Lord, would you flood my heart and soul with your perfect peace as I look to you for guidance. I ask that you would help me to discern your voice in all that is going on around me. Speak to me through your word, through prayer and worship and however you will. Thank you for your goodness and that you have a wonderful plan for my life.
I declare my utmost trust in you Lord, even if only one step is illuminated at a time. Give me courage to follow where you lead and patience for your timing not mine.
“Show me your ways, LORD, teach me your paths. Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are my God my Saviour, and my hope is in you all day long.” ( psalm 25;4-5 NIV)
One of the main reasons God birthed ESPS Ministries was in response to the question, who ministers to the ministers? In these troubled and uncertain times as pastors and leaders we’re called to lead our people and encourage them to know the grace and peace of God in their hearts and lives. That’s all good and well. But how do you do that if as pastors and leaders we’re the ones who are troubled and uncertain about the future? Dan Reiland shares some nuggets of wisdom with us for how best to do that. Helpfully he reminds us that before we can extend grace and peace to anyone else, we must first receive it from the main source. Not ourselves, but the God whom we worship and serve.
I pray this week’s article brings grace and peace to you.
This is an unsettling time we live in. Uncertainty in the Church Conflict in our communities Division in our country
I often hear this phrase, “It’s getting kinda crazy out there.”
The unsettling nature of our current culture, after time, affects the disposition of your soul. It wears you down. We can barely notice it at times because it’s nearly a constant.
It’s most often described as subtle low-grade anxiety of the soul.
And some would say it’s not so subtle.
Yet we are called to lead people into the love of God and the unity of peace. How do we do that with so much division?
The Apostle Paul introduces his letter to the church in Ephesus with, “Grace and peace to you…“ That doesn’t always seem so easy to access if we are honest about it, and even more difficult to draw people into living it out. But we know “grace and peace” is possible because Jesus makes it possible. Let’s take a look at how that can work.
5 steps to leading with grace and peace:
1) Let God carry what you can’t carry.
Most leaders today acknowledge some level of inner unrest, an uneasiness within them. It’s not the normal everyday stress that comes with solving problems and making progress. It’s something deeper.
Some leaders go farther and say they feel “powerless” right now like they really can’t change anything.I certainly understand that feeling; I’ve felt it at times too. The good news is that we are not powerless as leaders to affect change right now. Your voice and leadership absolutely matter.
It’s all about the source.
On your own, you can’t effect change that matters for eternity.
But look at Ephesians 1:2…Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. The source is God, our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ, which is the source of your spiritual power.
Sometimes we run so fast we forget the source of grace and peace and must remember to let God carry what we can’t carry.
God wants us in the game, but He brings the power.
God carries what we can’t carry.
2) It’s necessary to live grace and peace before you lead it.
When you stay connected to the source, God himself, you can then experience grace and peace yourself. That is the foundation of your spiritual leadership.
Paul gives us a glimpse of what that looks like practically.
Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.
Living out God’s grace with peace in your soul isn’t easy while you are leading the church today. You are under pressure. Expectations are unclear. And the new normal isn’t here yet.
However, God’s grace and peace overcome all that.
It requires three things:
Slowing down – taking time to be quiet, to think, and pray is essential.
Trusting deep – It’s vital to trust now more than ever that God is with you, regardless of what you face.
Taking risks – stepping out, speaking up, and taking action brings God’s power into your leadership.
God’s grace and power within you enable humility, gentleness, patience, and love. This can influence unity and peace among those you lead.
3) Pre-determine that no matter what happens around you, you will hold firm to your spiritual character.
I don’t know what will happen tomorrow. My hunch is you don’t either.
And we all face things like: Financial problems, People conflict, Unrest in your city. But before tomorrow’s problems arrive, you can commit to grace and peace today.
You can choose today that no matter what happens tomorrow, you will hold firm to your spiritual character.
The Enemy wants to attack your character much more than your talent and skills. If he can crack your character, your skill level doesn’t matter very much. If the devil can trip you up at a character level, it’s easy to knock you down at a skill level.
The responsibility to solve these problems tends to “squeeze” you and therefore add pressure and stress to your life.
The Enemy can use all this to cause you to drift from your spiritual standards (in an often unrealized) attempt to relieve pressure, but you can hold steady by staying connected to God.
Distraction, busyness, and isolation will often break your connection with God. The key is you must pre-determine that choice.
4) Understand the problem before you offer a solution.
You and I can quickly grasp the larger idea of grace and peace.
But the person you are dealing with who is upset, confused, hurting, or angry is not connected, at least in the moment, the way you are.
As the leader, you must absorb some of the heat of the moment to understand and connect with the person and what is upsetting them before you present a solution. Even if you disagree with their position or sense you know the solution, it’s important to extend grace before attempting peace.
If you jump to the solution, even a correct and biblical solution, before the person feels you understand, you risk the possibility of making the problem worse, not better. Again, even if you disagree, you may learn something that helps increase your compassion, which always makes the truth easier to accept.
Culturally speaking, even the definition of grace and peace is up for grabs. Don’t assume anything; establish understanding first.
5) Choose your words wisely.
Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.
This is great wisdom again by Paul. Take a look at four key ideas in these two verses:
We are invited into the very wisdom of God, who, in His kindness, makes that available to us through His spirit. We only must ask.
We must ask for wisdom and look for opportunities.
Sometimes, it seems like opportunities to advance the gospel just “appear.” But more often, opportunities are consistently before us, and we tend to find what we are looking for.
“Let your conversation always be full of grace, seasoned with salt.”
How incredibly appropriate for where we are all living today! Each word you choose can make the difference between someone experiencing grace and knowing peace.
In the end, we do have an answer, as guided by biblical principles and the Holy Spirit’s prompting. That’s at the core of spiritual leadership.
You get to influence each person for their good and God’s glory.
Grace and peace to you!
Dan Reiland is the Executive Pastor at 12Stone Church in Lawrenceville, Georgia. He previously partnered with John Maxwell for 20 years, first as Executive Pastor at Skyline Wesleyan Church in San Diego, then as Vice President of Leadership and Church Development at INJOY.
You plan a family movie night, dim the lights, settle around the TV with your snacks when horror of horrors something very inappropriate invades your screen resulting in an immediate mad scramble for the remote! Annoyingly, I’m sure it’s happened to most of us. It’s becoming increasingly hard to find good family shows or movies with Christian morals and values, and no hidden agendas.
Once upon a time (pun intended) all the ‘kids movies’ of the day were sweet and innocent and could be relied on for leaving the viewer with a warm fuzzy feeling at the end. The way it should be for children. Nowadays there is a subtle shift with witchcraft, witches, and spells becoming normalised as well as shows and films aimed at our children’s innocence getting increasingly sexualized.
We as parents, grand-parents and carers still hold the authority over what does or does not come into our homes. We can vote with a click or an unsubscribe. We need to protect the purity and wellbeing of our children and decide ourselves what is age appropriate or not.
There are great alternatives out there. New Faith Network is one I’ve come across recently and found to be a calming relief from much of the mainstream madness. Children’s programmes, teens shows, films, dramas, true stories, etc. it really is worth checking out.
No, I’m not on commission, I just think it’s so important we find good safe programmes for our families when everyone is bingeing on TV and movies especially in lockdown. And when we find something good that’s a welcome alternative, then we simply pass it on.
So go on, give it a go. You even get a free trial. Happy safe screen time one and all!
New Faith Network
One thing that Americans continue to celebrate well is Thanksgiving Holiday on the last Thursday of November (which was yesterday).
Perhaps like many of our own religious holidays, the holiness of the day has somewhat slipped over the centuries but honouring the origins of it is still powerful and poignant.
From the early pilgrims making it a God honouring day of prayer of thankfulness, to George Washington calling for a national day of prayer, and finally to Abraham Lincoln making Thanksgiving an official holiday, there has been a root throughout of the spirit of thankfulness, prayer, and praise to God. Counting our blessings and acknowledging His goodness and provision.
In the UK, many of us may be familiar with a lesser widely celebrated ’Harvest Thanksgiving’. A time on this side of the Atlantic where we also thank God for his provision of food and the blessing of Him meeting our needs. Although many churches and communities do celebrate harvest thanksgiving, it’s sad that such Christian festivals are actually on the decline. Perhaps as God’s people we need to be much more vocal about honouring God in our homes and communities. Acknowledging our Creator, Provider, and Redeemer.
Throughout the scriptures we see people having feast days, fast days, and days of prayer in thanksgiving to God for His goodness. Various festivals of celebration, where God’s people brought their first fruits and tithes as worship offerings. Thankfulness really is a beautiful trait and an even more wonderful attitude to have in life and towards God and His goodness. In the psalms David reminds us to make thankfulness an offering - “I will sacrifice a thank offering to you and call on the name of the Lord.”( Psalm 116:17)
I have always found the story of Jesus healing the 10 lepers astounding (Luke 17:11-19). For sure the miracle of healing itself is amazing, but what is just as amazing is that only one out of 10 came back to thank Jesus for healing them!! After living wretched lives of disease, pain, stigma and rejection, they walked on into the rest of their lives without being as thankful as we’d expect from their encounter. This clearly affected Jesus who asked the one who returned ‘Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine?’ (v17) We can all be guilty of forgetting to say thank you – especially to God. Maybe we’ve become too self-sufficient, entitled, or perhaps not truly nurturing hearts of gratitude. May each of us take personal responsibility before God to express our thankfulness as individuals and on behalf of our families, communities, and nation.
A phrase I picked up decades ago that I often used with my own children when they were growing up was, “gratitude instead of attitude”. Maybe this is a timely reminder for us all. So this weekend, before the Christmas preparations start in earnest, let’s take a moment of quiet reflection followed by giving God our heartfelt praise. For He is worthy.
Going into ministry stirred up feelings of joy at following through on God’s call for my life, but it also brought up concerns about potential challenges. Will the people I work with like me? Will they care about what I have to say? Will I be a good representative of Christ in my ministry or will I leave people with a skewed view of God? These basic questions are asked by most pastors and chaplains serving around the world today. Yet, there is a relatively small group of ministers that have further concerns about pastoral life. Who are these pastors? They are the unmarried men and women serving in ministry. You may not have seen or met many of us, but I guarantee we are out there.
Of course, some of the situations faced by single pastors and chaplains are common to all singles, but there is often another angle brought in by ministry. A challenge that tends to be universal to all uncoupled people is the pressure to find a spouse. I could illustrate this with many personal stories but I’ll share just one.
It was my last Sabbath at my local church before heading to the Seminary. I was giving my all, trusting God with the next three years of my life knowing it was a necessary step on the path to become an US Navy Chaplain Candidate. As I joined the line for a slice of my farewell cake, a church member pulled me aside. With a look of grave concern she stated, “You better not come back from Andrews unless you have a man with you.” I was dumbfounded. I did not know this woman particularly well, but I did know that she had been a single professional for several decades. Apparently being single in my 30s was okay when I was working as an accountant, but now that I was shifting to full-time ministry, it was no longer acceptable.
Once I could regain my speech, I looked her in the eye and smiled. “Thank you for your concern. I am going to Andrews to get my MDiv degree, not a MRS. I think I will be best served focusing on my studies rather than looking for a husband.” I grabbed my piece of cake and went on my way frustrated that now it was not just my family who felt obligated to comment on my personal life.
The universal pressure put on uncoupled people to find a spouse seems to permeate our society both inside and outside the Church. In my experience, there are those who do not feel comfortable with the idea of singleness—it is seen as a sign of dysfunction. This is especially common in regards to women; older single women are negatively referred to as “spinsters” while older single men are called the more neutral “bachelors.” Women without families are often called selfish or thought to have less value.
The pressure put on uncoupled people to find a spouse is especially strong when you are single in ministry. I have been asked countless times by church members and those I come in contact with in ministry why I am not married. The question is usually tinged with pity and the desire to find someone to help fix the “problem.” It can also be a major obstacle when offering marital and pre-martial counseling. If the minister is not in a romantic relationship then what right and experience does he or she have to contribute? Thus there can be pressure to be in a relationship in order to appear as a credible relationship counselor.
I do not see singleness as a problem to be fixed. The lack of a spouse allows me to focus the time and energy I would be spending on a romantic relationship on building up my relationship with God. It provides the opportunity to listen to God’s voice in the silences of home life. And as one of my fellow single pastors pointed out to me, it is a joy to serve as an example for younger (and not-so-younger) generations that happiness and fulfillment are not wrapped up in being in a relationship with another person.
The apostle Paul reminds us that contentment does not come from being one half of a couple, but from putting our trust in God in all circumstances (Phil 4:11-13). Additionally, because I am unmarried I find that I can connect with various groups easier—widow(er)s, divorcees, both young and senior singles, those with special physical or emotional needs, and those who are in need of friends. Children recognize me as an older sibling or a safe adult without the pressure of being seen to have parental authority. Even though I am the same age as some of their mothers, I have found kids to be more open with me concerning their feelings and problems than they might be with the parental adults. I feel blessed to walk beside those on the fringes of our church knowing that those most in need of God’s love may see a glimpse of that in me.
One of the biggest challenges for me personally as a single pastor and chaplain is the management of boundaries on my time. I am 100% responsible for the running of my household. There is only one salary and one person paying the bills, cooking, cleaning, shopping, and running errands. Since ministry is not a 9-5 job, these mundane daily tasks need to be wedged in when time allows. Taking two full days off each week is not practical. It is important for all pastors and chaplains to set some boundaries so that their schedules do not become too demanding. It is tempting to sacrifice self-care and boundaries when we are so wrapped up attending to the needs of others and the running of the church.
And yet a flexible schedule can also be a great benefit in ministry. Because there is no one expecting me home at a certain time or making demands on my schedule, I am often able to make myself available at off times when the need arises. An emergency meeting does not require any special arrangements. Early morning or evening visitations are not a problem. Having flexibility includes the ability to travel and not worry about how to care for those left behind or needing to entertain those coming with me. A single minister can also feel free to move as God is calling without any added anxiety about finding employment for a spouse or schooling for children. It should be noted that single parents constantly deal with the major challenge of good childcare as it can be hard to come by.
Additionally, ministry can be a very isolated and lonely career. Being single in ministry only compounds this. I have known of many single pastors who have suffered great loneliness when they left everything and everyone behind to accept a call to serve a new church. Single pastors and chaplains have a very limited local peer group. For example, I am one of two female pastors in my conference and the only single pastor.
Many of my other single pastor friends note that they are also in the minority and feel uncomfortable attending family focused ministerial retreats or other functions as one often feels left out and acutely aware of one’s singleness. Looking to church members to fill that loneliness may not always be a good idea. Pastors and chaplains have a certain governing authority that may unintentionally be taken advantage of and there might also be the temptation to share frustrations or information with a member-friend that really should be kept confidential. (I have found that my cat is great to talk to when I feel the need to share something that is not for public consumption. She rarely repeats gossip.)
Ironically, finding a good local peer group has become one of my greatest joys in ministry. My close friend network—my biggest source of support—is spread across the country. Without a live-in friend (as in the case of a spouse) or friend-generators (many adults will become friends with the parents of their children’s friends), intentionality is needed to make new friends. As an introvert, this can be a scary undertaking.
I made a particular effort to look outside the local church for friends when I moved into my district. What might this look like for you? It may mean that you reach out to other area pastors or become more involved in the community. Volunteering with a local food bank, joining a running group, and attending events at the local library are some great ways to meet and befriend people. I have met a wonderful group of women friends at the small gym at the end of my street. The class-focused workouts have allowed time for us to get to know each other. Not only am I connecting with members of my community, but I have even met some women who were familiar with the church. Just last week several of the women asked about coming to the church to see me the next time I preach. Their support has been a wonderful blessing as I work on building up my physical and emotional strength.
However, the real challenge and joy of being single in ministry comes down to learning to be content whatever your life may be. The calling of singleness may be for a season or it may be long term (1 Cor 7:7, 17). I have found that contentment is a by-product of the faith and trust in God’s plans; it is essential to survive and thrive in ministry.
Kristy L. Hodson is an associate pastor and campus chaplain for the Southern New England Conference
This article first appeared here at: https://www.nadministerial.com/stories/2018/2/4/going-it-alone-the-challenges-and-joys-of-being-single-in-ministry and was reprinted from CALLED magazine.