Tag Archive for: ministry

How often do you stop and reflect upon what you are learning about yourself, your ministry, and your leadership? What triggers your times of reflection? And what do you do with what you are reflecting upon? Heavy questions for summer reading, but I have a reason for asking.

I am in a period of reflection. I just entered my 50th year under appointment as a United Methodist minister. Yeah, you read it correctly. I have been at this work of loving, learning, and leading for a long time. As part of my reflection, I have decided to share some things I have learned over the last half-century. Wow, now I am making myself feel old.

So, will you give me a few minutes of your time over the next 5 weeks to share some of the things I have learned? (I wrote a blog several years ago “10 Things I’ve Learned in 4.5 Decades of Ministry.”

The focus over the next several weeks is to emphasize what is important for Christ-centered leaders to know and act on. It is my hope that you will find this helpful and fruitful in leading people to become who God has created them to be.

The Most Important Lesson: People are Important

So, here goes. The most important thing I have learned over 50 years of ministry is: People are important. Regardless of who a person is or what that person has done, regardless of whether a person agrees with me or even likes me, regardless of whether the person lives the life I want them to live, each and every person is loved by God.

Over the years, as I have experienced God’s love for me, I have learned to love others the way God has loved me. As I have grown deeper in my relationship with Jesus, I have learned that each and every person is a person God has given to me to love. A lot of words to say, People are important.

When I was 10 years old, the musical “Funny Girl,” was on Broadway. One of the famous songs from that musical has shaped my life for almost 60 years. I first heard it on the radio and television. I sang it in junior high and high school choruses. I have seen the movie several times. Even today, I am taken back to times of my childhood when I hear the song, “People.”


People who need people,

Are the luckiest people in the world.

We’re children, needing other children.

And yet letting a grown-up pride

Hide all the need inside.

Acting more like children than children

A feeling deep in your soul

Says you were half now you’re whole.

No more hunger and thirst.

First be a person who needs people

People who need people

Are the luckiest people in the world. 

The musical is about a woman who has discovered that the luckiest people are not those who have enjoyed fame and fortune, but rather those who find special relationships with others. She is disconnected with almost everyone around her, then she sings, “people who need people are the luckiest people.” The song suggests that you only become one of the luckiest people “first” being “a person who needs people.” Another way of saying it is, people are important.

The Importance of Meaningful Connections

As part of my reflection one of the things I have learned over and over is, as followers of Jesus, you and I are in the people business. People thrive and find fulfillment when they have meaningful connections with others. People require companionship, support, and interaction with other people to lead fulfilling lives. Relationships play a significant role in the overall well-being, happiness, and fulfillment of all of us.

I have also learned that you and I are not only in the people business, we are also in the loving people business. As difficult and inconvenient as it can be at times, loving others as God has loved us is who we are. Remember, as a Christ-centered leader, who you are is how you lead.

The Scriptural Foundation: Love One Another

There are more than a few scriptures that undergird the importance of people. Scriptures like “…love your neighbor as yourself;” “welcome one another as God in Christ has welcomed you…” and “faith, hope, and love remain…the greatest of these is love.” I am aware that I shortened my examples by leaving out references to loving God and to the glory of God. I have made an assumption, if you are a Jesus follower, God is in the first place of your loving and leading, which makes loving people extremely important as a response to God’s love for you.

The list goes on, but let us use our pattern of “Read, Reflect, Respond, and Return” to focus on the importance of people.

Read: John 13:34-35

34 I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples if you have love for one another.”


These words of Jesus are part of his farewell teaching to his followers. Before he leaves them, he gives them this commandment to love one another as he has loved them. Why does he give them this commandment? By loving one another they are showing others what it means to be one of his followers.

A New Perspective on Love

In the accounts of the good news according to Matthew, Mark, and Luke, Jesus teaches that the greatest commandment is to love God, your neighbor, and even your enemies. In John’s account of the good news, Jesus teaches a new perspective to love. Just as in the other accounts, love is inclusive. God’s love is directed to all people.

The difference for John is, the love of God is not an individualistic personal blessing, but a distinctive action of goodwill and care for others. Love received and shared reveals that the followers of Jesus are not merely “nice people” but are agents of God’s love for the world.

Love as a Deliberate Act of Goodwill

I hope it goes without saying that the love used in the above verses is “agape.” The love of God expressed by John is not an abstract quality, attitude, or feeling. It is a deliberate act of goodwill and care for others. God loves us, and we love others in response to God’s deliberate action on our behalf in and through Jesus.

Maybe the best way of saying it is, love acts before it feels. So, what does that mean for you as a Christ centered leader?

When you discover the authentic life of trusting God and living in love, your priorities shift from trying to nail down just the right doctrine to following the living Jesus every moment of every day. Your relationships shift from trying to control those in your life to discovering the potential of others and assisting them in developing and living into their full potential.

Loving Others: Relating Authentically and Caring Deeply

Said another way, when people are important, you learn how to relate to others in authentic and caring ways, you begin to understand the spiritual connection you have with others, and you learn to love those with whom you disagree or who put you off. When people are important, you will appreciate the bigger picture of God’s truth and begin to live your faith as a witness to God’s love for you and others. You will move from the settledness of mere belief and learn to live and lead with unimagined possibilities.

From John’s perspective, Jesus loved his followers selflessly. He was not concerned, as often you and I are, of what he might receive in return for his love. He did not think of what he might feel if his love failed or was not returned. His one desire was to give himself to those he loved. Jesus says, “Love one another as I have loved you.”

Sacrificial Love: No Limits, No Cross

Jesus loved his followers sacrificially. There was no limit to what his love would give, and to where his love would go. If love meant the Cross, he was prepared to go to that Cross. Sometimes we make the mistake of thinking that love is meant to bring us happiness. Ultimately it does, but love will first bring pain and sacrifice. Hear the words of Jesus, “Love one another as I have loved you.”

Understanding Love: Knowing and Accepting

Jesus loved his followers understandingly. He knew his followers. He knew their strengths as well as their weaknesses. The people who really love you are the people who know you at your worst as well as your best. The great thing about love is, you are loved for who you are. The love of God, we know in and through Jesus, is real love and total love. It loves not just part of a person but loves the whole person, the better and the worse. The heart of Jesus is big enough to love you as you are. Hear the words of Jesus, “Love one another as I have loved you.”

Leading with Love: The Call of a Christ-Centered Leader

People are important. As a Christ-centered leader, you are called to lead the way in loving and accepting others. By the way you love and care for the weak as well as the strong, the strugglers as well as the achievers, will show, not only who you are as a follower of Jesus but, will show the world what it means to be a Jesus follower.

Loving others as you have been loved reveals who you are, and who you are is how you lead.


For you, as a Christ-centered leader, people are important. So…

Take People Seriously

Take people seriously. Many people have no one to love them. Whether it is by their own behavior or belief, people have separated themselves from others. Regardless of their reasons for separation or disconnection, each person is a person who God loves. You, being a receiver of God’s love, are also a conduit and giver of God’s love. God wants to love people through you. Be who God has created you to be, take people seriously so that God can love them through you.

Listen to People

Listen, listen, listen to people. One of the most important ways to take people seriously is to listen to them. One thing I have learned is many people just want to know that they have been heard. As time-consuming as it might seem, give time to listening to others. Whether you are interested or not, whether it makes sense or not, whether it is part of your agenda, loving others as you have been loved is not about you. Be who God created you to be, listen to people so that God can love them through you.

Be Generous with People

Be generous with people. I have learned that most of us think the worst of people. Regardless of the situation or circumstance, think the best of others. Please give them the benefit of your doubt until you learn differently. Too often you react to people based on your assumptions or perceptions. Learn to respond out of the love you have experienced in and through Jesus. God did not create you to be the judge. God created you to be the witness. Be who God created you to be. Be generous with people so that God can love them through you.

Be Kind, Patient, and Honest

Be kind, patient, and honest with people. Encourage them, support them, and assist them in becoming who God has created them to be. Model God’s love in the way you interact with others and work for their well-being. By the way you love and care for them, you will be a witness to who you are as a follower of Jesus, and you will be a conduit of God’s love.

People are More Important Than Policies, Positions & Politics

Remember that people are more important than policies, positions, and politics. We all work within organizations and institutions that seek to love and serve people. But too often, we emphasize the things put in place to help us love and serve more than the people we are given to love and serve. To love others as you have been loved will mean you will learn to navigate the systems and policies that too often separate people, create anxiety, and cause harm. Keep in mind, what separates and causes harm often was created to bring people together and to work for their good. People are important. Learn to use the policies, positions, and politics as instruments of God’s love, to work for the ultimate good of others. Be who God created you to be, so God can love others through you.

People are Important

One of my favorite stories is about Tom Wiles. While he was the university chaplain at Grand Canyon University in Phoenix, he purchased a new pickup truck. While the truck was parked in his driveway, his neighbor’s basketball post fell against the truck, leaving dents and scrapes on the passenger door. The scratches looked like deep white scars on the exterior of the new truck.

A friend happened to notice the scrapes and asked, “What happened here?”

Tom, with a downcast voice, said, “My neighbor’s basketball post fell and left those dents. I asked him about it. He doesn’t feel responsible for the damage.”

“You’re kidding! How awful! This truck is so new I can smell it.” His friend continued, “Did you contact your insurance company? How are you going to get him to pay for it?”

Tom replied, “This has been a real spiritual journey for me. After a lot of soul-searching and discussions with my wife about hiring an attorney, it came down to this: I can either be in the right or in a relationship with my neighbor. Since my neighbor will probably be with me longer than the truck, I decided to focus on our relationship. Besides, trucks are meant to be banged up, so I got mine initiated into the real world a bit earlier than I expected.”

Wow! What a model of people are important. How many times have we sacrificed being “in a relationship” for the personal satisfaction of being “in the right?” How many times have we won an argument but lost a friend or damaged a heart?

Jesus Came to Redeem our Relationships

Did Jesus come to teach us “right” theology? Or did he come to redeem our relationships with God and with one another? He saved the world by teaching twelve individuals how to get along and to belong to one another. In other words, Jesus saved the world by teaching them that people are important. He taught them how to be in a relationship with one another.

Relationships are central to who we are as followers of Jesus. God is love, and love is impossible outside of relationships. One of the most important things I have learned over 50 years of ministry is that people who need people are the luckiest people in the world.

Love one another as you have been loved. It is who you are as a follower of Jesus. And who you are is how you lead.


Give God thanks for the people you met today.

  • How did you experience taking people seriously, listening, being generous, and placing people before policy, position, or politics?
  • In what other ways did you put people first?
  • In whom did you experience God’s love?
  • With whom did you share God’s love?
  • Who is helping you grow as a leader?
  • What will you do differently tomorrow?

Ask God to give you the faith to be the leader God has created you to be.

Have you been reflecting upon life recently? I have. We have come, not only to the end of another year but to the end of a decade.

Wow! Time flies when you are having… I suppose that is another blog. 

I have many more years behind me than I have in front of me. I’ve been reflecting upon the past 4 ½ decades of ministry. I hope you don’t mind giving this “old” man a few minutes to share with you some things I have learned.

This list is neither exhaustive nor in priority order. Here are 10 things I have learned over 45 years of ministry.

Read more

When do you do it?

John Wimber, the founder of the Vineyard Christian Fellowship, tells the story of the first time he attended worship in a Christian church. He said he didn’t know what to expect, but what he thought was going to happen did not happen. After attending worship for three Sundays, he became frustrated.

One Sunday, after worship, he approached a man who looked like someone with authority.

Wimber asked, “When do you do it?”
The man, who was an usher that morning, asked, “When do we do what?”
Wimber answered, “You know, the stuff,”
The usher replied, “And what stuff might that be?”
Wimber said, becoming more frustrated by the moment, “The stuff in the Bible.”
Now the usher is frustrated, “I still don’t understand. Help me. What do you mean?”
Wimber said, “You know, multiplying loaves and fish, feeding the hungry, healing the sick, giving sight to blind people. That stuff.”
The usher replied somewhat apologetically, “Oh, we don’t do that. We talk about it and pray about it, but we don’t actually do it. No one really does it, except maybe those crazy fundamentalists.”

What does the church value?

The values of the church in the above story are revealed through the actions and inactions of the congregation. Anyone of our congregations will reveal who we are to the community through our actions and inactions with the people we encounter.

Often our values are unnamed. When this is the case, it is only when a conflict of values occurs, that we become aware of what we value. As a congregation, when conflicts arise around core values, consider whether you have stated your core values.

But don’t stop there.

Name the behaviors that bring the values to life. When you do, you’ll be better able to encourage people as well as define expectations of within the church culture. people understand the expectations of following Jesus. Afterall The core values point to who we are as Jesus followers.

After all, if our core values are going to help reveal who we are as Jesus followers, they will propel us to action. If this seems like a challenge, remember, you’re not alone on this journey. Scripture reveals the conflict of values that can unfold as we encounter the love of Jesus.

As a leader, consider exploring the core values of your congregation. Then, identify the behaviors that accompany the values. You'll be better able to encourage your congregation to follow Jesus. Find out more on the blog. #values #church #jesus #faith #transformingmission Transforming MissionA Conflict of Values in Scripture

Look at the story in John, chapter 9. It was the Sabbath day. A blind man comes to Jesus for healing. With a little spit, dirt, and a loving touch, Jesus restores the man’s sight. You would think the church would rejoice and celebrate this miracle performed in their very midst. But they are working from a different set of values.

A theological debate breaks out. It goes like this:

Part 1

“Wait a minute, doesn’t this man know that it’s against the law to heal on the Sabbath? The man must be a sinner, or he wouldn’t break the law like that.”
“Yes, but if he’s a sinner, how did he heal the blind man?”
“Well maybe the guy was just pretending to be blind.”
“His whole life he’s been pretending to be blind? I just don’t think he could pull that off. He’s not that smart, you know. He’s never even been to school. What would have been the point? You can’t teach a blind man to read and write.”
“Well, let’s go ask his parents. They ought to know.”

Part 2

So off they go to question the man’s parents.

“Is this your son?”
“Well, yes, he looks like our son, except for the fact that he can see and our son has been blind all his life.”
“Well, how could it be that he’s been blind all his life, but now he can see?”
“I don’t know! You’ll have to ask him.”

So, they question the man again.

Part 3

I can imagine this conversation going like this: “Hey you. Yes, you, the one who was once blind. You! What is going on here? We better get some answers from you, or you’re going to be in serious trouble.”

And the man replies, “Look, I really don’t know how to answer you. All I know for sure is that I was blind until Jesus came along, and now I see. Can’t you just accept that and leave me alone?”
“Oh, we’ll leave you alone, all right. Get out of here, and don’t come back! Find someplace else to go to church!”
Now, why would they do that? The answer is, or at least my answer is, they are operating out of a different set of values. Even though they say they are God’s people, they are revealing a different identity.Your value comes not in what you do or accomplish. Your value comes in following Jesus. As a leader, consider exploring the core values of your congregation. #values #church #jesus #faith #transformingmission Transforming Misssion

Walk As Children of the Light

This story reveals a conflict of values. The one who was born blind learns to walk in the light, while those who were gifted with normal sight choose to remain in darkness.

When we consider our own calling to “walk as children of light,” it’s easy to recognize which character in the story we ought to imitate. Like the man born blind, we too have been restored by our encounter with Jesus. We too have been saved by God’s free grace, and our eyes have been opened to see the world in a new, counter-cultural way.

If God’s grace is a value we’re willing to claim, our response to God’s grace will also come from our values. The challenge is, when aspirational values lead the way, we leave people wondering, “Is this who we are?” “Is this what defines us?” Instead of questioning who we are, let’s help people celebrate who we are as followers of Jesus.

Our core values motivate and sustain our behavior over the long run. Our values guide our behavior as well as our relationships with one another and with the community. Let’s be intentional in developing, sharing, and teaching the core values that focus our ministry and mission. When we do, we’ll be better able to help others encounter Jesus – the One who feeds, heals, and gives us eyes to walk as children of the light.

So let it be.

What’s Your Next Step?

  1. Download the Congregational Core Values Companion Sheets. You’ll be guided through leading local church leadership in identifying the congregation’s core values and the accompanying behaviors the church seeks to encourage.
  2. Listen to LeaderCast Episode 062: Are You Walking Your Talk? A conversation about congregational core values and behaviors
  3. Participate in Following Jesus Every Day: Galatians, Gospel of Gracea daily Bible Study that invites you to read, reflect, and respond to Scripture every day. We’ll deliver an email to your inbox each morning to help you journey through the book of Galatians. Sign up today! We’re starting April 22.

On Friday I celebrated my 64th birthday. As I often do, I took an assessment of my life and ministry. Although I am generally pleased, I decided one thing. If I am to make the difference in the world I believe God created me to make, I must be more clearly focused.

The stories of Holy Week are fresh in my mind. Simon Peter denying that he knew Jesus. Judas betraying Jesus and feeling guilty. Pilate washing his hands of any responsibility of Jesus. The soldiers and the crowd taunting Jesus and crying out for his death.

With these scriptures fresh in my heart and on my mind, I asked myself, “How am I responding to God’s work in my life?

Am I…

  • denying it?
  • trying to work against it?
  • washing my hands of my responsibility with my actions or lack of action?

Is There Enough Evidence To Convict?

My assessment also came after reading the book, “The Orthodox Heretic” by Peter Rollins. Through my reading and reflection, I focused on a question he raised, “If Christianity were illegal would there be enough evidence to convict you?”

I asked myself the following. If I were really to…

  • take the teachings of Jesus seriously
  • live a life that reflected the radical message of love that gives a voice to the voiceless and a place to those who are displaced
  • stand up against the systemic oppression perpetrated by those in power
  • speak into the evil of racism
  • stand for health care for everyone and to call into question the cost of prescription drugs
  • work for gun safety

Would I find myself on the wrong side of the people in power, of many people in the church, and of those who make the laws?

I realized, again, that I have basically kept my faith private. I have a lot of knowledge about Jesus and his radical message of love. But, I express my faith in safe and sterile ways. To put another way, I do a lot of talking but not a lot of walking in regards to being Christian.

To Be Found Guilty

For the remainder of my ministry, I want to live an authentic faith that is expressed. I want to live not only in my acceptance of a belief system but is expressed in dynamic sacrificial and loving action. I no longer want to fool myself into thinking that my private beliefs are somehow more important or reflective of who I am than how I live my life publicly. And when I say publicly – I mean in a relationship with my family, friends, colleagues, neighbors, strangers, enemies.

I want to be related to the people who are involved in the actions that bring God’s redeeming presence and power into reality. By God’s grace, I want God to work through me to bring about what God intended for this world in which we live.

If I am to be found guilty of being a Christian, I want to have the mind, heart, and attitude of Christ. I don’t want to do anything “out of selfish ambition or vain conceit.”  By God’s grace, I want the humility to “value others above” myself. I want to look beyond my own interests to the interests of the others. In a relationship with the people around me, I want to have the heart, mind, and attitude of Christ Jesus:

Who, being in very nature God,

did not consider equality with God something to be used to

his own advantage;

rather, he made himself nothing

by taking the very nature of a servant,

being made in human likeness.

And being found in appearance as a human man (male),

he humbled himself

by becoming obedient to death—

even death on a cross.

-Philippians 2:6-8

Life & Ministry

I have made peace with the fact that I may not see the full result of any ministry I have been graced to participate. But I understand that I honor God by offering myself in living this way.  I don’t want to deny it or work against it.  I don’t want to turn away from the work God has for me to do.

So, I am committing myself to hold back evil – in all the forms it presents itself. I am committing to repair systems and structures – especially the church that has helped make me who I am. And, I commit to being a healing agent for people who are broken and suffering. I am committing myself to be about the business of peacemaking. I will constantly be about the work of disrupting the façade of peace so the authentic peace of Christ can take root and grow.

Please pray with me and for me as I grow into this stage of my life and ministry. Pray that I am who God intends for me to be. I invite you to pray so that I can be who God needs me to be at this point and time in history.  Pray that I can and will make the difference that God has created me to make.

Then, together, you and I will work so God’s love for all people will come on earth as it is in heaven.

Pray that I am found guilty!