Tag Archives: pastors

Comforted comforters…

comforting 2 Corinthians 1:3-11 

This is chapter 2 in my “Learning Leadership Lessons from 2 Corinthians” that you can find here.

2 Corinthians contains more references to “trouble” and “tribulation” that any other book in the New Testament. But it also contains more in it about God’s “comfort” than any other. While the term “tribulation” is used 9 times, the term, “comfort” appears 29 times! There must be at least three times as much comfort available to us as there is trouble awaiting us!

The first thing we learn about comfort is that God doesn’t comfort us in order to make us comfortable, but to make us comforters! This is particularly true of spiritual leaders. It is crucial for a leader to model and teach how a person receives comfort from God in the middle of difficulty. Paul is telling us that the leader has to suffer so he can access the help of God, and thus be able to mentor others in how to access that same help for himself. The leader whose closest contact with personal pain is what they read in a book won’t very well be able to help the hurting!

I recall a painful rejection of a very close friend and colleague. I went out to one of my favorite prayer spots along the railroad tracks among the broccoli fields overlooking the ocean. At one point I just sat down on the tracks and wept over the experience. Prior to that, I hadn’t ever really taken particular note of the Psalm that says, “God is close to the brokenhearted.” But at that moment of pain, the Holy Spirit brought those words to me, and I took comfort in them. How often, when consoling other brokenhearted people, I’ve drawn on that verse, and the experience that brought the truth of it to my attention. He comforted me in my troubles, so that I could comfort those in trouble with the comfort I myself had received from Him!
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The flappy shirt

Hand of drowning manWe have conducted ourselves in the world, and especially in our relations with you, in holiness and sincerity that are from God. We have done so not according to worldly wisdom, but according to God’s grace. 2 Corinthians 1:12

My friend Robby has a plaque in his office that says, “The leader knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way.” A lot of people know the way, but don’t consistently go that way before they start trying to show others the way. Nobody’s perfect; we’ll all stumble and fall but there’s an irreducible minimum of personal holiness that’s required for the spiritual servant leader. Jesus said, “I sanctify myself that they too may be sanctified” (John 17). People are more apt to do what you do more than do what you say they ought to do. You may be a shepherd, but first you’re a sheep. You have to follow the Great Shepherd before you can tell others how to follow Him.

It takes more than charisma to lead people in the Jesus way. Oswald Chambers wrote, “It’s an easy business to preach – an appallingly easy thing to tell other people what to do. It is another thing to have God’s message turned into a boomerang.” In Paul’s qualifications for elders and deacons in Timothy and Titus, you’ll notice that, with the exception of “able to teach,” all the things he lists are personal obedience issues – above reproach, self-control, respectable, etc.       Continue reading

What Tess Taught Me

Jesus new robe manThe following is the 21st chapter of my essay on Learning Leadership Lessons from 2 Corinthians, called:  “Leaders see people through their potential in Christ.”       

And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.   16 So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old has gone, the new has come!”   2 Corinthians 5:16-17

Many years ago we had a woman in our church family named “Tess.” She was a challenge to pastor (to say the very least!). Tess had no small “personality disorder,” and though sincere in her faith, she was socially challenged. Her “disorder” frankly gave me a headache as I tried to clean up one relationship mess after another, which seemed to follow her everywhere she went. I found myself resenting her and wishing she’d suddenly get a calling to the church down the street. Continue reading

The Surgeon’s Assistants

surgeonI shared this in chapter 22 of my essay called Learning Leadership Lessons from 2 Corinthians.

As God’s fellow workers we urge you not to receive God’s grace in vain. 2 Corinthians 6:1 

“God’s fellow workers” Isn’t that a great way to describe spiritual leaders? Paul used it in another place along with some other descriptive terms for those who lead:

For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, God’s building. …What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe –as the Lord has assigned to each his task. …So then, men ought to regard us as servants of Christ and as those entrusted with the secret things of God.” (1 Corinthians 3:5, 9; 4:1).

I’ve labeled these passages in the margin of my Bible: “What Leaders Look Like.” Continue reading

Some pastors pray way too much…

Many of my best friends are pastors. Really. For the most part pastors are fine people. Recently to two such friends of mine I said that they “pray too much.” In my humble opinion, there’s an epidemic proportion of profuse pastoral prayers in public. OK, I exaggerate in order to provoke – I also liked stringing together all those words that begin with “p.” But I do have a point to make. Continue reading

Pastor, don’t lose your head (or anything else for that matter)! Part 3

But you should keep a clear mind in every situation. Don’t be afraid of suffering for the Lord. Work at bringing others to Christ. Complete the ministry God has given you.  2 Timothy 4:5 NLT

Undoubtedly due to my Baby Boomer Generation mindset, I prefer lists; you know the kind that delineate six do’s and four don’t’s for choosing a mate, five steps to avoiding joining a cult, three ways to stay out of trouble with God. I like Romans more than Ecclesiastes – the more linear approach than the poetic. This is probably why, over the years, I’ve been drawn to this verse in Paul’s last letter to his young protégé before his beheading. He boiled it down to four things that he thought a young spiritual leader should remember – Don’t lose your head, don’t be afraid, share Christ with as many as possible, and finish what God has called you to! Continue reading

Pastor, don’t lose your head (or anything else for that matter)! Part 2

But you should keep a clear mind in every situation. Don’t be afraid of suffering for the Lord. Work at bringing others to Christ. Complete the ministry God has given you.  2 Timothy 4:5 NLT 

In Part 1 we talked about the first of four important pieces of advice that Paul gave Timothy in this verse – to be sober in his thinking and not freak out when things get weird in his ministry. He knew for sure that things would get that way, and warned his protégé to keep his head together. He also knew things would get hard, that difficulty was inevitable for the one living a life of service, so he encouraged him to endure whatever came his way.

“Don’t be afraid to suffer for the Lord” (Don’t give up when it gets hard)

Not to play the Greek card in order to make me look like an expert, but I noticed that this phrase (which is a translation of just one original word) literally means to “suffer evil.” I think Paul was encouraging his young disciple to refuse to quit when being a spiritual leader seemed unbearable. It reminds me of the time when I asked the Lord what I was to do about all the loss I was experiencing at the time (divorce, broken neck, cancer). The words that ricocheted around in my thinker were “Suffer well!” (Not exactly what I was hoping for at the time! “Get well… Be well” even “Well, well…” would have sounded a lot better to me. But oh well!) Continue reading