It is hard to be a Christian at Christmas – especially for pastors and leaders. Why? We can blame the culture, the powers and principalities that want to cut us off from Jesus, or the unrealistic expectations people place on us. While these are indeed factors, the primary responsibility rests with how we understand our role as leaders. These are 5 common mistakes we make: 1. We skimp on our time with Jesus in our work for Jesus. As a result, we preach revelations about the eternal Word of God assuming human flesh without the time to swim and worship in the wonder of it all. The pressure of too much to do, in too little time, causes us to push a button into an “autopilot” spirituality. We speak of profound spiritual realities, but our hearts slowly shrink. What can we do? Follow Jesus by going off “to a solitary place and pray” (Mark 1:35).. Read more.
Sadly, Advent is a low point spiritually for most Christian leaders. This was surely the case for me–especially in my early years. I was told Christmas was THE time we had to do everything possible to get as many people to the church. I was told that the number of visitors at Christmas Eve services would indicate our growth over the next year. I was also told this was THE time to close the financial year strong, THE time to thank all our leaders, and THE time for me to model reaching out to our neighbors for Christ. This results in very few of us actually celebrating the wonder of the Incarnation, that the truly divine Son of God became truly human mortal flesh in Jesus of Nazareth. Here are my top 4 Advent killers along with their antidotes: Anxiety. After thirty years of pastoring, I can now say with authority: “The growth and. Read more.
Jesus said we must lose our lives to find it. One essential way we do this is by learning the art of interior silence. This choice to turn away from internal and external noise in order to be with Jesus is work…a difficult work. Externally, we face the unrelenting pressure of our culture– the noise, the clutter, the grasping, the confusion, the distractions, the excessive amount of information – all of which make it difficult to hear ourselves think. Internally, our stillness and silence muscles are weak. As beginners, we have problems focusing attention and facing the normal distractions of body and mind. Just like we cannot simply read a how-to book on running a marathon and run, so we must build up muscle and stamina slowly over time. Maggie Ross, in her Silence: A User’s Guide – Volume 1: Process, argues that the tradition of silence was handed down unbroken from the time. Read more.
Jesus models for us a letting go of control, earthly power, and reputation. He empties Himself at the cross, trusting in the goodness and love of the Father. God intends that we follow the same path. Yet, in situations both the large and small, we find this incredibly difficult. Why? I have been wrestling with our dilemma for months. Last week I preached a message on this entitled: The Cross: The Deepest Wisdom of God. Afterwards, I found myself listing the top reasons why I, along with so many others, continue to resist the very thing (our need to let go of control) that is the rich source of so much life and power. The following are my top ten reasons: Fear. Is it any wonder God says to us over and over again in Scripture—Do not fear? Things will fall apart. That is true – at least the things that God never intended. Read more.
Nothing in Western culture supports the practice of silence – especially for leaders. Our very sense of identity is based on accomplishments and what others think. Silence before God simply appears so unproductive. Silence forces us to face our “inner monsters,” confronting us with our addiction to being in control, and bringing us face to face with demonic powers and principalities. Why? They rage to prevent us from the deep knowing of God that comes out of being still before Him, or relaxing as one OT scholar translates it (Ps. 46:10). Few spiritual practices are more transformative and important. For this reason, it is core to The EHS Course, our discipleship course that’s changing churches around the world. Set your timer each day for 5 to 10 minutes over the next week. And consider the following guidelines that have served me so well over the last 13 years. (And that I continue to use. Read more.