Monday, October 30, 2006

Pastor, Appreciate Them Month


A strange woman came to our door last evening and handed Marilyn an envelope with a brief typewritten message. In the envelope was a very generous cash gift for us to use on our winter vacation. The note read:

“Please accept this gift as a blessing from the Lord. It is our desire this gift will help in some way to allow you to relax more, and do less. (More ‘Mary’ time and less ‘Martha’ time.) We were really blessed last year to see your zeal after returning. We hope this year will be a repeat performance. We love you and wish you a grand time, loving God and loving each other.” Signed~ “Love, whosoever.”

Thank You Lord! We were really short on funds for this year’s vacation. How You provide!


Once again, October was designated as Pastor Appreciation Month. During most of our ministry, no such month existed. However, time and time again our people would surprise us with notes of affirmation, promised prayer and unexpected generosity.

We give thanks to congregations and individuals who care deeply for their spiritual leaders.

May this e-mail be a reminder to send a thank you note or gift, it’s never too late. Words of affirmation restore the discouraged. I keep an annual file marked “Affirmation” in which cards, notes and prayer promises of that year are kept for occasional reference. (A reminder to fellow pastors/leaders….let’s be sure we respond to those who remembered us, not only this month but in the future as well.).

Be responsive to your pastoral leaders. Listen to their counsel. They are alert to the condition of your lives and work under the strict supervision of God. Contribute to the joy of their leadership, not its drudgery. Why would you want to make things harder for them?” Hebrews 13 (The Message)

SAYING YES TO GOD Vol. VII # 19-bob and marilyn yawberg.

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Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Inner~Views: Pastors & the Struggle of Prayer

Praying Pastor interviewed Dr. Ray Pritchard
Ray Pritchard Photo
1) Ray, you are a pastor-teacher who recognizes the role of prayer in the life of both the believer and the corporate body ... What factors led to this awareness?

After serving as a pastor for 26 years in three churches in widely differing circumstances, I can look back over some wonderful high points and some very difficult low moments. I have known the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat. Often they came in the same day. When I look back to those early days of my ministry, I smile because like a lot of young people, I came out of seminary with no shortage of self-confidence. That in itself is a good thing and even a gift from God because the young often approach life with a kind of fearless courage that enables them to do things the rest of us think can't be done. Time has a way of refining our self-confidence and ideally replacing it with a new kind of God-confidence. In my early in Oak Park we came to a crisis in the church that plunged us into controversy. It was a combination of worship issues, theological issues, and the whole question of what sort of church we would become. At one point a man came to me and told me that not only should I leave the church, but Ithat should never be a pastor again and that he would work to see that happen. In God's providence at that very moment I spent a few days teaching at a mission station in Belize. There in the jungle, far removed from all the controversy, I had a powerful experience of the Holy Spirit. I pictured the church with a large black cloud hanging over it. It seemed that the Lord was saying to me, "You have seen what you can do, but you have no answers for this problem." I came to a deep conviction that the cloud would not lift by preaching or programs but only by prayer. When I shared that with the congregation upon my return, the people were deeply moved. Out of that came the prayer movement at Calvary, and l look back on that as the turning point of my entire ministry in Oak Park.

2) What led you to write And When You Pray and how did it help you in your pastoral role?

In the early 1990s I happened to read a book that mentioned the importance of the Ten Commandments, the Lord's Prayer and the Apostles' Creed to the early Christians. The Ten Commandments tells us how to have a right relationship with God, the Lord's Prayer shows us how to maintain that relationship, and the Apostles' Creed lays out the broad outlines of the Christian faith from the very beginning. I decided to preach through all those documents as a means of equipping my own congregation. It happens that I did the Ten Commandments in 1991 and the Lord's Prayer in 1992. It took me twelve more years, but I finally got to the Apostles' Creed in 2004. By the way, I should say that I recommend this sort of preaching to pastors everywhere because it provides a unified approach to the spiritual life and it connects the congregation to the larger stream of Christian history across the generation.

As I preached through the Lord's Prayer, I found it a profoundly enriching experience because those few simple sentences start in heaven, sweep down to the earth, and then take up back to heaven again. It. Because I was not raised in a church that said the Lord's Prayer very often, I had never studied it in depth. The book simply came forth from the sermons and from my own reflections on the words of Jesus. I still remember meeting a Christian leader who told me that there was a part of the prayer that everyone should pray every day. He said he learned it himself as a young man when he asked a wise older leader to help him as he was just starting out. So from the older leader to my friend to me, here is the one part of the Lord's Prayer we should pray every day: "Yours is the kingdom, the power and the glory forever, Amen." We ought to pray that way to remind ourselves it's not our kingdom we're building, it's God's. It's not our power that matters, it's God's. It's not our glory we seek, it's God's. Many days those simple words have refocused my soul.

3) The praying Pastor is strategic to the corporate prayer life of the congregation. What struggles did you encounter? How did you compensate/overcome them?

Years ago I read a book by Peter Wagner where he talked about the importance of pastors having a "prayer shield" to cover them. As a result I recruited 15-20 men and asked them to become my prayer partners. As I recall, the men were not only ready, they were eager to pray for me. I wrote them with updates, met with them occasionally, and updated them on my particular needs. Later we opened that ministry to women and called it the Prayer Warriors movement, which eventually grew to over 200 people. That led to building a prayer room under the sanctuary where people would come to pray during all the worship services. Looking back, I can see that there was a correlation between the evident blessing of God on my ministry and the strength of those who were praying for me. It is not a matter of numbers but of fervent believers who lifted up their pastor in prayer. The first man I ever recruited as a prayer partner eventually moved to a distant city. Every time I see him (one every couple of years), he tells me that he still prays for me every morning at 6:30.

Knowing that so many people were praying for me gave me purpose and endurance in my own walk with God. I once had a friend tell me he was praying for my prayer life. That took me aback for a moment, but I think that was a wonderful gift. I have no doubt that my prayers had more depth and power because others were praying for my prayers.

4) In your observation, what is the biggest misconception Pastors have regarding prayer?

I suppose most pastors instinctively feel that prayer comes to the very core of what we ought to be doing, yet in our culture we often are not rewarded for time spent in prayer. We live in a performance-based world where pastors are asked to produce tangible results quickly. While it has never been easy to be a pastor, I think that expectations are higher than ever and patience is lower than ever. The honeymoon for most new pastors doesn't last very long. As a result it's easy for a pastor to fall into the trap of thinking that he's got to get busy and make things happen now, today, this very moment. Slowly we can slip into the fallacy of believing that our "production" in the ministry depends on us. To the extent we begin to think that way, prayer will not seem very important to us. But once we fall into that trap, we enter a game we cannot win and that will only wear us down and eventually burn us out. No pastor can satisfy the competing demands of all the people in his church. Unless we build a strong inner core where our souls find rest in God, we will probably not last very long in the ministry or we will be swept away by one fad or another or we will be held captive by interest groups in the church, and we will probably become angry, frustrated and disillusioned. At that point prayer becomes a burden, not a blessing.

All of us as pastors struggle with prayer. And that struggle itself is not sinful. It is a reminder that we are made of flesh and that something in us will fight against prayer because prayer is an admission that apart from God, we are a bunch of pathetic losers. The flesh flights against that judgment but it is true nonetheless. When we pray, we launch a revolution against self-sufficiency and plant the flag of God's sovereignty in our heart.

Ray, write a prayer for your colleagues who lead ministries and congregations...

Father in heaven, I thank you for the godly men and women you have called to lead your church. I ask your special help for those who are discouraged and feeling overwhelmed. Grant them a fresh vision of your love. Help them to see that you love them beyond all human reason. Your cross has proved forever that you love the unlovely because while we, the leaders of your church, were yet sinners, Christ died for us. May we never forget that truth. Save us from the folly of preaching to others what we fail to believe ourselves. Show us again that apart from you, we are nothing but pathetic losers.

Thank you for calling us out of the marketplace of life and giving us a job to do in your vineyard. When we are tempted to compare or to complain, open the eyes of our heart to see the glory of what shall one day be revealed to us.

Grant courage to the faint of heart.
Grant wisdom to the confused.
Grant strength to those who being tempted.
Grant overflowing love to those whose love is running on empty.
Let Jesus be seen in us so that those who follow us might truly be following him. Amen.

===>Click headline to access Ray's website . . .

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Monday, October 16, 2006

Inner~Views: Praying Pastors & Conflict

Praying Pastor interviewed Pastor Alfred Poiner,

author of the newly released:

1. Pastor Poirier, three hundred and seventeen pages on conflict ... Is there that much pastors need to know about this issue?
Great question. I recently asked a group of graduating seminarians how much of the Bible is about conflict and one young man lifted his right hand and showed me his four fingers and said: “Gen 1-2 and Rev 21-22. Everything in between is about conflict.” As I say in my book, the Bible is all about conflict and about Christ the great Peacemaker.” So, yes, there is a lot to say about conflict and 314 pages is probably just scratching the surface

2. What does the title of your book tell us about your perspective on the pastor's role before-during-after a conflict?

That’s a big question, let me simply address the most important part—the pastor’s role before a conflict.
If sinful conflict arises out of indwelling sin, then peacemaking must be more than a skill set. It must become a habit of being.
The Peacemaking Pastor isn’t about the odd plumber’s wrench that we are to take out once a year to fix a leaky faucet (conflict). True biblical peace is the fruit of the gospel of reconciliation. Hence, the call to peacemaking is more than just a call to develop a skill set—it is is a “habit of being.” Peacemaking is as much about who we are as something we do. Jesus says this in his seventh beatitude, Matt 5.9 “Blessed are the peacemakers for they will be called the sons of God.
Peacemaking Pastors must recover that sense of awesome gratitude for the work of Christ our Peacemaker. Our souls first must be saturated with Christ’s message and ministry of reconciliation before we can be peacemakers. Prayerful reflection on the gospel of reconciliation (see for example Rom 3-5, 8; Eph 1-3; Col 1-2) alone will renew our hearts and our calling to recover the message and ministry of reconciliation (2 Cor 5.18-21).
Biblical peacemaking is about building a culture of peace in our congregations. By “culture” I mean ingraining godly habits that flow out of having been embraced by the gospel. Those habits are regular thanksgiving and praise to the God who saves us (Eph 1.3-14), confession of sin, granting of true forgiveness (Col 3.12-17), walking in humility and truth before one another, looking out for each other’s interests (Phil 2.1-5).
As pastors we are culture-makers. Through preaching, teaching, and counseling the message of reconciliation –that is coupled with joyful, strategic, and Spirit-relying prayer—we feed, direct and lead our people to be the peacemaking children of God in the family of God.

3. How should a peace-minded pastor incorporate prayer into conflict?
One of my favorite definitions of prayer is taken from an ancient catechism. It asks: What is prayer? And answers…“Prayer is an offering up of our desires to God for things agreeable to his will, in the name of Christ, with confession of our sins, and thankful acknowledgement of his mercies.” (Shorter Catechism. Q. 98).
Prayer couple with God’s word directs me rightly in a conflict. My default desire is not to experience conflict, trial or tribulation, yet James calls it pure joy (Jas 1.2-5). So true biblical prayer must be our desires for things agreeable to God’s will. God purposes conflict as opportunities to display his glory, his wisdom (Jas 1.5) his goodness, mercy, grace, holiness, justice and truth. Conflict drives me to prayer—to trust on God. In the confusion of conflict, I pray for God’s wisdom. Conflict highlights our weakness, our bondage to sin, our immaturity, so it affords me the opportunity to pray for God’s power and might and not my own. Paul saw this most vividly when faced with his own weakness and then experiencing God’s resurrection power (2 Cor 12.9-10).
Paul says God has given us the ministry of reconciliation and that we are Christ’s ambassadors. As ambassadors, we are not here to serve and advance our own agenda, but rather that of God’s We are not to speak our own words, but to ask: Lord, help me to speak your word (the gospel) to my brother sand sisters who are at war with each other. A great example of this is again the apostle Paul. He calls two women in the Philippian church to come to agreement. He then calls upon the rest of the church to help them. And then, beginning in v.4-9, he gives specific commands as to how to do this and one of these is prayer—“Rejoicing…petitioning God, praying instead of getting anxious (anxiety and fear frequently enflame our hearts in conflict). [I flesh this out much more in Chapter 6 of my book).

4. You make it clear that biblical forgiveness is essential - What role does prayer play in forgiving and what is the difference between forgiving as an individual and forgiving as a corporate body (congregation?
Again, let me address the first part of you question—the role that prayer plays in forgiveness.
If our heavenly Father delights most when we forgive those who have offended us, then prayer and forgiveness are intimately related. God’s Spirit reshapes my heart and helps me to forgive others when through prayer I am drawn back to the great ground of prayer—Christ’s death and resurrection for me.
In Matthew 18.21-35, Peter’s struggle to forgive is answered by Jesus’ parable that points Peter to the great forgiveness he has received. I can’t strangle my sister for 100 denarii debt and at the same time truly rejoice at the 10,000 talents God has forgiven me.
Jesus reiterates this truth in Matthew 6.9-15 where we find he teaches us to pray and then of all the petitions he emphasizes, the one he emphasizes is our own petition to be forgiven. For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins. I do not understand Jesus to mean that we earn God’s forgiveness by first forgiving, but rather that the true evidence that we are forgiven and saved by grace is that we are forgivers and givers of grace.

5. One of your chapters, Toward Becoming A Peacemaking Church, talks about confession and celebration. How do they relate to the peacemaking process and how can prayer serve the pastor in each case?
Peacemaking Pastors lead their people to regular confession of sin and praise over God’s rich and bountiful forgiveness through Christ.
Sinful conflict is self-blinding. We will never confess our sin if first we do not pray for the convicting work of the Holy Spirit in our lives. Like David, we must pray: “Search my heart, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts; See if there is any offensive way in me…” Ps 139.23-24. As pastors, leaders, as brothers and sisters in Christ, and as the body of Christ, this must be our first prayer. With conviction of sin can come true confession. I remember how I had mistreated my secretary. My Ps 139.23-24 prayers didn’t make me aware of my offenses, but they did prepare me to listen when my church administrator approached me to gently restore me and help me be reconciled to my secretary. This in turn lead to my public confession of sin before my congregation which was received with joy by my people as they rejoiced to see God work in the heart of their pastor.

6. Pastor, please write a prayer for praying pastors who desire to become peacemaking pastors who lead peacemaking congregations...

Heavenly Father, the God of mercies, even as you have given us the message and ministry of reconciliation, and called us to be ambassadors of Christ, your Son, we ask you to give what you command. We offer to you our prayers that you may begin with us first. Reveal to us, the pastors of your church, the ways we offend you and grant us the grace to confess and renounce our sins that we may once again experience the riches of your grace and forgiveness for us. Then, O Lord, send us out anew as ministers of reconciliation, that we may lead your people to be the peacemaking sons of God, calling to each other and to the world: “Be reconciled to God.” Amen.

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Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Devotional Thoughts Give A Dose of Inspiration

Devotions for Pastors

Even pastors need a regular dose of inspiration. Focus on the Family's pastor to pastors, H.B. London Jr., shares some devotional thoughts just for God's servants based on his three decades of ministry as a senior pastor.

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Why You Need A Prayer Support Team!

By Chris Turner, Baptist Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)--The general inability to �get along� is again at the root of the top five reasons staff members in Southern Baptist churches are terminated from their positions, according to a study by LifeWay Christian Resources� department of pastoral ministries.

Relational issues top the list for the 10th consecutive year, according to Bob Sheffield, a pastoral ministries specialist. The top five are: control issues (who's going to run the church), poor people skills, churches� resistance to change, pastor�s leadership style being too strong, and churches already in conflict when the pastor arrived.

"The interesting thing since we began doing this study in 1996 is that the top five have been the top five every year," Sheffield said. "The only difference is in their order from year to year. We consistently see the inability to develop and maintain healthy relationships within the church as the reason for dismissals." ===>Click headline to access full article . . .

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Sunday, October 01, 2006

RETREAT with "Devotional Classics"

Devotional Classics: Revised Edition By Richard J. Foster

Devotional Classics: Revised Edition

Selected Readings for Individuals and Groups

buy Devotional Classics: Revised Edition: Selected Readings for Individuals and Groups

A New, Expanded Edition of Renovaré's Classic Companion to the Devotional Life
Updated to incorporate all six traditions, or "streams," that comprise a healthy and holistic life of faith, these fifty-two selections have been organized to introduce the reader to the great devotional writers over the course of one year. Edited by James Bryan Smith, each reading is accompanied by an introduction and meditation by Richard J. Foster. In addition, each entry includes a related biblical passage, discussion questions, and individual and group exercises.

With devotional readings in

  1. The Prayer-Filled Life ~ Contemplative Tradition
  2. The Virtuous Life ~ Holiness Tradition
  3. The Spirit-Empowered Life ~ Charaismatic Tradition
  4. The Compassionate Life ~ Social Justice Tradition
  5. The Word-Centered Life ~ Evangelical Tradition
  6. The Sacramental Life ~ Incarnational Tradition

Foster and Smith sift through works from the great spiritual writers of the past as well as readings from contemporary spiritual leaders to create a guide that is indispensable for those looking for a deeper and more balanced spiritual life.

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