Ministry is awesome. Except when it isn’t. After 26 years pastoring, leading pastors, and helping pastors lead I have seen more than one quit, burn out or just explode. The ending is never pretty. Can it be avoided? Here are three things I have consistently seen people in ministry ignore to their peril:

  1. Can’t outwork, out-plan or overcome prayerlessness.

I can hear the groans. The excuses. The reasons why prayer is not the all-encompassing solution. I don’t know if this is an egg or chicken type of situation, but I have seldom seen a pastor crash and burn that had an intimate, personal and robust prayer life. I know there are examples. We call those exceptions. Here is the truth. Just like you can’t outwork a bad diet, you can’t out work prayerlessness. Its tiring. Think kite. You can fly it when the wind is blowing or you can run and make your own wind. Here are three questions:

How long are you praying every day?  How many times a week do you fast? When do you study the bible to eat, not to feed?

  1. Secrets.

We all have them. Everyone you meet is dealing with something they hate about themselves. Some just are better at masking it. The thing is, unattended private struggles tend to become public spectacles.

Weight.                Sex.        Mental illness.   Family.                Loss.      Whatever.

Trace it. Face it. By God’s grace erase it. The devil thrives in secrecy. Unleash the power of the gospel that says its ok not to be ok when things are not ok. OK?

  1. Impact in our life of the dysfunction around us.

For some reason, and for the life of me I don’t know why, we tend to give dysfunctional, hurtful people passes. People have explosions in board meetings or church business sessions and we use phrases like “That’s just Anna” (made up name). We learn to cope with dysfunction. What we don’t confront we confirm. We just bid our time, untill we get another call and pass along the dysfunction to the next victim, er, I mean pastor. Dysfunction, like stress, is a silent killer.

So, what do we do? There are no easy solutions, but here are some suggestions.

Pray. Go on a retreat ASAP. Step away from the madness and the conferences and the planning and spend 3 straight hours in fasting and prayer, then get back to me.

Talk. Share your pain, talk to a professional. Kill the secrecy monster.

Brave. Prayer and counseling will prepare for the confrontation that needs to happen. Be brave. If God is for you, those who are against you are wasting their time.

 

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This week I posted a simple question on social media. A non-scientific poll, if you will. Here is the question:

Are seminaries preparing future pastors to serve in a post-Christian society?

Yes.

No.

Somewhat.

The responses were very interesting. You can read them here: https://www.facebook.com/roger.hernandez.526/posts/10210309424232504

There are several blog topics in that thread for sure! I decided to make it a three part series:

What schools can do.

What students can you.

What we can all do.

Some of these items I have personally observed. Some are observations and comments from others. I welcome your input and a conversation that is productive, not just a “its all bad” attitude.

Here are some short concepts, questions, ideas:

  1. Seminary repeats some of the same classes, or at least a large segment from a class from undergrad. Why is that? I have good friends that took both classes and the teacher didn’t even change the power point presentations.
  2. The world has changed significantly with the Rise of the Nones, especially in the last 10 years. Is the theological education reflective of that seismic shift in culture? Here’s a comment that resonated in different ways several times:

“Sadly pastors are rarely trained to serve society period. We are trained to serve the church…”

While we did have some that said that seminary training is relevant to the current culture, the comments were mostly that improvement is needed.

  1. Evangelism is alive in a good number of churches, with different models. Are students being exposed to all models? How can we? Here is one way: https://hopetrending.org/ Here is another: http://www.helphopehere.com/
  2. Are we making sure that students have led at least one person to Jesus before graduating. I thought this was a given. It isn’t. I have encountered seminary graduated students who haven’t. How and why does this happen? Instead of hating on the short-term Independent Ministries and the short term schools like AFCOE or ARISE, shouldn’t we instead implement more of the practical elements in traditional denominational theology schools.
  3. I would like to explore the possibility of students spending a year of undergrad as an intern in a church. Not next to the school, but outside the bubble where most theological schools are located. The church must be:

Evangelistic.

Church Planting Friendly.

Healthy.

This will help in three ways:

It helps the students to affirm their calling.

It will expose them to healthy churches, not the ones many are assigned as a young pastor.

It will provide valuable training in the real world.

 

A final word. I have deep friendships with some theological professors that are passionate about the future of the church, our impact in the world and new ways to share Adventism. So I don’t want this series to become a “lets beat up on the teachers” event. Let’s affirm what is working and question was isn’t. Anyone can criticize. What are we doing to improve?

Next week, what the students can do. Get ready, it will be spicy!

Give a car, change a life

This month, as a part of Compassion 100k we held an End it Now rally. Hundreds of Adventists from Atlanta gathered at Berean SDA Church to declare our opposition to the sinful practice of Domestic Violence and Human Trafficking.

The part that was most special to me was the ending. We gave a car to a domestic violence survivor, a mother with three children that is visiting one of the local churches. I am not an emotional person, but even I was moved to see how a mother that has a job, but no reliable transportation, kept repeating over and over to her kids: “look, this is for us, this is for us!”

These three things I learned:

1. Just because we can’t help everyone, doesn’t mean we can’t help someone.

One of the questions people ask is: “wouldn’t this create requests that will be overwhelming?” The short answer is not. This isn’t the first time its happened and we haven’t seen it happen. There are many Domestic Violence survivors in Atlanta. We just changed the life of one. We are grateful to God for the resources for that.

2. Unity maximizes impact.

During 2016 the city churches have been participating in an initiative called Compassion 100k. It was great to see Korean, Anglo, African Americans, Hispanics, Rumanians and many more gathered together. Some had never been in that area before. In a country sometimes deeply divided, the gospel shows that unity maximizes impact.

3. This is part of a process.

The next step is to provide free health care on Sunday August 28th. (volunteers needed, ask me how or wrote khernandez@southernunion.com) Then an evangelism initiative. Compassion needs to become a lifestyle not an initiative.

 

Thanks for praying for us!

Do we believe black people?
This week was a tough one. The loss of life, from different walks of life, was difficult and painful for all, but especially for the African American community. Since I am an Adventist pastor I will share one question from an Adventist perspective that has been on my mind for a while:
Do we believe black people? Specifically, black Adventists?
Do we believe them when they tell us that they live in fear of the police? Do we believe them when they say they experience racism on a regular basis? Do we believe them when they share their anxiety at the judicial system? Do we believe them when they talk about their life experience? Do we believe them when they say that typing #blacklivesmatter does not mean others don’t? Do we believe them, period?

I wish I could say we did.

The silence in the pulpits, deflection online, calls for patience when justice is warranted and negative reaction on social media say otherwise.
A good example is the call for prayer from the NAD Administration. I am so proud of my NAD leadership showing compassion in a time of grief. The reaction on social media was varied, mostly split by racial lines. Go check it out. Statements like (I paraphrase)
*Slavery was good because it made black people more spiritual
*I am ashamed of my church
*Stop stirring race wars
*This is part of the liberal agenda
So the question is, again, do we believe black Adventist or not?

Here are three final thoughts:
1. You can use your platform to express your condolences, and acknowledge that the pain is real. They need to know we get it, we grieve with them, and we love them.

2. Supporting a grieving community does not mean you are anti-cop, a follower or George Soros or pushing a political agenda.

3. The black community cares about the murders in Chicago. Stop using that as a deflection. When my wife comes to talk to me about a problem she had at work that day that caused her pain, I don’t tell her: hey but what about the problem you and your mom had last night? I listen and acknowledge the pain THIS problem is causing, RIGHT NOW. Let’s believe them when they say this is a problem!
Take some time to listen to our African American brother and sisters. I just want to say, at least from me and my house. We love you. We hear you. We believe you.

Unless your name is Andy Stanley, you probably don’t hit home runs every time you speak, but there are things you can do to bring that batting average up from the Mendoza line. Let’s start with things to avoid:

  1. Don’t go on forever.

I know, we should start with the beginning but frankly this can disengage people more than you know. Land the plane. Even if you don’t finish strong, please finish. I’m absolutely sure you can add information to your talk, but good speakers are dexterous with the scalpel. Dexterous. Now there’s a word for you.

  1. Don’t chase rabbits.

Stay on point. That’s why I preach with points. Since I am prone to wonder in more ways than one, it makes me stay focused. I strongly suggest you listen to yourself. When I recommend to pastors I always get push back about not liking to listen to yourself talk. Ok, but you want everyone else to? Doesn’t make sense to me. If you can’t summarize in a phrase what you are speaking on this weekend it’s not ready.

  1. Don’t delay your departure.

Come out like a boxer, swinging. No one cares about all the people you are thanking and all the small talk you’re making because you’re nervous. Miss me with all the preliminaries. If you don’t get to it, people get going. They might not leave the building; they just leave you. Also, see #1.

  1. Don’t try to be funny.

In fact, don’t try to be anything. I believe that humor can lower defenses and appropriately used will be helpful. The best humor is natural, its self-deprecating and not at the expense of other. The great evangelists like E. E. Cleveland always used humor, in the context of the message and it flowed. If you are not a funny guy, you’re not a funny guy. The pulpit doesn’t change you, it just squeezes out what’s inside of you.

  1. Don’t miss the gospel.

If you can’t connect the gospel to your message, you don’t need to be preaching it. I can get good advice from people much better qualified than you. I need the good news. Since the main purpose of a gospel message is heart transformation, not just behavior modification, there is only one thing that can do it: It’s called the G.O.S.P.E.L.

 

Share what your thoughts about things not to do.

Ministry is great. Except when it isn’t. But most of the time is awesome! I wish I had known these 10 things BEFORE I started.

  1. If you close your church on a Sabbath, you seldom make up those tithes and offerings. I wish it was different and people returned a faithful tithe no matter what. Not the case. Prepare to adjust for 10-30% in loss of income that month.
  2. The person who invites you to eat first when you arrive at a new district has the same name everywhere: Hidden Agenda. I always tell pastors to be careful of the one who has nothing good to say, nothing bad to say or invites you first when you get there.
  3. It is hard to rise above the fray and preach biblically and not reactively to people that hate you, want you gone and are actively working to make your life hard. Every church has them. Good people move away and die. These people stay forever!
  4. People will expect you to promote, enhance and sustain ineffective programs you had absolutely no part in creating. My thanks to one of my favorite writers, Pastor Shawn Brace for this one.
  5. Every church has selective conservatives. For example a pastor I know was hit hard for having an Easter Outreach. The people that were upset called him on the carpet about paganism etc. They had a conversation with him with the backdrop of a floor to ceiling bar. Alcohol is OK I guess, as long as you don’t look for eggs one Sunday a year. (Thanks to Kendall Turcios for this one)
  6. It is seldom about preserving pure doctrine. It’s more often than not about control.
  7. The smaller the church the greater the potential for one person to control it. It usually is not you. (see #6)
  8. Everyone wants to reach the lost. As long as they are not like, super lost. We prefer semi-saved people.
  9. Everyone wants to be innovative as long as you keep everything the same. That happens when we fall in love with methods, marry them and have children. There is a need to teach the difference between:

Essential

Conviction

Preference

  1. “We don’t believe in traditional evangelism” is usually code for we don’t do any evangelism. We just hope people see our sign or our 1992 webpage and come in.

Thanks for reading!

 

A while back I was speaking at a church. Everything was ready and I was excited. Then I arrived at the “hotel”.

I was met by: *A front desk with several varieties of condoms for sale.

*A restaurant that doubled as a discotheque (it can’t be called a club, the décor didn’t allow it)

*Shady characters in the hallways.

*Lights that went on and off on their own in my musty room.

After I was done with this event the inviter asked about the accommodations. How do you answer THAT!?

Since I hear so many horror stories, please allow me to share some helpful ideas. There are three principles that are overlooked or blatantly ignored:

  1. Clarity.

If you are a guest speaker be clear. Over-clear. Super-clear. Below I have included a detailed speaker form. That minimizes the hassle of condom selling, haunted, shady discotheque hotels. If an honorarium is expected, ask for it. I always make my own travel accommodations for this reason. Be clear. If you are inviting someone and plan to put him/her in a hotel you wouldn’t stay yourself, fly them Spirit and send them home with a tie or a plaque, then let them know. No bait and switch.

  1. Respect.

Don’t take advantage of the guest. This is especially true for young pastors. The difference between a shady hotel and a good one (not talking 5 stars, just a decent bed without bugs) is for sure less than $50 and often less than $20. Also, the 3 stop ticket, the wait at the airport, the staying with a family with kids that keep them up or the meals that serve crazy food can be avoided. Treat them with:

Excellence.

Intentionality.

It doesn’t take that much! You expect third world accommodations in the third world. Not in the USA. If you don’t have the resources, wait a bit and do it right.

 

  1. Awareness.

Usually the church that invites is thinking about their event, their planning and their success. Put that aside for a moment. The pastor you invited is not paid to minister to you. He/she had to rearrange their schedule, spend time prepping, hire baby sitters, and be away from the family. Traveling isn’t glamorous believe me. No one I know is getting rich off speaking engagements, not in the Adventist church. Those reports you see with mansions and Teslas don’t exist here. More like townhouses and Hondas. Be aware of the other side. Put some respek on that profession!

Any nightmare scenarios you want to share?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Contact Information:

Name: _________________________________________

Address: ____________________________    City:  ________   State:  ____    Zip Code:  ______

Email Address: ________________________            Cell Phone#:  _________________________

 

 

Flight Information:     

              I prefer to make my own flight arrangements          

              *Please make flight arrangements for me (please fill in the following information below)

*Name as it appears on your ID: _______________________________

DOB: ______________________       Departure Airport:  __________________

Preferred Airline: __________________        Frequent Flyer # ________________________

 

 

 

Hotel Information:     

              I prefer to make my own hotel reservation              

              *Please make hotel reservations for me (Fill in the following information below.  Also, be sure to bring a credit card to provide for incidentals.  The hotel requests this.)

*Name as it appears on your ID: _______________________________

Preferred Hotel Chain: __________________            Frequent Traveler # ___________________

 

 

 

Car Rental Information:         

              I prefer to make my own car rental reservation       

              *Please make car rental reservations for me (Fill in the following information below.)

*Name as it appears on your ID: _______________________________

DOB: ______________________       Driver’s License #:  __________________  State:  _______

Preferred Car Rental Company: __________________         Membership # _________________

 

 

 

 

AV Needs:

Projector:                       Laptop:                           Microphone:                 (Type:  _____________)

Remote: ______________________               Other:  ____________________________

I use:                  PC                        MAC     Presentation Format:               Keynote            Powerpoint

Your presentation will be projected from                   Pulpit Connection                            Sound Room

 

 

Handouts/Resources:

Handouts:       I will bring my own copies/handouts               Please make copies for me

Resources:        Title:  ______________________       Cost:  _____________

Title:  ______________________       Cost:  _____________

Title:  ______________________       Cost:  _____________

Resource Set Up Needs: _______________________________________________________

 

 

 

Special Requests:        (Please inform us of any dietary needs, allergies, or other special requests below)

              ___________________________________________________________________

              ___________________________________________________________________

              ___________________________________________________________________


“Arguing with an antagonist is like playing chess with a pigeon.

They will poop all over your board and then strut around like they won”

Internet.

 

New levels bring new devils. Whatever God blesses, the devil attacks, so if you don’t want anyone to attack you, get on your knees tonight and ask God not to bless you! In 26 years as a local pastor and administrator I have observed that antagonists follow a pattern with their attacks. By knowing this information I am about to share, it won’t be less hurtful, but at least you can see the hate coming and prepare better. Another principle to remember is that the following list is not always sequential, but often will include all elements by the time the attack is done.

 

  1. Control.

The first step is control. This is done two ways:

*Doing favors so you owe them.

*Exerting their influence they perceive they have to make you do what they want.

That is why it’s important to love everyone, but trust a few.

  1. Dismissal

If they can’t control you, they will ridicule, dismiss and even sometimes stop talking to you. Smirks and sarcasm will dominate any interactions. This is the passive/aggressive preferred method. The problem is, the anointing on your life is impossible to ignore. Private anointing brings public blessings and there is no way to ignore God’s operations in your life.

 

  1. Attack. Letters, emails, phone calls, secret meetings, sucker-punch board meetings. When they see that dismissal and control won’t work, they will resort to direct attacks. It’s sad, but some are not only willing to die for the truth they are willing to kill for it. Often the language is couched in religious jargon, but make no mistake, its pain and removal they are after. This is the hardest part, because what is plainly obvious to you when you see God’s blessing is completely oblivious to them. Everything you do screams threat to them. Stay above the fray. Address the hate but don’t embrace it.

 

  1. Enlist others to attack.

Another way haters increase the level of attacks is by enlisting others to join them. It is at this point that the depression hits the hardest in you. Your most basic desire is to respond by defending yourself and attacking back. Please resist that temptation. Don’t spend much time following them around to correct the attacks. God has not called you to defend yourself, but to be faithful. Here is what I do:

*Spend extra time in prayer and fasting.

*Talk about it with a trusted friend.

*Go out of my way to act in loving ways to my attackers.

People eventually will see the same issues you saw. It takes a while, but believe me, it will happen.

 

I feel like some of you are in this position right now. Allow me to pray for you. If you want me to be more specific in my prayers shoot me an email at rhernandez@southernunion.com

Remember that if God is for you, the ones who are against you are wasting their time.