Thank you!

thank-you-fountain-pen-smI want to take just a minute to thank everyone for the support and kind words about the Average Pastor book that came out last month.  So many of you have shared your thoughts and congratulations. It means the world to me! I really appreciate it!

One comment in particular from a friend has blessed me so much.  They said,  “Your book inspired me to want to pastor an average church.”  I cannot express how much that means to me to hear someone say that. That one comment has made it all worth it.   This book is about restoring dignity to the Average Pastor serving in the Average Church.  It is so amazing to hear that it is inspiring the average pastor as well as those who are dreaming of being pastors.  The Average Church is a great place to be.

If you loved the book, please consider writing a review on amazon.com or maybe even buying some copies to give away to your fellow average pastors.  If you want to order a larger number, contact me and I help you with that and it will be much cheaper.  Thank you again for your support with this blog and this book.  I am so proud to be called an Average Pastor.

PS> If you got an early copy, I apologize for the errors in the text. (I can’t believe I didn’t catch those!) They have since been corrected and new copies will reflect the changes.

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It’s Finally Here: The Average Pastor Book

20170113_113530It’s finally here. The Average Pastor Book is now available.  Inside are reflections from an average pastor of an average church.  Now pastors of churches of under 100 have a resource that addresses their unique set of challenges.  The book contains revised blog posts as well as new material to help the average pastor of the average church to embrace their calling. Thank you everyone who follows this blog and believes in this mission.  Your belief in what we are doing has made this book possible.

Buy now on Amazon

Read a sample chapter by clicking the link below.

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Coming Soon: The Average Pastor Book

average-pastorstatsI have been in the final stages of designing and revising my upcoming book: The Average Pastor: Reflections of an Average Pastor of an Average Church in America.  It is a collection of revised blog posts as well as some new chapters that highlight the role of the average pastor.  My goal is to be able to use this book as a resource to give to all of the average pastors that I meet.  Our stories need to be told. Our perspective needs to be heard.  By writing a book and putting it on Amazon, it will hopefully reach the average pastor who is looking for resources that address their experiences.

Hopefully things will be finished in the next week or so and the book will be available early in January.  Stay tuned!

More Followers Needed

“Follow me as I follow Christ” 1 Corinthians 11:1

Very early in my time as an average pastor, I was overwhelmed by the demands of ministry. The pressure I placed on my shoulders to be the leader of the church was killing me.  I had read all the books I could, tried as many things as I could and had wore myself out trying to develop myself as a leader.

great-leaderThen one day I had a thought.  Why am I working so hard to learn to be a better leader? After all,  I am not actually the leader of my church.  The church belongs to Jesus.  It is His body, His people and His bride.    This church I am leading has never belonged to me as the Pastor, to my board, or to my staff.  We are not leading the church.  Jesus is the leader.  That thought set me free.   From that point on I stopped trying to lead and started following.   I even started referring to myself  as the “Lead Follower” of my church.  If Jesus is the leader, then the only thing I need to do is become a better follower and invite my church to follow Jesus with me. I think that is what Paul meant when he said, “Follow me, as I follow Christ.”  Its not that I am the standard God’s people need to follow, rather I am the lead follower as we all learn to follow Jesus together.

If Jesus is the leader, then the only thing I need to do become a better follower and invite the church to follow with me.

Recognizing that Jesus is the true leader helped me in several different ways.

  1.  If Jesus is the leader, then it is His strength, His plan and His job to build His church.  I was bearing an unnecessary burden. I was looking to myself to lead.  I was trusting in my gifts, my strengths, and my ability as a leader. But Jesus never asked me to lead His church.  That took the pressure off me and put me in my place as a follower.   If I follow Jesus and let him lead, we will be a successful church because we will be an obedient church.
  2. If Jesus is the leader, it is his responsibility to provide.  I found myself stressing over things like finances, what programs to do and how to fill our leadership positions. If Jesus is the leader then I have to believe he already has a plan. I just need to seek him and understand what His plan is.  God is faithful. He has always provided when we let him lead.
  3. If Jesus is the leader, I need to become a better follower of Him instead of a better church leader.   I have been focusing my energy on learning how to follow Jesus and less time on being a good leader.  That doesn’t mean I am not learning from the leadership resources I have been given. I certainly am.  But more so, I am learning that my ability to follow Jesus in my own life allows me to lead my church in following Jesus.   My confidence as a leader has grown by learning how to hear His voice, know His heart and to lead His church based on my experience of following Him.

I believe we need today is more followers, not more leaders.  We need more people willing to follow Jesus. There is a song on the radio right now that has the words “So many leaders… you asked for followers.”  I think that’s true.  What does Jesus want from you average pastor?  He wants you to be a great follower.  Jesus call has always been “Come follow me, and I will make you fishers of people.”  Become a great follower of Jesus and you will be the leader Jesus wants you to be.

Become a great follower of Jesus and you will be the leader Jesus wants you to be.

Guest Post: Perks and Quirks of the Average Pastor

This post is a guest post of one of my fellow Average Pastors, Jason Byers.  Jason knows what it means to be an average pastor of an average church.  Two years ago, Jason left the comfort of a position in larger church to serve a in the rural church. He is one of my heroes. He is a great pastor, a great leader and a great friend.  

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Perks and Quirks

by Jason Byers

                  A friend of mine was mentored by the legendary youth pastor Jeanie Mayo for a couple years. At his very first meeting with her (along with 20 others from around the nation), she took the group to her bathroom and opened the medicine cabinet. Stuffed inside were many vitamins, prescriptions and some over-the-counter meds needed to sustain proper health for her and her husband (then, a lead pastor). She spoke candidly to her guests and explained that she was a very real person who was just trying to do the best she could with what she had.

My friend got to see a side of Jeanie Mayo that I’ve never seen. To me, she is a legend with very few mistakes and many epic achievements! To those who got close enough, they saw both her PERKS and the QUIRKS.

Everyone has them.

We all have strengths to our personalities that we cater to; and weaknesses that we cover up. Yes, even pastors of congregations less than 150 have both perks and quirks!

Churches expect their pastor to have perks. It gives them something to boast about at company picnics and community softball leagues. The pressure to deliver an ideal version of God’s Anointed can be exhausting! But being perfect simply isn’t realistic; just like your favorite team can’t be the world champions every year.

Since every personality has its drawbacks, the trick is to manage the tension between arrogance and self-loathing. You were created by God to be an instrument for His glory! Don’t think more highly of yourself than you ought. And, don’t put yourself down either.

If you are an average pastor struggling to keep this balance, here are a couple tips about dealing with your own strengths and weaknesses.

 

YOU’RE NOT AS GOOD AS YOU THINK YOU ARE.

You are a leader for a reason. But some of us are tempted to think we deserve to be where God has graciously assigned us. There’s a fine line between confidence and conceit, and I’m not convinced I’ve mastered that boundary.

Paul said, “The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I don’t need you!’ And the head cannot say to the feet, ‘I don’t need you!’ ” (1 Cor. 13:21)

God has a way of keeping us humble. Try keeping yourself humble first! The ones who say, “I’m not quirky,” are misleading themselves.

         There is a hidden fool inside all of us.

 

YOU’RE NOT AS BAD AS YOU THINK YOU ARE, EITHER.

Do you want to know a secret? You’re pretty awesome. To think that God didn’t create you with something special to offer is an insult to His divine creativity. He didn’t make a mistake! We may be full of flaws and miscalculations – which are quirky – but there are perks in our personalities too!

Paul said, “The weaker [parts of the body] are indispensable!” (1 Cor. 13:22)

Don’t think for a moment that because you’re at a “small church” you must be a “small person.” The royal blood of Jesus Christ covers you! Realize His anointing on your life! Unleash the perks He has strategically placed in your nature.

         In Christ, we are more than conquerors!

 

I want to thank Danny for letting me write this entry as a guest. This blog (from my good friend) serves as an encouragement to the average pastor – the men and women who aren’t in the spotlight of mainstream ministries. The stigma of the “average church” is that it is inferior to the large churches, and as such will inherit an inferior leader. The temptation of the leader is to mask weaknesses as part of a lie that we’re all super awesome and getting better. This is a mistake!

Accept the truth that everyone – including us average pastors – has PERKS and QUIRKS!

Reclaiming the Office of the Pastor: The Levite

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My first job in ministry was the janitor of the church I attended.  Every week I set up chairs, mopped floors, vacuumed and took out trash.  My pastor used to tell me, “Your job caring for the church is a holy calling.”  I never really saw it that way, especially after I cleaned the same toilets week after week. But I did enjoy the job.  Several years later, I had finished college and the same church hired me as the Children’s pastor. For the next 10 years, I served in ministry but others did the cleaning.  But because I know what it takes to clean the church, I always have been willing to pick up a broom if necessary.

When I became the lead pastor at my Average Church, I found myself right back in the role of taking care of the physical needs of the church.  In an average church, you can’t hire a janitor to clean, paint walls, organize closets, mow and spray for weeds.  I have been an Average Pastor of an Average Church for almost seven years and I still paint, clean, mow and organize this church that God called me to serve. I always thought it would be nice to grow our church to a place where I could afford to pay someone to clean, mow, paint and such.  But, eventually you have to realize that keeping the church clean, freshly painted, maintained and organized is part of the duties of the Average Pastor.  Of course, its always best to get church members involved, which I do.  I have had many people help clean, mow and help when something needs painted or repaired.  But we don’t always have those people when we need them.

If you see pastoring a leadership position where you are the CEO and you have employees who should be doing the day to day, it is easy to get discouraged when there is no one to clean or mow this week.  I have often felt that although I am willing to do these tasks, I shouldn’t HAVE to do these tasks.  It doesn’t help that I look a the church across the street who has a mowing service do their mowing while I am out there as the Pastor on our mower.  It feels like I shouldn’t have to do that.

One day as I was painting a room (and I have personally painted nearly every room in our church), I was having one of those “I shouldn’t have to do this” moments.  But as I was making this room beautiful, I thought back to the levites of the Old Testament.  Here is what God said about the Levites;

“The work of the Levites was to assist the priests, the descendants of Aaron, as they served at the house of the LORD. They also took care of the courtyards and side rooms, helped perform the ceremonies of purification, and served in many other ways in the house of God.” (1 Chronicles 23:28)

The Levites whole calling was to serve the needs of the church.  They were not allowed to own land or have jobs. The Temple was their home and they cared for it. They cleaned, ministered, and took care of the physical needs of the temple.  Pastors are the Levites of this day.  The care of the temple (church) is inherent in our calling.  So why shouldn’t we clean, paint, mow and spray weeds?  That is part of our calling.  For generations priests and monks saw themselves as caretakers of God’s house and many still do today.  The beauty of God’s house is in the levite-pastor’s care.  Sometimes we can have others who help us with that, but it never becomes ‘not our responsibility.’  A CEO can believe that they shouldn’t have to do these tasks, but a pastor who is a true levite can’t.

Could it be that God gets glory from your ministry not only in the pulpit, but in the room you paint or the carpet you vacuum? Could it be that being a pastor is more like my first job, the janitor, than being a CEO or president of a corporation? If you see these jobs as beneath you as the pastor, you may have bought into a corporate model of what it means to be a pastor.  What my pastor said is still true, “Your job caring for the church is a holy calling.”

I encourage my fellow Average Pastors not to resent your role in caring for your church.   It is a holy calling. Every toilet you clean, every table you set up and every menial task you do is a work unto the Lord.  You are in a long line of people called to care for God’s house. Caring for God’s house is very pastoral.  That IS what a pastor does.  That is what we do.

Pervious Post: Pastor as a Parish Priest  

Reclaiming the Office of the Pastor: The Parish Priest

Pastor BannerIn a day and age where being a pastor is being equated with an organizational leader, the average pastor still fills traditional roles typically associated with being a pastor.   A few weeks back I received a phone call from a family I know from a previous pastoral position. They informed me that the father had passed and the 17 year old son asked if I could do the funeral.  I was happy to be there for the family.  When I arrived at the house, they introduced me by saying, “This is our pastor.” It was an honor to be called that but it wasn’t exactly true.  See, I hadn’t been officially their pastor in nearly a decade.  Yet, when they needed someone, they called me.  This family saw me as a their pastor whether they were members of our church or not.

In the past few weeks I have done a funeral and a wedding. In both cases, members of the family commented, “It is so nice to have someone do the service that knows the people they are doing the service for.”  I have wondered about their comments.  It can only be that Pastors today are so removed from their congregations that they don’t perform those functions anymore.  A pastor in a large church may have a staff pastor who does the weddings or funerals because the pastor is too busy.  This is one of the factors that has contributed to the Pastor-as-CEO phenomenon.  Pastors just do not perform historic pastoral functions anymore and the church members know it.

I once heard a pastor say that the role of Pastor is shifting from the hurts and needs of the congregation to the hurts and needs of community.  This statement resonated with me.  I have a congregation that I pastor. But I also have a community that I pastor as well.  Over the past six years I have been asked to do weddings, funerals, counseling, and visiting dying relatives by people who never set foot in the doors of my church.  Being an average pastor has given me the space to be available to people in our community.

Grantchester-Season2-early-iconThis model of being a pastor is reminisent of the English Parish Priest. This reality is depicted well in a PBS show I watched recently called Grantchester.  In the English church, a church was the center of community and the priest felt responsible for everyone in town, whether they attended or not.  In Granchester, Sydney the Priest, often had individuals come to them for their spiritual needs.   They didn’t show up on Sundays but that didn’t mean they didn’t see the pastor of Parish as their pastor.  The Parish pastor is a traditional pastoral paradigm that came from the idea of a Pastor as a Shepherd. The Shepherd takes care of a flock.  He doesn’t run the farm or the city.  He just looks after the sheep and helps whoever is in need.

This is the a paradigm that works  for many average pastors because pastors of larger congregations cannot logistically be available. As average pastors, we are more available to perform these historical functions for people in our church and our community.  I have been in the room of people who have died. I have performed marriages for people who had no other options. I have counseled  people who would never show up in my church but who trust me enough to bear their soul to me.   There are times I feel like there are more people who I pastor outside the walls of my church than inside.  This is one part of being an average pastor I love.

So next time you wish to have the perks of being a pastor of a larger church, remember that you have a ministry that many of those pastors are no able to have.  As an average pastor, you can pastor your community in a way that many pastors cannot.   It is needed in the body of Christ.  The average pastor throughout history has filled this role. It is what Pastors do. Embrace that calling.

Reclaiming the Office of The Pastor

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What does a pastor look like to you? What images come to mind?

A few weeks ago I called a local business about an event we were doing.  The lady on the phone took my information down and asked me, “so are you the youth pastor?” I replied, “No ma’am, I am the pastor.”  She was surprised that I was THE pastor because she didn’t expect THE pastor to do such menial tasks as make phone calls.  In her mind, she thought surely I must have a secretary, assistant or another pastor who would be more suited to taking care of trivial issues.  Her response is not uncommon in my experience.  Others have responded to me in similar fashion.  This is the way people see pastors today. They have the image more like that of a CEO of an organization than an approachable person in the community.   But as an average pastor, we don’t always have the luxury of having people who take care of things for us. We have to do the little things to keep our churches going.

My experience on the phone that day, and other experiences like it, have caused me to wonder about how the role of the pastor has become more equated with the CEO than the person who cares for the affairs of the household of God.  The reality is that the phenomenon of the mega church and multi-level staff organizations have turned many pastors into CEOs.  Nearly all the pastor conferences are nothing more than leadership conferences that teach organizational leadership principles. Today’s pastors have people to do pastoral care, make business decisions, manage the staff and do all sorts of jobs that used to be the pastor’s responsibility. One of the fastest growing positions in the church is the Executive Pastor who runs the day to day operations and staff of the church.

The idea of a pastor being a CEO just isn’t the reality of my pastoral experience.  I have to participate in every level of ministry and church life.  Even though I have a staff, they are part time and aren’t always available to me to help with the day to day.  I make my own phone calls, do my own media, sometimes clean the church, run the errands, manage the calendar, preach the sermons, do pastoral care and do many other tasks that people today do not think a Pastor should do.  But, this is the reality for 80% of us that pastor an average church.  That is what average pastors do.pastors-office

I don’t want to be a CEO.  I want to be a pastor.  In the next few blogs I will look at a couple images the Bible gives for the pastor that have nothing to do with being a leader of an organization.  I believe it is time we take back the corporate images of the Pastor and reclaim the biblical model for pastoral ministry found in the images of the shepherd, the levite and the elder.  These images of being a pastor are not celebrated today as they were in years past, but they are still the dominant roles for pastors of average churches like ours.  I will share about each of these images and how they empower the average pastors to embrace our identity and reject the pull toward corporate church models.