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It may come as a surprise to some that October has been divinely ordained as Pastor Appreciation Month. (I know those three words didn’t need to be bolded and in caps but I like to live in the danger zone)

It’s true. October is the one time a year you are required to give your pastor something other than those “encouraging” notes you usually send. Now the question becomes: what should I get this person who sacrifices so much for us? You’re in luck. I have a list for you. This is a list of what NOT to get them. Anything else would be amazing.

He/she would never say this too you. They’ll even deny it if asked and will act happy. So I’ll do it for them.
1. A bible. Does that sound strange? Isn’t he/she supposed to have a good one to preach from? Most pastors I know have enough Bibles in their library to evangelize a small town. Now, an IPhone with a Bible in it? That’s a different story. (BTW I hate everything Apple, not sure what possessed me to write that)

2. A tie. If your pastor is a female that would be awkward. If he is a male that would be like saying “what’s the easiest, spend the least amount of preparation and thoughtfulness and still look like I care” kind of gift I can give. Especially grievous are ties with words on them. In summary: Ties from Ross, no. A gift card to Ross, maybe. A gift card to somewhere nice? Amen!

3. Praying hands. He got four of those in different sizes from his previous church. So no.

4. An envelope with a card with just air inside. Who does this? Who gets in a room and says “yep, that’s a great idea.” You know who you are. Do you like getting those at Christmas? I didn’t think so.

5. Any type of decoration. When someone gives me a decoration, I often have two thoughts:
a. More things to pack on my next move.
b. Why didn’t they take off the Goodwill sign?

Appreciate your pastor. Ask their spouse/parent/ministerial director what meaningful gifts you could give them this month. Start by looking them in the eye and saying…
Thanks.

PS If you are a previous parishioner of mine, there are no expiration dates on the effects of ministry so…
PSS Here are some ideas…http://leadsu.org/2013/09/24/pastor-appreciation-month-tips-ideas-execution

It’s not easy being good at what you do.

I remember being invited to speak for 1,000 pastors. I said yes, and prepared my message. As I sat in front getting ready to speak, a fear like I’ve never experienced before gripped me. Voices in my head said things like:

What were you thinking saying yes?

You will not do very well!

The best thing you can do right now is get up and go. Run, Roger, RUN!

I had to calm myself down and pray. I spoke and God blessed, but I wondered if I was the only one who struggled with it. Now I know I wasn’t.

I’ve had the opportunity to work alongside, befriend and mentor some outstanding pastors. Most of them have at least three of the five characteristics I list below. This list probably also applies to other successful people as well.

Here’s the five:

  1. Often think they are crazy.

One of the greatest traits of a leader is the capacity to detect atrophy. Outstanding leaders have a sense something is not right, but see others just carrying on and believe something is wrong with THEM, not everyone else! They are able to see what’s wrong easier than others.

  1. Often have bouts with doubt and discouragement.

Pastor’s lives are often characterized by intense, stressful, busy times followed by periods of quiet nothingness. That can often lead to doubt and discouragement when the expectations (whomever they came from) were not met. It usually happens after a mountain top experience.

  1. Often have powerful opposition.

Success breeds opposition. Successful leaders wish they could just leave well enough alone, promote the status quo, stop with all the boat rocking and just mark their time until they leave. They can’t. That produces enemies. The fierce emails, long and difficult conversations, people leaving all are associated with success. That’s the side we don’t see when we look at the completed process.

  1. Often struggle in a personal area that no one knows.

The list is endless. Anxiety and difficulty sleeping (my hand is raised). Finances. Victims of past abuse in one of its forms. Addiction. Difficult marriage. Lack of sexual intimacy with spouse. Many times that happened in the past. Often it’s happening now.

  1. Extremely talented.

Amazingly they are able to function at a high level, but they do. They read, learn, and improve. They turn around churches and business. They make it work.

The next time you see a great leader and think “hey that guy/girl has it easy” think again. Pray for them. Give them grace. Its not easy being good at what you do.

I love music. I consider myself a supporter of musicians in the church. I don’t subscribe to the doctrine of “you’re doing it for God, so you should give your music and talent away for free”. I also believe musicians, singers, praise and worship leaders can improve. Next week we will have a musician share their side. This week I speak as a pastor, about five things I wish music people would keep in mind:

  1. Please participate in the rest of the service.

I have seen it countless times. The praise team or special music presenter finishes their assignment and instead of sitting down and listening, participating and growing they go outside, set up the sales table, or hang out backstage. I have even had praise and worship leaders start to put away their instruments as I am starting to preach. It’s not over because your part is finished. Stay. Pray. Listen. Grow.

  1. Please don’t preach.

Let’s make a deal. I won’t sing, you don’t preach. This is especially important at events such as camp-meetings, evangelistic series or pretty much every event where there is a time constraint.

  1. Please be clear on what a “love offering” is.

This addresses full or part time paid musicians or worship leaders. Being clear and specific will, in my estimation, eliminate many of the misunderstandings. A love offering for some churches is $50, for others is $500. When the financials are fuzzy in the front end, they usually become complicated in the end. If you do this for a living you deserve a living wage and for people not to take advantage of you. Be clear. While on this topic, don’t call a pastor desperate for a date, have them change their calendar around and then complain when the offering wasn’t what you expected.

  1. Please don’t do the “good morning/I can’t hear you” routine.

It goes something like this: “Good morning everyone. (“good morning” says the congregation) “I can’t hear you, GOOD MORINING (louder and firmer)” The congregation increases the volume. This is usually enough to placate the person with the microphone, except when it doesn’t, where the “good mornings” are followed by “didn’t you eat breakfast this morning?” or the always nice “hasn’t God been good to you”. Here is a tip: Just say good morning, smile, sing your heart out, and end it. We love God. That is not measured by our volume.

  1. Please remember it’s not about you.

I don’t like to cut songs out, but sometimes I have to. I don’t like to cut my sermon, but sometimes I have to. Don’t you hate it when the speaker says “they gave me 30 minutes but I am going to take more?” Its irritating, isn’t it?  Be flexible, be patient and be willing to understand we are all means to an end. We are just the instruments, conduits, channels to spread the Good News. It’s not about you, or me, but Him.

  1. (Bonus) the aftermath

Please don’t insist on selling me the unbought CD’s after the concert. This should be initiated by the host, not insisted upon by the singer.

Next week stay tuned, as the musicians let us know their side. Should be interesting!

The internet is ablaze with news on the court’s decision that allows same sex couples to wed. In the midst of the discussion about what happened and how it affects Christians and churches, there are some things you can’t control. There are some things you can. If you are a Christian, there are five things you can do:

  1. You can have a great marriage.

It is certainly harder to make a case for the sanctity of marriage by a Christian church that has similar percentages of divorce than unbelievers. Love your spouse. Show the world that the biblical model works, it’s a blessing and can help you grow in faith. Pray with and for your family. Restore the family altar. Instead of interminably reposting articles, spend some of that time loving your spouse and praying for you kids. Not many people changed their minds because of an article they read. Many did because of a relationship they had and an example they admired.

  1. You can trust God.

You can disagree with the court. That is your right. You can express your concern. That is your privilege. Just don’t forget God was not surprised nor is he rendered powerless by a court’s decision. You can still trust God to work out whatever He chooses, however He chooses.

  1. You can be kind.

I perfectly understand the preoccupation that arises when what was, is no longer. I just pray we are kind. You can be principled and patient, courageous and kind, clear and loving. Remember that everyone is in need of grace, including yourself.

  1. You can remain calm.

One of the unfortunate consequences that happen during highly controversial times is the jumping to conclusions based on fear and speculation instead of facts. No one is coming to padlock your church doors this weekend. No one is forcing our pastors to marry same sex couples. Argentina and Canada allow it and our churches there still share the word every Sabbath. That is not to say we should be silent or oblivious. We should practice what divers do when in a difficult situation: remain calm and work it out.

  1. You can continue to share the gospel.

A thought for my Adventist friends. The power of the gospel is incredibly more effective than any political strategy. If we believe that the gospel is not just the verbal assent to a doctrine but that it results in changed lives, wouldn’t it make sense to getting as many people as we can exposed to it as fast as we can?

Let’s pray that our mission is not detoured by the fixation on a decision. Share the gospel. Love your family. Live for Jesus.

She was over fifty. So was he. They met at church and a short time later they started dating. Both had failed in previous marriages. Both found healing and happiness. I had the pleasure of marrying them several years ago. They are still going strong today. That was your classic boy meets girl, boy marries girl, boy beats girl up, girl leaves him, girl finds several other boys, girl has no luck finding the one, girl finally matures and heals with God’s help, girl falls in love and is happy, story.

One of the best (and most difficult) part of being in ministry is spending time listening to people that have relationship issues/questions. I enjoyed praying with and sharing some of my life experiences with singles. Here is some of the best advice I have learned over the years. Every case is different, but I have seen some common threads.

1. One is a complete number.

The line “you complete me” was great for a movie, but not for real life. When we put our expectations on others and want them to “complete us” what we are really saying is that there is something wrong with you. There isn’t. Being complete and confident in who God made you to be will allow to give and receive love more significantly.

2. Unequal effort yields unwelcome results.

I have seen this one so many times. One gives. The other receives. One puts out the effort, sacrifices, goes all out. The other? Not so much. For any relationship to work, both must give, sacrifice and go all in. If you are doing all the giving, ask yourself: Why do I allow my boyfriend/girlfriend to disrespect me by their response to my love. These type of molehills in dating become mountains in marriage (see #3)

3. Whatever issue you have now, gets bigger when you marry.

A possessive partner becomes more possessive. So with an addict. Ditto with a jealous or insecure partner. Marriage seldom fixes the issue, but compounds it. (see #2)

4. Why?

Why do you need a man? Or a woman? Why do you seem to jump so fast from one relationship to another that the ink from the Dear John letter is not even dry yet. I have seen people get into relationships for the wrong reason:

*I’m lonely- if you are lonely, get a dog.

*I feel my train is leaving- sometimes that is good. There is always another train. Always. And this one smells better.

*I hate my life- relationships are not escape hatches.

*I need sex- it’s deeper than that. Trying to maintain and grow a relationship that is spiritual/mental/physical on a purely physical level is setting yourself up for failure. Save sex for marriage. Then become really good at it for the rest of your life.

5. God factor.

#3 applies here too. Two things to do:

  1. Become passionate about God.
  2. Become passionate about finding someone who shares that passion.

 

What are some counsel you have heard that is beneficial? I would love your responses in the comments section.

I have been going to church for 46 years. Almost 47, if you count the nine months in my mom’s belly. I have seen the good, the bad and the ugly. I understand that today’s blog is highly subjective, but I felt I needed to express it. Whether my desire to change comes true or not, is irrelevant. I’m in love with the church, even when it is less than perfect. But, could you please stop these five expressions from ever happening again? (BTW, no deacons were harmed during the writing of this blog)

1. “Good morning”.

It goes something like this: “Good morning everyone. (“good morning” says the congregation) “I can’t hear you, GOOD MORINING (louder and firmer)” The congregation increases the volume. This is usually enough to placate the person with the microphone, except when it doesn’t, where the “good mornings” are followed by “didn’t you eat breakfast this morning?” or the always nice “hasn’t God been good to you”. Here is a tip: Just say good morning, smile, say your part and sit back down. We love God. That is not measured by our volume.

2. “Now, as we begin…”

This usually happens after the initial song service, which begs the question: What were you doing for the past 15 minutes? The truth is, many times song service happens with no rhyme or reason, is a filler or something we do while people get there. I don’t believe that practice honors God or inspires people. By the way, song leader, if you’re going to ask for member’s favorite songs, make sure you know more than 10 hymns!

3. “Wherever two or three are gathered”.

This usually happens when few are in attendance (think Sabbath School, Prayer Meeting or the beginning of AY). What this communicates is pity, rather than power. It’s a disastrous message to send to guests. Think about it. Who would like to join a group of people that feel so bad about themselves? God is present where there are 2 or 3, but the most common application this text is given is not really what the Bible writer intended to convey. We are not victims, and the “poor little ol’ me” has no place in the house of the living God.

4. “We will sing this song twice”.

Why? That’s all. Why?

5. “Pray for me, I’ve lost my voice”

Again?

Let’s work together to make the worship service a memorable experience for everyone. Any prayer requests please write me at rhernandez@southernunion.com.

Some of the most popular blog posts in the last 3 years have been these series on things we should stop saying. If you missed the previous ones here are the links.

http://leadsu.org/?s=five+things+

http://leadsu.org/2013/10/21/five-more-things-i-wish-people-would-stop-saying-from-the-pulpit/

http://leadsu.org/2013/12/15/five-even-more-things-i-wish-we-would-stop-saying-from-the-pulpit/

http://leadsu.org/2014/02/16/five-more-things-we-should-stop-saying-from-the-pulpit-part-iv/

Here five more (and a bonus):

  1. “Let’s tell the people we are starting at 7:00pm, so we can start at 7:30pm.”

This is Spanish church problem. I’m pretty sure other cultures respect people’s time and start on time. Here is my concern. We use this foolproof strategy thinking we can fool people into getting to church at the time we want them to. Only one problem. People are not dumb. If you do this every week, don’t you think people will pick up on it and arrive even later? How about this: Say 7pm. Start at 7pm.

  1. “Do you eat the image or the beast?”

This is a joke about whether you are vegetarian or not. It was funny like 30 years ago. Now the only people that laugh are the ones telling it and the ones that always laugh no matter the level of corniness of any joke. This usually happens at potlucks and Sabbath dinners. Next time that happens I’m going to respond with: “Neither one, but where should I put the pork ribs I brought today” with a straight face. What? Not funny? Neither is the “image of the beast” joke.

  1. “Let’s wait until people get here.”

One question: Why? Also, see #1.

  1. “How many of you had a hard week this week? I know I did.”

Really? You seem fine to me. How many bad weeks can you have dude? It seems like every week in church I hear this or a variation of it from someone. I just wonder what visitors are thinking. Here is good advice:

Get up.

Smile.

Sing.

Sit.

Please no long speeches that are unrelated to anything else. No venting or priming the pump. Its interesting to note that I seldom see people saying the opposite. Once in a while I would like someone to get up and say: “how many of you had an awesome week like I did? I sold my car, got a new boyfriend that doesn’t look like he just woke up, got a $1,000 check in the mail and passed my classes and to top it off I have a deeper understanding of the assurance of salvation”. Now that’s something to get excited about!

  1. “Are you a vegetarian? Do you eat fish, then?”

Here is a simple formula for you meat eaters: Unless the fish is made out of broccoli, no I don’t eat fish. In case you need further assistance, here is some basic information you may find useful:

Vegetarian-we eat nothing that’s an animal. Dead or alive.

Vegan- we are the ones with the 20 questions.

Raw- if you see one, take a picture. They have super human strength.

Bonus:

  1. “You know, I don’t eat __________________________.”

Some people feel the need to tell you what they don’t eat. No one asks them, but they feel compelled to share. A good way to respond would be: “So, do you eat fish then?”

 

Hopefully this made you smile. Have a great week and remember to stay active, healthy and holy.

This is part 4 of this series. The more time I spend in churches the more of these that seem to appear. I hope this brings a smile to your face, happiness to your week and joy to your heart. Any similarity with the church you attend is simply coincidental.

1. “This is the part of the service we can all participate”.

This is usually done when tithe and offering time comes. My question is this: what are we doing exactly in the other part of the service? Are we invisible people? Does all the singing, praying and pretending we are paying attention to announcements not considered “participating?” Worship is a verb. Not a spectator sport. This phrase sends the wrong message.

2. “One more announcement”.

This one is usually done after the service is over. The appeal has been done. The last song has been sung. The 3 hours for a Hispanic Church (5 if you are an African American Church, 1 if you are Anglo congregation) are over. Your stomach is growling. Your kids are restless and your spouse is in a hurry. But, alas, it’s not over. It’s not over because you, dear ministry director have to take another 10 minutes in a short announcement that is already in the bulletin, has been announced already and it’s for an event I am not even going to go to. Please, no more. Its takes away from my worship experience. Let me go home inspired not wishing I expired.

3. “Start the track over, please”

This is how this one goes down. It starts by the singer hitting the mic to see if it’s on. Followed by the track not starting. Followed by a dirty look. Followed by the track starting in the middle of the song. Followed by the singer asking the sound system operator to start the track. Followed by a rendition of a song that should not have been sung in the first place. Followed by “amens” that make you say “huh”.

4. “Let me tell you a story before I sing.”

I don’t mind a short introduction. I do mind a sermon. If you want to preach, preach. But we are here to hear you sing. So, please sing.

5. “and that person was me”

This usually happens with spectacular testimonies that wait to the end to reveal that the person telling the testimony was the centerpiece of the story. My aversion to this practice has more to do with my personal distaste of testimonies that glorify the past sinful lifestyle and minimize the time now spent with Jesus. The real heroes of the church are not the ones that left, played around and came back, but the ones who never left. Those are my role models. Kudos to you, Jesus follower!

Do you have any more? Email me at rhernandez@southernunion.com