This week I finished the book Dangerous Calling by Paul David Tripp. This book by far has been the most honest, practical, and Gospel-centered pastoral books I have ever read. It does what most pastoral books do not, it’s not a handbook of how to do pastoral ministry in the local church, but an honest look at the heart and man behind the ministry. In Tripp’s words, “This book is written to confront the issue of the often unhealthy shape of pastoral culture and to put on the table the temptations that are either unique to or intensified by pastoral ministry. This is a book of warning that calls you to humble self-reflection and change” (page 11-12).
Tripp breaks down the book into three parts. In part one he examines the pastoral cultural. I appreciate Tripp’s honesty and authenticity in this part of the book (even though he is very honest throughout the entire book). He shares much about his own struggle with personal sin while maintaining the public persona of a healthy pastor. In this section, Tripp exposes many of the struggles and temptations pastors will face. He doesn’t hold any punches, but goes straight to the heart and exposes the sins of pastoral ministry. In part two Tripp talks about the danger of loosing your awe, forgetting who God is. He shares about the danger of being comfortable, keeping secrets, and apathy. In part three he explains the danger of arrival, forgetting who God is. This is where Tripp exposes the danger and harm in thinking we have arrived or that the ministry is about us, not God.
I don’t want to share much more detail about the contents of this book because I want to encourage anyone in pastoral ministry to pick up a copy and read it for themselves. I have read many pastoral books through college and seminary, but none of them has been has beneficial and helpful as Dangerous Calling. Tripp knows that learning how to do ministry is not the first goal, the goal is to learn how to be the pastor God desires and created you to be. Once you figure that out ministry will happen.
If you read only one book this year pastor, make it this one! You will not regret it and it will change your heart as well as the ministry you oversee. Click here to view a short video of Tripp explaining more about this book.
Burnout is far too popular among pastors (If you don’t believe me, check out these statistics). I believe pastors face burnout because they don’t take the necessary steps to prevent it before it happens. Many times pastor’s hit their burnout stage and then look for help, but sometimes it’s too late. The key to avoiding burnout in ministry is taking steps to avoid it before it even becomes an issues. So what are some steps you can take to avoid burnout as a pastor?
Guard your time with God. Never let a day go by without spending some time with your Savior. Ministry is busy and will steal time away from God if you let it, so guard that time with all you’ve got. Find a time during your daily routine where you can get alone, unplug, and spend time with God in His Word and in prayer (here is a great online devotional tool I use daily).
Love the person of Christ more than the work of Christ. This one is tied closely to guarding your time with God. Unfortunately many pastors are more in love with ministry than they are with Jesus. I believe this happens to a pastor when he neglects his own personal time with God. If you are spending time with God, taking in His Word, and communicating with Him in prayer you will grow in your love for Jesus which will fuel you to do His work. When we don’t do it in that order, we end up doing His work by our own efforts and strength because we haven’t spend time falling more in love with Him. Don’t allow ministry to become your thing of worship, worship Jesus!
Take care of yourself physically. I’m preaching to myself when it comes to this one. Ministry will take all you have physically. Being a pastor can be one of the most physically exhausting things ever. Because of it’s demand on your body and energy, if pastor’s don’t take care of themselves physically they can burnout fast. Take some time out of your busy schedule to exercise. The most helpful thing many pastors could do to fight against burnout is have a regular exercise routine. And remember, eating healthy is a must too. Our bodies are the instrument God uses to do ministry through us, so let’s make sure we take proper care of it.
Keep your marriage first. One of the reasons many pastor’s face burnout is because their marriages are suffering under the weight of their ministry. I don’t think it can be said enough, but your marriage come BEFORE your ministry. God has created you to be the pastor of your home before a pastor at your church. When your ministry comes before your marriage you are on the brink of burnout. When your marriage comes first and you’re striving to be a pastor at home first, your ministry will be in better shape and not running on empty, headed towards burnout.
These are just a few simple ways I believe pastor’s can avoid burnout before it happens. I would recommend that every pastor should read Wayne Cordeiro’s book Leading on Empty (I recently wrote a review of it here).
[Question] How do you prevent burnout before it happens?
One of the things Bible college or seminary doesn’t teach you, is how to handle finances in ministry. I am a young pastor and money is not my thing. I either spend too much or save too much. I’m not the best with managing a budget and sometimes spend money on things that are not necessary. The good news is I’m learning. I’m learning how to save and spend when I need to. I’m learning how to manage a budget. I am doing what all young pastors should do-learn.
From that opening paragraph your probably wondering why I am writing a post on financial do’s and don’ts. I am kind of wondering the same thing, but I do believe I have some practical advice that is helping me that will also help you.
Financial Don’ts for Young Pastors
- Waste your budget right out of the gate.
- Handle all your finances on your own.
- Spend it on “wants” of the ministry rather than “needs” of the ministry.
- Spend your own personal money for your ministry when you can use your budget.
Financial Do’s for Young Pastors
- Pray over your budget (Ask God to use it for His will)
- If you need help with finances, ask!
- Be open and honest about your spending from your budget.
I know this list is short, but I don’t believe we need to make finances any more complicated than they already are. God gives us money and resources to use to expand His kingdom. If there is any advice that I would say rookie pastors MUST remember is this-your money and the churches money is not yours, it’s God. Let Him use it the way He sees fit and follow His leadership.
I’ll be honest, one of the reasons I wanted an iPad was to preach from it. Preaching from my iPad is probably the main thing I use my iPad for on a weekly basis. It seems this trend is becoming more popular and you see more and more pastors preaching from an iPad or a tablet. With this new trend comes some opposition as well as much support. At the end of the day, it really doesn’t matter if you preach from an iPad or not. What you preach with or from is not a big deal, it’s the actual preaching itself that is important. But if you do decide to preach from an iPad, here are a few tips that I have learned along the way that may help you:
Don’t make a big deal about it. If you preach from an iPad, don’t make it a point to flash your iPad and make sure everyone in the audience knows you have an iPad. I recommend keeping it on the pulpit or podium so no one sees it while you are preaching. Your iPad is just a tool you are using to share God’s Word, keep your focus on the right thing.Try and keep it out of the audience view as much as possible. More than likely there will be people out there that will get distracted and maybe even jealous when they see you have an iPad.
Use a physical copy of the Bible. If you preach from an iPad, please DO NOT use a Bible app, such as YouVersion, instead of a physical copy of God’s Word. Call me old school, but I think it’s important to preach from an actual copy of the Bible. Use your iPad for your notes, not your Bible. Plus, switching from your notes to a Bible app will be extremely distracting to you and your audience.
Use a good app for your sermon notes. Make sure you have a reliable, easy to use app to have your sermon notes on when you preach. When I preach, I have my sermons on the Dropbox app on my iPad. For me, Dropbox works the best and is easy to get my sermon notes to. After I write my sermon manuscript as a Word doc, I simply drop that Word doc into my Dropbox on my Macbook and then open it up in the Dropbox app on my iPad right before I go up to preach. There are other apps you can use, but I recommend Dropbox.
Try not to look at your iPad too much. This doesn’t just apply to your iPad, but your notes in general. Be so familiar with your sermon content that you don’t need to look at them much as you preach. Stay engaged with your audience and don’t be glued to your notes on your iPad. I try to run through my sermon two times or more before I preach so I will be able to preach and not look down at my notes that much.
These are just a few tips I would share with anyone who is or is thinking about preaching from an iPad. Every good gift comes from God (James 1:17) so use your iPad as a good tool He has given us to expand His kingdom. Use it as a tool to help you preach His Word better and more effectively.
[Question] Do you use an iPad or a tablet when you preach?
If you have been in a ministry position where you preach or teach on a weekly basis, you know how it feels to preach a few terrible sermons. I had one of those experiences last night in our student ministry. Honestly, it was one of those sermons that I was just ready to be done with. Don’t get me wrong, the Lord spoke through His Word in spite of my terrible preaching and many students talked to me after the service about the topic. So what do we do after our preaching and teaching doesn’t go as well as planned? Here are a few things I have been reminding myself of since last night:
1. Trust in God’s sovereignty. At the end of the day, God doesn’t need us to preach or teach the world’s best sermon. Isaiah 55:11 says, “So shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.” God’s Word is powerful and able to change the heart of those who you are preaching to. You don’t have to read the Bible very long to see that God uses things that look “terrible” to us to accomplish His will. God still spoke through your terrible sermon. However, this shouldn’t push us to not prepare well and not strive to communicate God’s Word the most creative way we can, but it should give us comfort when our preaching doesn’t come out the way we intended it to.
2. Don’t dwell on it. I have a tendency to dwell on a terrible sermon. I will usually ask my fiancée over and over what she thought about it, and sometimes I even catch myself trying to “explain” to her why it was so terrible. The best thing you can do after preaching a terrible sermon is simply move on and focus on preparing your next sermon. Remind yourself of number one, trust in God’s sovereignty, and move on.
3. Learn from it. Another thing you can do after preaching a terrible sermon is to simply learn from the experience. Last night when I had my “terrible sermon” experience, I knew it wasn’t because I didn’t prepare the sermon right or study the Scriptures; it was because I stayed up way too late the night before. I was mentally and physically exhausted which resulted in not being able to communicate God’s Word well. Learning from a terrible sermon is a good way to stay humble as a preacher of God’s Word. Admit it was not your best sermon, and move on by learning from the experience. See what you need to change or do better so you can avoid it next time you preach. As people who are preaching and teaching God’s Word, we must continue to learn and grow from our mistakes.
I hope these simple thoughts will help you when you face your next “terrible sermon.” Even though God’s Word is powerful and can change hearts, we as preachers and teachers will struggle to share it well every time. If you preach God’s Word often, you will have some sermons that are not your best, but rest assured, you will have a few sermons and lessons that you knock out of the park!
Steven Furtick, lead pastor of Elevation Church, wrote a great article on this same subject. I ran across it after I wrote this post and believe it would be a great article to check out. Click here to view that article.