Archive for the ‘People’ Category

Recently our staff got together and worked through a temperament/personality exercise called the Myers Briggs Indicator.  It was an incredible experience as we learned some new things about one another…and mostly began to understand the way we are wired.  It’s not like it was a complete revelation, but more of a fresh look that is helping us relate better, work stronger together and encourage each other.  So good and so necessary.

So, I’m an ESTJ.  Extrovert (no surprise), Sensing (like facts when taking in information), Thinking (objective in making decisions), Judgment (living purposeful).  Some who know me would say…sure this is you.  Others would say “so what?”  The key for us as a group was to learn how to understand one another, accept one another and challenge one another to be the very best of who God made us to be.  Although the whole of who we are is very good, there are definitely areas for growth, especially in how we relate to others.  Of course, there could be a tendency for any of us to fall into the trap of saying “oh well, that’s just who I am…too bad.”  But the one thing that has kept me from that trap is this statement: “you need to behave with appropriateness as a follower of Christ.”

In other words…I can’t be a bombastic extrovert and blow people away ignoring their opinions and thoughts.  That’s not how Jesus would want me to use my temperament.  I shouldn’t decide things too quickly or become judgmental, but wait on the Lord and others to help shape my opinions.

There is no right or wrong personality…but there is a right and a wrong way to live out who we have been created to be.  To be like Jesus doesn’t mean we are all blank slate drones…but it does mean that we become the best version of ourselves.

Has your temperament ever gotten you in trouble?  Have you ever had a difficult time relating to others because of their personality?  A good prayer for all of us would be…Help me to act appropriately and consistent with who you made me to be Lord and help me to understand others.

Conventional wisdom tells us that we are supposed to become better at things we are not that good at.  However there’s another school of thought in leadership circles that says to focus on our strengths.  In a recent video series called Trombone Player Wanted, Leadership guru Marcus Buckingham shows how a young boy is yearning to play the drums yet he seems stuck as the trombone player.  It’s something he does well, but not great.  His real passion are the drums.  The video is really well done and the point is very powerful…do what you are passionate about, do what you are really, really good at, follow your strengths.

I get the point.  Don’t just be mediocre at everything, try to be great at one thing.  Unfortunately for many people this is a luxury.  Wouldn’t it be nice if all we had to do at the office or the home was what we were great at?  Forget making the bed and keeping the house clean because I’m just not that good at it!  If you are a student in school you could skip Algebra but attend Art classes all day.  Is “well rounded” a thing of the past with the advent of finding your strengths?

As a pastor who works with people who have various levels of talents and passions, this is a really important concept for me to grapple with.  There are many who want to serve in areas where they may not quite be up to snuff compared to others.  Perhaps they are new to a certain ministry or have never been given an opportunity before.  Then there are others who are just going through the motions…volunteering without passion.  Do I push these folks to only do what they are really strong at?  Do I help them discover their true passion?  What if they are passionate about teaching but they can’t hold anyone’s attention?  How about if they “love love love” singing but they can’t hold a tune?

Maybe the question is not so much what are you passionate about or what your strongest at right now…but what has the Lord called you to?  And even beyond that, where have you been faithful whether or not you love it?  I appreciate the way that the apostle Paul said to Timothy that he should “entrust to reliable people who will also be qualified…”(2 Timothy 2:2).  It’s as if we need to emphasize faithfulness and commitment and serving above everything else.  After that, God equips and raises us up.  Then we are strengthened and even looked upon as individuals who are truly qualified, truly gifted.

What do you think?  Is it more important to focus on your strengths or to grow in areas where you are weak?  I think we all can agree that whatever the Lord truly calls us to…whatever ministry He asks us to serve in, or to whomever He has sent us to reach…that He will strengthen us if we are faithful to Him!

-Peter

I’m so used to being up early on Sunday that I don’t think anything of it.  Rain, snow, sunshine, daylight savings-time I’m up and out the door because I’m a pastor and that’s what we do.  Early Sundays are no-brainers for me…and so are long Sundays.  But perhaps I’m so desensitized to what I do every week that I forget that this is not “normal” in our culture, and certainly not here in New Hampshire.

Most people take advantage of Sunday as a day off to rest, sleep in a little extra, go to the kid’s soccer games, or take advantage of the nice weather and make a trip to the mountains or beach.  They may even wake up early just like me, but have different plans and no intention to sit in a building for a couple of hours.  Yet…that’s what we try very hard to get people to do.  And I think it’s a good thing to try.  But as we are trying, let’s also remember that this is cross grain to what non-churchgoers and even many pro-churchgoers are thinking.  A church service is not very high on the priority list for a great majority of people.

Once I heard about a guy who just didn’t want to wake up for church.  His kids came in the bedroom all dressed and ready to go, but he just covered his head with a pillow.  His wife kept yelling for him to get ready, but he acted like he didn’t hear her.  Finally, she came in and said, “you’ve got to wake up and get ready for church.  People are expecting you to be there.  After all, you are the pastor!”  Okay, maybe I’ve felt like that once or twice, but honestly I look forward to Sundays to be with the people who are a part of my life and my community.  I enjoy being part of the church and for me that includes leading as a pastor and waking up on Sunday morning and serving.

As Easter approaches, churches across the nation will see their numbers swell.  Some will make annual pilgrimages, others will be doing what they do religiously each week.  For me and for our church, I pray it will be a day to connect people to a God who never slumber or sleeps.  He’s the one who created the ocean, the mountains, and time itself…even Sunday mornings.

What do you do on Sunday mornings?  If you wake up and go to a church building, why do you do that?

-Peter

 

I found myself welling up with hatred.  Strange thing to hear from a pastor, but it’s true.  As I was watching a basketball game, the team I was cheering for (my college team) was struggling to stay in the game.  Playing in their conference tournament in what was supposed to be a neutral venue, the fans started turning on “my” team with incredible intensity.  Most of the loud crowd showed up at the end of the game preparing for the next matchup that featured their college team, which happened to be, located only 30 miles away.  So much for a neutral venue!  You see, they wanted my college team, the favorite and number one seed,  to lose so that their team would have an easier road to the Big Dance.

Even watching on TV, I saw how mean these fans were.  They were against the better team winning and I took it personally.  I felt like they thought they were so against us and that really really peeved me.  It even seemed like the officiating was biased.  After all, these were probably some of the same referees that worked the games of the team only 30 miles away from this “neutral” venue.

These are people I don’t know and that made it easier to not like them.  I found myself justifying it in my heart and  I became a hater of the entire state where this game was being played.  “I’ll never step foot in that state,” was one of my thoughts.

As I began to reflect on this, I was convicted and I began to realize something.  What I was feeling was no different from how many people outside the church feel about some of us who call ourselves Christians.  It could be because we often look at ourselves as competitors…and as better than the other team.  It’s the church vs. the world.  I’ve heard from non-believers that they feel like Christians are opposed to them and are “cheering against them.”  Some of this may be because we hold up a standard consistent to God’s Word that causes offense, but some of it may be purely out of our preference.  It’s one thing for me to believe that abortion is biblically wrong, it’s another thing for me to show unbiblical anger toward anyone involved in the pro-choice movement.  Another less extreme example would be the debate over climate change.  Somehow the church has been portrayed as anti-environmental and uncaring toward the earth.

The result…the folks in the grandstands that are not in the church look at all of us who are in the church as enemies.  Many hate us.  The people we are called to love and reach to and bridge the gap for, see us as opponents in the arena of life. I’ve heard that in Israel there are two words that Jewish followers of Jesus avoid using because they have a negative connotation there.  These words are Christian and church.  I wonder if the same is true where we live, and if it’s part of our mission to help people see us not as enemies but as friends.

Have you ever had someone say that “you’re one of those Christians” meaning that you are against them?  What have you done to change that?  Let’s put ourselves in others shoes and see whether or not they feel loved, accepted and forgiven…or if they feel like we are opposing them and rooting for their defeat.

-Peter

It happened to me this past Sunday.  I met a new guy in our church who told me that he and his family had just moved here to New Hampshire from Iowa.  Since my wife is from Nebraska, we talked a little about farms and the Midwest and the Cornhuskers.  Then the big question…how do you like New England?  His answer didn’t surprise me.  “To be honest, the people here are really different.” And he wasn’t just referring to the amount of Dunkin Donuts coffee we drink!

Are we really so different in New England?  After all, people are the same everywhere right?  The same needs, challenges, desires, opportunities and attitudes…right?  Maybe not.  New England is a unique region of the country and if there’s one statistic that can prove that out, it’s in the area of church attendance and how many people identify themselves as Christians.  In fact, a huge percentage of people in New England would fall into the category of non-religious.  Spiritual maybe, but non-religious. 

I was reminded by a wise woman today that the thing that sets our region apart from many other places in the country is that we are still here.  Unlike the pioneers and early-adopters that moved West, our forefathers didn’t budge.  This is as good as it gets.  No need to change.  Maybe that’s why we have such an aging population in places like Vermont and Maine and New Hampshire.  The younger generation is out of here, looking for new opportunity and experience.

Several years ago, I invited a neighbor to church.  His response stunned me, telling me no and asking me not to talk to him about it again.  He was fine.  “All set,” were his exact words.  As a typical New Englander, in his mind I was intruding into places that were private.

I have spoken to friends and others outside of New England that don’t really get it.  They believe that people are people, and New Englanders are no different than Southerners or Left Coasters.  While it is true that we all need Jesus and we all need community, how you go about relating to folks from my neck of the woods is a world apart from how you relate to someone from Dallas (bless your heart) or LA (hey dude). In my opinion the difference requires an investment in the person that cannot be merely casual or temporary.  This costs something that many of us are not willing to spend- our time, our friendship, our trust, and our love.

The neighbor I talked about…well 15 years later, he and his family are a part of our church, they love Jesus and they are serving others.  But first we had to love them and serve them with no strings attached.  Are New Englanders really that different?  What do you think?

-Peter

I’ve always been amazed at how some pastors can seem to manage massive growth in their churches.  We are in New England where mega-churches are more myth than reality.  Often I’ve thought if that has more to do with the post-Christian landscape of the northeast, but lately I’m wondering if it’s more to do with a higher emphasis on community and being real than some of our big city and Bible belt neighbors.

I can’t imagine being a pastor that is unfamiliar with a vast number of the folks who I am called to lead.  I know that some would say that I really have to change and get over the fact that if we want our church to grow into the thousands then I have to look at my role as more of a pastor of leaders or CEO type than a shepherd/teacher.  I just can’t do it.  Yet for some strange reason we have seen our church continue to grow and now are moving into a multi-site model of ministry that keeps our pastors knowing the people who we serve.

Have you ever felt like you have to compromise who you are as a pastor to grow the church?  I like knowing people’s names, although I am not really great at it, especially as we have seen growth.  So should I just face the fact that I can’t know everyone and stop trying?  Instead I encourage the church as a whole to be relationally driven. True, I can’t take everyone out for coffee, but I can some.  Andy Stanley recently said in a message I heard, “do for one what you wish you could do for many.”  To me, that’s the heart of a pastor.

I want to be normal, not supernatural or separated from the people I am called to pastor.  I don’t want to run backstage after the service or be whisked away by bodyguards because I’m so in demand.  Yet, I desperately want to see our church grow with new believers who are becoming followers of Jesus.  Growth is good when it’s not about me.  So maybe I do have to get over my tendency to want to know everyone and just get on with breeding a culture of community that includes my limitations.  Growth will never take the pastor out of who I am.

-Peter

I am not the type to say that the end of the world is coming.  Yet I can’t help to think of a story I heard that reminds me of where we are today as a nation, as a world…and mostly as the church. 

A priest and pastor and rabbi are standing by the side of the road holding up a sign that reads, “The End is Near! Turn yourself around now before it’s too late!” They planned to hold up the sign to each passing car.”Leave us alone you religious nuts!” yelled the first driver as he sped by. From around the curve they heard screeching tires and a big splash.”Do you think,” said one clergy to the other, “we should just put up a sign that says ‘Bridge Out’ instead?”

I don’t know how close we are to the end, but I really believe that there are a lot of bridges out today.  Whether we put our trust in the economy, the government, our jobs, our portfolios, our education, our families or even those things that have always worked for us in the past…we are headed on a road that is going to end up coming to a dead end.  My big concern is for those of us in the church that are not much different from those who don’t claim to follow Christ.  As Francis Chan recently said in a quote I heard, “those of us with the Holy Spirit, ought to think and behave differently than those without the Holy Spirit.”  Do we?  Really?

When I hear Christians talking about the upcoming presidential election as the answer to our issues, (if only we get the right man or woman in office then things will turn around)…I am more concerned than where we are today.  Politics are not going to save us, they’ve never changed a human heart, it’s just ups and downs much like the history of the kings of Israel.

I’m not fearful though.  I’m not discouraged.  I’m not preaching gloom and doom.  But I do feel like we need to get our house in order spiritually and practically.  If we are not doing what we know to do, we’ve got to change that.  If we are walking in ways that are selfish, we must get out of ourselves.  If we are not in true community, then we need to ask the Holy Spirit to change our independent hearts.  You see, it’s not really about those who don’t know Jesus…but about those of us who do.  Like Scripture says, we are to pray for blessings in our cities, for the people around us and for the nation that we live in, for their peace (Jer 29:7).  But we are to be the peacemakers that are living out the truth of the gospel in such a way that they will “see our good works and glorify God.”  We aren’t to curse and be angry and join in the rage against the machine…but blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called the children of God.

The other day I received a very sobering email from another pastor.  At first I wasn’t inclined to read it because it came as a mass distribution list email.  I don’t like those and I really don’t like it when I’m not blind-copied, which I wasn’t.  But something (namely the Holy Spirit) pressed me to read and ponder.  I want to just quote a small section of this email, which I read as a prophecy to the church today, the body of Christ here and now:

One of the greatest areas where we American Christians fail is our firm belief that America is such a blessed nation that we will never suffer judgment at the hand of God.  Throughout our history, we have known blessing upon blessing– even through our country was severely tested in a great civil war.  Today we think that we are being carried forward on the strength of all those past victories.  What slavery, greed, racism, Nazism, and communism failed to do, we are accomplishing all by ourselves by ignoring the warnings contained in God’s Word.  We desperately need to listen to what God is saying and respond to Him, personally and not politically. (Edmund C. de la Cour, Jr., First Baptist Church of Pocasset, MA)

It’s not gloom and doom…it’s warning lights, opportunities for mercy, chances to be the very light in the darkness that Jesus says we are.  But we must get right…get our houses in order.  We must do things like simplify, stop living for self, stop complaining and becoming depressed when things don’t go our way, stop comparing and building our own personal kingdom come.

The end my not be near, but the bridge is out…let’s slow down and find out His will for our lives, our church, and then the nation will follow.