Young Pastor, Practice the Spirit’s Fruit of Patience

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.

Galatians 5:22-23

Before coming on staff at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, I served as a Lead Pastor at a normative size church in South Carolina. Words cannot express all the lessons that I learned in this pastorate, but I want to share one truth that I wish I would have learned more effectively before stepping into my first ministerial leadership role–the Holy Spirit’s fruit of patience. Perhaps what I learned during my first Lead Pastor position will help you in whatever ministry context God has you serving in right now.

Galatians 5:22-23 reads, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” Paul lists for his readers 9 fruits of the Spirit. When Christians think of fruit, our minds probably move to Jesus’s teaching on false teachers. King Jesus warns his followers to watch the fruit of ministry leaders because their fruit determines their faith. In other words, good fruit equals a true faith, but bad fruit equals no faith. Jesus says it this way, “So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will recognize them by their fruits” (Matthew 7:17-20). My prayer for young pastors reading this is that we would all be recognized by the ripening fruit of the Holy Spirit in ministry.

When I use the word “young” in the title of this post, I am specifically talking about experience in ministry and will continue to hold that meaning throughout this blog. Young pastors have many good traits. A zeal for evangelism. A passion for church growth and health. A heart to influence their congregation for the glory of God. An energy for ministry that has not been jaded by the pangs of pastoring. However, like any Christian, they are still in the midst of growing in their calling. If you are a young pastor, I want you to know that I appreciate you and hope this post will help you grow as a pastor and church leader.

With our zeal as young pastors, we can sometimes push our people to unhealthy ends. Lead Pastors with little experience are still learning this particular fruit of the Spirit. We see a problem or a theological issue within the church, and we immediately jump to action in order to correct the deficit. Sometimes (albeit every time) we should step back and pray about the issue we have observed in the church. Is this an issue that needs to be tackled immediately? Should I spend time teaching through the Word of God to let it do its work and change the hearts and minds of the people? Should I let this problematic area go so that I can take care of other more pressing issues the church I serve is facing? These are prayerful questions we should go to God with as we seek to determine which areas need immediate assistance and other areas that need more time.

Pastors, remember that there are no perfect churches out there. As one of my professors once said, “Every church is being revitalized because all churches are (should be) continually growing towards biblical health.” This proposition is true. Churches with solid evaluation techniques are constantly looking at areas that need to come under the authority of God’s Word. And if we are honest with ourselves, every church has many areas to bring under the lordship of Christ. Plus, if a church is constantly reaching people for Christ, health and growth will be a continual pursuit in the local church by both leaders and members. To put it bluntly, the churches we serve will never arrive to the state of perfection found in Scripture until Christ returns and makes all things new.

With that in mind, I think we are in a better position to practice the Spirit’s fruit of patience. Young pastors, we don’t have to change everything all at once, and I know the pressure you feel to push everything in the church you serve towards biblical health. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you discern what areas to push and what areas to exert spiritual patience. Also, remember the Holy Spirit’s work in bringing about health in a local church. The Holy Spirit will illuminate the Word of God that we preach faithfully week in and week out, and God’s Word will change the people so that he can change the spiritual trajectory of the church. Sometimes we need to stop pushing and starting praying for patience.

When I contemplate some of the mistakes that I made in my first pastorate, I realize that majority of them came from a lack of patience. Instead of waiting on the Holy Spirit to do his work, I pushed the people on issues that probably should have been tackled 5 or 7 years into my pastorate. The temptation to move quickly for results and to establish my credibility as a pastor sometimes overshadowed the fruit of the Spirit in the area of patience. Young pastors, learn from my mistakes, and be patient as you wait on the Lord to do his work in the local church you serve.

How to Die as a Christian

This blog post comes out of a sermon I preached on 7/25/2021 at First Baptist Church Spring Hope. -Jeremy Bell When is the last time you ever heard a sermon about dying well as a Christian? The chances are probably never, and I find this extremely odd. If the gospel is to be at the … Continue reading How to Die as a Christian

Think about Scripture while Singing in Corporate Worship Gatherings

Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth! Serve the Lord with gladness! Come into his presence with singing! Psalm 100:1-2 The Psalmist shows us that singing exists as one important aspect of worshipping God. Psalm 100:2b asserts, “Come into his presence with singing!” Thus, singing should have a part to play in … Continue reading Think about Scripture while Singing in Corporate Worship Gatherings

So, You Had a Bad Preaching Day? Here Are 4 Ways to Bounce Back

It never fails. Some Sundays you walk down from the pulpit thinking the Holy Spirit’s power was with you in that sermon. You captured the audience’s attention. Your exegesis of the Scripture seemed faithful to the text. Your illustrations connected the biblical text with the lives of your listeners. You walked away with confidence knowing that the Holy Spirit helped you through the difficult task we call preaching.

It never fails. Some Sundays you walk down from the pulpit in shame. You felt like you were forcing yourself to finish that sermon. You were beating yourself up as someone within the congregation walked by saying, “I really enjoyed that sermon, preacher.” Deep down you felt like you should be apologizing to them for not being on top of your game. You replay the sermon over and over all day in your head. Something just wasn’t right, and you didn’t feel the same power of the Holy Spirit like you had in the past.

Many preachers can identify with both of these scenarios. To be honest, I have dealt with these in my small preaching tenure. The good news for all of us is we are not alone. We have the best news in the world. We have the life changing news found only in Jesus Christ. However, many of us can become fearful when we have “bad preaching days” because we know eternal life could hang in the balance for some people sitting under our teaching.

No matter how long you have been preaching, I am sure you could tell gobs of stories about each of these scenarios. My purpose in writing this post is to help you recover from these days where you felt that something wasn’t right. Here are four ways we can bounce back from bad preaching days in ministry:

  1. Remember God is sovereign. Sometimes we put too much pressure on ourselves as preachers. We arrogantly think our sermon delivery is the true source of power. I think we might be adopting the American Dream in our preaching approach. God doesn’t need us. He decides to use us, but he doesn’t need us. Our preaching is not dependent on ourselves. Our preaching is dependent on God to work and act in our frailty as his redeemed children. You think you had a bad day. Your delivery couldn’t be any worse than Jonah’s sermon, “Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown” (Jonah 3:4)! Yet, God used this rinky dink sermon from a bitter prophet to save an entire nation! God is sovereign, and we need to remember that God will work just as much in the good days as he will in the bad days of our preaching.
  2. Pray for next week. Sometimes I think God lets his preachers have bad days because it reminds us of our dependence on him. How many of us become more reliant on our gifts rather than the Gift Giver? I think there are many reasons we have bad weeks (lack of preparation, not taking care of our bodies, unrepentant sin, not managing our calendars, family issues, etc), but after a bad sermon, we can begin to pray for God’s help for the following week. A bad preaching day should make us yearn for God’s power through his Holy Spirit the next time we preach. Therefore, we recover from bad preaching by praying.
  3. You are your worst critic. We know what we meant to say. We know what we wanted to say. We know whether the divine unction was or wasn’t there. However, the people in the pew have no idea most of the time. We have to remember that for many of them this is the first time they have seen this text or heard this message. People in the pews are simply trying to process what you are saying. We are overly critical on ourselves because we take our calling seriously, and we should! We need to remember that while we always strive to get better at our calling, we can be our own worst nightmares in our preaching ministry. Get better by examining your preaching, but your people aren’t critiquing you as hard as you are critiquing yourself. To put it another way, aim to be the best preacher for God’s glory, but don’t overly criticize yourself when you have an off day. God’s grace is greater!
  4. God’s Word always works. For faithful preachers of God’s Word, this should be our most encouraging way to recover after experiencing a bad preaching day. As Coach Boone said in Remember the Titans, “[My six plays] are just like Novocaine; give them time, and they always work.” God’s Word is just like Coach Boone’s six plays. Preach it as faithful as you can even on a bad preaching day, and God’s Word will do all the work. His Word is alive, active, piercing and discerning (Heb 4:12). His own Word says that it will not return to him void (Isa 55:11). While you may have had a bad preaching day, God’s Word never has a bad day. Stay faithful and his Word will get the work done.

As preachers, we need to remember that we are not perfect. Our task is to point people to the perfect One. This reality of our frailty means we are going to have bad preaching days. Hopefully, we have more good ones rather than bad ones. Nevertheless, when we do have bad ones, I pray that you will come back to this post to remember God’s goodness by reflecting on these four ways for recovering after the preaching event.

Are there any additional ways you recover from bad preaching days that are not mentioned? Please feel free to share them in the comments section to encourage others.

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No Answer; No Position

What is God teaching you?

As a leader within Christ’s church, I have one simple rule for anyone who serves alongside me. If you don’t have an answer when I ask you, “What is God teaching you?” you will be immediately let go. It sounds harsh, right? What if they are a great asset to the church? What will happen to their family? What will happen to their future in ministry? Those are great questions, but before anyone joins our staff, they will be forewarned ahead of time about this simple rule.

The reason for this rule is greater than how harsh you think this rule is. As elders, leaders, and pastors in the church, we better be growing and learning from the Lord daily. How can we expect to make disciples if we are not being disciples devoted to prayer, the Word, and worship ourselves? That would be like going to an obese trainer and saying, “Make me fit and healthy like you.” How can they train you to be fit and healthy if they are not fit and healthy themselves? The same concept applies to undershepherds, too.

Leading people for God’s glory isn’t easy. If it was, everyone would be doing it. However, leading people in the church mandates that you are being led by God first and foremost. Paul told the Church in Corinth, “Imitate me, as I also imitate Christ” (1 Cor 11:1). Could you say that if you are not learning and growing in Christ? Leaders are by nature examples to those they lead. I want to ensure that those who serve alongside me are growing in their imitation of Christ so they can be examples to the disciples God has given us to steward. Therefore, this question is not harsh, but rather a means to help my staff be gospel-driven and effective leaders.

Leading God’s people requires leaders to be spending time with God as redeemed people.

I’m not the only one who has this type of rule either. At a preaching conference last year, I heard James Merritt make a similar statement about leading his staff. Francis Chan commented, “I once told my staff to let me know if they were not praying at least an hour a day. This way I could replace them with someone who would. I would much rather hire someone who prayed and did nothing else than someone who worked tirelessly without praying” (Letters to the Church, 113). Leading God’s people requires leaders to be spending time with God as redeemed people.

This rule is not only to help them be effective, godly leaders, but this question serves as a means to protect them from moral failure, also. We are seeing a massive amount of church leaders falling due to various moral failures. In my conversations with my mentors, I have seen a trend in moral failures of pastors. The trend seems to be a lack of daily time with the Lord. Make no doubt about it. Pastors who are not spending time being taught by the Lord in personal quiet times are pastors who are getting ready to fall.

Therefore, this rule does not seem to be as harsh as you originally thought, does it? This questions is designed to create healthy, accountable, pure, and effective leaders who serve God’s people. However, this question should not be reserved only for leaders in the church, but rather all believers. So, “What is God teaching you?”

The Importance of Team Values

I am going to date myself in this post. Do you remember The Flintstones? Fred, Barney, Betty, and “W-i-l-m-a?” The Flintstones was one of my favorites growing up as a child. I really loved the cars they drove. The cars were propelled by their feet. Everyone in the stone-age car had to move their feet together to gain speed and plant their feet in the dirt when they needed to make an abrupt stop.

Leadership teams work like a stone-age car ride with the Flintstones. Everyone on the team has a job to do. Everyone on the team must contribute to keep the vision of the organization moving in the right direction. However, one person in the car or on the team can destroy the momentum of an entire organization. For example, if everyone on the team is peddling in a certain direction and one team member is digging his or her heals in the sand, the entire team will feel the effects of that one team member. The leader driving the car will definitely notice when his team is not working together properly.

How do you keep your team on your stone-age car ride peddling in the same direction? This post contends for the importance of team values for your leadership corps. Team values operate like core values for any organization. Team values are like measuring tools to ensure that the people on your team are moving their feet, and they serve as standards for anyone who wants to join your team. As a local church pastor, here are our three team values:

  1. Teachable: Teachable can be closely connected to the biblical understanding of humility. We expect all our leaders to be teachable in that they are willing to learn and endure positive criticism. This value implies that a person desires to be challenged and get better at their calling.
  2. Trustworthy: Teams that have no trust among its members are teams that are doom to fail. Our leadership team discusses many sensitive and difficult issues. We are constantly confronting one another, and sharing ideas that if were brought before the church would stir up strife and dissension. Our team thrives on trust. I have to know that my staff has my back, and they have to know that I have their back in front of our congregation.
  3. Team Player: Sometimes the team must come before the individual. With any organization, resources are limited. Individual team members might get looked over for a particular resource because another area of ministry needs it more at that moment. If we are all fighting for our own ministry, we will fight against each other and our team will become dysfunctional. Dysfunctional teams lead to ineffective leaders.

These values are an example for you to see how important something like this is for your leadership team. With these values, we are able to keep our stone-age car going down the road, and prevent anyone from getting into our Flintstones car that might drag their feet. I encourage you to create your own set of team values for your organization because they are important for the overall health and momentum of your team.

The 4 Cs to Corporate Church Conflict

Ministry is a lot like riding a roller coaster (if you like roller coasters). Ministry has moments where God is moving in the church and you feel like you are climbing sky high. You feel like you are about to touch down on cloud nine. However, sometimes things begin to fall apart and you feel like you are spiraling downhill out of control. This is when you feel like loosing your stomach.

Ministry can be difficult, but in my opinion, serving the bride of Christ can be one of the most fulfilling positions on the planet. Nevertheless, when a conflict in the church arises, many pastors either don’t know how to respond or respond wrongly. Conflict can be a breeding ground for growing your leadership influence within the church you serve.

One of the most difficult times to deal with conflict is during a corporate gathering. The scenario plays out that a disgruntled member confronts the pastor in front of a small or large crowd of witnesses. This can elevate the tension for everyone in the room. Typically, when tension elevates, so does the emotions and the tone of one’s voice. How does a pastor appropriately respond? What is the best way for a pastor to respond?

Here are the 4 Cs that our staff uses to handle conflict in a corporate setting:

  1. Care for the person. One of the best ways to calm down the disgruntled church member is to acknowledge their anger, and say something like, “I really appreciate you bringing this to my attention.” This reaction shows you care about them as a person and their concern(s). It doesn’t matter if you agree with their anger or not. You have acknowledged that they have been heard as a brother or sister in Christ.
  2. Control the situation. After you have shown you care about them as a person, control the situation by indicating that this is not the time or the place to have this discussion. Say something like, “I had no idea this was an issue. May we schedule a time to meet and discuss this problem further?” Encourage them that you want to hear them out completely, and tell them you want to give them your full undivided attention at a later date. Don’t return with anger or attitude back at the disgruntled member. Respond with gentleness and love. These types of responses will keep everyone else calm, and hopefully calm down the person who is angry, too.
  3. Circumvent back to the intended purpose of your gathering. If you are at church for a service, meeting, or time of prayer, indicate to the group that you are at the church for a particular reason. Explain why everyone has gathered that morning, afternoon, or evening, and follow your purpose of gathering with prayer. Therefore, identify the purpose of the gathering and pray for the gathering in order to quickly move to your designated agenda.
  4. Continue like nothing happened. The fourth C seems to be the most difficult of all the others. Many pastors are shepherds and have big hearts. Public conflicts can be difficult to overcome because some of us take them so personally. Great leaders let those types of out bursts roll off, and they get back to working for the Lord. Continuing like nothing happened creates two reactions from the audience: First, if you continue on like nothing happened, the people won’t think that moment was a big deal to you. They see their leader in a stoic like fashion. Second, it lets the one who confronted you know that they can’t throw you off your game. You are here to serve the Lord, and you are going to follow through regardless of any incident that comes your way.

Leading in the church is the most rewarding, but can also be the most challenging. However, if leading God’s church were easy, everyone would be doing it. My goal is to prepare you and my staff now for incidents that we might face in ministry. Therefore, we can handle these types of scenes with grace and poise, and our godly example will be noted by all. People are willing to follow a godly pastor who responds to a corporate church conflict with the 4 Cs.