When an Image Kills You...

One of the hardest things for a pastor to do is to communicate Scripture in such a way that it accurately reflects the meaning of the original author 2000 years ago and connects with people living in contemporary culture. A lot of times, we accomplish this by using an illustration or "image" that helps take the message/lesson across the bridge to today, while keeping the message in tact.

Illustrations have a way of making sermons relatable, memorable, and applicable, but they can also sabotage the effectiveness of your sermon if you're not pretty selective.

I worked with a pastor at one point who used to like to start his sermons with a joke, whether or not it was related to his sermon. He told jokes really well, and tried to use it to gain attention and kill his nervousness before diving into his message. The problem was, later in the week if you asked someone what his message was about, they couldn't have told you. Everyone could tell you the punch-line of his joke.

I struggle with the same thing sometimes, because I'm usually fairly good at coming up with illustrations to weave throughout my messages. And, my strongest trait as a communicator is storytelling. But, I'm hit and miss when it comes to making sure those illustrations are inextricably tied to the main point in the sermon, so when people remember the story/illustration they immediately remember the Truth from the sermon. If all your congregation remembers is the story about the diving board, the message failed. You want them to be able to recall the Truth the diving board illustrated so they can apply it to their life.

A great illustration will absolutely kill your sermon/lesson by completely stealing focus from the point. That would be a tragedy, because it is Scripture that is alive and powerful (Hebrews 4:12) - not your stories.

My Yesterday

Had a great time yesterday with my father-in-law and brother-in law, as well of some of their friends from Oklahoma. We drove to Lake Texhoma and did some striper fishing.

I love to fish, but this is definitely my kind of fishing. You go out with a guide who takes you to where the fish are, baits your hook for you and hands you a pole. You drop the bait in the water, reel up two rotations, and then fight the fish to the boat. When it gets to the boat, the guide scoops it out of the water, takes it off the hook, rebaits your hook, and puts the fish in a cooler. When you get back to the marina, he cleans your catch and hands you little baggies to take home and eat. All the fun stuff with none of the mess.

Wouldn't it be nice if all kinds of fishing were that easy? (Matthew 4:19)

We were on the lake at 5:45, and caught our limit by 9am. That's a pretty good day. Plus, I've got a great father-in-law and brother-in-law, so it was fun to have a little time with them.

I'd write more, but I'm putting the finishing touches on a sermon for this Sunday. We left the set up from Stampede - our middle school equivalent to Vacation Bible School on steroids - so it should be pretty fun to read the bulletin tab "prayer requests" on Monday morning. If anyone asks, it was Ken Horton's idea.

Have a great weekend.

The Self-Paparazzi

I guess I'm not a "cool" blogger anymore. The newest rage for "cool" bloggers (Tony Morgan, Tim Stevens, Mark Batterson, Ben Arment, et al...) is to Twitter.

Twitter is a new service that allows people to enter brief sentences into their cell phone or computer that answer the question "what are you doing?" Other people are able to subscribe to your Twitter feed and get little messages that pop up on their computer screen every time you do something twitter worthy. It's like Instant Messenger without having to talk to anyone.

There is just nothing about Twitter that appeals to me personally.

I have a hard enough time blogging every day, thinking that I have any kind of opinions or ideas that are worth sharing on a regular basis. I find it stranger still that if statcounter is right, there are a couple-hundred of you who read my ramblings every day. (Maybe it's like the car accident by the side of the road - you know you shouldn't look at the carnage, but just can't help yourself...). But I find it absolutely impossible to believe that anyone else out there actually cares (or needs to know) "what I'm doing right now."

- Brushing my teeth 6:02 AM June 24, 2008 from home
- Tearing off the toilet paper 6:23 AM June 24, 2008 from home
- Turning the key in my ignition 6:26 AM June 24, 2008 from home
- Taking a pen out of my desk 6:43 AM June 24, 2008 from work
- Twittering 6:52 AM June 24, 2008 from work bathroom

Here's my thinking: If I become important enough that everyone needs to know exactly what I'm doing at any given moment, I figure some magazine somewhere will send paparazzi to follow me. Until then, you're just going to have to use your imagination.

I've got what I need.

Two of the pastors who have made the greatest impact on my personal ministry have been extreme detail-guys when it comes to preaching and teaching the Bible. They're the kind of guys who can remember the son of Eliada's name in 1 Kings 11:23 without looking it up, the date of the various church councils throughout church history, and the date of the writing of 2 Peter they hold to along with the proposed dates of other scholars even though they haven't studied 2 Peter in ten years. It's a huge benefit to their preaching because they're able to draw from a wealth of intuitive knowledge, which saves a bunch of time.

I'm not like that. I've tried to be like that, but I just can't do it. My short-term memory is really strong. I do well with big concepts and ideas, and can remember things extremely well for as long as the need-to-remember is apparent. In college, I very rarely had to study because I was able to remember things long enough to get them on the test. But as soon as the test was over, something happened inside my brain and I forgot everything I had remembered for a whole semester.

The thing is, I love details. Especially when it comes to my preaching, I love to be thorough. I love knowing, for example, that the word "knowledge" is found in the second verse of 2 Peter and in the last verse of 2 Peter, and that the word for "add lavishly to" shows up in 2 Peter 1:5 and 1:11 as bookends on the passage. But I'll forget those details sometime next Monday, and will have to rely on the notes in my Bible to recall them if I ever want to know those details again.

It used to really bother me that I couldn't be like those guys. Now, I'm learning to be okay with it. Although I keep trying to sharpen that skill, I'm realizing that I don't have to be good at Bible Trivia to be a good pastor. I don't have to think like them to have a ministry as successful as theirs, or to be as good a preacher as them. God has given me everything I need to live life in a godly way (2 Peter 1:3), which includes the ministry He's called me to have. That's good enough for me, and will have to do for the church I serve.

Just don't ask me to be on your Bible Trivia team.


I'm teaching the Bible Lesson this morning at our Children's Camp. The theme all week has been "Camp Disguised," and the students have looked at the life of Moses.

This morning is the story of Passover, and how God used the tenth plague to cause Pharaoh to move from "no" to "GO!" I'm really looking forward to spending this time with the kids.

I'm also excited to be the Bible lesson teacher on Friday because, as all of you with any VBS experience knows, this morning is the morning that we get to drive home the Gospel. I'm hoping to get to see some kiddos trust Christ with their eternity.

It's a neat challenge to communicate the Gospel to kids. It needs to be simple, but with the same profundity (simple = not using words like profundity) as the Gospel is communicated to anyone else. Lots of pastors try to achieve simple by going cheesy, and end up sacrificing some of the profundity. (Every head bowed, every eye closed...).

Have a great weekend.

Strong Leaders

I love our staff team here at McKinney. The ministry leaders here are some of the most high-capacity leaders I know, especially the leaders in a few key ministries.

Sometimes the stars align in such a way that I'm able be in situations where I can step back and watch them lead, and it's fascinating.

This morning was that kind of morning. We're smack in the middle of Children's Camp which normally happens at an outdoor recreational facility a few miles from our church. It begins at 8:30, and at about 7 some pretty severe thunderstorms moved through. Our children's director called the meteorologist who told her the rain would be done by 8:45, so by 8:00am there were volunteers stationed at the church (the rainout location) and the recreational facility to let people know that they should drop their kids off at Camp like usual.

At 9:30, it became apparent that the meteorologist missed his calculations by an hour or so, and the recreational facility was too soupy for camp, so by 10:00am our Childrens Director had organized shuttle buses to get the 300 kids and volunteers to the church, had an alternate plan in place, and had a host of volunteers organized and running so Camp didn't miss a beat. As they walked in off the bus, 300 kids and their counselors were organized and orderly, and waited quietly for instruction before going to their spot and resuming their day. It was truly amazing to watch.

That kind of leadership doesn't happen overnight. Power is given, but leadership is earned. Our Childrens Director has earned the right to be followed in the mundane so that it's second nature for her to lead in times of chaos.

The Role of Parents

I had a great visit yesterday with a group of senior pastors of large churches in Dallas about the entitlement mentality of the twenty-something culture. It seems now that we're growing up and getting jobs, employers are having a difficult time with us because we think the "real world" ought to be run like kindergarten: The employer ought to cater to us. We need to be running point on every decision that's made organization-wide. Give us a bad performance review and we'll have our parents call you (it happens, seriously). They don't want to do the hard parts of a job - only the stuff they're "made to do."

We've been told our whole life that we could grow up to be anything we want to be, and we believed it was our right. And it has made us impossible to work with.

Our middle-school pastor is one of the twenty-somethings on staff at McKinney who is different. He works his tail off, and does a phenomenal job. No, your church can't have him. But one time someone asked him why he was different from the other twenty-somethings you read about, and I thought his answer was pretty profound: "If I was to ever cop that entitlement attitude, my dad would beat my butt."

That's seriously the right answer to the question. Parents who love their children well, and point them in a realistic direction for their lives make all the difference in the world for their future employers.

Why I Love My Job

Yesterday's post could have been understood as a pessimistic look at pastoral ministry. I sure hope that's not the case but just in case you misunderstood, I thought I'd follow-up today with a more optimistic look at pastoral ministry. I love what God allows me to do.

Pastors get to be on the front lines of what God's doing in the world. Although we're not always directly engaged in combat (see yesterday's post), we're generally right there where the action is happening. I'm getting text messages back from Italy every day this week from the people I get to serve who are having a significant impact in Florence and Bologna. God is using them, and I get to be right there as they take steps of faith that lead others to take steps of faith.

Pastors get paid to study the Bible and pour into peoples' lives. How much better can life be than that? This morning, I'm going to drive to Dallas Seminary and spend a prolonged period of time in the library studying 2 Peter 1:5-11. Then I have a lunch appointment for which the sole purpose is to encourage some guys in their ministry. I'll do that kind of thing in various locations this week, and at some point next week I'm going to cash a paycheck for it. I just can't think of much better than that.

Finally, I get to help people navigate through the best and worst of times. Thursday, I'm going to get to visit a mom and new baby in the hospital. Friday I'm presenting the Gospel to the equivalent of that new baby plus six years at our Childrens Camp. Saturday I'm doing premarital counseling. Next week I'm doing some marriage counseling. The next week I'm doing baptisms, and at some point in the next month or two the chances are good that I'll be doing a funeral. All of those are times in peoples' lives where the pastor is one of the first person called to the "scene." Sometimes they are hard times, but they're also the places at which people are most primed to allow God to work in their lives. That's good stuff.

Vocational ministry is hard. There is a cost. You're always on call, generally underpaid, sometimes underappreciated, and rarely prepared. But I can't imagine myself ever wanting to do anything else.

Being a Pastor can Cost You Your Ministry

Last week, our Executive Pastor announced that he has accepted a job that will return him to the aerospace engineering plant here in Fort Worth where he worked prior to coming on our staff. It's an amazing thing for him, and will prove to be an amazing thing for our church as he goes back to doing what he was doing before he became the Executive Pastor here.

After his announcement, I heard a person ask him why he was "leaving the ministry," which is what it would appear he is doing at first glance. In reality, he's returning to the ministry.

Before Graham became the Executive Pastor at McKinney, he was about as high-caliber a lay leader as you could ever hope for. Several of the men on our current leadership team are mature believers today because Graham led them to Christ and discipled them to maturity. He had a ministry that influenced hundreds in the corporate world, and felt like that capacity for ministry would only be expanded if he went on staff at at church.

In reality, what I think Graham realized is that vocational ministry comes at a cost. Corporate leaders may respect you, but they look at you differently. They don't understand your world, and don't really believe you can understand theirs. You don't have the same platform you used to have, and can't lead the same way.

I think we do a disservice sometimes to people in the corporate world who have great ministry by encouraging them to do it vocationally. Sometimes their capacity and gifting for ministry is best served in the corporate world. I also think we can do a disservice to the corporate world by taking great lights to the world and hiding them in our church bushels.

The fact that someone has great ministry doesn't mean they need to be a pastor. Sometimes it does, but not always. Being a pastor can cost you your ministry, if God has uniquely equipped you to serve where you are.

Viva Italia

Tomorrow morning around 8am a team of 17 young singles from our ministry will be leaving for Florence, Italy to serve alongside some of our global ministry partners there. They'll be doing the first known Vacation Bible School ever in Florence, and helping a ministry called Agape Italia as they serve university students in Italy.

I couldn't be more proud of these 17 young singles. We talk all the time about being externally focused - they put their hands and feet where their mouth is. A leadership team of 4 individuals (Laura, Betsy, Erick, and Sarod) have been tireless in their praying and planning for this time.

If you think about it, pray for their mission. A mission in Italy seems like a pretty swanky place to suffer for Jesus. In reality, it's an extremely dark place. There are massive churches in every town, but they stand simply as ironic monuments to a faith left behind. The culture is extremely wealthy, and reminds you of Jesus' words that it is easier for a camel to enter through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of God. Italians believe that God is simply a tool of the Roman Catholic church to be used in the oppression and manipulation of power and government. Needless to say, they're pretty hostile to the Gospel.

My dream for this trip is that our team would come back different. I'm praying they'll get a larger view of who God is, a larger view of how He can use them, and a larger view of what God is doing in the world. I'm praying that this would be just the first of many trips for each of them; that it would give them a heart for the world.

The young singles at McKinney are the cream of the crop, and we're sending 17 of our very best to Italy this next week. I'm proud to be their pastor and hope you'll join me in praying that God will use them for something significant this week. (If you want, you can follow their progress here).

Lessons from India

McKinney hosted a guest preacher on Sunday who is one of our global mission partners in India. He grew up a Sikh, but trusted Christ later in life. Now he is doing some truly extraordinary things with Sikhs and unreached people in the Punjabi region of India. This guy was a fountain of wisdom.

Three things he said that were especially noteworthy:

"Most people vastly overestimate what they can do as an individual, and vastly underestimate what is possible with a group."

"You're only ever in two positions: A need-to-receive position or a position to give. There is no in-between."

"Before 40 you are a student, after 40 you are a teacher."

Good stuff...

Down Cycle

It's my experience that ministry (and life) goes in seasons, cycling between busy and slow times. One of the hardest things for me to do in ministry is to keep momentum going during the down cycles.

A lot of ministries are hitting their down cycle right about now. Youth ministry is the exception, but most people in most ministries are away for the summer, traveling, resting, and overall checked-out until Fall. It's not a bad thing - in fact, I'm convinced it's a good thing. The hard thing is leaning into it and figuring out how to keep momentum in the time between up-cycles. Here are a few things I think every ministry leader should be doing during a down cycle:

1. Spend more time investing in individuals - This is a huge part of my philosophy of ministry regardless of the cycle, but I find it's especially important during the down cycles in ministry. The more gas you put in the tanks of people who are actually doing the ministry, the more fuel you have for the up-cycle. If you withdraw from people because it's just so darn hard to connect with them, you'll find it twice as hard to connect with them when they're gearing back up.

2. Take time to rest yourself - One of the best parts of a down cycle in ministry is the chance to get some rest. I'm awful at this, but am trying to do a lot better, because I need it. I need to recharge my batteries, and to not feel bad for getting some rest during this time. If you're burnt out going into the fall, you're useless to everyone, and one of the only ways to avoid that is by being intentional about resting. You don't have to be out of the office, but you do have to consciously throttle-down what you're doing so you aren't spinning your wheels just for the sake of the cool sound they make when they spin... the crash often follows the squeal, and it isn't as pretty a sound.

3. Be strategic in the things you do do - We've got 5 main things we want to accomplish in our young singles ministry (Intimacy, Maturity, Authenticity, Growth, External Devotion), and we try to make sure that everything we plan is focused on helping us achieve at least one of those things. But during the down cycle, I very rarely allow us to plan something that helps us achieve less than 3 of those goals at the same time. When energy and momentum is up, we can do a lot of things. When it's down, we want to be really selective and put the energy into the things that give us the best bang for our buck.

4. Keep a long-term view - There's a temptation when numbers are down, energy is down, and commitment is down to get discouraged and forget where you are in the cycle. Most of the time when ministry leaders get discouraged by the momentum they fall to one side of the spectrum; they quit or they start trying to manufacture momentum by doing things that are completely outside their normal philosophy for ministry. Neither of these is helpful. If you know you're in a down cycle, take some time to breathe and recognize the things you can do to lean into that down cycle rather than running away from it. Remember that everything goes in seasons, and that the investment you make during this time will ultimately pay off. The farmer can't reap the harvest every week of the year. Sometimes he has to plant, water, rest, and trust that the harvest will come again when it's time.


I played a quick round of bad golf yesterday with a couple of the young-married guys from church. One of them plays at about my level; one of them is the kind of golfer that you want to beat over the head with a 9-iron because he is completely incapable of hitting a bad shot. Fortunately, he's a really good guy, so the temptation to go Tonya Harding on him has been supressed... so far.

I'm at a point in my golf game where I'm pretty frustrated. Since I've taken a couple of lessons, I've gone two big steps backward, which I expected, but which is still infuriating. When you're tweaking something with so many moving parts, you throw the whole thing off. But, you have to keep working through it, doing the right things even when you get wrong results, because ultimately it's going to pay off.

Yesterday, Adam (my own personal Nancy Kerrigan) was trying to comfort me after I threw my club (no Mom, I really didn't lose my temper and throw my club... okay, yes I did...), and he made a great point.

"Golf is a lot like the Christian life. You have to keep doing the right things even when they don't feel right. Even when you feel like you're making backward progress, you have to keep doing what you know is right. Then one of these days, everything is going to click together and you're going to see growth that feels like it took place overnight. But you have t0 keep doing the right things."

See why I want to hit him with a 9-iron?

No, seriously, he's got a great point; in golf and the Christian life. For those of us that are at a point where we don't feel like much is going right, we've got to keep doing what we know is right. You don't become a mature Christian (or a great golfer) over night. But if you keep doing the right things, even when they don't feel right, the improvement will come in waves. Practice the right things and be patient.

Family Friday

For the first 4 years of Kari and my marriage, the question we've most received is "When are y'all having kids?" Most of the time we chose not to answer the question, because we didn't feel like our timeline was anyone else's business. Sometimes we chose to respond with a smart-alec answer like "After we finish perfecting our technique," which made the question exciting for us. Nothing like seeing little old church ladies blush when they realize what you're talking about.

That answer works really well for future grandparents, though my parents are hyper-sensitive about being over-involved in-laws and didn't ever ask. Kari's parents have their grandparent-hands full with a four year old and twin infants from Kari's sister. So, we didn't have to deal with that question too much from them. Just the church ladies.

Now that our timeline is out, and the answer is "August 28thish" we get to go back to all those church ladies and explain the our technique has been perfected. See... it's doubly fun!

But the new #1 question we keep being asked is about a name for the baby.

We're not telling.

Two reasons - First: we've been on the side of the discussion where someone tells us their proposed baby name and we immediately go into a conversation amongst ourself of who gets to be the one to tell a couple that "Elmo" is going to cause some poor little kid to spend an entire life in therapy. We try to hide our disgust, but it's really hard to not say, "please tell me you're kidding." Just in case we've come up with an Elmo-equivalent, we want you to be so enamored with how cute our baby is that you can't make a knee-jerk face when we tell you the name.

Second: Several of you out there are preggers right now and due before us. When you hear the name we've chosen for our little boy, you're going to recognize that it's so cute you just have to name your little boy the same thing (Kara). And then, all your friends are going to name their little boy the same thing before us. And by the time our little baby is born, he's going to be relegated to being the equivalent of "Chris F." the rest of his life because everyone in his class will have the same name. Either that, or he's going to be forced to adopt some nickname like "Squid," or "Fat Boy" or "Stinky" so people know who he is.

If you ask our name, we're going to tell you it's Maher-Shalal-Hash-Baz. And what's not to love about that? It's biblical, meaningful, and original. But when we tell you that, you're going to respond "What's his real name?" thus betraying that you're not able to handle such information without a reaction, proving point #1 and reinforcing our point.

You'll find out soon enough. Hold your horses.


I'm heading out in a few minutes to do a study retreat for the day with our Senior Pastor and a couple of pastors from a church in a town not too far from here. We've started doing some sermon planning together, and get together once every couple of months to study together. The recent "Divine Intervention" study in Malachi is the first study we've done that way, and we think it will be even more effective in the future.

The way it works is this: we each are responsible for studying the book of the Bible on our own prior to our time together. Generally, that means we have done a rough translation from the original languages, have an outline for the book, and a "big idea" of what the main thrust of the book is. Then when we get together, we spend some time in prayer before sharing what we've each come up with - mainly the things that stood out to us, big challenges or questions we still have, major section breaks in the book, and keywords, thoughts, and ideas that we each feel point to the "big idea" of the book.

After each of us has shared a little about our own personal study, we settle on how many weeks we're going to need, and which verses we'll teach each week. Then we start at the very beginning and work our way through the book. For each section we work to come up with a section title and outline, and we talk through any problem passages or key ideas that come out in a section. At the end of our time, we put the whole thing back together and try to come up with a title for the series, though sometimes it strikes us much earlier in the process.

I look forward to these days more than almost any other workday throughout the year. There's something about studying the Bible as a team that is unbelievably exciting. These are guys who are the real deal, but who are very different. We each bring something different to the table, with the end result being that we get further in one day of study together than any single one of us would have been able to get in a month.

Bonus Post

I just saw this on my friend Robin's blog. Two things come to my mind: (1) There are zero American gameshows that even come close to what you're about to see. This blows "American Gladiators" and "Deal or No Deal" right out of the water. (2) If this ever comes to the United States, I want to be on it. I could rock this game.

Learning Lessons

One of the members of the church took pity on my golf game and arranged for me to take a couple of golf lessons with one of Golf Magazine's Top 100 teachers. I had my first lesson a few weeks ago, and will go again this afternoon. It's making a difference, though there's a lot more "rough" than "diamond" right now.

I've taken a few golf lessons before, but from guys who were way less qualified than this guy, and who helped me develop some bad habits as quick-fixes for bad tendencies. They helped my game in the short-term, but didn't do me any favors in the long-term. This new guy has (so far) been able to help me develop habits that should help me short-term and long-term.

Something I've learned the hard way in ministry and in golf is that you have to be really careful where you learn your lessons. Some people are eager to bring you under their wing and teach you things, but their lessons aren't worth learning as far as the big picture is concerned.

Same thing with books. I used to believe there was no such thing as a book I wouldn't read. I told people, "every book contains some valuable piece of insight." I'm slowly deciding that while that may be true, it's not worth the struggle of mining insight from the weeds. There are enough good and important books out there (and being written) that it's a poor use of my time to struggle through a book looking for "that one thing."

I don't mean that I refuse to glean insights at all from people I disagree with - that's certainly not the case. I also don't mean that I refuse to read books that I don't like. Some books (and people) are important to listen to simply because you disagree. But I certainly don't look to surround myself with those people like I do the people who have something to add, and I'm more quick to put a book down halfway through if it isn't helpful. I need to invest my time in something that is going to be instructive for the long-haul.

Twenty years from now, I want to consistently score in the low 80s or high 70s when I play golf, and be the very best Christian pastor I can be. In order to accomplish that, I need to be wise in who I choose to pour into those two areas of my life.

Into the Wind

When I was in college, I got my private pilot's license. It was a great hobby to have during college, but it's pretty expensive to keep up in seminary or on a pastor's salary, so I've let it go by the wayside for now.

One of the things you may or may not know about airplanes is that they always take-off and land into the wind. Some people think it would be to the pilot's advantage to take-off with the wind in order to get airborne but in fact, trying to take-off with the wind makes it harder to get off the ground. Getting airborne has very little to do with speed, and everything to do with the flow of air over the wings of the airplane, so it helps to push into the wind.

Lots of times in life and ministry, there's a temptation to avoid going into the wind. We think it's to our advantage to go with the flow and avoid the wind in our face. We avoid conflict, avoid hard decisions - avoid anything that could possibly provide any kind of resistance to the direction we're going. But that makes it awfully hard to get airborne.

There's obviously a threshold. The person who loves conflict probably shouldn't be doing it. The person who likes to push the boundaries just to see how much wind he can endure without blowing over is a fool. But just like with airplanes, God has a tendency of using the wind blowing in our face to help get us off the ground.

If you're dealing with tough stuff or adverse circumstances, lean in. Throttle-up, and start down the runway. Even though you can feel the wind on take-off and landing, there's nothing more peaceful than being in the air.

"Lay" Leaders

One of the things I love most about McKinney is that our "lay" leaders are the most connected people in ministry. They don't have to check in with headquarters for everything they do, and don't feel like they have to maneuver through red tape and beauracracy to have personal ministry. If someone has a vision for personal ministry, we encourage them to do it. If it doesn't fit with what our church is doing, we still encourage them to do it - just as an extension of their own personal ministry.

Yeah, it's messy. Yeah, it's like nailing jello to the wall sometimes. Yeah, we have to troubleshoot when people run after the wrong things from time to time. But those times are the exception, not the rule. Most of the time, it's just plain exciting to see people living into what God has called them to do.

I feel like a lot of churches and pastors cannabalize the personal ministry of people in the congregation. They create such rigid systems for what "church-sponsored" church ministry can look like that very few people are actually able to use their gifts and talents to serve. Then, we wonder why nobody is doing anything. We preach about the Parable of the Talents and make people feel guilty for not using the gifts and talents the church won't let them use.

Sometimes it's because we're so hotly pursuing excellence that we are afraid the gifts God gave some people aren't strong enough to carry the type of ministry we're doing. More often, it's just because we want control. We want to make sure nobody messes up the ministry we've worked so hard to build. I'm fairly convinced that neither of those reasons is sufficient.

Obviously we want to protect the doctrinal purity of the ministry our church supports. But rarely is that the real reason we hold people back from engaging in personal ministry. Most of us (including me from time to time) just don't like the feeling of not being "in the know" about everything our people are doing. So church becomes about everyone who shows up helping us as pastors have great ministry - the individual empowering the institution rather than the institution empowering the individual.