I grew up in the jungles of Papua, Indonesia. Over 200 tribes with distinct languages spread across the landscape of this rugged island. It was only in the late 1950’s that many of these tribes heard the gospel of Jesus Christ. I remember as a child hearing of the tragic death of two men, Phil Masters and Stan Dale who were martyred by a tribe they attempted to reach. Six months later, a small airplane crashed in the same location when one sole survivor, Paul Newman, was rescued by an old man belonging to the very tribe that had killed Phil and Stan. In only the way God can, these two events came together to provide the sovereign context for the gospel to be presented to these people. What a privilege I had to interview Phil’s wife, Phyliss, who shares about her role in helping the people who killed her husband to hear of the saving message of Jesus.
Aside from the Bible, one other book served as my lifeline during the hardest period of my life; my wife’s brain surgery and subsequent struggle to recover her speech, reading/writing skills, and my son’s passing to cancer just months after. That book was A Grace Disguised by Dr. Gerald Sittser. I’ve read the book probably four times, and recommended it to many who needed a healthy dose of theological perspective. What a thrill to land an interview with the author of this book, Dr. Gerald Sittser.
Order A Grace Disguised Here
Those who have any connection with Toccoa Falls College will know exactly what happened on November 6, 1977. The flood at Toccoa Falls College, pushing millions of gallons of water through a weakened earthen dam, took the lives of 39 people. Several lost their entire family. The story you’re going to hear in this podcast is Pastor Bob Harner’s account of remaining faithful to Jesus while trying to cope with the drowning of his wife and young son. This is truly a story that continues to bring glory to a faithful and sovereign God who shows his goodness to those who continue to trust him despite the pain that comes along the way.
The relationship between church members and their pastor is most healthy when the gospel defines that relationship. The moment we take our eye off the gospel, the view we have of each other (pastor and members) will be reduced to READ MORE
One of my passions with the Before You Quit podcast is to reach not just pastors and ministry leaders, but also to relate to elders who serve these churches and pastors. One of my greatest joys with this ministry is when I see elders coming around their pastor, serving him, making him accountable to them, them to him, and watching his back when he’s either criticized or even under attack. In a true sense, the elders are the Guardians to the past READ MORE
What does disappointment mean to you? To me it is when the things you have planned for, longed for, expected to happen, don’t happen the way that you planned. There is a sense of control that we as humans expect READ MORE
Relationships are a funny thing. They are kind of like eating an orange, or an apple. An orange is a fruit that, when you peel the cover off, you better eat it right away. It’s messy if you don’t. You READ MORE
We’re going to talk today about what it is like to be serving in a closed country. When we say closed country, we mean a culture where sharing the gospel freely is not possible without likely recriminations. I will not be using the person’s real name that I am interviewing, but I will refer to him a few times as Peter.And for his protection we will not refer to the country where he serves. However I can tell you that God is moving. READ MORE
The church I’m attending is looking for our next lead pastor. Two weeks ago, we said goodbye to the pastor who served this church for eight years. The farewell given to him, and his wife, was unlike anything I’ve seen in my READ MORE
Several weeks I drove through the campus of Toccoa Falls College near where I live and watched hundred of students streaming toward the auditorium of the college for their chapel service. I looked at these young faces and remembered being where they are. That was a long time ago, actually 35 years ago and so much has happened since then, in my life but also in our culture. I also looked at them and thought about how they will one day be where I am now. Unless the Lord returns first, these young people will be looking back to their 35 years no doubt living in a world so different than ours today. I find myself in these reflective mood wondering what the church will be like and how many of these young people I saw streaming toward their chapel service will be leading the church. READ MORE
“When the Lord restores the fortress of Zion, we were like those who dream. Then our mouth was filled with laughter, and our tongue with shouts of joy; then they said among the nations, ‘ The LORD has done great READ MORE
In the 1980’s AIDS was an unfamiliar disease leaving those with the diagnoses alone and often shunned. It was during this time that young Ian Puckett, was diagnosed with AIDS due to a blood transfusion following a serious accident he and his father, Henry, were in. Up to this time, Henry and his wife Donna were experiencing deep marital problems that led to a temporary separation. READ MORE
The Pastor needs to remember that the folks who attend church on Sunday have likely had far more to think about than his church during their week. Most, if not all come to church tired and burdened from a week’s READ MORE
Let me say at the onset that I am all for prayer. I believe deeply in prayer. I pray often. I have seen answers to prayer that on their own prove the existence of God. So, when I set out READ MORE
The enemy will do all he can to interrupt the mission of the church, usually in the form of conflict. I have on many occasions brought people together who were involved in petty, or major conflict, and said, “Folks, this READ MORE
It’s generally accepted that most people leave churches because of personal conflict, not because of theological differences. We hear too often of churches that are hurting because of conflict and sometimes this pain can last for years. Is it possible God is behind that pain more than we might think? READ MORE
Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no bitter root grows READ MORE
I think we would all agree that suffering produces the best leaders. I am amazed when I talk to people who consistently tell me that they are who they are because of how God shaped them during hard trials. In other places I have share about my own personal trials. When I recount these stories I will state how it scares me who I would be today had God not taken me through those trials. READ MORE
Ez.18:7 “He does not commit robbery but gives food to the hungry and provides clothing for the naked” It is not enough that we stop doing what is wrong. We must replace that with something that is right. If a READ MORE
Gerald Sittser in his book A Grace Disguised portrays us in respect to God’s sovereignty as actors on a stage who take part in the story that he tells. I love watching God work even when things do not go the way I expect they would, especially in the ministry context. If you would have asked me thirty years ago what I would be doing now, I would not describe who I am now, and what I am doing. Thankfully God does not show us the future, but he does promise to be in charge and he does assure us that he does what is best for his glory and ultimately for our good. It is also true that in those uncertain and unexpected times that we discover best how good and amazing he is. READ MORE
We hear often of pastors who experience some kind of failure. They are statistics, far off stories, but rarely someone we know, or hear personally about. I’m talking to someone today who knows too well the depth of shame and loss that comes when the heart is not guarded from the all too common temptations that pastors face. His name is Jay Depoy and his story is riveting, but its a story that speaks more loudly of the grace and mercy of Jesus than of any scandal you will hear about from him. READ MORE
Think of playing a game, only this game has no rules. That described our marriage. Communication, with no rules, no boundary lines made for a toxic marriage. Sarcasm and cutting and hurtful words were the plays used to manage this READ MORE
In 2013 my wife and I moved to Augusta GA for what turned out to be one year ministry of helping replant a church that had just closed. Several months after our move a dynamic young couple, Chris and Carla Gerlach, moved near us to help us in this mission and to network with several other churches in the area. READ MORE
Pastors have two primary responsibilities involving two families. One involves his congregation, the other, his wife and children. As I write this, I am taken back to a conversation I had with a friend, and pastor, several years ago. Let READ MORE
A little over 18 years ago my wife Elaine and I and our family returned to the States practically ruined. My wife was just beginning her recovery from brain surgery, and two weeks after o
ur return our oldest son was diagnosed with, and ended up dying from brain cancer. We left England after having pastored a church in a north west town called Warrington. We absolutely loved our time there. We loved the culture. Loved the people and especially loved seeing God move in the hearts and lives of many who were being drawn to Jesus especially in a community and a society where there was not a strong Christlike presense. In all my years of ministry, I still look back over those years as my golden years. Because of our medical situation we were not able to go back. In the meantime, the church we’d pastored continue to navigate the normal challenges of new leadership, declining attendance, and redirecting their vision in a society not all that interested in spiritual things. READ MORE
In my last blog I insisted that to have healthy relationships, asking questions plays a significant part. I love it when people ask me questions. It tells me they really care and have a real unselfish interest in my life. READ MORE
No Relationship Without Questions Asking questions of each other is the key to healthy relationships. Deeper yet, the way we ask questions can open up new doors inviting us into another’s soul. Larry Crabb in his book Soul Talk goes READ MORE
Have you ever been in a situation where someone is grieving the loss of a loved one, and you just don’t know what to say? Sometimes you feel you’ve said the wrong thing, and other times you walk away having said nothing and you feel horrible about it. I really believe the ministry to grieving individuals and families can be one of the strongest and most impactful ministries the church can have, and it’s something that can be learned and practiced. READ MORE
It is understandable to assume that when something good is happening it means God showed up, but when something bad happens, well, we just aren’t quite sure where He is. Western Christians, especially, tend to easily connect the dots between READ MORE
Some years ago an elderly lady approached me in the lobby of our church. She placed her worn, leather-skin hand on my forearm and said something that normally would cause me to flinch in resistance. “Pastor Mitch,” she said, her READ MORE
Some years ago an elderly lady approached me in the lobby of our church. She placed her worn, leather-skin hand on my forearm and said something that normally would cause me to flinch in resistance. “Pastor Mitch,” she said, her READ MORE
Oh, the great stuff we can gain from the previous generations. But how will we ever do that unless we pause long enough and listen to their stories. When is the last time you sat down with an elderly saint in your church, or even sat down with your parents or grandparents and listened to their stories and the experiences that shaped them? READ MORE
Many pastors and ministry workers struggle in relationships with colleagues who share their passion for the gospel. It’s not uncommon to hear stories of team or staff situations where two people or two families, both committed to the same mission, READ MORE
What is better than resolving conflict? Avoiding conflict! Or at least seeing conflict as healthy to the strength of your church. In our last podcast interview we talked to Ken Sande, of Peacemaker Ministry about the value and importance of bringing about resolution to conflict. In his 30 years in this ministry, Ken also discovered principles and lessons that he placed in his toolbox to start a new ministry, called Relational Wisdom 360.
Often when difficult people are confronted for bad behavior it’s easier for them to run somewhere else than stay and work it out. I love it when the circle of restoration that began with confronting sin, and then leads to repentance and confession is completed in reconciliation. Sadly, I’ve not seen it often. I remember in a church I pastored, the leadership warned a divisive man to stop organization a secret petition against the elders and step down from teaching his popular Sunday school class. Remarkably, he did, and a year latter, in humility, he resumed his teaching and served many years as a model of what happens when peacemaking is allowed to run its course. That is where peacemaking really works. READ MORE
One of my favorite moments as a pastor is to see hurting and broken relationships restored where the wounds from words and actions are changed into life-giving expression toward one another. To get there, two people have to admit their READ MORE
I remember years ago listening to well know pastors and often thinking, wow, it would be so cool to sit down with them and ask any questions I wanted.Well, I had such a privilege recently when I sat down with Pastor Stuart Briscoe to talk to him about pastoring in this critical age. READ MORE
You probably have heard this statement before. I love Jesus, but I’m not a big fan of the church. There is strong evidence today that our millennial generation, I know, they get picked on a lot don’t they, is becoming increasingly dissatisfied with the church. This generation is what I would refer to as the “optional-church” generation. Studies show that this generation will get involved mainly if there is personal value. This becomes a crisis of sorts particularly if you are one, as I am, who strongly believes that what God is going to do in the world today he is going to do through the local church. READ MORE
“Why the trend towards ministry as a second career? Is this a positive trend? Is it a trend about which the church should be worried? Why are fewer younger women and men not pursuing ordained ministry upon graduation from college as was the case in the past? Do second career clergy bring greater maturity and experience to pastoral leadership than those who did not work for any significant length of time in another career? These are important questions.” (Jackson W. Carroll). READ MORE
What the pastor believes really matters, and what his congregation believes really matters. Spiritual discernment is vital in the pastor’s commitment to stand for the gospel, and to stand against false beliefs. How does he remain faithful to the gospel when compromise and accommodation are the norm? I’ve covered a lot of topics to this point on Before You Quit. Marriage difficulties! The pastor’s family! Dealing with conflict! Antagonists! Sense of failure! Loneliness in ministry! When is it time to make a change! Dealing with loss! Confessing sin! READ MORE
The call came late. I’d counseled the couple in preparation for their marriage, but someone else would officiate. Four days before the wedding, the pastor’s son fell ill, forcing him to cancel, and the couple asked if I would perform READ MORE
We talk a lot in these podcasts about the sort of hard things pastor’s face; marriage challenges, hard people in the pastor’s life, the struggle with children and even facing loss. My goal has been pretty singular with all the interviews, and that is to encourage the pastor to keep his focus, to not be distracted and to realize also that with serving Jesus can come, and probably will come a lot of opposition and challenges. There is one thing we have not talked about in the sort of things pastors face and that is the pressure to bend his convictions to the many theological trends blowing across our landscape today. The pressure for the pastor to bend to, to compromise his message is becoming an increasingly heavy load to carry. It’s getting harder and harder to just stick to the simple message of the gospel. Even with all the pastoral responsibilities he carries, it’s getting harder for him to take time in studying and preparing for his primary role, of preaching the Word of God. READ MORE
I am sure you can identify with these following comments: I wish I was preaching more. If only I could take on more responsibility, I would be happier. I wish the board would let me start that ministry program. Even if you are not a pastor or in ministry you have longed to do something that fits your gifts better, or to find what we are going to define today as your sweet spot.
I’m taking a huge risk with this blog. To suggest that we curb how often we tell people we’ll pray for them could leave me isolated, should you take me too seriously. Allow me some room for hyperbole here. Before READ MORE
About a year ago, I began to ask the Lord if he would be so kind to allow me to serve a local church somewhere, somehow, as an interim pastor. With no agenda, no idea how to land this, I READ MORE
“Antagonists go for the jugular. They have a singular goal. They want to hurt, humiliate and destroy the senior pastor. In the course of their attacks, they intentionally want to divide the congregation between those that agree with them and the supporters of the rector.” Dr. Dennis R. Maynard.
Pastors face a lot of challenges, but the hardest is when they’re attacked by an antagonist. Sure, there are some bad apples that fall from the clergy tree, but most are loving and compassionate. They really care about people and do long for those under their care to grow spiritually and thrive in their journey. Why is it then, that too often pastors are attacked? Is it possible that not all the sheep are, what one writer once referred to as, “well intentioned dragons”? Could it be that some are actually bent on causing harm to the pastor and to see his ministry fail? Dr. Dennis Maynard speaks candidly and boldly on the subject while urging the church to become a safe place for the pastor to serve affectively without this all to real pressure. READ MORE
With Dr. Bill Ronzheimer
What does it take to remain passionate and committed to the gospel that will take you the long haul in ministry? I read one stat how 80% of pastors will leave the ministry within their first five years. Some, I’m sure, leave for good reasons and are still serving Jesus faithfully. Others, however, no doubt faced disappointment of not having what it took to stick it out for the long haul. We are not interested necessarily in people having to stay in vocational ministry, but rather committed to serve Jesus wherever they are. Today’s podcast I know will encourage you to serve well, no matter where you are and what you are doing, or even how long you’ve been doing it. READ MORE
He is no fool who gives up what he cannot keep in order to gain what he cannot lose. – Jim Elliot An Appeal to the Future I hope to look back one day celebrating the hard decision I made READ MORE
Today we are going to talk about the pastor’s wife and it struck me as I was preparing for this that I have been married to a pastor’s wife for over 30 years. And while she’s been amazing, I know there were times where it was difficult. There is no defined role, but there are certainly definite expectations placed on the pastor’s wife. So much is on the pastor’s wife and she’s never been trained for it. The pastor gets the training, but the wife is expected to be everything for everyone else. She shares her husband with the entire church, and fights to know her place. She’s expected to serve the church, be a model wife and model mom, and in the meantime she’s asking the Lord Jesus “who am I, and what do you want from me?” READ MORE
The Capacity to Forgive It’s hard to forgive. Really hard. It’s like trying to blow up a brand new balloon, which at first invites only small amounts of air, but the more you put in, the larger the balloon expands. READ MORE
What do you do when you’re great at pastoring but not that good at marriage. I ask the question often, can a pastor and his wife have a good ministry when the marriages is hanging by a thread? I enter into a very delicate conversation with a young pastor and his wife who from the day they met, ministry was all they had in common. This almost caught up with them, but God intervened in only the way he can. READ MORE
Most pastors will often tell that they are like a small time pilot being asked to fly a huge plane, something way beyond their ability. Most of us in ministry will even feel that all the training in the world will not prepare us enough to do this job. READ MORE
Today we are going to talk about the preverbal elephant in the room, and that is what to do when there is conflict in the church, or even conflict in your own life. How do you respond when people in your church do not get along. Perhaps one of the saddest thing a pastor ever witnesses is when people are not getting along in his church. I’ve seen it and I know many others have to. Conflict in the church drives people away from the church and sadly, their perception of God is shaped by what they witnessed in a church. I remember someone coming to me once and his words broke my heart. He said, Pastor, I can no longer attend here with all this tension. It led me to pray for renewal and work hard for it. In this podcast interview we talk to Pastor Eric Anderson who is open
and very candid about how he managed through, and survived conflict. Eric even speaks about the nature of conflict, the value of conflict and even how it made him a better shepherd to a hurting group of people. Eric lives deep in the cold flat lands of MN and pastors LifeSpring Church, a reformed church belonging to the Fellowship of Independent Reformed Evangelicals. He is married to Miriam for over 11 years and both he and Mariam have eight children; five girls and three boys ranging from 19 years old to a 1 year old. You will be blessed listening to this wonderful story of how to thrive where there is conflict.
Here are some of the resources Eric referred to:
Antagonists In The Church click here!
I also highly recommend Thriving Through Church Conflict click here!
“Confessing sins to each other makes for a healthier more humble church.” – Prof. Russell Huizing
We hear the story too often. A well loved pastor, seemingly well put together, a model of righteousness, is outed as a sinner. He’s committed moral failure, or admitted to a sexual or alcohol addiction. And everyone is shocked. We discover that for years he has kept this secret to himself, and not even those close to him, his wife or elders knew of his pain. Imagine if early on, when the first moments of his struggle began and before they took over his life he had taken the opportunity to share with someone else, and confessed his sin to them and received forgiveness and encouragement. READ MORE
When I was twelve, I wanted to die because living no longer seemed possible. Later, I discovered that the cause of this depression was a chemical imbalance created by the usual biological changes that normally occur in a preteen boy. READ MORE
Are pastors allowed to struggle? It seems too often that those in ministry are expected to keep their struggles to themselves. Carly Simons’ well known song, Haven’t Got Time for The Pain could easily have been written for pastors who struggle to hide their pain behind the busyness of ministry and the expectations of others. READ MORE
Brett Schultz grew up in a pastor’s home and he’s actually a normal kid.
Pastors try as best they can to assure their children do not grow up with the common stigmas that come with being a PK (Pastor’s Kid). The pressure to represent the family well can be a heavy burden for any child of a ministry parent. While most pastors and missionaries do a great job protecting their children from these burdens, there are some things that are beyond their control. Brett is my son, and he’s often told me that we did well allowing him to be a normal kid, but there were somethings we could not protect him from. READ MORE
“When is it time to move on?” Is a question many pastors ask. Even if you are a not a pastor, it’s critical you know your pastor is probably asking this question. Your role is important to his health. Encouraging him and praying for him provides the life and fuel for an affective ministry. Letting him know he is appreciated makes him feel valued, but you can do more than that. Tell him what you like about his ministry. Share with him how God is using him in your life. Nothing is more vital than a pastor feeling loved and supported, but, there are times he’s going ask this question of God and certainly of himself, how long do I stay? Should I Stay, or Should I Go, is a great title for a rock song, but for right now, it’s an important subject for us to cover in this podcast. Pastor Steve Kerhoulas readily admits that he stayed two years too long in a recent ministry. How does one reconcile that realization with a solid belief in the sovereignty of God and his management of our lives. Whether you are a pastor wondering if it’s time to move on, or asking that question about a business or a move to a new place, you will be challenged and refreshed as you listen to this conversation.