“Who Do They See When They Look at Me?”

By R. Duuane Cragun

I was told last evening of a man that during his
churches passion play had been the actor that played the role of Jesus for
several years. This was a big production that always drew people from the
entire area. Within the rural community was a well-known child that was gravely
ill, in fact she was in attendance this performance and this would be her last
Easter season here in earth. The play went on and by all accounts the young
sick believer age 4 loved the program even though she was very weak, she had a smile on her face during the program, then came Jesus turn to enter the city (no
donkey in the church) the other actors ran in front of him yelling “Hosanna
here comes the Messiah” everyone watched as this actor now playing the Lord
walked and waved at the people smiling and loving them, when all of a sudden
the actor felt a pulling at his robe, he turned around to find this frail sick
little child looking up at him and crying “Help me Jesus!” the actor did not
know what to do, he looked down and recognized the child from her pictures
asking for donations at the local store, he could tell she was in very bad
shape and how she was asking him as Jesus to heal her, and he did not know what
to do. What would you do?

I wonder, who do they see when they look at us? When
the sick, scared, hurt, abused, dying, and lost look at us do they see people,
or do they see the God of the universe in our eyes, in are voice and in our
actions? After all, we who are called into His ministry called to be his
Ambassadors? Who do they see in us and who will we show them? Do we see them
with His eyes or ours? O God, forgive us when we get so involved in ministry
that we forget what it is to minister. It’s not about schedules, programs, or
church numbers, it’s about God, it’s about loving His people.

You see, It’s about the Lord. His love for everyone
and our being obedient when he gives us the opportunity to be Him to someone. I
know your tired and pulled a thousand ways, but please brothers and sister, let
us never again get so wrapped up in life that we won’t stop when someone looks at
us and see’s the Lord upon us and cries for help. I know some can be draining,
but what about the one that maybe hasn’t much time left, or has no one else to
turn to, what well we do? Please allow me to end this with a prayer from my
heart for you. “Lord, please keep us ready to act when the need shows its self.
Keep us all ready to serve you by serving those in need and Lord, please let
each of us be you to someone today. Amen!

Blessings to all of

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Dealing with Frustrations in Ministry

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By Robert “Duane” Cragun

Ok, you have invested a great deal of time and energy in a new family, they get involved, their children develop relationship with other kids in the church, its looking good and then it happens. Maybe in a few months or, in the situation I am thinking about, after two years a separation happens.  Despite all of your hard work and caring, your disciplining and loving them, they stop coming. Some times they will tell you why and other times they wont talk to you anymore. You try to discover what happened and how to make it work, but in the end they stop coming. And you feel abandoned. If this is your situation right now don’t feel alone, it happens to all of us! I have seen some devastating effects this can have on the minister and the congregation alike. Lets talk about a couple of them and what to do about it.

 

The sense of feeling abandoned: Its normal to have these feeling to a point, after all both you and members of your congregation have opened your hearts to these people and now their gone. You know Jesus had the same problem, he shared his heart and some rejected Him as well. This can have a side affect if we allow it to. It can bring you and your congregations willingness to reach out to others down to where fear could stop us in fulfilling the Great Commission. So what do we do? First of all you need to pray over the situation, keeping in mind that their reasons for leaving could be valid. We are not perfect, we can make mistakes. So with this in mind, prayer that the Lord will give you wisdom in this situation, pray for insight and what and how to act in trying to being them back and how to keep the congregation incurred and pray for the Lord t keep you encouraged as well.

Another effect can be a loss of desire to extend ourselves out to others: Yes the pain is real and the disappointment is also, but we are called to be His witness and we cannot allow anyone of thing stop us in the ministry we have been given. So what do we do? Learn from this experience. See what happened and be ready the next time to address it before it become’s a problem.  And help the church body to understand that these things happen sometimes let move forward!

To sum up this little blog, if their were no sin in the world, then everyne would see the light and turn to the Lord. Our churches would never do anything wrong and we and this problem would never exist, but sin is here and so are we. If they leave, try to keep them in prayer try to offer help and let them know you are there if they need you, but don’t give up. What we do hase eternal affects. As Dory in finding Nemo says, “Just keep swimming.”

 

God Bless

Duane Cragun

Our Attitude

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By Robert”Duane” Cragun

Have you ever taken a Spiritual Gifts exam? It seems like when I was going to college and Seminary I took about 100 of them. In fact, it was only three but it sure seemed like there were more. The funny thing to me was that the results came out basically the same each time. Don’t get me wrong, I understand the importance’s of knowing the areas we have gifts from God in and I understand that these areas may change over the years so retaking it I a good idea. But have you ever wondered about how much our attitude has to do with the ministry God has called us to serve in?

The thing here is that if we have a bad attitude we will attract few people if any at all. So, a positive attitude is vital for the minister, as well as for the church body. Who would want to be a part of a church that acts as if you are not welcome? Unfortunate, as it sounds however there are  churches that project a bad attitude and they don’t realize it. Yes, they may smile and shake a visitor’s hand and welcome them in, but then later they set and talk about others in front of the guest. I was speaking at one church and was setting on the platform watching as the ushers took the mornings offering. One older man must not have liked that a lady did not give anything as the plate passed down the pew, so when she handed it to him he stood there and refused to take the plat. Finally, a man setting behind her reached up and took it and passed it down the next pew. I bet she never darkened their door again!

But I have also seen this bad attitude displayed by some in vocational ministry as well. This  does very little for the cause of Christ. I understand that some people just drag us down. But our attitude may be the only glimpse of the love of Christ they will ever understand.

So, what are some ways to display a better attitude? First it must be real, people can tell of you mean it or not. Second, take time to listen. I understand that right before we preach is not the best time, but saying something like “I want to make sure I fully understand you, so can we talk about this right after service when I can give you my full attention?”  In short, treat them like we would want to be treated.

Blessings.

Duane Cragun

Summer Blog Sabbatical Almost Over: Upcoming Articles

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Average Church Pastors Journey with Jesus returns August 8 & 10, 2017

The busy Summer season has keep us from writing as much.  We are planning to return with new articles starting next week.  Some of the upcoming discussions we are considering include:

  • Our Attitudes
  • Frustrations of Ministry
  • The Need and the Catch 22 of Ministry Training
  • Ministering to those with Addiction
  • Changing with Community in Change

 

Be strengthened on your journey,

Dan & Duane

 

 

Conflicting Views Arise

I hate conflict, with a passion. I have to admit that I try my best to avoid it at all cost. However, conflict comes to all churches in various ways. If you are the pastor that means you will often be the one to manage conflict. I do not have the perfect answer to all problems, but here are some insights of conflict in a small-town church.

1) All conflict involves everyone.

 

Whether it is a couple going through a divorce, board members in disagreement, or a family dealing with illness bringing conflict from the stress; the conflict affects everyone. It always amazes me that people in a small-town church think their issues and disagreements are private or unknown affairs. The reality is everyone knows something is wrong, and in some way it will have a negative effect on everyone.

2) Most churches live in avoidance, causing small issues to become large issues.

Conflict is considered so evil by most people that any level of disagreement is pushed into the background. Many small issues build until, like a volcano building pressure, things explode. Then people say things they wouldn’t otherwise say and do things they would otherwise not do.

3) The heart of most conflict is an improper view of me, we, and He.

We all are born into sin, and selfishness often rears it’s head and causes us to take up issues that are me verses we issues. When we push our issues against others we forget that in the church, it is supposed to be a we mentality, because we should work in community. Even more important, we forget that in the church it isn’t about me and it isn’t about we because in reality it’s about He. We are not the body of ourselves, our town, our denomination, or our church. We are a part of the Body of Christ, so it is about Him.
Conflict can’t always be avoided, but we can be calmer through conflict if we take a lot more time to pray through issues, and follow the good advice of Matthew 18.

1) Deal with conflict early at the smallest level possible.

Don’t let things build until it explodes. Instead involve only those who need to be. Never drag others into the problem who aren’t involved.

2) Only escalate situations to involve others if necessary.

Jesus said to take a friend if we can’t solve the solution. And, we only involve the leaders if that doesn’t work.

3) If situations come to the point that it can’t be resolved never stop praying.

Jesus says to treat a person lost in their sin, who we have tried to reach as we would other sinners. In history many thought this meant to disown or ignore them. However, when we see how Jesus treated sinners it changes our view. He kept trying to reach them ate with them and gave them dignity. We should never let our conflict keep us from praying and caring for the others we are in conflict with. In the end, if it isn’t about you or me, and it is about Christ we should beware that both sides may be wrong. Praying for others often brings clarity and understanding as the Holy Spirit works on our hearts.

4) Pray, Pray, Pray:

We can never underestimate the power of prayer to change our hearts and to overcome the greatest conflicts. We must pray and take time away from the situation to gain better perspective and direction in all situations. The Holy Spirit can change things in us and in situations that nothing we do can ever overcome. So, it should be our first, continual, and last step in dealing with any level of conflict. Trust God’s Spirit to guide you through.
May God Bless you in your leadership journey.

A New View

By R. Duane Cragun

Have you ever done something that was just dumb? I did the other morning. I woke up in my normal morning haze and went to put on my glasses, even though I was reaching to the wrong side of the bed, I did not think about what I was doing. In fact, to be totally honest, I was only thinking about what all I had to do that day. I really wasn’t that excited about what looked to be another routing day. Well that was until I put on my glasses and looked around, WOW! Things looked odd, you see I had put in my wife’s glasses these small things fit very snug on my head and, I thought, she must be blind, I couldn’t hardly see anything through them. As I took them off rubbing my poor strained eyes, and then getting my own glasses on, I thought that’s better and it hit me. Sometimes what we need in our normal routing of life and ministry is to have a change of perspective. Just as looking through my wife’s glasses made me appreciate my own glasses, and vision better, so can taking a different perspective of what we do in the ministry and in our life give us a better understanding of the things we are dealing with.

 

A good example I knew a man that was a truck driver. He would tell me about his daily life and I would pray for him, but I did not fully understanding the stresses of his occupation that was until one day I sensed the Lord telling me to ride with him for a day  So I sked him if I could ride with him and he checked to make sure it was OK, I talked to his employer and signed a release form so they would not be responsible for any accident that may happen to me, then the day came and I got to ride. Through that experience, my perspective of what he life was like changed. I now could better understand the stressors in his life, and I was better prepare in how to serve and pray for him. By the way another aspect of my perspective being changed was that his employer, who was a little hesitant at first, had his perspective changed about ministers, after asking why I wanted to ride along, he was surprised and pleased that out of my being better able to care for his employee, he would have a better equipped person working for him. And the man I road with had a new perspective of my as his minister changed as well.

 

Maybe we should all be praying for a new perspective on the things we deal with all the time, and see it through fresh eyes. Lord allow us to see through your eyes the need and the importance of where you have called us, even in the seemingly little things in this life Amen.

 

Blessings

Duane Cragun

 

(Photo Courtesey of Pixabay)

Your Allowed Sick Time

The Flu.  A Cold.  Stomach Viruses. Even times of emotional stress.  Let’s face it sickness runs around without any thought of who will be hit next.  This year has been a severe year for the flu and colds in our church, and my wife and I also managed to catch it.  Thankfully, we are on the upswing this week.

In Twenty-two years of ministry, I praise God that I have not missed preaching on a Sunday due to being sick.  That isn’t to say I wasn’t sick, but that God managed to give me strength in such times to make it through.  Then again, it may have just been my own stubbornness.   I was raised not to miss work unless you absolutely have to, and that work ethic has kept me going at times in ministry too.  About two months ago I was so sick on a mid-week service night that my wife and some of the parishioners sent me home.  We live in a parsonage next to the church.  I was so sick that night that I don’t even remember my wife coming home or coming to bed that night.  I had no business being anywhere but in bed.

I may still keep trying to work as much as I can through sickness.  However, I also must say that we as leaders are allowed to take the time to fight off sickness and restore the strength of our physical and emotional lives.  I’ve always used care, not to go visiting other people while sick, but I still make phone calls and study.  I am realizing over the years that there have been times I should have been in bed, and let others handle things. I’m also realizing that it’s okay.  After all the only person the church is in absolute need of constantly is Jesus, and we need him too.

So, when you’re sick take the time you need to get better so you can get out there and help others.  Never visit people when sick, because you are likely to spread sickness.  When you’re well, think of the people who can fill in and help out during those times when you can’t be as available.  Then trust God to let them handle things so you can get better.  A few days off will not destroy your ministry, but pushing yourself too hard and not caring for genuine needs may destroy your life.

 

 

Blessings on the Journey

Dan Shipton

 

 

Refreshing Your Spirit Through Serving

By R. Dune Cragun

I like many of you sometimes feel a little beaten down in our role of ministers. Dealing with People spiritual needs and earthly needs, teaching, preaching, counseling, and if you’re a Bi-Vocational pastor, working both in and outside of the church, and also trying to have a family life as well. It can sometimes leave us worn out. Well I discovered something that, even though I am still serving others lifts my spirit high. Wondering what it is? 

It is simply this. I have been blessed to assist an origination for people with disabilities. Let me back up a bit. My son, Ryan was born with Cerebral Palsy, he used to be able to walk, but has lost that ability and need someone to assist him in simple things like getting on the commode. He attends work shop and day services for people with disabilities, every Friday night through the colder months they meet at a local alley and bowl. I take my son and I assist him with the ramp he pushes the ball down and such things, we have done tis for near two years now, we also help by being chaperons for trips to events and such. Through this “extra work,” as some might think. I have discovered very genuine loving people that want just one thing, to be liked and in return they like you back. They have touched my heart in so many ways. 

One young man while on a trip to a botanical garden, while I was walking and pushing my sin in his wheelchair and talking to him, walked along side us and he loved the attention I was giving him as well as my own son, he and my son talked and laughed, and soon, even though this took time from my day started laughing right along with them. You see in there simple conversations and smiles, I am reminded that we are to come to the Father, in just that way, simply and smiling because we totally trust and enjoy being with Him. This isn’t something I learned in Seminary, but rather with two fellow human beings walking in a garden enjoying Gods creation and a good conversation. In short my friends, take some time and help someone. Get involved with those who maybe over looked by society today go and be a friend to someone and I think you will discover the Lord there in their smiles and total acceptance of you. I will write more about how to serve these in a later edition. 

God Bless

Duane Cragun

Standing Before God in an unlikely place

​By Duane Cragun
Sometimes I just feel tired, maybe you know what I mean. People calling you and everyone asking questions, and don’t get me wrong, I love helping people, but sometimes it just seems as if the ministry can make you drained. 

That’s where I was a few days ago, nothing bad happened, just a lot going on at one time, and on top of that, Now It was Friday and I have made a commitment to my son each Friday that I would take him to his Pathfinders Bowling night. (I should explain that my son is disabled and in a wheelchair, he attends day services at an organization doe disabled people in Huntington County, IN. call Pathfinder Services.) So this mean that I load him in the car, take his wheelchair apart and then drove to the bowling alley and put everything back together and assisted him in the chair and then assist him with the wheelchair bowling ramp he uses each time it is his turn and then take it away for the other bowlers, then repeat each time it is his turn. Now I don’t mind doing this in fact I love spending time with him, but after working all day, I beat, common 10 frame!

Well last Friday something wonderful happened, while I talking to the other clients that were there bowling with my son, one young man came up and talked to me like he does each week, and I enjoy talking to him as well, but this week he was different, we talked about the game and how he was doing, then he said see you later as he was going back to his  alley, then he stopped and turned around and said, “I like you, thank you for being my friend.” Wow. That hit me hard. Here I was thinking how much I would like to go home and rest, and I did not event see that God wanted me there, not only for my son Ryan, but for  all of them, if nothing else, just to say “Hi, Good job.” The place went from being a loud bowling alley to the very throne room of God, I had to ask for his forgiveness for having such narrow sight and missing the bigger picture. 

How about you, how you every worked and just want to rest, when God wanted you just to be there for someone at that time? We need to remember that we do not work with our own strength, but that of the Lord, when we are tired, he will carry us on, but we must not just stop, to many people are depending on us to show them the love of Christ, even if it is to only haying Good job in a noisy bowling alley, where ever we go, we standing and an ambassador of the Lord, and we standing before him as well. May we never grow to weary to do that He has called us to do. In the words of Paul, “be all things to all people.” For His glory!

God Bless

Don’t Forget about You

By R. Duane Cragun

I don’t know about you, but I have found that pastoring a smaller church, I stay busy most of the time. People needing you, things that need to be done at the church, lesson and sermons to prepare, it never seems to end. I have also discovered that being this busy all of the time just isn’t good at all. So with this in mind I want to share three traps we create for ourselves in ministry, and how to correct them that I have developed through experience and listing to other pastors as well.

The first is need feeding our own souls: Yes I know that we all ready and study scripture a lot, in fact possibly more than anyone else in the congregation. We study for lessons, Bible Studies and sermons. This in its self is a good thing, but I have discovered that in doing all this that I do as an under shepherd of Christ flock, I make a major error. I slack off on devotions and Scripture reading for myself. Yes, I glean from studying the Scriptures for lessons and sermon and such, but that’s not the same as just finding a few quit moments to simple pray and asked God to reveal Himself through His Word to me. After all I am supposed to also have a personal relationship with the Lord, and this is done through growing together in knowledge of Him. I cannot be an effective leader, husband and dad if I am not made strong, through the constant seeking and growing through spending time in prayer and in study of His Word. This is vital for all Christians including you!

The second is prioritizing our work habits: This is an evaluation process of what all we do, and what you really need to be doing. You as the pastor don’t need to be the janitor, not that is isn’t an important job in the church, it is, who wants to come to church that is not kept up, but others in the church should take that role, this frees you up to be working towards building the Kingdom of God, plus if we do everything, then we cheat others from the blessings of servant hood to others as well. I remember hearing Dr. Mark Gorveatte (District Superintendent of the Crossroads District of The Wesleyan Church) say that he “prioritizes what he needs to be doing, in order to be kingdom effective.”

The third is taking time off: What? I know, I must admit that while I was at my former church assignment of 10 years, I only took 7 days’ vacation during that time. And you know who suffered for this? My family and myself. We must take time away so that we can re-focus and enjoy the ones we love. This is vital for them and us, and guess what, the church will still be there when you get back. The church I was at had been there for 115 years and they did well with and without me. Take some time away, the church needs you spiritually, physically and mentally healthy.

I hope this helps someone God Bless

 

Duane Cragun