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graceGRACE. It’s my favorite word. As a matter of fact, I named my first-born child Grace. I often tell her how special her name is. I know she gets tired of hearing it (or maybe she secretly loves it), but I point out every song, sermon, or movie that mentions the word “grace.”

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I recently became the Executive Director of ExPastors.com. We have a mission statement that reads as follows: We seek to be a place of help, healing, and hope for ex-pastors, pastors, and church leaders. We do this by hearing their stories, connecting them with people and resources, and focusing on spiritual, physical, mental and emotional health.

When Tullian Tchividjian reached out to us and I talked with him on the phone, I heard a man that had committed a sin (a serious sin before God and that is a hot-button for many people). I heard a man that had experienced brokenness, shame, loneliness, deep and dark sadness, and regret over what he had done to his family, and how he let his church and followers down.

As a matter of fact, Tullian was in such a dark place of sadness, regret, loneliness, anger, and frustration that he set out to take his life. He even wrote a suicide note that he shared in the piece we published. You can read it here.

Why did we share his piece? I shared today on ExPastors.com, we didn’t share it because he had “arrived,” or we thought he was “fully restored,” or that we believed he was “ready to re-enter ministry.” We don’t know any of that – that’s between him and God. He did, however, address those questions and accusations with RNS in this piece. A while back, when writing about Tullian, Charisma News wrote the following:

“Weak areas such as drugs, alcohol, pain meds, sex, anger, marriage issues, and so on are ‘opportune times’ for the enemy to strike. We must expose these areas through repentance, and install safeguards and accountability.”

I agree. Friends, I’ve been in ministry for over two decades and I know and have experienced the attacks, traps, temptations, and lies of the enemy. I urge you to pray for pastors around the world. And I challenge you to sincerely pray for pastors who have fallen (like Tullian), been fired for addiction (like Perry Noble), and burned out (like Pete Wilson).

We, as a ministry, and myself personally, took a ton of heat, bullets, and accusations by many upset and angry people. Did they have a right to be upset and angry? I don’t know. I just know that when it comes to truth and grace, I always lean towards grace. A therapist, professor and author that I respect said the same thing. Only Jesus perfectly embodies truth and grace equally. He is 100% truth and 100% grace. We all lean one way or the other.

On Wednesday night, after we and I took a beating on our website and on social media, I looked my daughter Grace in the eyes, with tears in my eyes and said, “You know how special your name is to me, right?” She said, “Yes.” I told her about the personal attacks I had received for showing Tullian grace. And I reminded her:

“Grace is unmerited favor. You can’t earn grace (thank God). We don’t receive grace because we’re perfect, deserve it, or have it all together. Grace is freely offered by God to us and we should freely offer it to others.”

Tullian’s grandfather, Billy Graham, wrote about grace and the unmerited favor of God here. I encourage you to read it. You can read more about what we, at ExPastors, believe and are about here.

So, Thursday after being emotionally drained and exhausted from the constant attacks on our website, social media, and people that targetted me personally and questioned my integrity, I went to see my therapist for our weekly appointment. Yes, I see a counselor. Yes, I believe strongly in therapy. And I’ve writen and spoke out about it frequently. I think every pastor should see a therapist. One of the lies and traps of the enemy is isolation. If you feel alone and have no one to talk to, you will fall (or take your life), and be another statistic.

So, last week I met with my therapist. He said, “What would you like to talk about today?” I said, “I have a lot to talk about, express, get off my chest, and get some counsel on.” So, I told him about my week and the reason we published Tullian’s piece. I told him that many pastors commit suicide each year. In an article by Charisma News, they wrote: “It’s this thought process that could have caused both Seth Oiler and Isaac Hunter to take their own lives after being caught in affairs.” God help us!

My therapist told me of another local therapist that used to be a Lutheran minister. He said this former minister is now a practicing counselor, who’s whole practice is dedicated to helping former pastors. Believe me, I will be reaching out to this counselor and getting to know him.

I told my therapist (and this is the God’s honest truth) that when I woke up Wednesday morning (after we posted Tullian’s piece on Tuesday), the first thought in mind before I even sat up and put my feet on the ground was:

JUST ONE. Yes, we took a lot of heat and bullets for posting the article, but if just one pastor read Tullian’s story of deep, dark depression that led him to consider taking his own life. If just one pastor decided to not take his life and seek help so they can keep on living – it was worth it all. 

My therapist encouraged me by reminding me of the “Starfish story.” You’ve probably heard it. Ever heard of the man walking along the beach and picking up starfish and throwing them back into the water so they wouldn’t die? Someone mocked him because there was no way he could make a difference and save every starfish. The man picked up a starfish, threw it in the water and said something like, “It made a difference to that one.”

Read my article on ExPastors.com entitled, “It’s Okay to Not Be Okay. This is a Safe Place.” In the article I write, “We reach all kinds of pastors and ex-pastors: broken, hurt, wounded, mad, angry at God, angry at the Church, confused, on the verge of suicide (like Tullian Tchividjian shared), in transition, now in lay leadership, pastors who have burned out and are ready to quit, pastors who have resigned and now work a job outside the local church, pastors who were fired, pastors who were laid off due to finances or circumstances out of their control – all kinds of pastors and church leaders.

As my friend Pete Wilson once said, “It’s okay not to be okay.” And I would add, “This is a safe place. All are welcome here. Whether you like us or not, trust us or not, love us or hate us, agree with us or not, or are just checking us out – we welcome you.

And like it or not, Tullian is the very definition of an ex-pastor. For every mega-church pastor, author and/or conference speaker that finds themselves in a similar situation, there are hundreds or thousands of ex-pastors and struggling pastors that are hurting and/or burned out – they just pastor smaller churches and don’t have the platform that Tullian has. And to you, my friend, I also say, “This is a safe place.””

So, if you stumbled across this blog post and God has stirred something in your soul. If you’re a current or ex-pastor, we’d love to hear from you. Submit your story to us. It doesn’t matter if you pastor a church of 10 people, 100, or a 1000. We’re in this together and we hope to create a community where people can help one another get through tough seasons of ministry and life. If you’re at the end of your rope and need of help, contact us. We want to connect you with resources and other pastors.

Browse the site. Read through our articles. Maybe you’ll find something helpful and timely. Check out our Resources page and if you have a recommended resource, email us. Check the site often. Subscribe to our newsletter to get weekly email updates and subscribe to our YouTube channel to keep up with video content, including our new podcast (coming soon). FYI – When you subscribe to the ExPastors.com newsletter, you’ll receive a free copy of our Founder, Bo Lane’s best-selling book Why Pastors Quit.

Let’s be people known for and characterized by GRACE. That’s my story and my personal mission. I’m a grace dealer and I’m going to keep on dishing it out. God bless you pastors as you serve the Church. Keep pressing on. Don’t give up! You’re not alone.

book

One of the biggest challenges every leader faces is how to continue developing and growing as a leader while still getting things done and moving things forward.

With the ever-increasing demands on our time and energy, often the first thing that goes is investing in ourselves. We know that isn’t wise; it’s really very short-term thinking, but under the pressure of the moment we often make that choice.

One reason we do that is that we don’t see immediate consequences. The consequences of not investing in ourselves now often show up later—a year or more later, when the challenges are even bigger and we aren’t ready for them.

One way to address that is to change our reading habits. We have all heard that “readers are leaders” and that “growing churches are led by growing leaders.” But the average reader takes 4-6 hours to read one book. It can be a challenge to find that time on a regular basis! Most of us end up with a bunch of unfinished (or unstarted) books that we know we should read but just don’t have time to get to.

Maybe it’s time for you to check out Leaders Book Summaries. They summarize books for busy leaders. They condense books down to 12-15 pages, and then also provide a 2-page summary of the summary. An average reader can go through a whole summary in just 15-20 minutes. That’s a lot more efficient than 4-6 hours!

You’ll get summaries of the titles you should be reading. Leaders Book Summaries was started by pastors, for pastors. They are practitioners, not just theorists. They know what it’s like to be in the trenches, and they pick and summarize books that will help you make a difference.

They issue thirty (30) summaries of leadership books each year. The books are written by both secular and religious authors. Recent examples include…

  • Leading Congregational Change, by Herrington, Bonem, and Furr.
  • The Leadership Playbook, by Nathan Jamail
  • Amplified Leadership, by Dan Reiland
  • Be The Best Bad Presenter Ever, by Karen Hough
  • Supersurvivors, by David Feldman and Lee Daniel Kravetz.

In addition, titles by Andy Stanley, John Maxwell, Henry Cloud, and other well-known leaders fill their library.

A subscription is normally about $7 a month, or $119/year if you want the archives (over 150 titles). Leaders Book Summaries is currently offering a special discount to our blog readers. Instead of paying the full rate, you can get the monthly rate for just $5.95/month, or the Premium subscription, giving you access to their whole library, for just $99/year. And that covers all the new summaries coming out in 2016 as well!

This is a win-win-win. You can save time, save money, and invest in your own leadership development. You can’t do much better than that!

Click here to get the discounted rate. (It isn’t being offered anywhere else!)

By the way, besides providing summaries to those who subscribe, the folks at Leaders Book Summaries go a step further to support God’s leaders. A tithe of the profits is given to church planting efforts in the U.S. and Mozambique. Additionally, they give free subscriptions to third world pastors, who often can’t afford to buy books. When you subscribe to their service, you are also investing in other leaders around the world.

FaithVillage CLE interview

By Blake Atwood

Source: FaithVillage.com

Greg Atkinson’s Twitter bio neatly summarizes the many ministry hats he’s worn over the last 20 years: “Greg is a servant of Christ, husband, father, pastor, author, speaker and consultant.”

In those two decades, he’s learned much about what it means to be a church leader. He’s now taken those lessons and has distilled them into Church Leadership Essentials: What Every Pastor Needs to Know.

For an opportunity to win a print copy of Greg’s book, comment on this article with something you think is a defining characteristic of a church leader.

FaithVillage spoke with Greg about his book, one that would be a welcome addition to any pastor’s library.

Why did you write Church Leadership Essentials? What makes it unique compared to the many church leadership books already on the market?

I wrote Church Leadership Essentials because, after speaking at numerous conferences over the last 14 years, I’ve seen that many pastors and church leaders were not properly and practically prepared for real ministry in Bible college or seminary. This is a leadership book that is specifically geared toward the church and ministry in general.

As my former boss and pastor Pete Briscoe once said, “The world for which we were trained no longer exists.”

Who’s the ideal audience for Church Leadership Essentials?

The audience is pastors and church leaders of all types. Whether you’re full-time, part-time, bi-vocational or volunteer, there is a nugget of wisdom or two in the book for you, which is full of leadership lessons and principles I’ve learned over two decades of ministry.

What chapter in Church Leadership Essentials is your favorite? Why?

My favorite chapter is the last chapter. It is a look back on 20 years in ministry. I share my heart and reveal what God has taught me as I look back over the last two decades. It’s close to my heart because I share that God uses weak, broken, messed up people for His glory.

Church Leadership Essentials is a direct result of your blogging. Can you recall why you started blogging in the first place?

In the summer of 2006, my friend Don Chapman of WorshipIdeas.com was visiting me in Dallas. I was driving to Oklahoma City to speak at a conference and Don came with me. It was about a three-hour drive and I started sharing some ideas, resources and new companies that I had come across. Don directly and boldly said, “Dude, you have got to start blogging. Church leaders would really benefit from what you’re sharing with me.”

That night Don went online to GoDaddy and bought the domain name: ChurchVideoIdeas.com and said, “Here you go. Now get to blogging!” I started a cheesy-looking WordPress blog and the rest is history. Thanks to my great Charter Sponsors, I was able to give my blog a face-lift. It’s been through several design changes over the years.

The “why” is simple. I have a heart for the Church (capital “C”). My heart and passion is for the Kingdom and equipping Church leaders — that’s why I write, that’s why I consult, that’s why I speak at conferences. I love Christ’s Bride and want to be a friend, helper, encourager and equipper to Church leaders around the world.

Praise God, people actually care what I have to say. Almost every day I receive an email from a church leader asking me a question. Many of you reading this who have sent me an email hopefully have seen that I try to answer your email promptly and to the best of my knowledge. I wrote this book to answer many of the problems and scenarios that I’ve seen or heard of all too often from leaders around the world.

Do you think all pastors should blog? Why or why not?

Good question. I’ve taught on this in the past and tried to answer it numerous times. I used to just simply say, “Yes.” Now my answer has evolved and I don’t think blogging is a good fit for every pastor.

One, to be a good blogger, you have to have something to say and you have to blog regularly and consistently. Lots of pastors and church leaders have started blogs with the best intentions, and then I check on them months later and their last post was weeks or months ago. That’s a sure-fire way to lose an audience and momentum. But, if you can commit the time and you have something original, useful, practical and insightful to say, I say, “Go for it!”

Aside from the Bible and your book, what other five church leadership books should every pastor have in their library?

You’re heavily involved in online ministry, and you have been for quite some time. Why is it important for church leaders to be involved in online ministry, even if it’s only through one online outlet?

Being involved in online ministry (social media especially) is essential for communication with our congregations now. We cover this a ton at Christian Media Magazine where I’m Editor. I believe that pastors and church leaders should definitely be on Facebook (that’s why I wrote the Foreword to Facebook for Pastors).

Being on Facebook is a way to be reachable, approachable and let your people see that you’re a normal, regular guy or gal. It breaks down the barrier between the pulpit and the pew. If you’re going to your kid’s recital or ballgame or on a date with your spouse, share it on Facebook and allow your people to see you outside of the guy that delivers the sermon each week.

I use Twitter (@GregAtkinson) mainly to learn from, communicate with and share with peers and professionals in ministry. If you are to be a life-long learner (which I feel strongly about), you can learn a ton by being active and engaged on Twitter.

Now, consider adding Greg’s book “Church Leadership Essentials: What Every Pastor Needs to Know” to your church leader library, check out his blog at GregAtkinson.com and read more about the book at ChurchLeadershipEssentials.com.

Comment below with one defining characteristic you think every church leader should have, and you’ll be entered into a drawing to win a print copy of Greg’s book.

Buy Now

As we near the end of the year, I want to thank our two main sponsors of this blog for the past quarter: eaHELP and MAG Bookkeeping.

300x250-eaHELP 300x250-MAG-Bookkeeping

Both companies are great resources for your church, non-profit, business or ministry. I blogged about eaHELP years ago when they were new and I could see their potential. They have now grown significantly and are serving tons of churches and businesses and key influencers like Michael Hyatt.

Check out THIS article about the day in the life of an EA Virtual Assistant. It’s quite interesting. I encourage you to click on their logos and see what they have to offer. You won’t regret it. I only partner with advertisers that I respect and trust. Check them out!

 

 

The following is from my friend Dale at WorshipHouse Media:

Christmas is probably the time more churches use media than any other time of the year. We decorate trees, why not use some great seasonal media to “decorate” your Christmas media presentation? Here is a roundup of 5 short videos that are being used at churches all over the world this Christmas.

 

1) True and Better  (new this year)

by Dan Stevers

Why it is great: Stunning animation, Longer script allows you to base your sermon off the video, Works beyond Christmas as a gospel video

How you would use it: We have heard many churches have loved it so much they are theming the Christmas season to “True and Better.” Perfect to show it before, during, or after a sermon.

 

2) Christ The Savior Is Born (new this year)

by Centerline New Media

Why it is great: Visuals, easy to read text, Scripture based, short in length

How you would use it: As a stand alone reflection piece, Prior to a Christmas Sermon, Prior to worship to set the tone of praise.

 

3) The Christmas Scale (2012 best seller)

by Igniter Media

Why it is great: Familiar Music, True Story

How you would use it: To blow peoples minds! No, seriously – it is an amazing story about something so familiar people will be surprised. Can be used in conjuction with another Christmas video as this one is unique and great as a stand alone video at the beginning of your service.

 

4) The Christmas Truce (new this year)

By Shift Worship

Why it is great: The animation is amazing, Based on a true story so history buffs will love it.

How you would use it: This would be perfect in the middle or near the end of your Christmas message to bring home depth and meaning to our own celebration of the birth of Christ.

 

5) Christmas Welcome to Our Church (new this year)

by Floodgate Productions

Why it is great: Seasonal way to welcome visitors, Visuals and Voice over easy to follow.

How you would use it: Either in place of a countdown at the very beginning, or just after a countdown to start your service.

 

We hope you enjoy these Christmas videos from some of the best producers of church media! It was really hard to pick just a few as we have so many awesome videos in the Christmas seasonal store this year. What is your favorite?

Partner-SeasonalHead-Christmas_wide-1

grand theft auto

Let me say up front that I’m not a true “gamer.” I play video games with my kids, but I have friends that stay up until 2 or 3 am playing games and are true gamers – that’s not me. With that being said, I want to offer some pastoral counsel and advice to church leaders and parents: Be careful what games you let your kids buy and play.

I recently had a friend purchase “Grand Theft Auto V.” He got to the third scene and had to take it back to the store because it was so bad and vulgar. He described people having sex in a van, two going at in the street and one scene where the paparazzi pay you to take pictures of a teen star having sex. Of course in the game, you can still pick up a prostitute. Read this review of the game to truly know what goes on.

Some of you may be shocked. Some of you may be yawning and thinking what’s the big deal? The big deal is what our kids are seeing behind closed doors in their rooms when we think they’re playing a simple racecar game and they are acting out sex, crime (remember it’s called “Grand Theft Auto”), and violence (there are a lot of fights and car-jackings).

When parents don’t get involved in details like this in their kids’ lives, it leads to trouble down the road. Kids are growing up today with a taste and thirst for violence (think “Halo” and “Call of Duty”) and when you mix that with a negative view of women and thinking of them as sex objects, it makes you think what the next generation of leaders, pastors, teachers and businessmen and women will be like.

I don’t want to preach or come down too heavy. I just want to raise awareness of a problem and strongly encourage you to check into what your kids are playing. If a thirty-three year old friend of mine had to return the video game because it made him blush and feel dirty, what business does a teenager or child have playing it?

So, like the title says: Be careful little eyes what you see. My kids play games like Madden (football) and Indiana Jones and Star Wars. We are intentional not to buy them games with graphic content or violence. I encourage you as leaders in the church to be careful what you look at (on computers, tablets and gaming consoles) and be a present parent to your children. They look to you for guidance and today’s kids need all they can get. So as the Christmas season approaches, take a careful look at what games and movies you buy your kids. Okay – I’m stepping down off my soap box!

 

typhoon

Our world has watched in horror and shock as the Philippines was devastated by a typhoon. All forms of media have been buzzing with up-to-date news coverage and stories of search, rescue, survival, and death.

I’ve been amazed at the use of social media to help bring aid and relief to victims. Numerous sources have written about and commented on the use of social media to rally people and retain resources to help in time of need.

From Twitter to Instagram to Facebook, people and organizations are getting the word out about how to bring help and order to what seems like chaos.

According to TechCrunch, relief efforts are now underway, including one by the Geeklist Corps of Developers, which is recruiting coders, product managers and other tech experts from around the world to build tools that will help coordinate rescue efforts, enable crisis communication and make sure emergency supplies and food are quickly distributed to areas in need.

The initiative is working with the government of the Philippines to deploy and start using finished projects. Kat Borlongan, the initiative’s coordinator, tells me that they are searching for designers, developers, product managers and social media experts to help out.

So people are employing and utilizing social media experts to bring help and aid, but even ordinary people are taking to their own initiatives to bring relief. Check out the following story:

“We are just doing as much as we can and I put a post on Facebook. I said: ‘Can you help? I am going up there with the car.’ So I got a lot of donations from my friends and family,” said Simon Timmins, as he made his delivery. “I got about 1,000 pounds so I have got enough for at least two trips up here. This is the first trip and I will be coming up again later in the week.” This is just an example of one person who is trying to make a difference and using a simple tool like Facebook to collect supplies and donations.

Patrick Meier is director of social innovation at the Qatar Foundation’s Computing Research Institute in Qatar. He develops tools, like the just launched website MicroMappers, that quickly sort through online data, from tweets to uploaded photos, and then display the information on satellite maps. Aid agencies can view the maps, which change in real time based on data coming in, and then use that information to help plan their relief efforts.

When National Geographic asked how they are mobilizing to help victims of the typhoon? Meier answerd, “We launched MicroMappers in order to very quickly tag tensof thousands of tweets (and soon pictures) coming out of the Philippines. More specifically, and at the UN’s request, we are asking volunteers from all around the world to tag tweets if they are related to “requests for help,” “infrastructure damage,” and “displaced populations.””

We’re doing this entirely online via the Digital Humanitarian Network and anyone can volunteer, no prior training or experience required. You can learn more about the efforts at MicroMappers.com.

When asked about their specific goals for crisis mapping amid the typhoon’s aftermath, he said, “Our goal is to rapidly map the needs and damage resulting from Typhoon Yolanda so that our UN colleagues can respond more quickly with their relief efforts.”

This is the good of social media, friends. We saw this with Hurricane Sandy, and in Chile, Japan, Iran and Haiti. People took to social media to mobilize, coordinate, raise support, communicate and raise awareness – and bottom-line, make a difference.

This is why we champion and focus so much on social media here at CMM and this is a great example that technology is not a waste of time. God has given us these amazing tools to communicate with others and who knows, maybe even save a life.

 

I’m always on the look out for quality events where I can grow and train my staff at the same time. I want to put this event on your radar: My friend Bob Franquiz is hosting The Pull Conference on September 18th at 1PM EST.

Bob’s new book Pull: Making Your Church Magnetic is releasing on September 15th and to celebrate the book’s release, Bob is hosting a free conference to help churches grow this Fall.

Check out who is speaking at the event…

This event is focusing on what you need to do to see explosive growth in your church this Fall.

Here are the topics they’ll be drilling down on at the conference:

#1 – Mobilizing your Congregation

#2 – Preaching with the Unchurched in Mind

#3 – Creating an Evangelistic Culture in your Church

#4 – Launching your Fall series like you’re Re-launching your church

#5 – Using Strategic Outreach to Reach Unchurched People

Plus, Bob is leading a Live pre-conference call where he’s going to be sharing our Fall launch strategy step-by-step.

The Pull Conference is happening on Wednesday, September 18th at 1PM EST.

The pre-conference event is happening on September 12th at 3PM EST.

I’ve had this event marked on my calendar for weeks. Be there!

*** Here’s the link to register: http://thepullconference.com

blank book cover

That’s right: 3 books! Busy, busy, busy!!!! I just signed my third book contract last week. So, I’ve got one book in the can and am just waiting for it to release (through Rainer Publishing). I’m in the editing process of the second book and working with my editing team and Project Manager to make corrections and edits (I hate footnotes, by the way). And my third book I haven’t even begun to write. I’ve simply wrote the Table of Contents for it. I’ve got until the end of this year to finish that. Whew! It will be so nice when these books and resources are complete and available to church leaders around the world.

Here’s a preview of what to expect:

Continue Reading…

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Yesterday, Rainer Publishing officially launched and went public. I’m thrilled about this great new resource for churches, pastors and Christians in general. I’m also pleased to announce that I’m under contract with them and will be releasing a brand new book on church leadership by the end of the year. To be notified of when my new book comes out on Amazon Kindle, go HERE and sign up. I’ll let you know when my new book comes out.

Also, like my brand new Facebook page for updates on all my writing and resources. Go HERE to check me out on Facebook. For now, check out Rainer’s other great resources!  You can follow Rainer Publishing on Twitter HERE.

*** BONUS: For a review of the new album by The Digital Age, go HERE to my worship pastor, Matt’s blog.