How Should the Christian Community Respond to Hamas?

By Paul Dean
Pastor, Counselor, & Radio Host

God has His people strategically placed all over the world. And yet, there are times when the situation becomes very bleak. In the midst of political turmoil in the Middle East, Geoffrey Smith has a reminder for us.

"Hamas -- a militant Islamic party -- won a landslide victory in the Palestinian elections. While Israel and the international community consider what policies to adopt in response, little attention has been given to the likely impact on the Christian community -- a small minority in the West Bank and Gaza. Bethlehem has the largest Christian community in the West Bank. Already this has shrunk as families under pressure leave for the greater opportunities and freedoms of America and Europe."

In light of Smith's reminder that Christians are in harm's way, we must be reminded that Christians do indeed have the option to leave. Our Lord Jesus Christ warned us that persecution would come. While Christians may respond in different ways, He did say this: "When they persecute you in this city, flee to another. For assuredly, I say to you, you will not have gone through the cities of Israel before the Son of Man comes (Matt. 10:23)." Sadly, some families will have to be uprooted and start over in another place. Such is the sin sick world in which we live.

And yet, another question comes to the fore. "What effect will the Hamas victory have on those who remain, and on scattered Christians elsewhere in the Palestinian Authority?" No doubt exists that life will be difficult for those who stay in the region. Smith points out that "the draft constitution of a Palestinian State makes clear in article 5 that Islam shall be the official religion in Palestine. Article 7 determines that the principles of Islamic Shari'a shall be a major source of legislation. The weight given to these principles is likely to be very different under a militant and disciplined Islamic party than under the largely secular rule of Fatah."

Other questions arise in light of this massive shift in power. "How will this impact dress codes, pressure to wear the Islamic veil, pressure on property-holding by Christians, restriction on trading licenses for Christians and pressure on Christian girls to marry Muslims? Already there is talk of compulsion on women to wear the veil, and extra taxes on non-Moslems. Will these social forces increase the rate of emigration so that Bethlehem ceases to have any significant Christian presence?"

Smith goes on to note that among other questions, "underlying all this is a basic question: How does the New Testament instruction of St. Paul to obey the ruling authorities apply to Christians under militant Islamic rule? Worldwide, over 50 million Christians live in countries under Muslim majority rule."

In light of these serious issues, those who remain will indeed have to submit to the ruling authorities: even to militant Islamic rule. When Paul wrote to the church at Rome and told them to submit to the state, he was referring to a persecuting state exemplified in Nero, among others, and his maniacal atrocities. At that time until the fourth century, Christians were brutally persecuted by the Roman government.

In the Romans text, we are given reasons to submit to such. We must submit to the state because God Himself ordained the state (1-3), it is for our sanctification (4a), wrath comes if we don't (4b), and conscience before God demands it (5-7). Paul is sending the message to believers everywhere that we are not here to overthrow the state. The Lord's kingdom is not of this world (Jn. 18:36). But, perhaps more importantly, Paul is more concerned with our humble submission to God and our powerful witness to the world than he is with our civil liberties. What a witness Christians may have as they humbly submit to such a violent group of people.

Of course, the Scriptures are clear that if the state asks Christians to sin against God in some way, then they must not submit to the state in such a case. We are to obey God rather than men (Acts 5:29).

And yet, this issue becomes all the more serious when one considers the nature of Islam and its goals. "Islam is a strongly territorialist religion. It claims that all areas of the Middle East were under Islamic rule and therefore must return to Islamic control. In Iraq the small Christian minority face difficult times -- bomb explosions outside churches were happening. Iran is 99% Muslim. President Ahmadinejad reportedly instructed his 30 provincial governors that Christianity should be destroyed. Some time he met with Palestinian militants in Syria where the Higher Command of Hamas is based. Will similar anti-Christian policies apply in the Palestinian territory?"

No doubt God will call some Christians to flee in the face of persecution. Those who remain must submit to the state unless asked to sin. And, while there is biblical rationale for self-defense, God will call some to be martyred for the faith. How their blood must be followed by our prayers if we are to see further bloodshed cease and the gospel advanced. Let us not fail in our responsibility as we witness the sacrifice of their faith. Let us pray that the faithful there will be able to say with the apostle Paul: "But I want you to know, brethren, that the things which happened to me have actually turned out for the furtherance of the gospel, so that it has become evident to the whole palace guard, and to all the rest, that my chains are in Christ; and most of the brethren in the Lord, having become confident by my chains, are much more bold to speak the word without fear (Phil. 1:12-14)." May God make it so! May more Christians stay in that territory to counter hate and violence, not with guns or force, but with God's love that the gospel brings so that the people might come to know the Lord and glorify Him.

Smith also noted that "local Christian communities and governments need our prayers more than ever to retain a clear moral compass." No doubt he is right. Of course, it may be that Hamas will go along to get along in some sense with regard to the international community in light of their new standing and position. But, even in our own country we can see plainly that Christ-haters will not sit still long. Christians are increasingly in trouble all over the world. And so it is no trouble for us to remind ourselves one more time in this regard: let us take Smith's advice and pray for our brothers and sisters in chains and for those who could be in chains. Let us pray God delivers them from their troubles and that by grace, He in turn troubles the souls of many in the Middle East that they might see their true need and fly to Christ.

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Non-Christians: Friends or Foes?

By Ginger Plowman

I recently heard a young man preach a sermon on the importance of sharing the gospel. His philosophy was that as long as Christians are obeying God by witnessing to the lost, they should not care whether or not the lost accept Christ.

He proposed that this attitude takes the pressure off the one sharing the gospel. After all, if we only care about obeying God and not the results of sharing our faith, what do we have to lose?

While I agree that the decision of another person to accept or reject the call of Jesus is certainly not the responsibility of the one who shared the gospel, I disagree that the Christian’s attitude be one of not caring. His charge for Christians to not concern themselves with non-Christians who reject Jesus bothered me for two reasons; God commands Christians to care, and God has convicted me many times for not caring.

Christians are charged in Colossians 3:12 to be compassionate. “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience” (emphasis mine). We are to care, just as Christ cares, for the lost souls of men.

I used to view non-Christians as outsiders. I looked at them as mere projects that I needed to check off my I shared Christ with them to-do list. I embraced sharing the gospel of Jesus as my job, and I faithfully did it out of obedience.

This “just do it” attitude is definitely in line with my personality. Spiritual gifts tests have confirmed that I am a prophet/teacher. The downfall to a person with these gifts is that she/he is usually lacking in the compassion and mercy department. For example, when a turtle makes the dangerous decision to cross a busy road, many people think, “poor thing.” I think, “stupid turtle.” When someone comes to me with a problem, I’m not the huggy, let-me-cry-with-you type. I’m more the factual “here’s what you need to do so dry your eyes and get on with it” type.

Unfortunately, I must admit, that while I had a heart for obeying God in sharing the gospel with the lost, I did not have a heart for the lost. I can recall telling several people about Jesus and not grieving over their negative response to His plan of salvation. God convicted me that I was viewing Non-Christians as a type of enemy, an enemy that I needed to conquer in the spiritual war of evangelism.

I would faithfully put on my armor, swing the sword of truth at whoever came my way, and walk off the battlefield without giving a second thought to where the wounded fell. I simply counted my efforts as medals toward spiritual heroism.

Jesus doesn’t view non-Christians as the enemy, but as victims of the enemy. According to Philippians 2:5, Christians are to have the same attitude as Christ. It took me a while to realize that not having a heart for the lost is just as disobedient as not sharing the gospel. Christ longs to gather His lost sheep. He searches for them and delights in looking after them, “For this is what the Sovereign Lord says: ‘I myself will search for my sheep and look after them’” (Ezekiel 34:11). He cares for them (1 Peter 5:7). It is impossible to have the attitude of Christ, while not caring for the lost.

Befriending a non-believer for the purpose of sharing the gospel is very different than becoming their companion. Companions are companionable, meaning they are suited for one another socially in their likes and dislikes. Therefore, we are not to be “companions” with a non-believer, but we are to befriend them in order to share the good news of Jesus with them.

Jesus befriended non-believers. He befriended and protected a prostitute when no one else would. He went into the house of Matthew, a lying and cheating tax collector, and ate dinner with a gang of sinners in order to subject them to His holiness. “When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, ‘Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and ‘sinners’?’ On hearing this, Jesus said, ‘It is not the healthy that need a doctor, but the sick’” (Matthew 8:11-12). Jesus came to set the sinners free.

As we befriend non-believers for the sake of sharing the love of Christ, it is wise to establish some boundaries. First and foremost, we should never indulge in sinful activities in the name of witnessing. The gospel should be shown with our actions as much as it is spoken with our words. My friend, Toma, always says, “Your talk talks and your walk talks but your walk talks more than your talk talks.”

It is also a good idea to let the non-believer know up front that you are devoted to Jesus. After all, we are not secret agents, but ambassadors for Christ. “We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us” (2 Corinthians 5:20a). Although we should establish who we are in Christ, it is helpful to develop a relationship before bombarding them with Scripture. By showing interest in their lives and getting to know them, we develop trust in the friendship. Keep in mind that a good fisherman hides the hook.

In realizing these truths, I began to pray for a heart like His. As a result, He enables me to see the lost through His eyes and care for them through His love. I am becoming more and more aware of how precious they are to Jesus. My heart hurts for those who don’t know my sweet Jesus. I long to see them embrace their maker, the giver of hope and joy. God is still working on me, but I am thankful that He is making my heart a little more like His each day.

Oh, and I simply must tell you… I recently pulled my car over to help a turtle cross the road. God is definitely working on me.

Ginger Plowman, author of Don’t Make Me Count to Three and Heaven at Home, speaks at women’s events and parenting conferences across the country. Visit her website at www.gingerplowman.com.


Can We Trust God With Everything?

by Ken Hemphill

When God called Abram to leave his native land and occupy a new land that He would show him, He also promised to bless Abram and to make him a blessing. Part of the blessing was that He promised He would make of Abram a mighty nation. Time passed and God continued to bless Abram and Sarah, but still they had no children of their own. When Abram was 99 years old, God reaffirmed His covenant. God appeared to him as El Shaddai, the God who is almighty to nourish, renewing his covenant and changing Abram's name to Abraham, the father of a multitude. Then the child of promise, Isaac, the beloved child of his own flesh, was born. After this journey of faith, God came to Abraham with a final test to see if Abraham had learned to trust Him to provide his every need. When God calls to Abraham, he answers without delay. The command is told in an unadorned fashion, which belies the enormity of the request: "Take now your son, your only son, whom you love, Isaac, and go the land of Moriah; and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I will tell you" (Gen. 22:2).

It is not merely a son that God requires of Abraham, it is his only son, it is Isaac, the son whom he loved. It is the son who was the crucial foundation stone for the fulfillment of the promise that Abraham would become the father of many nations. This was not only a staggering faith commitment; it was an enormous personal challenge. Abraham's response was one of immediate obedience. Not one word of objection is recorded in the entire text. No doubt he was struggling with a deep inner turmoil, but he had learned to walk with God and to trust Him to provide. I have often wondered if any dialogue passed between Abraham and Isaac. The text is silent. We are simply told that Abraham bound his son and laid him on the altar. It is precisely at this moment, as Abraham wields the knife that the angel of the Lord called to him from heaven. "Do not stretch your hand against the lad, and do nothing to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me" (Gen. 22:12).

Have you come to a place in your faith pilgrimage where you know that you can trust God with your "Isaac?" Your Isaac may be your career, your family, a relationship, your retirement, your college plans, or the provision for tomorrow. What has become the focus of your life? Do you believe that God can provide for your needs? Are you willing to place your Isaac upon the altar?

There is an interesting verse in John 3. You may know that this passage is about an encounter between Jesus and Nicodemus, a Pharisee and ruler of the Jews. We remember this passage mostly for Jesus' statement that Nicodemus must be born again. When Nicodemus tells Jesus that he doesn't understand how he can be born again, Jesus responds in verse 12: "If I told you earthly things and you do not believe, how shall you believe if I tell you heavenly things?" Chances are you have already trusted Christ for your salvation. In other words, you are trusting Him for issues relating to where you will spend eternity. But if you can trust God for eternal issues, then why do you struggle with earthly things when God has given such clear instruction? Our ability to claim and live by God's promise will come only when we have experienced Him as Jehovah Jireh: the Lord who provides.

We must first understand the character of God, and then we must willingly place our Isaac upon the altar of sacrifice and allow God to be our Provider. Do you remember what happened in Abraham's life after the encounter with God on Mt. Moriah? All of God's promises were released in his life. He knew the blessings of Jehovah Jireh. Too many of us are missing the joy of seeing God's blessings fully released in our own lives because we are tenaciously clinging to that which seems most precious. We argue with God that we can't possibly put our career or our family on the altar because it is the only thing we have of value. The problem is that we have taken possession of what God gave to us in stewardship. We have failed to understand the fullness that God desires to bring to our lives.

This week, take several practical steps and see what God shows you about Himself.

1. Practice immediate obedience.
2. Learn to trust Him to be fully consistent with His name.
3. Believe that He is Jehovah Jireh, the God who provides.
4. Place that which is most cherished in your life on the altar. Surrender completely to Him.
5. Be prepared to praise Him whether He restores your Isaac or removes it. Remember He is God, fully loving and altogether trustworthy.
6. Practice these principles daily.

Excerpted from The Names of God, copyright 2001 by Ken Hemphill. Used by permission of Broadman & Holman Publishers, Nashville, Tenn., www.lifewaystores.com, 1-800-448-8032. Ken Hemphill is president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. He has written a number of other books.

Are you holding onto something right now because it's challenging for you to trust God with it? When you've trusted God with a part of your life in the past - such as your family, or your career - how have you seen Him work in that area?


Eight Reasons Why Pastors Fall

By Joseph Mattera

I: Churches are becoming complex enterprises which pastors are not equipped to lead.

The typical seminary training one receives to be a pastor usually only slightly touches on the practical things needed to oversee a church in the twenty-first century. Learning theology and how to exegete Scripture is not enough. Pastors have perhaps the toughest job in the nation.

The following are some of the issues contemporary pastors grapple with:

a.) Real Estate: Pastors have to deal with zoning laws, political leaders, community boards, banks, business and community leaders.

Many churches of 1,000 or more are larger than the average church often because of location, so much of the megachurch phenomenon is based on sociological/geographic reasons–not just anointing, gifting and how much prayer takes place.

Like the McDonalds franchise, one of the most important keys to success is not the quality of the ministry but its location. As in other words, are there ample options for parking and/or is the facility near public transportation; is the facility visible to the masses of people?

Thus the pastor needs to have skill in picking out the right location.

b.) New Facility Needs: Pastors have to hire the right architect, lawyer, and undergo a grueling capital stewardship campaign (these campaigns are enough to destroy many churches because the pressure of fundraising can easily become the focus instead of ministering to the needs of the people).

c.) Cash Flow Questions: Pastors have to know when to expand their programs and facilities by debt financing (bank loans, etc.) or building by cash and/or consolidate assets and focus internally for growth.

d.) Networking: Today’s urban pastor must have political access and access to key community leaders in order to successfully tap into all the resources available to fund all the programs needed to meet the vast needs people have, especially in the urban context.

e.) Business/Administration: Most pastors are good preachers but I have noticed that many of the most successful churches are those run by leaders with a business background. This is why I tell all those training for the ministry to get at least an associates degree in business finance.

Just having anointed services on Sunday cannot build a successful church. You must have continual vision casting, strategic planning with 3-5 year goals, implementation and administration of the vision, leadership development, discipleship training, team building, selecting and funding the proper gift mix for your staff, and much more.

f.) Learning How to Relate the Gospel to Your Audience

Many preachers are answering questions their audience is not asking.

Pastors need to have the skill and the information to know the demographic make-up of their community and know how to connect to their community. Connection is based on the age, ethnicity, economic and religious context of your community.

Pastors need to constantly monitor the sociological trends in their community so they can raise up the leadership necessary to relate to the people that will be the dominant group in their community.

For example, because of gentrification, a community like Harlem may be mostly Caucasian by the year 2015. African-American pastors in this community need to know how to adjust their outreach to their community or even consider opening up satellite churches or ministries to reach those presently in their church who may move to the suburbs. Thus pastors need to skillfully exegete their community, not just the Scriptures.

g.) Leadership Development

How does the church effectively process new believers from babes to responsible mature members?

How does the church effectively mentor potential leaders who have 10 hour workdays with 2-3 hour daily commutes to and from work? Usually those with the potential to lead already have responsible positions at their jobs. Thus they are already spent and weary before they come to church and minister.

h.) Pastors have to answer the question: Are we going to be a program-based church or are we going to depend on empowering lay leadership for shepherding (the cell church model).

i.) Board Development Issues

Pastors have to answer the question: What is the biblical model of local church government? (Or, what model of church government will we follow?)

Who do I select to be on the church’s Board of Trustees? This changes based on the maturity of your leadership, type of church government, the age of your church, the history of your church, and if the pastor is the founder or entering into an already developed board.

II: The Lack of a Safe Place to Run Toward

a.) Most Pastors Lack True Accountability

Organizational accountability in most denominations does not ensure true accountability based on vulnerable, transparent relationships. Many will not go to those over them or peers within their own denominations for fear they will be stigmatized and will not be able to move up in the organization.

b.) All pastors need other pastors over them as mentors, and peer relationships with others they can trust in transparent relationships for self-renewal. John Wesley said “The Bible knows nothing of solitary religion. Christianity is a religion of fellowship.”

c.) Most pastors feel isolated and alone even in the midst of their congregation.

d.) Many pastors are comfortable in the pulpit because they hide behind their anointing and their ministry giftings but are socially dysfunctional, never allowing anyone to really know them or relate to them for a real emotional connection.
Even when they are with other pastors, the bulk of their conversations are regarding ministry and not about personal issues like marriage, the state of their inner lives, etc.

III: Tension Between Spiritual Leader Role and Organizational Leader Role

Many pastors don’t know how to distinguish their roles as pastor/shepherd and the leader of the organization in which they have to hire and fire based on maintaining a spirit of excellence in business. There is great stress in knowing when and how to fire staff that may be faithful members in their church that they are shepherding.

They need skill (training) as to both the business and spiritual aspects of the church.

Another problem is that many pastors don’t know how to balance their time between administration and spiritual preparation and are spending 40 hours per week in administration. The Book of Acts 6:4 teaches us administration is primarily the work of the deaconate while a large percentage of pastors are neglecting time studying and praying in the presence of God. This results in pastors burning out because the needs of the people are pulling on their grace gifting to come forth and they are not able to give it because their spiritual tank is on empty.

IV: Compassion Fatigue

Many pastors are so used to just giving and giving that they don’t know how and when to receive. Sometimes I have come to places where I was working so hard for so long that I actually felt guilty when I had some time off for rest; I literally didn’t know how to rest. On many vacations I needed at least three days before my mind and emotions caught up to my body in that I was able to mentally adjust to taking time off!

God placed sacred rhythms in our lives so that there would be regular times of refreshing and renewal.

God calls the Sabbath “a sign between us and Him.” What is the sign? That He is God and that our church or work will not fall apart when we take time off because He is the one building the church! (Matthew 16:18-19)

Life is not a marathon but a series of 100 meter dashes. We have to continually take time to rest and regroup before we go out to run the race again. Because I am filled with so much vision I often hate the fact that my body gets tired and needs 6-8 hours of sleep per night, but then I realize that God did this on purpose, not to rest my body but primarily to rest my mind and emotions so that I can start each morning with a fresh perspective.

Most pastors can trace burn out to not regularly replenishing their souls with rest, prayer, reading, fellowship, exercise and caring for their emotional lives. We can renew ourselves by doing things that we enjoy; it doesn’t always have to be prayer, study, or a spiritual or religious discipline. It could be viewing art, playing a sport, being with one’s spouse, having a social life, or just having a hobby that you enjoy.

V: Many Pastors Don’t Know How to Build a Dream Team, and have people operating outside of their gift mix.

Accurately placing people based on their giftings is one of the most important things in terms of releasing a pastor from some of their responsibilities in the ministry. God has called our churches to function as apostolic centers wherein all the ministry gifts of Ephesians 4:11 can function so the work of the ministry or the oversight of the church is not dependant on any one person.

Every pastor should have the Antioch church as their model, in which the church was shepherded by a diverse multiplicity of ministries (read Acts 13:1). This can prevent the church overseer from reaching ministerial burnout because they will have the ability to balance their time between work, family, private renewal and relaxation.

Every dream team is made up of at least four kinds of leaders:

a.) Visionary or directional leader (the one who motivates the church and casts macro vision).

b.) Strategic leader (the person who lays out the strategic plan on how to implement the vision).

c.) The team builder (the people person who spends time among the sheep and builds the morale of the office staff or ministry team)

d.) The operational leader (the leader who loves to create systems and leave paper trails for proper protocol to operate in the church)

Notes regarding each kind of leader:

Macro leaders, like directional leaders, become impatient when bogged down dealing with high maintenance problem people. This is a job for the pastors and/or team builders. Macro leaders are wired to spend their time with those who contribute to the big picture and bring them the biggest return from their very busy schedule.

Strategic leaders are perfectionists who have a hard time making deadlines and pulling the trigger on important decisions.

The team builders given heavy administration will be frustrated (unlike the operational leaders they hate paper work)!

Asking operational leaders, strategic leaders and team builders to cast vision will only hinder the church and frustrate these three leaders. This is a job only the directional leader can do correctly.

One time a senior pastor I was overseeing asked me to mediate a problem between him and one of his staff pastors. I had to tell him after we spoke for half an hour that this staff person was misplaced: the senior pastor was trying to get this (team building) leader to be an administrator, and the result was both pastors were getting frustrated and almost parted ways.

For more on this concept read A Fish Out of Water: 9 Strategies Effective Leaders Use to Help You Get Back into the Flow by George Barna.

VI: Competition Among Churches (or among pastors)

Unfortunately many leaders are driven and not led by the Spirit. They are driven by their need to feel significant based on the growth and success of other churches in their community or region. This is a serious issue among some pastors and causes much self-induced stress and feelings of inadequacy, depression and insecurity.

When a leader endeavors to grow a church numerically without commensurate church health, it is a sure sign that the leader is driven more by ego and/or insecurity than the pure desire of obeying their God-given assignment. Because of this competitive spirit some pastors secretly celebrate when a fellow pastor is struggling, and secretly gets discouraged when a church in their community prospers and grows more than theirs. This is a sure sign of unhealthy competition.

One reason for this is because pastors get confused when a church in their community is blessed and their church doesn’t grow as fast; it causes them to wonder what they are doing wrong and what the other pastor is doing right. This is driven by insecurity. Paul teaches leaders not to compare themselves with others, see 2 Corinthians 10:12.

When pastors understand that the kingdom of God is greater than their local church, then competitive feelings will begin to dissipate.

VII: Lack of Personal Vision/Life Plan

Many leaders are personally lost even though they have a great vision for their church. They are not sure who they are, what their assignment is, and even how to lead based on their strengths. Thus it is possible to attempt to lead a congregation and even cast vision without even being sure of your specific assignment from the Lord! There are even people who pastor a church only because they don’t know any other way to make a living; they are really evangelists, teachers, prophets or marketplace leaders trying to function in the mold of a pastor even though they don’t have a nurturing bone in their body!

VIII: Many Leaders Don’t Know How to Lead

Some depend on positional leadership based on their title rather than functional leadership. I was shocked years ago when I realized that not all pastors are leaders. Someone with little or no mantle of leadership trying to lead a congregation will eventuate in people going in their own direction looking for the real leader in their midst.

I agree with George Barna (as stated in his book A Fish Out of Water) when he says that there are habitual leaders (born leaders) who are so gifted that leadership comes natural to them so they can just intuit leadership.

I also agree with John Maxwell, who says that we can grow as leaders by asking people to mentor us and by taking the time to study on leadership.

God has called each leader to know and articulate their own mission statement.


1. Pastors need to find peer communities with compatible vision where they will find a safe haven to receive from and aid them in fulfilling their vision (denominational presbytery meetings do not necessarily meet this need).

2. Pastors need at least one (or more) other pastors who will coach them, hold them accountable and speak to the needs of their emotional and inner lives.

3. Pastors need to erect boundaries and firewalls around them and their families so that their personal lives and families will have time to replenish and be renewed.

4. Pastors need to take care of their physical bodies with regular exercise, solicitude and silence, rest, and proper diet.

5. Pastors need to take regular times of rest and/or sabbaticals.
* 1 year for every 7 years in ministry
* 1 day for ever seven days
* 3 days away for prayer and reflection every 3 months

6. Pastors need to pay attention to their emotional needs, not just their spiritual lives

7. Pastors need to take care of their intellectual lives. Some pastors should go back to school. The majority of pastors in many regions have less than a bachelor’s degree, thus most lack serious well-ordered learning. Pastors should prioritize regular times for study to develop their intellect, and regular times for devotional reading. Just reading to preach is work, and will wear you out and not necessarily draw you closer to God.

8. Pastors need to bring their spouses along in all facets of self-renewal and ministry so that there is unity and compatibility of vision in their marriages.

Preventing Leadership Derailment

By Cher Coner
Prayer Networkers Inc., InJesus.com

Leadership derailment occurs when a leader, who had the ability and opportunity to accomplish more, ends up fired or demoted or simply fails to succeed at the level for which he was called and gifted. In our last two Letters, we examined the characteristics of leaders who derailed.

Leadership derailment is very costly -- in spiritual, human and organizational terms. But, how can we prevent it?

1. We must learn how to build prayer support mechanisms into our organizations. We give all kinds of other support to our leaders. We ensure they have sufficient budgets and technological resources for their tasks. We give them training and support staff. But we neglect their prayer support! It is becoming widespread for church leaders to have their own prayer teams. Furthermore, many churches use "prayer chains" for serious needs. Why shouldn’t Christian leaders in "non-church" organizations have deliberate and systematic prayer support as well, and why shouldn’t organizations use prayer chains consistently? Doesn’t Zechariah 4:6 apply to any organization a believer is involved in?

2. We must enable balance in our leaders’ lives. We send our leaders to seminars that promote a balance between the spiritual, personal, family and recreational dimensions of their lives, but our organizational structures and goals often prohibit them from actually achieving this balance.

3. We must enable integrity in our leader’s lives. Again, we preach integrity to our leaders, but then frequently require them to "bend the rules just a little." If we really believe that "leadership is character," our organizational purposes and processes should mirror this belief by making it actually possible for our leaders to succeed with integrity.

4. Since ultimately-successful leaders have a history of more diverse experiences, we need to deliberately expose our leaders to varied leadership challenges early in their careers, before the stakes get too high.

5. The organization is the leader’s classroom, and as in a classroom, the proper learning environment should be intentionally developed. Whether through feedback, formal training and coursework, coaching, or mentoring, we must enable our leaders to continuously learn and grow. They especially need help when making critical mental transitions to higher levels of leadership. We must also keep in mind that our leaders not only need on-going training; as human beings they also need on-going "pastoring."

6. We must help our leaders to take their flaws seriously. No one leader "has it all." Our leaders must know their strengths and weaknesses. Furthermore, they need people around them -- spouses, friends, colleagues, and outside experts -- who will not be afraid to tell them the truth.

7. We would have less leadership derailment if we would spend more time getting the right leaders in the first place. People should not be promoted beyond their true calling and ability. It is a lot less painful not to put someone in a leadership position initially, than to remove him or her after we realize we made a mistake.

8. We must ensure our leaders know whom they actually are serving. It is the Lord God you are serving. (Col. 3:24, NIV)

Our ultimate goal is not profit, respect, career advancement, plaques on the wall, or any other kind of success measured in human terms. Our ultimate goal is only to hear the words of the Lord our Master when our time comes: "Well done, thou good and faithful servant... enter thou into the joy of thy Lord." (Matt. 25:21, KJV)


Are You Open For Correction?

by pastor David L. Burns

Have you ever been in a situation where you know the truth, but the person you're talking with doesn't know you know the truth and so they lie? All the while, you can't believe the person you are talking with is looking you right in the eye and deceiving you.

I love it when authentic Christians share their genuine struggles in living out their faith. It's refreshing to see and hear another brother or sister owning up to immaturity and seeking greater maturity. It's the mark of real humility. Pride makes it exceptionally difficult owning up to immaturity. How many times have you acted immaturely and refused to confess it to those who were affected? We don't like to admit we are wrong.

I have some friends who, every time they act immaturely or show their lack of faith, will quickly confess it and repent. Yet, there are others who, even after being confronted with their immaturity or lack of faith, will attempt to lie their way out of it. Hey--let's be honest!

As Christians we have the gift of the Holy Spirit to convict us when we have disobeyed or when we have acted immaturely. However, pride is loud and often drowns out the Spirit's voice of conviction. Many Christians refuse to walk in step with the Spirit in the area of humility, fearful they will lose the respect of others if they show any signs of weakness or imperfection.

Even after the Spirit brings conviction, many Christians try to persuade themselves that what they did or said was right. Eventually this leads to a cold and hard heart where there is no longer an openness to the Spirit. Before long there is no sensitivity to the Spirit; pride inhibits the Spirit's evaluation and correction.

For us to overcome juvenile Christianity we must learn to accept the Spirit's correction and change.

How do we learn to hear and respond to the corrective voice of the Spirit? First, we must admit we need it! Correction is only as valuable as the heart is pliable. As we admit that we are in need of greater maturity, greater faith and greater obedience, we must invite the Spirit's conviction and correction into our lives.

This is where many people are stuck. Pride keeps many Christians from ever opening up to the Spirit's correction, especially those who are convinced that they are never wrong. And if they are convicted, then refuse to change.

Secondly, we must prayerfully invite the Spirit to evaluate our words and deeds and welcome His conviction when He finds we have not acted Christ-like.

Often we fail to confess our sins to one another because we think others don't know our sins. Some sins, however, are as obvious as the nose on our face. Confessing our sins and immaturity with others allows us to "pray for each other so that you may be healed."

Prayerfully invite the Spirit to help you evaluate your day and to expose words and deeds that fall short of being Christ-like. Then go to those who observed your immaturity and ask for their forgiveness and prayer their prayers.

Finally, stop watching others and begin watching yourself! Too much time is spent hounding the imperfections of others while our own imperfections spread like a raging forest fire. If you are a professional nit-picker or if you think your Spiritual gift is judging others, declare a 30 day fast from this harmful and destructive habit. Instead, spend the next 30 days asking the LORD to, "Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting"(Psalm 139:23-24).

Dear Heavenly Father, we desire to walk closer with You today than we did yesterday. To do this, we humble ourselves before You and ask that You would send Your Holy Spirit to examine us, and to correct the areas of immaturity in our lives. In Jesus' Mighty Name, AMEN!