Archives For Kurt Bubna

Back Door“Everybody is leaving someday!” When my pastor and friend of almost forty years made that declaration, I was a bit shocked. He could see the look on my face, so he clarified, “We shouldn’t get too bent out of shape when people leave our church because everybody will end up eventually leaving or dying.” If that didn’t come from a guy who pastors a very large congregation, I might have suspected he was just bitter about a struggling church.

Frankly, I wasn’t sure how I felt about that blunt statement then, but I know how I feel about it now. He’s spot on; no one (except my wife) is with me until the end.

For years, I’ve read articles and books and listened to brilliant mega-church pastors tell me, “You must close the back door to grow your church! It doesn’t matter how big your front door is if you’re hemorrhaging folks out the back.” In other words, if you don’t have a dynamic small group ministry, an effective way to plug people into service, and a strong discipleship program, people won’t stay long.

For years I believed them, but not so much…

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How Do You Define Success?

By Kurt Bubna

SuccessIn our culture, we underrate failure and overrate success. In fact, I recently did an Amazon search for “how to succeed” and found 27,857 books listed. Seriously, that’s a lot of noise out there about success, but I fear too many insights about this issue have got it dead wrong. Frankly, a lot of pastors wrestle with this issue on a regular basis (myself included).

Several years ago, a middle-aged pastor named Tom came to me extremely discouraged. He told me, “I’ve spent my entire life trying to succeed at something . . . anything . . . but the golden ring is always just out of reach. No matter what I do, my church just won’t grow.”

I asked him an important question, “Tell me how you define success?” Without blinking, he rattled off a list of measurables and goals that “must be met” (his words) for him to feel accomplished as a pastor. Most of them had to do with attendance numbers and recognition by his peers.

I gently pushed back and responded, “What if success is different than you think? Is it possible you’ve been reaching for the wrong golden ring?”…

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“It just seems like we’re going different directions, and I think it’s time for you to move on.” Without a doubt, those are the hardest words I’ve ever spoken to a friend that worked for me.

I was a young pastor in a relatively small church located in a very big city. I’d let folks go before in my many years of managing people in business, but terminating a staff pastor and friend was completely new for me.

I hurt. He hurt. The church hurt. Handing someone his or her pink slip ranks right up there with a colonoscopy in my book.

Even when you know it’s right.

Even when it’s best for the church.

Even when you’ve done everything you could to avoid it.

It’s never fun to part ways with someone you’ve been with in the trenches of ministry. What complicates matters even more is the fact that we are Christians, and it seems inconsistent with our Christian values to fire someone.

Where’s the grace? Where’s the love? What about longsuffering? All good questions. But sometimes the kindest act of love and grace is to face reality and do the right thing even when it’s hard.


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Atomic Explosion

If you’ve been pastoring for more than a month, you’ve had someone go nuclear on you. You know what I mean . . . a charter member, board member or disgruntled church member drops a bomb on you that blows you up! Deserved or not, it hurts. Ready or not, it comes with destructive power that sends you into an emotional mess.

Perhaps they’ve never read what Solomon wrote, “The tongue has the power of life and death . . .” (Proverbs 18:21), and they don’t understand the wound they’ve inflicted.

So what should you do when you’re deeply disappointed with someone? Whether you’ve been hurt by a nasty email or upset by a post-service meltdown, what are the best ways to deal with your frustration and anger?

Here are some things that will help:

1.    Bite your lip and count to a million!

Try not to react. In fact, under-react. The first thing that comes to mind to say in your defense is rarely the best thing to say to resolve the conflict. Sit down. Shut up. Give it at least a few hours, if not a day or so, before you respond. Tell…

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It’s late at night and my phone rings. An old friend is on the line, and the first thing I hear is, “I think I’ve ruined everything . . . I’ve had an affair.”

In a culture gone crazy for sex, I guess I shouldn’t be surprised, but I always am.

You would be hard pressed to find a television sitcom without sex. Primetime is bombarded with casual sex and illicit affairs. From dramas like Desperate Housewives to Scandal, it seems the new normal is to cheat on your spouse who then cheats on you for revenge.

Estimates of American men involved in extramarital affairs at least once in their lives range from 22% to 75%; estimates for women range from 14% to 60%. Add to that the statistic that 74% of men and 68% of women say they would have an affair if they knew they would never be caught, and it’s obvious this is a big problem in our society!

So let’s take a brief look at the anatomy of an affair and how to have one (if you want to ruin everything).

First, ignore all…

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When Trust is Broken

By Kurt Bubna

Most of us don’t have to think very long or hard to remember the last time our trust was shattered. Maybe it was a board member who devastated your trust and turned his back on your friendship. Maybe it was your teen who made some really bad or dumb choices. Maybe it was a staff member who promised one thing and yet did another. Perhaps it was a mentor who let you down, and like Humpty Dumpty he has fallen off his pedestal and trashed his honor and your trust to pieces.

Trust is at the core of every healthy relationship. When you trust someone, your mind is at peace, and even the thought of that person brings joy to your heart. When it is broken, however, there is a deep and unsettling pain at even the mention of the offender’s name.

Trust provides an environment of confidence in a relationship. It fosters an openness and boldness in a way that causes us to speak the truth in love. But without trust, it’s hard to believe the best about another person, let alone take the risk of…

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We pastors are a strange lot. We have been called and commissioned by God, empowered beyond our own resources, and granted the privilege of caring for His flock. And yet we still struggle with fear and insecurity. We still wrestle with our own flesh. And we will always, it seems, face the reality of rejection.

Growing up as a PK (preacher’s kid), I knew that pastors were far from perfect. I also knew that the flock sometimes bites their shepherd. I’d seen my dad deal with the hurt that a parishioner can inflict many times. In fact, for that reason, in my teens I told God, “I will do anything for you but become a preacher!”  (God just smiled!)

Many times, however, I also heard the accolades my dad received from those he had impacted. Hundreds and hundreds of people called my dad “pastor” with pride. To this day, though he has been with Jesus for nearly fourteen years, I still get an occasional email or card telling me of my dad’s influence in someone’s life.

What baffled me as a child, and frankly still amazes me as…

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A Matter of Perspective

By Kurt Bubna

Matter of PerspectiveI’ll be honest, the last twelve months or so have been exceptionally tough. I’ve been in pastoral ministry now for over thirty years. A lot has happened in the decades gone by, but this past year has been exceptionally difficult.

Of course, in life there is always a mix of the good with the bad. Plenty of incredible things have happened as well. Getting my first book contract with Tyndale was amazing (Epic Grace ~ Chronicles of a Recovering Idiot, released in September, 2013). Watching our church finish and pay for the last major remodel was exciting. Seeing a boatload of people get saved and baptized this past year has been awesome.

Not everything has been a struggle.

But I’ve had the wind knocked out of me more than once in some pretty surprising ways. Friends and some staff members have deeply disappointed me. Health issues (with my back) have frustrated me. Expectations and some personal goals have not been met.

Frankly, I’m more disappointed with myself than I am with anyone else. I live by some fairly high personal standards, and I feel like I’ve failed more than I’ve succeeded.

Don’t worry. I’m…

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Requirements for Church PlantersStarting new churches is one of the best ways to reach new people and introduce them to Jesus. When done right, with the right people, in the right place, and at the right time, God can do remarkable things through what is commonly called “church planting.”

In the past thirty years or so of ministry, I’ve had the pleasure of being directly involved as the senior pastor in two church plants and indirectly involved as a team member in three others. I’ve watched it done with God’s favor and wisdom, and I’ve also seen it done poorly too. Through all of these experiences, I’ve learned a lot.

There are many qualifications for success, but here are what I consider to be the top ten non-negotiable requirements for those called to plant a church:

  1. A clear call to church planting which is confirmed by other leaders and pastors who know them and have worked closely with them.
  2. A supportive spouse and a stable, healthy marriage and family.
  3. A strong emotional resilience. (Without it, they won’t likely survive.)
  4. A heart for evangelism with a proven gift and ability to reach the lost.
  5. A capable teacher who is…

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Press OnOne of the signs of burnout is when you stop caring about the things you really should care about. You know you should take better care of your body, but you eat another bowl of ice cream instead. You know you shouldn’t watch so much TV, but you veg-out on mind numbing idiocy for hours anyhow (there’s a reason some call it the idiot box). You know you should spend more quality time with your family, but you choose to hibernate in the garage alone. You know you should drag your butt out of bed and go to church, but you roll over and think, “I’ll go next week” (and you’re the pastor!).

Burnout isn’t pretty. It isn’t fun. And it’s never anyone’s plan. You didn’t wake up one day and say, “Hmmm, wonder what I can do this week to end up in a pile of drool and in a fetal position, numb to everything?”

Typically, the path to becoming emotional toast happens slowly and unintentionally. You said, “Yes!” when you should have said “No!” to another commitment outside of your gift mix. You said, “Just this one time…” when you…

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Big ChurchHow do you feel when you think about attending a big church? Do you get excited or recoil in disgust? Does the idea of attending a big church make you feel all warm and fuzzy inside, or do you get irritated at just the thought?

Recently, my brother passed along a blog posting he found written by a person who hates big churches. He started his post with, “I haven’t been to a church in over a year.” Then he went on to criticize all the things that were wrong with the large church he worked at for ten years.

For the most part, his arguments were pretty skewed, and his heart was obviously full of bitterness.

And it breaks my heart.

I truly wish I could sit down with him face-to-face and have a meaningful conversation about his past and his pain. I know he was wounded. I also know that no church is perfect. Tragically, churches, big and small, have spiritually abused too many dear people.

But here are my questions: Are big churches simply the result of pastors with big egos? Do they do more harm than good? And on the flip…

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Please Wuv MeIt doesn’t matter what size your church is or how big your city is—running into people who used to go to your church can be tough.

Like a gazillion other Americans, I’ve recently spent a lot more time in the local mall than usual. I went to shop for my dear wife one Saturday before Christmas. As you can imagine, the mall was jammed full of people doing their last minute shopping in a not-so-merry mood.

It’s not rare for me to run into folks from our church, but my walk through the mall on that particular day was painful. In the span of about an hour, I encountered five people who once thought I was awesome but now think I am awful. They were all former members of the church I pastor.

Some of the former attendees were cordial, a couple ignored me, and one gave me the look of death. There was no doubt in my mind how this man felt about me, and it cut me to the bone.

I wish I could tell you that I’m secure, confident, and treat difficult experiences with ex- members with ease. The truth,…

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