the parking space in front of them.  If someone is slowing us down in traffic, we like to get right on their bumper or we fly the so-called “birdie” at them (which is the middle finger) which is symbolic of “F___ you!”  I have never seen tempers so shortened or patience having worn so thin in all my 60 + years and it is getting worse.  The things many of us did in school seem to pale in comparison to what is happening in schools today; stabbings, shootings, and death threats to name a few.   I can remember getting in trouble chewing gum but it’s not a gum problem anymore, it’s a gun problem.  We have 75 mph turnpikes, microwaves, supersonic jets and we get impatient or angry if we have to wait ten seconds for anything.  We have become a society which is focused on “me” and not on others.  It has been the slow death of politeness, manners, and patience.

The Growth of Crime

We don’t even need to go back twenty years ago to see just how serious of a spike there has been in crime but not just crime, violent crime.  The U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics reported that the number of violent crimes rose 22% from 2010 to 2012 and was the result of an upward swing in simple assaults, from 4 million in 2010 to 5 million in 2012.  That’s a spike of nearly twenty five percent in a short two year period for violent crime, the crime that is most dangerous to society.  According to the Justice Department the rate of U.S. violent crime continued to go up in 2013, continuing its climb for nearly the last two decades due to a jump in assaults.  Data collected by the Bureau of Justice Statistics in telephone surveys showed a 22 percent increase in assaults, pushing up the overall rate for violent crime rate to its highest today, beginning its climb in 1993. The rise in violent crimes is not just in the biggest cities either as the number of crimes in small towns and rural areas continued to climb since the mid 1990’s.

Conclusion

It is easier to look back twenty years ago to see the decline in America’s morals but this is happening around the world too. This decline in morality includes a steep rise in sexual immorality and promiscuous behavior; the large growth of profanity, even among youth; the growth of rudeness and decline of patience overall in society, and again, the spike in crime that continues to increase every year, particularly violent crime like assaults.   Jesus spoke about the end of the age in the Olivet Prophecy and in one place in particular He said, “And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold” (Matthew 24:12 ESV).  That time has apparently come.

5 Signs You Are Being Called By God To Preach

What are 5 signs that you are being called by God to preach?  What signs might you suggest?

An Inward Confirmation

I taught Sunday school for many years but after a while, it seemed that something was missing.  It was a gaping hole in my heart that it wasn’t enough, I needed to do more.  Don’t get me wrong, I loved teaching Sunday school for 3rd/4th graders (combined class) but I had this passionate desire to study the Word of God and then to pass on that knowledge to others. Every day I would listen to Bible teachers and grew to love learning from these men but most of the things I studied were a bit beyond the Sunday school level.  I had felt this for some time but I kept resisting it, thinking “Who do I think I am to be called for such a thing?”  I believe it was like Jeremiah 20:9 “there is in my heart as it were a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I am weary with holding it in, and I cannot.”  This fire was unquenchable.  I was going to explode if I couldn’t preach or teach others.  I was completely miserable thinking that I couldn’t do this.  I felt it so strongly that I didn’t care if I got paid or not…I had to preach!  It was like an irresistible pull. I truly believe now, looking back on this from the vantage point of many years now, it was God calling me. If God is not doing the calling, then it is not a true calling.

An Outward Confirmation

For many years, I had co-workers come up to me and ask me about things in the Bible or what I thought about their life’s circumstances.  Things like what can I do to save my marriage, I am struggling with pornography, I am battling an addiction and I just can’t overcome it.   I spent a lot of time researching these subjects and I had an overwhelming urge to go to seminary, which I did.  Time after time my friends, family, and mainly my co-workers told me that I’d make a great pastor because of the counsel that they received.  I didn’t rely on my own wisdom. I picked the brains of Christian marriage counselors, Bible teachers, and searched the Scriptures for biblical responses.  When I came as a guest to a church that wanted to create an Outreach, their pastor retired that very week and I was asked to fill the pulpit.  The church validated my inward calling by telling me that they sensed that God was calling me to be a pastor…their pastor!  I resisted this for a long time before they finally became exasperated and told me flat out, “You’re ignoring what God is trying to tell you!”

A Church’s Calling

When I came to the church I am at now to train them on evangelism and Outreach man years ago, as I mentioned, their pastor retired and I was asked to fill the pulpit and I did so, although reluctantly at first.  After a while, I felt such a sense of purpose, fulfillment, joy, and pleasure that I finally felt that I must have been called by God.  It was after a time filling the pulpit that the church ended their search for a pastor.  They called the church board to vote on ordaining me and by a total majority, they voted to ordain me and so the church ordained me and I had never been happier.  If you are called by God to be a pastor, God will open the door for you somewhere.  I didn’t open this door, God did.  God is the one who opens doors that no man can open (Rev 3:8).  If God doesn’t open the door for you to preach at a church, you might think about whether this is truly God’s calling or not, however He may give you some time to study, go to seminary, or He may be waiting for the best church to place you in because it is God Who places the members of the church where it pleases Him (1 Cor 12:18) and not where it pleases us because God always does what He pleases (Psalm 135:6).

In Inward Hunger

I touched on this before but I wanted to expand on this as a separate sign because before I was finally placed in a church by God I had this ravenous hunger to learn more about the Word of God.  Just reading the Bible wasn’t enough for me, although that is an essential sign too.  I wanted to dig deeper into the original languages that the Bible was written in; Hebrew, Greek, and some Aramaic.  I also wanted to learn about translations, transliteration, exegesis, hermeneutics, and more such areas of study.  Hermeneutics was especially of interest to me because it is that which is applied to the interpretation, or exegesis of Scripture.  Exegesis is the investigation into the history and origins of the text but it may also include the study of the historical and cultural backgrounds of the authors of the books of the Bible as well as a study of the text and the original audience.  Does that sound like something that interests you?  If so, it may be a sign that you are being called by God to be a pastor.

A Broken Heart for the Lost

This sign should be in every believer but it might even be more so with those being called into the pastorate.  If you care about people’s eternity so much that you’re willing to face rejection, scorn, ridicule, and persecution for the sake of sharing the gospel, you might have a calling from God.  Don’t get me wrong, we all are called to make disciples of all people (Matt 28:19-20) but this desire to rescue the perishing is something that cannot be contained.  You won’t even hesitate to witness to a total stranger.  Charles Spurgeon, one of the greatest preachers of all time and a man whose heart broke for the lost once said “If sinners be damned, at least let them leap to Hell over our dead bodies. And if they perish, let them perish with our arms wrapped about their knees, imploring them to stay. If Hell must be filled, let it be filled in the teeth of our exertions, and let not one go unwarned and unsprayed for.”  Is that what you feel?

Conclusion

If you have most or all of these signs and you are thoroughly convinced of them, then you may have already been called by God so I suggest, talk to others and see if they affirm this in you.  Look inwardly and see if you’d be totally miserable doing anything else but preaching.  Look to see if you an insatiable appetite to dig deep into the Word of God.  Does this calling seem to come from your church?  And finally, is there a heart that breaks for the lost and so much so that you’d be willing to witness to anyone for the sake of Christ?  If this is the case with you, then God may be calling you into the pastorate. Believe me, you won’t be able to ignore it, I guarantee that because it will be like a burning fire shut up in your bones and you’ll be weary trying to hold it in, for indeed, you cannot.