got-balance1

The past two years I have been trying to balance a full-time job, part-time ministry position, and a full time doctoral program!  It has been a lot to balance and I have not always done it very well.

When you are juggling that many responsibilities there is always something that gets dropped and for me that has been my personal health. Since starting the doctoral program I have gained 30 pounds! That is the freshman fifteen each year! Something needed to change. It was becoming hard to do the things that I needed to do, much less the things I wanted to do.

Leader, if you aren’t taking care of yourself, you can’t continue to lead at the level needed to help your team be successful. You certainly can’t lead a team to be healthy if you are living an unhealthy lifestyle. The healthier you are – physically, emotionally, spiritually, and relationally – the more health you can bring to the team.

I have been intentional about my health the past four months and have lost those 30 pounds! More important, I am now careful to keep the scales more balanced. Work, ministry, school, and health are all important. Each may get a little more attention for a few days, but I do not not let any one or two areas take over my schedule anymore.

Now it is your turn. Be honest.

What is one thing you would need to change in order to live a more balanced life?

Women in Ministry – Part 1

WM leading series

In my role as leadership consultant with the Dallas Baptist Association I have an opportunity to speak with women from different size churches that hold positions of volunteer, ministry leader, or staff. These women are very different in many ways, but they share one thing in common. Each has asked me why there is a controversy about women leading in the church! So, what do I tell them?

Turning to the Bible I show them examples of women leading in spite of a culture that would tell them it was not allowed. When Jesus was conducting his ministry women were not allowed to speak to men in public. Women were considered unreliable and could not testify in court. They were not allowed to be taught by the Rabbi and were kept behind a partition in the synagogue. Women were seldom seen or heard. That does not sound like an environment where women might excel, especially as leaders.

However, Jesus encouraged worshipful women even when religious leaders disagreed (Luke 7:36-48). Jesus brought a woman into the men’s area of the temple even though it was considered inappropriate (Luke 13:10-17). Jesus welcomed Mary of Bethany to sit at his feet to learn (Luke 10:38-42). Most revealing of how Jesus viewed women was that he first revealed his true identity, that he was the Messiah, to a woman (John 4:26). Did you know Jesus’ longest recorded conversation was with a woman (John 4:5-27) and he entrusted the most important message to all humankind to a woman – that he had risen from the dead and then he told her to go and tell (John 20:11-18).

Sharon Jaynes has a phrase I love. “Jesus took the fearful and forgotten and transformed them into the faithful and forever remembered.” He not only accepted women as they were, but he challenged them to do more, to be more, than they had thought possible.

Closing the Bible, I then tell these beautiful women of God to grow in knowledge and strength. To prepare themselves for whatever mission the Lord has prepared for them. Church leadership is not defined by a building or position. Women have no shortage of places to lead when they accept that they are both fully capable of spiritual leadership and have been called to that place of service.

When to Say No to Leadership

leadershiptalk

“The art of leadership is saying no, not yes. It is very easy to say yes.” – Tony Blair

During the past few weeks I’ve been asked to accept leadership positions in various ministries that would be challenging and to be honest fun! I would love to help these groups, but is saying yes the right thing to do? In my experience, I have seen over and over again how critical the ability to say “no” is to the effectiveness and impact on ministry. The people that strategically selected and tightly focused their activities will invariably be more successful at achieving their goals than those that do not.

Leadership is about focusing on the mission God has given you as a leader. In achieving focus, leadership is implicitly saying no to all the other things, often good things, that might be calling for attention at the same time.

Ron Edmonson has listed seven reasons leaders should learn to say no:

  1. Saying no is the power to help resist temptation…
  2. Saying no keeps you from the stress of overcommitting…
  3. Saying no protects family life…
  4. Saying no provides adequate time for what matters most…
  5. Saying no preserves energy levels for prioritized work…
  6. Saying no allows others opportunities they wouldn’t have if you always say yes…
  7. Saying no permits you to control your schedule for an ultimate good…

Leaders must be disciplined, however women tend to have an especially hard time saying “no.” Some are so eager to please that they won’t turn anyone down. Others are so concerned about inclusiveness that they’re reluctant to leave anyone or anything out. Still others are averse to conflict, so when there’s disagreement about what the priorities should be, they try to find a way of making everything fit. When leaders fail to say “no,” ministries can no longer do anything really well. By diffusing resources instead of concentrating them on a well-defined area of focus, these leaders limit their effectiveness.

Leaders will know that they have reached a new stage of maturity when they turn down an almost irresistible opportunity because it would have diverted resources from their most important goals. Saying no isn’t easy, but it is often the right thing to do.

If and But

Priorities

I was talking with a friend the other day, lamenting about my life situation, and her response was “If  ifs and buts were candy and nuts then we all would have a good Christmas.”  I laughed at the line, but I understood the point she was making.

I am notorious for saying “IF I can just get past  this (event/meeting/project), then I can do all these other things I want to do.” My other favorite line is “I would have done (fill in blank) BUT this other thing needs to be done.”  I’ve lost the balance of work and play, but it’s hard to make it all work, right?  So, I tucked this little saying into my back pocket and went on with life as usual.

Then a group of friends went out to lunch and we are all talking about schedules, priorities, and how hard it is to get things done.  I could hear the candy and nuts being tossed out by each of us.  Perhaps there is more to this than I had thought.

Priorities.  How do we make them and how do we keep them? 

There is no set answer for which specific thing is a priority since they will change as our life situation changes, but the principles remain constant.  Jesus made it very clear throughout His ministry what His priorities were and how each of us should follow His example. He taught, “‘You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets” (Matt. 22:37-40). The first commandment addressed the vertical relationship between man and God. The second commandment addressed the horizontal relationship with other people. All of your priorities will fall into these two basic categories.

I did a quick search for Christian priorities and this is a summary of what I found:

1. Love the Lord through disciplined obedience in all matters of prayer, worship, and daily walk.
2. Respect your spouse, loving them above all others.
3. Cherish your children and spend time with them. Teach them to follow the Lord.
4. Service through the local church to include community outreach.
5. Employment so you are not a burden to others.
6. Friends to share life with and to help encourage each other in difficult times.

Let’s walk through them and see how I do:

1. Love the Lord.  OK, I’ve got that one down pretty well.  Oh, the rest of the line too?  Hum, “through disciplined obedience in all matters.”  OK, maybe I could use a little work on some things.

2. Respect and love your spouse. Ha!  I don’t have one so I don’t have to do that!  Wait, this means potential spouse too?  I need to think about my actions today because they will affect relationships that come in my future.

3. Cherish my children.  Since I do not have children I need to make sure the environment around me is inviting and supporting of other children in my family.  In some cases, I may be the only light of Christ they experience.

4. Service through my church.  I do support the local church through the Dallas Baptist Association and I also serve my church. Sometimes, volunteering or serving the church can be consuming of all my time.  Serving the church should not be a priority over your relationships with God or your family.  If we have a disciplined life we will also have a balanced life.

5. Employment.  I have a job, in fact, I work for myself!  This has allowed great flexibility in my schedule, but I sometimes abuse that freedom.  How we handle our business affairs reflects on our walk with the Lord.

6. To get a friend you must be a friend. Do I really love others as I love myself?  Am I willing to make others a priority?

Do you see a trend?  I see discipline and balance are the arching theme for all the priorities.  If I keep the first priority in it’s right place then the others seem to fall into their correct place.  A balanced life will result in the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.  If I see the fruit multiply then I know I am on the right track!

If and but will probably always be a challenge for me.  Hopefully, by recognizing the things I need to balance I can do better at setting the right priorities!

Inner Circle

friendships

A friend loves at all times… (Proverbs 17:17)

Having healthy, solid relationships is one of the most important aspects of health. It affects every aspect of a person’s well-being: spiritual, emotional, and even physical. The people you choose to spend the most time with are the people you are going to become most like. We pick up the character qualities of our closest friends and if their habits, character traits, and thought processes are destructive, then ours will be as well. This has been proven time and time again.

To illustrate this, try pulling one of your friends up a flight of stairs. It is quite a difficult task! Now, try to pull them down the stairs. It does not matter their weight or how much they resist – it is much simpler to pull someone down than to pull them up. This is not only true according to the law of gravity; it is true in friendships as well.

If your friends are always bringing you down emotionally, or if they practice unhealthy or destructive habits, or even if they are just not striving to do the things God has called them to do, and you are trying to live a spiritually healthy life, then you are going to have a hard time doing so.

If you consistently spend your time with people who are pulling you down then you are going to be emotionally, spiritually, mentally, and probably even physically exhausted. Eventually you will end up being pulled down the stairs-and the fall might be a very painful experience.How do we keep from experiencing such falls? How do we make sure to make friends that join us in climbing and reaching for bigger, better, and higher goals.

Carefully choose your closest friends.  Your inner circle of friends should be very small-Jesus had three in His inner circle. These are the people who are going to pour into your life the most. The inner circle is the most important to fill with the right people, and it is also the most difficult. Be very cautious with who you let into your inner circle. They will influence you and determine the direction of your life.

How to choose your inner circle of friends? Choose people that will help you grow in your relationship with Christ and to fulfill the calling God has placed on your life. We need our inner circle friends to encourage and build us up. Whether they are criticizing us or praising us, it has to be for the purpose of edifying and helping us grow.

Think about your circle of friends.  Are they building you up or pulling you down? 

FerVent by Priscilla Shirer

ferventThis Means War … is the opening line to FerVent by Priscilla Shirer and through the next 183 pages a battle plan for serious, specific, and strategic prayer is laid out for the reader.

Priscilla Shirer is known for her straightforward presentation of the Gospel message and FerVent continues that tradition. When you begin to read the text you are quickly drawn in through her use of storytelling and imagery. Personal examples punctuate each chapter to help you understand war with the spiritual realm is real.

“Whenever your passion in prayer is weak or missing, realize instead that it is God’s work both to give it and then to fan it into flames inside you.”

Each chapter focuses on a specific strategy including your passion, focus, identity, family, past, fears, purity, pressures, hurts, and relationships. Using Scripture to support each topic the author describes how the real enemy is not ourselves, our family, the church or the community. Satin is the enemy and prayer is our greatest weapon to defeat him. There is a call to prayer following each strategy with prayer cards provided to take the lessons learned and to immediately apply them to your life.

FerVent: A Woman’s Battle Plan for Serious, Specific, and Strategic Prayer is a dynamic addition to Priscilla’s Shirer’s publications. Although it is loosely based on the movie War Room, it stands independent of the movie and would be of benefit to anyone. I highly recommend this book to be used for both individual and group study.

“So while I know this is a battle – I know it’s a daily fight – expect your fervency to lead you to a place of rest. Because God is the One who’s fighting for you. And He will surely prevail.”

FerVent by Priscilla Shirer is available from LifeWay and other book retailers.

Order Fervent from LifeWay today!

Decoder Ring Not Required

ImageI was talking with a friend and he told me the term “women in ministry” was really code for “putting women in the pulpit”!  What?  I have never heard of such a thing.  If a woman is a Christian then she is in ministry!  This is not the time or place to argue if the egalitarian or the complementarian view is correct.  However, when a respected male leader makes such a comment some reply is warranted.

Scripture gives us many examples of women serving in ministry.  It was the women who stuck by Jesus as He died on the cross. It was the women who discovered that Jesus rose from the dead and told the disciples, and it was the women who faithfully served in the early church in partnership with the apostles and elders. The early church was radical in that it encouraged women to learn about theology and Jesus, encouraged them to serve and help build the church, and deemed women as equal image bearers of God, with distinct roles.  Where would we be without a Lydia or Lottie Moon?

Ministry to women is dynamic!  It may include worship, evangelism, missions, discipleship, or fellowship.  No matter what form it takes the purpose is always to find ways to make disciples who make disciples (Matthew 28:19-20).

When we say we want to support women in ministry you don’t need a secret decoder ring to understand what we mean.  Embrace the women in your congregations and empower them to share the Gospel, to minister to the needs of others, and to gather together in the fellowship of believers.  Women in ministry – it’s a good thing!