4 Things Every Pastor Must Do Every Day

I like structure. Lists and tables (think excel not dining room) are the best. One of my favorite structure hacks is what I call “quadrant brainstorming”. It’s a marriage of brainstorming and mind mapping but with rules and guidelines.

I begin by drawing a circle in the middle of the page and then drawing two perpendicular lines to divide the circle into four quadrants (I would say it looks like a cross-hair but that’s no longer a fashionable term, so think of it as a pie with four pieces). I then draw four more circles, each connected by a line to one of the original circle’s quadrants. I finish by dividing the four circles into four quadrants also. Now I’m ready.

I use this process to think about a project I need to complete, people I need to meet or manage, a resource I need to create or my roles and responsibilities for a given week. I also use this method every week as part of my sermon preparation process.

Whatever I am trying to bring into focus, I begin by identifying the four big pieces. In a sermon, it’s the four movements I hope to work through. It might be four people who are my direct reports. It might be the four thematic goals (WIGs if you’re a Covey devotee) of a project I’m working on. I’m not sure why I like four so much. I have no science or magic to suggest that it is the perfect number, but I like the cross in the middle of the circle and four seems to be useful and flexible number. It’s large enough to include everything without being so small that something gets missed.

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This Sunday, the four pieces of my sermon (I’m preaching on Nicodemus) are:

  1. The conversation behind the conversation
  2. The Kingdom of God
  3. New Birth
  4. Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus

On Good Friday, we create an event called The Via Dolorosa. It is a prayer walk through the Upper Room, the Garden, and then through multiple stations to the foot of the cross. You might think of it as an evangelical remix of the Stations of the Cross. I used my quadrants to create our big picture plan for the event. The four primary categories of planning are:

  1. Design
  2. Execution
  3. Volunteers
  4. Promotion

All that to say this. Yesterday, while I was working out, I was thinking about the role of a pastor. Perhaps this is a reflection of my own neurosis, but I’m constantly trying to sharpen my own understanding of what I do so that I can do it better. I want to narrow my focus so I can focus on what is most important and beneficial. By defining the four quadrants of my life as a pastor I can evaluate my plans by asking questions like, “Where does this activity fit? Am I being balanced? What am I neglecting?”Here’s the four things I think I ought to be dealing with every day:

  1. People — Equipping the people of God to do the work of God
  2. Programs — Repeating events (usually weekly) such as Worship Gathering, discipleship groups, etc.
  3. Projects — One time activities, events or initiatives which enhance our ability to equip people and improve programs
  4. Problems — They happen. The buck stops with me. I have to address them and find solutions

The great benefit I experience from quadrant brainstorming is an escape from chaos. By creating guardrails for my thinking process, I am forced to sometimes make decisions about what is most important and what is nice but expendable. Clarity is a powerful force when harnessed. When I find it lacking, I draw a circle and two lines.

 

I Put My Hands Up, They’re Playing My Song…

I came across this video the other day and loved every minute of it.

Andre Crouch was one of the first musicians I would have called my “favorite.” In fact, when I was in middle school, I played “My Tribute” on my trumpet in a talent competition called “Teens Involved.” It was one of those fundamentalist things. I actually made it to the national competition which was held in upstate New York.

Beyond that memory, I loved this video because it transported me back to the 80’s. It was fun to see many of the Christian Music stars who sang the only songs I was allowed to listen to (we didn’t do secular music back then). This felt a little like the evangelical version of “We Are The World.” The outfits and hairstyles made me feel young again, and honestly, I’d wear that stuff again.

Choirs are a sink or swim proposition. Either they are very good or they are very bad. For a few years in the mid-90’s, I was a choir director. I was the only associate in a smaller rural church. The church owned choir robes so it made sense that we should have a choir. Since I had played the trumpet in high school, I was chosen to lead the choir. I’m sure my inability and inexperience were frustrating to the 15-20 church members who made up our choir, but those people sang with all their hearts. Unfortunately, their talent didn’t make up for my lack thereof. Our choir was not good.

But the choir in this video? They are very good! I couldn’t help but think this was a little slice of heaven as people of every tribe and every nation gathered to sing the praise of the lamb. Like the creation in Genesis 1 and the New Creation in Revelation 21, it’s very good.

Then I had one more observation. And this is the real reason I’m writing this… NO ONE IS RAISING THEIR HANDS IN WORSHIP!

These days, the true worshippers worship God in spirit and in tomahawk chop (I jest). We have a tendency to evaluate the depth of people’s worship based on how high and how many hands they are raising. Like the Pharisees before us, we are judging the internal (a man’s heart) by the external (what we can see). I wonder if God would say the same thing to us as He did to Samuel, “Man looks on the outward appearance but God looks on the heart.”

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Just four decades ago, the greatest “worship choir” in the world was assembled and they sang a glorious rendition of “To God Be The Glory.” No one would have looked at them and said, “They aren’t raising their hands, they must not love worship.” If the hands up standard didn’t apply then, maybe it shouldn’t apply now.Somehow, in my lifetime, the standard operating procedure at every 80’s rock concert has become the standard operating procedure during most church worship services.

I’m not down on raising your hands during worship. If you want to do that, cool. It’s okay to worship with your hands held high. It’s okay to worship with your hands down, crossed, in your pockets, etc. It’s okay to worship with your eyes open or closed. It’s okay to worship by singing or by listening. It’s okay to worship while standing or sitting.

It’s not okay to judge your fellow worshipper because they don’t worship like you.