5 Things Pastors Should Be Doing…but probably aren’t!

>>Putting clarity first
This is one that I could write pages and pages on. I will spare you that an simply say that unless you have absolute clarity in your mission, far too much of your energy and momentum will be spent in vain. There is no such thing as alignment that is not preceded by clarity. Without absolute clarity of purpose, no organization or individual can function at their God-given potential. Make your first priority an absolutely ruthless pursuit of clearly articulating God’s unique vision for your church or organization. The book Church Unique was an absolute eye-opener for me in this area. You can download the free Visual Summary of the book here.

>>Taking a sabbath
I am amazed at how often pastors and other leaders have trouble with this one. In fact, in this list of 5, I would probably rank this as number 1 in difficulty. Sometimes we forget that God honors obedience over sacrifice. I know many many pastors and leaders that intellectually recognize the importance of a sabbath, but struggle to regularly honor God by taking one day of rest out of every 7. Leaders, this is one of the Big 10! It’s right up there with “Thou shall not commit adultery”. Not only is it a basic command of obedience encapsulated as an aspect of the Greatest Commandment, it’s part of how God protects and blesses us. Without this basic obedience of rest, will he really honor and bless our work for him? Check out Dr Matthew Sleeth’s upcoming book 24/6 for an honest and Biblical challenge for what this looks like in a digital age of 24/7 productivity, or take a look at how Ron Edmondson protects his sabbath.

>>Blogging
Modern technology gives us simple tools that allow us to connect on a more personal level with some of the thought leaders of our generation. We have an amazing potential to teach and learn from a broader base than we’ve ever had in history. A generation ago, the best avenue to share the unique experience and perspective that God was building into your life, was through becoming a published author. Blogging is a simple, easy way to disseminate your spiritual journey and life mission in smaller bite-sized chunks to a potentially worldwide audience, as well as invite conversation and collaborative learning to take place. Don’t think blogging will ever replace the personal touch, but it’s also a great way to maintain a more personal connection with a larger group of people than you could possibly manage in more traditional ways. Even if you have to use a ghost writer, this is something you should be doing.

>>Social Media
Don’t underestimate the impact that 140 digital characters can have! Twitter is essentially a global text message. Just like a cell-phone text, you have to clarify your message into 140 letters/spaces or less. A lot can be said in such a small space – and technology allows your tweet or Facebook post to link to a blog, article, picture, video, anything! Use it as a hook to let people know where they can find resources that add value to their lives and ministry. Use Facebook to invite people into conversation or make a first connection. Use Pinterest to show the story that God telling at your church with great pictures that are worth a thousand words. I know that someone on your staff or leadership has been telling you this is something you should be doing. Just take the plunge and mark off one hour a week to plan how your church can connect to the new town hall of the Millennial generation. Ask for help, and give your people an opportunity to serve in an area that they enjoy.

>>Inviting people to tell their story
One of the challenges of being a good communicator with a clear mission is that we can tend to be the one telling the story too often, when God wants to give voice to his glory through the redemption stories of the people in our community. Get in the habit of seeking out the stories of God moving – transforming lives and brokeness into grace, redemption, and a life on mission – and then give those stories voice. Few things reveal the magnificence of God’s work and capture hearts quite like a story. We are called to be witnesses, so let’s give people something to bear witness to!

NEXT UP: >>Dangerous God

The Clarity of a Singularity – is your life unique?

>>Most people don’t know this, but I have a tattoo on my left shoulder blade. It’s not artistic or beautiful. It is three simple letters – ONE. I put it there when I was much younger as a declaration of clarity – what I recognized at the time, as one of the most important articulations of my life philosophy:

>>everything that exists is a singularity
I believe that! There is one truth. One God. One love. One life. One source. One good. One savior. One hope. One me. One you. Everything in life is unique. That’s one of the reasons that I am passionate about Auxano. We are convinced that every church is unique, and has a purpose that is at once, COSMICALLY significant and LOCALLY specific. There is no duplication, no routine, no repeats, no counterfeits. There is only one. With some conscious thought, this concept reveals itself with stunning clarity, however it’s such a struggle to actually LIVE this way. I wrestled with why it’s so difficult, and my conclusion is that it absolutely terrifies my finite, little mind.

>>my enemy, the calendar
Consider how we mark time as a culture. Each unnamed minute repeats 60 times every hour. Each 7 day cycle repeats 52 anonymous times in a year. This system is practically designed to convince us that life is mundane. Nameless minutes and repetitive hours blur into the same cycle of 7 days. It’s just another Monday, same as last Monday and next Monday. It’s almost Friday, and the weekend. Sometimes the monotony is enough to make you want to bite your own face. For pastors, there’s only Sunday. The other days are just lead-in and recovery…the planning time between Sundays. For 9 to 5’ers, Monday through Friday is just another work week. Part of the struggle is that when each hour and each day is labeled the same over and over, it’s tough to recognize – much less embrace their singularity.

The unlikely truth is that every day, every HOUR is a singularity. How much more precious and important would a year be if every day had it’s own unique name? How much more weight and value do we attach to something that has never occurred before in all of history, and never will again?! Our labels serve well to mark to the passage of time, but effectively blind us to the precious and singular nature of existence.

When I begin to consider that every moment is a unique universal occurrence that has never happened before, and will never arise again – when I consider that each day is unique and carries its own once-in-a-lifetime potential, I get butterflies the size of foxes in my stomach. I could hyperventilate! What do my actions and decisions mean in this context? They can only be made, never taken back, and what I do (or don’t) carries forward in time potentially into eternity. The human mind deals with complexity and significance by assigning labels, by reducing things to oversimplified models. Our nature, as well as our culture accepts and even embraces this simplification as the norm. But my tattoo every once in a while rips that covering away from my mind and reminds me that there is a purpose and clarity to every moment of my life.

>>clarity
So what does this mean? That the unique singularity of the gift of each day will pass by with only marginal, haphazard purpose if I don’t know with stunning clarity what my mission in life is. These unique and priceless days do not stop and wait while I lack purpose. They continue to move through the present and into an irretrievable past at a dizzying pace, lost forever. If I don’t move forward in my life-mission on any given day, I can never recover that lost ground.

Don’t get me wrong, I am going to enjoy life. In fact, when I live in the clarity of my mission – I enjoy life more fully in work, in relationships, and in leisure than at any other time. There is something deeply fulfilling about having a mission that enfolds every portion of a healthy life, giving meaning, focus, and clarity to what seems at times a fragmented and mundane repetition.

>>so what?
If we consider our God as infinite in reach, ability, and understanding then I would posit everything that he creates is a singularity. If he truly is that grand and unending, why should we find it hard to imagine that every single particle in the universe is named and unique to him, that it has a place as part of his larger vision and purpose? I certainly consider my life in those terms – and I strive to embrace every thing in my experience as a singularity with purpose. So answer this below in the comments section:

Can you state the mission of your life?

Next up: >>5 THINGS PASTORS SHOULD BE DOING, BUT PROBABLY AREN’T