Archives For Scott Attebery

Evaluation

As a pastor, I hated the idea of evaluation. It sounded too much like a way to open myself up to needless criticism. After all, who really wants to invite an outsider to tell them what they are doing wrong, add more “to do’s” to their list, or make them feel guilty for what they are not doing? Pastoring is hard enough already. Why invite more frustration?

But what if I were to tell you that evaluation can be a positive experience? Don’t misunderstand. “Positive” does not always translate into “easy.” However, evaluation can be positive in the sense that it can clarify issues, reveal potential, and renew hope.

If you were to overhear a discussion from biblical church evaluation, you might here phrases such as:

  • “This church works hard and endures a lot to keep going, but in the process has lost their passion for people.”
  • “This church has stayed true to doctrinal teaching, yet they are allowing their people to trip over stumbling block
  • “This church looks busy on the outside, but they are dying on the inside.”
  • “This church is apathetic and needs to decide if they are going to be serious about ministry or not.”

You…

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Revival

As a pastor, church members would occasionally ask, “Why don’t we have revivals?” To which I would sometimes answer, “I don’t know, but I wish God would send one soon –don’t you?”

Of course, I knew what they were really asking. “Why don’t we have a series of services set aside each year for preaching and singing?”

First, let me say that I love preaching and I love singing. And I don’t have a problem with setting aside a series of services. However, I do have a problem with getting the cart before the horse.

Revival is the supernatural moving of the Holy Spirit in the hearts of men drawing them to repent of their sins and follow Christ more vigorously. During revival, the backsliders become worshippers, the self-absorbed become Christ-infatuated, and the nominal become evangelizers. True revival is evidenced by vast changes in the way believers talk, serve, work, and live.

Over the history of Christianity, God has never sent revival because a church scheduled services, hired a preacher, arranged for musicians, or invited crowds. (This is where the cart gets before the horse) Instead, God has promised revival “if my people who are…

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Talking about the objective truth of Scripture is comfortable for me. I love a good discussion about how Jesus became the sacrifice for my sin or how my life should reflect the gospel.

But I have difficulty when the topic turns from objective truth to subjective experience. I tend to shy away from discussions about how close I am to God or how well I communicate in prayer.

I think my shyness regarding the subjective aspects of faith stem from a fear of being led by my feelings instead of being led by truth. This is a legitimate concern. After all, Scripture tells us, “The heart is deceitful above all things…” (Jer. 17:9)

But to say that because our feelings are unreliable, we must squelch any idea of a subjective relationship with God is a fallacy. In fact, to deny a subjective relationship with God is to deny the objective truth of Scripture.

That’s right; Scripture teaches that we are to have a relationship with God that goes beyond knowledge of truth. In John 14:23, Jesus states, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will…

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HatsJeff wears multiple hats. He pastors a church and works full-time in the medical field. After a long night shift, Jeff and I at a local coffee shop. Although I knew he must have been exhausted, the topic of local church ministry brought about an energy and passion in his voice.

In the midst of talking about current trends in ministry and the needs of churches, Jeff made an interesting comment that caught my attention. He said that he preferred bi-vocational ministry because of all of its advantages.

He went on to explain that even though many full-time pastors have given him the “bi-vocational pastoring is second-rate vibe,” he sees things differently.

The advantages to bi-vocational pastoring that he shared with me excited my heart and caused me to wonder if God might be preparing to raise up a new generation of pastors from men who already have careers in progress.

For years, older pastors have worried that there may not be a shortage of new pastors to carry on the ministry. However, taking bi-vocational pastoring into consideration immediately multiplies the pool of candidates. And, once you read about these advantages, I think you’ll see them as…

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Forgiven

Did Jesus battle depression? Seems like a strange question at first, but consider Isaiah’s prophesy of the coming Messiah: “He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief” (Isaiah 53:3).

That certainly sounds like someone dealing with the symptoms of depression. So why do we immediately push back at the thought that Jesus might have dealt with symptoms of depression?

Perhaps it is because we have the false notion that depression is either 1) a sin or a 2) sign of weakness. But neither is the case.

In fact, depression is not something a person chooses. Rather it is something a person must choose how to deal with.  The real issue is not whether a person experiences depression, but instead, how the person reacts to depression.

For this reason I am of the opinion that Christ did indeed battle depression. And more importantly, He battled it perfectly. Hebrews 4:15 reminds us, “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.”

Christ wasn’t the only person in Scripture who…

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WolfI’ve never stood in the midst of a large pasture-tending sheep (the kind that say “baa-baa”). However, I have served as a shepherd of a local church (the kind that say “amen,” “God bless,” and “what time is the pot-luck”).

The Bible’s word-picture of the pastor or church leader as a shepherd is powerful. A shepherd must guide, lead, protect, watch, and guard. It is a weighty responsibility not to be taken lightly.

In Ezekiel 34, God entrust a message to Ezekiel for the purpose of prophesying against the bad shepherds (people leaders) of Israel. In a stunning rebuke, he declares “Woe to the shepherds of Israel who only take care of themselves! Should not shepherds take care of the flock?” (v. 2)

Next, the LORD proceeds to name these leaders’ laundry list of sins:

  • Demanding the choice animals for wool and food while neglecting the people.
  • Not strengthening the weak, healing the sick, or binding up the injured.
  • Not rescuing the strays or searching for the lost.
  • Ruling over the people harshly with brutality.

The result, God declares, is that the sheep were scattered and became prey to the wild animals and outside nations. Can you imagine being…

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Families Touched by Suicide

Yesterday I listened to callers on a local radio talk show discuss whether or not suicide was an unpardonable sin. (Whether or not a person can commit suicide and still go to heaven) Its always interesting to me how a subject like this can spark heated discussion among people who ordinarily wouldn’t discuss spiritual things.  Its also interesting to discover how diverse the range of opinions is on the subject.

The discussion left me feeling sad for families who have been touched by suicide. I can only imagine (as displayed by the call-in discussion) how many unresolved questions must linger in their minds.

Here are a few thoughts that will hopefully bring encouragement and add clarity to the conversation:

1)   The test of eternal life is not whether or not a person takes their life, but whether or not they have received Christ’s life. No person will enter Heaven because of a good life or great deeds. Rather, eternal life comes by grace through faith in Jesus (Eph. 2:8-9).

2)   The issue of suicide is serious because it deals with the sanctity of life (Genesis 1:26). Life is a precious gift of…

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Monster PastorIn a previous post, I wrote about “monster churches” in reference to congregations that chew up and spit out pastors on a regular basis. Monster churches are highly dysfunctional and rarely fruitful.

The congregation, however, is not always the problem. Just as monster churches are a factory of discord, monster pastors take trouble with them wherever they go.

Nicknames for monster pastors include: dictator, authoritarian, and control freak.

Biblically speaking, they may be false teachers, greedy for selfish gain, deceitful workmen, and ravenous wolves. They specialize in hijacking congregations then abusing power.

Monster pastors have little regard for the sheep (or the Chief Shepherd for that matter). Instead, their first priority is self, masked by other agendas. Such pastors may use pressure tactics, political maneuvering, and/or persuasive speech in order to manipulate a congregation into acting on their behalf. When they don’t get their way, monster pastors usually 1) move on to another church, 2) cause a stir in their current church, and/or 3) blame the congregation for not following their lead. Simply put, monster pastors are building their own kingdom rather than Christ’s kingdom.

As a general rule, monster pastors:

Bus-MinistryIt was exciting news. My friend’s eyes lit up as he shared the exciting changes in the church he recently began pastoring. One of the neatest transitions the congregation had made was to begin small group meetings.

Small group ministry has been around for decades now. However, it is still a relatively new concept to many churches. The main idea is that people hold Bible studies in groups of 10-12 (depending on the context) for the purpose of Christian growth, edification, accountability and fellowship. Most small groups meet in homes in order to promote a family atmosphere where people are comfortable discussing God’s Word and its application to their lives without the formalities and intimidation of traditional classroom models.

For many churches, small groups balance the reception of Scripture from a congregational sermon setting with the discussion, response, and application of Scripture within the setting of mutual trust and encouragement.

As my friend and I were talking about his church’s move toward small groups, one burning question arose: how can a church guard their small groups from becoming institutionalized and ritualistic in the way that other church programs have devolved? (i.e. Sunday School, Bus…

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Fact: Some congregations chew up pastors and spit them out every 2-3 years. I don’t have a Barna Study or Pew Research Poll to verify that assertion. But I don’t think verification is necessary. We’ve all seen the tragedy of “Monster Churches.”

What leads me to believe it is the church’s fault? Before I get to that, let me admit that it isn’t always the churches fault. I know many men who are just not effective pastors –no matter their congregational context. (That’s a topic for a future blog post entitled “Monster Pastors”).

Having said that, there are plenty of cases where the church undoubtedly has a problem. That is particularly evident in cases where:

  • The problem occurs over and over for a long period of time with a multitude of pastors. In these cases, the only common denominator is the congregation.
  • Pastors leave the church to find warm welcome and fruitful, long-term ministry in another congregation. When this happens, the change in church makes all the difference. The pastor remains the same.
  • The congregation denies that any problem exists at all. Pride is a powerful deceiver.

Once again, I admit that a church may have experienced all three…

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Fallow GroundGrowing up, I remember the announcement every year in church: “Ladies, please sign up to bring food for next week’s revival services.” I loved that announcement. Why? Several reasons: Home-made fried chicken, sour dough bread, mashed potatoes, and CHOCOLATE PIE!!!

Revival: The very word has different meanings for different people. For some, it means week-long meetings in the Fall and Spring (with lots of fried chicken). For others it means gathering for services two or three times a day for intense worship and prayer.

The biblical concept of revival refers to an awakening in which the souls of believers are stirred toward greater affections for Christ. It is a time in which men draw close to God as God draws close to them (James 4:8) and the presence of God seems unusually strong (Psalm 16:11).

I can’t imagine any believer who does not desire revival. Which begs the question, “Who is responsible for revival? -God or man?” Since only God can grant revival, should we take a passive “wait and see” position, or is there something we can be doing to prepare for revival? It really comes down to the age-old…

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“Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.”

Those words are quoted from the Emma Lazarus poem, New Colossus, inscribed at the base of the Statue of Liberty. While the original intent is to describe all who are welcomed by Lady Liberty, they may also sound like an apt description of a near-burnout pastor.

  • Tired? Check
  • Poor? Check
  • Yearning to breathe free? Check

How is it that pastors, ministering the gospel of Jesus Christ, experience such stress? Didn’t Jesus say, “My yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:30)?

Multitudes of statistical data point out the fact that pastoral burnout has become epidemic. Many reasons exist for such burnout:

  • Many pastors feel isolated and fear sharing their problems with others.
  • Some churches have unrealistic expectations for their pastor.
  • The work of a pastor is never done.
  • Many pastors believe they can never rest or take vacation for fear that someone will need them.

Perhaps pastors facing burnout feel like the prophet Elijah in I Kings 19. In the previous passage, He had just faced off with the prophets of Baal and watched God’s fire from Heaven consume the drenched sacrifices on Mount Carmel.

However, this action…

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