What We Can Learn from the Duggar Family Today

Danger!

My wife and I used to enjoy sitting down each week to watch the Duggar Family on their TLC show, 19 Kids and Counting.  Being a Christian family, we were thrilled to see that a good, wholesome, decent family with good morals was finally being portrayed on television.  It was so refreshing.  We watched the kids grow up like many of you did on television.

I was heartbroken to find out about the molestation charges on Josh Duggar, the oldest of the children.  The family did, in fact, admit that they had gone through a tough time, and that Josh had indeed molested several children.  There were many opinions, many thoughts, and many disagreements had by many people about the situation.

His wife forgave him.  She knew about it going into the marriage.  The family stood firm on how they handled it.  Would I have done things differently if it were my son?  Honestly – I don’t know how I would handle it.  But I can’t put myself in their shoes.  What a horrible thing to go through.

The Duggar family lost their show over a mistake their son made.  Pressure mounted on TLC to drop the show completely, and they did.

Fast forward to today.

A few days ago, hackers claimed they had hacked the Ashley Madison website.  This is an online site for people looking to have affairs (atrocious as it may sound) in a private, discreet way.  The hackers didn’t get what they wanted from the site, so they released information that is bound to destroy many, many families.

Last night, I saw that Josh Duggar’s name had popped up in the list.  All I could think of was “My goodness, someone logged in under Josh’s name so that he might one day get in trouble and they could smear the Duggar name.”  Then, I saw that the name was attached to Josh’s credit card, and his addresses in a previous and current home.

Even today, as I saw an article about it – I didn’t want to believe it.

But then, he admitted this afternoon that he had indeed been unfaithful to his wife, and was addicted to pornography.  Molestation charges, and now this.

A great family, one that has strong core beliefs, taken down again because of the mistakes of this young man.

So what are my thoughts?  I have several on this tragedy that is unfolding before our eyes.  Here are just a few:

  1. The internet is a wonderful tool, but when used the wrong way can destroy lives.  Sadly, the Duggar family is now a victim of the misuse of the internet.  There are so many sites out there in cyberspace that want nothing more than to prey on you.  They want to lure you in – to hack your computer, to steal your information, to steal your bank account, to get you involved in an inappropriate relationship.  While it’s great to be able to shop online, it’s far too easy to shop for the wrong thing.

  2. The internet is not safe.  You MUST take precautions to keep your family safe from the web.  Many people think an antivirus program is all they need.  However, filters need to be used, as well as communicating with your family about what’s out there in the internet world.   I was showing my wife the other night a music video to a popular song by a popular artist in which there are two versions – a rated and unrated version.  Any child can type in the name of this song, click on the unrated version, and see two popular music artists ogling topless women parading around.  It’s just that easy.  If you trust your children, that’s not enough – because a lot of time innocent searching can lead to terrible things.

  3. Don’t be absorbed.  The internet, your laptops, your smartphones, your tablets – can suck you in and not let go.  Click on this, go here, search here, and before you know it you’ve spent 3-4 hours on Facebook.  You see a link to a place that links to this place or that place – and you wind up seeing an advertisement for love, for intimacy, for something you’re searching for.  Get off your phones, give your thumb a break from scrolling through Facebook, and have a relationship with your family and friends, not a piece of technology.  I know people who spend more time on Facebook than they do anything else during the day.  Perhaps it is time to take a Facebook/Internet sabbatical if it’s absorbing all of your time.

  4. Communicate.  Sites like Ashley Madison, along with many other sites – prey on those who are seeking something they are not getting in their own relationships.  It might be something simple like conversation, or it could involve sexual intimacy.  If you are not getting something you are wanting out of your marriage – COMMUNICATE!  If sex isn’t occurring as frequent as you’d like – COMMUNICATE!  If you’re uncomfortable with something in the bedroom – COMMUNICATE!  You can not over-communicate in your marriage. Many extra-marital affairs occur because a husband or a wife is not providing something in the relationship.  Instead of thinking you can only get that something somewhere else – COMMUNICATE!

  5. It’s easy to judge from afar – but don’t.  I have tried my best in this post to steer clear of judging the Duggar family, but instead tried to look at what caused the most recent problem in the first place.  Sin is real, the struggle of pornography is real, the desire to run around and have fun is real for so many people.  I would dare say that most of us would not want our dirty laundry popping up on what’s trending on Twitter.  Instead of judging them, or anyone else – pray for them.  Pray that your family will avoid these kinds of situations.  Pray that you can be a light in a dark world.  Pray that Satan’s dart won’t pierce us all.

 

Bottom line – there is now a very broken family, a young man who will pay for his mistakes, a wife who is very much so heartbroken and shell-shocked, 4 young children who will always know the mistake their father made, a mother and father who are now wondering where they went wrong – ALL because of this mistake.

Temptation is one of the strongest things in the world.  May God give us all the power to look it eye to eye and say no.

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How Can I Keep Holding It All Together? A post about how you don’t have to!!

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Life happens, right? People mess up, people get sick, tragedy happens. There’s no stopping it in this fallen world we live in – so the question has to be asked: How do I hold it all together? How do I keep from falling apart? How do I keep on keeping on?

We were sitting in the upper section of Bridgestone Arena. Every time the Casting Crowns are nearby, we try to go hear them in concert. There’s something about this Christian band – its not that their songs are typical “worship” songs like Crowder and Tomlin sing. The songs they sing are lessons. They are stories. And if you have never heard Mark Hall crack jokes and teach – you are missing out.

We had just been through a rotten week. Our lives had been turned upside down in a few different ways. We were hurt, scared, anxious, and my mind was racing 8000 miles a minute.

Until about 5 songs in to their part of the concert – I hadn’t really been there. My mind was elsewhere. Sure, they sang a few of their popular songs to start with, and my heart felt joy listening. But then, off their newest album, they sang this song:

If you don’t want to watch the video, you’re missing out on the beautiful music that accompanies these words. But if you just want to read – read these words carefully:

“Just Be Held”

Hold it all together
Everybody needs you strong
But life hits you out of nowhere
And barely leaves you holding on

And when you’re tired of fighting
Chained by your control
There’s freedom in surrender
Lay it down and let it go

So when you’re on your knees and answers seem so far away
You’re not alone, stop holding on and just be held
Your worlds not falling apart, its falling into place
I’m on the throne, stop holding on and just be held
Just be held, just be held

If your eyes are on the storm
You’ll wonder if I love you still
But if your eyes are on the cross
You’ll know I always have and I always will

And not a tear is wasted
In time, you’ll understand
I’m painting beauty with the ashes
Your life is in My hands

Lift your hands, lift your eyes
In the storm is where you’ll find Me
And where you are, I’ll hold your heart
I’ll hold your heart
Come to Me, find your rest
In the arms of the God who wont let go

There, about 45 rows from the floor of Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, TN – my heart burst, as well as my eyes. I have a feeling these words may be able to offer you a big helping of relief like it did for me.

Today may God hold you. May God encourage you. May God assure you that He has the answers, He holds the future, and He loves you. May you let go of the pressures, the stress, the problems, and let God take them over. May you let God rule your heart, instead of letting fear do so.

I walked out of the concert, emotionally broken, vulnerable, and fragile – but knowing that God had already started strengthening me. Be broken today, and let God paint beauty with the ashes. In time, we’ll understand.

The One About Addiction…to Anything

addictionAddiction is a word that is heavily associated with things such as alcohol, smoking and drug abuse.  The problem with that is for those of us who have absolutely no problem with alcohol or drug abuse, we tend to feel like addiction can’t take a hold of us.  Like to drink soft drinks multiple times a day?  Can’t start your day without a cup of coffee?  Do you have a compulsive need to finish that bag of chips you just opened?

 Want to go deeper?  Addiction is NOT just dealing with things you consume.  Pornography is one of the things that has a grasp on many.  Maybe you don’t struggle with pornography, so you feel as if you don’t have an addiction problem to anything – but you just might.

Facebook much?  Pinterest much?  Text much?  Candy Crush too much?  Have you played Temple Run so many times that your thumbs are raw?  Do you find yourself going to the internet to look at one thing, and two hours later wonder where your time went because you got sucked into a vortex of web surfing?

The real problem with addiction is that it is possible to be addicted to pretty much anything – and whether that addiction is to something hardcore like alcohol, drugs, or pornography, or whether it is to something less physically dangerous like Facebook, the internet, or games on your phone – it consumes you.

I’m fearful for people when they start to go down a path with things that consume them.  Denial is a big part of the problem with addiction.

After years of consuming diet soft drinks, specifically Diet Dr. Pepper, I realized I had a problem.  I could not go 5 minutes in the morning without cracking open a can and enjoying the bubbly fizz and taste of that sweet nectar of carbonation.  The caffeine would kick in, and I’d be good to go.  That is, I’d be good to go until I got to the office, or to a gas station, or to a fast food restaurant, or anywhere else where I could grab another diet drink.

One in the morning, one when I got to the office, one for lunch, one after lunch, one in the afternoon as a pick me up, one at dinner, one before bed.  If I had gone to a restaurant that day, I would have gotten 3 or 4 refills as well.  I was hooked.  The thought of drinking anything else but a diet soft drink repulsed me.  I knew I had a problem.

I had tried in the past to get off of drinking my diet drinks, but to no avail.  The longest I had gone was a month or so, but I would always cave in, giving in to stress or cravings.  But this time, on March 23, 2012, I woke up with a mission.  I was going to stop depending on this chemical to provide me with life.

Today, I have gone 410 days without having a soft drink.  99% of what I consume as a beverage is straight up water.  And let me tell you, its liberating.

Food tastes better, life is better, my stomach feels better, and I rarely have headaches anymore.

But do you want to know what happened?  My addiction moved from diet soft drinks to other things.  I started to eat more, specifically chips.  I started to play mind numbing games on my phone/ipad to calm me down.  Thats when it hit me – addiction is going to try to find a way to rule your life, especially when you have an addiction problem.

The problem with addiction is that it is a constant struggle.  It rears its ugly head when it can.  It reminds you that you need something to fill the void of something else that filled a void.

Its overpowering.  Its strong.  Can’t have a drink?  Can’t have a smoke?  That’s fine, fill it with food.  Fill it with pornography.  Fill it with ___________ .  Addiction can rule your life.

We tend to trivialize some addictions.   Coffee – oh, I’m not addicted to coffee, I don’t have to have it…yet you’re nonfunctional without it in the mornings.

Facebook?  Oh, I could close my account right now and never miss it…yet you get off the computer and go straight to your Facebook app on your phone.

I noticed the other night how addicted we are to just filling a void with something.  Its almost as if we are scared of the quiet, scared of just doing nothing, scared of having to interact.  My little girl was watching a show while sitting on my lap.  I had my phone in my hand scrolling through facebook.  My wife had her computer out looking through Pinterest.  Show goes off, my daughter goes to bed, we come back downstairs, I get my computer out, scroll through Facebook some more, and my wife gets out her computer and does the same.

So I’ve made a more conscious effort to quit relying on other things to fill the void in my life.  Maybe I should God fill that void.  If you were to clock your time – do you spend more time on Facebook or more time with God in prayer and scripture each day?

Do you spend more money a month on Starbucks or soft drinks than you put in the collection plate on Sunday?

Or if you do have a serious addiction to dangerous things such as drugs, alcohol, smoking, pornography – have you sought help?

If you’re looking for something to fill the void of a past or current addiction, or if you see yourself struggling with something that could very easily become an addiction – do something about it.

Turn to God.

Turn to a friend.

Turn to a spouse.

Don’t go at it alone.  Get some help.

Facebook, the internet, Candy Crush, coffee, soft drinks, drugs, alcohol, the list goes on and on – don’t let these things define who you are.  Don’t let them control you.

And when you give up your addictions, don’t replace them with other bad addictions.  Let go, and Let God in to your life.

I Can Do It!

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I can’t even begin to tell you how hard it is to write this. However, sometimes, you just have to do hard things, right? I can’t even count how many times I’ve written about this topic – countless – but I’m going to bring it up yet again.

I know that I am not a “thin” man. However, I’ve never felt like I was a morbidly obese man.

Today, I found out that officially – I am. If I were to apply for health insurance coverage today based upon my current weight, I would be denied coverage. Fortunately, they won’t raise rates from where you initially qualified, but this is still a very sobering thought.

I will lay it all on the line – and fully disclose a few things. I’ve been trying. In fact, at times I’m rather upset that what I’m doing is not working. Tomorrow marks 300 days without any soft drinks, teas, juices…pretty much anything but water. I’ve also gone 160 days without eating french fries. I’ve given up two of my biggest vices so I can lose weight. But it hasn’t worked.

I lift weights 3-5 times a week. I’ve increased cardio. I’m eating better – but I’m still fat.

There’s nothing more humbling than putting on a pair of pants and having them not fit the right way. There’s nothing more troubling than bending over to tie your shoes and having to stop to catch your breath. There’s nothing worse than having a job where you stand in front of people each and every week several times and feeling like all eyes are on the flaws of your physicality.

Here’s the problem – I don’t really feel like I am “morbidly obese” person. But according to my health insurance, if I were to qualify for the preferred or basic coverage – I would have to lose 31 pounds up to 40 pounds. I honestly feel like if I were to lose that much I’d be a beanpole. But – if I want to save money and have good coverage – I have to do it.

I’ve never really cared that much about reaching a “number” for my weight. But apparently, that number is extremely important for insurance purposes.

Here’s where you come in. The book of James tells us to “confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.” While I don’t feel like I am confessing a sin, I am asking for prayers that I can be healed of my cravings, my lack of willpower, my lack of desire to stay focused on this endeavor, and that my health can improve.

I know there are people out there who are struggling with more issues than being overweight – but let’s face it, we all have struggles with our identity and our appearance. Will you pray for me? And if you need prayers in this same situation, can I pray for you? Let’s support each other in these endeavors. May God give us the willpower we need to stay the course for good health.

Course Correction

In Jeremiah 29:10-14, we read a story of a group of people who had everything going for them, and then their lives got turned upside down and shaken up over and over as well.

We’ve heard it said that God loves us and has a wonderful plan for our lives. It’s easy to agree when we like the plan. But sometimes, things in our lives take a turn.

The same thing is true of the Jewish people in Jeremiah 29. The year is 597 BC. God is judging the nation of Judah because of their unfaithfulness. The Babylonians have attacked Jerusalem. They’ve taken 3000 prisoners back to Babylon, including the king, the court officials, and the craftsmen. And the Jews are saying “This isn’t supposed to happen to us! We’re the chosen people! We’re the apple of God’s eye! What is going on?”

The Babylonians invade the land of Judah in 597 BC, the captives are probably thinking, “This isn’t going to last long. God is going to come through for us like He always does! The prophet Hananiah said in Jeremiah 28 that in two years, God will break the yoke of the king of Babylon, and we will be free! We’re coming back home! Praise God!”

But in Jeremiah 29:1-6, Jeremiah writes a letter to the captives in Babylon. And basically, he says “You’re not coming home for a while. Build houses and settle down. Plant gardens and eat what they produce. Marry and have sons and daughters. Be fruitful and multiply.” In other words, ‘You’re not ready to go home because I have plans for you right here in Babylon.”

And then in verse seven, Jeremiah says, “seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the LORD for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.”

And the Jews would have been thinking, “You want us to pray for the community that carried us into captivity? Jeremiah, have you lost your mind? These people are the enemies of God! These are the people who ransacked the city of Jerusalem! How can you ask us to pray for these people?”

And then down in verse ten, God says something else that would have gotten the Jews riled up. He says “When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfill my gracious promise to bring you back to this place.”

The Jews had to be thinking, “You mean we gotta live in this rotten country for the next 70 years? Most of us are going to be dead by then! What kind of a plan is this, God?”

But if you look at the Old Testament, you will see that God accomplished great things in the lives of His people during those seventy years.

Number one: Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were three of the captives that were taken to Babylon. They went on to become three of the best administrators that the country ever had.

Number two: Daniel was another one of the captives that was taken to Babylon. And because Daniel was able to interpret the dream of King Nebuchadnezzar, he was made ruler over the entire province of Babylon.

Number three: With Daniel’s help, Nebuchadnezzar becomes a believer in God. In Daniel 4:37, he says, “I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and exalt and glorify the King of heaven, because everything he does is right and all his ways are just. And those who walk in pride He is able to humble.” This beautiful moment in the king’s life would probably not have happened if it weren’t for the presence of the Jewish people in the land of Babylon.

Number four: Because the Jewish people were able to live in peace under the leadership of Daniel and Nebuchadnezzar, they had time to write some of the greatest books of the Old Testament. 1 and 2 Kings, 1 and 2 Chronicles, Jeremiah, Lamentations, Ezekiel, Daniel, and Psalm 137 were all written during this seventy year period.

Number five: Most important of all, during this 70 year period, the Jewish people were beginning to realize that they needed to get right with the Lord! They were beginning to see that they needed to apologize for the mistakes of the past. Jeremiah 4:18 says that “Your own conduct and actions have brought this upon you.”

How many of you have ever had someone say, “Your own conduct and actions have brought this upon you?” I probably heard that a million times as a child growing up.  But there are times when we need to hear it. And this time, the Jewish people need to hear it. Because for years, they have been under the impression that because they are the chosen people, and because they are the guardians of the temple of the Lord, they can live their lives any way they please. And God says in Jeremiah 7:4, “Do not trust in deceptive words. If you reform your ways and change your actions, I will let you stay in the land.” But they didn’t listen. And God is using these seventy years of exile to show the Jewish people where they went wrong. And what they need to do to make things right.

So when you look at the big picture, you can see that God is working behind the scenes in the hearts and in the lives of the Jewish people. Even though they can’t see it.

God’s plan isn’t always what we thought it was going to be. But God’s plan is always best. Even if we don’t understand it at the time. Even if we can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel. Even if we would never have chosen this path for ourselves.

And that brings us to Jeremiah 29:11: “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord.” And then Jeremiah says that “God has plans to prosper you and not to harm you.”

When I talk about God prospering us, I’m not talking about everyone in church winning the Powerball jackpot (as appealing as that may sound). I’m talking about enjoying the everyday blessings of God that are mentioned in verses 4-6. The blessings of a place to live, food to eat, families to love, and communities to pray for. All of these things are a sign that we are experiencing God’s plans to prosper us and not to harm us.

Then Jeremiah says that God has ‘plans to give you a hope and a future.’ For the Jewish people, that meant going back to the promised land. But for us, it means going UP to the Promised Land.

If you are a believer in Jesus Christ, you have a hope and a future that goes far beyond the parameters of this life. You have a hope and a future where you will be living in eternity with God himself. You have the hope that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. You have the hope that God will someday be finished with the work He’s doing in your life, and that you will reign with Christ forever and ever! You have a certain hope that God’s promises in your life will come true.

In fact, the whole message of Jeremiah is that the word of the Lord always comes true. In the first 25 chapters of Jeremiah, God says over and over again, “I am going to judge the nation of Judah because they have forsaken the Lord, the spring of living water.” And that’s what happened. Because the word of the Lord always comes true.

And in Jeremiah chapter 30:3, God says “The days are coming, when I will bring my people Israel and Judah back from captivity and restore them to the land I gave their forefathers to possess,’ says the LORD.” 50 years later, the Medes and the Persians conquered the kingdom of Babylon. And the Jews were allowed to go back home. Because the word of the Lord always comes true.

And in Jeremiah 31:31, the Lord says “I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah. With this covenant, No longer will a man teach his neighbor, or a man his brother, saying, ’Know the LORD,’ because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest,” declares the LORD. “For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.”

630 years later, God ratified this new covenant when He sent Jesus Christ to die on the cross for our sins. And because of what Jesus Christ did for us on that cross, we all have an opportunity to know the Lord for ourselves. We all have an opportunity to be forgiven! This helped prove once and for all that the word of the Lord always come true.

And because the word of the Lord is coming true in our lives, we need to reach out to the God who makes His word come true. Jeremiah 29:12-14 says “Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me and I will listen to you. You will seek Me and find Me when you seek Me with all your heart.  I will be found by you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back from captivity.  I will gather you from all the nations and places where I have banished you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back to the place from which carried you into exile.”

It is clear that based upon verses 11-14, that God wants us to prosper, he wants to take care of us.  But I want you to look closely at the condition of them being able to re-occupy the lands they were taken from…

In order for the Jews to get their lands back, they had to obey.  They had heard God, but now they had to obey.  How did they obey in this situation?  They had to call on him, come to him, and pray to him.  And they had to do it with all of their heart.  THEN, they would find God, and THEN they would bring them back from captivity.

I don’t know what is holding you captive in your life today, but if God is not first in your life, and if you are not earnestly seeking after HIM, then you can’t expect to find your new beginning.  Today, will you seek him?  Will you search for him with all of your heart?  God wants to release us from the captivity that has hold of us, and help us prosper…but He can only do that when we look for God before we look for anything else.

New Decade, New Year, New Resolutions,

Halfway through the year 2009, I joined a gym.  I made a second half resolution for 2009 — get motivated for 2010.

Since that day, I have at least been the gym twice every week.  I even got up and went to the gym the day we left for the beach at Thanksgiving.  I hate getting up in the mornings and going to the gym, but I must say I hate being fat.

In December of 2007, I posted these physical goals for 2008:

1. Lose at least as much weight as my wife gains through her pregnancy.
2. Be consistent in my exercise and diet plans.
a. Exercise in some form 6 days a week
b. Eat consistently 3 meals a day with 2 or 3 small snacks in between.
3. Be able to shave my beard off because I won’t have a double chin anymore.
4. Eat in a most healthy way except for twice a month, when I’ll be able to eat whatever I want.

I didn’t do so well.  I look back, and realize I actually failed miserably.  I didn’t lose any weight after Kristen had Josie.  I didn’t exercise, except for about a week.  I ate constantly, not consistently, and it was more than 3 meals a day and no snacks, unless you count chips as a snack.  I still have my beard.  And I ate healthy twice a month instead of the other way around.

I realize now why I failed.  I had no motivation.  I went and tried once or twice at a gym, but I tried to do everything at once, not over time.

Now, I have a solid foundation to build on.  I am motivated.

So I have a few new goals to bring out, while banishing the old goals.

1.  I will walk/jog/run at least one mile every day in 2010.  Sounds crazy, but it is doable.  It takes me 20 minutes to walk a mile right now at a very casual pace.  I can take 20 minutes a day to that.

2.  Continue to work out at least 3 times a week.

3.  Reduce my carbonated beverage addiction to no more than 2 a day, hopefully down to one.  I see no reason in eliminating them altogether, which I have done in the past.

4.  I will fit in a size 36 waist pant by the end of the year. (currently at 40)

5.  I will be able to wear something besides Big and Tall clothes.  (However, right now, I’m learning that clothing size is totally inconsistent.  My shoulders are very broad now, and while I can fit into an XL shirt through the chest and waist,  my shoulders don’t fit into them.)

6.  I will be able to, at the end of the year, report that I am a much healthier person.  Bodyfat % will be down, fat levels in blood will be down, and cardiovascular endurance will be up.

7.  I will not focus on my weight, but rather, my health.

8.  When I look in the mirror, I will no longer be ashamed, but proud.

9.  I will not sabotage my results after working so hard to achieve them.

10.  I will be contagious with my actions.

So, don’t wait till its too late to set up your goals for 2010.  These are my physical goals.  I will post on other goals in the upcoming days.

Promoting Talent Over Integrity

For chapter 5 of Geoff Suratt’s book “Ten Stupid Things That Keep Churches From Growing”, we look at a chapter that I’m not completely familiar with as far as the situation is concerned.  That’s not to say that I don’t know of churches who have promoted talent over integrity, but I have not dealt with it that much.

This chapter really looked at some examples such as worship leader/band leader for a denominational church, which I don’t have too much familiarity with.  However, the best example the book refers to is the Duck Test.  This refers to the duck test in the movie “Monty Python and the Holy Grail”, when people were trying to figure out if a lady was a witch or not.  Ultimately, the conclusion was that if she weighed the same as a duck, then she was a witch.

I don’t believe churches spend enough time really hiring ministers.  When I was hired at Guntersville, it was a marathon.  While I didn’t appreciate it at the time, I look back at it and realize that it was a good thing.  They wanted to make sure I wanted it, and that they wanted me.  We interviewed there 4 different times before we were offered the job.

But for most churches, they bring the group of selected individuals in for a try out, and after all of them try out, they bring back the one candidate they like the most.  All this is, typically, is a chance for these candidates to show off, try out, and show how much talent they have.  You really can’t learn a lot about who a minister is by one or two weekends with the church.  This is typically placing talent at the top of the list.

This doesn’t always bite you in the rear end, but it can.  I’ve known churches to fire someone a year or even 6 months after they are hired, because the had the ability, or the talent, to preach and teach, but did not have the integrity behind it.

If you are in a church where a minister lacks integrity, maybe because they have had an affair or hurt the church in some way, this chapter would be a great read.  However, like I mentioned, this chapter did not deal with any real situation I’ve ever been in.

Coming up tomorrow is the chapter on “Clinging to a Bad Location”.

Establishing the Wrong Role for the Pastor’s Family – Chapter 2

Continuing in our review of the book “10 Stupid Things That Keep Churches From Growing”, we look at chapter 2 – “Establishing the Wrong Role for the Pastor’s Family”.

In my career as a minister, I’ve heard it said every time during an interview, whether jokingly or not, that the church hoped to get a “Two for one” special with my wife.  Sadly, there are many churches that expect the family of a minister to have as big a role in the their ministry as the minister himself.  It is not the job of my family to preach, teach, clean up, set up, organize, follow through, establish, maintain, or anything else with the church.  Their place in ministry should be strictly voluntary, and not mandatory.

Too often times, a minister’s wife has a full time job, and then will teach a class, sing on a praise team, work in the nursery, and host a fellowship meal all on the same Sunday.  It has gotten to the point where we have set priorities in our family.  My wife will not teach on both Sundays and Wednesdays.  In fact, she has taken over the responsibility as the ministry leader for our Women’s Ministry.  While my wife loves working with children, and has a degree and experience in that field, that role is filled with a Children’s Minister at our congregation.  She has found a different way to serve.  But that was her decision.

I’ve known many ministers who have lost their families due to an unnecessary amount of stress placed on the family.  This may not be on an actual role for the family, but for the minister himself.   The role in that situation is that the Family assume the role of second place.  That could be even worse than expecting the family to do extra things for the church.

I think the role of “Minister’s Wife” or “Pastor’s Wife” could be one of the most challenging roles in the world.  We as ministers need to realize all the stress they go through.  As a worship minister, I do not get to sit with my family hardly ever on Sunday mornings during the service.  We’ve tried, but our daughter is at a point where she needs to be close to a door to be taken out at any moment.  My wife does so much on Sunday morning, but there’s little we can do to change our situation.

So, my wife selflessly gives of herself for my ministry on Sunday morning.  However, I know I’m one of the lucky ones.  My wife knew what she was getting into, and accepts that there will be times like this.  My prayer is that churches and ministers alike will understand that it is all too easy to just assume that the minister’s family is at their disposal.  God established the family before the church was ever established.  Let us never forget how important our families are in our ministry.

10 Stupid Things That Keep Churches From Growing — Chapter 1 — Trying To Do It All

As we begin this review, we start with the first chapter entitled “Trying To Do It All”.   I think the funny thing about this chapter is the inevitable fact that all ministers in churches that are small understand exactly what this means.  Let’s just look at it from the example of the church I work for now.  My title is Associate and Worship.  However, I am in charge of Life Groups, finding teachers for our Teen group, preparing all the slides for our worship service, running and maintaining the website (www.westuchurch.com), working with our families, occasional bulletin editor, in house technical guru, class teacher, and many other things.

Our minister is the same way.  Not only is he the preaching minister, but he’s the office manager, bulletin editor, class teacher, sounding board for disgruntled members, and many more things as well.  When you work with a small church, you have this dilemma because there are much fewer workers in the church.

The author Geoff Surratt makes 4 points about “How to Give Away Your Job in 4 Simple Steps”.  His ideas are:

1.  Connect the Dots –

“Your people want to be part of a big mission.  Simply teaching a class, sweeping a floor, or printing a bulletin is not a big mission.  people will grudgingly do theses types of menial tasks until they can find a way out.  On the other hand, when they can see theses tasks connected to a bigger vision of changing their family, their community, and their world, they will arrange their lives around making sure the work is done.”

2.  Make the Big Ask –

“Don’t expect the right people to come forward on their own accord.  Often the people who step up initially are the least qualified for the task.”

3.  Show Them the Ropes –

“The biggest mistake we make as pastors in this area is that we don’t had off ministry; we abandon ship.  Once we find a willing volunteer, we hand her the teacher’s guide adn the class roster and run like heck before she changes her mind.”

4.  Quit –

“Realize that you are currently doing some tasks that you should pass on to someone else, while you are doing other tasks that nobody should be doing.  Pastors who are overwhelmed by ministry often pastor churches with too much ministry.”

I think the hardest part of this is the idea of asking, because many ministers have the attitude of “If I want it done right I’ll just have to do it myself”.  Even if we do realize that its okay to give up something, we too often do exactly what is step #3.  We rush it, and then the ministry fails completely because the person we’ve handed it over to has no clue what they’re doing, and it dies a slow death.

I like the last part of the quote in the 4th step of quitting is amazing, and hard to swallow.  “Pastors who are overwhelmed by ministry often pastor church with too much ministry.”  With churches that are smaller, we really do overwhelm ourselves with too much.  Maybe, the idea of this chapter could not just be pointed towards the leadership, but towards the whole church.

We have 150 members at our congregation.  We’re lucky to have about 40-60 for class on Sunday mornings.  Out of those, about 20 are involved with Sunday School for children.  We then have a Ladies Class, an Auditorium Class, and usually one other adult class.  For the fall quarter, we tried to add a fourth Sunday School class, and it was met with tough times.  We’re not ready for a fourth adult class, and we have realized it.  We are going back to only three in the Winter quarter.

What things are you doing at your church that you are overwhelmed by?  Quit trying to do things that only a larger church can do.  Make sure you are not overwhelming your staff, your elders, your ministers, or your members.  When we burn out on something, its hard to regain passion for it again.

Chapter 2 to come tomorrow.

Book Review: 10 Stupid Things That Keep Churches From Growing by Geoff Surratt

To be honest, I saw this book in a catalog from Group, and thought it was a humorous title, and picked it up thinking it may be more of a comical book than serious.  While the book tends to bring a gentle sense of humor with it,  the 10 chapters of this book are spot on.

Over the next few days, I think I would like to review each particular chapter in this book, and add my thoughts to the author’s thoughts.  This book was written from the perspective of a Pastor in a multi-site congregation in Charleston, South Carolina.  What I really liked about it was that it was not just from his perspective, but at the end of each chapter he asked a different Pastor/Minister to give his thoughts about that particular point.

Pastor’s contributing include Craig Groeschel, Pastor of LifeChurch.tv, Mark Batterson of National Community Church in Washington D.C., and Perry Noble of New Spring Church in South Carolina, who you can link to on the right.  There are 7 others in the book as well, a different one for each chapter.

I’ll start the reviews of each chapter next week, but I thought I’d go ahead and give the chapter names so you could be thinking about them.  In order, they are:

1.  Trying to Do It All
2.  Establishing the Wrong Role for the Pastor’s Family
3.  Providing a Second-Rate Worship Experience
4.  Settling for Low Quality in Children’s Ministry
5.  Promoting Talent over Integrity
6.  Clinging to a Bad Location
7.  Copying Another Successful Church
8.  Favoring Discipline over Reconciliation
9.  Mixing Ministry and Business
10.  Letting Committees Steer the Ship

I’ll try to begin this review Sunday afternoon or Monday.  Till then, Roll Tide.