New Year = New Opportunities

missional Another year has come and gone.  In less than twelve hours, we will celebrate the end of another year and look forward with great anticipation to what the new year will hold.  For me personally, this past year has been one of great ups and downs but as it has drawn to a close I have a renewed sense of purpose and direction.  My challenge to you today is to think of how you will go on mission with God in 2013.  I have never been much for setting New Year’s resolutions, but over the past year I have been reminded about how precious every minute of our lives are.  How will use the time that God has given you to make an impact on the Kingdom of God?  Let me suggest a few areas where you may want to set some goals for this coming year:

1.) Bible Reading– we don’t spent nearly enough time reading our Bibles as we should.  I would strongly recommend a helpful Bible reading plan, such as “The Bible Eater” plan from the Gospel Coalition or one of the many daily Bible reading plans on YouVersion.

2.) Prayer– our spiritual growth and effectiveness in ministry is directly related to the quality of our prayer lives.  This is the missing element in the lives of most Christians.  Commit yourself to a plan to increase the amount of time that you spend in prayer.  Here is a helpful message from Desiring God entitled “Helping Your People Discover the Praying Life.”   Another helpful resource to improve your prayer life is Paul Miller’s book entitled “A Praying Life”  Click on the image to learn more about this book.

Praying life

3.) Ministry involvement– how will you get involved in your local church ministry this year.  Being a Christian is not a spectator sport, get involved in the ministry of the local church and you will be surprised at the amount of growth that will occur in your spiritual life.

4.) Missions Activity- find a local or foreign missions project through your local church and sign up to go.  A few weeks ago our church sent nearly 80 people to Nashville to work with a “The Bridge Ministry” and I have heard numerous stories about the impact that this simple act of service has produced in the lives of our people.

5.) Family– The greatest mission that you have is to impact the lives of your family members for eternity.  No matter what you do this year, don’t neglect the spiritual health and well-being of your family.

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Preventing Ministry Meltdown

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Over the past couple of days I have been sharing with you about the “Anatomy of a Ministry Meltdown” and “Recovering from a Ministry Meltdown.”  In those posts, I shared the story of my own meltdown and the steps that I’ve taken over the past year to recover.  I’ve been amazed by the number of Pastors over the past year who have shared with me their own stories of the struggles involved in ministry.  According to a New York Times article entitled “Taking A Break from the Lord’s Workan unprecedented number of Pastors report being unhappy.  In an article on the 9 Marks website, Thabiti Anyabwile cites the following alarming statistics about Pastors:

50% feel unable to meet the demands of the job.

70% feel grossly underpaid

90% feel inadequately trained to cope with the ministry demands

70% constantly fight depression

50% feel so discouraged they would leave the ministry if they could.

80% believe the ministry has negatively affected their families.

70% do not have someone they consider a close friend

40% report serious conflict with a parishioner at least once a month

Over 1700 pastors left the ministry every month last year.

Over 1300 pastors were terminated by the local church last year

Those are alarming statistics and it is time that the church as a whole wakes up to the issues.  Last year, when I had my meltdown I thought that I was the only minister who had ever gone through that kind of experience.  What I have learned over the past year is that I am far from being alone and a lot of other Pastors are on the verge of having a similar thing happen to them.  This morning I want to talk about steps that every Pastor should take in order to avoid having this kind of meltdown in the first place.

1.) Remember Who Called You and What He Called You To Do– One of my early mentors in the ministry was a man named Richard Harris, who served as the Director of Missions for the Upper Ohio Valley Baptist Association.  Richard used to make me share how God called me to the ministry within him at least once a month.  I asked him about this one time and he said, “I don’t ever want you to forget that God called you to the ministry, there will be times when the call of God is all that keeps you from quitting.”  This constant reminder of Who called me and what He called me to do served as a great source of encouragement.  Somewhere along the line, I lost sight of that factor and nearly fell apart.  My advice to every Pastor is to regularly set aside time to remember Who called you and what He called you to do.

2.)  Remember Who Empowers Your Ministry– As I see it, one of the greatest threats to every Pastor’s ministry is self-reliance.  The moment we think we are skilled enough or smart enough to handle the ministry ourselves, we are going to fail.  We need to be like the Apostle Paul who in Galatians 2:20 said, “I have been crucified with Christ.  It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.  And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”  The key to the Christian life, as well as the ministry is to live daily in complete dependence on Christ.  In John 15:4 Jesus says, “I am the vine, you are the branches.  Whoever abides in me and him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.”  The simple truth is that we minister from the overflow of our lives.  If we are not constantly drawing upon the resources of the Holy Spirit, we have nothing to offer and our lives and ministries will quickly dry up.

3.) Learn to Rest–  Physical rest is important and every Pastor needs to take time to recuperate and recharge but I have something even more important in mind here. Rest in the confidence of Christ.  Rest in the confidence of the sufficiency of the Word of God.  Rest in the power of the Gospel.