Kelly Shares What Happened…

It was a delight to interview Kelly Young from Teen Challenge on what happened for her recently in learning to encounter Jesus in a whole new way. We discussed compassion fatigue​ and church​ and pastoral ministry​ and what has shifted. May you be encouraged too…

Learn more about the 5 week FOUNDATIONAL course here: https://www.merriellen.com/intro-course
Learn more about private coaching here: https://www.merriellen.com

#transformation#lifecoaching#spiritualdirection#hearingGod#teenchallenge

I shared this video back in April 2020 on how pastors are being forced to pivot and throw all their methods out the window. This video continues to be VERY relevant.

If you are a pastor, here is the current shift happening I see as I coach pastors, missionaries, and congregants. Pastors, you can do this with the help of your elders and ministry co-leaders.

If your people have been mostly relying on your sermons to grow, it’s now a very exciting time to equip your people to feed on God’s Word and His Holy Spirit in greater measure. Praise God! Jesus is drawing His Bride in deeper intimacy!

For more helpful disciplemaking tools for your people to use in their homes or via zoom, visit: https://www.merriellen.com/discovery

Pastoring in a Pandemic

Locating God’s presence this past year.

reflection

image source: Biblicalleadership.com

Locating God’s presence this past year.
(The Grand Prayer of Examen)

  1. Look Back
    – Look over the past 6 – 12 months.
    – Where has the Lord been present and at work in my life?
    – What significant changes have come my way?
    – When have I been the most stressed? the most blessed, and full of joy?
    – What can I give thanks to God for?
    – Where have I been?
    – Where am I now?
  2. Look through
    – Identify any patterns, connections or themes that have characterized the past 6-12 months.
    – If you can, summarize the past year in a sentence or two.
    – Do you notice anything or patterns? specific thought patterns or emotions?
    – Ask the Lord about these patterns. How do they line up with the fruit of Holy Spirit?
  3. Look forward
    – Where do you sense God leading you forward?
    – What do you sense your spirit needs in this season?
    – What are your hopes and dreams for this coming year? Ask the Lord what His hopes and dream are for you!
    – Paint a picture of what you envision over the next six months.
    – What are you asking the Lord for in the new year? for your community, your family?
  4. Look around
    – What does your community need? How can you pray for them, help them?
    – Consider a prayer walk through your neighbourhood to help you see.
    – Who are the people you can intentionally walk with?
    – What community support do you need in this season of your life?
    – Who are the people you need to invite to walk alongside you?
    – Who are the people you can intentionally walk with?
    – How can others best support you?

Prayer prompts:

God, still my heart and mind. 

I am silent in your presence. 

You are Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. You are fully here with me. 

Father, I look back on my year. 

Thank you for… (list off people, provision…)

God, help me to see where you were present and working in and around me… 

 …I bend my heart to you. Show me where I need to ask for your forgiveness and receive your grace. (If He brings things to mind, take time to do so.)

In humility, and renewed vision, faith and courage, I look toward the new year coming. I commit what I know and not know to you Lord. I ask for your discernment. Help me through your Holy Spirit to know you more deeply, to better love, serve, and lead others with your guidance and grace. In Jesus’ name, Amen. 

 

Scriptures for Reflection:

Psalm 103:2-5 (NLT)

Let all that I am praise the Lord;
    may I never forget the good things he does for me.
He forgives all my sins
    and heals all my diseases.
He redeems me from death
    and crowns me with love and tender mercies.
He fills my life with good things.
    My youth is renewed like the eagle’s!

 

Psalm 139:1-7 (NLT)

O Lord, you have examined my heart
    and know everything about me.
You know when I sit down or stand up.
    You know my thoughts even when I’m far away.
You see me when I travel
    and when I rest at home.
    You know everything I do.
You know what I am going to say
    even before I say it, Lord.
You go before me and follow me.
    You place your hand of blessing on my head.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
    too great for me to understand!

I can never escape from your Spirit!
    I can never get away from your presence!

 

Psalm 51:10-12 (NLT)

10 Create in me a clean heart, O God.
    Renew a loyal spirit within me.
11 Do not banish me from your presence,
    and don’t take your Holy Spirit[a] from me.

12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation,
    and make me willing to obey you.

 

I bless you with a new year of greater intimacy with your loving Heavenly Father, rich in Holy Spirit fruit, in the name of Christ Jesus! Amen!

Sources:

The Prayer Of Examen, Ignatian Spirituality

The Psalms, NLT

The Grand Examen – Locating God’s Presence in 2017 : New Life Fellowship Church – New York

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gZAauF3laXQ

 

Who is My Shepherd?

jesushugDisclaimer: My thoughts are all over the place. They are like birds flying everywhere. 🙂

I’ve been processing a moral failure of a long time mega church pastor and watching the church fall apart. This man was a mentor to me from a far in many ways. It was because of him and his wife’s books, that I was encouraged to marry my husband. It was because of his books that my prayer life became more important than being busy. It was because of his books that my leadership became more courageous. And yet, I have noticed that his moral failure has not rocked me to the core. Yet, I watch as his church falls apart and I’ve been wondering if the church is falling apart because they knew the voice of him as their pastor more than the voice of Jesus?

I watch how the rate of burnout, infidelity, depression, and suicide amongst pastors seems to be increasing. Is this because people are following the pastors rather than Jesus?

One former mega church pastor said it was unhealthy that so many people relied on him. He was convicted by Holy Spirit to walk away and begin pastoring in a house church movement. Today, he equips disciples to multiply following Holy Spirit rather than to coagulate by gathering to hear his sermons.

Sometimes I hear people say:

“We go to this church because of the pastor, or because of a certain family invited us, or because of the program for my kids…”

And then, I’ve watched how the pastor leaves, or the pastor falls into moral failure, or the kids get too old for the program… and then the family leaves completely disillusioned and maybe even walks away from Jesus altogether. But, were they truly walking with him in the first place? Or just with the pastor?

Lord, are we following people, programs, or you?

“My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.” – John 10:27,28

Yes, granted when one in our family falls into moral failure, the whole family suffers. Yet, I’ve also been pondering how when your whole foundation is built on Jesus, when there’s moral failure in your human leadership, you lean into Jesus more than ever and bounce back higher than you ever were before.

And when there’s no repentance in leadership, you need to fire this person in leadership. And if leadership refuses to fire the leader, you will have to move on. No matter if you want to forgive them or not, without repentance, you cannot move forward …as is… under their leadership. Submitting to an unrepentant leader or leadership team only brings curses upon yourself.

Just some thoughts to process… as I’m going through a paradigm shift of…

“Who is called to lead the church?”

Some people say: Men only.

But, then we read the Gospels, Acts, and the Pauline Epistles and see women leading everywhere in the church…empowered by Jesus and by Paul. Jesus selected women to be the first messengers of the Resurrection in a culture that devalued female testimony.

The fastest growing churches in the world today in Iran and China are being led and multiplied by women. Chinese pastors for years have told North American pastors their secret – “Release your women.” When Chinese government began putting male pastors behind bars, the church made women 85% of its pastoral leaders, and the church grew from one million to a hundred million in fifty years. (Source: Victor Choudhrie)

HOWEVER, I’ve been wondering if we have focused too much on people period… regardless of gender, and not enough on Jesus?

It’s not about men leading.

It’s not about women leading.

It’s about Jesus leading His Bride.

Constantine sadly institutionalized Christianity using the book of Leviticus rather than the book of Acts model, but our minds need to shift to the fact that we are called to be the priesthood of believers!

No professional pastors required.

We are ALL pastors called to share the truth, to love each other and honour each other.

Jesus is the Good Shepherd.

And He later told His disciples to wait until Holy Spirit came!

…Yet, we still seem to insist on relying only on our Theology. By the way, there’s a book called ‘Systematic Theology’, but why isn’t there a book called: “Systematic Marriage”? …I’m teasing…. We can’t put God in a box, like we can’t put our spouse in a box.

I love when the professional religious leaders of the day took note because, “These unschooled, ordinary men had been with Jesus.” (Acts 4)

There it is again… Relationship with Jesus.

Here’s another quote I heard back in 2014 which keeps coming to mind too lately…

“One day all the mega churches will fall apart, and we’ll look back and wonder what was going on in churches in North America.” – Dallas Willard

Please note: Don’t think I’m entirely anti mega-church. God can still flow and move in them. In fact, one year I made a journey to attend a mega church to discover for myself if it was legitimately led by Jesus or not…and I was actually blown away by this church culture of honour (and of family). The Lead pastor continually honoured and empowered other leaders, male or female, and was quick to share the pulpit. He knew the love and goodness of God that He didn’t feel threatened by others. Rather, he cheered them on.

I am reminded that when leaders don’t think there’s enough of God’s love to go around, and they feel threatened by gifted congregants or other leaders, that’s when they walk in fear, jealousy, control and manipulation…

But, when leaders know God’s love, they celebrate other people’s wins!

But, here’s a thought… If this last Lead Pastor were ever to fall into moral failure like the one I mentioned at the start of this article, would this mega-church fall apart?? Hmmm, that is the question…

Anyway…

What are your thoughts on who should Shepherd the Church? Are we still relying too much on people and not enough on Jesus and Holy Spirit?

Thoughts? 🙂 Share your comments below…

HELPFUL RESOURCE:

Also… enjoy this incredible document below written by Victor Choudhrie who is multiplying disciples in one of the fastest Disciplemaking movements today… choudherie_from_megachurch_to_metachurch_2010

Do Leaders Need to Repent?

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Do leaders need to repent …or can they sweep things under the carpet?

When leaders fail to repent for idolatry and do not make heart change, not only do they cut off blessing in their own lives, but also in the lives of the people that they lead.

When a person walks in idolatry (bowing down to money, to other people out of fear, intimidation, lust, etc), they can expect the opposite of a blessing – a curse onto their children to the third and fourth generations. Idolatry in the lives of parents, grandparents, great, and great-great grandparents opens the door for this.

Sweeping sin under the carpet only makes your kids and grandkids pay more for it later. Is that really the inheritance you want to leave behind? The reason why your children, your flock are suffering, or walking away from you, cutting off all ties with you, etc…could be …you. And you could be a parent, a church leader, a business leader, a city leader…

And if you are calling your people to repent first, this is not love. This is control and manipulation. Leaders must repent first. (Otherwise, they are not leading. Leadership requires example, not hiding.)

Thankfully, repentance breaks this.

Jesus’ shed blood covers our sin when we repent.

God is a faithful God, who keeps his promise and is merciful to thousands of generations of those who love him and obey his commands.

Ask the Lord:

What is blocking me from receiving blessing for me and my children, my church, my business, my city etc? Whatever He brings to mind, repent of, and be set free! 🙂 This in turn will set your family line, your church, your city …free! 🙂 

Read: Exodus 20:5,6; Deuteronomy 7:9,10; Romans 8
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When They Don’t Change?

What do you do when a person in your life doesn’t change…?

What if it’s your leadership, your employee, a friend, a client, a date, etc…?

Here’s a great refresh from a message I heard long ago and again from a book I read a year ago. Thankfully, there are things you can do before it comes down to walking away or swimming away from a sinking ship. Some boats are repairable still longing for the wind to fill their sails.

Brief overview with video link below…

3 Types of People You Will Encounter:

There are three types of people you encounter in your life, and when you deal with them, you can’t always take the same approach. Research reveals 3 basic categories and we all can behave in these at times in our growth.

They are wise, foolish and evil.

Here they are according to Dr. Henry Cloud:

  1. Wise people: Resource them. Give them more input, knowledge, training, teaching, and whatever you have, because they tend to use it. They’re good people to invest in. You don’t have to do much with these folks except have a good tone, be specific and listen well, and you’ll get great results. They are people of good character. 
  1. Foolish (defensive) people: Remember, more feedback usually does not help. So, why continue to do what doesn’t help? You’re wasting your breath trying to continually talk about a problem that the person is not owning. This is when you have to focus on consequences. If they do A, then it will result in B happening. Sometimes using consequences will get a turnaround, and other times they will go away, as they do not like to be held accountable. 
  1. Evil (destructive) people: With them, not only is there no talking, there is also usually no hope. Get serious about protecting yourself and others from their agenda, and take appropriate action. While group #1 needs input, and group #2 needs consequences, with the third group, you have to go into protective mode. They are out to harm, so make sure your strongest boundaries are intact. 

To learn more tools, I urge you to read Henry’s book, Necessary Endings

Enjoy this clip too!

Character of Leaders?

I was pondering the C’s of leadership lately as many of us have been disappointed in leaders lacking the character to walk faithfully and courageously.

Some people say that a leader should have character, charisma, commitment, courage, competence…

But, have you ever noticed how God seems to never look for people with outstanding character to call them to leadership?

Just read the Bible and look at the motley crew of disciples, the heroes of the faith listed in Hebrews…and all their mistakes…

Does rather, God seem to take people and transform their character (if they surrender and trust Him)? Or even like David who was initially in good character, but later lapsed in character under the pressures of leadership…Thankfully, he later repented and God’s compassion still came…

(That is the key for any leader. Repentance is a beautiful thing that returns us to the path God has chosen for us. Without repentance, we lose the inheritance God has promised – even often for those we lead.)

Yesterday, at a women in leadership luncheon, I got to hear the story of how an employee lapsed in character (out of fear of not measuring up to expectations). But, the employer’s loving response casted out the employee’s fear… resulting in huge trust in their relationship. It was a beautiful God-filled thing!

The employee told the story of her own lapse in character. To admit what she did – you could sense the room gasp and I saw her neck turn slightly red as she must have felt like she walked off a ledge… But the story of how her employer responded to her – no scolding but with love and compassion. Wow – Jesus with skin on. I think what was shared was a wonderful shifting in perspective of what many have experienced from our leaders (both men and women). Jesus never shames us, but only empowers and calls us up to walk out our inheritance in Him.

Our character may lapse, but when we admit our mistakes, God’s compassion and blessing affects not just us, but everyone we lead.

And when we forgive those who admit their mistakes, we invest in them and encourage them to take hold of the inheritance they have in Christ.

But, when those who lead us or those we lead don’t admit mistakes, the relationship is broken and God’s inheritance is unclaimed.

Repentance.

Restoration.

Relationship restored.

(PS. Also got to hear a cool story yesterday of how a person was healed physically after their leadership repented.)

How do we approach truth?

truth vs lieJust read this today and my heart leapt…!

Jesus calls himself “the truth” (John 14:6), and the Holy Spirit, “the Spirit of truth” (John 14:7; 16:13). Any time we are not living from Jesus’ perspective, the foundation of truth, we are in some way connected to the father of lies, the devil. When we experience negative or painful consequences as a result of choosing to talk in truth, we may be tempted to quit. This is exactly the point where our faith in God’s truth gets tested. To choose to speak the truth in love, even when there is great cost to us, confirms our trust in God’s ways, rather than our own ways.

Are you willing to risk being truthful in love above anything that you fear or anything that you desire? God is truth. Are you willing to put God, His truth and His ways above anything that you fear or want? Are you willing to go beyond your fears and desires and expose whatever needs to be exposed for you to be truly known?

Remember: Truth without love is harsh and destructive; love without truth lacks substance. It must be truth with love.

I say… Yes, yes, yes, yes! Avoiding the truth only leads to bondage. Jesus, who is the Truth, invites us into freedom when we walk in His Spirit who is Love.

Source and learn more from…

Barry and Lori Byrne
Nothing Hidden Ministries
http://nothinghidden.com

What is the true job of a pastor?

The other day I had a delightful call with a young leader who brought up the topic of how a Pastor’s role appears to have terribly wandered today. I did a little digging on what others are saying…

“Most books on church growth and leadership today argue that if pastors continue to do what pastors have done for so many years, they will fail.”

Too many churches today operate with leadership models started in world models and adapted to the church. This is dangerous. Why?

These business models allow people to put pastors on pedestals.

These models puts the needs of the church first and forget outside the church.
The goal becomes building the church’s own kingdom rather than the kingdom of God. (Megachurch mania.) It’s the…, ‘If we build it, they will come’ mentality. And yet, we are called to go

But, pride leads to destruction…

Proverbs 18:12 (CEV)
12 Pride leads to destruction;
humility leads to honor.

And, selfish ambitions destroys a church…

James 3:16 (GW)
Wherever there is jealousy and rivalry, there is disorder and every kind of evil.

Instead, the role of the pastor should be based on a biblical model…


So, what does the Bible actually call a Pastor to do?

1. Pray first.

“Jesus lived a life of prayer. He started every day in communion with the heavenly Father. He ended every day in close relationship with His Father. At times, He even spent the whole night in communion with His Father. Jesus actually was in touch with His heavenly Father all the time.”

2. Do life out of a deep abiding relationship with Jesus.

“Over and over, the Scriptures show us that Jesus placed the highest priority of His life on spending time alone with the Father. His life reveals an intense passion for the presence of God. His heart longed and hungered to touch the heart of God.”

3. Preach the Word that is living and active, for heart transformation!

“We must study the Bible, not for curiosity, but for a new heart.”

4. Be in relationship with others. Do life with people. Don’t just lead meetings.

“Christ’s method builds relationships and meets needs.” Jesus didn’t die and rise again for us to be in meetings.

5. Then teach others how to do the same. (Emphasis on relationships.)

When Jesus began His public ministry, He called and empowered people to be His disciples— who would champion His world changing cause. As Robert Coleman says in The Master Plan of Evangelism, “His concern was not with programs to reach the multitudes, but with men whom the multitudes would follow. . . . People were to be His method of winning the world to God.”

6. And live a life of sacrifice.

Time, resources, and life unto death… willing to get in the muck. I recall this list…

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God calls us to live the life Jesus lived. Pastoral ministry is not about us, but about Him—about knowing and serving Him.”

Read the full excellent article here: The Biblical Role of the Pastor

Related: Epidemic: Another Pastor Burned Out and Quit Last Sunday

‘Doing’ Church – “We make victims of our heroes.”

“Doing” Church in North America – “We make victims of our heroes.”

Graham Cooke brilliantly describes how “doing” church today must start with leaders who can model freedom.

He goes onto say that church revolves around 3 types of people:

  • Initiators,
  • Enablers and
  • Resisters.

He skillfully describes if that if we have any hopes of accomplishing anything in church, we must understand each people group and learn how to lead them.

Graham warns that if we’re not careful, we will unconsciously make victims out the people we value most.

Visit: www.GrahamCooke.com for more.