Vocational Ministry

Pastor… Where’s Your Passion?

AOZCS77GSL

This post is based on the book The Democratization of American Christianity by Nathan O. Hatch. Hatch outlines the influence of Christianity in the early United States. 


I recently had the honor of preaching at an outdoor church service in Garretson, SD. The main point of my message was “Religion without relationship brings destruction.” In other words, if we practice cold religion without an encounter with the Living God, we will deceive ourselves about our relationship with God.

As I was teaching through the text, I noticed an elderly couple close to the front row. I could tell that they were very religious; I thought they may have been offended by my message.

After the service, this elderly couple approached me. I was preparing myself to be scolded for the harshness of my message towards dead religion. I noticed their countenance was one of joy, not anger. With an almost prophetic pronouncement, they quietly told me, “I wish every pastor had as much passion as you do when they preach! Most pastors seem almost bored!”

It didn’t always use to be this way. There was a time when pastors were passionate about the Gospel and zealous to make converts… especially in the early U.S.

Nathan O. Hatch explains why this passion faded, “The allure of respectability dampened the original fire of the religious populist.”

Pastor, you are NOT called to be a professional. Ministry is not a career with the purpose of advancing to the next big church… it is a calling from God! In the name of “respectability” many ministers have drenched their passion in the freezing water of professionalism. Rather than heralding the glorious truths of Scripture, pastors trudge through a text without it first interfering in their own lives. The result is clear; our pulpits are filled with men and women who are too cowardly to boldly proclaim the Gospel. They are content with hanging pieces of paper with faded ink on their walls to demonstrate their calling to ministry.

THIS IS RIDICULOUS!

The Bible is the most incredible work of literature ever written! All of Scripture is “inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, so that everyone who belongs to God may be proficient, equipped for every good work (2 Tim. 3:16-17).”

If you put people to sleep when you teach the Bible… please stop.

If you view ministry as a profession rather than a calling… please stop.

If you seek the praise of man rather than the approval of God… please stop.

If you have no passion for this INCREDIBLE message called the Gospel… please stop.

Friends, we do not need more professionals. We need more preachers who will teach the whole counsel of God’s Word and call His people to repentance, forgiveness, and grace. We don’t need churches which are monuments of the 1950s – we need communities of believers, filled with the Holy Spirit, bringing renewal to the utter brokenness around them. We NEED Christians, who are no longer content living a Christianized version of the American Dream, to take up their cross and actually follow Jesus… EVEN if it means ridicule, death, and persecution.

Do you disagree with me? Does Paul’s description of himself and the other leaders of the early church seem professional?

“For it seems to me that God has put us apostles on display at the end of the procession, like those condemned to die in the arena. We have been made a spectacle to the whole universe, to angels as well as to human beings. We are fools for Christ, but you are so wise in Christ! We are weak, but you are strong! You are honored, we are dishonored! To this very hour we go hungry and thirsty, we are in rags, we are brutally treated, we are homeless. We work hard with our own hands. When we are cursed, we bless; when we are persecuted, we endure it; when we are slandered, we answer kindly. We have become the scum of the earth, the garbage of the world—right up to this moment.” – 1 Cor. 4:9-13

Your Church NEEDS to Change in Three Ways!

photo-1449960276497-6f52103ce9d7

The future is often stuck in a perpetual replay of the past. The events and attitudes of yesterday mold and shape tomorrow. Studying history can be incredibly prophetic in understanding the landscape of the 21st century.

One of the books I am reading for seminary is called The Democratization of American Christianity by Nathan Hatch. Before you close out of my blog and assume that this has no relevance in your context since it is academic, STOP! Hatch gives a vivid view of how the Revolution influenced Christianity in the early republic… and it has DIRECT relevance for churches today!

Don’t believe me? Consider this reflection by Nathan Hatch:
“With the rise of fierce religious competition, movements that employed more aggressive measures prospered. Churches reluctant to compete on the same terms declined.”

The churches which were most effective in reaching lost people with the Gospel were those which employed radical means to make disciples. These aggressive churches were criticized by the established churches as being too progressive and radical in their outreach… sound familiar?

Churches in the 21st century MUST embrace change. Don’t get me wrong. I believe the message needs to continually come directly from Scripture and exalt the person and work of Jesus Christ. Our message CANNOT change… but these THREE things should!

1. We need to harness the power of media!
One of the revolutionary things these radical churches did was utilize the power of mass media. The established churches refused to distribute pamphlets and speak in a “common” language… hence they did not reach the average American!

This is still true in the western world. Churches need to harness the incredible power of media – ESPECIALLY social media! 78% of Americans have a social media account. In light of this statistic, there are MANY churches who refuse to establish a presence on social media. There is an audience waiting to connect with your church and you NEED to learn the basics of Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for the sake of the Gospel!

2. We need to strive for excellence in preaching!
The pastors which excelled in reaching the lost in the early Republic were those that displayed passion in their preaching! Far too many pastors are content with delivering a dry lecture with no emotion when they enter into the pulpit.

Pastor, eternity literally hangs in the balance every time you open the Scriptures before your people.

I do not understand how many pastors put people to sleep when sharing the INCREDIBLE story of God’s love for people! DO NOT get in the pulpit if you aren’t willing to be passionate about Jesus Christ. Dry lectures and intellectual language does not change people… the simple message of the Gospel does!

3. We need to empower the church for ministry!
One of the criticisms lobbied at these aggressive churches was against the abundance of “common” people involved in the ministry. READ EPHESIANS 4:12. Pastors are given to the church to EQUIP people for the work of ministry! If the people in your church are content with sitting in a pew while paid “professionals” do the work of the ministry, your church will die!

God has gifted your church with incredible men, women, and children called to the ministry! Each Christian in your church is part of the Body of Christ and the entire Body needs to work together in order to advance the Gospel. You need to train the people in your church to see themselves as ministers… not religious consumers!


What are some other ways the church needs to change in order to reach lost people? Let me know by leaving a comment!

We have authority issues…

wolf

I LOVE history.

One of the things I find incredible about studying history is the direct relevance it has on our lives today. I’m currently reading a book called The Democratization of American Christianity. The book explores 19th century Christianity in the early United States. It has given me amazing insight into why we act the way we do!

One of the issues we have as Christians in the west is a problem with authority. This is what gave rise to 100,000+ denominations in a short amount of time. This is what helped propel democracy into a time-tested institution.

When it comes to the church, our authority issues are toxic.

Hebrews 13:17 
“Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls and will give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with sighing—for that would be harmful to you.”

Let’s look at this verse together. I want to make three observations to explain why our rejection of authority is to our own detriment and sorrow:

1. God has placed leaders in the church.
Many Christians have a romantic but unrealistic view of church authority. Church members often believe they should have a vote in EVERY decision made at a church. From the color of the carpet to the tone of the preacher; this is unrealistic! If a church votes on every decision and overrides the pastor repeatedly, the church has effectively stripped the pastor of any sort of fruitful leadership.

Many churches don’t want a pastor, they want a chaplain.

They want someone who will bow down to the felt needs of the congregation rather than boldly proclaim the Gospel. God has placed qualified and faithful leaders in the church to actually LEAD!

2. These leaders should be deeply concerned about your soul.
Pastors have many things to do. It is easy for them to become distracted by issues which are of no significance in the grand scheme of things if there is not a team of people around them.

The pastors in a church should not exercise domineering, CEO-like leadership. Instead the leadership should come from a place of deep humility, supernatural gentleness, and grave concern for the salvation of the church. Your pastor (probably) spends hours each week laboring on your behalf at the throne of grace. He is continually on his knees pleading with God for the salvation of his hearers.

3. These leaders will give an account to God of how they lead you. 
Pastoral leadership carries a terrifying weight. God has entrusted His people to the leadership of a church to shepherd and proclaim the Gospel. On top of this, pastors face intense spiritual warfare as they advance into the ruin and wickedness of this world.

Rather than trying to buck the authority of your leaders, pray for them. Rather than being easily offended and sending a nasty e-mail, allow your love to cover a multitude of sins.

Pastors are broken people trying (and often failing) to imitate the Good Shepherd. They are in desperate need of the grace and mercy which comes from the Gospel… just like YOU!

Instead of being the person with deep authority issues that the pastor has to shield himself from, make the ministry a joy. Allow your pastor to shepherd, lead, and boldly proclaim the Gospel… this is for YOUR good!

Why Seminary?

Why Seminary

As some of you may know, I will begin attending Sioux Falls Seminary this Fall. I have received many questions and congratulations as I begin my new journey into higher education. With that being said, I also believe people have assumed certain reasons as to why I am going – some of them being true and some of them being false.

In order to articulate to you as much as to myself, let me clear up the confusion.

I’m NOT going to seminary to be a pastor.
My goal is to continue to pastor and serve God in the context of a local church but that is NOT the primary reason I am going to seminary. I do NOT believe one needs to attend seminary to pastor a church. With that being said, I DO believe pastors should be highly educated and trained for ministry. Seminary is simply one tool (and just that, a tool) to prepare men and women for ministry.

I received most of my training through The Rescue Church; learning from seasoned pastors in the context of practical ministry. This has been an excellent resource as I have pioneered and launched both an online campus and a physical campus through the training I received.

I’m NOT going to seminary to be respected.
If I were to be respected simply because I have letters after my name then I would rather not be in that person’s company. I know of pastors and leaders that have absolutely no formal education and have an impact far greater than one could imagine simply because they are passionate about Jesus (see Charles Spurgeon).

If you ever feel adequate for ministry because of your education, you are NOT ready for the pastorate.

No amount of formal or informal education will completely equip you to serve in ministry. The pastorate is purposely impossible to do in human strength so that pastors rely solely on God’s power.

Once you reach a place of drifting comfortably in ministry, you are leading the church towards stale stagnancy or worse, devastating destruction.

I AM going to Seminary to learn.
This SHOULD be a given, unfortunately it is not. I have seen many men who, having already received training through their church, arrive at seminary with an arrogant, unteachable attitude. If anything, my time in ministry has shown me how much I am LACKING, not how much I know.

One of the disadvantages of informal training is lack of different perspectives. I tend to stay within my “tribe” of Christianity rather than having conversations with those who disagree with me. I am challenged practically by informal training and challenged theologically through formal schooling.

Ultimately, I want to have my theology structured from Scripture, not pragmatics and experience.

Specifically, I am looking forward to learning and growing in the following areas:

  • Church History
  • Pastoral Counseling
  • Greek and Hebrew
  • Preaching
  • Church Polity (Structure)

As I am challenged over the next four years, I am convinced this list will grow (which is what I am excited for!)

I AM going to Seminary to be obedient.
For many people, as I said before, seminary is simply one tool of many to prepare for ministry. For me, I believe I am disobedient to God if I do not pursue formal training and education. I have felt the Holy Spirit call me to attend seminary and He has opened the doors to make it possible.

My biggest smokescreen to skip out on seminary was the price. How the heck is a minister in a rural setting suppose to pay off graduate level debt?!

When I first visited Sioux Falls Seminary, I bluntly told the man I met with that I am not willing to go into debt for a master’s degree. He then explained to me the Kairos Project at the seminary. In a nutshell, the Kairos Project is for people who are already involved in ministry. Instead of the education being formed around classes, it is formed around mentors. One of the greatest benefits of the Kairos Project is the cost, it is only $300/month for a Master of Divinity! (This price will go up to around $600/month but I will be locked into the $300/month rate as I am one of the first students going through it.)

Unfortunately, the Kairos Project has very limited room for students. I applied for Seminary late in the Summer, far past the deadline for regular acceptance, which means I was WAY behind in applying for the Kairos Project. Somehow, by the grace of God, I got accepted into both for the Fall.

Therefore, God is not only guiding me towards seminary, he is providing for it. To not go would be disobedient to His clear calling on my life.


If you are a young man (or even an older man) please do not feel as if you must attend seminary to become a pastor. I would encourage you to speak to the elders in your local church and receive both training and direction from them. Ultimately, it is the church’s job to raise up pastors, not a seminary’s.

By the way, if you are interested in learning more about the Kairos Project, you can watch the short video below:

Shepherd Your Wife

Shepherd Your Wife

Although this post is written for pastors, the principles can apply to all husbands.


The Church is facing an epidemic involving pastors who fail to shepherd their wives. As pastors, our natural tendency is to love our church and ignore our families. We would not actually say this but it is evident by our actions and work ethic.

Pastor, if your marriage falls apart you are disqualified from ministry.

Someone once asked a pastor of a growing church how he balanced the demands on his time between his wife and his congregation. The wise pastor answered, “You either have to cheat your wife or cheat your church.” If you decide to cheat your wife because you have a savior complex and want to feel “needed” at all times by your congregation, you are NOT qualified for ministry.

Your church can have a large number of different pastors; your wife only gets one husband.

Before you think I am being too harsh, I will be the first to admit that I am talking to myself as much as I am talking to you. I consistently fail in this area and am eternally grateful for God’s grace and the love of my wife in the midst of my imperfections.

Here are five practical ways to make your wife a priority in ministry:

1. Commit to your wife a certain amount of evenings at home.
One of the disadvantages of ministry is that your evenings can quickly fill up with meetings and appointments if you do not diligently guard your schedule. In order to visibly show my wife that she is more important to me than my ministry, I have committed to spending four nights every week at home and only break this when I truly have no other choice. If you spend more evenings at your church instead of at your home, you need to re-evaluate your priorities.

Although this post is focused on shepherding your wife, these evenings are priceless in the lives of your kids. If you want your kids to grow up in bitterness towards the church, spend all your time at the church. On the other hand, if you want your kids to have a love and commitment to the local church, be sure that your evenings are open for them!

2. Publicly state your commitment to your wife.
When Ashley and I launched the Garretson Campus of The Rescue Church, I knew I needed to guard my time. Unfortunately, this knowledge took awhile to become application in my life. In order to hold myself accountable (and be sure my church has realistic expectations of me), I tell members of my church that my wife is far more important to me than my ministry.

If you “succeed” as a pastor but fail as a husband, you are a failure. On the other hand, if you “fail” as a pastor but succeed as a husband, you are successful.

3. Have another man in your life that will hold you accountable.
I met with one of my mentors (who is also a pastor) this morning for breakfast and he shared profound wisdom with me in regard to accountability. He explained that if you are a pastor with no real accountability partner, it is only a matter of time until Satan destroys your ministry. As a pastor, you NEED another man in your life that will ask you specifically about your marriage and family on a regular basis. If you do not have an accountability partner, it is only a matter of time until you reach a point of emotionally abandoning your wife in pursuit of ministry.

4. Be willing to quit.
When I say that my church can have many different pastors but my wife only gets one husband, I truly mean it. If my ministry ever reaches a place where my wife truly feels neglected and abandoned because of it, I will quit. If you are married, God calls both you and your spouse into ministry. If you feel that you are called to be a pastor but your wife does not support your call then you need to wait for God’s timing. If you are already in ministry but your marriage is close to destruction, you NEED to quit and seek counseling.

DO NOT FAIL AS A HUSBAND AND “SUCCEED” AS A PASTOR! (I know I already said it but it is important enough to say again!)

5. Pray with your wife.
I know many pastors will skip over this one and simply assume they are. I will be the first to admit – I do not pray with my wife as regularly as I should. Matter of fact, it seems that I am more willing to pray with a new person after church than I am willing to pray with my beautiful bride and that is a shame. Spend time not only praying for your wife but praying WITH your wife. When you approach the throne of grace together as a couple, you allow the Holy Spirit to strengthen and sustain your marriage.


Satan hates your marriage and wants to destroy it. How are YOU going to make your wife a priority in ministry? Let me know by leaving a comment!

Five Benefits of Multi-site Churches

multisitechurch

In this season of life, God has called me to be a Campus Pastor in an incredible church called The Rescue Church. The Rescue Church is a multi-site church which simply means we are one church that meets in multiple locations. Every Sunday morning, The Rescue Church meets in Garretson, SD; Flandreau, SD; Colman, SD; Deeside, Jamaica; and Online.

Our vision is to plant healthy campuses in small communities that otherwise lack a strong evangelical presence. Multi-site churches are gaining in popularity all over the world but it is still a brand new concept in rural communities. Because of this, I am asked repeatedly why we begin campuses instead of planting autonomous churches (which I believe should be both/and not either/or!)

Since I pastor in a multi-site church, I want to share with you five benefits I have personally experienced:

1. An incredibly strong support network.
In October of 2015, my wife and I launched The Rescue Church in Garretson, SD. I honestly do not think we would still be around if it was not for the encouragement and wisdom shared by the other campuses. We have an incredible support network since we are part of a larger church.

When it comes to rural churches, pastors tend to suffer from crippling isolation and loneliness. As a multi-site pastor, I meet with the other pastors of The Rescue Church at least twice every week. In these meetings we are able to encourage and pray for one another as we strive to be faithful pastors in our congregations.

2. The ability to reach more people.
Statistically, new churches/campuses reach more non-Christians than established churches (Enrichment Journal). A very high percentage of those in the Garretson Campus are people who recently committed their lives to Jesus. It has been incredible to see the different lives God has impacted through our ministry.

One of the best ways to reach lost people is through church planting. Being part of a multi-site church allows you to plant new campuses of an existing church. This greatly increases the effectiveness and fruitfulness of the campus since it is already part of a healthy church structure.

3. The opportunity to truly shepherd people.
As a campus pastor, I am paid a very part-time salary from the church. The majority of rural churches are not able to provide a pastor with a full-time salary. Since I am not the primary teaching pastor, I am able to devote the majority of my time to actually being a shepherd. I can use my time to be involved in the community, disciple new believers, evangelize the lost, and fulfill my ministry in a multitude of ways outside of the church office!

4. Growing larger by growing smaller.
A multi-site church allows you to have the benefits of a larger church with the close community of a small church. Many people, especially in rural communities, prefer the feel of a smaller church over a very large church. Both have advantages and disadvantages but multi-site allows you to capitalize on the benefits of a large church while retaining the community of a small church.

5. Intentional leadership development.
Unfortunately, leadership development is something that is lacking in many churches. Since multi-site churches are focused on launching new campuses on a regular basis, they are forced to develop leaders. At The Rescue Church, we are intentionally looking for people to develop into qualified and competent leaders. This means raising up young people and shaping them to lead churches!


Have you ever attended or worked in a multi-site church? What are some of the advantages you have experienced? Let me know by leaving a comment!

Three Vices of Ministry

Scripture

Ministry is exhausting yet rewarding; brutal yet satisfying; ugly yet beautiful.

Virtually every believer in Jesus Christ would agree with that statement. There is a false belief that one becomes a minister when he/she receives a spiritual title and job description. Contrary to this belief, Scripture teaches that all Christians are called to be ministers and priests – some have the privilege of working in paid ministry; others have the honor of doing ministry without a specific salary.

I believe there are many temptations in ministry; vocational ministry has specific vices that have historically plague the evangelical church. Below are three things that I have learned since I began vocational ministry. I am a Campus Pastor for The Rescue Church and have been responsible for launching The Rescue Church in Garretson, SD.


 

  1. Do NOT neglect your walk with Jesus for ministry.

This is arguably one of the largest temptations of vocational ministry. The vast majority of pastors do not read their Bible or pray outside of a church context. They spend hours studying Scripture in order to form a teaching and yet spend no time getting to know the author of the very Scriptures they are reading. Sadly, it is extremely easy to follow in the footsteps of the religious leaders in Jesus’ day – “You search the Scriptures because you think they give you eternal life. But the Scriptures point to me!” (John 5:39)

If you are in a paid ministry position or are pursuing a specific calling, do NOT neglect personal time with Jesus. It is one thing to know the history, context, grammar, and language of the Bible. It is a much more satisfying experience to know the God who inspired the biblical text.

 

  1. Do NOT find your identity in ministry.

This was one of the biggest struggles I had when I began to work vocationally for The Rescue Church. Anytime that a person sets off to plant a church in a new community, discouragement and doubt will plague his/her mind. In the community that we are planting the church, there was a church plant before us that failed. Especially in the beginning months of planting the campus, I wrestled with thoughts of failure. Every pastor, whether they admit it or not, battle against these same thoughts.

We need to remember that our identity is not found in what we do, it is found in what Jesus has already done. Pastor, regardless of whether you fail or succeed, Jesus is still Lord and Savior. God has not called you to be a mega-church pastor; he has called you to be faithful. Everything that you need to go to the next level in your life and ministry, God has ALREADY provided. Be a faithful steward with what He has given you.

Do not let success or apparent failure drive you to narcissism or depression. Worship Jesus not your ministry.

 

  1. Do NOT sacrifice your family to ministry.

This is perhaps one of the biggest issues that pastors struggle with. In ancient times, people would sacrifice their children to false gods. Many pastors who are in vocational ministry are sacrificing their children and wives to the false god of ministry. Before you enter into vocational ministry, PLEASE identify your priorities. I am a husband before I am a pastor. The needs of my wife come before the needs of the church.

No pastor would say he is trying to sacrifice his family to ministry and yet it happens all the time. If you are a pastor, on behalf of your family, I urge you to examine your life. If you are gone every day and evening in order to be a “successful” pastor you may succeed in growing your church but you will fail in being a husband and father.

I promise you that your church can have a multitude of different pastors; your wife only gets one husband and your kids only get one father. Be willing to give up your job in vocational ministry if it means saving your marriage and family.

 

 


 

If you were to come up with a list of temptations in ministry, what would you place as the top three? Do you agree with me? Disagree with me? Feel free to leave a comment and let me know what you think!