Archives for : Better Together

Pastor Huddles!

Pastor and leader, you need a support group that will pray with you, speak into your life, and encourage you.  In a football game a huddle is where the play is given, everyone knows what needs to be done next, and then you leave the huddle ready to execute the plan as best you can. You may think you do not have time to meet with other pastors and leaders but you actually will be more effective by approaching ministry with a keen awareness of your need for other leaders speaking into your life.  Jesus focused on huddling His disciples together.

No one should be a better friend to pastors than other pastors.  Pastor, you understand the battle and the struggle in trying to lead your people to greater levels of spiritual maturity.  You know how your heart aches for your people to thrive in their walk with Christ and to not just go through the motions.  You know the joys and the pains of working with people and desiring more for their spiritual walk than they do.  The joys and challenges you have experienced need to be shared with others so they can rejoice with you and learn from you as well. 

The frenetic pace many leaders are keeping is not sustainable without times for being refreshed and recharged.  A pastor’s huddle can be very revitalizing as you share ideas, dream of better days ahead, and get advice from fellow servants who have already navigated the waters you are going through.  One way to be refreshed is to ask everyone to share something going well in their ministry so all of you can celebrate together.  When you rejoice with others it encourages them, encourages you, and gives you a fresh perspective of a desired future. 

A pastors huddle is meant to be a place of encouragement and a place of safety.  It needs to be a place where you can be completely transparent, honest, and open about your challenges and struggles.  It takes time to build trust but it can be built and is worth the effort in developing an environment of integrity and confidentiality.  II Corinthians 7:6 shows us this dynamic, “But God, who comforts the humble, comforted us by the arrival of Titus.”  Take the time and make the effort to spend time with other pastors to encourage them.  

A pastors huddle is not meant to only focus on ministry strategies, systems, and problem solving.  It is also a place where you can get encouragement for your own personal life, your family, and a host of other issues.  A huddle can even find ways to relax and enjoy one another’s company through a group activity such as golf, fishing, hunting, bowling, or playing paint ball.  Resolving conflicts and problems in your church ministry are important but they need to be secondary to encouragement, prayer, and your own personal soul care. 

A pastors huddle is place where you can share and brainstorm ideas, dream big about your vision for your ministry, and share resources.  Great leaders are readers and this is a great place to share what God has used in your life recently to help you and encourage you.  Great leaders are readers because they have a teachable spirit and are always ready to listen to what others are doing and learn what they can from whom they can.  It has been said that someone out there knows what you need to know and has been through what you are going through.

A pastors huddle is meant to be a mentoring environment where you learn from others who have been where you desire to go and are willing to help you get there.  These fellow servants get it because they have walked in your shoes before or they will walk in your shoes soon.  There is no need or room for guilt in these huddles but hopefully it will be a place for a lot of laughter, patience, and empathy.  It is where you can discuss potential small incremental steps that may help you or another pastor to move forward in a particular area.        

A pastors huddle is a place where there needs to be a lot of flexibility and willingness to adapt.  Sometimes it will be more structured but other times it will be very organic because of someone’s need to be heard, loved on, and encouraged.  Be ready and willing to be sensitive to the leadership of the Holy Spirit and not driven by an agenda or a lesson plan.  Sometimes you just need a good cup of coffee while hanging out with some good friends that will enable you to recharge and get refreshed because of the camaraderie.

Pastor, you need support and a pastors huddle is a great way to find that support.  These huddles may or may not be connected to our church health Activate process but they do not have to be.  The pastor who attends does not have to be involved in the Activate process at all.  The purpose is to encourage and help every pastor we can because church health must begin with the spiritual health of the pastor.  If you are not in a good place spiritually as the pastor then you cannot expect your church to be in a healthy place either.    

What do we have to offer one another?  We do not have all the answers nor are we the only available tool to help churches but through huddles we can offer friendship, prayers, brotherhood, connections, resources, a place to celebrate, and a willingness to listen.  We offer relationships that network us together as we look to learn from one another and encourage one another to promote love and good works.  We can offer our resources and the experience we have gained over the years as we have tried to faithfully serve our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.      

Relationships Matter

Jesus is the Lord of His church!  That means that He is the boss and He calls the shots.  Jesus challenges us to be a church that is biblical, relational, and missional.  Revelation chapters 2 and 3 make it clear that the connecting ingredient that made His churches bring Him glory was when they recognized Him as their Lord and Master. Six of the seven churches of Asia received some kind of compliment from Christ.  As you read His admonitions to these churches it becomes apparent that all of His churches are important and all are significant to Him.

The biblical mandate is for a group of believers to join together in a local church to carry out His Great Commission. Thankfully, believers are not expected to do this alone or to be transformed alone.  Christ has always desired for us to live, grow, and serve in community and fellowship with others.  When Saul was saved in Acts 9 the Lord told Ananias to go get him and help him.  It has been said that, “Transformation is a communal experience, not an individual exercise.”  The greatest potential to grow in Christ is realized in community with other believers.

Surveys tell us that when we connect attenders to small groups that they are five times more likely to still be faithful to church five years later. That is a great thing to know and we should believe in and promote the benefit of small groups but we are not driven primarily by pragmatism.  Jesus came and focused His time on a small group where He built relationships and did life with twelve men.  The reason we should be sold on small groups is far more theological than just the fact that it is effective.  Small groups are biblical and critical to our spiritual growth.           

The power and the benefit of community is a biblical fact and not just a passing fad.  Think of how we are commanded to meet together.  Even the Greek word for church, ecclesia, is plural and means “called-out ones.”  It is not the called out one or individual but overwhelmingly refers to that local congregation of baptized believers who are doing life together in order to live on His mission.  The importance of being a part of a local congregation cannot be overstated.  It is essential to our growing and maturing into whom Christ wants us to be.

If we choose to grow on our own by ourselves that growth will be much slower that it was meant to be, at best, and it will be very warped growth, at worst. We must teach with confidence a theology of community.  We were created for community and there is no way we can fulfill the over thirty “one anothers” (pray for, comfort, forgive, etc.) without community.  God’s plan is for every one of us to find a biblically sound group of committed believers to fellowship with and carry out His mission together. 

  1. Small groups are where real and lasting transformation can occur.  They do not guarantee spiritual growth but are a tool that Jesus used and challenges us to use at well.  The goal is not a method that generates numeric growth but rather an environment where every person in the church can become a mature disciple of Jesus Christ!  Small groups should not be seen by your church as an option but rather seen as a biblical mandate for returning us to the environment for which God created us. Hebrews says clearly, “Not staying away from our worship meetings.”
  2. Worship is what connects us to the Lord while small groups connect us to one another.  Then we are connected to the mission He has called us to carry out.  You cannot deny the truth that we need one another, we are better together, and God intended from the beginning that we never follow Him alone.  We should always be willing to proceed alone if required but we should never have to. It is not God’s primary mode of operation.  Community is the structure that God has always intended for His churches in order to care for and shepherd one another.

Hebrews 10:22-24 gives us three plural admonitions, “Let us.”  Verse 22 says, “Let us draw near.”  The beauty of seeking Him together is having a community of believers where we can love and be loved, know and be known, serve and be served.  In verse 23 we are challenged, “Let us hold on to the confession.” We lean on one another with a willingness to bear one another’s burdens.  When we have a church family we know that we have the support of others who have our back.  They understand the struggles and spiritual battles of following Christ.

 Community is essential to our spiritual growth and Hebrews 10:24 says, “Let us be concerned about one another in order to promote love and good works.”  The theology of community throughout the scriptures makes it clear that we need the church and the church needs us.  Let us encourage one another daily and lovingly hold one another accountable.  Romans 15:7 says, “Therefore accept one another, just as the Messiah also accepted you to the glory of God.”

Yes, small groups work and they are beneficial to individual growth and the entire health of the church.  This is the biblical mandate and this is God’s plan.  One author puts it this way, “We’re not saying growth doesn’t happen apart from community.  But we don’t think it’s possible for formation to fully occur without community.” When we get into biblical community we are returning to what God intended from the very beginning!

I Am Thankful for You

The message is pretty clear that church is a team sport. We are meant to work alongside each other and make this journey together. Spiritual maturity is seen in loving God well and loving others well. In studying the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5 there is an overriding theme. You notice that the emphasis is on what our relationships with other people are like. The focus is not about how you have been treated but rather on how you treat others. No matter what someone else has said or done to you, you are always responsible to God for your response.

The real mark of a spiritually mature believer is engaging with others in meaningful relationships. God has given us three things to help us in our spiritual journey to become more like Him. First, He has given us His word. This is where our doctrine comes from that describes who He is and enables us to see who He is. We are not to worship the God we envision or imagine but the God of the scriptures who is described in detail through all of His attributes. We must be careful of manufacturing our own God and not recognizing the God of His word.

Second, He has given us the Holy Spirit. The word describes Him to us but the Holy Spirit delivers the power and the energy we must have to be transformed into His likeness. We know that sanctification is possible because of the power that works inside of us.

Thirdly, He has also given us the people of God who demonstrate to us how we are to love and to live for Him. Paul said it well, “Follow me as I follow Christ.” We should be thankful for all of the godly examples He has placed in our lives both in the word of God and in our daily lives.

Relationships give us a clear example of how to live out the information we are learning from the word of God and the Holy Spirit. True biblical spiritual maturity occurs in the dynamic of spiritual maturity and cannot happen apart from it. We are to be connected to one another and do life with together. Mature spiritual relationships are one of God’s means of pouring into our lives. If we do not have a spiritual family we will soon get off track or we will be running on empty. We should be thankful for those who lovingly challenge and correct our behavior.

This method of passing on what God is teaching Paul is very clear. Paul   taught Timothy, who was to teach other faithful men, who in turn were to teach others. Paul also tells Titus that the older women are to encourage and pour into the younger women. We need the church family, but it goes deeper than just attending worship. Jesus invited many, invested heavily into twelve, but was intimate with three. There is a big difference between being friendly and polite to people and developing real live-giving relationships.

We should be thankful for godly examples that are willing to invest in our lives and build deep relationships with us and hold us accountable. Here are a few characteristics that we should be thankful for in these spiritually mature examples God has placed in our lives. Christian author and counselor Larry Crabb observed that 90% of the problems he encountered with his clients could have been dealt with and solved by a good friend. This is why we should pursue honest godly relationships that connect us with those who are spiritually mature.

Be thankful for those who say what you need to hear not just what you want to hear. We need people in our lives that speak the truth in love. Those who are willing to tell us when we are about to make a huge mistake and challenge us to reconsider and spend more time in prayer about our decision.

Be thankful for friends who give us sound biblical advice and not just their opinions. This is very close to the one just mentioned but we need a word from the Lord more than we need public opinion. Look for friends who know the word of God are striving to obey it every day.

Be thankful for those who stand firm on the word of God without abandoning you when you mess up. Spiritually mature people stand strong on the word of God but they do not isolate themselves or withdraw fellowship from us. They are spiritually mature enough to not ostracize you even when they disagree with you.

Be thankful for those who help you to grow and become spiritually mature yourself. Spiritually mature people do not just feed those they are mentoring but they teach them how to feed themselves. The goal is to give you the skills to stand strong for the Lord.

Be thankful for those who help you bear your burdens. Galatians 6:2 says, “Carry one another’s burdens; in this you will fulfill the law of Christ.” Then in verse 5 he says, “For each person will have to carry his own load.” They teach you how to trust in the Lord and lean on Him when the challenges and trials of life come.

Be thankful for those who teach you and prepare you to trust more in the Lord than in them. Remember, the real marks of spiritual maturity are loving God well and loving others well. Be thankful for those who are always pointing you to the Lord who is the real source of strength and the only One worthy of our worship. We remain centered on Him and we refuse to have any other gods before Him.

Be thankful for all of the people He has placed in your life to encourage and pray for you. We are blessed when people in our lives are always pointing us to Him and help us in our spiritual journey.