The Death of Pastoral Ministry


The majority of those who embark on the journey of pastoral ministry will end up being a statistic of burnout, depression, exhaustion, and bitterness. On average, seminary-trained pastors will last less than five years in pastoral ministry.

This is a problem. Our current philosophy of ministry is killing the pastoral office.

As many of you know, I have begun the journey of attaining my Doctor of Ministry through Sioux Falls Seminary and I am hoping to address this problem. A few years ago I was on the verge of becoming another statistic; I was becoming pessimistic about ministry and drinking the poison of bitterness. It was during this painful season that a mentor of mine invited me on a 3-day retreat to a Benedictine Monastery known as St. John’s Abbey in Collegeville, Minnesota.

As a good, nondenominational pastor, I was not a fan of liturgy or the Roman Catholic Church. I assumed that liturgy (i.e. written prayers) were inauthentic and aligned with the babbling Jesus warned against in the Lord’s Prayer. Regarding the Roman Catholic Church, I followed the lead of Martin Luther and assumed the Pope was the Anti-Christ and the Roman Catholic Church was the Babylon spoken about in the Book of Revelation.

Nevertheless, I was desperate.

Desperate for a spirituality that was deeper than a surface reading of a text with vague applications.

Desperate for way of measuring success that went deeper than attendance and budget numbers.

Desperate to truly experience the ancient God of the Bible rather than the false american god many of us worship in our churches.

Desperate to align my ministry with the trusted traditions of the church rather than sleek business models that propagate the false gospel of marketing and excellence.

With the Psalmist, I realized my soul was panting for God like a deer pants for streams of water (Psalm 42:1). The wells of evangelicalism and popular church culture had run dry. I was discouraged by attendance numbers, giving statistics, and my lack of “success” as defined by modern evangelicalism.

That 3-day retreat was a turning point in my faith and leadership. I participated in the Daily Office with the monks – gathering throughout the day to chant the Psalms and listen intently to the reading of Scripture. I began to read a small book placed in the guest room called “The Rule of St. Benedict.” This is an ancient monastic rule written by Benedict of Nursia in the 6th century.

It is no exaggeration to say that the Holy Spirit used this ancient monastic rule to save my ministry and renew my resolve to remain faithful as a husband, dad, and pastor. I will be spending the next 3 to 4 years studying and applying this Rule to the lives of other pastors with the hope that the Holy Spirit will breathe renewal into their lives and ministries.

This is the first post in a series – stay tuned for more discussion on the Rule of St. Benedict, my story, and how I believe this ancient rule offers a philosophy of ministry that is able to bring greater healing and depth into the ministry of pastors in small churches. 

Forged in Fire: Suffering & Christianity


I’m not a big fan of television. I don’t have moral reasons against it, I just find it horribly boring most of the time. There are two shows that I will watch when they are on: The Walking Dead (of course) and Forged in Fire.

Forged in Fire is a contest show that awards money to the person who has forged the strongest blade. Many people view bladesmiths as an ancient career of the past but these men & women are beyond impressive with their craft! The finalists are given the task of re-creating a famous weapon from history. Each of them returns to their workshops, labors over the intricate details of their blades, and then returns to the show to have the blade tested.

Each person’s blade appears beautiful and well-crafted. The blades are tested through a series of stress tests. Each test is intense and has the power to shatter the blade and expose the blades imperfections. Every blade looks beautiful until it is under the scrutiny of pressure.

Might I suggest this is a perfect illustration of the Christian faith?

Peter, one of the leaders in the early church, describes the Christian faith this way:
You rejoice in this, even though now for a short time, if necessary, you suffer grief in various trials so that the proven character of your faith—more valuable than gold which, though perishable, is refined by fire—may result in praise, glory, and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. (1 Peter 1:6-7) 

Suffering, trials, and conflict reveal the true condition of our faith. If we are not deeply rooted in the Scriptures, committed to authentic community, and living by the power of the Holy Spirit we will not be able to endure these “stress tests.”

Are you going through a trial right now? What are you learning from God as a result? Let me know by leaving a comment, I’d love to hear from you! 

Three Myths about Ministry


I have just finished a tremendous book on pastoral ministry called “The Pastor’s Justification” by Jared Wilson. Over the next few weeks I will reflect on the ways this book has challenged my view of ministry and leadership.

Wilson has put into words ideas which have burned strongly in my mind for the past few years.

“Books and podcasts and conferences from the leadership cult bid us to believe that pastoral ministry is a technology, that our churches are businesses, and that our flocks are customers.” – Jared Wilson

Let’s break down the three failures of the “leadership cult” mentioned by Wilson in the quote above.

1. Pastoral ministry is NOT a technology!
Granted, many of the “creative” leaders who emphasize secrets to growth would not claim ministry is a technology. Nevertheless, their practical theology is evident in their strategies for success. These leaders boldly proclaim that God wants all churches to grow… the problem (they claim) is we have not discovered the secret to breaking through the next “growth barrier.”

There is not a magic formula that can cause churches to grow. Sure healthy things DO grow… but so does cancer!

Pastors – labor faithfully, pray fervently, minister lovingly – but trust the growth of your church (numerical & spiritual) into the hands of God. He alone gives the growth (1 Cor. 3:7).

2. The Church is NOT a business!
Is there a business aspect to a church? Definitely. My undergraduate degree is business administration. I believe pastors would be greatly helped through a better understanding of the business side of the church. That being said, the church is NOT a business!

Successful business are led by CEOs that often domineer over those in their charge. The Church should be led by self-denying and sacrificial leaders modeling their leadership on the Great Shepherd – Jesus himself. The Kingdom of God does not emphasize CEO-style leadership… rather it is a call to die daily for the good of others. It is the responsibility of every pastor to become the servant of those under his care.

3. The flock are NOT customers!
Many church growth gurus emphasize studying our communities and then offering a product that meets a felt-need. Here’s the problem – the Scriptures teach that all outside of Christ are spiritually dead (Ephesians 2:1).

Let’s be real – it would be a little insane to go to a cemetery and take a poll to determine what the rotting corpses would enjoy for entertainment!

If we seek to serve felt-needs we will subvert the Gospel by elevating attractional models of ministry over the blood-splattered Messiah. The Gospel itself is INCREDIBLY offensive. The cross of Jesus implies the following about everyone on earth:
— We are wicked beyond imagination.
— We are unable to respond to God in our own power.
— We are not special; matter of fact, we are objects of God’s wrath.
— The Son of God was brutally murdered because of us.

Even if you are not in formal leadership in a church, I highly encourage you to spend some time praying through 1 Corinthians 1:18-25. Pay attention to the paradoxical nature of the cross. 

What are some other “ministry myths” you would add to this list? Let me know by leaving a comment!

Sue Jensen had this to share in the comments and it was TOO good for me not place on the main post!
“I know we call a lot of people volunteers at our church but I think the belief that the church is a volunteer organization is a myth. As volunteers, people believe they can do as little as possible and say they are part of the church. However, the attitude in scripture calls us to be soldiers and servants and we should take our roles in ministry seriously.”

The Great Invitation (Message)

Here is a message I recently preached about the Samaritan woman Jesus encounters at the well. I pray that it encourages you in your faith and helps you understand just how much God loves you!

(If you are reading this in your e-mail you may have to go to the actual page to watch the message)

I preach most weeks at the Garretson Campus of The Rescue Church. If you are ever in the area, I’d love for you to join us!

How to Not FAIL At Setting Goals!


#GOALS (Click to Open!)

It’s a new year and many of us are determined to improve our lives. We set goals for our finances, health, spiritual life, family, and many other areas. The problem is only 8% of people actually accomplish the goals they set!

In this message, I share some practical steps on how to set goals that accomplish two purposes: God’s glory & the good of others.

I hope this message challenges you to take Jesus seriously in every area of your life!

Clergy Aren’t Respected Anymore… Is That Good?


Those who hold the title of clergy have been experiencing a fall from popular culture. The image of a pastor has transformed from a caring individual, dedicated to bringing hope and restoration into a community to a televangelist bent on stealing money from the poor through the prosperity gospel.

This seems like a new phenomenon.

It’s really not.

This utter lack of respect for clergy began in the early 19th century. Nathan O. Hatch mentions this time of transformation by quoting from the 3rd Epistle of Peter… at least that’s what it was called. Alexander Campbell mocked professional clergy with this fake letter. In it, “Peter” instructs ministers to “live well, wear the best clothes, adorn themselves with high-sounding titles, drink costly wine, and fleece the people.”

This destructive seed which was planted in the 19th century is now coming to full bloom in the 21st century. As a member of the so-called clergy, we can respond to this in two ways.

One way is to get angry. I mean REALLY angry. This is how many of the pastors in the 19th century responded.

This doesn’t work.

Pastor, you do realize that we serve a crucified Savior right?

Have you forgot Matthew 10:25?
“It is enough for the disciple to be like his teacher, and the servant like his master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul (or Satan), how much more will they malign those of his household.”

The Gospel will be administered under the shadow of the cross. Ministry is not a call to respectability but to death. The Apostles themselves were treated as the scum of the earth, why should YOU be treated any better? This leaves us with the second option…

Pastor, “Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us…” What if instead of getting mad at those who accuse us of fleecing the sheep, we laid down our lives (and time) sacrificially for those who malign us? What if, instead of bemoaning the lack of respectability for clergy, we loved the very people that hate us?

The ministry is one of crucifixion.

You will receive a crown… but not from the culture.

You will experience resurrection… but not from those who don’t know God.

The rewards you will get for faithfully fulfilling the ministry God has given you far outweigh every negative word, unfair rumor, and false accusation you will ever experience.

Pastor, keep your eyes on Jesus… He is the pioneer and perfecter of our faith. He is the Prince of Peace. He is the Chief Shepherd – minister from HIS strength and power – not your own.

On My Grind (NEW SONG!)


Do I still make music? Yup! (If you are reading this in your e-mail, you will need to go to the actual site to hear the song)

Verse 1
I’m grinding, do you know what that means?
You can find me in the studio killing a beat
I dare you to find a rapper that’s iller than me
Cuz I got passion I’m smashing everything that I see
It’s what happens when I snap and attack when I breathe
You thought that you’d laugh cuz I’m a Christian emcee
Expected me to be corny cuz I live for the King
Well you can find me recording and I’ll give what I bleed!
I don’t think you understand
You see impossibilities I see a plan
You ain’t feeling me that’s okay cuz I can’t
Be someone wearing a mask so Imma tear up a track
I ain’t scared of your laugh, so bring your best insults
I will succeed because I see that it’s all mental
And I know a King that I believe will never let go
So Imma breathe while I bleed through this pencil

Cuz I’m on my grind
Yeah tell ’em that I’m on my grind
Got a couple jobs go to school full time
And I still kill a rhyme

Cuz I’m on my grind
Yeah, yeah I’m on my grind
Cuz I’m on my grind
You can tell that I go overtime, I grind!

Verse 2
I remember sitting inside of a basement
I was a pre-teen using words to paint this
Bumping Eminem wishing I could replace him
To be the next rapper that’s after the same sin
I studied rhyme schemes while you were on play station
Hours on the web so I could set I how I say things
I learned how to rap from the net, yeah it’s amazing
Now you know I’m back as a vet and I’m gonna break in
Half the rappers in the local scene
Can’t use a multisyllable to hold a beat
I really flow it so complete
But when I do it they get to booing I know the beast
When I mention Jesus they don’t hold the peace
If I kept Him out of it I guarantee you’d roll with me
But that won’t happen I’m laughing at all these cold Gs
While these rappers smoke weed I’m grinding ’till you know me

Cuz I’m on my grind
Yeah tell ’em that I’m on my grind
Got a couple jobs go to school full time
And I still kill a rhyme

Cuz I’m on my grind
Yeah, yeah I’m on my grind
Cuz I’m on my grind
You can tell that I go overtime, I grind!

Verse 3
Yeah, this is what I do
Got a full time job and I’m going to school
But I stay on my grind so I’m showing the truth
I still kill a rhyme when I flow in the booth

I grind…

It’s something you ain’t ever seen
I’m aggressive with a message when I wreck the beat
I had depression but I left it with a melody
So music is my medicine step in if I pretend to be
Someone that I’m not, I’m my own worse enemy
A workaholic at times without a remedy
But when I yell it in rhyme my God will tend to me
Or else the penalty is for me to burn mentally
I’m working harder than the rest, wait let me see
It’s not me working but the grace inside of me
So till I RIP, I’m gonna try to be
Bearing fruit for the glory of my only King

Cuz I’m on my grind
Yeah tell ’em that I’m on my grind
Got a couple jobs go to school full time
And I still kill a rhyme

Cuz I’m on my grind
Yeah, yeah I’m on my grind
Cuz I’m on my grind
You can tell that I go overtime, I grind!

Why all the denominations?


People are often puzzled by the incredible amount of denominations in Christianity – especially in the United States. Many of these denominations began in the 1800s as people began to apply the principles of democracy and personal freedom to religion. As people exercised what they believed to be God-given reason and logic, it fostered a movement full of schisms.

According to Nathan Hatch in his book “The Democratization of American Christianity“, one of the primary reasons this happened is, “They denied the age-old distinction that set the clergy apart as a separate order of men, and they refused to defer to learned theologians and traditional orthodoxies.”

It this a positive or negative concept?

My answer is YES!

1. The concept of denying the distinction between clergy and lay-people is extremely positive.
As the church became institutionalized around the time of Constantine, Christianity became powerful. It was recognized as an official religion and Constantine devoted a vast amount of wealth to create buildings and memorials to the faith.

This also encouraged Christians to pattern their churches after the Roman government. Rather than being led by servants following in the example of Christ, the church was led by powerful leaders intent on exercising militant-like authority towards those in their charge.

Eventually the Scriptures were chained to the pulpit and the “common people” had to rely on the priests to mediate the Word of God. This resulted in spiritual abuse, domineering leadership, and the twisting of Scripture. Thankfully the many reformations led by men such as Luther, Calvin, Erasmus, Zwingli and others brought the Scriptures to common people.

Nevertheless, there was still a distinct class difference between clergy and lay-people. The Scriptures teach that it is the job of the pastors and spiritual leaders in the church to equip the people for the ministry (Eph. 4:12). In other words, the model that the “paid professionals” do the work of the ministry while everyone else sits in a pew and critiques the work is deeply flawed and began to meet its demise in the belief that there was no distinction between clergy and laity.

2. The refusal to defer to learned theologians and traditional orthodoxies was negative and fostered heretical movements.
These first American Christians practiced what C.S. Lewis called “intellectual snobbery.” They believed that their own reason and logic trumped the labor put in by faithful followers of Jesus throughout the centuries. Through such statements as “No Creed but the Bible” the people were ironically led into heretical movements such as Mormonism!

The irony is that there are numerous creeds in the Bible itself!

When Christians, especially Christian pastors, refuse to study church history they are exercising arrogance. In pride they believe that their conclusions, arrived at through searching Google, are more sound than the hours of labor put in by faithful saints throughout the ages. As Christians, we desperately need to understand and defend sound doctrine against those who have shipwrecked their faith by listening to the teaching of demons (1 Timothy 4:1).

This means we need to enter into conversation with Christians of other centuries through carefully reading ancient texts and Christian classics. These writings have stood the test of time for a reason – they have something substantial to say which still applies to the 21st century!

Have you ever studied Christianity in the early United States? What are some concepts you noticed which have shaped our understanding of religion today? 

The Truth Will Make You… Odd?


I have recently finished reading a few excellent and thought-provoking short stories by Flannery O’Connor. O’Connor lived from 1925 – 1964. Her writing attacked the popular ideas of racism held in honor by many in the United States (especially in the south).

The following reflections come from her story “Why Do The Heathen Rage.” Rather than summarizing the story, below is one big idea that stuck out to me:

Truth will make you odd!

One of the characters in the book, Walter, is not supportive of racism. Instead, he immerses himself in classic Christian literature and finds comfort in the wrath of God which will be revealed against the wickedness and evil of this world. This causes him to be disrespected and even hated by members of his own family. Rather than exercising “polite” racism – as many in the south did at this time – he bucks against the system and comes across as awkward and strange.

This is true for our lives as well.

“In fact, all those who want to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” – 2 Timothy 3:12

If you desire to lead a life which honors God and loves people, you will appear strange in at least three ways!

1. You won’t fit in with family.
Jesus has a tendency to divide people (Luke 12:51). As soon as you begin to take Jesus seriously, other people will be offended. You can be as gentle as possible about your faith and people will still get mad.

Your family will not understand your new priorities.

  • Rather than participating in the rat race of the American dream, you begin to practice generosity which doesn’t make sense.
  • Instead of joining in the family gossip, you intentionally speak life about others – even people your family doesn’t like.
  • Instead of sleeping in on Sundays and splurging your free time on self-gratification, you will spend hours in fellowship with other believers and service to your community.

In essence, you will be weird… even to your family!

2. You won’t fit in with culture.
Every culture has gods which demand worship. It is easy for us to observe this in the pagan world. We see pictures of shrines splashed in blood and are appalled that a people can sacrifice animals to appease the spirits.

As you take Jesus seriously, you will begin to understand that your own culture has a plethora of gods which demand worship.

In the United States, you will be called to worship:
Sport teams
Financial security
Personal comfort
Celebrities (including “celebrity pastors”)
…and a variety of other gods we sacrifice our time, family, and talents to.

As you begin to buck against this cultural standard, the culture will find you odd!

3. You won’t fit in with religious people. 
Many churches are content with people who claim to know Jesus because their family grew up in the church basement doing potlucks. As long as you check religion off your list every Sunday morning and attend the monthly business meeting, you are basically a saint.

Unfortunately, if you begin to take Jesus seriously the church is sometimes the last place you will find him. Many churches are obsessed with keeping the status quo and preserving the 1950s to the best of their ability. These churches do not foster outreach-focused, self-sacrificing, sin-killing, radical followers of Jesus.

As soon as you rip off the facade of cold religion for the Living God, you will be rejected by churches condemned to dead orthodoxy… and grandma might be mad you don’t attend the “family church” anymore (sorry… but it’s true).

What are some ways the truth has made YOU odd? Let me know by leaving a comment!

It Takes ALL Kinds of Churches…


This post is the first of a series posts of my reflections on the Small Town, Big Church Roundtable event I attended at The Rescue Church.

This past Wednesday, I had an incredible opportunity to connect with other pastors and leaders in small churches. This was both encouraging and challenging. One of the ways I was deeply refreshed by this roundtable was the variety of denominations and churches represented. Rather than hurling rocks at each others’ churches through jealousy and bitterness, we joined together as brothers and sisters in Christ united by the Gospel.

Leading a small church can be incredibly lonely. If you do not guard your heart, the toxic effects of discouragement and disillusionment will rob you of your joy and shipwreck your ministry. On top of this, many pastors struggle with forming friendships with other churches in their area due to minor arguments.

This reminds me of what Paul instructed the immature church in Corinth:
“For it has been reported to me about you, my brothers, by members of Chloe’s household, that there is rivalry among you. What I am saying is this: Each of you says, ‘I’m with Paul,’ or ‘I’m with Apollos,’ or “I’m with Cephas,’ or ‘I’m with Christ.’ Is Christ divided? Was it Paul who was crucified for you? Or were you baptized in Paul’s name?” – 1 Corinthians 1:11-13

Conflict and rivalry infiltrates our churches through secondary matters. Often when small church pastors begin to build a community with leaders from other denominations, their hope for friendship is crushed against a brick wall of secondary issues.

Let’s keep the main thing the main thing. Let’s set our eyes upon Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith. Let’s celebrate the Gospel and the beauty of God revealed in and through the person of Jesus Christ. Let’s stand side-by-side, laboring together to advance God’s message of love into the brokenness and darkness of our communities.

In essence, it takes all kinds of churches to reach all kinds of people. We are on the same team!!

Have you ever experienced the pain of churches attacking each other over secondary matters? Why do YOU think this happens? Let me know by leaving a comment!