Average Church Pastor’s Journey with Jesus is Moving

I am streamlining most of my writing to one site:  D.G.Shipton.com

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Under the Category: Average Church Pastor’s Journey with Jesus

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IS YOUR PLATE TOO FULL

Our churches been going through a time of revitalization. We have changed our name, and moved out of our dated facility. However, we began a study this past week on our roles within the church.

Over the past few years and especially in the months of praying through this revitalization process I have been questioning my role and the role of people in the church.

You are not really a jack-of-all-trades

Somewhere in history the ministers role changed. Many people expect us to be the go to person for nearly everything that comes up. We need to know the best dish soap for the kitchen, how to tweak the sound system, how to fix a copier, and computer programming. Then you should be an expert on marriage, raising kids, and ailments of the elderly when people seek advice.

The truth is we are not called to be everything or everywhere, after all that is God’s role not a ministers role.

OUR ROLE IS EQUIPPING AND PREPARING PEOPLE TO SERVE ONE ANOTHER

In his book”Designed to Lead, Eric Geiger reminds that Ephesians 4:11 tells what the pastor, teacher,and apostle’s main role is.

The main role we serve is in equipping the saints for service.

I wonder how much better and how many more would be served by people simply serving where God intended us.

WE MUST HELP OTHERS FIND AND SERVE THEIR ROLES

We don’t just step away from everything. We must bring others into the process of growing in their own roles. Then the church can be what it is meant to be.

LIVING THROUGH FINANCIAL REGRET: Use Caution in Pursuit of Ministry Education.

I have thought of writing for sometime. I am part of a denomination that doesn’t require a Masters Degree to pastor, in fact up until about 10 years ago the usual people going on for a Masters degree were teachers and some upper leaders or pastors of very large or Mega-churches.

Then we started pushing a seminary, and encouraging more education. I chose to get a jump on the band wagon, and went for a four-year M-DIV. I was warned of the risks financially, but hoped for opportunity to teach part-time at a college or online. I never had aspirations of a larger church or denominational position, since God placed the call of local church ministry on my heart.

Seven years later I honestly feel much of my extra training has proven of little value. When the financial strain of debt and serving in a small local church is considered then the payoff seems far less than helpful.

Here are the good and bad that I see and have experienced.

THE GOOD OF MY SEMINARY DEGREE

  • A deeper understanding of the technical terms and biblical languages: Yes, I can say I have a better understanding of language and the Bible. However, with the great Bible programs available the knowledge is available to all of us.
  • A bit of growth in my personal devotion life: I did grow in spiritual discipline and growth. I believe there are far less expensive ways to achieve this.
  • Some understanding of how the administration of church works: again I may have grown un this area, but a community college might have helped in managment for a far more reasonable price.
  • Bringing me into contact with people outside my normal daily contacts: we need to learn to move beyond out of our comfort zones and be comfortable with all people. This is a plus to seminary, but could be accomplished with mission trips or serving local mission groups.

THE BAD OR LESS IMPORTANT

  • A huge financial burden: I am no different than others. I’d just paid off my 4 year Bachelors when I returned to pursue a Masters degree. I racked up a burden of $100,000. I pastor, like many in a small rural community, and never should have pursed further education.
  • A degree that serves no purpose outside of church realm: An MDIV, or Masters in the Bible are only recognized by churches and church administrators. No one in the world cares that you know Greek, Hebrew, or planning worship. In fact having a Masters Degree will close some doors, because people will not think you will take a job with a high degree.
  • A flooded system of seminarians means the job market isn’t easy: I had hoped to supplement income as a part-yine college professor. Here’s the rub, like most jobs,if you don’t know the right people you will not get a second look. Furthermore, with so many others now pursuing higher degree you’ll be lost in the pile of others seeking jobs or supplements to their income. Many tell us there is need of pastors, but you must consider that most places in need are smaller churches. This means lower pay and in most cases the need to be bi-vocational to supplement income.

EXTRA THINGS TO CONSIDER IF YOUR WONDERING IF SEMINARY IS FOR YOU

  • Cost: Seminary will cost anywhere from $65,000 – $150,000 depending on where you attend.
  • Find seminars or even mission trips to grow your personal life: I realize today that most of the lasting benefits of my extra higher education only built on my Bachelor’s in Bible and religion. Most of those enhanced training could have come from seminars. I’d say over 25 years of ministry I’ve received far more from pastor and leadership retreats than any degree class I’ve taken.
  • Realize a piece of paper has little or no serious effect on serving, teaching, or preaching: Training is needed, but a degree doesn’t make good preachers or pastors. A heart of faith and service make a person a minister. Many less trained people preach and teach better then higher trained ministers.
  • In a growing bi-vocational ministry world consider what training will truly serve you, your family, and your church outreach in the future: In my experience I would have done better ten years ago pursuing a teaching degree. I am limited to substitute teaching as one of the few jobs in my are to supplement income. I’ve wondered how if I’d have gotten a degree for teaching I might be less financially burdened, and my church freer to put more money toward other ministry. A business degree, counseling degree, or technical training in some cases might actually provide a better place for bi-vicational work and open more doors for witness and ministry in your community.
  • Above all, be sure it’s really God’s Plan and not your human hope or desire that drives you: be in deep prayer. It’s easy to think something is right, while missing what God really desires.

I am not saying not to pursue education or that education is evil. I am saying that we should be more open to God’s leading, and be very cautious about pursuing extra higher educational degrees. I also believe most denominations need to reconsider what the need in ministers, and find ways to offer needed training without the financial burden. Such burdens always effect the minister, family, and church. This is s burden for all in the church and we must find better ways to increase knowledge and depth without the destruction of debt.

I wish I had the miraculous answer, but I don’t. All I can do is share my experience and hope others are more cautious than I was.

May Jesus bless your journey.

Ride The Wave God Brings

We have had a tremendous Fall season, and watching God move has been awesome. The Leaders and I took a great leap of faith, guiding our church toward a restart in the new year. We felt it was time to leave our current way of doing things and pursue a stronger focus on God, the Gospel, and Community outreach. We also decided to do this, we would need to step out of our over 100 year-old building.

It isn’t easy to say good bye to what is familar, beautiful, and comfortable. However, moving with God, and riding His wave is always exciting and joyous.

We are two weeks from our last service, where we will celebrate 160 years of ministry. We will begin our new focus in January. Then God blessed us with the outer structure of a building, for a drastic savings. It will be up far earlier than planned, likely by April. Then we will need to finish the inside. We also recieved unexpected donations.

After the leadership accepted the offer one of leaders told me the following.

I have the chills. I really believe that it’s undeniable that God’s hand is in this process. We’ve been trying hard to work within reason with goals and estimated costs and a budget that was non-existent at the beginning of all this. And it’s like he just gently set us aside to watch what he can do, beyond all reason.

That’s riding the wave God send. I’ve told several people along this journey that I don’t have all the answers. However, I step out in faith. I keep thinking of the children of Israel, and the early Church. God invited each group onto an awesome journey. And, yet neither group really knew what the end would be.

I would rather move in faith and see God move, as the Early Church did. The alternative would be dying in a desert, in a lack of faith, as the generation of Moses.

May God bless us all to step out and ride God’s waves when they come. May we see and know it’s His move and move with Him.

– Blessings on the Journey

Change is Never Easy: Even When It’s Needed

Who likes change? On the surface many people think that the younger generations, and some of us in leadership often like change, because it seems that they are the ones often promoting change. The reality is no one likes change. No one likes the work it takes to make change. No one likes to let go of what is familiar and comfortable, and shift to harder work and new ways of thinking. The truth is change is always hard.

However, alternatives to change are not only hard to swallow, they are deadly. We are talking about churches, but think for a moment about health? If someone is told that they must change their lifestyle from overeating, smoking, drinking two-liter’s of soda a day, or they will die people sometimes wake up. Then for others it takes surviving a heart-attack to wake up and change. Then there are the stubborn die hard people who refuse to listen to any of the warnings.

One of my funniest memories was visiting a nursing home where an elderly woman sat coughing. She had an oxygen tube in her nose, was breathing hard, and sitting in a wheelchair. Then I had to keep from laughing, because in her hand was a smoldering cigarette, which she had just taken a puff from. I didn’t laugh, because it was very sad to see. This unfortunately is the case for many people who are faced with needed change in their lives and in the life of their church.

I know I haven’t written in a while, but you will be hearing more from me as we move forward. You see my church has been facing our own need of change for quite some time. This past summer the leadership were able to open up and share their feelings, as we read through Thom Rainer’s book, Autopsy of a Deceased Church: 12 Ways to Keep Yours Alive. This book caused others to see what I was seeing for some time, we were already quickly headed toward death, if we did not change.

Change takes time to adjust to, and we all admitted that we do not like change. However, most of us in the end admitted it would take drastic change and a new direction. We felt that as Scripture says, “you can’t put new wine in old wine skins.” We also could see that we needed to die to who been in order to live, following God’s lead of “Dying to self in order to live for Christ”. The entire DNA of the church had to be changed, and we needed to let go of our own comfort zones, and that would mean letting go of a structure now 110 years old.

I’ll share some of this journey with you in the coming days and weeks. But today I want you to know, from someone who is going through major changes and preparations to become re-birthed in most ways. It is not easy to change. Here are some brief lessons and encouragements to pass on and hold to.

  • Listen and move with God, which may mean slowing down or speeding up

    • We have moved a Speed that seems quick on the outside, but as I said God was working in my heart for some years, and as I found in others as well.
    • There have been times when I hoped we could be further down the road, but we needed to allow people time to process information.
  • If God has called you he will sustain you through the process

    • Fear and second guessing are very destructive and destructive forces. Satan will try to make you second guess your every thought and decision. However, if you have prayed thoroughly and know it is God’s will. You can rely on God’s promises to always be with us.
    • As, we have made decisions and prepared to take votes on name changes and worked through questions, I’ve been faced with with some times of wondering how it was going to go. Since, we are still in the process of shutting down to begin again in the new year I don’t have all the answers. That’s one of the scariest parts of change, we never will have all the answers. However, we follow and trust the God who does have all the answers. Hours of prayer and devotions have helped me face change and the fears that naturally come with it with confidence and peace.
  • Prayer is your most important action through the process

    • I will not tell you a fairy tale, there is work involved on your part for change to occur. No one has ever lost 100 pounds or built a new mission for God without sweat and hard work. However, the most important priority in seasons of change it your personal prayer life. Jesus said, “faith can move mountains”, but in the book of Acts I see that most of the greatest movements, changes in direction, and outreach started in prayer not work. The work of stepping out followed God’s guidance and encouragement, which came through serious times of prayer.
  • Not everyone will understand you, and not everyone can go with you
    • It would be great to say that when we get to our new building, our new destination, our new lifestyle everyone we love and are connected to will be there with us. That is simply not how life works.
    • First, some people with you, even at the start of the journey may realize that They simply can’t go with you, because they don’t understand. I can sincerely say it isn’t easy to watch people you know, love, respect, and sincerely care about not go. I think to Moses in the Bible, and realize that the reality was that many of the Israelite never really wanted to go from Egypt. They got out in the desert and couldn’t see for themselves what God was saying to Moses. Then their fear caused years of grumbling and complacency. In the end they caused a whole generation to die in the dessert.
      • It may be hard to let others go their own way, but if they really don’t understand what God is doing in you and those going with you. You must do the loving thing and help them move to where God can keep working in their lives in another place.
      • You may keep their friendship in the end by letting them go.
    • Unfortunately the lesson from the children of Israel also has a deeper consequence for others who may not join you. That is that they are not actually in tune with God at all and may just pull us backward if we left them.
      • I think of so many people over the years that I have prayed for to break their addictions, or poor habits. I’ve watched time and time again, as someone left drugs, alcohol, and even poor dieting. They seem to do well, but then they meet up with someone from their past or think they can help someone from their past. Instead of helping them, they soon find themselves being pulled back into places where they had been. That was the danger of the the Children of Israel, as many wanted to live in the past and not in the promise God planned.
  • Be grateful for what God is doing and Celebrate Even the Small Victories

    • This is a good reminder no matter where we are in life or the journey of change. Be thankful and celebrate often. People too often forget to thank those who have helped, even those who may decide they can’t make the journey with you. Send a card, give a call, and recognize what God is doing in the lives of people. Thank God for the victories no matter how small, because it will help you to remember He is the one providing the way. It also, keeps you excited to be watching where God’s working next. Celebrate together too. It’s not just saying thanks but sharing it with others that becomes a strength to one another as you journey with others.
      • Celebrate when God is saving souls. Celebrate when doors open that you were not sure would open so easily. Celebrate, even when you might have to let go of the past.
        • Our church is preparing a Celebration of Remembrance, as we move out of our old facility and begin a new ministry focus. We decided we needed a final memorial service. This is to be a Celebration of Remembrance. In moving onto where God is calling us we are not denying that God has done great work in the past of the church or that the building had not at one time served as an epicenter of faith in the community.
        • In fact, as I am writing a book on the history I am being reminded in the first half of the church’s life it was doing what we are doing now. It was focusing outside itself and seeking to move with God to reach out in the community and live the Missional life God calls churches too. So, I’m sure I’ll share and celebrate some of our history as I prepare the book, and let everyone here get to remember and celebrate some of the victory’s of the past.
        • You see, while we can’t live or dwell in the past. We can celebrate and let it help reignite us into a new future. That is the joy of celebrating, even when it may be hard to say good bye to the past.

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Where ever you are being called to change, be renewed, or re-birthed by God. Be encourage to trust Him. It may not always be easy, but know He will be with you. You are never alone.

+ May God Bless You on Your Journey with Jesus Today.

The Biggest Misunderstanding About Small Church Pastors — Karl Vaters

We don’t have a limited vision. Our best contributions to Christ’s kingdom happen to be in a smaller setting. There are a lot of misunderstandings about small churches and the people who pastor them. 306 more words

via The Biggest Misunderstanding About Small Church Pastors — Karl Vaters

What Do You Do? It’s Important to The Bi-Vocational Minister

“What do you do?”

It is a question that often comes up in some form, as we get to know others in the world around us.  What we do is an essential part of the Western mindset.  We are defined by our work, and the things we actually do in life.  That is why we often get quickly to asking others what they do and share what we do, as we meet.

The way I introduce myself in over twenty years of ministry has changed quite a bit.  I used to be enthusiastic about say, “I’m a minister at such and such church.”

However, my experience has been to see people shut-down, close up, or even look with near disgust at me.  Many people in secular work look on ministers as lazy, out of touch with reality, not really working, and so separate from reality that their conversation must change around us.

I have been a bi-vocational minister since day one of ministry.  I’ve had to work to pay the bills and do what I can to help out the ministries I am a part of.  So, I have noticed the difference even more than some full-time minister’s may.  You see when I say, I am a writer, or I am a Substitute teacher, or I teach people are far more open to talk with me.  They do not look down on my work, or give an attitude that I can’t relate to them.

The reality is that among churches, minister who are not bi-vocational, leaders above, and others within the church I often feel looked down on in other ways.  Attitudes that we can’t possibly understand the pressure of parishioner’s needs or the demands of serious preparation.  Some even act like I am merely a part-time minister.

Reality check:  For most pastor’s there is no such thing as Part time

We can’t be part-time, when our heart and soul ache for the communities we are a part of.  We don’t work 9-5 services within ministry, but are ministering at our secular jobs, in our schools, factories, restaurants, and other businesses.  Our time in preparation is just as important to us as someone who has the freedom to shut off the phone or hide behind a wall of secretaries and “devote time to study”.

Be encouraged Bi-vocational brother’s and sister’s

You are appreciated.  God has given you this calling, and while the world may not understand your ministry calling, and ministers may not understand the work in the world; you are called to this place in ministry.  God appreciates your heart and soul.  Most of the time your congregations appreciate you far more than they may indicate, many times, because they know you can understand their daily struggles in a  world where the majority of people are working two or more jobs.

Don’t be discouraged, or overwhelmed.  Don’t let others dictate what God is telling you to do in your heart and ministry.  Instead find time to be refreshed in him, in the busy schedules that you live and work in.  And, find strength from others who might be going through the same thing.

We may feel alone, but we are not alone.

God is with us.  There are many other ministers who are bi-vocational than we likely even realize.  So cheer-up and serve the Lord with Gladness of heart.

Moving From Satisfaction to Serving Again

“I’m satisfied.”

“I’m full.”

These are words that we hear when someone has had a great meal.  They get up from the table and they may make a statement like one of these.  However, in our American society we often over stuff ourselves and we may say we are “satisfied”, but in reality we start to feel miserable from being overstuffed.

In church life sometimes people make statements similar to theses about their church.

“I’m happy here.”

“I’m satisfied with our church.”

“Our church is great, and friendly.”

However, the reality is that while we make such statements we often sense something underneath is wrong.

Complacency by definition: self-satisfaction especially when accompanied by unawareness of actual dangers or deficiencies. (Merriam-Webster).

Often we are sitting in a place where we think things are okay, or we are satisfied.  Yet, the Holy Spirit calls us to be refocused, revived, refreshed.

How do we get back to where God wants us:

  1. Get alone with God.   All too often we get satisfied or things are going along semi-smooth, and we get soft in our personal time with God.
  2. Challenge other leaders to pray and get alone with God.  You will often find that others are already feeling the pull of the Holy Spirit as well.  As leaders we may feel alone, but often God is working in the hearts of others.
  3. Start a new study on renewal for you and your leaders.  You and your leaders  may need to be refocused to help you refocus others.  There are some wonderful studies on church leadership, revitalization, and refocus.  Such studies can be done from online, books, attending seminars, or going to another church for help.
  4. Start or reinvent a Bible study within the church.  Often one reason we get complacent is that we are stuck in routine.  While habits can be good, if we are going through the motions without remembering why or just doing it because we have to they can loose their meaning.  Sometimes we need to change things up, so that we can see things things from a different perspective.

 

Remember God is still in control, and the God we follow is able to revive the soul and the church we lead.  Focus on God and let the Spirit guide you.

 

Keep on your journey with Jesus, as you serve,

D.G. Shipton