Category Archives: Ministry Musings

Ministry Musings: Preventing Identity Theft

Several experiences in the past week have revived my awareness of how difficult it is to pastor a congregation today.  I have friends under the gun for things that are antithetical to the Gospel–things which bespeak congregational sickness, not health. … Continue reading

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Ministry Musings: It’s Official!

…at least that’s what Publishers’ Weekly said a few months ago, as they announced the creation of a new genre of literature: New Adult.  Essentially, it is an identifiable collection of writing that deals with key themes related to early … Continue reading

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Ministry Musings: Spiritual Leadership

I am working on two projects that call for a fresh concentration on the term “spiritual leadership.”  And while I have spoken and written about the subject over the years, I have a new view to write about today. It … Continue reading

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Ministry Musings: Toxic Leadership

Like many others, I have grown increasingly concerned about the neo-fundamentalism that is dominating and caricaturing too much Christianity these days. It is a theology and resultant mindset that is antithetical to the Gospel and destructive to the Christian witness … Continue reading

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Ministry Musings: Things That Abide

I am pondering the fact that the older Christian churches (Roman, Orthodox, Lutheran) tend to be more liturgical, while the newest startups are less so.  I am not writing to make a case for one style of worship over another, … Continue reading

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Ministry Musings: Priest or Functionary?

One of Pope Francis’ first-year concerns is the renewal of the priesthood from it having eroded into functionalism.  This is something for all of us clergy to think about.  It is not limited to Roman Catholic priests.  It can happen … Continue reading

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Ministry Musings: Quantity Envy

The United States may be the only place where pastors feel inferior if they serve small churches–or at least one of only a few places in Christianity where the “bigger is better” lie has eaten into the soul of the … Continue reading

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Ministry Musings: Better Together

The story of the four people who carried their friend to Jesus is a metaphor for ministry.  It us a reminder that there are some things we can do better when we do them together.  The stretcher had four corners.  … Continue reading

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Ministry Musings: The Home Front

     As leaders, we eventually come to see that our leadership comes more from the people we are than from the training we received.  A telling question is, “What kind of home did you grow up in?”       Our home … Continue reading

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Ministry Musings: Major Shifts

In a recent issue of the Alban Weekly, Sarai Rice listed some of the major shifts occurring in the church today. The following is longer than my usual posts, but what she notes is especially important…. Question: What are some … Continue reading

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Ministry Musings:

One of the best sources for your theological development is Catalyst (www.catalystresources.org).  Although published for seminarians, it is an excellent resource for clergy and laity who want to practice lifelong learning. This resource is beginning its 40th year of offering … Continue reading

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Ministry Musings: Lectionary Resources

This Sunday, we begin a new three-year Lectionary Cycle.  I want to remind you of two resources that will help you preach and teach mote effectively if you use the Revised Common Lectionary… (1) Ancient Christian Devotional (InterVarsity Press) series … Continue reading

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Ministry Musings: Counter-Cultural Ministry

We like to declare that the Gospel is counter-cultural, and thereby God-given and transformative.  Should we not draw the same conclusion about ministry that is rooted in the Gospel? Isn’t our ministry supposed to be counter-cultural. too?  And the most … Continue reading

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Ministry Musings: Alternative Lectionaries

I have probably come late to the dance, but I have just discovered there are at least two substantive alternatives to the Revised Common Lectionary…. The African-American Lectionary The Narrative Lectionary Both have commendable features, and if you (like me) … Continue reading

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Ministry Musings: Genuineness

Saint Charles Borromeo (1538-1584) delivered these words to fellow clergy at the last synod he attended…. “Are you in charge of a parish?  If so, do not neglect the parish of your own soul, do not give yourself to others … Continue reading

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Ministry Musings: Keep Watch Over Yourself

     Institutions in decline increase the pressure on leaders to “produce” and “succeed.”  This is the sociological equivalent to the natural survival instinct.  I see it across the board in North American Christianity, but especially among church-planting pastors and those … Continue reading

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Ministry Musings: Aim at Improvement

(Note: This is the final post on the subject of discernment.  If you want to review the entire series, go to “Ministry Musings” on August 30, 2012, where the first posting was made)…. A surprising discovery I have made in … Continue reading

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Ministry Musings: See Yourself as an Instrument

St. Francis of Assisi taught that we must see ourselves as “instruments” of God.  This connects with discernment in the sense that we are not practicing discernment to elevate our powers of knowledge, wisdom, insight, etc.  We are seeking to … Continue reading

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Ministry Musings: Focus on a Few Things

Every morning, Frank Laubach prayed, “God, what are you doing in the world today that I can help you with?”  It was a prayer of discernment that included the realization that God does not want us to do everything.  Discernment … Continue reading

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Ministry Musings: See God in All Things

We call God “sustainer.”  That means there is not a split second or square inch where God is not present and active.  Discernment is learning to look for God in every moment and every event of our lives. In the … Continue reading

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Ministry Musings: Practice Lectio Divina

Discernment is praying to know God’s will.  Much of that will is already revealed in Scripture.  So, discernment is always connected to reading the Bible in order to find out what God has already revealed. We join with the saints … Continue reading

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Ministry Musings: Parallel the Fruit of the Spirit

A third fundamental practice in discernment is to align it with the fruit of the Spirit.  God’s will never violates love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23).  As Paul says it at the end of … Continue reading

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Ministry Musings: Failing Forward

Before we move to the next aspect of discernment, I want to lift up a significant role that community plays in the discernment process.  It is the context where we can fail; the net into which we can fall. We … Continue reading

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Ministry Musings: Enter Into Community

We continue our exploration of selected practical aspects of discernment. Today, we move a third practice:  entering into community.  A look at the history of Christian spirituality shows that the saints did not practice discernment in isolation from others.  Neither … Continue reading

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Ministry Musings: Offer Yourself to God

Romans 12:1 gives us the primary pre-requisite to knowing the will of God—offering ourselves to God as living sacrifices. This means that the fundamental practice in discernment is a heart surrendered to God.  Abandonment to God disposes our hearts to … Continue reading

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Ministry Musings: Accept the Limitations

We turn to some of the practical considerations with respect to discernment.  None is more important that this:  we must accept that there are limitations to our ability to discern God’s will. God is not playing hide-and-seek with us, but … Continue reading

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Ministry Musings: Gathering The Insights

Before we turn to more-practical aspects of discernment, let’s review what we have said so far…. (1) Discernment is a cultivation of a heart for God.  It is not in essence a technique.  Insight flows from inclination. (2) Becoming God’s … Continue reading

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Ministry Musings: What If I Get It Wrong?

We’ve completed our review of what discernment is not, and what it is—even though there is more we could have said and more we could have explored. We’re at a place where we can ask a very important question, “What … Continue reading

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Ministry Musings: Made for Discernment

In working with others on discernment, I’ve found it’s possible to reach a point psychologically where it all begins to feel very complex—kind of like purchasing an auto-repair manual and trying to go home and fix our cars by reading … Continue reading

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Ministry Musings: Discernment, a Pattern for Life

We’ve spent quite a few weeks looking at selected “details” about discernment.  I think we need to step back today and regain a bigger picture. This entire study is based upon the conviction that discernment is more a pattern for … Continue reading

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Ministry Musings: Discernment is….(5)

We have looked at four dimensions of discernment.  We could look at many others, but I’ll bring this segment of our study to a close by examining a fifth element… Discernment is making crucial distinctions. (1) We must distinguish between … Continue reading

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Ministry Musings: Discernment Is…(4)

Discernment is paying attention to “nudges.” We’ve all had moments when we “just feel like I’m supposed to do something.”  Clearly, those moments are not always correct, but they are important.  We must not ignore them. Here are some examples … Continue reading

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Ministry Musings: Discernment Is…(3)

Discernment is a repository of life experience. We make a mistake if we think we have to treat discernment as if it is something required in each new situation.  On the contrary, we already know how to live in many … Continue reading

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Ministry Musings: Discernment Is… (2)

Discernment is a revelation of God’s heart. Obviously, this is the most important thing, but I put it second because if our hearts are not disposed to God, then God’s revelation will pour through us like water passes through a … Continue reading

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Ministry Musings: Discernment Is… (1)

We begin an exploration of some of the things that discernment is… Discernment is a disposition of the heart–a general life orientation.  It is not so much figuring out God’s will in a given situation as it is a desire … Continue reading

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Ministry Musings: What Discernment is Not (5)

Today, we explore one final thing in relation to what discernment is not.  It is not always what other think you should do, or worse, what they expect you to do. Discernment surely involves a submission of ourselves to the … Continue reading

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Ministry Musings: What Discernment is Not (4)

Discernment is not knowing God’s will “down to the detail.” For example, we may have discerned that it is God’s will for us to go to school.  For God-given reasons, we need to study further (either in an actual degree … Continue reading

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Ministry Musings: Discernment is Not (3)

Today we explore the fact that discernment is not the opposite of what you want to do. I don’t know how the notion God started that God’s will is opposite to our will.  Of course, there are times when it … Continue reading

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Ministry Musings: Discernment is Not (2)

We continue to look at what discernment is not…. It is not “static”—it is not an “it.” When we discern the will of God, we have not captured something.  The will of God is dynamic—alive—ongoing. One thing leads to another.  … Continue reading

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Ministry Musings: Discernment is Not… (1)

Last week, we opened the door to consider some things that discernment is not. We said that it is not having to frustratingly search for “one correct thing,” but rather to be able to make a faithful choice between viable … Continue reading

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Ministry Musings: Micro Discernment

Last week we explored macro discernment—that is, the discovery of our life’s purpose and our dedication to it.  But even when we have a sense of our calling, there are innumerable little discernments (decisions) which we must make.  I call … Continue reading

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Ministry Musings: Macro Discernment

I have found it helpful to think of discernment in terms of its macro aspect and its micro aspect.  Today, we look at the macro dimension. The macro aspect means discernment in relation to our life purpose—our calling.  We live … Continue reading

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Ministry Musings: The Way of the Heart

There are multiple images that will help us to understand and experience discernment.  My favorite is the phrase “the way of the heart.”  I was introduced to this phrase by Henri Nouwen in his book by the same title.  I … Continue reading

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Ministry Musings: Experiencing the Ordinary

When I wrote the book Talking in the Dark, I was trying to show the place of prayer in our times of crisis, confusion, and challenge. But we don’t live “in crisis” all the time.  Most of our days are … Continue reading

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Ministry Musings: Discernment–Intro

I wrote the book Talking in the Dark: Praying When Life Doesn’t Make Sense, precisely to address the place of prayer when we inevitably confront the mysteries, challenges, and inequities of life. Doing so, led me to consider the role … Continue reading

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0Ministry Musings: On A Brief Hold

Because of an erratic summer travel schedule, I have decided to postpone the beginning of a new series of “Ministry Musings.”  For now, each Thursday, will see a return to “Gleanings” with quotations from others I think you’ll find helpful.

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Ministry Musings: On A Brief Hold

Having just completed a three-part series on evangelism, Ministry Musings is on a temporary hold.  In the meantime, I’ll return to the “Gleanings” category and post quotations I believe you’ll find helpful.

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Ministry Musings: Making Christ Known (3)

Before we leave our brief consideration of conversational evangelism, I want to be sure to emphasize that sometimes our “conversation” is an action—an act of compassion and/or service.  An act of love. A lot of people think that religion in … Continue reading

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Ministry Musings: Making Christ Known (2)

Today, I want to tell you about Denny.  He picked me up at the airport, with the assignment to take me to a meeting his parents were in charge of.  He was a student at The University of Michigan, and … Continue reading

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Ministry Musings: Making Christ Known (1)

Most people hear the word “evangelism,” and their blood runs cold.  We associate witnessing with speaking in public for the first time before a crowd of thousands. “No thank you.” But….it doesn’t have to be that way.  There is a … Continue reading

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