A New Ministry Model

ministry modelWhether or not I have consciously realized it, I have been on a quest for over a decade to discover the perfect ministry model. In pastoral circles, we use the phrase “ministry model” to categorize a system of programs and ideas that lead the pastor on a trajectory of success in their respective calling.

In ministry, according to what most instructors, consultants, books and mentors tell us is that success in the role of a pastor has more to do with people accumulated under our scope of ministry than anything else. The bigger the church or program grows (in the shortest time possible), the more successful the ministry. In recent years, I have challenged leaders to redefine success as “a consistent and unwavering focus on God’s mission in the world.” So, in essence, I guess you could say that I am challenging our definition of success.

I know what you are thinking. I am a heretic when it comes to ministry preparation. I hear the justification all the time that the interaction of the Holy Spirit in the life of ministry automatically means exponential growth. “Biblically, anything that the Holy Spirit has [his] hand in grows quickly…” is a phrase or inference that is often conveyed. This, however, is actually not always true. When this justification is brought up, the mental image of the massive growth of the New Testament Pentecost event is visualized. The spiritual domino effect of this was mind boggling. In many people’s minds, when the Holy Spirit is unleashed and active, this is what happens. Things go crazy and, as scripture says “people are added to the group daily”. There is not much wrong with this thought process, but it doesn’t give a full look at a larger story. The fact is, when we truly look at scripture as a unified story, we realize that the Holy Spirit has initiated growth on many different levels and in many different ways. At times, we see the Holy Spirit’s transformative power in one on one interactions. Other times, we see power unleashed through the healing of a man or woman. In even more rare occasions, we see massive groups converted in bulk. Whatever the case may be, there is great evidence to suggest that God’s awesome power is not limited by our metrics, and He is creative. Keep in mind, Jesus’ ministry was not one based on rapid expansion but consistent commitment to His purpose on earth.

My heart has been heavy for a long time concerning ministry preparation. I feel like we, as a Christian culture, have adopted a “Henry Ford” model of education and training (assembly line). It seems as if pastors have stepped into a process in which they are given a “cookie cutter” system of practices and expectations to help them be successful in the task of attracting large crowds. In the same way, whether it is purposeful or not, we are being told that there are only certain personality mixes that are eligible for pastoral ministry. I will write about this concept in my next blog post.

I think we need to rethink the way we do ministry. Passing clergy through an assembly line of preparation is simply not Biblical. I also think we need to consider a new model of ministry. There are 3 things I think we need to emphasize in this new thrust (which is not new at all):

  1. Shepherd shaped development– Too often, we are calling a new minister to seek to be someone God has never called to them be. We think that, in the best case scenario, and if everything goes well, this pastor will become the local community celebrity and gain a massive following (as long as God “blesses” them). Instead, when a leader does not reach that expectation, they become frustrated and even question their ministerial call. What if we put more effort to teach new pastors to become a shepherd? The position of shepherd implies not only a mentality of guiding, but also sending. A shepherd will send the herd forward, and when they need it, come alongside and direct. When a pastor is shepherd, they dedicate themselves to a community, and they spend energy in making sure that each person is cared for, and loved. They develop trust and deeper concern. It is hard and messy. It is not easy. It will frustrate the leader. It is immensely worth the time.

  1. Pastor as Healer – Sometimes, as Christians, we get a wrong impression about the word “healing”. Perhaps we cringe or our mind drifts to televangelists who misunderstood the gifts of the Spirit. In this context, the word healer and soother could be interchangeable. The idea is that a leader can and should seek to be an influence that provides care, infuses peace, and speaks life into everyone they encounter. Also, the minister should develop a desire to see that other leaders are brought through rejuvenation.

  1. Minister as a trainer/ mentor – There is nothing more satisfying than to experience someone, that you have poured time and energy into, grow and take ownership of their own area of ministry. This person may have started out as skeptical about the Gospel, but now they are leading others to Jesus! This is energizing! Pastors across the board should be doing this. I know that many leaders would say that their role is to pour into a smaller group so that this small group can pour into the masses. This is absolutely true. This would be a great example of what this concept looks like in a larger ministry setting.

Let me be clear. I have nothing against the larger worship communities and I think that they can be incredible assets to the Kingdom of God. My problem is that we often expect every leader to look the same and we base success off of statistics and sometimes arbitrary metrics. I understand that many are only trying to harness these principles for efficiency…and many are doing this….but let’s not take these ideas and consider every other ministry arbitrary if they are not “falling in line”. Some leaders are gifted and called to lead smaller communities, and they should be encouraged, and equipped to develop passionate disciples in that context.

In my next blog post, I will speak about the personalities that make up a church and the internal wiring of a pastor. I think we are being told, as implied before, that only a certain type of person is a valid candidate for ministry. Spoiler alert: scripture counteracts this idea.

Love you all,

-Landon DeCrastos

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The Problem With Obedience

obedienceThe struggle is real. A 4 year old boy in a department store. If you are a parent today, and have raised a son to this level of maturity you could write the story yourself. The fact is, there are times in life in which a normal human being must go to a store of their choice and buy things such as clothes for oneself or gift items for another. This is a pretty mundane occurence.

The difficulty comes when this individual, and their significant other have created another human being in the relatively recent past and this miniture human seems to think this store is a neutral zone in which the house rules no longer apply. The end result is discipline…justice.

It can be frustrating when interacting with a child and trying to embed in their heart and mind the concept of obedience. Our son in a runner. When he is placed in a situation in which him and his sister out number the adult supervision, he makes it a point to make whatever adult is in attendance work for their accolades. At the end of the experience we find a parent who just can’t seem to keep their sanity. When in a store with a short amount of time to finish errands, my son will make the decision to play tag at the most inconvenient times. This causes an obvious safety problem. Deep within us is the fear that someone will snatch him up when he is out of view. This concept has been conveyed to him regularly, and it will stick for a period of time.

The Israelites in the Old Testament behaved in the same way. God sent prophet after prophet to keep them pointed in the right direction. He gave them moral and social law, not to burden them, but to make their lives run more efficiently. He gave them spirit filled leaders, who were not perfect, but were put into place to lead by example. God’s people would obey and live in holy abundance, but when things became more difficult, they would fall away into a more convenient pattern of life. The creator of the universe desired to show His children love through provision, miracles, and mercy. These people had such trouble staying in an attitude of obedience.

There is a problem with obedience. It is unnatural. In the depths of who we are, we have a constant impulse to follow our own way. There is something temporarily satisfying about creating our own solutions to the problems and hardships of life. It feels good to be in control…especially when things go somewhat well. Obedience takes us out of our element and puts our future in God’s hands. It makes us admit that our abilities do not measure up. The Israelites found out time after time that God’s way is right, and the guidance He gave was not oppressive but meant to make their life run in the way in which it was created. Why, then, do we reject God’s way time after time? I think, because, we have to admit our own weakness.

How many times have you reflected on your life and realized it didn’t go as planned? Of these instances, how many times did you realized you followed what felt right instead of what was right? The enemy of our souls wants us to follow our impulses. When we give our heart and life to God, our impulses become missional and our desires become His.

Don’t reject obedience. Pray for His wisdom.

-Landon DeCrastos

The Problem With Waiting

waitMy fingers tap to the beat of a popular pop melody being played on the radio. The soft, rhythmic finger drumming is a socially exceptable form of what I wish to do, and that is stand up and shout the words at the top of my lungs. This is not because I want everyone to hear my beautiful singing voice, but so I can finally vanquish this parasitic tune from my brain. Tapping will have to do, and I notice that the chair I am sitting at in the doctor’s waiting room has distinct pitches and allow the full band in my mind to play on until the end. I hate waiting. I think that this feeling is universal.

Waiting is something that is fairly easy at first. In the depths of each of our own souls, each one of us has set a certain limit to how much waiting is acceptable depending on the circumstance. We wouldn’t expect the closing of a newly bought home to take only 5 minutes after the offer is placed, but if we are 7 minutes delayed in the expected enjoyment of a fast food cheeseburger then we must notify management of our dreadful plight.

Let’s look at the first disciples. It would have seemed as if they invented the idea of waiting. First, Jesus died. Then, they had to wait 3 days to see Him again in full glory. What happens next is both amazing and oddly frustrating. Christ spends time with His followers; then leaves again! Before He leaves, He tells the disciples and a smattering of other believers to sit, wait, and pray until He sends “round 2” of His wonderful work. These faithful few were instructed to pray. No short hail Marys or a wimpy “bless this food” type of prayer…but a converstation with God born out of desperation and spiritual hunger, with, by the way, no answer coming any time soon. So, they waited.

In the midst of the long wait, the Holy Spirit came and made all the waiting worth while. Victory was theirs, and they saw amazing fruit from their faithfulness. Then, the honeymoon phase was over. The Holy Spirit still gave the followers amazing testimonies and abilities, but Jesus also indicated that the best was even YET to come. He was talking about the end of days. The BIG finale. The final end to all of this…junk.

Well folks…we are it. Fast forward. We are the disciples that are now called to wait. He has not given us a time, day, or even specific decade, but Jesus has given us His spirit. That’s great, and I am happy but…why, then, do I feel so guilty about being impatient about this? Or, why do I sometimes secretly hope it doesn’t happen soon? I may be anxious or I may have more sinning to do. The problem with waiting is it causes us to feel the need to keep ourselves busy. Also, the times in which we are tapping our toe force us into times of introspection and honesty. We want to fix everything ourselves and earn our Heavenly reward by our own merit, but Jesus has called us to something a little more uncomfortable…waiting…and deeper so…staying faithful.

Jesus is coming back. We must embrace the idea that this time of waiting could be an excellent time for us to make the world around us a better place. On top of that, there are people we could impact for His kingdom. Don’t give up just because impatience is a reality.

Stop tapping your toe. Get up and go! Be the hands and feet of Jesus before it is too late.

-Landon DeCrastos

Silent God: Please Lord, SPEAK! | In Other Words

SILENTOn this blog, I have filled many pages with stories and illustrations involving the relationship I have with my son. I think it is easy to see, through my writings, that he and I have a special bond (as one could imagine between a father and son). He lights up my life and gives me mountains of material for writing. Today, however I want to mention my daughter. She is my princess and we also have a special bond that is different from the one I have with my son (not better or worse…just different).

In my house the men adore the ladies. Mommy and sister are approached with a special gentleness (most of the time) and protection. When my daughter Lynae wakes up from her naps or from her beauty sleep, my son and I have a silly routine…We go, together, into her room and sing a short song to her while dancing. We have so much fun doing it. Not only is it fun, but she also wakes up smiling and lays still in her bed until the performance is over…knowing full well that she is adored. Not only is this silly, but it is deeply personal for us, because in my house the ladies are adored…

After our musical number, my son usually shuffles out of the room to go play or resume what he was previously doing. This is my cue to get her out of bed and change her into her clothes for the day. Sometimes, I stall a little bit and lie in bed next to her. A few days ago, we had a moment that I will never forget. As we were still and silent next to each other, she just stared into my eyes. Time went slowly and neither one of us felt the need to say anything (she is limited on her linguistic skills anyway). After a moment of stillness she reached up and grabbed my face. I was practically hypnotized. I felt bad for breaking the silence, but all I could say was, “I love you baby.” She smiled, leaned in for a quick kiss and her first words of the day came springing forth. “Daddy…cereal.” So, that ended a deeply meaningful moment with the woman I love the second-most in my life. It ended with a request.

As I thought about this moment, my mind went off into a tangent. I thought about the emails, texts, inbox messages and one-on-one conversations I have had with so many people recently regarding their relationship with God. There is a common theme among many right now. It is this issue of silence. When I hurt. When I fear. When I am running out of time…Why does God seem silent?

There are many answers to this question, and even more unknown possibilities. Today, I think, instead of fully answering this (which could be impossible), I want to offer up some ideas in the form of reflective questions. Here are 7.

1. Could God be waiting for you to act on what He told you most recently?– Have you obeyed His most recent instructions yet? Sometimes we yell out requests to God but do not act when He calls us to join Him in His mission. It is completely possible that you have not done what He has asked of you since the last time you spoke.

2. Have you recently prayed for a closer relationship with Him?– Odds are you have prayed this recently, because you know that getting closer to God brings blessing and abundance. Like in the illustration above, sometimes a closer relationship means silently being in each other’s presence. Just like two dating teens saying absolutely nothing on the phone, it is possible that simply being together is what is required right now. Don’t take this time for granted.

3. How much time are you spending in prayer and scripture?– It may be important to note that God has many things to say to you, and the answer to your specific prayer is somewhere on the list. He could be speaking to you, but not necessarily about what you are asking Him about this moment. Open yourself up to be spoken to by God…On His terms; not yours.

4. Have you recently prayed for peace in the midst of the storm?– Of course you have, and this is a common thing to pray. How many times, though, do you picture the concept of peace being accompanied by hyperactivity and fanfare? Never, right? In other words, if you want peace then you must accept that peace often means that we must slow down, be silent, take a breath, and trust God’s promises. He may be waiting for us to choose peace before proceeding.

5. Did He already say no?– This question hurts to even think about. How many times, as a parent, do you have to repeat yourself with your children? Tons. In my experience, God operates a little differently. Even though we do not like to hear it, “no” is a valid answer from God. He may have simply said no…and it could be time to move forward.

6. What have you done in faith?– Often, I am guilty of simply providing God with my list of wants or needs during my prayer times. To an extent that is okay, but how many times do I take moments to intercede for others or even get out and take risky steps of faith for the kingdom? Not doing so won’t silence God, but it makes you wonder what the implications of our relationship with Him is if we always talk and don’t act. Take a big fat step of faith today. Serve someone, and you will find that God’s voice will become louder.

7. Are you clinging to sin?– As harsh as this sounds; it is a valid question. It is not the case for everyone, but some. With this being said, it doesn’t mean that God is not speaking, but rather that our distractions are too loud. If we invite Him in to cleanse us then we will hear, see, and experience more than ever before.

Overall, silence from God is not a bad thing. Just like there are natural pauses in beautiful music; our relationship with God can go through times of growth and times of hyperactivity. Let go of your fear, and during the times of silence; soak in His goodness. These are just some of the questions that come to mind…and obviously there could be many more reasons.

He loves you. Don’t ever forget that.

-Landon DeCrastos

The Church I Want to Lead | In Other Words

church doorI am a young pastor. I have limited experience on many levels, and because of that I know that there are not many who would give much weight to my words. Years ago, as a student, I could have told you what type of church I wanted to work in, and the type of people I wanted to minister to. I wanted to be a part of a church that had some history; that had thriving ministries, and had enough money in the bank to cushion any hardships that may come their way. I wanted plenty of people to pick from when it came to having a need for volunteers and I wanted a church that was progressive and valued new ideas. I had so many ideas (if money was no object and people were abundant of course). Back then, my idea of success revolved around shrinking seating space, and expanding offerings. In fact, if everything worked out well, then I may get into a church that had excellent music, incredible preaching, and a flexible congregation that really wanted to try new things.

Over a period of time, as I grew in confidence and knowledge, I began to have complaints. My first church was somewhat small, and didn’t really have much of a budget for the youth program I was leading so I often sat in my office and felt sorry for myself and blamed everything else for why my ministry wasn’t growing. I began to become jaded about the church for various reasons (they still sing from hymnals, they sat in pews, they needed new carpet, they didn’t have a very nice website). Surely all of these things PROVED they didn’t want to grow. If they valued ministy, then they would pay me more so I could do more things. I would sit around, in a mental autopilot, waiting for things to change so that “real ministry” could begin.

After being a youth pastor for a while and seeking more education, I started to realize the horrible faulty thinking I had come to believe. I realized I was the problem…not the old furniture or traditional music. It was ME. My heart and mind needed to conform to God’s.

Then, God called me to start a new church. At first, my thoughts revolved around ways this new congregation could be cutting edge, different, and set apart from any other church in town. If it was different and exciting, then people would come to my church instead of any other. If you know me now, you may be surprised that this was my thought process, because over the last 5 years God has completely transformed my heart and now I desire to lead a church much different than the one I used to crave. I have a new desire.

Now… I want to lead a church who:

…cares more about the broken than looking all put together.

…welcomes the single parent, widow, and widow and desires to be a source of encouragement for them

…prays for those who do not look, smell, or sound like them and embraces them with compassion

…will give up their comfort and be sacrificial for the advancement of the kingdom

…will put God’s word into action

…will do things that are bad for business but great for relaying the gospel

…will welcome the abused, rejected, oppressed, and hated

…will hate sin so much that they are willing to be grace agents

…will seek what sacrifice truly means

…will welcome the sinner no matter what their sin, and treat them with respect and dignity

…will follow God into the darkness; ready to be the light

…will do everything they can to see other churches grow

…will accept the fact that the Church must be real and transparent

…will not be a different person in the seats than at home

…want passionate worship instead of manufactured praise

…want to serve more than want to be served

…understand that “being fed” means feeding too

…want imperfection in-process instead of processed perfection

…desire God’s will to be done no matter church size, money in the bank, or political climate

…look at the world around them with love instead of bitterness

THAT is the church I want to lead.

I’m sure glad I do 🙂

-Landon DeCrastos

5 Things That May Be Destroying Your Church

steepleI can give you names of people who silently suffer because of what is happening in their church. These people are pastors, leaders, and regular attenders. They feel like the walls are crumbling around them, and that many are abandoning the mission of what God has collectively called their congregation to accomplish. For some, these things aren’t a big deal. Some worship at a local congregation, and never really see the decline. They may be people who simply go to church because their spouses make them, or they consider it a sporadic hobby that keeps their parents happy. The truth is God wants your church to flourish, and to come back to your “first love” as described in the book of Revelation.

We are all humans. We all have similar experiences and hurts. With this being said I think, if we were to be brutally honest with ourselves, we would see that there are specific things that are happening in our churches that may be destroying them. All churches have their unique personalities, and sometimes the issue lies in the leadership, and other times it is found in the apathy of the membership. Today, I want to talk about 5 things that may be destroying your church. Beware…

Disclaimer: Overall, sin is what is wearing away at the fabric of our churches, but these are things that are often unseen. Also, there are obviously many others that could fit here. 

1. Competitive Mentalities– As church leaders and attenders, we HAVE to stop thinking we are somehow competing with the church down the street. We are not dealing with a fast food franchise or a vicious enemy. We are talking about other brothers and sisters working towards the same mission. Take more time to pray for other congregations and genuinely seek how you can help them in their struggles. Let’s just assume the church down the street is not butchering the scripture, and start rejoicing when they rejoice and mourn when they are in sorrow. This mentality,if not taken seriously, will destroy everything if allowed to take hold.

2. Ministry Possession– Contrary to popular belief, the church kitchen is not your kitchen, the library is not your library, the pew you sit in is not your pew, and the gym is not your gym (ohh…I mean family life center). If you have given money, time, and energy to create and sustain a ministry of the church then you should be commended. These resources are God’s though; not yours. Don’t give anything if you are not willing to give it completely without the expectation of eternal ownership in it. Let God use what He will for His purposes.

3. Ignoring Scripture– We may read verses in the worship services out loud, or notice the inspirational framed segments of scripture on the foyer walls, but how many people actually have a holy fear about whether or not they are treating God’s word with proper reverence. By this, I mean, are we simply reading, or are we passionately doing? Far too many people rely on the pastor to study scripture for them, and neglect their own personal study. God wants to speak with you more than once a week.

4. Ignoring Children’s call to Ministry– Little Susie wants to be a missionary when she grows up. What do we do when we hear this? Of course we pat her on the head and smile. We know she will come to her senses when she starts encountering adult problems. We will see if this feeling lasts… WHY???? WHY do we do this? As people who believe that the Holy Spirit is real and active, we MUST take this seriously and immediately take action. This child has so much she could be accomplishing for the kingdom. Not in 15 years….NOW. Getting kids involved in ministry will only grow the church.

5. Mixed up Priorities– Do you realize how much time, talent, and energy is spent every week on issues such as what kind of communion wafers will be served, where the organ is placed, and whether or not drums are used in the service? Are we that bored with God? We have to realize that while we are arguing in our committees about these things, there are people outside our walls dying, and trying to get our attention. The pain is too much to bear, but we are occupied with wall color in the fellowship hall. Don’t allow the enemy to win in this area.

God empowered the church with His Holy Spirit for a reason. Don’t allow these issues to erode at progress and steal joy. We can make a choice to be better.

Go forward in love.

-Landon DeCrastos

5 Confessions of a Tired Pastor

Yawning2At 2:30pm today, I hit the wall…you know what wall I am talking about. The one you may hit everyday too. I try so desperately to fight it, but often it overtakes my every move. A yawn escapes and there is something so satisfying about letting it go. It may be my personality, but I often find myself in these moments snapping myself out of a daydream. I do that often…I can’t seem to help it. Then, somehow, I make it through. I leave work and come home to a house teeming with life, pretend and snotty noses…and then it is bedtime for the kids and sometimes I stare at a blinking cursor…knowing that God wants me to share my heart, but with droopy eyelids. This is my life.

As a bivocational pastor, I have found myself getting into unhealthy routines because my brain and heart are on autopilot. Between my day job, preaching, visiting people in the hospital, counseling people, putting out fires, parenting, and life in general it is easy to make excuses for myself. As I write this blog today, I feel led to admit some things you may not know about me. I am tired…and I have some confessions to make.

The following are 5 confessions I have about my life as a pastor:

1. I don’t get into God’s word like I should– It is funny. The most energizing and life giving activity that I engage in is something that is often put on the back burner. Granted, I do dip into scripture regularly to prepare my messages, but I definitely feel the damage when I get into a habit of “snacking” on scripture and neglect the full meals that I need. I know that God is not going to keep me from Heaven because I got half way through the Psalms and got side tracked…and really that’s not the point. The point of soaking in scripture is to fall more in love with the author. I need this.

2. Sometimes I want to cuss– It’s true. It really affects the glow of my halo too. Don’t worry conservative fan base….I don’t, but I want to. Often something will come up that is stressful, or I have realized I have dropped the ball on a project, and I get as far as a “crud” and dare not go any further. What I have found, for me, is that the less I soak in scripture as mentioned above, the more these thoughts erupt.

3. From time to time I pray selfishly– It is a joy to pray for people in their time of need or simply when they come to mind. I will confess that there are rare times when I simply want to have what I want. A fat bank account, a new house, a smaller pant size, and the list goes on and on. As a result of these things, sometimes God hears about it…and the prayer request that someone gives me comes second. God checks me during these times, and reminds me of the blessings that He has provided…or…at the moment I will see one of my children boumding past my view and I am reminded how rich I am.

4. I find myself not trusting God– There are times where I look at the bank account and the prognosis doesn’t look good or I gear up for a relational battle that I think may be coming, and I forget that God is supposed to be in control. I try to take hold of the outcome so I am not left looking silly or so I can still look good. God has shown me, so many times, that his timing and methods are perfect. I don’t have to worry…but I confess that even though I preach this at church regularly, I often get caught in the negativity trap.

5. I often feel sorry for myself– If something happens to me or there were not many people at church this Sunday, I tend to have a short-lived pity party. It is a trance that I get into. I convince myself no one cares and no one should care, and I begin to get upset based on a false reality that I create in my mind. I think God wants so much more for me. He is always waiting for me, to snap out of it, and return to serving.

Like mentioned above, it is easy to come up with excuse after excuse. I could tell you about all the things I need to do between now and next week and cite these things as a reason for the way I handle situations. I am tired. I am a pastor. I desire to know Him more and serve Him. I get angry, and I falter. Obviously, I know God wants more from me. Sometimes it is really hard. But, when I think about it…I wouldn’t have it any other way. What keeps me going is the celebration I see in a person’s eyes when God reveals Himself to them in a mighty way. Really…I am living the dream, and my faults are opportunities to be transformed. I am not perfect but God is chpping away at my edges. I am so grateful.

-Landon DeCrastos

Get Ready for Monday Musings

First, I want to say thank you to everyone who regularly reads this blog. The last few days have been so encouraging as thousands of people have viewed my blog and became followers.

Starting this evening, I am starting a new series of posts that will be updated every Monday. These will be called “Monday Musings”. The purpose of these posts will be to reflect on my sermon/ scripture from that previous Sunday. My hope is, even if you were not sitting in my congregation that Sunday, the reflection will still be beneficial for you.

Get ready! The next evolution of this blog is coming. I am so excited!