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The other day in my devotions I read Colossians chapter 2; Paul mentions false humility twice (verse 18 & 23). As I have read these verses in several different versions and looked at commentaries and references, I realize this is something that really bothers me. The idea of acting and speaking in a humble manner just to cover up your arrogance . Purposefully giving the perception of humbleness when the truth is pride overflows in your heart.
With all of the big conferences and meetings I have been to, I have experienced some speakers and authors that are really good at false humility. They constantly tell you about how success has fallen in their lap, drop name after name into conversation, and rattle off their amazing credentials and resume with ease. Then the closing line always makes an appearance “it isn’t about me though.”
I have also met just as many nationally known authors and speakers that are the exact opposite of this. They genuinely care about God’s success, not their own. They pass off honor and accolades to those that help them do what they do.
I am writing this today to openly admit my struggle. Arrogance bugs me to the core, nothing makes my skin crawl more than hanging around a conceited person. I am very uncomfortable with self-promotion and marketing my own stuff. Because it is uncomfortable for me I over compensate and do it wrong. I am a horrible salesman. I have yet to write a proposal for a book or a speaking engagement that has been successful. I stink at this.
Whenever I have gained the opportunity to speak or share about my book I feel like I fail at it because I am so scared of being perceived as arrogant or self-promoting. Yesterday I led a discussion in an advanced youth ministry class at NNU. I was asked to do this and to talk about my book. It did not go as well as it could have because of this struggle that continues to rage in my heart and mind. I want so badly to help God change the landscape of youth ministry, which is why I wrote the book in the first place. Yet, I stink at marketing and promotion and so books aren’t selling. I think the only point I clearly communicated to that class yesterday was how I didn’t want to market my book to them. I love speaking and teaching about God’s word, I don’t like promoting my own stuff.
Alright…I said it. I openly admit my struggle and weakness,and with it comes a deep breath. I say all this not only to “think out loud” but also to share what I am learning from this struggle so it can hopefully help you with whatever you struggle with.
1. Acknowledge where you are weak
I realize this is a major weakness for me. With deciding to self-publish my book I knew that I would have to market and promote myself. I had no idea how bad I would be at it and/or how much time and energy it would take. No one is good at everything, we all have weaknesses. I realize now this is a major one for me.
2. Seek the right kind of help
As I have stewed over this post for a few days, I received some great advice. I need to be praying for God to raise up the right person in my life that is good at marketing and promotion, so I don’t have to do what I am not good at or comfortable with. So as I pray for this I have to keep my eyes open for the right person and opportunity.
3. Let everyone do what they are good at
I have to be willing to hand over responsibility when someone agrees to help. I have to be a team player and fulfill my role of writing and speaking as best I can, and let them do their role as best they can without controlling it. My way is obviously not working, but it can be really hard to let someone else do things their way.
I realized these concepts are ones I need to live out in many other areas of my life, not just with my book. The more I can do these, the less I will hold myself back from what God really wants to accomplish through me. What are you not good at? What is an inner struggle that you have? How are these holding you back?
Thanks for hanging with me through these posts, you have made it all the way to number 1! I see that these posts are among the most personal ones, which probably explains why they are my favorites. I hope that my life experiences have some way helped your life and walk with Christ. Whether you have been reading my blog for this entire first year or have just stumbled upon my writing, thanks for reading!
My Top Five Posts #1: I Should Not Be Alive Part 2
As I said in my previous post, I had a lot of questions to answer during my hospital stay. It seemed like the doctors and nurses asked me a million times what had happened and how I was feeling. I quickly grew tired of answering both of these questions; what happened was in my chart and the fact I wanted more medication should adequately and completely answer the later question.
Not only did I have to answer a lot of questions, but I had a few of my own. The biggest questions in my mind and heart were not directed toward any medical professional, but mainly to myself (how could you have done something this stupid?) and to God (Why?).
This two word question, God why, was anything but simple. In those two words, those 6 letters, was a mountain of emotion, confusion, distrust, hope, anger, faith… Those words do not even begin to describe everything I was feeling as I prayed those two words over and over again. As I laid in that bed talking with the stream of people that kept coming through the door, no one had any answers, at least not answers to my real questions. Hope and faith truly were a huge part of what I felt, because I knew that God had the answers I sought, the bigger question was would I hear his voice, and if I did would I accept his answer?
I did hear His voice, but not in any way I expected. An audible voice would have been nice, even a hand writing on the wall would be acceptable, whatever was fine with me as long as what I got was an actual answer, not just something that raised more questions.
As I prayed, and slept, and took more meds, and saw more people, and felt the enormous outpouring of love from so many people one distinct phrase constantly ran through my mind, “I will make you lie down in green pastures.” I had memorized the 23rd Psalm several years ago and this phrase had always stood out to me, but this didn’t really make much sense. At first I just credited the medication and tried to focus on other things, but it would not go away. “I will make you lie down in green pastures.”
Once I realized this was God trying to answer my question through this familiar scripture all it did was raise more questions. “Oh, so you made me lie down, so that means you caused me to crash.”
“No, you made the decision to ride that fast through that empty lot”
“Ok, I understand being the victim of my own stupidity, but why didn’t you protect me?”
“I did. You rode out of your garage with out your helmet on, I made you go back and get it”
“Then why am I in this hospital bed if you protected me?”
“Because you won’t be obedient if you didn’t end up in this bed.”
I wish my conversation with God was that quick and that precise, it wasn’t. Over these several months God has filled in some of those answers for me. But one thing I did get loud and clear before I ever left that hospital room—I was not being fully obedient to God. That conviction stung, I felt like I had given God a lot. I was a pastor, I had given him my whole life (so I thought), and I had genuinely felt close to Him. But I knew right away one thing I was not doing all the way; writing my book.
The amount of time between when my book idea went from scribbles on scratch paper to actual words typed in a computer and me lying in that hospital bed was about 9 months. At that point I had written what now in the final manuscript are 2 and ½ chapters. As soon as I was home and could sit up for more than a few moments I started writing. I finished the next 1 and ½ chapters literally typing with one hand as my broken left arm was elevated on a pillow. I finished the rough draft of my book 3 months after being discharged from the hospital (it is 9 chapters). I fully believe that if I had not crashed that day my book would still not be completed.
But, not diligently writing was not the only thing God was trying to get me to realize. I had focused on the “God making me lie down” part, and it definitely got my attention. But that is not the whole phrase God told me over and over again. “I will make you lie down in green pastures.” It was not until my book was completed that I began to understand what on earth could be “green” about this experience, but that will have to wait for part 3…
Exactly 11 years ago today I proposed to Maureen. I remember how nervous I was on that night, not really sure why. I was 100% sure she was the one God wanted me to share my life with and 100% sure she would say yes. Now all these years, 3 kids, and lots of ups and downs later I am still just as sure she is a gift from God to me.
This week I assigned my small group to read Proverbs 31, I thought it would be fitting considering it is valentines day and all. This morning as I read it I thanked God over and over for putting a “Proverbs 31 girl” in my life.
Proverbs 31:20 (NIV) “She opens her arms to the poor and extends her hands to the needy.”
Whether you are poor or needy or even just in our life in some way Maureen will provide hospitality for you, it is truly one of her Spiritual gifts to make people feel special.
Proverbs 31:25 (NIV) “She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come.”
Maureen is very good at what she does and I am very proud of her accomplishments. Her strength and dignity are a worthy example for every one of her kindergarten students, youth small group girls, and friends. She also likes to laugh and have fun (even though that is really not what this verse is referring to) and I love that about her too.
Proverbs 31:26 (NIV) “She speaks with wisdom, and faithful instruction is on her tongue”
I feel so honored to have Maureen as a ministry partner. Yes, she does help me A LOT within youth ministry, but she ministers to people in every aspect of her life. Co-workers, her students, her friends, her family members, and most anyone she interacts with she provides Godly counsel and wisdom to.
Proverbs 31:28 (NIV) ”Her children arise and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her.
She is a wonderful mother to our boys, I hope they realize how blessed they are to have the mother they do (I know they do). As you can see, I do praise her, although not as much as I should…
I could honestly do this for the entire chapter, but I think you get the idea… but I do have one more verse to share.
Proverbs 31:30 (NIV) “Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.
Maureen is charming, and she is very beautiful. But I know she loves God with all her heart, I see it in her every day, and that is what I love the most about her.
I love you more than words can say Maureen, and thank God for you every day. Happy Valentines Day!
If you have a Proverbs 31 girl in your life I encourage you to tell her how much she means to you and why.
“I feel closer to God right now than probably any other time in my life, yet I feel like a dismal failure in just about everything I am doing.”
I recently met with my accountability partner, who is also a youth worker in my area, and this was one of my first statements to him. His response: “me too!”
I have known him for several years, we have shared a lot with each other. At one point we even shared an office, although I can only remember one time that we were ever both working in it at the same time.
We have been official accountability partners for the past three or four years, and it always has amazed me how we seem to be dealing with the same things at the same time. We work in different churches. We have a completely different circle of friends. Our families know of each other but rarely ever get together. We have very similar outlooks on life and on ministry. These are all reasons why I feel so incredibly blessed to have him in my life and why our relationship is so valuable. There are two verses that perfectly summarize our friendship.
James 5:16 (NIV) Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.
Because very few things in our lives cross paths it creates a very safe place for us both to be completely honest. I trust him completely, and he doesn’t know the people I need to vent about. He can give me Godly advice and tell me the truth about myself. I know he prays for me, and that brings a lot of comfort and assurance into my life. He knows all of my biggest victories and biggest failures; other than God and my wife he probably knows the most about who I am.
Proverbs 27:17 (NIV) As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.
After we talk, I always feel refreshed. There is no area of our lives that is off limits in our conversations, so I feel like a better Christian, a better husband, a better dad, and a better youth worker than I did before we talked. Sometimes I talk the entire time, other times he does. We share struggles, and victories, frustrations, and praises. We pray for each other and part ways feeling “sharper”.
This world can be a lonely place (especially as a youth worker), and I hope you have at least a few “iron level people” in your life like I do. If you don’t, then start praying for God to lead you to one. This relationship did not happen by accident, it was purposefully pursued and kindled and built.
1. Pray for God to show you the right person.
2. Act on His leading and ask that person if they are interested in this kind of relationship.
3. Actually meet on a regular basis.
I hope you don’t feel like a dismal failure in all you are doing, but if (I mean when) you do I hope you have someone to confide in that will pray for you and help you to keep going. If you would like me to pray for you to find the right iron level person let me know on my prayer page or in the comments and I will pray with you!
I have seen a few blog posts and books circulating around lately about the youth worker/senior pastor relationship. I understand for a lot of people, and a lot of churches, this can be a struggle. I thought I should write a post showing that it is not always a bad situation.
I have a great relationship with my senior pastor!
Here are a few keys to our success:
1. We communicate often
We talk literally almost every day, and it is rarely a formal meeting. Because we have an open line of communication, when we do have issues to discuss it is not awkward. Two days ago Tom came into my office with a list of “business” things to accomplish, but it went just as smooth and comfortable as all of our conversations–which felt nothing like talking to the principle.
2. We know we are on the same team
We both want the same thing; for our church to be effective and relevant while expanding God’s kingdom in our community. We have a united vision and purpose, but we also understand each other’s roles in fulfilling them. Just like any team, we are stronger together and we know the other will get our back when needed.
3. We are involved in each other’s lives
Our lives interact in many ways outside of our formal ministry context. I know and care about his wife and daughter. He knows and cares about my wife and boys. We have some mutual interests (like sports) and use those to connect. Yes, we are in very different phases of life, but we are still friends outside of church. When I wrecked my dirtbike he was the first person to the hospital, and I would do the same for him.
4. We both are true to our roles
He trusts me completely with the youth ministry. I trust him with running the church and he knows I am not there to take his job someday. Yes he sometimes gives his opinion on something I should do or change. I sometimes give my opinion on something he should do or change. But he lets me run the youth ministry, and I faithfully follow his leadership as he runs the whole church; we have a mutual respect for one another.
5. We have both worked at it
We have been working with each other for over nine years, and there have been times our relationship has not been as good as it is now. There have been times when I have been upset with him, and definitely times when he has been upset with me. But we both had the expectation that our partnership was going to work and not be awkward or fragile. We have both worked at it but it has definitely been worth the effort.
I know and realize how blessed I am to be in the situation I am in. I wish every youth worker felt like their Sr. Pastor was one of their biggest fans. I wish every youth worker felt supported and encouraged. I wish there were more articles and books telling positive stories. My hope and prayer is my experience and situation can help make yours better.
My one year anniversary of blogging came and went this last week. I can most definitely say this past year has brought some surprises, some disappointments, and a lot of things to add to my “stuff I didn’t know I needed to learn” list. I have debated back and forth for a few weeks on the best way to commemorate this blogging milestone. I landed on the idea of sharing with you my top five favorite posts. These are not necessarily the most popular posts, but they are the ones I am most proud of.
If you are a regular reader you know that I don’t post every day, but for the next five days I will. One post a day leading up to my #1 favorite post of all time, I hope you enjoy reading these as much as I enjoyed writing them!
Favorite Post #5: What Season Is It?
Ecclesiastes 3:1 (NIV) 1 There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven.
I am about to make one of the most humbling statements any spiritual leader can make. Are you ready, here it comes…
My church and my youth ministry are both in a sowing season.
I had two separate conversations last week, one with a youth worker and one with a senior pastor, and both of them were relieved to hear me say that. To be able to admit it, not be ashamed of it, and not just give the token “things are fine, we are growing” pad answer.
The truth is you cannot always be in a harvest season, but for spiritual leaders (especially youth workers) it is very hard to admit if we aren’t. In Mark chapter 11 Jesus has a little run in with a certain fig tree:
Mark 11:12 – 14 (NIV) 12The next day as they were leaving Bethany, Jesus was hungry. 13Seeing in the distance a fig tree in leaf, he went to find out if it had any fruit. When he reached it, he found nothing but leaves, because it was not the season for figs. 14Then he said to the tree, “May no one ever eat fruit from you again.” And his disciples heard him say it.
My question is this: what made Jesus so upset? Obviously he didn’t hate trees—but he was teaching his disciples a very important lesson. Jesus was upset because the tree was not being true to the season it was in. If a fig tree has leaves, it is supposed to have fruit. But “it was not the season for figs.” The tree was faking it, there was no fruit but it wanted everyone that looked at it to think there was. It couldn’t admit it was not harvest season.
To state it bluntly: if you or your church or ministry is not in a harvest season, don’t try and fake it, just admit that you aren’t. Believe me; I know how hard it is to do that. But it is OK to not always be in a harvest season, as long as we do the right things when we aren’t.
What do I need to do once I admit I am in a sowing season?
I don’t have all the answers, but here are a few things God has shown me as I walk through my own sowing season:
Seek God more than you ever have before
Reading scripture, prayer, solitude, fasting… All of the above-at the same time!
Jeremiah 5:24 – 25 (NIV) 24…‘Let us fear the LORD our God, who gives autumn and spring rains in season, who assures us of the regular weeks of harvest.’ 25 Your wrongdoings have kept these away; your sins have deprived you of good.
During those times ask God for wisdom on what needs to be done or changed to bring on the next harvest. It may be something that needs to change about you. It may be something that needs to change in your church or ministry environment. Just be open to the truth when God speaks it (and remember God speaks in a still small voice, so you have to slow down to hear it)
I am not a farmer, but I do understand what has to be done in the times between harvests. If you don’t plow, cultivate, fertilize, and plant new seeds the next harvest will never arrive.
Proverbs 20:4 (NIV) 4 A sluggard does not plow in season; so at harvest time he looks but finds nothing.
Once God speaks to you about what needs to be done or changed to bring on the next harvest, you have to actually do it. Make the sacrifice, have the hard conversation, do whatever it is that you have been putting off. Often times we know what needs to be done, we just drag our feet until it is too late or too much damage has been done. Do the work God needs you to do to move forward.
Keep going and give God your best no matter what
2 Timothy 4:2 (NIV) 2Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction.
Even if you are not in a harvest season, God still needs you to be faithful. The people that make the biggest spiritual strides during your sowing season will be the leadership during the next harvest. Anyone can be a good pastor and/or leader when everything they touch or do is turning to gold, be an even better pastor/leader when things aren’t going right.
The encouraging thing is that in all three of these passages, it implies that another harvest is right around the corner. I have faith and trust in God that he will bring another season of harvest, and until he does I will keep trying to do the right things for the season I am in.
I am at the Simply Youth Ministry Conference in Louisville this weekend. During the conference I have the role of room host. Which means I have a breakout room that I have been assigned and I “host” the speaker, the people, and everything that happens in that room for the entire conference. This also means that I do not have to choose what to attend and what not to attend, which is great for me since there are so many great options.
Today I had a pre-conference track in my room about building a strong ministry team. There was a ton of great content and the presenters did a great job. There was one statement made that has really made me think:
Too large of a team is almost worse than too small of a team.
I realize that too large of a team is not something that is a typical issue within most youth ministries. The most common is definitely too small. However, I can say there have been a few times within my last decade of leading a volunteer team that I did actually have too many people. Here are a few things I have thought about why this statement is true.
1. We all have a desire to be needed
If someone makes the effort and makes the sacrifice to attend an event they are expecting to be needed. If someone comes and they end up just standing around because everything is done by someone else they will most likely feel like they wasted their time. I hope no one ever feels like they have wasted their time by helping in youth ministry.
2. We aren’t sure what to do with too many people
I have become pretty good at adapting to having too few people; I just do it all myself. I realize that is unhealthy but I also think I am not the only one that defaults to that… When I am faced with actually having people to help I don’t always switch from my default, and still do it all myself. Even if I can hand some things off, the default phrase when someone else shows up is “just love on students.” The problem is that is actually a very vague statement, and people that hear that most likely will end up back at #1.
Just a few quick thoughts…more will come I am sure.
Today is my day off. One of my goals for today, among the house cleaning, laundry, errands to run, etc, etc, was to write another blog post.
One of my first posts on this blog was about Why I write, and I purposefully did not put on that list to boost my ego or be the next famous youth worker. I still feel that way, and I want to always write for the right reasons whether it is a book, a blog post, or a comment on the web somewhere. So today, against all known blog rules to improve my traffic flow and followers, this is all the content I am giving you. Writing today feels like a forced chore instead of a blessing. Instead I am going to enjoy my family, watch football, catch up on house work, and whatever else will be a blessing for me. I am sure I will give you some real content again in a few days!
On October 7th, 2010 I should have died.
Now, just over seven months from that day I am still processing all that I have learned from this experience. As I continue to seek God as to why I am still here, why this happened to me, and what it means for the rest of my life I have decided to let you process along with me.
I am realizing now that crashing my dirt bike quite possibly could be one of the most significant spiritual events of my life, but before we get to that let me tell you what happened.
I had just sold an old dual sport motorcycle the week before, and I already had my eyes on a newer, faster, lighter, and better performing dirt bike. On Monday of that week I went to test ride the bike with a friend, we saw it needed a few things done to it, but the guy was willing to negotiate and I ended up buying it that night. This whole process took longer than expected and as a result I was late for music practice at church.
Due to my obvious excitement for my new purchase, my next several evenings were filled with working on the bike. I had made plans to go on its inaugural ride after church on Sunday so I needed to get it ready. On Thursday I got a call saying the new clutch cable had arrived, so after work I picked it up before I went home. Once I was home I changed the cable and crank case oil; now it was time to test it out.
I started the bike for the first time since I bought it and rolled it out of the garage. As I did, my 3 boys were playing in the driveway, and now watching me intently. Feeling the weight of leading by example, I went back into the garage and grabbed my helmet. Once I strapped it on, I jumped on the bike and took off around the corner. There are a bunch of vacant lots behind our house I decided to ride through, and once I was in the dirt I punched the gas. I started through the gears—the bike was running strong, the new cable was working great, and I was full of confidence. I made it to the top of 3rd gear (somewhere around 40 miles an hour) and suddenly everything went into slow motion.
The only thing I remember about that moment was this thought continually running through my mind over and over again, “Maureen is going to kill me, Maureen is going to kill me.”
I had hit a pile of rocks and concrete chunks someone had dumped in one of the lots. It was on a slight down slope and covered by some weeds and I did not see it until I was already in the air, off the bike, and flipping through the air. I can still see the vivid picture my mind took, which I later realized was the aerial view of the rocks. The first thing to hit the ground was my head, followed quickly by my left arm. After the impact of the ground I ended up flat on my back. I sat up and trying to catch my breath I lifted my arms and instantly my left arm buckled.
A lady driving through our neighborhood saw me fall, and quickly drove down by where I had wrecked. As she yelled at me asking if I was ok, I stood up holding my arm and walked toward her. She drove me back to my house where my wife and boys were still out front. My wife, in a state of panic drove me to the hospital. Once I was assessed I was transported by ambulance to a different area hospital, one that could handle my injuries better. I had surgery on my left arm that night, which started my 3 day hospital stay full of scans, tests, pain meds, needles, nurses, tons of family and friends praying for me, and a lot of questions.
My injuries were summed up into a broken left radius (arm), a broken sternum, and a broken back. When I landed on my head, the face shield of my helmet dug into my chest which broke my sternum. My helmet stopped my neck from being injured but the force went further down my spine which crushed T9, T7, T5, and T4 vertebrate. The doctors said if I had not had my helmet on it would have most likely killed me instantly. My life would have ended 50 feet past that pile of rocks.
I soon realized that a week before while selling my old motorcycle, I had done basically the same thing on my old bike with out a helmet on. Truthfully if my boys had not been out front, I am not sure if I would have put on my helmet. This obviously hit me like a ton of bricks, not that I needed to be “hit” with anything more.
After being in a back brace for 10 weeks, a lot of medical bills, and a pretty cool scar on my arm I can say I am mostly physically recovered. However, I am still not completely sure of all the spiritual and emotional lessons I have taken from this. If you want to process it all along with me, stay tuned…