Do You Trust Your Mirrors?

Guest Post: Cody Hogden

Being a bi-vocational pastor brings challenges and opportunities for the pastor as well as the church. Being successful isn’t easy…unless you have your mirrors set right. Leading a church of any size, either as a fully or partially funded pastor, is much like driving a car. There are many parts and pieces all working together with one purpose (and no…the challenge of backseat drivers is not the topic of this post :D).

One of the biggest struggles in driving and ministry is not having your mirrors adjusted correctly. Did you know that your vehicle is designed to give you a 360 degree view with only slight head movement? Yet, because we’ve never been taught how to adjust our mirrors properly or simply ignored it, we are now adding equipment (blind spot indicators) to compensate. And we rely on the blind spot indicators instead of the mirrors. Here are three (or four) driving tips for all you bi-vo (and fully funded) pastors out there.

  1. Setting your mirrors right.

This is not a Church Polity blog either…but the Bible gives us a lot of wisdom when it comes to the leadership, staff, and workers of the ministry. Part of setting your mirrors correctly is understanding your role and the role of others. We can get a glimpse of how this looks with just a couple of verses.

“Therefore, brethren, select from among you seven men of good reputation, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we may put in charge of this task.” Acts 6:3.

Whether you use teams or committees…call them elders or pastors…God is clear that you can’t do it alone. Remember the wisdom of Jethro? No, no…not Jethro Bodine! Jethro, Moses’s father-in-law. Here was his advice:

“The thing that you are doing is not good. You will surely wear out, both yourself and these people who are with you, for the task is too heavy for you; you cannot do it alone.” Exodus 18.

God will give you leaders to handle your administrative tasks, digital media tasks, building maintenance tasks, etc. If He doesn’t, maybe that task can wait. When we get bogged down doing things we shouldn’t be, we run a great risk. Stats can be deceiving, but there is a lot of alarming information out there.

This looks differently for each Body of Christ. Which road is God leading you and the Body to travel? What type of vehicle has he equipped you with? Or you can put it like this…what’s the vision? Knowing where you’re going gives you a better understanding of how to set your mirrors. And just like our cars…they need to be adjusted at times. Like when there’s growth. Adjust. When there’s more passengers. Adjust. Evaluating where you’re headed and the road conditions should be a part of your overall routine.

2.  Trust your mirrors.

I know…it’s hard. We’ve gotten so used to turning our heads to check those blind spots. Remember, they were made to enable you to see all around the vehicle with just a quick glance. That’s how we should treat our leaders. Trust them. Let them do their job. Sure, check every once in a while to see if they’re still in the right spot and don’t need to be adjusted. But you should trust your mirrors.

3.  Don’t trick out your car and stay in your lane as a leader.

Believe me, I know how much stuff there is to do. And I get overwhelmed with trying to do it. But it’s not what you’re called to do. Here are a couple more verses to remind us of our role.

“But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.” Acts 6:4.

Oh yeah…that’s my role. How about Ephesians 4

“And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ.”

That’s right, we equip the saints for the work of the ministry NOT do all the work of the ministry. This is the most difficult for me to practice.

Just a quick word for any saints (members) that snuck in to read about bi-vocational (or vocational) pastoring, you have a huge part to play. Get in the game. Volunteer. Don’t hide from the work…run to the work.

A famous coach was once asked, “How does college football contribute to the national physical fitness level?”

“Nothing!” He replied. “The way I see it, you have 22 men down on the field desperately needing a rest and 40,000 in the stands desperately needing some exercise!”

A similar situation exists in many churches today. A small group of workers “down on the field” while most are more like spectators.

Cody Hogden is the pastor of First Baptist Church in Orangefield, Texas. He’s been married to his wife Ginger for 24 years, and they have a 23 year old daughter named Brooklyn. He is also the founder of Twenty TwentyFour Ministries. 

Marriage, Ministry, & Valentine’s Day

Guest Post: Tim & Heather Key

We, as ministry professionals, spend our lives serving the needs of others.  This person is lost and needs Jesus, that family is having a crisis and needs counsel, and yet another brother or sister in Christ has gone to be with the Lord.  Who has time for romance when serving the almighty God?

With Valentine’s Day upon us, perhaps it’s time to reflect for a moment on our relationship with our spouse.  This may be the one day of the year that your spouse looks forward to more than any other to gain your undivided attention.  That special card, their favorite flower, or perhaps their favorite box of chocolates.  Those things are wonderful.  But what if Valentine’s Day could come more than once a year?  What if these special memories could become part of your daily walk?  Is that even possible?  Here are two things that we have learned in our 26 years of marriage:

1) You don’t need a holiday to celebrate your love

We have decided that our entire year can be a celebration of our love for each other.  Gifts come and go at random intervals.  We seek to engage each other through date nights and other activities on a regular basis.

This is perhaps something that everyone can do, even with small children.  It does require some planning because you will need a babysitter a few evenings per month.  One of the best ideas that we’ve seen is to find another couple with children and trade babysitting for date nights.  This can be the most economical method.  Even if you must hire a sitter for a few hours, the time away from the kids can be just enough breathing room to recharge your love tank for each other.

You don’t even have to go out to a restaurant.  The goal is to ensure that you are spending quality alone time with your spouse and without interruption.  There were a lot of times that we just weren’t able to afford eating out or doing anything that cost additional money.  We would work out something for the kids to do with a sitter, friend, or family member for a few hours and just stay home, watch a movie, and whatever else might happen.  Sometimes we just took a nap together because we were exhausted.

One of Heather’s favorite things to do was going to the lake, sitting on the levy, and talking.  In order for me to get her undivided attention, I had to remove her from the home.  All she sees at home are things that she needs to be doing around the house.  It can be difficult for some people to just unplug from the mommy role and switch to the loving wife role.  It helps to understand how your spouse operates and plan accordingly.

2) Take a vacation together without the children

We also plan to have at least one quality vacation together without the distractions of life and children.  We just recently had our first 2-week vacation ever.  We spent a few days in Florida acting like youths riding all the roller coasters at Universal Studios Orlando and SeaWorld.  We then ventured off on a 7-night cruise to the Western Caribbean.  The memories that we made and the time that we spend together cannot be measured.  There is nothing in the world like having this kind of dedicated time to spend and share with the one that you love most.

We realize that a 2-week vacation without the children can be quite impossible when you have children at home.  Our youngest daughter moved out on her own in 2016 leaving us empty-nesters.  The way we managed to take vacations alone looked very different over the years.  Here are some suggestions from what worked for us:

  • One Night with You – this works well if you have children under 5 years old.  Just focus on taking one night away to keep your fires burning. Try and do it more often, at least once per quarter.
  • Weekend Getaway – We did simple weekend escapes as the kids began to age a little more.  Nothing fancy at all.  Reasonable hotel in a city not too far from home for connection, focus, and rest.  We tended to walk around shops and have reasonable meals or catch a movie.
  • Extended Getaway – We only took a single week long vacation alone before our kids were old enough to take care of themselves.  In 1999, we took a trip to Niagra Falls.  The girls were 8 and 6 at the time and it was way too stressful for them and us.  As our oldest reached her mid-teen years and matured, we were able to take these longer vacations to the mountains or other places.  It was much more enjoyable when you didn’t have to worry about them so much and could really relax together.  The kids will not be happy with you for not taking them along but the time away from them to focus on your relationship will make you both better parents.

We have not always had this level of balance in our marriage.  We wrote about the tragic marriage that we had in the early years of our ministry work on our blog.  The good news is that we found a balance in our lives to have a rich marriage, stable children, and remain consistent servants to our calling in the ministry.

So many of our brothers and sisters who serve the cross struggle in their marriage and family relationships.  We are living proof that it doesn’t have to be that way.  This doesn’t mean that we always agree on everything or that we like to do the same things.  In fact, the opposite is true.  We don’t usually enjoy the same types of entertainment and our ideas of quality and relaxation time can be quite polar sometimes.  But what we have gotten correct in our relationship is that we enjoy spending time with each other.

We recognize that our differences in life are okay.  God made us different as a compliment to each other.  Areas that I am weak, Heather is usually stronger and vice-versa.  If we were both just alike, one of us wouldn’t be needed…  Think about that.  Embrace the difference and enjoy each other’s strengths.

My wife and I committed our lives together and God blessed our union with two wonderful daughters.  They came from our passion and love.  He didn’t call us to be unstable, miserable, and destructive in our behavior in a way that destroys our family.  No, He established us as a reflection of Christ’s relationship with His Church.  To raise our daughters to know who He is and how to establish their own godly marriages and families.

So, give your relationship with your spouse a priority in your life.

  • God never intended for us to sacrifice our marriages and families on the altar of the church.  Though the work we do for our church and community is important, our responsibility to our spouse and families are greater.  Don’t allow your work, even in ministry, to rob your family.
  • Be a father or mother who is deeply engaged in the home and raising of the children.
  • Establish good boundaries so that you give to your spouse due benevolence.  Don’t just give your life mate the leftovers and scraps.  Serve your best every day and make your relationship a reflection of the true love that God intended it to be.

Your children, your friends, and your ministry followers will then see a true servant of God who has the peace of God displayed before them.

It is our prayer that your marriage is blessed beyond measure.

Tim and Heather Key are the founders of LifeTravelers.us Marriage Blog. They have been married for over 26 years, have two daughters and are expecting their first grandson. Their passion is for helping couples overcome the struggles of marriage.

Don’t Quit

Guest Post: Patrick Casey

1 Thessalonians 5:21 Examine everything and HOLD ON…

1 Peter 5:9 Stand firm against him, and be strong in your faith. Remember that your Christian brothers and sisters all over the world are going through the same kind of suffering you are.

Acts 11:23 He encouraged them with all purpose of heart that they should continue with the Lord.

At the risk of seeming a little proof texty, the above are three gleaming examples of the encouragement to “NOT QUIT.” These passages represent three different writers, three different readers, and yet strikingly similar exhortations.

In the last scripture, we have a small, new launch, infant, beginning church, and when Barnabas sees its love, its enthusiasm, its fire, its purity, and its devotion to just wanting to make a difference and introduce people to Jesus, his primary encouragement to them, perhaps knowing what difficulty they would face, was that they “NOT QUIT.”

French Arrington’s record of that church indicates it survived nearly 5 times longer than the average life span of historical Christian churches. Could it be Barnabas’ directive to them fanned a flame?

Maybe you’re more emotionally stable than me, BUT I need encouragement, sometimes often. We probably all had some minor delusion of “changing the world” unrestrained and uninhibited. We had thoughts that people would just come because we loved them, and a million-dollar real estate mogul’s son would get saved in a service and he in turn would finance a huge campus debt-free, and we would get paid to read the Bible and pray, AND the Glory of God would swirl around us like Donald Trump’s hair in a New York City wind.

Then enters stage right that pesky struggle between the ideal and the real. We are expected to clean the church, cut the grass, visit, open doors, lock doors, adjust thermostats, fight with boards, wrestle with leaders, fire staff, hire staff, be an insurance agent, tax professional, attorney, counselor, finance manager, real estate guru, leader, worshipper, preacher, writer… is it Friday yet?!?

The truth is, it’s not as glamorous or as easy as Furtick and Houston make it look. There have been many days I felt like quitting, like what I do doesn’t matter, maybe you can identify, but I’m pleading with you today, HANG IN THERE.

Around 1870, when New York City had one of the most hotly contested mayor’s races in its history, the incumbent was Mayor John Tweed. Boss Tweed’s political machine began to roll and was corrupt to the core. There were a number of committed citizens who decided to fight. In the beginning, they seemed to be making a difference, but as the campaign dragged on, the cost of the commitment of time and energy became more than most people were willing to pay. Many of the good people, who initially believed in the importance of what they were doing, began to drop out. In the end, Boss Tweed had been reelected. The next day, the New York Times ran an editorial and analyzed what had happened. The article summed up the situation with these words: “The good people quit being good before the bad people quit being bad.”

Here are three things I pray that will blow some strong, fresh wind in your sails and push you a little farther on your journey.

  1. DON’T QUIT

Life will give plenty of leaky roofs, flat tires, and stupid people to navigate around. We can’t afford to let the circumstances dictate our commitments.

Every great success story is the story of a struggle- in the garden, the early history of Israel, and the early church, YET here we are. WHY? They didn’t quit. Adam “died” because of his sin, but called Eve “the mother of all living,” because he refused to quit. After 40 years in the wilderness, an 85-year-old Caleb says, “I am just as able now to claim it as I was then,” and a Paul couldn’t be killed because he was already dead, “for me to live is Christ…”

THERE WILL COME a day when the “honeymoon” is over and it seems all of hell will vent its hottest rage against your life. People will leave you, hurt you, and reject you, BUT in that moment around you, don’t doubt what God has put in you!

PASTORS, don’t let vicious people wreck your vision, don’t let the jaded steal your joy, DON’T let thieves and parasites keep you from the mission. You’ll have plenty of reasons per day to quit, BUT don’t you do it. YOUR purpose is greater than your pain!

  1. DON’T QUIT

The idea in allowing spiritual opposition isn’t without purpose, it’s that you’ll prevail. LISTEN, God doesn’t want the abrasion of life to wear you down BUT polish you up. I wish we could go from the PROMISE to the PALACE without the PIT, but we can’t always.

What a left handed compliment to be found worthy of demonic attacks! At the risk of sounding uber-cliché, if he’s a “good” devil and you’re a threat at all, you’re worth attacking.

Satan’s greatest attacks are the assault on your mind. I can’t tell you how many times that I have thought I was losing my mind. IF you haven’t learned it by now, the enemy isn’t stupid; he’s a schemer. He will tell you you’re unworthy, you don’t matter, your wife and kids think you’re a flop, you’ll think you can’t preach, you’ll go to conferences and feel worse because you’re not as talented. THOSE things weigh on our mind and speak loud in our ears, BUT 2 Corinthians 10:4 “THE WEAPONS of our warfare…bringing into captivity EVERY THOUGHT to the obedience of Christ…”

LUKE 10:19 Behold I give you “POWER” (EXOUSIA) OVER ALL the POWER (DUNAMIS) of the ENEMY. Literally translated- CHRIST grants us authority above all the devils ability, DON’T QUIT, you have all you need!

  1. DON’T QUIT

I recently spent a week in Africa and was privileged to see cheetahs, the fastest animal on the planet, in the wild on a game reserve. Though fast, if they don’t catch their prey very quickly, they’ll give up, IN PART, because they have a very small heart. What a metaphor for today! People run after God, but quickly lose heart when things don’t go their way, and they quit. I understand; I have felt the same way. In the early years of planting a church with seven people, the struggles seemed insurmountable, BUT GOD has brought us into a great place of prosperity and I often wonder where I’d be had I quit.

Keep grinding it out week after week, keep reaching, keep pressing, and keep pursuing. YOU, my friends, are a pixel in this beautiful picture of God’s church, DON’T QUIT.

Patrick Casey is the Lead Pastor of Christian Life Church in Mobile, Alabama. He is passionate about, not only pastoring his community, but also encouraging his fellow pastors. Patrick and his wife, Kim, live in the Mobile area with their two children, J. and Lauryn.