The Weight & Joy of Being a Pastor: What God Thinks of You

When God thinks of you, what comes to mind?

This is a hard question for many of us to answer. We often think the answer is failure or disappointment or unloved.

Yet, none of those are true.

What you believe the answer is to that question shapes much of your life. This is especially true if you are a pastor.

There is a weight that pastors feel that I don’t know translates into other jobs. I think that people in churches can know about it, but not fully understand it. I know that as a youth pastor, I didn’t truly understand the weight of pastoring until becoming a lead pastor. For no particular reason, it just worked that way.

While there are many weights that a pastor carries, some of them are just human weights that others carry (including parenting), but I thought up five that I think pastors particularly carry on a daily basis because of what they do each and every week. There is an important distinction here. These are not pains; they are the weights of pastoring. There is a huge difference between pain and weight (so no one misses that).

I’ve been sharing these weights and joys recently so that those who attend a church know what it is like to be a pastor and how to best support their pastor. When those two (a pastor and the congregation) work together, some amazing things happen. When they work against each other, it is a disaster.

To see the other weights and joys, you can read them by clicking on the links: Preaching God’s word every weekYou can’t change peopleGod’s call on your lifeSeeing life changePeople under you are counting on you and God using you.

Weight #4: What God Thinks of You

Pastors do not answer to their churches, boards or anybody else. Ultimately, they answer to God. Even though it is incredibly biblical, most Christians don’t like to hear it.

While pastors do answer to boards in their job, we ultimately do not answer to people. I remember having a conversation once with a guy who was upset about something we decided to do, and he said, “I give here. You answer to me. I should get to say what happens because I give here.” It is a whole other post, all the inaccuracies in that statement. I looked at him and said, “I don’t answer to you. I answer to God, and that scares me a whole lot more than the idea of answering to you.”

While this is true and biblical, most Christians do not like this idea. (Side note: This isn’t a ticket for pastors to do whatever they want.)

And it should scare a pastor to death. It should keep him humble and on his knees.

The idea of God judging how I lead Revolution, how I preach, how I shepherd, scares me. But I think it is a holy fear and one that should drive all pastors. Will God approve of what I did? Will God be glorified with what I did?

Before many pastors can answer those questions, though, there are some things they feel but never deal with. Many pastors get into ministry to help others, but many carry around approval idols. Not dealing with this causes them to put the emphasis on what people think of them instead of what God thinks of them.

Don’t miss this: Whichever one you think is more important will have an enormous impact on your leadership and the kind of church you lead.

Rivalry, Partnership & Your Marriage

Rivalry in marriage? Couples don’t fight against each other, do they? They are always on the same side.

We are naive if we think that is true.

We all know couples who fight against each other, work against each other, undermine the other.

Paul says in Philippians 2:3 that we should not do things out of rivalry or conceit but look to the interests of others. While this is written specifically to a church, it has implications for Christians who are married.

Yet, Katie and I talk to countless couples that fall into rivalry in their marriage. It is easy to fall into, because deep down we are all very selfish and we are good at it. I remember talking to a wife who said, “I stopped doing laundry because he didn’t take out the trash or do enough around the house. I just let it pile up.” I’ve heard guys tell me, “She won’t have sex with me, so I won’t talk to her when she says she wants to talk.” Women have told us, “I’m not having sex until he does _______.” I could literally list hundreds of things, but at the end of the day the goal is to get their way. At the end of the day, these couples want to get their way, and they are willing to fight for it. They are also being selfish.

While many in our culture would say, “That makes sense”, biblically, it doesn’t. Marriage is not a contract. A contract says, “I’ll do this, you do that, and as long as we keep our end of the bargain, we’ll stay married and be happy.” That’s not what God calls us to, nor is it even possible. There are times that I have more energy than Katie, and so I pick up the baton of bedtime, baths, etc. There are times when that burden falls to Katie. One of us gets sick and takes care of the other. A contract says, “I’m sorry you are sick, but it is your turn to clean the kitchen, so get out of bed and keep up your end of the bargain or else.”

Whenever someone says something like this to me, my response is, “Let me say that back to you so you can hear what I just heard.” I think until someone else says it to us, we don’t realize what we sound like. We sound like rivals instead of spouses. We sound like people who are looking out for ourselves instead of the interest of our spouse.

You don’t serve your spouse because they deserve it or because they do it for you; you do it because you are called to. You don’t meet your spouses needs because they meet yours; you do it because you are called to.

If you’re married, here’s a simple question for you: What if you and your spouse stopped working against each other and began working together towards something? What if rivalry was not what dominated your marriage, but selflessness and teamwork?

Wednesday Mind Dump…

  • What a week it’s been in the Reich house.
  • Sunday was an incredible day.
  • Our Steelers beat the Chiefs.
  • Besides this being awesome simply because we won, much of Katie’s family lives in Kansas City and roots for the Chiefs.
  • Loved texting them to remind them they got beat by a kicker!
  • Revolution was amazing on Sunday.
  • We had 17 guests on a rainy, cold, holiday weekend.
  • Simply blown away by that.
  • And we had 83 people take the next step of working on their life map.
  • This is an exercise Katie and I did with the counselors from Crosspoint.
  • It is such a powerful exercise.
  • Katie and I taught together (which I love doing) on the topic of family of origin and your family narrative.
  • The response was overwhelming.
  • If you want to watch it you can do so here.
  • Katie will be back on stage with me this week as we talk about “how to enjoy your marriage” and do a live Q&A.
  • Can’t wait for that.
  • This topic fires me up and I think every pastor should preach on marriage every year.
  • It is that big of a deal.
  • The growth Katie and I experience when we do a series on marriage is incredible and it serves the people in your church well.
  • I get asked a lot about books and 2 books that have been influential to Katie and I on the topics of shame, family of origin and family narrative are The Soul of Shame: Retelling the Stories We Believe About Ourselves by Dr. Curt Thompson and The Relational Soul: Moving from False Self to Deep Connection by Jim Cofield and Rich Blass.
  • That was only the beginning of the excitement in our house this week.
  • Because not only is Katie and 3 of our kids sick with whatever is flying around Tucson right now, but our 9 year old broke his arm at a birthday party Monday morning.
  • Never a dull moment with 4 boys.
  • Time to get back to it.
  • Praying I don’t get sick!

How Guests Become Regular Attenders at Your Church

Have you had a guest come to your church and seem excited but never come back? Maybe you had a big day on Christmas, Easter or Mother’s Day (our three biggest days), only to have no return guests? Maybe as a pastor you feel, “We’ve had a lot of guests, but no one seems to be sticking.”

What’s going on?

The reality is, your church competes with a lot on a Sunday morning, and that competition is not other churches.

It is being outside, kids’ sports, sleeping in, football, errands, a slow morning, catching up, working out.

church

So how do you make a guest’s experience one where they return and become a regular attender?

Answer this question: Does your church environment communicate something positive?

When a guest shows up, here is what is running through their head:

  • Am I already here? Is there anyone else like me?
  • Were they expecting me?
  • How uncomfortable am I going to be?
  • Are they going to ask for my money?
  • How long will this last?
  • Will I have to do anything weird?
  • Will I feel stupid if I don’t know what to do?
  • Will my kids be safe?

If you don’t answer these questions for guests, they won’t want to return. Their defenses are too high.

Here’s a way to break through those: Create a church environment that says, “We’ve been expecting you.”

Here are some ways to do that:

1. Signs. The moment you think you have enough signs as a church is the moment you should buy some more signs. You can never have too many signs at your church.

A guest should be able to navigate your church without asking anyone where anything is.

I know this sounds uncaring, and you want community and want them to talk to you and let you know that they are there, but they don’t want to let you know they are there. They want to let you know they are there when they are ready to let you know that they are there.

You should have signs where the bathroom is, the auditorium, the front door (I can’t tell you how many churches I’ve been to where the door wasn’t obvious), and where kids and students meet.

2.Give them something. One of the fears that a guest has is that a church wants something from them. So, give them something. Throw them off balance. Thank them for being there. They could’ve been anywhere, but they used their time to come to your church. So thank them.

Give them a gift and don’t make them give you a name and email to get it. Just give it to them.

We have a gift bag that we give to guests with some fun things in it and some information about our church. We put them on a table that stands by itself with no one manning the table.

Remember, let guests make themselves known when they are ready to do so.

If they fill out a connection card, we send them a Starbucks gift card to say thanks again.

3. Security for kids. One of the questions a guest has relates to their kids, and this is a big deal in our culture. I’m blown away that there are still churches that do not check kids in and give a tag to parents. When you do this, your church is communicating, “We know everyone here.” That is completely unwelcoming to a guest.

You wouldn’t put your child in a childcare at a YMCA without getting a tag. Why should church be any different?

A tag communicates safety and security, which are enormous desires for parents when they arrive at church.

4. Talk directly to them in the service. Many pastors when they stand on stage seem to be oblivious to guests. They talk only to the insiders. This communicates to a guest, “We weren’t expecting you.”

When you talk to guests, you speak directly to them. You also tell your regular attenders that we expect guests to be here. You can do this in the welcome when you tell them how glad you are to have them. Invite them back at some point in the service. Also communicate how long the service will be as that is one of their main questions. In the sermon or scripture reading or singing (which might be new to them), you can say something like, “You might be new and maybe you aren’t sure that Jesus exists. Here’s something to think about.” Or, “Here’s what you can do in this moment while we sing or take communion.”

All of this communicates care and we expected you to be here.

Do You Build Up or Tear Down Your Spouse?

Have you ever listened to a person talk about their spouse? Whether that spouse is there or not, it can be incredible to listen to or heart wrenching and awkward. You can learn a lot about a couple by listening to how they talk about their spouse.

One thing Katie and I committed to at the beginning of our marriage was to not make fun of each other. It is amazing to me how many couples will make fun of each other, especially in front of other people. Now I know what you are going to say, “They are just having fun.” And yes, people will laugh, but watch the person who is being made fun of and you will see a person who is dying inside. The reason is that it hurts. There is always truth in every joke.

One challenge we lay out to couples is to not make fun of each other for a week and see how it changes your relationship. You will be blown away by the difference.

The other thing that amazes me is how couples will vent about each other when the other isn’t present. I will hear guys say, “I can’t believe what my wife did”, and then lay in about her. She will do the same. It is now more prevalent on Facebook. I sit amazed staring at my computer screen as couples will put down their spouse for the whole world to see, listing things the other forgot to do, how they don’t care, they are late again, forgot to wash the dog, is still sleeping in, or just whatever is bothering them.

The other day someone asked Katie why she doesn’t vent about me. The person asked if she didn’t do it because I’m a pastor, and Katie said (and this is another reason I love my wife), “I don’t want to malign my husband. If he does something that bothers me, I tell him, not the whole world.” Now, this doesn’t mean that Katie and I don’t have friends that we vent to. We do, but it is a singular friend (not the same person for each of us). It is not plural and it is for the purpose of venting, and then that person can speak into our lives to show us the mirror of where we are dropping the ball and challenge us. Too many people vent about their spouses to lots of people, and the people they vent to simply ignite the fire more instead of challenging them.

As a man this is crucial because my identity is largely tied to what Katie thinks of me. If she is bashing me to friends about forgetting something, not making enough, working too hard, I will feel like she is nagging me, not proud of me, doesn’t respect me. And, this is the big one, I will feel like she is treating me like one of her kids. (That’s another post.)

One thing I have grown to appreciate about Katie from watching and listening to other couples is how she speaks about me. Many couples speak poorly about their spouses. I have listened to women berate their husbands in public or in front of their kids about what they make (usually not enough), how lazy they are, how they wished their husband was like someone else (usually the husband of a friend they’ve heard about), etc. I have watched women put their husbands down in front of their kids, talking to him and about him, treating him as if he is one of the kids. I’ve even heard women with three kids and a husband say, “I have four kids.”

What is ironic about this is those same women then wonder why their husbands act like one of the kids. What did you expect? You treat him like one of the kids.

Your kids will largely get their opinion of your husband, or wife for that matter, based on how you speak about them.

I love hearing Katie talk with our kids about how hard I work, how I provide for our family, how important it is for me to take them on daddy dates, why date nights are important with Katie. Through this I believe our kids will grow up with a good view of what a dad is and a good picture of who I am.

It is equally important for me to speak highly of Katie, how hard she works in our home, the little things she does to keep our house running, teaching our kids at home, how she looks.

The way I treat Katie and talk about her is how my sons will largely learn how to treat women. It is also how Ava will learn how to let a man treat her. My sons will learn from Katie how a woman is to treat them. Ava will learn from Katie how she is to treat men as she grows older.

Tuesday Mind Dump…

  • Felt so good to be back in a normal routine of Sunday morning at Revolution.
  • We didn’t meet on December 25th and January 1st.
  • The break was great for our family and I heard the same thing from many people in our church.
  • Each year we take off the Sunday between Christmas and New Years.
  • I know it made Sunday feel more special (in a weird way).
  • Tons of guests as we kicked off Mr. and Mrs. Better Half
  • If you missed it, you can watch it here.
  • We had so many guests this past Sunday.
  • So exciting to have Revolutionaries bringing their friends up to introduce me to them.
  • Love the inviting culture we have at our church.
  • We’ve done a lot of marriage series at Revolution in the 8 years of our church, but this one feels really different from the ones before.
  • I don’t know if it is because Katie and I are older now or because we’ve grown more in the last year than almost any other time in our marriage.
  • Got to enjoy the second half of my Steelers giving the Dolphins a beat down on Sunday.
  • It’s the best kind of playoff game, the one that is not stressful.
  • I’m not expecting that at all this week.
  • The Chiefs are going to be a hard out.
  • But I feel good about it.
  • I finished reading The Soul of Shame: Retelling the Stories We Believe About Ourselves today.
  • Wow.
  • I’m not even sure how best to describe this book.
  • I don’t know that I would say I struggle with shame or have a lot of feelings of shame, but was blown away to see how much shame can define my life.
  • It was really eye opening.
  • I’m really excited for this Sunday because Katie and I are teaching about one of the biggest lessons we’ve learned in marriage.
  • It’s one of the most important things we’ll ever talk about because of how big of a deal it is.
  • Watching the college football playoff last night was fun.
  • I love football so any time there’s a good game on, I’m in.
  • Lats night did not disappoint.
  • Unless you root for Bama.
  • Then…
  • Finished my cover up tattoo last Friday.
  • It hurt a whole lot more than a tattoo.
  • I know were in the middle of our marriage series, but I’m starting to work on our next series in the book of Psalms called Pray. 
  • Really excited to dive into Psalms for 8 weeks and look at 8 different Psalms.
  • So much in there that I think it will be great to dive in.
  • I’m thinking we might do a short series on Psalms each year as a church until we’ve preached through all of them.

A Vision for Your Marriage

Marriage is hard work. There are many times that you are excited to be married, you and your spouse are on the same page, romance is high and affection feels easy. Decisions flow without much work, and you wonder why it isn’t always like this.

Other times your marriage feels like if it is moving, it is moving backwards. You fight, never hold hands, you struggle to understand your spouse, and decisions always end in fights and hurt feelings.

If you’re single you think, “I’ll worry about my marriage, someday…when I’m married.”

Regardless of where you are, one thing is sure: you need a vision for your marriage. The one you are in or the one you will enter into one day.

It is easy to miss this. It is easy to get stuck in the day to day of marriage and miss this. So much happens in a day, it is hard enough to stay married, let alone think about your marriage.

Too many couples have no idea what they are doing in their marriage. If you don’t have a vision, a destination, you don’t know where you are going.

Here’s what happens: you do what your parents did. You talk to your spouse the way your mom talked to your dad. You treat each other the way your parents did. You do the same things your parents did. Your dad did the finances, so you expect your husband to do the finances. Doesn’t matter if he’s good at that. It’s what you expect.

Or you do the exact opposite of what you saw your parents do. They seemed miserable, they got divorced, so no matter what it is, let’s do the opposite.

We do this without ever asking, “Is that what I want?” Or, “Is that what God wants?”

In Ephesians 5:22 – 33 we are given a vision for marriage, a picture, a reflection of what marriage is supposed to look like. When someone looks at a marriage, they are seeing what that couple believes about God’s love and how they respond to that love.

Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.

Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body. “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.

In light of that, here are some things to consider. First men:

  • A husband makes his wife’s burden lighter. Here’s a question every husband should ask his wife on a regular basis: What is one thing I can do to help you and make your life easier?
  • He enjoys serving her.
  • He serves her by providing and being her defender. He takes her side no matter what. He stands with his wife, for his wife, even if that means he makes his mom mad.
  • And he does this all cheerfully without wondering what he will get in return.
  • He nourishes his wife. This means to develop, nurture and to lift up. Are you helping her develop into the person God called her to be? To develop her gifts, her dreams?
  • Does your wife have space for her dreams?
  • Nourish also brings to mind care and attention. Does your wife feel like she is cared for by you and she has your attention?
  • A wife who experiences this will get to the end of her life and think, “Being married opened up my life to so many possibilities. My husband cared about where my life was going. My husband thought of me.”
  • He loves his wife like he loves himself. This happens by cherishing her. This means she feels his warmth, by being valued by her husband. He does not make fun of her, ever. He does not put her down. He builds her up. He doesn’t compare her to other women, he doesn’t fantasize about other women. Instead he delights in her. He prizes her.

For women, whether your husband does that, you are called to respond to him. Not as a doormat, but with strength through the personality God has given you. It means:

  • You are not a doormat. You are not doing whatever your husband wants, but you are thinking for yourself. It is asking questions of your husband, expressing your reservations, helping your husband see something from another angle. It is adding value to your husband.
  • It is knowing that your husband bears the responsibility and accountability to God for your marriage and family.
  • Lastly, it is a heart attitude towards God. Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. It is a step towards God.
  • Submission is not really to your husband but to God.
  • In everything, Paul says in verse 24. Why? Because you are one flesh. There is not an area of your life that is cut off from your spouse.
  • One flesh means one dream, one bank account, sharing all things, not having social media profiles the other doesn’t know about. Katie could literally shut my life down because she has all my passwords to everything.

Why is this so hard?

Tim Keller says, “Self-centeredness is a havoc-wreaking problem in many marriages, and it is the ever-present enemy of every marriage. It is the cancer in the center of a marriage when it begins, and it has to be dealt with.” Living out this vision requires you to let go of what you want. To crucify your desires in many ways.

3 Simple Time Hacks for Parents and 6 Other Posts You Should Read this Weekend

leader

Each Friday I share some posts that I’ve come across in the last week. They range in topics and sources but they are all things I’ve found interesting or helpful that I hope will be interesting and helpful to you. Here are 7 posts I came across this week that challenged my thinking or helped me as a leader, pastor, husband and father:

  1. 3 Simple Time Hacks for Parents
  2. 5 Tips to Blog Faster by Ellen Jackson
  3. Creating a Blog Content Plan for 2017 by Nicole Avery
  4. 6 Disruptive Church Trends That Will Rule 2017 by Carey Nieuwhof
  5. What Should Pastors Do with Personal Pain? by Charles Stone
  6. 10 Ways the Role of Pastor is Changing by Chuck Lawless
  7. The 12 Most Important Things To Read, Watch Or Listen To As You Start 2017 by Brian Jones

Your Growth Plan for the New Year

Statistically, most Americans will make resolutions and goals in January and not keep them.

They will range from quitting smoking, losing weight, getting out of debt, changing jobs, and the list goes on and on.

Some years it might be the same thing because you are not as far along as you want.

What if you don’t do this?

You’ll be like most other people. You’ll get to the end of next year and look back longingly at what could’ve been.

new year

Think for a minute. Let’s say your plan should be around getting healthy, getting out of debt or working on your marriage. What if you could move the needle just a little bit? What if next year, instead of $10,000 in debt it was $2,000 or none? What if your marriage took three baby steps in the next year? Wouldn’t thinking about this and being proactive be worth it?

If you’re still with me, here are some questions to help you think through a growth plan for the coming year:

  1. What do you want to change in your life?
  2. What things did you learn in the past year that you want to build on?
  3. What is one thing that, if you grew in it, would move you, your career, your relationships, further and faster?
  4. What book(s) of the Bible was convicting to you in the past year? What was most convicting and why?
  5. What area of your heart and past hurt have you put off dealing with?
  6. Who do you know that is further than you are in something that you can learn from?

Then ask those closest to you some of these questions. Yes, that is scary but so is living life and missing out because we didn’t grow and make changes.

The answers to these questions then help you to formulate a plan of what you will grow in for the coming year.

You can’t do it all.

When I lost 130 pounds in 18 months, that was my thing. I was solely focused on that and the heart issues surrounding that.

In other years, it has been preaching, prayer, adoption.

What I read, podcasts I listen to, blogs I follow, classes I take and people I talk to are around those ideas.

Make no mistake, the people who will get further in the coming year are the people who have decided what they will get further on. It will not just happen.

This is THE New Year

So it’s January.

This is the year.

This is the year you finally do what you have longed to do.

This is the year you take that step financially, spiritually, physically, relationally, emotionally.

This is THAT year.

I know. I know.

Statistically, this isn’t your year. It’s someone else’s year.

But, what if this was your year?

It has to be someone’s year, so why not yours?

Take a moment and thank God that you woke up this morning. That you are breathing. That you live somewhere with internet.

Thank God that it is a new year and what is past, while part of your story and who you are, is in the past.

It’s time to move forward.

Alright. Pep talk done.

Let’s get going!