Church Growth and the Work of God

We know that God is the one who makes a church grow, that it isn’t on us. This is both a comfort and a problem.

It is a comfort because we can rest. We don’t have to force things, we don’t have to make something happen. It is a problem because it can make us lazy. It can make us throw up our hands and say, “Well, I just need to preach the gospel and that’s it.” This is much like the Calvinist who doesn’t share his faith because “God will get who he’s going to get”, as one pastor told me.

Those are extremes, but they are important to point out.

Yes, Jesus grows his church. God grows the seeds that are planted. The Holy Spirit draws people, and often times a church grows and God moves with no explanation.

Other times a church grows, and while the Holy Spirit did the work, there were specific things that church did and did not do.

How much are you praying? How much is your elder and staff team praying? Not only for people in your church but for people not in your church? Are you asking God for specific people you are in relationships with? Are you praying that God will send 300, 500 people to your church this Easter? How burdened is the pastor for people who don’t know Jesus? Are there any sins in your church, leadership team or your life that you need to confess that are hindering the work of God?

In your church and in your preaching and worship, are you exalting Jesus and making it simple for people to understand?

Many times I’ll have pastors ask me to listen to their sermons, and all I can think the whole time is that I have to have a seminary degree to understand what he is talking about. Being simple is not being shallow. Being simple is being helpful. The gospel is complex, deep and robust, but it is also so simple that my four year old can explain it to you. Our kids can draw a picture of the gospel, so our preaching should reflect that to a certain degree.

One of the ways we evaluate this in our church has to do with communion. When we move from the sermon to communion, is it an easy transition or does it feel like a hard right turn?

We’ll talk about systems in a minute, but do you have a clear vision, a clear strategy and a clear picture of what you are shooting for? For example, can you articulate in simple terms what a healthy, mature disciple looks like? Many times in our churches, we can’t. I’m sad to say, in our church we waited too long to articulate this, and it did a disservice to our people.

I think the work of God is deeply connected to our ability to clearly help our people grow. They are connected. If Jesus builds his church and the gates of hell will not prevail, what kind of people will withstand those gates?

Many times churches do not know what they are trying to build in people. They don’t know what a healthy, mature disciple looks like, so they aren’t sure what they are aiming at. For our church, we took too long to define this clearly, and I think that hurt us as a church.


Not only did it not serve our leaders and people well, we weren’t able to ask God for specific things to build into our people. It hinders the ability to focus a sermon calendar on those important discipleship aspects.

Let me leave you with an important question for churches, boards and staffs: What kind of disciples are you building? Is that what the New Testament calls us to? Do you have a clear path to accomplish that?

How to Build a Healthy Elder Team

If there is one thing pastors know well, it is the pain that can stem from a poorly run elder team. Long meetings, arguments, back stabbing, meetings outside of the meeting, gossip, politicking. The list goes on and on.

On the other side, you hear about elder teams that care for each other, love and serve the church well, care for the pastors and their families and work together to fulfill what God has called the church to. This side of the equation is seen by many pastors as a unicorn. There are rumors, sightings and rumblings, but few actually realize it.

Those elder teams do exist, but they take specific steps to get there.

Here are seven things you must do as a pastor to build a healthy elder culture.

1. Make building a healthy elder team/culture a priority.

Too many lead pastors don’t make this a priority, and their elder team and the culture of that team shows how little effort this gets. In fact, in many churches the lead pastor has little to no say who is on the elder team, yet that team determines more about the health of the church than almost every other team.

If your by-laws have a nominating committee that doesn’t include the lead pastor, change your by-laws. If you have a nominating committee for your elder team, change your by-laws and take that out. (I’ll get to that in a minute.)

For too long at our church I saw leadership development as something that would just happen because I cared about leadership, but for leaders to be developed and a culture to be built, the lead pastor must carry the flag. Don’t mistake this, a culture will be built, whether you try or not, so make building a healthy culture a priority.

Why does this have to be a priority?

A healthy elder team brings security, health, care and development to the whole church. When the elder team knows what it is doing (and not doing), when they care for the staff and leaders well, when they are connecting to new people in the church, praying with and for the church, protecting the church, keeping them on track with the vision as well as financially and doctrinally, everyone wins.

When this doesn’t happen, you see carnage, hurt, pain and disillusionment all over the church.

2. Know what you are looking for in an elder.

If you ask most people in a church what an elder does, you will hear a few different answers. Those answers determine what you will get in an elder team.

They should be financially and business minded. In this case, the elders act more like a board of directors simply checking and balancing things.

You will hear someone pull out 1 Peter 5 and talk about shepherding and pastoring. This team is highly relational, caring and functions to make sure the church is warm, discipled and no one falls through the cracks.

Eventually someone will pull out 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1 and talk about the qualifications of an elder.

Many pastors simply look for friends to put on their elder team because they know the carnage that can happen if they have enemies on that team.

You will find whatever you are looking for in an elder, so look wisely and know ahead of time what you are looking for.

Does an elder preach? Counsel? Make budgets? Decisions? Do they shepherd everyone? Are they there to protect the pastor? Protect the church from the pastor? (I had an elder say that once.)

Again, your answer will determine what you get because you will go looking for that.

An elder is a man with character, someone who fits the qualifications of 1 Timothy 3, Titus 1 and 1 Peter 5.

An elder is a man who will protect the church, who will keep the church on mission and on track financially and doctrinally. A man who can see the whole field of the church.

This last part, seeing the whole field of the church, is one of the most important things to ask when considering someone to be an elder. Someone can be a great community group leader but not a good elder. Someone can be a good businessman but not a good elder. Someone might be a great volunteer in an area, but that’s the lid of their leadership. None of those are bad things. In fact, they are good things. It just means someone is not an elder.

Too many times we put the wrong people on that bus. We think, “He’s a good shepherd, so he should be an elder.” But as a church grows, shepherding isn’t the only thing an elder does. They also oversee staff and budgets (that begin to have a lot of zeros after them). Other times we think, “He’s good with numbers, but he might be a jerk.” You need to know.

3. Always be on the lookout.

You as the lead pastor are always on the lookout for great leaders for every part of your church. The moment you stop, the moment you delegate this, is the moment your church begins to suffer.

You must also have your antennae up for the guns blazing awesome guy who comes into your church and can hurt your church.

4. Start training an elder three years before they become an elder.

If you take responsibility to always be on the lookout, you will begin training an elder well before they become an elder to see if they can handle it. Give them leadership and shepherding opportunities to see how they handle them. Give them decision making responsibilities to see how it goes.

I lead a leadership development group every week with up and coming leaders in our church. Every elder in our church goes through this group. I want to see them interact with a group, argue over a case study, discuss theology, see if they’ll be on time for a meeting, if they’ll come prepared, speak up in a discussion, watch how others interact with them and see if they have the respect of the group.

This is so important, has low risk for the church but brings so much fruit.

5. Have a long process to become an elder.

Why a long process? Honestly, protection.

Three years allow you to see a man’s character, his marriage (if married), his parenting (if he has kids), his generosity and desire to live on mission. You hear him pray. You watch him serve. Read #2 again. You can’t know if you someone meets the qualifications in a month.

Three years also bring perseverance. A wolf who will destroy your church and eat the sheep won’t wait around that long; they’ll move on.

This process also helps you know if someone has what it takes to be an elder.

Now, they aren’t in a process for three years (at least not officially), but you should make someone be at your church at least two years before they become an elder. What’s the rush?

Depending on what you determine you are looking for in an elder, what they will do (and this changes some as a church grows), your process must help you see if someone can do that job. Don’t be swayed by charisma, a desire to not be alone, filling a spot or keeping a big giver. Those do not end well.

6. Know how unique an elder is and what they do.

Elders do what no one else in the church does.

Yes, they serve, shepherd, pray, evangelize, give and disciple. That’s a role all Christians play.

But elders do something that is unique and builds into #7: they shepherd and care for the lead pastor and his family. This is unique.

Many people in the church care about the lead pastor and his family. Many people are fans of his and put him on a pedestal. Elders, though, see the man for who he is. They know him and his struggles. They know his hurts, pressures, frustrations and joys.

This doesn’t mean the lead pastor is special, only that his role is unique. Not everyone can shepherd and care for him. Most people are used to getting something from a pastor, so it is hard to think differently about the lead pastor. But it is a crucial, yet often overlooked role of elders.

When an elder team is working well and fulfills this, it brings great joy to a pastor and his family. This joy is felt throughout the church. This does not happen over night and takes training.

7. Always (almost) keep paid pastors off the elder team.

I expect some disagreement on this, but hear me out. Some churches make any paid pastor an elder. The qualifications for an elder and pastor are the same. I get it.

Here’s the dilemma.

The lead pastor leads the staff, is the boss of the staff. On an elder team, he’s one of the team. Yes, first among equals, but elders do not have power apart from the team.

It is very difficult for a student pastor or worship pastor to sit in a meeting with the lead pastor on Tuesday morning and be reviewed, be given an assignment, and then on Tuesday night sit in a meeting where they are equals in that meeting.

Are there exceptions? Yes, but less than you think. It is difficult for everyone to change the hats they wear. It is also difficult to discuss the salary and benefits of people sitting in the room.

The Weight & Joy of Being a Pastor: Communicating God’s Word

One of the best parts of being a pastor (or a Christian for that matter) is seeing God use you. There is nothing like using the gifts God has given to you.

Recently I’ve been sharing some of the weights and joys of being a pastor to help people who attend church understand what it is like to be a pastor and how they can support their pastor and his family, but also to encourage pastors to keep going and not give up, as so many do.

Being a pastor is unique. It isn’t harder than another job, just different.

If you’ve missed any of the weights or joys I’ve covered, you can see them here: Preaching God’s word every weekYou can’t change peopleGod’s call on your lifeSeeing life changePeople under you are counting on youGod using you and What God thinks of you.

Joy #4: Communicating God’s Word

While this is a weight that pastors carry, this is also a joy.

To have the ability to open God’s Word and share it with others is a huge joy. To have people come to hear what God is saying through his Word and you is unbelievable. It is humbling, holy and scary all at the same time. For me, because teaching is one of my top gifts, I love being able to preach every week.

I love to see the way God chooses to use the work that I have put in and the time I have labored on a talk. It is something that is difficult to describe. It goes back to God using us.

For me, a sermon starts about six to eight months before I preach it. I lay out where I feel God is taking our church over the coming year and begin meditating on those passages, researching, finding articles, books and commentaries to see what others have to say on those topics. By the time I get up to preach something, I have been sitting with that topic for quite some time. To see more of how I prep a sermon, you can read that process here.

I am always blown away at how, even though we plan in advance, our church seems to be in the place where what I’m preaching on is what they need. Countless times God has shown up where we are going through what I’m preaching on. I used to be surprised.

By far this is more work, but at the same time it is so worth it. To be a part of God’s work in the world in this way makes what I do worth it.

Too many pastors, while they enjoy preaching, get lazy at it. They don’t plan ahead, they are trying to figure out Saturday night what to say instead of getting a good night’s sleep. They simply download someone else’s ideas instead of doing the hard work of figuring out what God wants to say to the church they serve. Or, they get up and say too many things instead of doing the hard work of editing.

Preaching is a weight, and according to the New Testament something you will get judged twice for. So if you preach, it is a joy as well as a weight. If it is not a joy, do something else in your church, or ask God to make preaching a joy to you.

When you see this task as a joyful weight, you finally get it. In that moment, a lot changes as a communicator. You are humbled by the opportunity, how God works but also that God will move through your prayers, confession and study. Those are never wasted in this weighty joy.

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.


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.

The Weight & Joy of Being a Pastor: People Under You are Counting on You

Recently I’ve been sharing some joys and weights of being a pastor. While being a pastor isn’t necessarily harder than other jobs, it is different. In fact, I cringe when a pastor says that they have the hardest job in the world, but that’s another topic.

I’ve been sharing these so that those who attend church can have a better understanding of what their pastor walks through and how to best support their pastor, but to also help pastors process what they live with and how to handle it.

To see the weights and joys I’ve already talked about, go here: Preaching God’s word every weekYou can’t change people and God’s call on your life and Seeing life change.


Weight #3: People Under You Are Counting on You

While everyone has people in their lives that are counting on them, I’ve noticed a different feeling among pastors. While you have those who work for you, you have to worry about their livelihood, paying salaries and the bills of a church. You also have your board that you are a part of who oversees you.

There is also the unwritten expectations that people have in your church. These are always the most dangerous and toughest to handle.

Whether it is from their last church, what they think the Bible says about a pastor or what they saw someone on TV say or do when it comes to preaching, all of these things converge in people’s minds, and they want you to be all of these things and more. The reality is if you had your church list five things a pastor is supposed to do, you are only gifted at one or two of them. While team ministry is the biblical approach and the one that works, it doesn’t make it any easier.

Everyday a pastor ends his day with this knowledge: there is someone else I can call, someone else I can counsel, another meeting I can go to, I can write/research more of my message. There is always one more thing.

Whether this pressure actually comes from people, our own thinking, or both, it is real.

One area this bleeds into and can cause a great deal of pain is in the pastor’s family. Expectations that people have for the wife and kids of a pastor are often so overblown it is crazy. The pastor’s wife is not an employee. If she is, then she can do her job, but if she isn’t paid, she is just like everyone else in the church. I’m often asked what a pastor’s wife should do in a church. The answer: what everyone else does. She’s a follower of Jesus like everyone else is. Yes, her role is unique and different from others, but she is a follower of Jesus before she is anything else, so that shapes what she does.

One thing I’ve learned is to be very honest about expectations (as honest as I can be). I once ran into a situation where a group of leaders had an expectation for me that actually went against what the Bible calls pastors to do. This happens a lot and is very difficult to bring up.

Here are some things you can do:

1. Know who you actually answer to. What does your immediate supervisor ask of you? As long as they are on your side and feel like you are hitting the agreed upon expectations, that can save a lot of pain.

2. You need to have some clear boundaries. Too many pastors have absolutely no boundaries when it comes to their schedules, meetings, e-mails and phone calls. On my day off, on family day, the computer stays off, the phone is off and I don’t have meetings. This can bleed over into being lazy, but for me, when it is time to work, I come with my game face on and throw down. But when it is sabbath time and family time, I enjoy every moment of it.

3. Teach your church. You will also have to teach your church what a pastor does, what they are supposed to do and what the church is supposed to do. Many of the things people think a pastor should do, in reality, the church is supposed to do those things. If just the pastor did those things, we would actually rob the church of being able to use their gifts.

4. Talk with others who understand. No matter what job you have, it is helpful to spend time with others who have the same role and responsibility. Only a lawyer can really understand what it is like to be a lawyer. The same is true for pastors. Get some friends who are pastors so that you can have someone who understands what you are walking through and can give wisdom from that perspective.

5. It’s not your church anyway. At the end of the day, while this weight is real, we as pastors often make it heavier than it is supposed to be. It is not your church. Those are not your people. Yes, you are responsible and accountable, but it isn’t yours. You aren’t building it, you didn’t die for it, you didn’t rise from the dead for it. Stop acting like you did.

The Weight & Joy of Being a Pastor: Seeing Life Change

As with any job, there are highs and lows. Being a pastor is no different. There are joys and weights, as I call them.

Recently I’ve been sharing some of those to help people who attend church understand what it is like to be a pastor and how they can support their pastor and his family, but also to encourage pastors to keep going and not give up, as so many do.

You can see the weights and joys I’ve shared already here: Preaching God’s word every weekYou can’t change people and God’s call on your life.


Joy #2: Seeing Life Change

All the critics, things not going as you planned them, sermons flopping, services falling apart, electronics or videos not going as planned. All of these things happen and are inevitable.

Seeing lives changed, marriages saved, singles choosing integrity, people getting out of debt, Christians being baptized, people finding God, addicts getting out of addiction.

Makes it all worth it.

I think too many pastors stay focused on the negative and never get to see lives changed. Another reason pastors and churches don’t see lives changed is because they don’t expect it, they don’t pray for it and they don’t sacrifice for it. Seeing life change is messy. It is not clean. There are no defined categories. You will have people in your church who swear (at church), who smoke (at church), who will talk about getting drunk, sleeping around and getting high (like everyone is doing it, which in their world, everyone is doing it).

To see life change you must expect it, pray for it, put up with the critics and then see God work. I love getting phone calls from people at Revolution who tell me with a huge smile, “I didn’t get drunk last night,” “I haven’t gotten high in three days,” “I haven’t looked at porn in a week.”

It never gets old.

While those might seem like small steps, and many would think, “They shouldn’t anyway” (which is true), those are big steps for the person.

I think too many times as Christians we spend so much time focusing on brokenness and sin and not enough time focusing on life change and grace. This isn’t a way of being soft on sin, but think for a minute how much time you spend focusing on God’s grace versus God’s judgment.

That focus comes through in your preaching, your counseling and your outlook on people. Do you expect God to work in someone’s life? Do you expect change to happen? Do you believe it is possible for yourself and for those you lead?

If you don’t, then you are missing out on one of the joys God has for you as a pastor.

How to Make Sure Men Hate Your Church

Many churches and families struggle when it comes to men attending church. Maybe you’re a pastor and you look around and don’t see a lot of men. If you do see them, they are uninvolved, not passionate about their faith and are simply taking up a seat. It’s great they are there, but you want so much more for them.

Maybe you’re a wife or a mother who wants nothing more than to see your husband or son become engaged in their faith. You want it to be more than talk or more than simply showing up. You want them to take initiative, to pray with you, pray on their own, read their Bible, anything so that it doesn’t feel like they are doing it simply to make you feel better.

I’ve written before about ways for your church to reach more men, and while there are a number of things your church can do to reach more men, there are lots of things you can do to make sure men hate your church.


With that in mind, here are some ways to make sure men hate your church, don’t engage in their faith and ultimately don’t come back:

1. Make it about women. Let’s be honest about church and spirituality. Women tend to be more open to spirituality and church than men. They tend to be more involved, take it more seriously, be more engaged in what is happening, and they are more likely to volunteer at a church. So it is easy to make church geared more towards women. When we do this without thinking about men, we communicate to them, “This isn’t for you.”

Now the answer isn’t to make church all about men so women hate it. That would be absurd and get our churches nowhere. As we’ll see in the rest of the list, there are some simple things you can change to help men stop hating your church.

2. Give them nothing to do. One way to make men hate your church is to give them nothing to do. Make them feel unneeded outside of writing a check or giving their wife and kids a ride. If that’s the extent of what they can do, they’ll check out. The answer also isn’t more serving opportunities. It is communicating how important their presence is in the church, how important it is to take their faith seriously and take that faith into their lives.

3. Don’t give them any tools. Maybe you’ve sat in a church and heard, “Men should lead their families. Men should pray with their wives and kids. Men should lead family devotions.” And then after the pastor has made every man feel guilty, he stops. No tools. No, here’s how to do it. Just do it.

Yet for most families, devotions are a train wreck. A fight to keep kids engaged and focused. They go terribly wrong more than they go even close to right. Many couples are unsure of how to pray with each other.

The last thing men need is more guilt about what they aren’t doing. They want to do those things; they just don’t know how. They need tools. Someone to show them, to walk with them, to help them.

Honestly, the best way to make men love your church is to help them with tools in their faith.

4. Sing songs that are too high. I’m going to step out on thin ice, but the reality is most men don’t like to sing. Think for a minute, where else do you sing in public with a group of people? It can be weird. Then when you throw in songs that get too high for men to sing or talk about how beautiful and amazing Jesus is, it starts to get uncomfortable for men, especially men who don’t follow Jesus and are guests at church.

5. Don’t expect them to succeed. This goes right along with #3, but when we don’t give men tools, we also communicate, “You think you can’t do this and so do we.” Expect men to succeed and give them a high bar.

One reason men hate church is that it isn’t worthwhile. The bar is so low. The bar in many churches is come and we’ll entertain you. Give a check once in awhile and feel good about yourself.

That isn’t succeeding and that isn’t worth getting up for.

Here’s a great example. Think of the average Mother’s Day sermons and Father’s Day sermons. Mother’s Day is about how amazing Mom is (and she is). Father’s Day is often a punch in the face to men. So men walk out hearing, “You can’t do it and we don’t believe in you.”

6. Think that all men are tough, manly men. Most men’s ministries in churches today are geared towards manly type men. Men who want to get dirty, eat lots of raw meat and go camping. And while there are a lot of those men, they aren’t the only men out there. Too many churches and pastors think all men are the same, and so they zero in on one man. It’s easy to do, and often it is done without thinking about it.

7. Only talk about a couple of sins men commit. I know one pastor that when he wants to talk about sin, he calls it “drinking and carousin’.” Many pastors, when they want to talk about men and sin, will just talk about porn. Do men struggle with porn? Yes, but so do many women. There are a bunch of other sins men commit and struggle with. Talk about those just as much. Talk about the father wound that many men carry around, the drive to succeed and the emptiness that comes from our missed opportunities. Don’t just focus on one sin.

9 Things I Wish Worship Leaders Didn’t Say

We’ve all been in that worship service. The one that got really awkward, really fast when the worship leader said the wrong thing. He didn’t mean to. He was trying. But it happened. He said something, and the feeling got sucked out of the room. The pastor covered his mouth because of the heresy coming out of the worship leader’s mouth.

It happened.

So what did he say?

worship leaders

Here are 9 things I wish worship leaders didn’t say (or said less):

1. Turn to your neighbor and ________. I’m an introvert, so I hate any time that I have to turn and say anything to anyone. I do this sometimes in a sermon, but rarely if ever. Maybe two times in eight years. If you’re a guest at a church, you don’t want to turn to your neighbor and do anything, unless it’s your wife, and then you certainly don’t want to be in church for what you have in mind. Don’t tell them to turn to their neighbor and say something. I was at one church where they put on the screen during the welcome time, “Hug 18 people.” Nope. Time to sit down and check out.

2. Let me tell you what I just heard in the sermon. A pastor spends anywhere from 5 – 20 hours on a sermon. You just heard it for the first time with everyone else. Please don’t re-preach the sermon. Now if you’re prepared and thought through it, great. But almost every time a worship leader says something off the cuff or prays something off the cuff, heresy follows. Not bad heresy, just things that sound slightly off.

Worship leaders, if you are going to talk or pray, write it out ahead of time. Be prepared. You teach your church about God every time you open your mouth. Make sure what comes out is correct.

3. Who’s excited and ready to sing today?! Almost no one. It’s early and we had a fight on the way to church and our kids were difficult and I stayed up too late on Saturday night.

Also, almost everyone hates to sing in public, especially men. You just need to be aware of that.

We also don’t like to clap and sing at the same time because almost no one can do that. It’s not bad, we just aren’t very good at it. We also can’t sing as high as you can, so when you sing really high, and we know you are awesome and have an incredible range, we stop singing.

4. Father God, dear Father God, holy Father God. This one drives me nuts. It is almost like the worship leader forgot God’s name or needs to remind God of His name or remind the church who they are praying to. I don’t get this.

5. Wispy breath prayer. This goes right along with the Father God prayer, this wispy, romantic, Barry White prayer voice. I remember taking a friend to church. He wasn’t a Christian, and when the worship leader broke out the Barry White prayer voice, my friend leaned over and said, “Is he trying to seduce us?” I kid you not. Just be yourself. Use your voice. It’s good enough to sing on stage, it’s good enough to talk to us. Don’t use a British accent if you’re from America. Be you.

6. I can’t hear you. Yes, cause we aren’t singing. We don’t know the songs, so we aren’t singing. The lights and fog are too flashy, so we feel like we’re at a show and don’t need to participate.

7. Let’s give God a hand. This is often a plea for applause for you. If people want to give God a hand or you a hand, they will.

8. Let’s sing this from our heart. What does that even mean? I have no idea what that means. I went to Bible college, seminary, and I’m 80% done with a theological doctorate degree, and I have no idea what this means. Someone please tell me how you sing from your heart instead of your mouth or your gut.

9. Be here now, Jesus. This is one of the worst things a worship leader can say. Is Jesus not there before you say this? Was the Holy Spirit not on the move before you asked Him to be on the move? Or, “God, we just want more of You.” You have all of God you need. That’s not the problem. The problem is we don’t see God, we don’t have the eyes and ears for God, not that He isn’t here.

Worship leader, remember, what you say and do on stage teaches us how to connect to God and worship. It also helps us respond to a sermon we just heard or prepares our hearts to hear God’s Word. You have an enormous task. Many of you take it seriously, for which I and your churches are grateful.

The Weight & Joy of Being a Pastor: You Can’t Change People

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. These are the weights of pastoring. There is a huge difference between pain and weight (so no one misses that).

Over the coming months I wanted to share some of the weights and joys of pastoring.

Weight #1 for a pastor has to do with preaching and the responsibility of opening God’s Word.


Weight #2: Seeing people make bad decisions and living outside of God’s design for life.

This does not mean that pastors don’t make stupid decisions or even make decisions so that we live outside of God’s design for life. I make plenty of stupid decisions. However, as a pastor you have a front row seat into people’s lives, whether it is through conversations at church, in a meeting or in a counseling session. You often get to watch the sin unfold in people’s lives, and you know that they know they are making a bad decision.

It is like watching your child make a dumb decision, knowing they are making a dumb decision, but not wanting or not being able to stop them.

I remember numerous times talking with someone about a problem in their life, seeing the pain in their eyes, hearing them talk about wanting freedom, only to have them come back in a week and tell me they were back in it. To see people decide on instant gratification instead of integrity. To see people do things that make you scratch your head and think, “Are you serious?”

Pastors get a bird’s eye view into others’ lives, and because of that we often see the end before it starts. We know how most stories end because we’ve seen so many play out.

At the same time there is also the pain of feeling helpless while watching people bring pain into their lives or experience pain because others have brought it into their lives. We can’t stop people; we can pray and counsel, but ultimately people live and make their own decisions.

This is hard for anyone.

In Luke 15 Jesus talked about the prodigal son and how he left his family and went to a far off country. Sometimes the people around us (and sometimes we) need to go to a far off country. It’s hard to let them. We want to stop them. Change them. Fix them.

But that isn’t our job.

Our job is to be there when they come back from that far off country.

That’s weighty. That’s painful and difficult. It opens us up to hurt and pain. Many times a pastor will meet with someone and know exactly how it will end and what will happen, much like a parent watching their child make the same choices.

Like a parent who wants the best for their child, but who also knows their child must make choices as they grow older.

If you’re a pastor, this is what you signed up for. Don’t forget that. Don’t overstep that and try to work your way around it.