Episode 064: What Are Summers For? (Pt 2)

In this episode we pick up our conversation on summers to talk about the purpose of pastoral sabbaticals.

Every fulltime employee on our staff gets a sabbatical at least once every seven years… 

More and more companies around the country are allowing extended leave, recognizing the value of extended time off during key periods of a person’s life… 

When you give your employees extended time away to refuel, in the long run you’ll get more productivity… the cost of replacing that employee is far greater than the cost of giving them time off… 

The first time I had a sabbatical I didn’t really know what to do with it… then I started to realize that there is a three-fold dynamic to sabbaticals: rest, recreation, and renewal… 

Honestly, though, it doesn’t take long to physically rest… but the reflecting takes longer… in our daily schedules we tend to go from one episode to another, and sometimes it is difficult to stop and really pay attention to how things are affecting us… 

These sabbaticals can teach the world how to live again… the church has always been a provocation… the sabbatical reminds us and the world that God is a God of rest… 

Sometimes we forget that Jesus was hidden for thirty years, and then during his three-year ministry he never ran anywhere… we can show the world a better way… 

St. Bernard said that the servant of the Lord is not like a pipe, where God’s work just comes through us… the servant of the Lord is more like a bowl, where we wait until we’re full and then we pour out… sabbatical is a time to become full again… 

If you’re going to go on sabbatical, you need to make sure the sheep are cared for… we stagger our sabbaticals so that our church is cared for well… 

Every person is unique, but for most pastors, they need to get out of town… so if your pastor goes on sabbatical, you need to make sure he has money to travel… if the sabbatical is going to really benefit your pastor, they need to get away…

The first two or three weeks of sabbatical is all about decompression… a four week break is not a sabbatical… six weeks is the minimum for a pastor who’s carrying a preaching weight… any less than that and you won’t come back refueled… six to ten weeks is great if you can get it… three months is even better… 

Episode 063: What Are Summers For? (Pt 1)

In Part 1 of What Are Summers For?, we talk about the personal side and the organizational side of summers and how to make the best use of them.

It’s important for pastors to plan to rest… if you don’t plan to rest, you won’t rest… so many pastors don’t take vacations… 

Summer is a time to show trust to your team… disappear and show them that you trust them and don’t call every other day to find out how they’re doing… 

Summer is a great time to play… there’s space for a restoration of childlikeness… for me, I get to reconnect with my kids… rediscovering them and finding out what God is doing in them…

This requires thinking about ministry as an ebb and flow… one of the traps we get into as leaders is thinking that we need to maintain “momentum”… summer is ordinary time… there’s a sense in which we’re trying to say that it’s okay to have seasons that aren’t epic and exciting… 

On the other hand, the fall will be here before you know it… if you have a bad summer, you will have an awful fall… you can dial back the activity, but not the planning… 

If you’re going to make changes on your staff, June and July are the two best months to do that because the activity is light… so you can make changes without creating a lot of disruption inside the church… 

Summer is a great time for self-evaluation as well… you can’t evaluate your team unless you evaluate yourself… in the summer we pastors need to evaluate how we’re doing, what our schedule looks like, and what we’re saying “yes” to… 

People talk about a “summer slump”, but we don’t see that too much around here… for a lot of families, the break in school-year activity means they have more time for church… just keep things vibrant and alive and excellent, and they’ll come… 

There are preachers in every church that just need opportunities… you need to take a chance on these people… summers are great for that… 

If you’re the young preacher holding the pulpit over the summer, tackle the topics that are in your sweet spot and aren’t going to cause problems for the senior pastor when he gets back… 

Another thing to think about for the summer is that there are other ways to do sermons than just having one person on the stage… maybe take three men or three women and put them on the stage and have someone interview them about a topic… tackle the pulpit as a team… 

Episode 062: The Old Testament and the Church (Pt 2)

This is part 2 of our conversation on how the Old Testament and the New Testament relate, and how we can faithfully preach and teach the Old Testament in the Church.

There is no kingdom without law, without rule… if there is a king, there are people who live under the king’s way, his rule…

The giving of the Law at Sinai begins with grace… he rescued them from slavery, saying, “I want to be yours and I want you to be mine, and this is what that looks like…”

The Law at Sinai both confirms and establishes the covenant, it reveals what God is like, and it shows us how we are to live in the world… 

One of the things we have to remember about the purity and hygiene laws is that the ancient Israelites were out in the desert without the kind of sanitation we have today… God wasn’t embarrassing them but protecting them and their society from getting sick… 

So many of the instructions regarding sacrifices are instructions on sacrifices for happy occasions… it’s about how to throw a party that honors God… 

Even the sin and guilt offerings are a tremendous blessing… in the ancient world, there was no way to get out from under the burden of having done something wrong… 

Some things from the Old Testament are strengthened in the New… the sexuality laws are strengthened and clarified in the New… on the question of sexuality Jesus takes them back to the beginning…

The Church in the first century is wrestling with how Jew and Gentile live together… they’re not throwing the Old Testament away but are looking to it for wisdom and guidance in how to be one people in Jesus… 

There is a “law” for Christians now… it is the law of the Spirit written on our hearts… bearing one another’s burdens, loving our neighbors as ourselves… it looks like the fruit of the Spirit… 

The major shift in the New Testament is not that there’s no law but that there is now the Spirit of God living inside of us enabling us to live in right relationship with God and others…

Episode 061: The Post Easter Blues

In this episode Pastor Brady and Andrew sit down to talk about some “do’s” and “don’ts” for pastors in the week following Easter.

The first thing is to celebrate the wins… that should be the focus of this week… so many great things happened… you need to fixate on that… 

You need to take some time this week to celebrate each other… this is the week to pat people on the back and tell them how great it all was… celebrate the big wins and the little wins…

Another thing to do this week, after all the celebrations – this is a great week to evaluate systems and processes… how did we do? were we prepared? what can we learn?… find some things to improve upon… 

Comparison is the thief of our joy… one of the things I will not do is that I will not post our Easter numbers publicly… I remember what it was like when I was pastoring a church of 150 and churches down the street had 500 or 15,000 or twelve million or whatever [on Easter Sunday]… social media can drain the life of out you… we need to be content… 

This week is a time to ease up on your schedule a bit… recharge your batteries… we need to remember that we just put out a lot of spiritual energy…

Work out… go on a long walk… spend some time with your spouse… eat well… don’t medicate… sometimes when we’re depleted, we eat improperly or drink too much alcohol or eat too much sugar… don’t do that… we need to replenish… take a deep breath and detox a bit… 

I do think we can see residual growth from Easter Sunday, if we do it well… but we also need to know that Easter came late this year and that some of the rhythms of our culture are going to impact attendance… 

This Sunday might be a good one to let someone else preach… I’ve always tried to be present the Sunday after Easter, but for some of you, if you put in multiple services – it is okay to take this Sunday off, and not to feel guilty about it… 

If you’re a congregation member, this is a really good week to drop your pastor a note… there’s a lot of discouraged pastors out there this week… a phone call or a gift card will go a long way… 

Episode 060: The Old Testament and the Church (Pt 1)

In this episode (part 1 of 2) we sit down to talk about the challenge of preaching and teaching Christ in and from the Old Testament.

When I first started reading the Bible I was drawn to the Old Testament because the stories seemed more colorful… but admittedly I read it more like Aesop’s fables…

For me the starting place is that the Old Testament is Christian Scripture… the Church has always regarded it that way… it is the story of the kingdom, which just doesn’t suddenly appear with Jesus… to understand that, you have to go back to the Old Testament…

You begin to learn to read the Bible with Jesus at the center… you see how much of the OT anticipates the Messiah, Jesus, who is and is to come… he is where the story was headed…

Ideas like kingdom, covenant, and temple are motifs that are summed up in Jesus… the OT is not just a preamble but a prelude, where the motifs of the “song” are first laid down… 

We can really only understand the Old Testament fully in light of Jesus… but we can also only understand Jesus fully in light of the Old Testament… 

One of the things that is sometimes lost on people is that the Early Church’s “Bible” WAS the Old Testament… the New Testament is really a running commentary on the Old Testament in light of the Christ event… 

Robert Jenson says “the Old Testament was there before the Church was; the question was never about whether the Church could accept the Old Testament but whether the Old Testament could accept the Church…”

Sometimes we “heroize” Old Testament characters… but really, guys like David aren’t the heroes… Yahweh is the hero… the God who is the Father of Jesus is the hero… 

The question is whether God changes or not… and God is always the Father of Jesus Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit… he’s always the “Three in One…”

Augustine’s phrase was “vestigia trinitate”… that God had left signatures of himself in the created world, and the Old Testament supremely… if we read the Old Testament that way, we’ll see that the God revealed in Jesus is the deep reality of these texts… 

Episode 059: Why Pastors Want to Quit

In this episode we sit down to talk about some of the things that make pastors want to quit the ministry, and what we can do about it.

One of the things I’ve seen is that pastors are discouraged… social media gives people the ability to give immediate feedback, and hardly ever is it positive…

 Another reason I hear more and more is that pastors are under financial pressure… they’re asked to do an enormous task, and many of them are underpaid… 

The onus is really on the board or eldership to figure out what is fair compensation for your pastor, because you want to keep them around…

There’s a great amount of comparison that happens with pastors… “Why aren’t you more like the famous pastor [I just watched on the internet]?”

The competitive spirit is ruining a lot of pastor’s souls… if you’re not careful to manage that in your heart, if it is the dominant voice you hear in the morning, you will drive yourself off a cliff…

The amount of family pressure pastors feel is another factor… oftentimes the church does not allow the pastor a place to openly confess brokenness… so pastors begin to go underground, to alcohol or drugs to medicate the pain…

It takes something like 200 leisure hours to form a close friendship… a lot of time as pastors what we have are ministry friends… and that’s good… but what we need are friendships that exist beyond the church…

We need to have robust interests in other things… I have a group of guys I go away with each summer for a week, where we play golf, eat, and catch up with one another… talking about things that detox all of our souls… 

It’s important not to over-invest meaning into this calling… if something overly encourages or overly discourages us about the church, it is an indication we are getting too much of our identity from it…

UNCUT: An Interview with Jimmy Mellado (Extended Version)

In this UNCUT and EXTENDED episode, Pastor Brady sits down with Jimmy Mellado, the president of Compassion International, for a wide-ranging interview on his background, the sources of poverty, and the challenges of leadership.

 

Episode 058: An Interview with Jimmy Mellado

In this episode Pastor Brady sits down with Jimmy Mellado, the president of Compassion International, for a wide-ranging interview on his background, the sources of poverty, and the challenges of leadership.

 

 

My mom said to me, “When someone grows up in poverty, they never think it is going to be a benefit to their children… and yet I can see how my growing up in poverty impacted not only you in a positive way, but is using it to be central to your life’s calling [to serve the poor]…”

 

We [at Compassion] are a church-equipping ministry… we believe that the strategy that Jesus invented of discipleship through a local church is in fact the best strategy to release anyone in any circumstance from poverty…

 

When we talk to pastors [in central American countries], we’ve learned that they’ve earned the respect of gang leaders, because the gang leaders don’t want their kids doing what they’re doing… so they’ve declared Compassion sites “no violence” zones…

 

Life in leadership is hard; life in leadership alone is impossible… I have to do life in community… I used to do mentoring groups with pastors, and on average 70% of them would say they didn’t have one friend that they could be fully disclosing with…

 

In my experience, as you lead over the long haul, you’ll either end up with a cynical heart, a hard heart, or a soft heart, and how you design your life will take you down one of those three paths…

 

The most important contribution you will make to the kingdom of heaven is not anything you do, but who you are becoming… I can’t stress that enough… that doesn’t mean we don’t care about results… “doing” matters a lot… but it is not more important than “being” in Christ…

 

A spiritual discipline can be any activity that you have dedicated to the Lord to either stop the natural flow of sin in your life, or increase the flow of the fruit of the Spirit in your life… spiritual disciplines help you do what you cannot do by “trying” alone…

 

Life will give you a lot of pop quizzes, and if you try to make the right decision when you get a character pop quiz, you’ll probably fail… you need to try to pre-decide how you’re going to handle the character pop quizzes that come your way…

Episode 057: The Pastoral Workweek

In this episode we sit down to talk about the central tasks of pastoral ministry and how to delegate and manage your time accordingly.

 

 

I have to do three things: lead the team, teach and preach, and be a shepherd to the congregation that’s in front of me… it’s hard to put a percentage to those things… the demands of people cannot be scheduled or predicted…

 

I tend to spend a lot of my time leading… 5-8 hours I spend studying for content for sermons… the rest of my time is available to pastor the congregation, to be present with them…

 

I try to keep track of ratios… generally I’m spending twice as much time on staff as I am on congregants… on an average week I might have four or so congregant meetings, and twelve or so staff-related meetings…

 

Most pastors that I coach have a hard time saying no, which means that the tyranny of the urgent tends to rob them…

 

What’s different about our job is how much content we have to create… most CEOs and leaders of small businesses might have to speak 4-6 times a year… we do that in a WEEK…

 

The pastoral vocation requires us to come up with so much creative content while also giving out so much emotional energy, which makes our job different from any other job on the planet, and most pastors don’t know how to manage that space and their energy…

 

For me, I have to think bigger than “sermon prep”… there’s something deeper than just preparing “the talk”… we have to cultivate a life from which messages emerge… we have to enrich the soil from which future messages will spring…

 

An older pastor once said to me, “Brady, don’t drown under the weight of people’s love… if you’re not able to say no to good things, you will drown under the weight of their love for you…”

 

The greatest gauge for me on whether I’m managing my schedule right is whether there is joy… I want to end my week with a certain sense of joy… if I can’t be joyful at home because of what work costs me, then something has to shift…

Episode 056: Jon Egan “Unveil” Interview

In this episode we sit down to talk with our dear friend and worship leader Jon Egan about his new album “Unveil” and all that he’s seeing and learning as a worship leader and songwriter. (You can pre-order Unveil wherever good music is sold online. You’ll get one song each week till the album releases on March 29th.)

 

 

For me this project was about singing song together… almost like giving the songs back to the people… we have so much going for us in modern worship, but my burden is “Are people actually singing?”

 

My story is not my story but God’s story… I can declare the realities of my life or I can declare something else… these songs are designed to equip the church to rise out of their own reality and sing a greater one…

 

Most of my life I’ve had a propensity to get lost in my feelings, and worship has been the thing that’s “unveiled” my eyes to see something greater… I run toward worship and I want my church to run toward it… worship has been the antidote to my propensity to fear…

 

I could have had the label give me a budget to record in a studio somewhere, but it would have been missing the church… I get emotional about it… my love for the church and their love for me has lifted me…

 

The song “Unveil” is one of those songs that we can only sing now… when all things are made new there will be a fullness of glory… but in this life we can cry out for things we don’t see… we can cry out for the glory, for God to “unveil” our hearts and eyes to know him…

 

The song “the Table” began because I was imagining a table where the Father, Son, and Spirit were at, and there was an empty seat where they were saying, “Come, there is a seat for you here…”

 

The song “Pure Exaltation” came because we didn’t have a song like that on the album… language for the church to help pull them up out of their reality and into heaven…

 

A burden of mine is that the voice of the worship leader is being muffled… we have great production, better than ever… which means you can get by now with echoing and not being an actual voice…

 

My challenge to young worship leaders is to use their voice… to write original songs for their church… churches sing their own songs the loudest…