calling Posts

Are You Called?

5 books that have changed my life

RUDE AWAKENINGS

Shortly after I came to faith in Christ, I was talking to a pastor and I said, “It must be awesome to do what you do.”

He said, “You have no idea what we do. In fact, if you can see yourself doing anything other than ministry, do it.”

He told me if you’re called to ministry, God will swallow you like Jonah and puke you on the shores of ministry.

I thought, a little dramatic, don’t you think?

He went on: You don’t try ministry. You’re called to ministry. Ministry is not a career; it’s an obligation. You don’t go into it for the money or the prestige, or the notoriety.  You go into because you have to, because you’re compelled, because there’s a fire in your soul that you cannot put out, and you are absolutely driven by God to do it.

Why is that important?

There will be multiple times throughout your career in ministry where you want to quit, and in those moments you have to lean back on your calling. I could quit. But I can’t quit – because I’m called.

There were many rude awakenings as I got into the reality of ministry that I would have never seen from the outside.

 

THE 5 MISCONCEPTIONS OF A PASTOR

Everyone is going to be my friend.

Ministry is a very lonely road. I spend a lot of time in preparation and study and delivering the word of God. And sometimes those words are well received and sometimes they’re not. As I speak truth into those around me, as I have hard conversations, it makes friendships very difficult. I’m watching my daughter’s track meet and who shows up: a guy on church discipline that I’ve had words with, a parent whose affair I exposed, and his wife who is now a single mom, and next to her another woman who is living inappropriately with her boyfriend.

It’s an 8 to 5 job.

I walk into a grocery store and “Hey, Pastor, can I ask you something?” I can’t go anywhere where someone doesn’t know me. And what an honor that our church would have that kind of influence in our city. But there’s a weight with that. I realize I’m never off – unless I’m hiding in my backyard working on my garden.

I’m going to make a difference.

I start swinging away expecting massive exponential life change. But then I realize, boy, we’re a mess. Life change is subjective, it’s cyclical or seasonal, and it’s one step forward two steps back. I assumed there was a formula to spiritual growth. If I just pray well, preach well, boom – life change. But often, spiritual growth is hard and it’s a slow process and it’s extremely messy, and that can be very discouraging.

Church is not a business.

I thought my staff team was going to be together for 40 years. But as an organization grows, your leadership has to grow and the way your organization is led has to grow. The responsibility of the role outgrows really good people and you have let people go.

And while philosophically, we are not a business – meaning our end goal is not for profit but for life change, and the way we go about doing things is different – but the reality is, from a practical standpoint, church is run very similar to a business. And that, I was not prepared for.

If I had to do it over again: I would get my undergrad in history, I would get my MBA, and then I would go to seminary.

I’m going to just hang out with people.

I’m going to be in the lives of people. I was discipling people face to face over time. I was sitting at Starbucks – listening, meeting, talking about life. But as a senior pastor, it becomes more platform-driven. I become more of an influencer, not a discipler. And I end up leading through other people, not through personal contact.

Now I’m 10 minutes late to everything all day. I never imagined this many meetings. I’ve never been in more meetings in all my life. And people who wanted to meet with me used to call me; now they call my assistant. How do you think they feel about that?

5 Books That Have Changed My Life

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The Five Dysfunctions of a Team 

Patrick Lencioni

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This is a must-read for anyone in leadership.

 

In the Name of Jesus

Henri Nouwen

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This was a total ambush. I never saw it coming. Nouwen exposed me to a way of thinking I would have never given myself permission to pursue. He was a Catholic priest and an educator at Notre Dame. He forsook a prolific Catholic writing and teaching career to live in a home for the mentally disabled. He wrote this book as a reflection of that time; he wrote of his own personal irrelevance, and how liberating and enlightening it was to realize how insignificant we truly are.

 

The Bride

Chuck Swindoll

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This gave me hope at a time in my life when I was wrecked and wondering if I should quit ministry. I was poor and I couldn’t afford to buy a book, so the owner of Fresno Bible House said, “anything you want to read or use to study, read it, study it here and just put it back on the shelf.”

Swindoll gave me light in a dark time when I wanted to crawl under a rock and die; he gave me hope for what the church was supposed to be, and he reminded me of the beauty of God’s church when it’s functioning in health. A lot of our staff values – why we do what we do – came from this book.

I read one chapter at a time trying not to spill coffee on it, so I could put it back.

 

Ordering Your Private World

Gordan MacDonald

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I read this book 10 years ago, but I’m still talking about it. Fantastic book  – especially the chapter on being driven versus being called. MacDonald makes a great comparison between the leadership style of Saul and the leadership style of David. It’s a good caution for leaders to not rely merely on talent but to rely on the calling of God. I also loved his chapter called “The Sinkhole Syndrome,” where he talks about how we can create sinkholes in our lives when it’s all output and no intake.

 

Spiritual Leadership

J. Oswald Sanders

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If there was a 67th Book of the Bible, it would be this one. Phenomenal book on what leadership needs to be from a spiritual standpoint. The thrust of a leader is not merely his competence or his skill, but what’s going on underneath.

 

*plus one bonus

Unbroken

Laura Hillenbrand

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I did get totally sucked in to one book unrelated to leadership. It’s about a World War II pilot who ends up on a blow-up raft in the Pacific with a buddy. The raft has a hole in it, and they are taking shifts overnight, blowing into the raft to keep it from sinking, while using an oar in one hand to hit the sharks on the head. We think we’re tough – these guys were studs. Ultimately, it’s a story about how this guy forgives his captor and tormentor.

What are some books that have changed your life?