Archives For August 2016

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?




The responses were very interesting. You can read them here:

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: Here is another:
  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:


Church Planting Friendly.


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!