Wednesday, December 21, 2011


I recently received a note from a family going through a very challenging time.  They are very committed Christians struggling through a difficult and confusing season.  In the course of seeking some counsel from me, they wrote:

" (name omitted) met with our pastor somewhat recently, sharing his being overwhelmed and the pastor didn't offer to even pray for him. Our pastor himself is discouraged some (or at least was at the time) and struggles with being overwhelmed."

My heart broke.  It broke for this couple who are seeking guidance and wisdom.  My heart also broke for the pastor, who is like the lifeguard in the waves who is unable to save a struggling victim because he is on the verge of drowning, himself.

Someone who has responsibility for others must first take responsibility for themselves.  We live near the ocean where lifeguards face tremendous challenges.  They must understand the purpose of their role and the responsibility it carries with it.  They swim in the waves . . . train in the rip tide . . . maintain their fitness . . . and stay in shape so they can help those who are unable to win the battle against the waves and pull of the ocean.  They realize that if they do not stay strong, the same waves that threaten the lives of those they are called to protect can take them out also.

The condition of the pastor will directly affect the condition of the church.  Matthew 10:24  When pastors are in trouble or struggling, it can be expected the church will also.  When pastors lose focus and become overwhelmed, the church will also.  Pastor, look at your church . . . you might be surprised at how much it reflects the true condition of your life or heart.

My heart has broken over the condition of the church in America for many years.  God has convinced me that my heart must break for the pastors, because the church will not be rescued if the lifeguards are in such bad shape that they risk losing their own lives in their attempt to rescue others.

If you are burdened to help pastors be refreshed, renewed and refocused you may want to "like" this page and partner with ReFocused Ministry. 

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Suffering Servants of God

What kind of personal pain would cause a 42-year-old pastor to abandon his family, his calling and even life itself? Members of a Baptist church in Hickory, N.C., are asking that question after their pastor committed suicide in his parked car in September.

Those who counsel pastors say Christian culture, especially Southern evangelicalism, creates the perfect environment for depression.

Pastors suffer in silence, unwilling or unable to seek help or even talk about it. Sometimes they leave the ministry. Occasionally the result is the unthinkable.

Experts say clergy suicide is a rare outcome to a common problem. But Baptists in the Carolinas are soul searching after a spate of suicides and suicide attempts by pastors. In addition to the September suicide of David Treadway, two others in North Carolina attempted suicide, and three in South Carolina succeeded, all in the last four years.

Being a pastor — a high-profile, high-stress job with nearly impossible expectations for success — can send one down the road to depression, according to pastoral counselors.

“We set the bar so high that most pastors can’t achieve that,” said H.B. London, vice president for pastoral ministries at Focus on the Family, based in Colorado Springs, Colo. “And because most pastors are people-pleasers, they get frustrated and feel they can’t live up to that.”
From an article published by Pastoral Ministry and Bi-vocational Office, a group concerned about pastors in the South Carolina Baptist Convention.  

 ReFocused Ministry is called to serve God's servants so they can complete the call of God on their lives.  We are making a difference in the lives of God's leaders so they can make a difference in the world.  If God tugs your heart and calls you to partner with us contact us at:

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Pastors Face Perils in American Churches

I have been increasingly challenged by the condition of the church in America and American Christianity in general.  Recently I have been exposed to some statistics that either are the result of that condition or the cause of it . . . or maybe a combination of both cause and effect.  (There may be some physicist out there challenging that possibility, but bear with me.)   What I want to do in this blog is expose you to what I am discovering about the condition of pastors, both through statistical data and through personal experience.
Here is some statistical stuff  (gathered from such organizations as Barna , Maranatha Life  and Focus on the Family )

·      1500 pastors leave their ministries each month due to burnout, conflict, or moral failure.
·      33% felt burned out within their first five years of ministry.
·      23% have been fired or pressured to resign at least once in their careers.
·      57% would leave the pastorate if they had somewhere else to go or some other vocation they could do.
·      45% of pastors say that they've experienced depression or burnout to the extent that they needed to take a leave of absence from ministry. 

·      90% feel unqualified or poorly prepared for ministry.
·      90% work more than 50 hours a week.
·      94% feel under pressure to have a perfect family.
·      50% feel unable to meet the needs of the job.
·      40% report a serious conflict with a parishioner at least once a month.
·      40% of pastors say they have considered leaving their pastorates in the last three months.
·      70% do not have someone they consider a close friend.
·      90% feel they're inadequately trained to cope with ministry demands. 
Here is what is being reported:
According to the New York Times (August 1, 2010), "Members of the clergy now suffer from obesity, hypertension and depression at rates higher than most Americans. In the last decade, their use of antidepressants has risen, while their life expectancy has fallen." 
Here is what a friend recently wrote to me:
"After the pulpit committee told us they felt there needed to be a new face in the pulpit, we realized we were done ministering. We decided the best we could do is leave blameless before God, that is what we did. Many were upset that we left and nearly all the church does not speak to us."

No one ever said the ministry would be easy, but the cause for these statistics is not cultural persecution or the rejection of the Gospel, it is a result of the institutionalization of the church, the franchising of Christianity (churchianity) and the professionalization of ministry (seeking a career rather than answering a call).
It's great that we send our pastors cards in October to show our appreciation, but how about praying for your pastor on a daily basis . . . or something even more radical . . . consider coming alongside him and ask him how you can help reach your community for Christ.  It may be as simple as cleaning the building, serving in the nursery, inviting your neighbor or letting him know you have his back.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011


Sometimes it feels as though the Lord has given me His undivided attention.  Everywhere I turn I see a message from God or a confirmation of His direction.  This has been happening to Joan and me from the very day that we realized God was changing our future by changing where we did ministry.

At the end of November, "The Word for You Today", (a daily devotional) began a series of topics on how to respond when being unemployed and how to have faith when your work environment changed.  It was like God was writing just to us!  How many people can this topic relate to?

Then a friend directed us to a place that ministers to pastors who are burned out or between ministries.  Technically, the place hasn't officially opened yet.  We spent four days hearing from the Lord in almost spooky ways.  BTW . . . This is an awesome ministry being run by a great pastoral couple.

On December 1, the devotional directed us to Joshua 1:1-6 with the reminder that we can rely on God's direction even when it seems that other things have to happen first.  Other messages have continued to direct us as we are directed to Ecclesiastes 11:4 (conditions will never be perfect), Hebrews 11:1 (faith just flat out knows and continues on), Hebrews 11:27 (provisions come as we move forward . . . stop waiting for them and keep moving) and now today we looked at James 2:17 (if you have faith then why aren't you doing what you believe).

As I spoke with friends when it became evident that God was doing something different in my life I can remember saying, "I have email, Facebook, text messaging and a host of ways for the Lord to communicate to me.  Why doesn't He use them?"  I now realize that God is speaking through His Word, friends, circumstances and His presence in my heart.  I also realized that there might be someone who reads my blog that is looking for God's leading also.  You may need the same confirmation that God doesn't hide His will from His children. He is speaking all the time . . . we just need to be willing to listen and obey.

I just read this from a friends blog today:  "When God gives you a word it's going to take your faith to move in it. Your faith is a muscle that God wants to work that will bring him pleasure. He has pleasure in stretching your faith. Ask Abraham when God told him to move to a place not knowing where he was going. God had a promise for him but it was only manifested by his obedience in what God said. You will never be able to enter in a new season in your life without a challenge from God."

Consider Psalm 46:10.  Know that God knows.  Know that God cares.  Know that God loves you.  Know that God is in control and you can move forward with confidence as you obey and do what you now know.  Strong faith is developed as we exercise faith in what we now know in our daily lives.  What are you going to do today that requires faith?

Wednesday, November 30, 2011


Joan and I are beginning a new chapter in our lives.  We have sensed God's release from Barefoot Church and are awaiting a new assignment.  Just to end all opportunity for gossip and attack, I have the highest respect and love for Barefoot Church and Pastor Clay Nesmith.  It is a place where I healed and grew over the past five years.  It is also a place where God used me to accomplish significant ministry in people's lives and for the body at Barefoot. It was a very good chapter.

I have been aware of he God's nudging for some time.  A love for ministry in general, a great love for Clay and Kim Nesmith, being involved in a growing and edgy ministry and the comfort of the known made the decision very difficult, but God began to apply more and more situational evidence of His leading. 

What does this new chapter mean?  I am not fully sure.  This is day one of putting one foot in front of the other to see where God is leading.  Joan and I are spending the next couple days at The Healing Place, a pastoral retreat in High Point, North Carolina.  We are attempting to listen to God.  I am sensing that God is going to move me into an area of my strength for this final sprint to the finish line. I am excited and ready to be plugged into a team of men where my positional strength on the team will advance the gospel, invade the gates of hell and change the culture from darkness to light.

What I know is:
1.  God has something significant in mind.  1 Timothy 1:6-11
2.  We are already seeing God reveal His direction through people, situations and His word.
3.  This blog will become an big part of my ministry.  God has given us so many friends all over the world and has encouraged me to be an encouragement through this technology.
4.  Colossians 4:3 is still our guiding ministry verse and I appreciate those who have prayed for us over the years.
5. Joan and I are very blessed and God has shown us His faithfulness through 36 years of marriage and ministry.

I invite you to partner with us in ministry through your prayers, insights and friendship.  Some of you have been with us since the beginning and I can say with Paul, the apostle,  thank you.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

David Wilkerson Moves On

Yesterday David Wilkerson, founder of the Times Square Church and author of The Cross and the Switchblade, died in a car accident in Texas. On the day before his death he wrote these words:

"To those going through the valley and shadow of death, hear this word: Weeping will last through some dark, awful nights—and in that darkness you will soon hear the Father whisper, 'I am with you. I cannot tell you why right now, but one day it will all make sense. You will see it was all part of my plan. It was no accident. It was no failure on your part. Hold fast. Let me embrace you in your hour of pain.'”

He died in a car accident that he himself would say, in his blog, was no accident. Death has no sting and the grave no victory to those who live in Christ. Check this out.

What will your view of God, eternity, existence on earth and our hope in Christ be on the day before you die?

Just thinking

Monday, April 18, 2011

Promote...Reflect...Self Control...Sound Faith...Honor God

Here are some very quick thoughts on Titus 2:1-3. Been meditating on these verses. They are the most recent I have memorized. Nothing profound just some thoughts:

Titus 2:1 a) “Promote the kind of living” . . . we are to be concerned about lifestyle . . . b) “that reflects wholesome teaching” . . . our lifestyle has a source . . . it is the reflection of our worldview, attitude, thinking and belief system . . . modeling the world's lifestyle doesn't make much sense, if you are a Christian.

2:2 a) Exercising self-control takes effort and discipline . . . b) respect is something you earn and become “worthy of” . . . c) When we possess “sound faith” we are controlled by (filled with) love and patience.

Question: Does my love and patience reflect the soundness of my faith? Just sayin’

2:3 a) Women can live in a way that honors God or dishonors him . . . putting down others or drinks is not very lady-like . . . be a good influence.


Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Encourage and Exhort

Titus 1:9 reminds us that we have a duel responsibility as leaders. We are to encourage Christians and to exhort (encourage, urge, nudge) or "show those who oppose God's message where they are wrong.

We are not called to oppose those who oppose God's message, but rather to show them where they are wrong. There seems to be a persistent "we and them" problem in the church. We label people, pick teams and battle for social and cultural yardage on a temporal playing field. We fight battles of our own making and alienate those who oppose God's teaching rather than attempting to correct them and show them where they are wrong.

I wonder if the first part of this verse is the reason we tend to huddle up and build walls around our "Christian culture" rather than participating in a lifestyle of encouragement and exhortation or helping people find the Way. The first part of the verse says a leader "must have a strong belief in the trustworthy message he was taught" . . . then he will be able to encourage others and show those who oppose it where they are wrong.

Once we get our head around the implications of God's message to us, maybe we will be able to live with godly confidence and minister with bold compassion. Our mission is not to defend the faith but to proclaim it.

Just Thinkin'

Thursday, March 17, 2011


Self-indulged leaders are not hard to find. This is the opposite of servant leadership and is an embarrassment to the Christian faith. Christ, who was certainly equal with God, humbled Himself to exemplify servant leadership.

Paul writes to Titus in Titus 1:7 and reminds him that when he is appointing leaders in the church he needs to look for men who are not arrogant, self-willed or presumptuous. He should not recruit men who are hot tempered, given to drink, brawlers or greedy.

Most of these behaviors are by-products of this first quality of being "self-indulged. authádēs (an adjective, derived from autós, "self" and hēdomai, "to gratify self, be indulgent") – properly, a person who gratifies self, i.e. fixed in self-pleasure (engrossed in self-interest). I like to think of it as a person who is "automatically hedonistic" in their outlook and behavior.

At least two lessons here. First, God doesn't want us to appoint just anyone to leadership. Secondly, if things aren't going so well as a leader, maybe we ought to check and see if we have crossed one of these leadership lines and guardrails.

Just Thinkin'

Tuesday, March 15, 2011


Titus 1:6 says that church leaders should be blameless. There are other lifestyle issues mentioned in the verses that follow, but this word really challenges me. I don't know about you, but I sometimes mess up . . . I can rightfully be blamed for failing to call someone or loosing my temper or letting my foot get too heavy on the gas pedal.

This is the same word that is used in 1 Corinthians 1:8 and Colossians 1:22 in the context of how we will be when the Lord returns and how we are positionally before Him now. It even uses the word "holy" in the context of blameless. Can anyone qualify to be a Christian leader?

The word has to do with being accused or called into account. It would be used of one who is attempting to deny messing up. This attribute describes someone who is quick to own up to mistakes and has nothing hidden that he can be accused of. Someone who strives to be innocent of wrong doing or inappropriate behavior.

I might reword it to say, "A Christian leader should have transparent integrity and be exhibiting a lifestyle that is being transformed toward his positional standing before God." Christian leaders aren't perfect . . . they know it . . . and, by God's grace, they are disciplining themselves to be above reproach.

Just Thinkin'

Monday, March 14, 2011

Vision Drift

As Paul begins to get to the reason for his letter to Titus he starts with a reminder to Titus concerning his purpose for being on the island. The work on the island wasn't complete.

This reminds me that it is easy to forget the purpose for our work. Acts 1:8 and Matthew 28:18-20 remind us that God has a purpose for us. He left us on the planet so we could complete the work here.

We can do a lot of good things and have our doctrinal ducks in a line, but if we drift from the vision of announcing the Gospel and seeking the lost we are doomed to meaningless religious activity. Revelation 2:1-7 is a warning to a church that needed to "Turn back to me and do the works you did at first."

As a church planter I know that the "first work" for a church is to gather the saints to reach the lost. Build a team of fisherman who are totally focused on taking the Gospel to everyone. That first work must continue to be the chief work and the purpose for every other work.

God didn't leave you on an island, but He did leave you on the planet with a mission and purpose. Are you engaged in it or have you drifted and become preoccupied with the things of this world?

Just Thinkin'

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Grace and Peace

Titus 1:4 speaks of the unique kinship of believers who share a common faith and the resulting new life it brings. This is more than just a leader instructing a co-worker, this is a family member working with another family member striving to serve the Father.

However, the words that jump off the page to me are "grace and peace." These are commonly paired together and grace always precedes peace. Many say grace is unmerited favor from God, but I see grace revealed in a much more dynamic way in the New Testament. Grace is often equal to God's power or working that enables us to live out what He has called to engage.

For instance look at 2 Corinthians 12:8-10 where God defines His sufficient grace as His power in our weakness. Or consider 1 Corinthians 15:10 where Paul admits that what you see in his life is God's grace working through him. Ephesians 2:8 reminds us that it is God's work, power and favor that saves us when we believe.

I am reminded that when I acknowledge and trust God's grace I can then experience His peace. This is where this verse took me. What about you?

Just Thinkin'

Monday, March 7, 2011

God's Timing . . . My responsibility

Titus 1:3 is full of stuff, just like each verse. The first thing that jumped out at me was . . . "And now at just the right time he has revealed this message . . ." God's timing is always right!
Romans 5:6 says, "When we were utterly helpless, Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners." NLT

1 Peter 1:10-12 says that the prophets were confused about the "when" of God's promises, but when the time was right, God did what He promised. I need to trust in the "just-the-right-time" attribute of God and stop being anxious. Philippians 4:6-9

The second thing I see is my responsibility to focus on my part of the work . . . which is to "announce (this message) to everyone. It is by the command of God our Savior that I have been entrusted with this work for him." God has revealed the Gospel and I am entrusted to announce it to everyone.

What "jumped out at you" in this verse? Ready to meditate on Titus 1:4-6 this week.

Just Thinkin'

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Living Confidently

Moving on to Titus 1:2 . . . Still talking about this Truth that shows us how to live godly lives . . . now it says,

"This truth gives them confidence that they have eternal life, which God—who does not lie—promised them before the world began."

Learning the Truth . . . recognizing it as God's Truth . . . getting acquainted with it by living it and walking in it will give us confidence . . . expectation . . . boldness as we rest in the reality that we have eternal life. This same word is translated "expect" in 1 Corinthians 9:10.

Confident, growing Christian living comes from engaging in and living by biblical Truth. (Not just knowing it.) We have been sent to proclaim the life-giving, life-changing Gospel and to teach people to engage in biblical Truth. This will result in confident Christian living like Peter and John exhibited in Acts 4:13.

Well, I have Titus 1:1 & 2 memorized . . . how about you? What has God shown you as you meditate on these verses?

Monday, February 28, 2011

Teach them to KNOW the Truth?

A couple friends have taken on a challenge of memorizing the book of Titus. This is a great leadership book and well worth the effort to memorize it. Their challenge took me back to a time when I memorized the book of James. The process opened the book to me in way that nothing else can. I have decided to memorize Titus, also.

I am not sure how many people still follow this blog . . . especially since my last post was in August . . . but I have decided to journal a few thoughts and discoveries that I make as I put this book to memory.

I only made it part way through the first verse before I came across an interesting phrase . . . I am using the NLT, but am also visiting the Greek, amplified and others. The end of verse 1 says . . . I have been sent to proclaim faith to those God has chosen and to teach them to know the truth that shows them how to live godly lives. (NLT) . . . or . . . to stimulate and promote the faith of God's chosen ones and to lead them on to accurate discernment and recognition of and acquaintance with the Truth which belongs to and harmonizes with and tends to godliness, (Amplified)

It's more than just teaching . . . it is teaching with a goal of having people really "get it" to such a degree that it shows up in their lifestyle. That's a challenge that will take God-size creativity, commitment and confidence. What have you been sent to do? It's probably bigger than you think.

Want to memorize Titus with me? Three verses a week for 15 weeks. It's going to be great!