The Super Bowl is history. As usual, the team that won the “time of possession” battle won the game – not by much, but they did win it.
The Bible gives us plenty of excuses for using the language of military conquest and athletic competition. We are to endure hardship, to storm the gates of Hades, to run in such a way as to get the prize, to train our bodies and to fight in such a way as to win
For pastors and church leadership teams, this means getting on offense: having a game plan, a strategy, a scoreboard (metrics that define success) and seeing actual progress in taking captives from our enemy’s territory and helping them grow into enemy-attacking, victim-rescuing disciples themselves.
But it’s a struggle, and if we’re not really good at getting and staying on offense we’ll spend our whole lives back on our heels playing defense, trying to protect our turf and survive the attacks.
So two weeks ago I shared Seven Ways To Get On Offense. Last week I felt led to get more specific, more down to earth and practical, so I wrote Seven Helpful Hacks For Beleaguered Pastors. If you’re a struggling pastor you’ll welcome a few more suggestions:
(1) Learn to say “no.” This is a pre-requisite for #2 (below). #2 is organizational, administrative but learning to say “no” is an inside job, which is why I’m putting it first.
This is tough, challenging stuff that goes to the heart of our security in Christ and our clarity regarding our calling. This is half the battle, right here. You’ll never get off the defensive end of the field until you learn to say “yes” to the things God wants you to do and “no” to the things that don’t fit with His priorities.
(2) Get control of your schedule. I recently sat down with a pastor and walked through everything he’s doing for his church, putting every activity he could think of into Steven Covey’s (“Seven Habits Of Highly Effective People”) four categories: urgent but not important, important but not urgent, urgent and important and neither urgent nor important. If you haven’t studied the “four quadrants” and applied this great tool to your own life, do it now. It will change the way you live and it will change the way you lead your church.
(3) Train and inspire others to do one-on-one discipling and mentoring. One-on-one discipling has been out of style for a while now, but it’s still needed. Classes and small groups for discipling are great, but they’re not enough. New and growing believers still need life-challenging, personal relationships to help them apply what they’re learning to the nitty-gritty of life. You can only do one-on-one with a couple of people yourself, but you can train and inspire othersto disciple and mentor many others.
(4) Teach and expect every-member-ministry and every-member-evangelism. I think my terms are self-explanatory and Biblical. When I joined the Lions club, they counseled me regarding what my job (my “ministry”) was going to be in the club. You joined the club to serve.
Aren’t churches supposed to be service clubs as well (I Corinthians 12:7, 27)? And isn’t evangelism the responsibility and privilege and joy of every one of us (Acts 8:4)? Pastors, board members, ministry leaders, generic members: we should all be involved in every-member ministry within the family and every-member-evangelism outside the family of God.
If you don’t expect this of people, I guarantee you that they will live down to your expectations.
(5) Write your sermons at home. When I began serving as a full-time pastor, I had the idea that “professionalism” demanded that I be at the church building forty hours a week, in my office and well-dressed. As an introvert, a perfectionist and someone who took sermon preparation very seriously, this left me frustrated and crabby a great deal of the time.
(6) Thanks to my friend Bud Brown of Turnaround Ministries for these last three suggestions. Don’t attend a meeting unless your presence is crucial. Meet with – or better yet – regularly coach the ministry leader who conducts the meetings. Then stay home. Trust him or her to conduct the meetings without you showing up and ruining them by stealing the spotlight.
(7) Dare to not answer your phone or look at your email during vital time periods. Jesus didn’t have a cell phone. You will not be neglecting your church, you will be blessing your church, if you guard your sermon preparation time, meeting times and family times by fasting from your phone. You don’t have to be ashamed of this.
(8) Recruit or hire a coach or mentor to help you get and stay on offense. The simple accountability derived from a monthly meeting will help you enormously.
Getting and staying on offense is hard, but by the grace of God, it’s possible.
Pastor: are you playing offense or defense?