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The Sabbath is not just a day of rest, but it is a time of Sacred assembly. It is a time to gather together to worship and learn about the Lord. Here’s where we have to ask ourselves, “Are we faithful to the House of God?” Do we honor the Sabbath the way God would want us to?
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One of the saddest occurrences is when I spend time trying to mentor an experienced Christian minister who is wrestling with regrets, guilt and self-condemnation after they have given a lifetime to the work of God.
Christian ministry should be satisfying and rewarding. The joy, peace, fulfillment and contentment should be overflowing for anyone who has devoted their life to arguably the world’s most noble profession. Surprisingly instead of entering a time of bliss and contentment, a vast number of ministers and their spouses enter their later years disillusioned, angry, bitter, depressed and saddened over missed opportunities, mistakes, bad judgments, regrets, and a list of similar discouragements. This simply ought not to be. What about you? Are you living with regret, guilt, or condemnation right now? Is it easier for you to quote Romans 8:1 than it is to live it? “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.” KJV
The word “condemnation” means an adverse sentence (the verdict). There should be no adverse sentence or condemnation but reality says there often is. If so, then the question is what caused it? Or, from where did it originate?
Even if you could identify the point of origin for your feeling of condemnation you cannot change the history that caused it. However, you can learn from history, make adjustments, and not repeat the same mistakes in the future. Another key point is that Romans 8:1 reveals the answer to living condemnation free. It says to, “walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.” To state it plainly: the Spirit will lead you to a condemnation free life and ministry whereas the flesh will lead to condemnation.
From a practical standpoint the following suggestions will assist you in building a condemnation free life and ministry.
Plan your finances as though you will live 150 years.
One of the greatest tragedies is that many of us have failed to plan for the day of retirement. It is a mistake you will live to regret. Many of those who chose to spend it all because the Lord was coming and they didn’t want to leave it for the antichrist died broke and foolish. They had no oil in their lamps when the day came that they needed it.
Regardless of what you haven’t done in the past you owe it to yourself to begin preparations for your future today. Many ministers do not have retirement plans and will be forced to depend on the government to exist. The government cannot be depended on for your aged future. Changes are being made in government today that threatens the long-term security of America’s seniors.
Let me share an amazing fact with you. If you take a sheet of copy paper and fold it in half it then becomes two pages thick. If you fold it again it would be four pages thick. Fold it the third time it would be eight pages thick. Suppose you continue folding it in half until you have folded it fifty times. How high do you think the stack of paper would be?
Would the stack of paper be twelve inches high? Would it be two feet high? Think bigger; would it be as tall as a refrigerator? What is the correct answer? You won’t believe it.
A piece of paper folded fifty times would reach from the earth to the moon! If you fold it just once more (fifty-one times) it would reach from the earth to the moon and back to the earth again.
You must decide to somehow start saving or investing on a regular and consistent basis. It will add up. Allow interests to compound. I recently read about someone who made a fortune with an online Internet business. He said that he remembers the day he made his first dollar. He thought, “If I can make one I can make two!” Everyday he tried to simply inch his business forward. Eventually his online business reached a tipping point.
Your future is worth the effort to repeatedly do the right things (like folding the paper) and inching forward (one dollar at a time). Start today!
Make family time and relationships a top priority.
The most important people in your life should be your family. The past is over and only the future remains. Begin building better relationships and connections with your family today. There is still time to create what will become sweet memories.
Is healing needed? Are forgiveness, confession and repentance necessary? Bridge the gap. Do it.
The time to ask the hard questions is now. Are you content to see your children or parents only once or twice a year? An amazing fact is that many people will only spend a few hours with those they love over the next ten years. Are a few hours of life all you really want to remember about that special person?
Make the effort and the adjustments to build memories with those you love the most. It is amazing how you blink and the children are grown and gone, and age transforms your face in the mirror.
Do yourself a favor and do not neglect your family and loved ones for everyone else. Be accountable to those you love and you will never regret the memories. In your latter years those memories will become perhaps your greatest treasure and source of serenity.
Keep variety in your lifestyle.
Are you a boring dud as an individual? What things do you do with your spouse? If your spouse knew then how you would be now do you think they would have married you? When is the last time you were spontaneous and fun? Where have you traveled? Name some of your great adventures?
Have you ever looked at how you look when you walk out of your house to check the mail? Do you need to make some personal changes? Is your life’s greatest joy the time spent eating that late night bowl of ice cream you have propped up on your bulging tummy?
Are you like Phileas Fogg, the main character in, Around the World in 80 Days? He never varied anything. Everything in his life was precise and centered only around him.
If so then you need to get a life. Variety is the spice of life, or so it is said. Only you can add variety into your life.
Expand your horizons. Develop meaningful hobbies. Do memorable and exciting things together with your spouse.
If your hobbies take you away from your spouse then develop some mutually interesting hobbies that you can do with your spouse. Don’t allow everything you do to be done alone or with others and not with your spouse.
Invest in friendships.
A man once told me, “I can count on one hand the number of friends I have.” As he said that he waved his hand. He only had two fingers because his hand had been damaged in an accident. What a shame. A life lived and only two friends to show for it.
Do you have good friends? Do you have the kind of friends that are the kind that will be there through thick and thin?
My father-in-law once lost his job. He decided that instead of looking for another job he would just start a business from the ground up. It was a tough time but he and my mother-in-law faced their challenge with courage. His next-door neighbors came over and handed him a checkbook with a $10,000 balance. They told him to use the money as if it were his own and to try to repay them whenever he could. There were no strings attached, no contract and no expectations demanded. It was simply an act of faithful friendship.
Trust and friendship like that doesn’t come cheaply. Friendships are something you invest time and effort into.
Consider the friends you have and make the effort to strengthen the ties that bind you together. Do something to manifest your trust and confidence in your friends. Everyone will benefit from the meaningful relationships that only close friendships can produce.
Guard your testimony and your reputation.
One of the greatest things an individual can possess is a good reputation. Every person, and especially every minister, should protect their reputation.
In my mind I can think of multiple men who had built world-renowned ministry empires. Their names were known around the world, and if I named them you would recognize them. The sad thing is that if I named them you would not think of their great accomplishments, of their multi-million dollar buildings, or any of their grand programs. Instead you would think of their act of adultery or other moral or financial failure.
You build your own reputation and others simply state it. You alone will determine if others call you lazy, undependable, a thief, dishonest, faithful, industrious, loyal, devoted, genuine or otherwise.
Always bear in mind that what you may spend years establishing can be destroyed or tainted by one careless act. A lifetime as a great husband would be forgotten and tossed aside by one selfish act of adultery on a business trip.
Reputations include perception. Sometimes what you are isn’t all that matters, but it is how others perceive you. You may be honest but if others perceive you as dishonest then to them that is what you are. You may be faithful but if others perceive you as unfaithful then to them that is what you are. Once people perceive you as being a certain way it is difficult to change their opinion of you.
So, why would they perceive you any certain way? It could be your actions, the way you conduct yourself, the things you say, the company you keep, or any other such thing.
Today you are building your reputation. This is as good a time as any to take inventory of everything that could impact the perception others have of you, as well as to establish some protective boundaries to keep you from destroying in a moment of weakness the things you took a lifetime to create.
Make time for the important things in life.
It is difficult to think about dying because we all desire to live, but death eventually comes to all. To the born again Christian death is nothing to fear but something to embrace as part of our eternal journey.
If you could imagine yourself as a person of extreme old age, nearing death and meditating on their life, what would be the most important things to you? Would it be your relationship with God, your family, your life’s impact on others, or what?
It has been said that nobody nearing death ever says, “I wish I would have spent more time at work”. However, they do say things like, “I wish I had been a better husband, or father, or Christian, or example, etc.”
Make time now for the important things in life. Do it daily and continuously. Allow it to become a habitual daily lifestyle. Eliminate as many non-essential things as possible that are contrary to the things you value in life. Do yourself and those you love a great favor by making a conscientious attempt to increase your emphasis on the important things and to minimize and eliminate the non-important.
Take care of your temple.
Your body is the temple you live in for a lifetime. The quality of the life you live depends largely on the health and condition of your body.
Don’t neglect your health. Physical, emotional, mental and spiritual wellness should be a top priority. Many people have done irreparable harm to their bodies due to abuse or neglect, but the optimum time to begin making improvements is right now.
The ministry is a profession that many use to justify unhealthy lifestyle habits. Eating late, avoiding exercise, neglecting rest and so forth are not only commonplace but also boasted about. That is lunacy! Prayer lines are often filled with overweight and unkempt people who are asking God to heal what they have abused.
Proper exercise and diet helps avoid and even prevents many health issues from occurring. Blood pressure, stress, cholesterol levels, fatigue, diabetes, heart conditions and many other things can be aided or eliminated through the proper care of the body. You are worth it!
When one passes the age of fifty you are on the downhill slope of life. However, most people have a choice as to how fast they go downhill. Fortunately there are many solutions available today and for every price range. One might join a fitness center, the YMCA or YWCA, or even purchase some exercise equipment for the home. There are a plethora of exercise games, dance videos, and so forth available today. Others may choose bike riding, walking, jogging, tennis, golf, hiking, basketball or any number of activities that keep the body fit.
Numerous people in my church family have recently started taking better care of their bodies. Many have lost weight and started exercising regularly. It has already made an incalculable difference. Even the attitudes are better!
Years ago my grandmother became depressed. She started staying in bed and became totally lethargic and lazy. She gained weight, lost energy, and depended on her husband for everything as he cooked, cleaned and did the shopping, etc. Finally she went to her doctor because she was feeling so poorly. After the examination the doctor asked her if she had life insurance. “Yes”, she replied. “Good”, he said. “Why do you ask”, she requested. “So you can pay for your funeral soon,” he replied. “Oh Lord, what is wrong with me doctor?” she asked, thinking she had a severe disease or something. The doctor then told her, “There is nothing wrong with you that exercise can’t cure. If you don’t get out of that bed you are going to die very soon. If you get up and active again you may live 20 more years,” he scolded her. “The choice to live or die is yours”. Fortunately my grandmother started a walking routine that same day. Eventually she lost weight and could do anything she wanted to do. She lived over 20 more years as a result.
If you haven’t exercised in a while please consult with your doctor before beginning any rigorous exercise regimen. Consult a dietician or other expert before drastically altering your diet.
Whatever you do get healthier and live longer and better.
Maintain devotion and intimate time with God.
I have visited the convent and burial site of Mother Teresa in Kolkata, India on several occasions. It is humbling to see where she lived. Her room was sparsely furnished. She allowed herself one pencil at a time until it was used up. She had two changes of garments. She wore one of the garments, as the other was being hand washed and prepared for use again. She rotated them daily.
She did a marvelous work. The “Sisters of Charity” convents, which she founded, impact thousands of people daily around the world. Her writings are amazing. As I read things written in her own handwriting I began to understand that her work was strictly humanitarian. One of the saddest things I ever read was her handwritten note in which she spoke of the daily toil and burden, and then stated that she had not felt God one time in over twenty years! She regretted not feeling God. She had helped so many, but had famished her own soul.
Do not neglect your soul. Spend intimate time with God. Study the Word of God. Establish a consistent prayer life. Practice praise and worship. Keep the Spirit fresh in you. Don’t be like Mother Teresa and get so busy doing the work of God that you neglect the most important thing (your relationship with God).
In Summary, to overcome or avoid condemnation:
- Plan your finances as though you will live 150 years
- ·Make family time and relationships a top priority
- Keep variety in your lifestyle
- Invest in friendships
- Guard your testimony and your reputation
- Take care of your temple
- Maintain devotion and intimate time with God
As leaders, we have all been guilty of getting excited and all fired up to start a new project. In our excitement, we call our leadership teams together, plan it all out and set it in motion, without first answering all of the questions that need to be answered. This is great for creating momentum, but before you begin, ask yourself and your team of leaders if you will be able to sustain everything that you start.
· If you don’t have the right people in place to make it happen, it may be that you need to refrain from starting until you have the right people trained to take on the new project.
Jesus was a great example to us in this.
Think of what God’s ultimate plan was. God was bringing into existence the New Testament plan of Salvation. To institute this plan, He robed Himself in flesh and became the Supreme sacrifice for all sin for all of time! That was the first part of His plan. In order for this plan to continue, Jesus needed the right people to make it happen.
In three years time, Jesus needed to have the right people trained and in place, and ready to carry on His ministry by the day He ascended into Heaven. That is why Jesus so often said, “My hour is not yet come”, or “It is not my time.” Jesus wanted to be sure that He had His disciples ready and willing to carry on His work after Calvary. He wanted it to succeed. It had to continue. It must not fail!
· Jesus’ calling and training of the twelve disciples is a model of perfect leadership in ministry.
By looking at what Jesus did, we can get a sense of what it takes to create momentum through developing the leadership around us.
If you would like to learn more about experiencing momentum in your ministry by raising up the leaders around you, take a look at http://www.pastoralhelps.com/momentum-in-ministry-exclusives-page/
When using a church website or social media platform there are a few things that you have to do right and you have to do them consistently. Building a positive and inviting online and social media presence is not impossible.
Here are a few things to consider when building yours:
- Identify your message and use that to promote your church. Say
- Be genuine to who you are. Don’t try to be the BIG church down the street. They didn’t start big, they built what they had. Post about what you’ve got!
- Make sure your social pages are 80% inspirational and 20% informative. Give your people something to share.
- Post consistently, figure out what schedule works best for you and stay at it.
- Picture catches, scripture latches. Let the image speak for itself without text & attaching an inspirational scripture in the text section. Not every church has a creative person on their team yet, so let the pic do the talking.
- Not everything you post is AMAZING, so don’t say they are. Keep the awesome things awesome and the normal, well, normal. If everything you post is “AWESOME” then nothing will be. Try not to over pump your church about a mid-week bible study.
- STORIES REIGN SUPREME. Find stories of life change in your church and post those on a monthly basis if possible. People are looking for hope, let them know that they can find it at your church.
- Let the world be the world, let the church be the church. In your church, you have many people with many different political views. One of the quickest ways to kill your presence online is to pick sides… (not to mention getting your 501c3 taken away).
- Engage your audience. As soon as someone engages your page make sure to reply or comment as quickly as possible. Let them know you’re not just there to receive but to build relationships.
- Post pictures of your church family. Show them the smiles and the hugs. Let your community see the love and relationships that are being built at your church. You wouldn’t believe how much community this will build.
Did Jesus ever need to prepare for a sermon when he was here on earth? Did he ever stare at his reflection in a lake and practice the words? Jesus may never have had these troubles, but we certainly can from time to time. Speaking in front of a group is, as you already know, the number one fear of most people. Orating your first sermon can be a scary event, but it can also be exciting and awe inspiring. These tips can help you make it a grand experience to remember.
Go with God
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.” Proverbs 3:5-6
Regardless of the words you speak and actions you make, you are a vessel of the Holy Spirit. We can make that connection in many ways, although prayer is the most common. Take considerable time to pray and meditate at important intervals, such as before writing, when you are stuck, before you speak and everywhere else you will need the guiding light of the Lord. When we step out of our own way to let God and his word shine through, we are amazed at how loving, passionate and articulate we can be.
Pick Your Passage Carefully
Coherent, inspirational speeches typically come from rigorous and intentional planning. If this is your first sermon, it is important you pick a bible passage, understand its meaning within the words and its context within the book. If you are do not yet have a passage or are having trouble coming up with one, pray on it and ask God to show you a passage. When you do have a passage, some say reading over it repeatedly is a good way to meditate on it, but also read the entire chapter to understand the context. Speak about the passage with family or friends to get alternative opinions and perspectives you may not have considered.
If you need some help with sermon ideas or outlines, we have a colossal database of them here.
Draft Without Judgment
Human beings can be exceptionally judgmental of our own capabilities, even those who have a deep spiritual connection to God. When you are asked to deliver your first sermon, you might already have a topic. Whether you have a sliver of an idea or a meticulous train of thought, your first job is to get it onto paper.
First write from the heart and not from the head. When you write from the head or judge our writing, we stop ourselves from being able to hear God speak to us. Thus, the most important part of writing a first draft is getting out what you want to say without judgment or assessment. Write what comes to you and refrain from appraising it. You will work on the details later. Give yourself a page or two pages or another number you think is adequate and keep writing until you have reached that point.
Remember, when you censor your natural ability and process, you bring about doubt and uncertainty and you miss some of the opportunities to capture some genuine, unfettered wisdom.
Let It Simmer
Now walk away from your sermon. Let it sit for at least 24 hours and longer if possible. If we pore over our works and spend too much time in front of it, we can lose perspective. Artists and other creative types use the distance tactic to get a fresh look at their words. When you come back to it, you will find that you can easily notice errors, awkward sentences and strange word choices.
Return to Edit
You can now go back through it and begin to sand down the rough spots. Go over each sentence and review it with an analytical mind. Rework sentences and try different words until you get a version you are happy with. Make sure you have a structure that has a clear beginning, middle and end. Using the typical high school essay structure works well. If you have forgotten those classes, it is:
Your completed sermon should roughly follow this structure. If you need a more in-depth walkthrough of this structure and how each section can be used effectively, you can use the Leadership Script. It provides a detailed outline for each section and why it’s important.
Public speaking can be a harrowing experience. We are inundated in the world by professionals who stand in front of people and look natural and comfortable on stage – but rarely were they born that way. Although they may have a natural talent, it must be honed through practice.
Start by standing in front of a mirror and speak your sermon out loud. Saying each word aloud is crucial, because you will get to hear how each and every word sounds coming from you. If you are particularly brave, record and it listen back.
Time your sermon and say it out loud. If it is too long, go back to editing and pare it down. If it is too short, go back to brainstorming or speak with a mentor or friend to get some additional ideas. Never add words as filler just because it is too short. Each word should earn its place in your sermon and have a purpose.
Next, practice with friends or family to get used to speaking in small groups. The idea is to get so comfortable that your words become second nature. Even if you are nervous your first time, practice lets your instinct guide you through. This is one of those things that just comes with time and experience.
Um, Uh, Er
Have you ever heard someone speak that says ‘uh’ or ‘um’ every few words? It can easily take away from the flow and message that is being conveyed. Uhs and ums will distract from your message, and you need to get rid of them through practice.
A great way to stop using those ‘thinking’ type words is to pause when you are about to say them. If you feel an ‘uh’ or an ‘um’ bubbling to the surface, pause. Not only does it prevent you from using those words; it uses the dramatic effect of pauses to keep your audience engaged. Dramatic pauses are incredibly effective at keeping your audience hanging on. Barack Obama is exceptional at this – just check out this video.
Let Your Spirit Shine
“How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news, who publishes peace, who brings good news of happiness, who publishes salvation, who says to Zion, “Your God reigns” – Isaiah 52:7
Your body conveys the message inside of you. A messenger of good news walks with joy and elation, and the receiver picks up on this even before he hears the words. When we see others getting excited, we get excited too. When people sound bored and talk in monotone, we fall asleep.
It is part of our humanness. We mimic the emotions and actions of other people when we connect with them. Speak your words with conviction and passion. Let yourself be animated, move your arms and enunciate your words. Let the power of the Spirit flow through you freely. When people sense that you feel passionately about what you say, you will transfer the emotions that you feel to them.
Find Your Flow
These tips are only guidelines. Everyone’s path is a little different and unique. Shape your process into something that works for you. Study the sermons of those you admire, study what they do, what they say and how they say it. After some time, you will have your own unique process that works for you.
Now you are ready. Take your time, remember to breathe and follow these ten tips, and your sermon will be an event to remember.
“If you chase two rabbits, you will not catch either one.” I found this old Russian proverb in the early pages of a recent book written by Gary Keller. The title of this book, “The One Thing” jumped out at me above all the other titles on the shelf. This concept of One Thing is totally foreign to me. I have always thought myself quite adept at doing several things at one time. I have done it all my life. I learned this early in my working career. In fact, the manager of the McDonalds restaurant where I found my first job told me, “The one thing you will learn and take with you from this job is the ability to do many things at one time.” It was not long before I learned first hand what he was talking about. Since that day to this, I can rarely remember doing only one thing at a time.
There is in me a drive that feels like I am not being productive unless I am accomplishing several things at once. Rarely do I ever do “One Thing”. According to Keller’s book, doing more than One Thing is usually not the most productive or profitable way to conduct oneself. This book has some incredible insight as to how to stay on track and build momentum towards your goals, but for many of us preachers, doing more than one thing at a time is a way of life that we are unable to change.
Most Pastors and ministers of the Gospel have families and ministries as well as secular jobs or businesses. This creates a constant pulling in different directions that leaves us feeling tired, confused and even guilty that we are unable to accomplish all that we want to do in any of these areas. We endlessly wrestle with our time constraints as well as our energy levels for each of these.
It would be very nice to do only One Thing Mr. Keller, but for the average preacher out there, this prospect of staying focused, is probably going to be a challenge for us beyond the pages of your book.
The Apostle Paul was a man who understood what it meant to have a secular job as well as a ministry. Paul worked with his hands to provide the living that ministry was unable to provide him at times. God will always bless a person’s willingness to labor secularly in order to afford the work of ministry.
One should never feel depreciated for being a bi-vocational pastor. You may not be able to find the time that other pastors have to be at all the conferences and minister’s meetings etc., that’s ok. Those days will come. Know in your heart that God has confidence in you and that He has chosen you for the specific work you are doing right now.