Book Review: 7 Lessons for New Pastors

Before we can make any plans for the church, we must know the sheep well.  Take every opportunity to become familiar with members of your church. Don’t rush into your action plans too quickly. – from the book 7 Lessons for New Pastors, page 96

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Matthew D. Kim wrote this helpful book after his first year as a senior pastor.  Since I believe that God might be leading me to be a senior pastor, I thought it would be a good idea to do some reading on others’ experiences as new senior pastors.

Dr. Kim offers 7 good tips for new senior pastors.  The first couple chapters are about making sure you are called to be a pastor and the importance of finding the right church.  Then he moves into how to acclimate to the pastor’s life and gives some good tips on creating good habits.  Dr. Kim shares that the most important habit for a pastor is a strong prayer life.  He says: Prayer is priceless in the life of a pastor. It is the glue that holds everything together…Without prayer, we lack God’s love and power. Without prayer, we will be empty on the inside and have nothing left to give our parishioners. Without prayer, we cease to be pastors (page 53).

Chapter five is about how to develop your leadership skills.  He gives some good ideas on how to create and cast vision and the importance of developing leaders.  He shares that to be effective, learn to develop leaders and delegate responsibility…the church should be able to thrive without us.  That is the proper test of whether we have produced quality lay leaders (page 83).

In chapter six, Dr. Kim shares some great tips on how to love your congregation. He says: ministry is people. It is people that make the calling of ministry valuable and worthwhile (page 93). It is so easy to lose sight of that.  To get caught up in doing stuff and to forget that its all about people.  Dr. Kim shares some great ideas on how to get to know your congregation and to really get to know their stories.

And finally, in chapter 7, Dr. Kim shares his advice on how to be ready for when the unexpected happens.  What to do when tragedy strikes.  What to do when you get unusual and unexpected requests. And how to resist unexpected temptations.

All in all, I thought this was a great book that would be beneficial for anyone who is moving into a senior pastor role.  Check it out.

Sometimes You Just Need a Donut

I have to be honest with you: I’m not loving life right now.  It’s COLD. Oh so cold. No more football for like 260 days.  We are in this season of waiting on God to tell us what’s next.  Don’t get me wrong.  I’m a very blessed man.  I have an OUTSTANDING wife and awesome kids.  We have some great friends we get to do life with.  But you know what? I’m cranky.  I’m tired of being cold and being a stay at home dad.  Blah. 

And that’s ok.  You see, we all get cranky at times.  We all get sick of the weather and where life has us in certain seasons.  We want Spring to come or we want that baby to be born NOW (so said my wife when she was 9 months pregnant) or we want God to fill us in on what he’s got planned for us.

And so I wait.  For Spring and warmer weather.  For God to lead me to the right church to be their pastor.  For whatever comes next.  But often God is doing the most work when he seems to be silent.  It is in the midst of pain and waiting and the long winter that God changes us.  We are like a seed that is buried in the cold, dark ground.  That seed needs that time in uncertain darkness before it matures and is ready to grow and bear fruit. (…or vegetables if I was really going to be true to the metaphor.  But I like fruit much more than vegetables and who talks about bearing much vegetables??)

But today? Today my OUTSTANDING wife brought me a donut.  Because, even when you are trying to be healthy and lose weight, sometimes you just need a donut to help you make it through another day.  And I will continue to trust Jesus and know that he is good.  Because he created donuts.  Oh- and also, because he loves me and he knows what I need, which is often different that what I want.  Sort of like donuts and a weight loss plan…

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Book Review: The Wounded Healer

Wounded-Healer

“The great illusion of leadership is to think that man can be led out of the desert by someone who has never been there.”- Henri Nouwen

As young leaders, we gather knowledge and experience and think that alone will help us become great leaders. I now believe that it is only after a leader has lived in the desert for a season and experienced true suffering and loss that God is able to use that broken person for His purposes.  We see this over and over in the Bible. Moses had to spend 40 years in desert before leading the people of God out of slavery and bondage.  David spent his early years tending sheep and then his early adult years running from Saul before he could be the king God wanted him to be. Jesus was led into the desert for 40 days and 40 nights before starting his public ministry.

The Wounded Healer by Henri Nouwen dives into this idea that God uses broken, imperfect people who have experienced pain to minister to other broken people.  While not a great piece of literature, I would recommend this book to anyone in ministry.  Its a quick read, less than 100 pages long.  However, Nouwen shares some great wisdom in this short book.  For that reason, I give this book 3 stars out of 5.

Book Review- The Contemplative Pastor

The pastor’s question is, “Who are these particular people, and how can I be with them in such a way that they can become what God is making them?”- Eugene Peterson

I’m currently in a “wait and see” season of life.  I’ve described it to a friend as feeling like a shepherd with no flock.  Our time at our previous church came to an end in September 2013 and now we are waiting to see where God leads us next.

While I’ve been waiting, I have done a lot of praying and soul searching.  I have immersed my soul in God’s Word and listened to dozens of wonderful sermons from pastors Mark Driscoll (Seattle) and Tim Keller (New York City).

514PsIOYCmLI have also been reading a lot.  One of the books I just finished is titled The Contemplative Pastor: Returning to the Art of Spiritual Direction by Eugene Peterson.  Peterson, best known for his translation of the Bible called the Message, has also written numerous books on pastoring/shepherding.

The Contemplative Pastor is a really great book that I would recommend for anyone in ministry- but especially for a pastor who has already put in his first decade of service and is looking for wisdom from a pastor who had shepherded his people for decades.

Peterson encourages pastors to embrace “the unhurried life”- to leave room for God to move and to do life with messy people.  He says it this way:

How can I lead people into the quiet place beside the still waters if I am in perpetual motion? How can I persuade a person to live by faith and not by works if I have to juggle my schedule constantly to make everything fit into place?…I know I can’t be busy and pray at the same time. I can be active and pray; I can work and pray; but I cannot be busy and pray. I cannot be inwardly rushed, distracted, or dispersed.

That is such a good word.  Too often, we rush around trying to accomplish great things for God instead of just “be” and live in communion with God’s spirit.

Peterson also encourages pastors to really love their people and to take time for them.

Pastoral listening requires unhurried leisure, even if it’s only for five minutes.  Leisure is a quality of spirit, not a quantity of time.  Only in that ambiance of leisure do persons know they are listened to with absolute seriousness, treated with dignity and importance.  Speaking to people does not have the same personal intensity as listening to them. The question I put to myself is not “How many people have you spoken to about Christ this week?” but “How many people have you listened to in Christ this week?”

Wow.  Convicting.

If you are in ministry or if you feel like God has given you the spiritual gift of shepherding, I would strongly encourage you to pick up this book.  It will stretch and challenge you and help you on your journey to becoming more like our Great Shepherd- Jesus.

 

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Big Changes for the Lindeen Family!

1150192_10151917742004673_1234282678_nA little over two years ago, God called us to leave our friends and family in Colorado and move 1,000 miles away to Madison, Wisconsin, to become Church Planters. I came on staff with Converge Great Lakes (formerly known as Great Lakes Baptist Conference and part of the Baptist General Conference) as a Church Planting Intern. Our desire was to learn more about church planting with the thought that someday God might call me to be a lead pastor and to possibly plant a church as the lead planter. For the last two years, we have served with Ezra Church and it has been awesome to see God build and establish His church!  In the past two years, Ezra Church has baptized 14 people, helped over 85 adults find community through being a part of a small group, and grown from a core of 50 people to a church of over 200 people! Your support, encouragement, and prayers helped make that possible!

Through the guidance and direction of Converge Great Lakes and the Ezra Church Leadership and after much time in prayer, I feel that God is calling me to step out in faith and to take a position as a senior pastor! We are going to take the next couple of months to pray and determine if God is calling me to (1.) be a lead church planter and to plant a new church with Converge or (2.) if God is calling me to go to an established Converge church that is looking for a new senior pastor.

We have finished the Pre-Assessment Phase of the church planting process with Converge. The next step of our journey in determining if God is actually calling us to plant a church is attendance at the nationally renowned Converge Church Planting Assessment Center next February. This four day intensive assessment looks at potential church planters through a grid of sixteen non-negotiable traits that Converge has found to be essential for successful planting over the past twenty years. Once we complete this assessment, we will have clear confirmation one way or the other concerning whether I am called to be a lead pastor in a church planting context or a lead pastor in an established church setting.

Converge (Baptist General Conference) also has a Pastoral Placement Process (P3), which helps match pastors like me who feel called to be a senior pastor and churches that are in need of a new senior leader.  I have finished my P3 assessment and we are waiting and praying to see if God is leading us to an established church.  We have told Converge that we would be open to going to a church in Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, or Colorado.

We want to thank you for your prayers and encouragement over the last two years! We could not be on this ministry journey without you! We would appreciate your continued prayers over these next couple of months as we wait on God and prepare for wherever he is leading us next.

Thanks and God bless,

Kristin and Erik Lindeen
Fellow Laborers In Christ
Madison, WI.

Reflections on the Psalms: 23rd Psalm

slide-02The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.

He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.

 He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.

Psalm 23:1-3 (KJV)

This is probably the most well known chapter in the Bible.  John 3:16 takes the prize for the most well known verse, but when you are talking about a whole chapter, almost everyone is familiar with Psalms 23.  Even in scary movies, they will quote it: yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil…

I love that this chapter has troubles and goodness in the same passage.
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Comparison is the Thief of Joy

comparison1There I was, at the gym, pumping iron, and feeling good.  I was lifting more weight than I had ever lifted before in my life! And then it happened.  I looked over, saw some skinny dude racking up the weight on his bar, and lift more weight and pound out more reps than what I could do.  All of a sudden, I didn’t feel so good about myself anymore.

This morning, I was swimming laps and feeling great that I could do 150 yards without stopping when I get lapped by some grandma swimming next to me.  All of a sudden, I didn’t feel so good about myself anymore.

So far this year, I’ve lost 33 pounds and 4 inches off my waist.  It has taken a TON of hard work and dedication and sheer willpower.  I feel better about myself and I feel a lot healthier.  Then, I hear that a friend lost 75 pounds in 3 months this summer.  All of a sudden, I don’t feel so good about myself anymore.

Theodore Roosevelt said that Comparison is the thief of Joy.  I could not agree more.  It is so easy to get discouraged when you look at the blessings in others’ lives and when you compare your “progress” to what they have been able to accomplish.

I think that for those of us who are pastors, it may be even worse than some other professions.  We feel great that our church has grown by 15% this year…until we hear about a friend’s church that has grown by 150%.

The truth is, we are all on different journeys.  God has a plan and a story for each one of us.  Let’s choose to not compare where we are on the journey with others who have a different path to walk. God wants to transform us more into the likeness of Jesus.  Let’s fix our eyes on Christ, cheer each other on, and choose to not compare ourselves to others.