Archives For Justin Lathrop

MirrorGoing on a journey of self-discovery sounds selfish, if we’re honest with ourselves. In the church we talk about love and service and how we treat others, but we rarely talk about ourselves. We don’t talk about figuring out who you are, or identity, or self-confidence as much as we could, and I think that hole in our teaching is causing Christians to be rather unlikeable.

It’s a strange thing to admit the reputation we’ve earned as Christians, but I think we’d do well to look around and see how we’re known.

Recognizing our reputation is the first step to changing it. 

We’re seen as judgmental sometimes, quarrelsome, pugnacious. We’re easily offended and impose our convictions on other people. We are the captains of unsolicited advice. It’s unfortunate that this has become our reputation, and certainly not all of us are like this, but if we look around I think we’ll realize, this is often how we come across.

For those of us who don’t think we’re that way, we’re guilty of getting angry at Christians we feel are perpetuating this reputation. We think to ourselves, “will you just be quiet?” or “let it go!”…

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Social NetworkingI’ve been a fan of social media for as long as it’s been around.

There are the voices out there that complain about how it separates us from each other or makes us narcissistic or zombies as we do nothing but stare at our screens. And there are truths to each one of those complaints. Social media, like most things, can be used in a negative way.

But it can also be a tool for some really positive things as well. There are many ways we can use it to expand the Kingdom of God, and I’m constantly trying to learn how to make better use of it.

Something I find so interesting about social media is how it is an accurate reflection of how our flesh-and-blood world works. Things that happen in social media land are not so different from things that happen in our real lives.

Because of that, there are a lot of lessons about life we can apply to social media, and a lot of lessons we can learn from social media that can be applied to our lives!

So here are a few lessons I’ve been collecting about social media…

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HandsYou know you’ve been there—you show up for church one morning, and when it’s time for the sermon, the pastor sheepishly announces he’ll be talking about giving.

There’s an internal groan from the audience because everyone knows how those talks feel. They feel like being hit up for something. Worst case scenario, they feel sleazy. Everyone’s sitting in their chairs trying to remember what kind of car the pastor drives and how many offering plates it took to buy it.

But the thing about God’s Church is we’re supposed to give.

It’s a mandate in scripture and the generosity of the church body is the only way the pastor will have a car at all.

But still, it’s a tricky subject and nobody likes talking about it.

What if there was a way to teach about generosity that didn’t have to do with the church’s bottom line? Yes, we know the offering plates are what keep the lights on in the church, but what if we could talk about it in a different way, a way that didn’t feel quite so logistical or quite so sleazy?

Here are four things I find to be incredible about generosity,…

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Not In ServiceLeadership makes all the difference. Have you noticed that?

A ship may be well-built with a great crew, but with the wrong captain, it’s going to be hard for the ship to stay on course.

A lot of my friends are looking for the next leader of their church, their business, or their non-profit. As someone who has helped hire many people, here are 10 traits your next leader should not have:

1. He should not have to be a man.

Women are often overlooked for leadership positions, but they’re often just as qualified—if not more—for the position. If you are only looking at men for your leadership position, you’re going to miss out on some seriously qualified candidates.

2. They should not be narrow-minded.

Top leadership positions are not the place for narrow-minded agendas. Great leaders need to be able to see the big picture, accepting lots of different ideas and filtering out the best ones.

3. They should not have different values than your organization.

Having a leader with different core values is a nightmare waiting to happen. Before you get into serious talks about hiring, make sure this person’s values line up with those…

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Nice ShoesIt’s no secret that millennials aren’t exactly flocking to churches these days. There are theories and statistics, but the fact remains the same: Our churches aren’t a place millennials tend to call home.

Instead of tackling the problem on a grand scale—instead of diving into theories and ideas as to the cause and the solution—I want to move in closer, to what millennials need from us in our churches today. While I’m not a millennial, and while this is not a comprehensive list, these thoughts are derived from some of the conversations I’ve had with millennials about this very topic.

1. A realism about the state of the world

I once heard someone say that churches have a tendency to put bandaids over bullet wounds, treating serious problems, hurts, and issues like they can be solved with a parable and a pat on the back.

Millennials aren’t so easily pacified.

Millennials, as a rule, tend to be activists—aware of the hurt in the world and passionate about solving it. One of the chief complaints I hear millennials give about churches is that they’re out of touch with the realities of the world and that they’re…

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SpeakingDo you remember public speaking in school when you were growing up? Maybe there was a class specifically dedicated to it, or maybe it would just roll around every once in awhile when projects were due or presentations were required.

The words themselves, “public speaking,” seem to carry an immense amount of pressure. They connote sweaty palms, cracking voices, and hours practicing in front of the mirror.

For some people, those words are about as welcome in their lives as a spider or a confined space.

Public speaking isn’t easy, but it is necessary—especially as a pastor.

So I’ve compiled the advice I’ve heard over the years into a quick, simple list.

Here are the three things every great public speaker knows:  

1. Telling a story is the best way to engage an audience. 

Telling a story is your best bet for not only connecting to and engaging your audience, but also for ensuring they’ll retain the information you give them. For some reason, our minds are wired to remember stories more than any other method of information delivery.

We can listen to facts all day and rarely remember more than a few of them.

But when we hear a…

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What does it mean to be a master in the art of living?

If you asked a hundred different people, you’d get a hundred different opinions. That’s understandable. It’s a vague question. But I read a James Michener quote recently about the art of living that I just can’t get out of my head.

I love his definition.

He says: “The master in the art of living makes little distinction between his work and play, his mind and his body, his information and his recreation, his love and his religion. He hardly knows which is which. He simply pursues his vision of excellence at whatever he does, leaving others to decide whether he is working or playing. To him he’s always doing both.” – James Michener

I’m fascinated by this quote. I can’t help but think about how living congruently like this might transform the way we lead and love those around us. And at the same time, I can’t help but think very few of us actually live this way.

Living with great vision and intention isn’t easy, but it is so important. 

What vision do you have for your…

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Friends“Comparison is the thief of joy.” Have you ever heard that quote by Theodore Roosevelt? I find it to be true in my own life, and if you think about it for a moment, I think you’ll find it’s true in yours as well.

Comparison is such a natural tendency for people, and as pastors, we’re not exempt.

Have you ever found yourself thinking about another pastor’s church or hearing from someone how great another pastor’s sermons are? Have you ever found yourself wishing your building was just a little bit more like theirs or that your church had as much money as the one down the road?

Sadly, it’s easy to find ourselves comparing ourselves to other pastors and our churches to others around us. It’s easy to look at other churches and want a competitive edge or to look at other pastors through the corner of your eye, feeling like they’re the competition.

Not only does this comparison and competition steal our joy, it also steals one of our greatest resources: other pastors.

Our lives as the heads of our churches are unique. The way we live, the pressures we feel, our schedules, and…

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Time with GodAs pastors, our life-blood, our power, and our strength comes from the time we spend with God. But if you’ve been in ministry for more than a few minutes, you may have noticed that as a pastor, spending time with God can feel like yet another task on the to-do list.

There’s a tension here—because something that used to feel like an intimate, refueling time with your Creator has now become a part of your job description.

This can sometimes threaten to steal the peace, rest, and connection it once had.

There’s also this incredible responsibility. We’re not just reading the Bible for ourselves anymore. We’re reading to study for our sermons or so we have an answer ready whenever someone needs a word from the Lord. Our prayer time isn’t just about our relationship with God anymore. It’s about filling up to pour back out.

So what do we do as pastors to have fulfilling quiet time with God, without it becoming another task on our to-do list?

Here are some tips that have worked for me. 

1. Change locations

If you find yourself in a rut, try switching locations for your quiet time with…

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Healthy FlockAs pastors, we know our job to minister to the spiritual health of our communities. But as you think about the spiritual health of the people in your church, do you consider their mental, physical, emotional and relational health as well? My guess is, if you’re like most pastors, you probably don’t.

Consider how the health of someone’s marriage might have an impact on their experience of God and intimacy with him. Think about how depression—or perpetual anxiety—might impact a person’s spiritual well-being (and vice versa).

When I spell it out like this, it seems so obvious. Of course these things are connected.

But it’s easy to forget this as a pastor. 

If you want to pastor a healthy church (and my guess is you do. If you don’t, that’s a discussion for a whole different article)– if you want to pastor a healthy church, you have to take into account the emotional, mental, physical, and relational health of the people you pastor.

If that thought scares you, don’t let it. You don’t have to be a therapist or a doctor or a life coach in order to provide this for the people entrusted to…

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