10 Things Pastors Hate To Admit Publicly

Brian Fulthorp:

This are absolutely true (to one degree or another) no matter how hard we try to deny it.

Originally posted on pastormatt.tv:

MB Posts When Ellen and I were first married ministry was not our 20-year plan, the Navy was. We had it all planned out; we were to spend the next 20 years with me being gone for 15. The Navy explained to my sweet new bride how grueling it would be, that I would be gone often and that even when I was around my mind would be elsewhere. Knowing that my particular career path in the Navy would be a marriage destroyer I pursued a discharge for the pursuit of higher education. With the promise of a difficult future behind us we embarked upon an easier dream where everyone would love us and things would be calm: pastoral service.

Twenty plus years later I can tell you it has been a ride we never could have anticipated. So much so that only now do I feel equipped enough to share a…

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“How Many Go To Your Church?” and non-thinking questions

stupid questionsI am known to have told my students on occasion, “There are no stupid questions….just stupid people asking questions” (said with a wry wink in my eye).

While this is a silly way to rephrase the old wisdom, I read a post by Tim Challies today that challenged me to rethink the “stupid” (i.e., unthinking) question I have asked and been asked over the years as a pastor. And I do not wish to be a simpleton that simply blurts out questions in an unthinking manner. I want to give care to the questions I have so they reflect the care with which I long to show others and receive in this pastoral vocation.

Here is a sampling of a number of the intelligent questions in place of this default unthinking question by pastors to pastors, “How many people go to your church?”

I wonder, what would happen if we found better questions to ask and better ways to answer them. Instead of going to the easy question of, “How many people go to your church?” why don’t we ask things like this:

  • How have you seen the Lord working in the lives of the people in your church?

  • What evidences of the Lord’s grace has your church experienced in the last few months?

  • What are you excited about in your church right now?

  • Who are you excited about in your church right now? (READ THE REST HERE)

And he does not stop there. He also offers several responses that are thoughtful as well. I appreciate his providing food for thought so that my own conversations with other ministers will be enriched by the types of questions and answers that come up in the course of conversations. What do you think of his proposed replacement questions and answers?


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The sacred call of ministry, Part 2

Here is a trustworthy saying: Whoever aspires to be an overseer desires a noble task. (1 Tim. 3:1)

The terms overseer, elder, pastor, bishop, and shepherd are used interchangeably in the New Testament. There is a calling to look after people, to be responsible for their well-being.

It is not a calling to have so one can “lord” it over another. It is a calling to serve. Within that call is the thought of leading, teaching, discipling, shepherding, etc. Paul says this is a noble call.

The passage in 1 Timothy 3 is a common used to at least begin the discernment process as one explores the calling into ministry. One of the things Paul mentions is one we may tend to overlook from time to time: not a recent convert. We may have a habit to see someone come to faith who has a powerful personality and think, “Well, of course they should be in ministry!” We may tend to push those into ministry who have outgoing personalities and mistake it for “calling.” Or, we may rush someone into ministry before they have some basic foundational work accomplished in their spiritual life.

Currently we are working with a young person who has come to faith out of Islam. It is incredibly tempting to push this person forward because we are incredibly excited. What needs to happen in tandem (at least) is we make sure basic discipleship is being accomplished as well.

When it comes to recognizing the calling, I speak to my denominational experience, because that is all I have. I appreciate the conversation I have with other denominations and would easily make this statement up front: Somewhere between what my denomination does and what the Presbyterian USA Church does lies some sort of happy medium. :)

For my own group (the Assemblies of God), there are times when it simply feels like a cattle call. And, to be honest… it looks like one, too.

For the Presbyterians, having listened to friends go through that grueling process, it’s a wonder they get ANY ministers after that meat grinder of a process!

The call to ministry needs a discernment process. Timothy could pick leaders from among those he knew. Let those who are closest to the one called have a bigger say in the process. Let their voice be a more prominent voice. While the denomination goes through the legal hoops now foisted onto the process, let the closer leadership help with the spiritual process. It’s a both/and world. I have to get over the shock of needing a criminal background check, but I don’t want THAT to be the most intense part of the process.

There needs to be that ongoing conversation about calling, discernment, hearing the voice of God, theological foundation, understanding of the church, understanding of the ministry gifts, etc.

Rather than simply a “credential” for a “minister,” why not move to the ultimate goal of ordination, but to a gifting? We’re Pentecostal, but we shy away from “apostle” and “prophet.” We certainly have those functions in our churches, but God forbid we should actually ordain someone into an “apostolic” ministry after we’ve gone through a thorough discernment process. We’re more “biblical” than that these days! ;)

Let us always raise a standard for ministry. Let us continue to believe in “calling,” but let us have more discernment in that process, and let us help those called to define their ministry gifts along the way.


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The sacred call of ministry

This past week we had our District Council, the highlight of which is our Ordination Service. I had two staff pastors ordained this year, which brings me to some reflections on ministry, the call to ministry, and the process of ordination.

For my own denomination (Assemblies of God) it has been a long standing tradition to talk about “the call.” There is a deep belief in God calling a person into ministry. It is not “lording over” others, but there is a sense of God calling a person to shepherd others.

Growing up in a Pentecostal church, I had a deep respect for ministry and a love for church. I also grew up thinking I was going to be a historian or journalist, so I wasn’t “called.” That all changed on a youth missions trip to Mexico over Christmas break my senior year in high school. On the Wednesday night of that trip there was a tremendous time of prayer around the altar that carried on long after the people of the church had gone home. The missions team was around the altar crying out to God and in those moments I knew the Lord spoke to me and called me into ministry. It was a life altering event.

Through all the years since, I can honestly say it is that moment that solidifies what God was doing. It was the confirmation from everyone else when I got back that sealed it completely. I was so nervous telling people (especially being a senior in high school and I had made other plans all along), but every one I told said, “Oh yeah. I knew you were called. It’s about time you figured that out.”

While it was a much shorter process, I realize looking back that was what Lutherans would call the “discernment” process. There is a need (in Lutheran theology) to assess the call. There is a need to see this call affirmed by others.

For me, that has been what has kept me moving forward all my life. Even times when my ministry was struggling and I thought I needed to do something “on the side,” those months surrounding my “call” bring me back. I am stirred by the Spirit and the word comes to me: “THIS is what you were supposed to do. Get to it.”


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The Role of the Pastor

“In the modern church the role of the pastor is no longer clear-cut… For much of the history of the church, the work of the pastor was quite unambiguous: the ‘cure of souls.’ The shepherd is to help the sheep assimilate and live out the spiritual life. In short, the pastor is essential a spiritual theologian and a guide to godliness. It is this work and nothing else that gives the pastoral vocation its distinguishing mark.” — Simon Chan, Spiritual Theology 

Never has writing like this sounded so “out of step” with how we train pastors today.

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Pastoral Leadership Through Prayer

pastoral prayersThe following is a portion of a post by Dr. Kevin Bauder on the manner in which a pastor exercises leadership through prayer.

The role of pastor has been recast during the past generation. Some churches envision their pastors as corporate CEOs. Others view their pastors as impresarios. New Testament pastoral ministry, however, does not consist in organizational direction or in stage management. The pastor’s leadership is essentially spiritual leadership.

What is spiritual leadership? One might define spiritual ministry by its object: it is ministry to the spirit, ministry that seeks to foster spiritual wellbeing. This answer is true, but it is only part of the truth. Spiritual ministry is defined, not only by its object, but by its power. It is not only ministry to the spirit, but also ministry by the Spirit.

You can read the rest HERE (and you should) where he discusses the manner of pastoral leadership through prayer. My question is simple: Is your pastoral prayer life (public and private) sufficiently clear and effective in leading your church? Lord teach us to pray!


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Getting past the moments and into the LIFE

I was reflecting on a conversation with another minister and talking about “sacred moments.”

I am a Pentecostal pastor, so a particular thought hit me after that initial thought of “sacred moments.”

For Pentecostals, ours is about “experience.” We have more of a spiritual theology than any other kind, but our theology really is built off of experience. Moments.

Those are sacred. I don’t want to take away from them.

What we can be better at is building into people the opportunity for sacred life. The day in/day out routines that speak of the presence of God. We keep looking for the “extraordinary,” but when we live in the ordinary we are often disappointed. We need to teach people to live with the extraordinary presence of God in our ordinary routines.

May I not just help people experience sacred “moments,” but also build a sacred life. 


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