“Spending Time With Jesus” is Never Enough

No matter how much time we spend with Jesus, it will never be enough by itself. Don’t get me wrong; I don’t think there’s anything more vital than time with Jesus, it’s just that I believe He has more for us than His time.

In our Christian circles, we throw around phrases like: “I need to have my quiet time with Jesus” or “I just need to be with Jesus”. Great phrases, but what is the outcome of this “time with Jesus” or “being with Jesus”? I believe that Jesus wants to offer more than His time to us.

In Matthew’s gospel, we read this invitation from Jesus:

Matthew 11:28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

What a beautiful invitation! Jesus invites us to spend time with Him, but that’s not the only invitation in this passage. Jesus also invites us to learn from Him. See, the invitation from Jesus is twofold – spend time with me and learn from me.

The secret to finding rest for our soul, and gaining the most from our “time with Jesus” is being in His presence and learning His principles.

Just as spending time in the gym doesn’t make me fit, only spending time with Jesus doesn’t produce in me all He has for me. Jesus invites us, not only into His presence, but to also learn His principles. The benefit of being with Jesus is the transformation He brings to our life.

When we say, “yes” to both invitations, we experience true rest for souls. So, if you’re spending time with Jesus, you’re halfway there. But don’t just spend time with Him, learn from Him. If you’re not spending time with Him on a regular basis, consider yourself invited. Find a time, find a place, and find a method to track what He’s teaching you. For me, time is in the morning, the place is in my living room, and the method is my journal.

Would love to hear what you’re doing, and how you’re responding to this twofold invitation of time and teaching. Comment below.

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If You Don’t Admit This, You’ll Fail

In a recent conversation with my friend and mentor, Lance Witt, I was confronted with a truth in my leadership that I already knew, but didn’t want to admit. Ready for it? As a leader, I have limits. I know what you’re saying, “Shocker! Of course, you do!” As leaders, we often see the limits of others much more quickly than we see our own, and I’d rather talk about others’ limits than my own. But here’s the deal, leaders hate to have limitations, and we certainly hate to address our own . While all of us in ministry have limits, we rarely address this truth until it’s too late. If we don’t admit and address our limits, we’ll fail ourselves and the people we’ve been entrusted to lead.

With the recent resignation of Pete Wilson, the senior pastor of Cross Point Nashville, more leaders are talking about limits, but talking about them isn’t enough. In fact, most leaders who talked about Pete’s story addressed his failure to acknowledge his limits, not their personal failure to admit and acknowledge their own limits within the ministry. If we’re going to make it in the long run of ministry, we’ll have to admit our limitations. I’ve already blogged about this in the past, but even Jesus, in all his humanity acknowledged his limits.

Mark 1:35-39 reads:
35 Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed. 36 Simon and his companions went to look for him, 37 and when they found him, they exclaimed: “Everyone is looking for you!” 38 Jesus replied, “Let us go somewhere else—to the nearby villages—so I can preach there also. That is why I have come.” 39 So he traveled throughout Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and driving out demons.

Did you see it? The disciples said, “everyone is looking for you” but Jesus’ response was, “Let us go somewhere else.” I don’t think Jesus was rejecting those looking for him, but he was focused on what and who was before him. As leaders, acknowledging our limitations begins with thinking about those who are before and not behind us. What I mean by this is that we have to allow our future self to help determine our current limitations.

We all have limited time, resources and energy, and when we address our limits, it’s best to do so with the perspective of the end in mind. How do we want to be remembered as a parent, spouse, or pastor when we’re gone? If I’m honest, it matters less about how we’re remembered as a pastor or leader. In my opinion, it matters more about what those closest to us will say about how we loved and cared for them.

Since my conversation with Lance, here’s what I’ve been thinking about limits:

  • When I don’t acknowledge my limits as a leader, everyone loses.
  • Limits are not designed to be pushed but to protect us.
  • Limits are daily reminders we can’t do everything for everyone.
  • Acknowledging our limitations increases our dependency and sufficiency in Christ.

Limits are for our good and should never be ignored. When we admit and address our limits as leaders. everyone wins. I’d love to hear your thoughts on the limitations of life and ministry. Please leave a comment below and join the conversation.

4 Ways to Appreciate Your Pastor

It’s that time of year. If you’ve grown up in the church, or have been on staff in a church for a long time, you know that every October Christian bookstores stock extra pastor appreciation cards and gifts for your senior pastor. Church staff members are taking to social media to thank and appreciate their senior pastor publicly for their hard work and sacrificial love. Cards, gifts, and Tweets are all excellent ways to acknowledge your pastor this month. That said, I don’t think we should stop there, and here are a few other ways to show your senior leader just how much you love and appreciate who they are and what they do:

1. Pray for your pastor(s).
As staff members and pastors, we pray a lot. We open and close our meetings in prayer, we pray with people who are sick or in need of hope, we pray for ourselves and our families often, but we don’t pray for our pastor enough. Praying for our senior pastor, his family, and the vision God has given is the greatest way we can appreciate him. I’ve also learned that the more I pray for my pastor, the more connected I feel to his vision.

Praying for our senior pastor(s) helps us as much as it helps them.

2. Protect your pastor’s family time.
Do you know when your pastor’s day off is? You should. Save that email or text message for the following day, or better yet, add it to your notes for your next meeting. There’s a culture in ministry right now of everyone protecting their day off at all costs; this is healthy, but we should be as determined to protect other team members days off too.

Show your pastor appreciation by honoring his day off and better preparing for your one-on-one meetings.

3. Grow yourself spiritually and guard your soul.
Being a part of church staff is an incredible privilege, and as with any privilege, there is a great responsibility. As a staff leader or pastor, we feel deeply responsible for the spiritual health of those we lead, but we are chiefly responsible for our personal growth and soul health first. Maintaining personal holiness and intentionally setting up guardrails is essential for longevity in ministry.

If we want to appreciate our pastor, we must keep growing as followers of Christ and guard the integrity of our soul.

4. Care and pastor the people they have entrusted to you.
No pastor wants to hear that the people in the church are not being cared for or followed up with promptly. Each staff member is an extension of the senior pastor’s love, especially when it comes to shepherding the flock under our care. Being responsive to people’s needs and genuinely concerned about their spiritual condition is for every leader, not just the senior leader.

The easiest way we can appreciate our pastor is by doing our job with passion and excellence.

Our pastors and senior leaders deserve all the love and respect we can give them, every day, not just in the month of October. Let’s show them how much we appreciate them by praying for them daily, protecting their time, growing ourselves spiritually, and by caring for those entrusted to our care.

One Place Everyone Should Visit Before Work Today

The demands of full-time ministry will always exceed our capacity to respond. We could serve people and the mission of the church from the moment we wake up until our head hits the pillow in the evening. You might disagree with me, but I don’t think God only wants our service. In fact, I believe that before he wants our hard work, he wants our heart and our sole attention.

Before Jesus rushed into the needs of the day and ministering to people, he got alone and sought God. In Mark 1:35 it reads: “Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.” Jesus had a habit of seeking God before he served people for him. As leaders in ministry, we need to make sure we model this same behavior – seeking God before we serve on behalf of God.

Serving God without seeking him is like working out on an empty stomach – there is no benefit. We have to make a commitment daily to seek God in the sacred place. This is not a post about how to seek but rather when and where to seek him.

The sacred place should never be second place.

Start early. I’m a huge fan of encouraging people to seek God in the morning – after all, Jesus did. I grew up in a church culture that encouraged you to “find a time of day that works best for you,” but I’ve grown to disagree with this teaching. Visiting the sacred place is not about our daily plan – it’s about his plan for our day. Your ability to visit the sacred place in the morning will determine the direction of the rest of your day.

Do you control your schedule or does your schedule control you? I know moms who wake 30 minutes before their children to start their day with God and dads who are found reading their Bible at the kitchen table first thing in the morning. For me, spending time in the sacred place requires scheduled time.

The sacred place should never be just anyplace.

Jesus left the house and went to a solitary place to pray and the Gospels record him doing this often. Too many Christians have attempted to hit the easy button on communing with God. I’m not saying that listening to God’s word while driving is bad, I just don’t believe that it is enough. The sacred place should be a place where distractions are extremely limited, and where one can focus solely on the Holy Spirit’s presence. Everyone is seeking more quiet spaces: a recent NBC poll showed that 81% of Americans confirm they need more quiet in their lives. Intentionally creating a place to commune with God could radically change how clearly you hear his voice and sense his presence.

Regularly visiting a specific, routine sacred place in your home or outdoors can totally change how you approach your time with the Lord. While the actual location of the sacred place may move from time to time, we cannot neglect to visit it altogether. Ignoring the sacred place reveals a hole in our theology, that we can work apart from the Holy Spirit’s work in us.

Make it your highest ambition to know God rather than to serve God. Lance Witt

What about you? Is there a time of day or a special place that has kept your sacred place active and alive?