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Archives for : May2020

DECISION FATIGUE

Are you feeling the weight of making a lot of decisions, being unsure of those decisions, along with their impact?  Are you experiencing some “decision fatigue.”  These uncharted times have made novices out of all of us because, if we are honest, we live with the reality of knowing we are inexperienced in facing pandemics.  How do we stay connected with our people?  What does pastoral care and assimilation look like in our new normal?  When should we re-enter our buildings?  When is it ok to disobey laws (Romans 13:1-6)?  

Carey Nieuwhof says, “It’s easier to find relief from the pace than from the weight.  Pace can be controlled fairly easy…Weight is what you feel.  Weight is the tremendous responsibility many people find impossible to ignore…weight is the stress you feel.”  The apostle Paul mentions this weight in II Corinthians 11 where he lists a multitude of external things that created many difficulties.  Then in verse 28 he says, “Not to mention other things, there is the daily pressure on me: my care for all the churches.”  The weight of ministry is real.

There is a weight that a shepherd carries and it is something you fell deep within your soul.  The good news is that you do not have to carry this weight alone.  God promised Paul in II Corinthians 12 that, “My grace is sufficient!”  Our strength to carry this weight comes first from the Lord.  Your doing things for Christ must come out of your being with Christ because He is the one who strengthens and sustains you.  Paul continues in II Corinthians 13:5, “Examine yourselves.  Or do you yourselves not recognize that Jesus Christ is in you?”    

Paul challenged the Galatians to carry one another’s burdens.  No one should travel alone and everyone needs other people to walk this journey with them.  Pride causes you to think that you can handle anything and places the unrealistic weight on your shoulders that you always have to have the answers and know what to do.  You need an existing support team in place that can encourage you, pray for you, and hold you accountable.  In an emergency on a plane you are told to first put on your oxygen mask (abide in Christ) then help others (bear their burdens).

Here is a testimony from Doug Brewer while attending one of our Activate Pastor Huddles through Zoom.  “I hit a struggle on Monday that I have never had before. It really messed with my head! On Tuesday I took my phone and typed in a phrase: decision drain. When I hit search it popped up with the topic of ‘Decision Fatigue.’  I’m considerably better but even in the times of the tornados (May of 2013) and the bombing of the Murrah Building in 1995 (and we lost three ladies in that) I have never been exactly here before.” 

“I’ve been intrigued by the topic of DECISION FATIGUE. I’ve been helped by talking to a couple of men at the church, a couple of pastors and just being full blown, straight up honest! When we make decisions we have to make the same decision five or six times based on the people it’s going to effect.  It’s easy when you don’t know the people and speak into someone else’s life and say just close the building down.  It’s different when it’s your people and you’ve known some of them since they were born and watched them grow up” 

“Now they’re graduating.  I don’t want to say no! So decisions like: inside, how often; outside?… what do we do, what do we not do?  It started to build on me!  When it came to squeezing the trigger and making decisions I kept thinking of  the 5 other decisions that potentially came with each individual decision.  What got in my head was that I’m in these meetings with Larry and all these other pastors and listening to a couple other groups.  It seems like everybody else has this together but I don’t.”  

“They are telling me their plans and I felt like I was the only sorry leader that doesn’t know plans much past tomorrow.  It gets in your head! My favorite thing to do is pastor! I love pastoring even more than I like preaching!  I LOVE to pastor!  What got in my head was “ you love pastoring, and like preaching, but Doug you’re a miserable leader!  This time calls for leadership.”  

“It all goes to say I’m grateful for some men and I needed to let other people in. The podcast (Healthy Church Podcast) refreshed me.  I have some really good people around me! I had to say  ‘I’m going to be 100 percent honest with you.’  It was an internal head thing, but its like puppy love… Don’t make fun of it because it’s real to the puppy!”  

I am so thankful for authentic and transparent leaders willing to say, “I do not have it all figured out!”  Carey Nieuwhof says, “Only humility will get you out of what pride got you into!”  During these turbulent times may we first lean on Jesus and then lean on one another.  We need to see less pride and more humility.  We need to see more cooperation and compassion and less cynicism and negativity. 

HOW ARE YOU DOING?

Now that the pandemic has caused us to be isolated longer than most of us expected the spiritual, mental, and emotional challenges have increased.  All of us need to ask ourselves, “How am I doing?” and we need to ask others, “How are you doing and can I help?”  The struggle is real and the spiritual warfare, especially in our minds, should not be ignored or denied.  When discouraged we must strive, and it is not always easy, to know what the Bible says not what we think it says.  We begin believing what we are thinking more than what God is saying. 

Depression causes us to think wrong and believe the lies that the accuser, Satan, is whispering into our ears and he is always lying.  He is working overtime and all the time.  He never seems to takes any breaks.  The scriptures are clear in I Corinthians 10:13, “No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to humanity. God is faithful, and He will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation He will also provide a way of escape so that you are able to bear it.”

So, let me ask you, “How are you doing?”  The question is not asking if you are reading your Bible, praying, leading, or making sure you are projecting a strong positive image.  The question is meant to probe deeper and ask how you are spiritually, emotionally, and mentally.  The pressure is real because you are expected to have the answers and to know what next steps your church should be taking.  The frustration is genuine because of the social distancing and staying at home.  This is not how we are wired as believers who desire community.

In a recent podcast Pete Scazzero referred to how our emotions are like children on a vacation.  He went on to say that you cannot put them in the truck nor should you allow them in the driver’s seat.  The reality is that the emotions you have are real and just like children you need to listen to them, take care of them, protect them, and place boundaries around them.  Moving past this analogy allow me to say that what we try to do with our emotions many times is bury them alive.  That does not work and you must develop a healthy biblical system to deal with them.

Maybe the first step is admitting how you feel.  In the Psalms you hear David when he is sad, glad, and mad.  While not allowing those emotions to completely control your life (placing them in the driver’s seat) you also must avoid the temptation to totally ignore their reality (lock them in the trunk).  Elmer Towns wrote, “Too much Spirit without the Word will lead you to an emotional blowup.  Too much Word without the Spirit will cause you to dry up.  The right balance between the Word and the Spirit will cause you to grow up.”

The world we are living in has become very negative and cynical.  People now love to sit behind an electronic device and spew out whatever crosses their mind at the moment.  The atmosphere and environment just seems to be toxic in so many arenas.  It is very easy to get sucked into the wrong unbiblical attitudes and become quite discouraged.  This flies directly into the face of Philippians 4:6, “Don’t worry about anything, but in everything, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God.”

Jacob Smelzer offers these suggestions to pastors because the burden of the job has intensified ten times over recently for an already lonely position.  He encourages us by saying, “You’re not alone.   You’re not the only one that feels this way.  It’s ok to ask for help.  Don’t be so hard on yourself.  You’re doing better than you think you are. You ARE making a difference.  You matter to ME.”  Please know that you are not alone and you matter to me also.  Feel free to contact me and I would love to chat with you and we can spend some time encouraging one another!   

J.D. Payne recently wrote these wise words, “Right now, we are all inexperienced. We have never done it this way before. Yet, could this be a moment when God manifests His power in and through our limitations? Could this be a time when He provides the wisdom needed to see around corners (Jas 1:2-7)? Seek His face. Cry out to Him (Matt 7:7-12). Remember Paul’s words: “For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Cor. 12:10).

Don’t believe the lies of the Devil.  You are not alone!  There is someone who cares and will listen!  Your feelings and emotions do not mean you are unspiritual but rather they are “common” to man and how God created us.  Do not believe the lie that you not making a difference because in somebody’s life you are a game changer.  You do matter to God, the people in your life, and to me!  Give me a call and maybe we can spend some time laughing and crying together!  

THE VALUE OF COMMUNITY

“I miss you!”  That is a statement being made and heard quite often right now.  The value of community is something the church has been built upon and is stressed in the scriptures.  The early church was devoted to fellowship and meeting together…daily.  In a Zoom meeting with some national church planting leaders, Gary Rohrmayer with Converge shared, “No one should travel alone.  We need each other!”  That is so true and never truer than right now.  You can continue to stay connected and you can continue to walk with others through this challenging time.

Then, Doug Paul with Catapult suggested that we create an environment based on that value that promotes and creates space to think.  It is worth repeating, “We are so busy working in the ministry that we very seldom have time to work on the ministry.”  Here are a few things to think on:  How are you responding to this challenge?  Are you the optimist, pessimist, alarmist, or skeptic?  Here is a more important question:  How will you respond to what God is saying and teaching you and your church during this season?

Doug also suggested that you should never forget that it is always appropriate to stop and pray.  One pastor shared with me that every evening they are opening up Zoom for times of prayer.  In studying the scriptures there seems to be three things that always get God’s attention and a heavenly response: prayer, repentance, and fasting.  All planning must be prayerful planning.  Prayer admits that you do not have the answers and you cry out to God in desperation for direction and guidance.  Fasting shows God how serious you really are!

Doug Paul continued to challenge us that as we navigate these challenging times “together” we do not need more content but, rather, more community.  The focus is to have connection over content by walking this road together.  The beauty of our Zoom pastor coaching calls is the opportunity for live trouble-shooting.  It has been awesome to witness one pastor struggling with a particular challenge and another pastor share how they navigated those same waters.  You see coaching and mentoring is not lecturing and information transfer but is iron sharpening iron.

The last thing Doug challenged us with was to make sure you come away with one practical thing to accomplish in the next week.  The Apostle Paul did not say these thousand things I do but rather this one thing I do.  There is a plethora of information, webinars, downloads, and attachments coming from everywhere.  Take a deep breath and consider the advice of Will Mancini from his book, Younique.  Consider what one thing you would like to change or accomplish in the next 30 – 90 days.  Then determine what four things you need begin today to make it happen.

Without next steps for today what you want to accomplish will just be a pipe dream and never a reality. Thom Rainer has a lot to say about the power of focusing on one thing.  He states the following observations.  “Church revitalization doesn’t have to be as complicated as some make it. Just start with one thing.  Trying to do too much too quickly can kill a revitalization effort.  Ministry complexity will drain the leadership of a church.  When you are forced to choose one ministry to focus on in a church, you typically choose the best and most effective ministry.”

Rainer makes it clear, “You have to begin somewhere and complexity leads to confusion and complacency.”  Get together with other leaders in your church and outside your church and begin asking these questions:  What is God trying to teach you during these challenging days?  What do you need to start doing that you were not doing before COVID-19?  What have you started doing during this pandemic that you need to keep doing when it is over?  What do you need to stop doing because you now see it is unnecessary and unproductive?

If we can ever be of any help to you during these challenging times please let us know.  Reach out to us by email at larry@bmaam.com or Heidi@bmaam.com . Heidi Sorrells is our Pastor’s Advocate for our church health initiative, Activate.   Here is something from her challenging you on asking the right questions, “How has your vision been altered by what God has shown you during this season, and what will you take and make part of your church DNA going forward so you are not just back to business as usual?”

Here is another question you need to ask:  What do you need to spend more time doing and less time doing?  Maybe one thing would be less office time and more community time.  Maybe you need to focus more on leadership development by providing time and space to dream, brainstorm, and white board the things your team believes God is up to and what He wants you to do about it!  May our value be that no one should travel alone because we need each other!   

LOVE & LEAD

Our current social distancing and no groups larger than ten, at the request of our national and local governments, lingers on.  This began, for most of us, thinking and planning for a quick fix to get through this and then, hopefully, life would be normal again.  That has now been going on anywhere from 1-2 months depending on where you live.  It now requires a major shift from the “quick fix” to prayerful planning for the longer haul.  Everything changed drastically and quickly 2 months ago but now we are in the midst of the doldrums (look it up).

While our focus has been forced to move from a quick fix to the long haul we also need to move from more information to spiritual guidance.  There are many resources already available and the Internet seems to be swimming with content on how to get through this pandemic.  The shift must be made from travel agents to tour guides.  A travel agent tells you all about your destination, what it will look like, and what it will be like.  A tour guide makes the trip with you and helps you understand better where you are and where you need to go next.

Find a cohort, a group of friends, who are on the same journey and travel with them.  If you would like to be part of an ongoing online coaching group please let me know (larry@bmaam.com).  Maybe the biggest lesson we are learning right now is how much we need friends, mentors, and travel guides to walk along side of us helping us to navigate these uncharted waters.  One leader said, “Relationships now trump excellence.”  They are more important than the programs, the buildings, or the event.  We need less telling us what to do and more walking with us!

During the Babylonian captivity God’s people did not have access to the temple.  The center of worship was lost but they did not lose their faith.  Our situation is not the first time God’s people have been challenged to remain faithful and strong in the midst of a challenge.  The story is told of a pastor in China who left his city and upon his return a couple of days later a hole had been dug and the entire church building was bulldozed into it and covered up.  That is hard to imagine but the multiplication of disciples is exploding there.   

You now have a great opportunity to re-examine and re-evaluate your mission, values, and vision statement for your church.  Are you aligned with the Biblical values found in Acts of prayer, worship, fellowship, discipleship, serving others, and evangelism?  Values are not something you say you believe but they are lived out in your life and the life of your church.  There is a huge difference between aspirational values and actual values.  We must remember that values are confirmed by actions, not just by words or even a written mission statement!

This is from The Multiplication Workshop by our good friend Dr. Dave Devries, “Values reflect a person’s unique beliefs, core convictions, and guiding principles. These values will guide ongoing attitudes and behaviors. Often times, values are unwritten assumptions that guide actions.”  Before this pandemic hit were you living out the biblical values, written or spoken, that you stated were guiding your church?  It is time to re-access those guiding values and make a recommit to knowing them and living them out daily (see James 1:22).

Most churches will come out of this time with two platforms.  Worship services will begin again at some level with a recommendation of the number of people allowed to congregate.  Now, many more churches have a virtual presence, which is a good thing because the gospel is available to more people than ever before.  Praise the Lord!  Please do not abandon that platform.  Utilize it and see it as another door to connecting those who may be looking and seeking for the truth.  Have a plan in place to follow up on them just as if they filled out a connection card in your services.  What will your assimilation system look like for these visitors?

How will you continue to engage and connect with both audiences?   Think through what that will look like because there are some very important questions to ask.  How much can be done and accomplished virtually?  How much cannot be done and accomplished virtually because of the need to build relationships?  Hebrews 3:12-13 says, “Watch out, brothers, so that there won’t be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart that departs from the living God. But encourage each other daily, while it is still called today, so that none of you is hardened by sin’s deception.”            

Relationships have always have been more important than programs, practices, and procedures.  Jesus made it clear what the greatest commandment was and is (Matthew 22) and the second also.  Mark Batterson recently said, “We need to keep washing our hands and washing other’s feet!”  Through this time we must remain focused on serving Jesus and serving others.  Mark 10:44 says, “And whoever wants to be first among you must be a slave to all.”  Are you willing to voluntarily be a “slave to all?”  Love first and then lead!