Walking with God Through Pain and Suffering (Part 2)

walking-with-god-through-pain-suffering-social-mediaIn the first post of this series I shared three truths Christianity teaches in regards to pain and suffering. In that post I said that God uses pain and suffering for a purpose. God doesn’t allow things to happen in our lives for no reason. He uses pain and suffering in our lives with a purpose. In this post I want to continue that thought by sharing three ways God uses pain and suffering in our lives as Christians.

God uses pain and suffering to discipline us. One of the lies Christians buy into is that we can live in sin and nothing will happen. Maybe we boast that our sins are already forgiven and God’s grace is covering us. However, Paul says in Romans 6:1-2 that we should not use God’s grace as a license to sin. Because our sins are forgiven and we do have grace we should strive to live in holiness. But what happens when Christians walk in sin? What happens we start to live in a way that doesn’t line up with God’s Word and we chose not to repent? Hebrews 12:5-11 gives us the answer to those questions. When Christians live in sin God will discipline them. Like good parents discipline their children when they disobey, God as our perfect Father disciplines us when we walk in disobedience. He loves us too much to let us live in sin. Matt Chandler said it well in a sermon: “If you, as a believer in Christ, fondle what Christ put to death on the cross, please don’t be surprised when He breaks your hand. Please don’t be surprised when He breaks your legs when you keep running toward what He came to kill.”

God uses pain and suffering to grow us. Sometimes it’s not because of disobedience that God allows pain and suffering in our lives. Sometimes it’s just because He is trying to grow us up in our faith. Our faith usually grows the most in times of trials. James 1:2-4 is a great place to go to see this. James tells believers to actually “count it all joy” when trials coming. He says that because those trials, as hard as they may be, will strengthen our faith. Think about a football coach. If a coach wants to make his team better and stronger what does he do? He makes practices harder. He makes his guys lift more. He may even add additional practices and workouts. All of this may hard more pain and pressure onto the players but the coach knows at the end of it all they will be better and stronger. God knows in order to grow us up in our faith we often times have to go through pain and suffering.

God uses pain and suffering in mysterious ways. I would be foolish to believe that all pain and suffering fits into the two categories above. God may use it for one of those two reasons but He may also have a whole other reason in mind. Sometimes God allows pains and suffering into our lives and we have no idea why. That’s because God doesn’t have to reveal to us why He does what He does. The story of Job is a great example of this. Job really never learned why he went through what he went through. God never told him. Instead, God helped Job see who he was in light of Him. Job learned to trust God in light of pain and suffering. We, like Job, are often left in the dark about our pain and suffering but that doesn’t mean God doesn’t have a purpose for it. He knows what He is doing and we must trust Him.

Below is the sermon where I preached much of the content above. In the next post I will share a few things about God that we can remember and hold onto during times of pain and suffering.

How Leaders Can Read More

Reading_in_Practice_MALeaders are readers. As leaders, we hear and know that phrase well. But reading takes time and discipline that sometimes we just don’t have enough of. We have a list of books we want to read, but our schedules are so packed we don’t know when we will ever have time read them. For some of us, we just struggle with the discipline of sitting down long enough to read a few pages of a book much less an entire book. But if leaders want to be better leaders than they need to be readers. I want to share a few tips on how you as a leader, or as someone who may just wants to read, can read more books.

Make an effort to read at least 30 minutes a day. In college I had a friend who would read books left and right on top of his required reading for classes. At the time, I was struggling just to keep up with what I had to read for classes and the thought of reading books outside of that seemed impossible. One day he told me how he did it. He said he simply makes himself sit down for 30 minutes a day and read. Sometime he may go over that, but he would make himself read for at least 30 minutes. It sounded simple enough so I gave it a shot. To my surprise it worked! So much so, I still use this principle today. I have a sticky note on the wall near my desk in my office that says “30 min a day” to remind me. Leaders are usually very busy people, but reading 30 minutes a day is manageable and not hard to do. Give it a shot! You will be surprised at how many books you can work through if you read at least 30 minutes a day.

Understand the different ways you can read. There are many ways you can read. I recently have started trying to understand more about this and the different ways to read. What helped me was a recent article I ran across on Tim Challies site entitled “7 Different Ways to Read a Book.” I have learned the value in not reading every book the same. Based on the book and why you may be reading it, you may have to change up the way you read it. I would encourage you to look over the seven different ways you can read a book from the Challies article and apply that to your reading.

Always have a book with you. This is another tip I picked up in college, but this one came from one of my professors. He was teaching a class on Acts and part of the required reading he assigned was a commentary on the book of Acts. You normally don’t sit down with a commentary and read it cover to cover. But for this class we were required to do just that. The commentary he had us read was a pretty technical commentary so it was a pretty heavy thing to read through. He knew it was not an easy assignment and it would take a long time. Right after he told us about this assignment during the first class he said the key to reading a lot is to always have a book with you. He told us how he would always be carrying a book with him so even if he had a 5 minute window of time he could read. I applied that and finished that commentary quicker than I thought I would have. I still do this as well today. It’s a simple thing many people often don’t think about. Carry a book with you and pull it out when you have a few minutes here and there.

Reading is an essential part of growing as a leader. However, reading takes time and discipline. I have found that making time to read each day for at least 30 minutes, understanding different ways to read, and always having a book with me has helped me not only become a better reader, but has helped me read more books.

Student Pastor, Work With What You Got!

35497_10200551117597799_178041363_nThe photo above teaches student pastors a few important lessons. Before I point out a few of those lessons let me share a little about the photo. The band playing on stage is the Beatles. The Beatles where the most commercially successful and critically acclaimed act in the rock music era. They exploded and became one of, or not the most, famous music groups of all time. You wouldn’t think that from this photo. This photo captures their first show in London in 1961. This was before they became big. This was before people knew who they were. I’m sure at the time of this photo they never knew or expected how big they would really become. But that didn’t stop them. This is what one blogger says, “The crowd for the Beatles first show in London was especially disappointing. Yet, despite the fact that only 18 people showed up, the Beatles were undeterred. Rather than giving the small crowd a lackluster performance, the Beatles used the opportunity to “play as if they were tied.”. They gave the modest audience the same level of energy and enthusiasm they would eventually give to over 50,000 fans at New York’s Shea Stadium.” So what does this have to do with student ministry and student pastors? I’m so glad you asked!

I believe this photo offers encouragement and a reminder to student pastors. First, it offers encouragement for those student pastors in small churches with very few students in their ministry. Many times student ministry becomes a competition. It becomes about growing your student ministry bigger and better than the one down the street. Or the fact you keep comparing yourself and ministry to another student pastor and his ministry that you see online. This leaves most student pastors discouraged and prideful. The bottom line is most student ministries are not big. Most are small and consist of a handful of students. But this shouldn’t matter! To my student pastor friends who have a “small” student ministry, keep doing what your doing! Serve, love, and teach those few students about Jesus and His Word! Stop worrying about getting big, start giving your time and energy to what you do have. God has given you those students and ministry for a reason. Your called to give yourself to that group because you love them and you love Jesus.Work with what you go and be faithful!

Second, this photo is a reminder of what student ministry is all about. It’s not about numbers! Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think it’s wrong to grow large numerically as a ministry and to strive for that. I believe numbers the majority of the time is the result of faithful, excellent ministry. But not always. God may never intend for your ministry to grow “large.” It may stay small and God will still get the glory and students will still learn God’s Word. If all you do is focus on numbers than you will miss out on serving the students you do have.

Student ministry is about Jesus and students. Student pastors must work with what God has given them. If God has blessed you with a large student ministry than be thankful, serve well, and love those students. But if God has given you a small ministry than don’t be discouraged. Serve, love, and pour into the students you got. In His time I believe God will grow your ministry if He wills. If He does, amen! If He does not, amen! God is sovereign and has called you to serve, love, and pour into the students He has given you.

5 Things Student Ministry Volunteers MUST DO

5.pngAbout a year ago I wrote a post about three things I believe every student pastor must do in order to be effective in student ministry. In that post I said that one thing a student pastor must do is build and train a team of adult volunteers. Volunteers are the backbone of our student ministries. Our student ministry is as only good as our volunteers. So I want to write a few thoughts for volunteers in this post. If your a student pastor than pass these along to your volunteers and if your a volunteer yourself than be encouraged and make an effort to do these five things.

1. Follow the leadership of the student pastor. Even though volunteers are key to an effective student ministry they do not take the place of the student pastor. The student pastor needs to drive the ministry, make the big decisions, and have the final word. I have seen too many student pastors get ran all over by a volunteer. If your a volunteer, please humbly follow the person God has placed over your student ministry. Serve students well under their leadership.

2. Grow in their walk with God. This should be number one because it’s the most important thing on this list. Your cannot take students anywhere that you have not been yourself. If you want to help your students grow spiritually than you need to be growing spiritually. A volunteer will not be truly effective in student ministry if they are not growing spiritually. Awhile back I wrote a post on this subject. Your walk with God is the most important thing in student ministry.

3. Be willing to own part of the ministry. A student ministry volunteer will need to accept responsibility and own part of the ministry. The student pastor cannot do everything. For example, the student pastor cannot lead every small group. That’s an area where volunteers will have to own part of the ministry. They will have their small group and should accept that as their ministry. They must follow the leadership of the student pastor and serve students well in that area. If that’s a small group, than lead that group well! If your an event planner, than plan those events to the best of your ability. Whatever area you serve in within the student ministry, do it well and own it!

4. Don’t over commit. Even though a volunteers are key and will own part of the ministry, they need to be careful not to over commit. I have seen many student ministry volunteers that burn themselves out because they are way too over committed. They serve in multiple areas and sacrifice their time, family, and own well being to the point where it’s not healthy. Volunteers don’t get paid to do what they do. So the expectation shouldn’t be the same as the student pastor. Remember, volunteers are volunteers!

5. Love on students. This should be obvious, but as a student ministry volunteer just love on students. Realize the student pastor cannot relationally touch every student in the ministry, but with your help every one of those students can be touched by an adult that loves and cares for them. I am assuming that if someone is a student ministry volunteer that they already love students, but remember that some of the most powerful stories from teens within student ministries come from their interaction with a volunteer.

I love my volunteers! I am thankful for them and our student ministry wouldn’t be what it is today without them. Pass these thoughts along to your volunteers and encourage them to serve your students well.

Biblical Examples of Team Leadership

Gone are the days when a senior pastor is looked at as the “one man show.” There are some churches still operating in that system and the senior pastor does everything, but most of those churches are not growing and the senior pastor is left with the weight of the ministry on his shoulders.

Today churches are embracing a much-needed philosophical change of ministry called team leadership. Churches are embracing leadership models that are defined by words such as “team” and “teamwork.” In his book, Advanced Strategic Planning, Aubrey Malphurs says, “Excellent leaders understand that they can accomplish far more through the wisdom of a gifted and committed strategic team of staff and lay leaders.” The pastor is no longer the “one man show,” but is the lead pastors among other gifted and well-trained leaders.

Some Christians and church goers don’t like this model because it may seem to “corporate” or like a “business” model. But before you make that assumption and write off churches that operate with this team leadership philosophy, take a look at some examples of this team leadership in Scripture. Yes, this idea of team leadership is clearly seen in Scripture.

Moses took the advice of Jethro and formed a team to work with him (Exodus 18:24-26). Jethro saw that Moses couldn’t handle his wilderness ministry on his own. He needed help and he needed a team. You can read about the situation Moses was in and the advice of Jethro in verses 1-23. Moses followed Jethro’s advice and formed a team of able men to help him carry the load of his ministry.

Jesus recruited a team of disciples to be with Him and minister alongside Him (Mark 3:13-14). The fact that Jesus operated with a team leadership philosophy should be enough to motivate you to do the same! In Mark 3:13-14 we see Jesus chose twelve men He could be with and could send out to do His ministry.

Paul understood the significance of a team as he led and ministered through numerous teams (Acts 11:22-30). As you read this passage in Acts, and many other passages as well, it is evident that Paul understood the effectiveness of doing ministry as a team. Because he equipped other leaders to share the load of ministry, he was able to reach more people with the Gospel and minister to many more churches than he could have if he was in it alone.

Please don’t dismiss team leadership because the church has neglected it for so long. This idea if seen in the pages of Scripture. Churches can do more with they are led by a gifted team of staff and lay leaders. God wants to do great things through us and we can accomplish more for His Kingdom if we operate as a team.

Most of the content in this post came from Aubrey Malphurs book “Advanced Strategic Planning.” I would encourage you to check out this book and get a better understanding of team leadership, particularly about how to strategically plan as a team.